I had the opportunity recently to talk triathlon with Brian Long, the former President of the Triathlon Club of San Diego and 2010 Ironman Coeur d'Alene Finisher. Please join me as we get to know this incredibly great guy.
Craig: What was your sports background before triathlon?
Brian: Well I hate to say it, but I was more Jeff Spicoli, the Fast Times at Ridgemont High character than Jeff Garcia. I was raised in the water by my folks with water skiing and swim lessons coming when I was under 5. I started surfing at about 9-10 years old. I played soccer, and Little League but my folks were not too into it, so that didn't last. I did love to run and the coaches in high school tried to recruit me for football and track, but San Marcos High at that time was like 1-12. No thanks!!
Craig: What led you to take up triathlon?
Brian: Julie Moss's famous crawl, then Bud Light. I was working for the local Budweiser distributor during the Spud McKenzie era and Bud Light was heavily involved in triathlon sponsorship. It had two of the three things I loved, the ocean and running, so I got a Schwinn Paramount. I volunteered first at the San Clemente race, then raced Solana Beach. I think it was '86. I was offered an internship with CAT Sport to help with the races, but I already had a little girl so working for free was not happening.
Craig: How and when did you get involved in the TCSD?
Brian: I got involved with TCSD in the early 2000's after years of abusing myself and a summer on the floor due to serious back troubles. I spent an entire Tour De France laying on the floor, stoned on Vicodin and alcohol watching Lance Armstrong kick butt after battling cancer. At some point I thought back to when I first doing started doing triathlon and remembered him as an IronKid athlete that beat many pros. The next thought was how different our paths had become and that if I wanted any part of what he had, I had to get my back and hopefully my life under control.
After several weeks, I was back on two feet and signed up for the Oceanside 70.3. It was the first year as a 70.3. I trained so hard for that race and physically had made huge progress. In the couple of weeks prior to the race, during my taper, I was doing yardwork and BOING, goes the back. I immediately got on ice and tried to do everything right, but I woke up about 3:00 in the morning in excruciating pain, downed the painkillers and went and lay on the floor in the living room. I came to with my second daughter looking over me and you could see the empathy. She was probably 8 and asked me if this meant no race. Man I lost it. I think I cried for 5 days after I told her that yep, I was done.
After years of being told not to do the surgery, as well as to stop running and riding, I found Dr Roger Thorne of Scripps who was 100% onboard with getting me to the start line. He made no promises on the finish however. I had my first back surgery and woke up with immediate relief. He and I worked together and the goal then became doing the Big Kahuna in Santa Cruz. I had missed the inaugural race do to a bout of back troubles. I did the race, finishing in the mid 5 hour range and within a week stopped by to thank Dr Thorne.
I had about 5 good years, when disc number two ruptured. This time Dr Thorne wanted to be a bit more conservative but I was dying. I called Dr Martinez and a neighbor of mine one morning about 2:30AM to see what would happen if I OD'd on the pain meds. It wasn't that I wanted to die, it was just that if I would get really sick versus going to permanent sleep, I was willing to take the chance to try to stop the pain. I was essentially told STOP!!!! No more drugs!!! Dr. Martiinez, made a house call to check on me and my neighbor Bill Kosik, a PT at CORE in Encinitas, was able to get me in front of their back specialist Dr Eric Westerlund. Within 8 hours of meeting Dr Westerlund, he had me on the OR table and did the second surgery at 8:30PM on a Friday night. Again it was instant relief and I was dancing out the door the next morning. Dr Westerlund as well as Dr Martinez, Bill Kosik and Gino Cinco saved my butt through that period. It was a very dark time, but here I am one of TCSD's newest Ironmen.
Craig: What volunteer positions have you done for the TCSD?
Brian: My mom was a candy striper hospital volunteer back in the day, so I guess I got her volunteer gene. As I said before, I volunteered before I ever raced.
In the beginning I just did whatever needed to be done depending on the event. I would set up and break down meetings, swim with beginners at the Monday swims, whatever was needed. I think my first position was uniform coordinator and then treasurer. I have to clarify though that at that time as treasurer all I did was write reimbursement checks. I am no bean counter and am very grateful for Wendy Harp. She works hard at keeping the club finances on track. From there due to the untimely passing of former TCSD President, Jim McCann, I became President.
Craig: How has your perspective changed since having the opportunity to be President of the TCSD?
Brian: I am glad you said 'opportunity' in your question, because that is truly what it was for me as well as an honor. It was a huge opportunity to grow personally and professionally. I enjoyed so much of it and quite honestly, some days I really miss it, but it was important for the club and for me at the time to move on.
Craig: What would you like to share about the TCSD that most members may not be aware of?
Brian: That there are many heroes and great stories in TCSD. Whenever I think about or see someone from the swim where we lost Dave Martin, I think of the courage and bravery those members mustered. I also spoke with a member who jumped in a river at a waterfall to try to rescue a family that had fallen in and was pinned under from the force of the fall. Unfortunately, this member was eventually forced to make the decision to save himself. I am so humbled when I am around this depth of the human spirit.
Craig: What was your experience like preparing for and then competing in Ironman Coeur d'Alene?
