View from the Sidelines
By Michael Hicks
The last time Dave Yannutz visited his son, Brian, then a sophomore at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, they were working out in the weight room. On the wall was a poster for the Ford Ironman World Championship.
“I told him that I’m going to do that some day,” said the 2006 Berthoud High graduate and 21-year-old senior majoring in marine science.
Dave Yannutz thought his son was crazy.
“He’s never been very athletic,” he said. “I watched him in basketball games just hoping that he would get the ball.”
Brian Yannutz ran cross country and played soccer in high school. He was also a member of the Hawaii-Hilo cross country team. But running a 3.1-mile race and competing in a triathlon are two very different things.
First there’s the 2.4-mile swim. Then you’ve got a 112-mile bike ride. And then it culminates with a 26.2-mile marathon run. Sounds simple enough? But first he had to qualify. Figuring this wouldn’t be a reachable goal for a few more years you can imagine his surprise when he competed in the 70.3-mile half-marathon this past May and advanced.
“In 2007, I was on the (Hawaii-Hilo) cross country team and we went over to see the Ironman,” Brian Yannutz said. “All the energy there inspired me to do it. There were a lot of success stories. The look on their faces as they crossed the finish line inspired me to finally do it. But I didn’t think I’d be doing it in two years. I thought it would take 10 years of training.”
It, obviously, didn’t, but it took more than that. Brian Yannutz, after two years of preparing, almost didn’t make it to Kona, Hawaii, for Saturday’s race. That’s because three weeks before, on his way home from school while riding his bike, Brian Yannutz was hit by a car. He was 13 miles from home when a car pulled out in front of him as he was riding 25 miles per hour. He had no chance to hit his brakes before impact.
“I guess he didn’t see me. It was pretty bad,” Brian Yannutz said.
He was transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital where he received a CAT scan and X-rays. His sprained left leg and was placed in a walking air cast for a week. He had fluid on his knee. He had cuts and scrapes all over, including his head, but stitches weren’t required. The helmet he wore saved his life and the front end of his bike was totaled. His parents didn’t know what to think when a bystander at the accident scene called them.
“I thought it was much worse than it was,” Dave Yannutz said. “It may have been an overreaction of my son being in a serious car accident. I was thinking he’s dead or something.”
Not only was he alive, Brian was still planning on competing.
He didn’t run at all going into the race. His knee was taped up. He wore a brace over it. He had a hard enough time getting out of the car the day before the race. During the race his knees and ankle were bothering him. He had to take some Tylenol at various points to control the pain. But there he was awake at 4 in the morning and by 7, after getting marked, starting out in the water in the swimming portion of the competition.
He was punched and kicked in the face. His goggles went flying, but he finished in time to continue on. His knee continued to act up during the cycling portion of the race. He stopped halfway through for medical attention and, just like during his swim, he barely made the cutoff time.
By the time he got to the marathon just after 5 p.m. local time he saw a huge line of finishers and he hadn’t even started yet. But then he saw his family and friends, including his parents, and that motivated Brian Yannutz to continue forward.
He would walk one minute for every 10 minutes of running. The clock struck just after 11 p.m., a little less than an hour before the cutoff time, when he finished in 15 hours, 59 minutes and 44 seconds.
“I was planning on doing it all in 13 hours and I did it in 16,” Brian said. “I think if not for the injuries I would’ve done a lot better.”
The fact that he finished at all is a testament to his will.
“I thought it was incredible he could do that,” Dave Yannutz said. “I’m happy he finished because of his situation.”
Want to watch?
NBC will broadcast this year’s Ford Ironman Championship from Kona, Hawaii, on Saturday, Dec. 19. Check local listings then for further details.