Sunday morning we woke up knowing it was going to be a big day. Alexa and I met my mom and sister down in the lobby at 4:45am and headed out to the venue. We arrived in great time and were off to check gear bags with the rest of the Stallworths by 5:15. After getting all of our special needs bags set and all nutrition put into the right areas, we headed to the bikes to get everything race-ready. Tires were pumped up, nutrition was set, power meters calibrated, it was time to go! We went to the Smile Train tent for warm-up and to see family before heading to the start. After a quick snack and some warm-up, we gave the loved ones a hug goodbye and Alexa, Ayla, and I headed to the swim.
Ayla and Alexa are great swimmers so they weaved in and out of people to the front of the swim start. I had been improving steadily on the swim so I went with them hoping to stay on Alexa’s feet for as long as possible. After the national anthem and a quick kiss good luck to Alexa, we headed into the water and started the long day. I quickly got on Alexa’s feet and followed her around buoy 1, but around the second buoy Alexa went under the Corner and took off around it and I lost her feet. I tried 2 or 3 times to catch up but DAMN that girl is fast. I settled in behind another guy and followed him for most the swim. Around 20 minutes in we passed under a bridge and I was really getting bored and sick of swimming so I laid on my back and waved to the people on the bridge for a few seconds before returning to the same guy’s feet. Every time I saw an airplane or a bird I took my time to watch it just as something to do. The swim is so monotonous and boring I just needed something to do. Around the halfway point someone grabbed my ankle and swam right over me, this gave me something to do! For the next 3 minutes and probably 200 strokes, I did everything I could to touch his feet EVERY. SINGLE. STROKE. If you are going to swim over me, I’m going to annoy the heck out of you :D we turned to go back to the swim exit around 3000 yds in and my arms were toast. I did what I could to get in at a decent time and ended with a swim time of 1:03:49
I was happy with my swim but a little disoriented, as I began running to T1 I realized the cement was freezing. My feet were going numb every single step along the way of the 0.3 mile run to transition. Once I reached my bag and entered the tent I had a really tough time getting my socks on because I could not feel any of my feet. After the volunteer helped me get everything on, I thanked him and handed him a wristband as a thank you before going to find my beautiful bike. I could see the bike from across the lot so it was easy to track down and get out of there.
Now for the bike…. Oh the bike. I hadn’t trained much lately as I had been having knee pain cycling and running but just a week before I had realized my seat had been slipping down so I was finally confident in the bike but under trained. I set out on the first lap (3 lap course, out and back, uphill out, downhill back) and right as I left town I saw Ayla!! we said good luck and I put my head down to grind away for a few hours. It took almost 50 miles for my feet to thaw out and the rest of my body was uncomfortable and felt off because of the numbness the colder water and frozen cement had left in me. I had good power through the first uphill and felt strong. Upon reaching the top of the hill I saw my beautiful girlfriend absolutely crushing it on the bike. I caught up to her and exchanged a few words and a fist bump before slowly pulling away downhill. I reached the 25 mile mark and tried to eat some more of my nutrition but some got stuck in my throat, as I tried to clear it I ended up puking which I knew would make for a long day. We got back to town and started the second lap, and as I left town I did not feel good at all. Power had dropped significantly, I was uncomfortable, I could not do anything to get going. I tried eating more and drinking more but it just came back out so I threw away my bottle and picked up some Gatorade at the next aid station. Lap 2 I spent nearly the whole lap struggling to find any power and sitting upright for most of it as I was so uncomfortable. At the far turn I saw alexa was still right behind me and crushing her bike which made me happy but also realize how much my power had dropped.
Every lap I listened and looked for Ayla who yelled out for all of us as she passed, but I hadn’t seen her in a while and was worried I had missed her. I was in such a bad place mentally I started to tear up thinking I had missed Ayla this lap and I needed that more than anything. Within a few minutes I looked up and HERE COMES AYLA!!! she yelled out for me and it was so desperately needed. As I came into town on lap two my knee started to flare up again, I knew something was very wrong so I looked down to see my seat had slipped down a bunch and was creating a lot of pain. I suffered through to mile 5 of lap 3 where I got off the bike at the aid station, took my tool box and went to the porta potty. Figured might as well do it all at once so I used the bathroom while eating and finding my tool I needed. I reset the seat and cranked the bolt down so it would not move this time and jumped back on the bike for one last loop. Immediately my power was right back where I needed it and I was more comfortable than ever. I cruised by everyone as I made my way back up the pack. Upon turning around I put my head down and gave the bike almost everything I had left. I made it back to town with a decent bike split of 5:05:21
T2 was quick and painless as I threw on shoes and grabbed all I needed to become an ironman!
