Jeff Glasbrenner completed his schedule. Now he wants to complete his quest.
Last Saturday in Cozumel, Mexico, the 38-year-old completed his seventh Ironman since May. It was his eighth event and the seventh he finished. His goal was to finish all eight.
Knowing he would still be one Ironman short of his goal after Cozumel, Glasbrenner scheduled a custom event for himself. He will complete his original goal by covering an Ironman distance in his hometown next Saturday, Dec. 11. His friends and family will prepare aid stations and his transition will take place at an Orbea bicycle facility.
“I realized there are more important things in life … like life.”
“I don’t like to have things incomplete,” said Glasbrenner, who completed Cozumel in 13:44. “But to say I am rested and recovered would be a great exaggeration.”
To mark the 30th anniversary of losing the bottom half of his right leg in a farming accident, the physically challenged athlete set out to finish Ironman races in St. George, Utah, Lake Placid, N.Y., Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Louisville, Ky., Madison, Wis., Panama City, Fla., Tempe, Arizm, and Cozumel, Mexico. Glasbrenner wanted to prove to himself he could do it and inspire anyone who paid attention.
“If this helps someone then it’s worth it,” he said. “But I really decided to do this just to prove I could do it. I’m almost there.”
He finished all the races but the one in steamy, sweat-soaked Louisville where he came up nine miles short on the run. At mile 17 his body gave out. He passed out and woke up in the hospital. Glasbrenner said that because of his prosthetic, he can’t pour a lot of water over his head during the race like other athletes. “Hot conditions are very difficult on my equipment,” he said, “they makes it sloppy.”
Glabrenner doesn’t remember much besides the heat and humidity. “Then I remember waking up and feeling about as low as I could feel. I felt like I had let myself and other people down.”
And it was about to get worse. On his trip home to Little Rock, Ariz., Glasbrenner learned that his father passed away following a farming accident. It came 30 years and 30 days after Jeff had lost his leg. Despite the tragedy, Glasbrenner pushed on with perhaps even more motivation.
“It actually put things into perspective for me. Here I was feeling sorry for myself for not finishing a race. I realized there are many more important things in life,” he said. “Like life.”
Reflecting on his disappointment, Glasbrenner said he knew when he started his quest that it was going to be a dogfight. But he says he wouldn’t change a thing: “I love the whole Ironman atmosphere. I get excited just thinking about the races and the people, who’ve been so incredible everywhere we’ve gone.”
Never one to rest—ever—Glasbrenner is already planning his next challenge. He wants to set the Ironman record for a physically challenged athlete, and is thinking about doing Ironman Florida next year and perhaps one other event.
“I look at races as the bookends,” says. “The training is all the stuff in the middle and the bookends are the fun part. Getting from the start line to the finish line is a great journey.”
Read more of what went into Jeff Glasbrenner’s quest in John Mahnke’s pre-Arizona feature on the athlete.