Meet the Man Who Completed a Solo Ironman

Meet the Man Who Completed a Solo Ironman

Jake Brog, owner of Bellingham, Wash. gym Lab Athletics, didn't let a cancelled race stop him from completing a huge goal.  We asked Jake to share a little more about his recent solo Ironman and provide some tips to help keep you motivated when life doesn't go according to plan.

Congrats on your amazing accomplishment! Can you tell us more about why you decided to complete the Ironman on your own, once you found out the official event was cancelled? 

Thank you! Completing a full distance Ironman has been on my mind for the last few years. The first time I was exposed to Ironman was back when I was just a kid. I remember watching television and the host was talking about the toughest endurance race out there at the time. All I remember is watching racers running towards the finish line only to collapse from exhaustion and have to crawl across to finish the race. I have alway loved pushing my body to the limit and that is where the seed was first planted.

Signing up for my first Ironman was all about keeping a promise I had made to myself. I had promised myself that I would sign up for my first Ironman when I was 30 years old. So in December 2019, two months before my 31st birthday I registered for IRONMAN Texas. (Disclaimer: I was on vacation in Barbados at the time and may have had a few beers on the beach that helped with the decision.)

After I clicked that submit button I knew I only had five months to prepare for the toughest race of my life. I had five months to learn how to go from never swimming more than 100 meters at one time, to 2.4 miles in the open water. I had never biked more than 30 miles at one time and was going to need to complete 112 miles. When it came to the run portion, which is the last part of the race, I was going to need to build the stamina to complete another 26.2. miles.

I had been training for almost 3.5 months when COVID-19 first started to become a real concern. When local races were getting canceled I, like many other athletes, could see the writing on the wall. I knew my race was going to be postponed and my coach texted me and asked what I wanted to do. To me the race was never about winning or competing against other people.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE that about racing. You are surrounded by amazing, motivated, driven people just like you who are looking to test their physical and mental limits. That is why I committed to this Ironman — I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this. So when the race was postponed It was a no brainer for me to tell my coach that I was just going to race on my own and make my own course. I just couldn’t find a good enough reason to justify not following through with this goal when I was still fully capable of making it happen on my own. That was still in my control.

Tell us about what went in to planning this solo adventure.

When I initially started planning this full length solo Ironman, I was pretty overwhelmed. You have four components to think about and plan for:

1. The actual course route
2. Your gear. Swim gear, bike gear, run gear and back-up gear, depending on different conditions
3. Nutrition / hydration. How many calories / how much water and electrolytes do you need to take in per hour?  What foods / liquids are you going to eat to do that? When are you going to eat  and how often? 
4. Support. Who is going to be there to help you with all the above?

For the course, I decided to make my house the home base for transitions. That way I didn’t need to pack around all my gear with me and have different transition points. One of my local bike routes that started and ended at my house was 54 miles, so I decided to just do that loop twice and add on a few miles at the end. I also had a run loop from my house that I had completed during training which totaled 26 miles and ended at my house! The swim was a wild card. We weren’t sure if the water temperature was going to be warm enough to swim in even in a wetsuit. I was originally planning on just doing the bike and run and leaving out the swim but decided the day before the race to go for it! That was scary.

Little by little I mapped out my nutrition, hydration, gear and finally felt like I had a solid plan together the night before race day.

I have to talk about my support. To me it is more like a team. I consider my support people to be part of my team. We alI are in this together and we have to work like a team. My parents and girlfriend were there with me for the entire 15 hour race. They followed me in a car for the entire race and were even out on paddle boards with me to help me feel comfortable during the swim portion. I also had amazing support from a ton of members from the gym I own and operate, Lab Athletics. We had around 20 members come out and either run, bike or cheer for me during portions of the race which was amazing and helped me keep a great mindset!

What was the hardest part of completing a distance like this on your own?