The run would be…interesting to say the least. I had run maybe 10 miles in the past 2 months while fighting knee pain. I had thought about dropping out many times but decided if I had to I would walk the marathon as I am doing this for something way bigger than myself. For Smile Train, for children around the world getting a better life because of this. So put one foot in front of the other and prayed for everything to hold up. With the bike seat slipping I was very worried I would be having pain early on. The first few miles flew by. I was running mid 6s to low 7s while walking aid stations to make sure I retained enough to make it. I saw my family and all my amazing support squad with Mrs. Stallworth and Blake and Corey. I was feeling great and kept a good stride through mile 10 with little to note besides not being able to hold down much nutrition still.
Mile 10 I realized I was slowing a bit but Corey and Blake were running around like crazy giving me splits on how far I was in the lead. It sounded like I just needed to keep pace and I was golden! At that same time Alexa was going through the aid station the opposite way and Corey yelled out her name and my eyes lit up. We both yelled “I Love You!” and wow did that make my day. I have never been so happy in my life. To have something special to share with your better half, and the joy I felt seeing her on course was amazing! So I kept cruising along and taking in as much nutrition as my body would let me, and every time I slowed i thought about that moment. I started lap 2 in good shape but was walking the aid stations a little slower every time. By mile 15 I knew something was wrong. My body began to shut down on me and starting to run after each aid station was getting harder. I knew not being able to keep food down would hit me, I just didn’t know when.
My knee also started to act up and I realized I was in for a LONG last 11 miles. At 17 I saw mom and I needed a hug more than anything. I told her I don’t know if I can do this, but she hugged me tight and said just under 10 miles to go, you can do this. Those words were needed more than she will every know. The internal battle is a hard one, especially when its not your muscle fatigue, but your body shutting down. I jogged on and made it to the far side for one last little loop. As I approached the 21 mile mark my body started to call it quits. I saw Corey who was screaming for me to keep going, he told me I still had a good lead but I had to keep moving. As I left the aid station I noticed my eyes were heavy and I started to get dizzy. It felt like a dream and I realized I was actually starting to fall asleep.
My mind wandered and I started to think about how much sleep I got the last few nights until I realized it was the nutrition (or lack of) that was making me shut down. For the first time, I stopped. I kneeled on the side of the path, dizzy and out of it. After a minute or two I saw the next aid station was just a little ways away so I walked to it. I grabbed pretzels, water, and sat down in the porta potty, and before I knew it…… I was asleep. Yup. I fell asleep. After a quick 7ish minute nap I jolted myself awake. Still holding my pretzels I finished them (why let em go ot waste 😉) and came out feeling refreshed. I could run again and was not nearly as dizzy so I made the next few miles in good time before starting to fade again. I found Corey and Blake again at mile 23 and was in really tough shape. They coaxed me to run again saying I still had a decent gap but I needed to keep going, and I made it almost to the next aid station before Corey came running up to tell me he was hot on my heels and catching fast.
. I tried to gut it out but my body shut down again 100yds before the second to last aid station. An AMAZING volunteer named Scott came over and got me food, talked about why I was doing this, how I was almost there, he walked with me for a bit as I refueled and set a fire in my belly to finish. I gave him my second wristband before taking off over the final bridge with just over a mile and a half to go. I knew I needed to gut it out hard if I wanted any chance of making Kona so I settled in to my 7:30/mile pace and skipped the final aid station to reach that finishers chute. As I came up the hill to the chute I stopped my watch and gave all the high fives I could. I took in the incredible journey I had just went through and heard those words ive been waiting to hear for years since the addiction started.
BRENDEN SCHEEL, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!!
....Eh, close enough
I laughed as I crossed the line and went to go find my family. I gave them a huge hug and thanked all my friends and family for helping make this all possible. I didn’t quite hold my first place but hey, it was the first time! After another quick nap I went and found Alexa at the finish to congratulate her as well. We had done it! We were Ironman finishers.
