Ironman competitor's journey from tragedy to 'greatest opportunity' - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Ironman competitor's journey from tragedy to 'greatest opportunity'

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Posted: Thursday, November 18, 2010 12:23 pm | Updated: 1:17 pm, Thu Nov 25, 2010.

Jeff Glasbrenner does not spend an exorbitant amount of time planning this particular anniversary.

Usually it’s a run-of-the-mill dinner date with the family, or maybe buying a special gift. But he knew this year was different. It was a 30th anniversary of an event far less pleasant, but he wanted to do “something more.”

He night not get into the hyperbole hall of fame, but what the 38-year-old decided to do is special, and he hopes it’ll  inspire.

Glasbrenner lost the bottom half of his right leg at age 8 while helping his dad cut hay in a small rural town in Wisconsin. He doesn’t call that farming accident a tragedy. He called it his “greatest opportunity.”

Not wanting to be known as a guy without a leg, he was going to see just how far he could go, and so far he’s covered a large amount of territory.

Glasbrenner is attempting to complete eight Ironman triathlon races in under eight months.

“I wanted to do something just for me. I like to push and challenge myself to do and be more,” he said. “...Like any situation, you can either embrace it and make the best of it or you can regret it and fail.”

Ford Ironman Arizona, set to take place Sunday at Tempe Beach Park, will be Glasbrenner’s second of three this month and his seventh since May.

An Ironman race consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run. He is scheduled to complete his “challenge” on Nov. 28 in Cozumel, Mexico.

“Jeff has an unbelievable way of making people believe in themselves,“ said Elizabeth Glasbrenner, Jeff’s wife of eight years. “Most people think this is easy for him because he is in such good shape. I watch how hard he trains and how much he commits to his dreams. It is not easy for him. He truly believes everyone can do it if they put forth the effort and want.”

Jeff began his life in triathlon in the middle of a highly accomplished and decorated career in wheelchair basketball. He is a three-time Paralympian (Sydney, Athens and Beijing) and two-time world champion. He holds the single-game national records of 63 points and 29 rebounds. “And to show I’m a team player, I also had one assist that game,” he said.

He started cycling in 2005 to train for basketball. Later that year he saw the televised account of the Ironman world championship held in Hawaii and knew what his next endeavor would be.

Entering 2010, Jeff had completed six Ironman races, winning the physically challenged division four times. He has competed in Hawaii once and has won the Half-Ironman World Championship twice.

“I am a very competitive, ‘Type A’ (personality) guy,” said Jeff, who next year wants to break the physically-challenged Ironman record of 10:07 at Ironman Florida.

Coming up with this idea was the easy part. Getting into the races, which generally sell out a year in advance, was the difficult part for the Little Rock, Ark., resident.

Jeff, a sponsored athlete through the Challenged Athletes Foundation as well as various triathlon-based businesses, started planning and training for his quest in January. He didn’t get approval for his first Ironman race in St. George, Utah, until two days prior to the May 1 event.

He completed that race in 13 hours, 19 minutes. His other races included Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, on June 27; Lake Placid, N.Y., on July 25; Louisville, Ky., on Aug. 29; Ironman Wisconsin in Madison on Sept. 12 (where he was honored as the “Ironman Every Day Hero”); and Ironman Florida in Panama City on Nov. 6.

“People say they want to meet my wife because they say their wife has a hard time with them when they do one (Ironman) in a year,” Jeff said last week while his family enjoyed a few days at Walt Disney World in Orlando. “She believes and supports me 100 percent.”

Training for this endeavor has also proved to be much different than he had anticipated. While his kids were home from school he would wake up most mornings at 3:15 a.m. to get in a training session. Now that they are back in school he said he has larger blocks of time, but he is recovering from races more than he is training for the next one.

“It wasn’t the time it would take to train that scared me, it was the physical toll on Jeff that scared me,“ Elizabeth said. “Jeff will push himself to the limit, but so far, he has stayed healthy. Jeff doesn’t ever do anything halfway.”

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