The hardest part of this entire race was literally getting out of bed at 5:30 am knowing I was about to jump in a freezing lake and swim 2.4 miles, farther than I had ever swam in my life. I had worked up to swimming around 1.75 miles during swim training but that distance was broken up by intervals. I had not done an actual swim workout in over fove weeks because of pool closures due to COVID-19, and had nowhere to train as the local lakes were absolutely freezing. The water temp was in the mid to upper 40 degrees F.

So just mentally putting on my wetsuit and making the decision to get in that water not knowing If I was going to be able to complete the swim was the hardest part of the whole race for me. After completing the swim I was very confident that I was going to make it through the rest because all the training I had done leading up to this.

What was the best part of completing this distance on your own?

I think one of the best part about doing this on my own was how casual it became. There was no race pressure. I had the support of family and friends so that if something happened out there we had the time and resources to solve the problem quickly. In an actual race if you mess up your nutrition or hydration you don’t really get a second chance. The other amazing thing was just having my close friends and family there the whole time to support me and cheer me on. During a normal race you might see them every once in a while but I had a whole team cheering for me , supporting me, and even racing alongside me for the entire 15 hours which was pretty rad!

Do you have advice for readers about how to adapt when things to don't go as expected?

Most things in life don’t go as expected, right?  Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. (Thank you Mike Tyson!).  We all have been forced to adapt many different aspects of their life due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is very easy to get distracted and focus our energy on issues we cannot control. Maybe you have been laid off, maybe you lost your job, maybe your business is non-essential and you are shut down. We are all dealing with changes in our lives we never saw coming and never envisioned we would be dealing with. But we all have to face the reality of what is, and focus our energy on what’s next and move forward.

My second piece of advice for readers is to look for the opportunity. When things do not go as expected there is always opportunity. It is up to you to uncover that opportunity and pursue it. In order to do this we need to reframe our situation.

For example: Losing your job could be reframed as an opportunity to pursue your dream career or an opportunity to switch fields and get into doing something you are truly passionate about.

Getting injured and not being abled to compete or train for your sport gives you the opportunity to work on your weaknesses or learn and become proficient in a new sport. When the unexpected happens we can always look for new opportunities and reframe the situation in a positive light by focusing on what is in our control, instead of what is outside our control.

How has your approach to your business and training changed in the last several months? What has stayed the same? Is there anything you are doing differently now that you want to keep doing as we slowly shift back to “normal”?

I believe COVID-19 is speeding up natural changes we already see happening around the world slowly, but now these changes are happening at a rapid pace and many will be permanent. Every business needs be socially responsible and put customers first. This means that we need to adapt and find new solutions that solve our customers core desires and current problems.

It is our responsibility to innovate and find creative solutions in this new landscape.

My business, Lab Athletics, has changed dramatically in the last several months. We transitioned our in person training to live virtual workouts through Zoom. We have transitioned from in-person group coaching to more individualized one-on-one virtual coaching. Basically everything is done virtually.

But, our mission, core values, and the people we are trying to serve and help has not changed. We are dedicated to helping people take back control of their health, happiness and fitness for life!

Something I am stoked to keep doing is virtual coaching and more individualized coaching. I have been able to work with some amazing people virtually over the last few months that I never would have gotten to work with in person. Our remote fitness, accountability and nutrition program allows us to customize all aspects of our clients coaching based on their unique goals. I am super excited to bring back our in-person training but will continue working with people remotely who are serious about transforming their bodies, and taking their fitness to the next level.

What’s next for you?

I just rescheduled my real Ironman race! I will be competing in the St. George Utah full distance Ironman this September. I am super excited to continue building on the fitness foundation I established leading up to my solo Ironman and am looking forward to seeing what I can do come September.

As far as business goes, I will continue innovating and bringing the best remote coaching program I can to my clients. But I cannot wait to be able to open fully our gym back up, see all our amazing members and be able to help people push past their limits in person.

Follow along with Jake's training and adventures on Instagram, or visit the Lab Athletics Facebook page

July 29, 2020