I can not thank any of you enough for all of the continued support throughout this journey. To my family, you are so incredible following me around the world and supporting me no matter what I take on and what I try to do. Alexa, you are my rock. I never would’ve signed up if it wasn’t for trying to impress this cute girl hundreds of miles away, and that crush turned into the most supportive and incredible relationship I could have dreamed of. Thank you for supporting and taking part in all of these crazy things and being at my side through it all. Thank you to the Stallworths for helping me along this journey to becoming an Ironman! To my friends, Corey and Blake I needed someone all over that course and you guys were. You flew across the USA to run around in the sun and scream at me as I slept in porta potties… that’s true friendship right there. You guys rock. Jay, Nathan, and all the other amazing people who offered endless support and encouragement through these last few hard weeks, you people helped me cross that start line. I was set to defer to 2019 but you made this happen!! And to everyone else along the way, THANK YOU!
shout out to Mom and Blake/Bulldog Advertising for the amazing photos!
South Africa was a blast and watching Alexa race the day before was the perfect prep day for my race. Sunday we woke up bright and early and I persuaded my beautiful girlfriend to get her lazy butt out of bed haha. We had a quick breakfast before heading to catch a bus to the transition. Quick check of the bike and off to the beach it was! Once on the beach I realized I had forgotten any food for before the race and Alexa decided to run 2 miles to the gas station the morning after the race to get me food, so grateful to have her around. We watched the pros go off and cruise through the course in stupid fast times before getting my wetsuit on and heading to marshalling after a quick good-luck hug and kiss from Alexa. There were not too many in my group but as we were getting set into our starting gate I was shuffled to the back and ended up being in the second to last wave. As we approached the gate my heart started racing and soon enough the tone rang and we were off. I knew I could swim with the best of my heat so I ran to the water to ensure I didn’t get stuck behind them. The water was refreshing and in no time at all I actually felt like I was smoothly gliding through the water. Within a minute I had caught the heat in front of me and swam through them. Another form my wave was matching my pace so I fell in line behind him and we continued to swim through wave after wave. Half way through I was still feeling strong but had definitely swallowed too much water. We made the final turn and I struggled finding the beach and sight buoys against the coast line so I went off course a time or two. Overall it was a great swim for me coming out under 30 minutes.
T1 flew by and nothing crazy happened. Before I knew it I was off and throwing down some watts on the speed concept! Hearing Alexa scream her head off put a smile on my face and started the bike off right
The bike started out with a lot of uphill and because it was raining everyone was taking corners a little easier than normal. A couple stronger cyclists went by me and I continued to eat up some of my age group. We left town and I found my rhythm and put my head down. Out of town we started to hit some really nice descents and a few harder climbs. The first few descents I hit mid 40’s easily and was screaming down the backside of the hills. I kept my climbs steady at 350-400 watts for the short ones and 300 for the long ones. All the sudden at mile 20 I felt a little lag between my input on the aero bars and the wheels reaction to those movements… I sat up and played with them and my heart sank. The aero bar had come loose and every descent was rattling it more and more as it grew looser and looser. A few more hills and I was stuck holding my aero bar steady while riding upright in my base bars. Everyone i passed and everyone that passed me I asked them for a multitool, this continued for almost 8 miles until Harold Garner was kind enough to reach into his pack and hand me his tool. I stopped and quickly found one of the screws that was loose and cranked it down. I jumped back on and started putting out watts. My legs were tired from having to it up and waste energy holding the bars on as well as stopping on the side of the road. Within 3 miles I hit a good bump and once again…they popped loose. This time I stopped and completely tore apart the handlebars, all 12 screws until every single one was retightened and was not coming loose. The only bad part is that the angle and placement of my handlebars that I had worked on for months on end was ruined. I would probably be uncomfortable the rest of the ride. I decided to enjoy the rest of the bike and take in 70.3 worlds for the views and experience. I came in from the bike in 2:42. I was way out of the race
T2 was pretty relaxed. Knowing I was out of It I took my time to grab my nutrition, put on new socks since it was raining all day, and go to the bathroom. I headed out onto the course with the intention to have fun. The first mile was brutal. My legs were in bad shape from all of the events on the bike and I was feeling it. The first 2 air stations I took EVERYTHING. I was starving from all the extra time on the bike and the stress from the mechanical failure. At mile 1.75 I had to stop. I had cramped up so hard on my hamstring that I couldn’t even walk. I tried a couple times but to no avail, so I spent a minute on the curb stretching, Finally It released, and I headed back out onto the course. I stopped at 3 to hug and kiss Alexa and say hi to the grandparents before heading back to jogging. The next 9 miles I felt great. I didn’t mind pace I just enjoyed the experience and ran strong but not over the top keeping it right under 6 minute miles. Mile 12 my stomach turned hard. All of the extra food came back and I needed a bathroom. I started to think and all of the sudden I realized, I hadn’t seen one bathroom throughout the whole run. I fought it the last mile and slowed my pace to 7 min miles and found the finishers chute. It was quite the learning experience and a great time in south Africa. after the race we went on an incredible 3 day safari which was so much needed and such a great experience.
