“Fear of failure seems to be larger than the fear of fatigue.”
My parents knew a few things at the beginning of my life. That sports were not exactly my strong suit and that I was born with Basal Cell Carcinoma Nevus Syndrome (BCCNS). The two, in my opinion, have been conquered together. Although I knew I was not a good athlete, it didn’t stop me from trying. I played everything from soccer to lacrosse. I always prepared myself to compete while wearing proper sun protection and knowing that I’d likely have to deal with orthopedic issues at some point, courtesy of the syndrome.
In high school, I began to develop a passion for endurance sports. I joined the cross-country team, under the leadership of Major John Bourtgault, aka ‘the Major,’ who made our meets where we ran 3.1 miles seem like child’s play. Each season, we’d do runs up the mountains on trails that were the same length as half marathons. Usually during meets the varsity team was out of my reach, but on these long trail runs, they were fair game.
As time went on, I became active in other endurance sports like crew and cycling. Finally, in 2013, I put all three together and competed in my first triathlon. I know I went into this event feeling a little too confident because I didn’t fully appreciate the forth aspect of a triathlon – the transition. The swim and bike went well, but transitioning from the bike to the run, my legs were like jelly.
It would take me another four years before I even contemplated doing an Ironman. When I moved to Utah, a colleague introduced me to his endurance team called Riding on Insulin. Most of the teammates are athletes with diabetes who came together to raise awareness and funds for children with diabetes. Joining this team was symbolic for me because they were not letting their medical condition define them, and neither was I.
Inspired by my teammates, I set a goal of completing a half Ironman in 2017. The competition includes a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and a 13.1-mile run. While balancing two full-time jobs, I trained intensively for the race, so you can say my plate was very full. Finally, the race day came, and my teammates and I traveled to southern Utah where it was very hot. Again, the run was my most difficult part, but I crossed the finish line in a little over seven hours. Believe it or not, I won for my age group that day. But it wasn’t because I was the fastest. It was because I was the only person my age who signed up! But it still felt good.
My race time from that half Ironman allowed me to predict I could finish a full Ironman in the allotted time range of 17 hours, so I took the leap. I registered for my first full Ironman in Wisconsin. The next six months of training was no joke. If I wasn’t working, I was training in the pool, on the bike or at the gym. I became closer with my teammates and friendly with the lifeguards at the pool and runners/bikers from local shops. By the time competition day came, my body was ready to take on just about anything. My mind was another story.
If there is one thing that can psych you out, it’s arriving at an Ironman race site. There were a few thousand people ready to compete. There were another thousand people ready to volunteer. And there were ten thousand people around the track, waiting to cheer on their family and friends. In addition to the enormous crowds, the race course looked intimidating as well. One good thing for me was that Mother Nature was on my side as the weather that day was perfect.
To be honest, the whole day and aspects of the race were a blur, but I guess 14 hours of physical activity can do that to you. The swim was faster than I thought. I suffered the most on the bike due to a lack of nutrition. I think my mind was just being cautious, especially during the marathon portion. But thankfully, my teammates, the crowd and especially my parents were so supportive and cheered me on as I went by.
In the days leading up to the race, I would imagine the finish line and what it would be like to cross it. The biggest hurdle in my opinion is walking up to it. Fear of failure seems to be larger than the fear of fatigue.
The message I want others who have BCCNS to know is not to let the syndrome stop you from stepping up to the starting line in whatever you choose. Through all this training and my sports career, I’ve learned that it’s our own thoughts and fears that hold us back. Endurance racing, like the Major said to me, makes you a better person because it sees how much you believe in yourself. I think the same can apply to the every day challenges of living with BCCNS. It can be hard sometimes and requires a lot of diligence and perseverance. In a way, it’s just like an endurance race. And you must go the distance to make sure you keep your body as healthy as possible and do everything you can to stay ahead of the symptoms.
Update on 9.24.18
Durst sprinted across the finish line in Madison, Wisconsin at Ironman Madison last September. His parents, Jeffrey and Julie, were beyond proud to hear the announcer say, “Durst Breneiser, you are an Ironman.” On September 29, 2018, Durst will compete in his second Ironman Triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run) in Cambridge, Maryland. His goal is to finish in the daylight and we cannot wait to be there to cheer him on! The Breneisers invite you to share your support too, as Jeffrey and Julie will match every dollar donated to the BCCNS Alliance up to $500.00 in honor of Durst. Click here to donate: http://bit.ly/2OyKbyi