Brian: I had a BLAST!!! It was a long time coming so I soaked up every second whether we were up or down and believe me I had about a 2.5 hour period of being in the dumps. All I wanted to do was take a nap. I truly was trying to work out the risk/ reward of taking a 20 minute nap. By the time I decided it was not a good idea I was out of the rollers and on my way back for T2.
I have learned over the years that there are so many great coaches in the area including you, but my experience is one of not following and trusting what was scheduled for me and I know this is not uncommon. You feel great so run faster, harder, longer, do those long hard rides with your training buddies and then BOOM you're hurt and the training program didn't work.
I received an entry and training program from Multisport.com and committed to doing only what was asked of me and nothing more. If they said, today's ride is done with one red sock and one yellow starting with the yellow on your left foot and then swapping every 10 miles while singing Yankee Doodle Dandy, then that's what I was prepared to do. Funny thing actually following the coaching plan, after a year of not racing or really training at all, I showed up in Coeur d'Alene prepared for the event and feeling great mentally and physically.
As for the race, it was everything I thought it was going to be and more. I could not have had a better time and I made sure everyone I came in to contact knew it. I spent the last five miles of the race thanking volunteers, dancing with spectators, encouraging fellow competitors. It was shakin' hands and kissin' babies and I loved it all.
The people of CDA were awesome and the city truly does come out in force to welcome all the competitors and their guests.
Craig: What advice would you want to share with people who are considering their first Ironman distance race?
Brian: Read 'Going Long' by Joe Friel and Gordo Byrn. Read it every night for the last four weeks before your event. It has so much good information and advice.
My favorite section is where they talk about getting through the valley. First they make sure you know it's going to happen and that suffering is part of the game for everyone. They reassure you that these valleys are not unique to you. What saved my butt was their suggestion to stay in the process no matter what. My process was using SportQuest products for my nutrition. I was taking in CarboPro every 20 minutes as well as two Thermolytes. Then on the hour I was taking two Advantage and two Recovery and then one Motivator every 3 hours. When I was in that extended low period I continued to stay in my 'nutrition process' and it worked to not only give me something else to think about, but by staying in the process, my body was ready to continue working when we were back on the emotional mountain tops.
Craig: What is the best part of being a TCSD member?
Brian: Gosh, the people, races, camaraderie, food, resources, discounts, meetings. It is a great group which is why I, as well as so many others are so willing to give their time to making TCSD the best club in the world.
Craig: What is one of your funniest triathlon stories?
Brian: It actually has to be from Coeur d'Alene. For the bike I used a SpeedFill, which is a 40 ounce bottle that sits inside your frame down by the bottom bracket. In the Speedfill I had a syrup of CarboPro, about 2100 calories, that I had to suck through a tube mounted up on the bars. I have told people the best thing about a 13 and a half hour Ironman is that the recovery is a piece of cake, but the roof of my mouth, from not training my sucking muscles, was SO SORE for like a week. No one believed me when I told them the Ibuprofen was for my mouth not anything else, but I swear the roof of my mouth hurt all the way into my jaw. Never would have thought!!
Craig: I hired you to be my real estate agent when we bought our house nearly 4 years ago and was thoroughly pleased with your work. As a business owner, how has your involvement in the TCSD and sponsor of local races and TCSD helped your business?
Brian: It has obliviously had some impact, but I don't think as much as some would expect. The very first marketing move I did when I started in real estate was sponsoring the Carlsbad Marathon. I really try to stay true to the philosophy of 'do onto others as you would have done to you' in my business. There was a time when mailboxes were overflowing with real estate fliers and postcards and I really saw it as a huge waste of paper. Additionally I really wanted to be associated with the events and people I cared about. So through my business I not only sponsor races, but more importantly, real estate provided me with the flexibility to volunteer so many hours to TCSD, CAF and many, many events. That is the true benefit to me.
Now the swim caps, that was a stroke of luck. I was writing pretty big checks for sponsorship, but was not getting anything into anyone's hands. I started to think about what I could do and swim caps came to mind. A few emails around the world led me to a company in Malaysia. It was a leap of faith to wire $14,000 to a company you never heard of and is a 28 hour flight away. Fortunately things worked out.
My favorite swim cap story occurred when I was swimming at the Carlsbad pool. The high school had gotten out while I was swimming and they had closed down lanes for girl's water polo practice. I didn't pay too much attention until the end of my workout when I looked over and ALL the girls had on Brian Long swim caps. I donate all my extras from the Carlsbad triathlon to the pool and the high school teams use them. It always makes me smile to see the caps.
Craig: What are your future triathlon related goals?
Brian: A sub 12 hour Ironman, with a smile, is in my future, as is the Boston Marathon. A friend of mine is talking about doing the Rim to Rim to Rim at the Grand Canyon which I am totally up for. Also, I think another term as President with TCSD may be in my future, if the club were to elect me.
Craig: Brian, I have a feeling you'd win that election in unanimous fashion. Thank you so much for your friendship and all that you have done for our club, the local triathlon community and beyond. And thanks for helping me get a sweet deal on my house!