ITU Grand Final Gold Coast Australia
The morning of the race in Australia was quite the adventure. At 9pm the night before there was an announcement that disc wheels wouldn’t be allowed. So at 4am a group of us met at my hotel to head down to the race. Once we got there I helped Grace change her wheel before changing mine. Because the rim was thinner than my disc, my brakes were locking up so I had to take my rear brakes apart and adjust the tension to accommodate the thinner wheel. After that was all settled and I helped a few other teammates set up the bikes, we started the LOOONNNGG walk to the swim start. After 30-some minutes of walking and jogging, we made it to the start. Before I could even get my wetsuit on my heat was called. I quickly through it on and headed out to the dock!
We jumped into the salty water and floated at the starting gate, we moved up to the start line and we were off! I jumped on the heels of a few swimmers that made a pack and latched on. I felt smooth but also felt that I was wasting strokes from time to time, forgetting my high elbow and resorting to my old form. I kept reminding myself to keep a high elbow and before I knew it we were done. I may have been in the last group but sub-23 minutes was a huge improvement from previous years.
As I ran in to T1 I saw that once again I was the only bike left. I put on my socks, shoes, and helmet, and tore out of T1.
The bike was technical and a little uphill and against the wind going out on the two loop course. I got a little down after seeing my average speed the first half-lap, but upon turning around I felt much better as I held almost 29 the whole way back to transition. The bike was uneventful (luckily) as I just held my target power and kept reminding myself to yell “On your RIGHT” not left. I flew into T2 with a solid setup for a good run.
Running into T2 I heard coach yell I had a chance to be top 5. I thought for sure he meant top 5 American as I thought I was way too far behind to be top 5 in the world. But just in case I sprinted through transition and took off after everyone with a “M20” on their calf.
Because the position was still a little screwed up from the handlebars coming loose, the first mile and a half were spent running with an extremely tight back, causing poor form and slow times that were approaching almost 6 minute miles. This pace was not gonna cut it. I saw my teammate Travis at a few U-Turns and clocked the distance to him and those around him. The first split was around 1:45, second one was 1:28, I felt better as back was loosening up. Approaching lap 2 of the run my back fully released and we were back in business. I watched the pace drop to the low 5’s and I knew we were in for a great day. I saw Travis again at 20 seconds, I knew I was making up good time on everyone. I heard Grant yell out I was in 9th starting the 2nd lap of the run and I told myself I was NOT ending this in 9th. I strided out and caught Travis, we gave each other a little high five and ran together for a bit before I locked in on my next target. As I headed in to the finish line I heard coach yelling I had to sprint if I wanted it, the last quarter mile I dropped below 4:30 trying for that top 5 spot, unfortunately I had gone too late. I missed top 5 by 9 seconds but looking up at my time and seeing 1:58:XX was an incredible feeling. The run had been .2 short and if I had that extra time, I would’ve made top 5. I am still in disbelief I took 6th place in the world championships and I couldn’t be happier with the race I laid out.
The 2018 sponsored season has come to a close, with just a few fun races left I have a lot to think about for 2019. I learned SO much in 2018 and I hope to take a lot of that into next year and use it to step my game up to a whole new level.
To my 2018 sponsors, you were incredible. The support was so great to have throughout the year and I am so proud to be able to represent all of you.
All of you awesome people, thank you for your endless support!!! Love you all