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Ironman: Clay’s courage and Daniel’s demons

Clayton Treska is an Ironman. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

Every triathlete who dips their toes in Kailua Bay has a story to tell. And every athlete has family, friends and supporters who helped get them to that start line and who wait anxiously at that famed finish line to congratulate their own heroes.

Here are a handful of their stories:

Clayton Treska

He’s a war veteran, a cancer survivor and he’s an Ironman. Clay was diagnosed with cancer shortly after returning from a tour in Iraq in 2008.

The staff sergeant has faced down deadly enemies before, and Saturday he was staring down the Ironman challenge.

Just two months ago, he was a resident patient in a Southern California hospital. But he was not about to let that get in the way of his triathlon dream.

He has powered through countless treatments and dismal prognoses. On Saturday, he powered through one of the most grueling endurance races in the world.

“That finish line was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen,” he said.

As he approached the finish line, Clay knelt to kiss it and melted into his dad’s big hug.

“You wouldn’t know it from what he says,” said his dad, also named Clay, “but he’s a pretty special boy.”

The two Clays engaged in one of the most extended hugs on the finish line that Ironman has ever seen.

“That was the most spectacular hug of all,” said Clay Sr. “He’s a pretty modest boy and pretty humble. You won’t find him bragging on this, but it was something else for me to see. I’m so proud”

Clay finished in 15:16:58.

Daniel and Bree Eppel. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Daniel Eppel

“Usually I have a big scowl on my face for the last half mile, but today I could not stop smiling for the last 2 miles,” Daniel Eppel said. “It was just crazy.”

Daniel had a very specific goal this year.

“This is my second Ironman Kona. In 2004, I collapsed with 6 miles to go. Not enough nutrients. I knew the exact spot and I just ran right over it,” he said.

“That was exciting, but I was still kind of apprehensive,” he said. “I still had to finish. But those people out there are great. Everyone on the course was cheering. And not just because they have to. They really, really care. I got that.”

Daniel, 39, of Gardener, Mass., still has goals.

“Now it feels amazing. It’s been a demon haunting me for six years. I feel like I’ve redeemed myself here,” he said. “If I never race in Kona again, I’ll be OK with that. But I want her to do it.”

‘Her’ is Daniel’s wife, Bree. “And I accept,” she said.

Bree said competing may just be easier than watching Daniel race. “I was terrified the whole time. My jaw really hurts right now from having it clenched so hard all day.”

Bree said she believes her husband, who she met at a swimming pool in 1993, will be easier to live with now he is an Ironman. “Oh, yes, totally, totally.”

Daniel finished in 14:35:43.

Gordon Beehre and some Ironman friends. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Gordon Beehre and some Ironman friends. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Gordon Beehre

Gordon, 62, of New Zealand, only started racing triathlons four years ago, but now he’s an Ironman.

“I’ve always been a runner,” he said, “but Ironman Kona … now that’s a big difference. My focus was to finish before midnight and I did that. I went out with the intention of having a good time.”

Part of the experience is soaking up the atmosphere, he said.

“I have to tell you the volunteers are so wonderful,” Gordon said. “Sometimes you can get a bit confused, but they can all see that straight away and set you right. You just can’t go wrong.”

Beehre was awarded a lottery slot after racing in his hometown of Te Kuiti.

“I’d say I was a dabbler in triathlon. Of course I’d heard of Kona. But I never gave it much thought. I never expected I could race here one day. This is the pinnacle, isn’t it? Our Olympics.”

Gordon ended his Ironman Kona day with a purple lei around his neck and huge smile on his face.

“I’m just floating now, really charged,” he said. “Bragging rights for life. Yes, of course I will.”

Gordon finished in 13:57:01.

Gerry Marvin

Gerry’s mom Lynn and older brother Jason were waiting to see him make the transition from bike to run at the “hot corner” of Palani Road and Kuakini Highway.

“He’s having a good day,” Lynn said.

Her T-shirt has a photo of Gerry as a fuzzy-haired, big-grinning kid on the front. “It’s him with his very first bike,” she said.

The back of the T-shirt shows a grown up and serious triathlete speeding along on a race bike. “And this is him in Canada.”

The 27-year-old Seattle native has been doing triathlons seriously for about four years, but had to sit out a season after an injury. He recovered and qualified for the Ironman this year in Canada.

Lynn has seen her son race before, but Ironman Kona is a new experience. “This is so exciting,” she said.

Brother Jason said, “I’m pretty proud of him. He’s had to work pretty hard just to get here.”

Gerry finished in 10:42:49.

Rob Wurth

Rob’s family sported matching ‘Iron Rob’ T-shirts for race day.

Dad Steve, mom Jane, sister Stephanie and brand new brother-in-law Blake, plus another nine assorted family and friends, were on hand to see Rob compete in his first Ironman Kona.

The Ohio native played soccer for the University of Michigan, so hours standing on the sidelines is nothing new to this family.

“We’re sports parents and we’ve watched a ton of events, so we are kind of used to it, but nothing like this,” Jane said. “I didn’t even know what an Ironman was until Rob started this.”

When Rob qualified at Ironman Wisconsin, they made plans to head to Kona.

“We’ve been to Maui before, but this is our first time on the Big Island,” Jane said. “This is incredible. We are all just blown away. It’s better than anything we could have expected.”

The whole family is now immersed in all things triathlon. Blake even has to share his new wife with Ironman. Stephanie is the go-to family member when talking about Rob’s race day.

“His goal is 9:40,” she said.

Rob finished in 10:13:57.

Kyle Garlett

Ironman also comes with heartache. And that is never going to be truer than for Kyle Garlett.

Kyle has beaten cancer four times. The disease and the chemotherapy drugs destroyed his heart and four years ago, he received a new one.

Last year, Kyle missed the swim cut-off by 8 seconds. This year, he vowed, he would not be taken out so easily.

This year, he finished the swim in just over 2 hours, took his time in the transition and headed out on the bike course.

Unfortunately and quite literally, his heart was not in it. As Kyle tells it, his transplanted heart and his brain don’t ‘talk’ to each other the same way and his heart does not get the necessary adrenaline signals.

Somewhere out on the bike course, his blood pressure fell dangerously low and it was decided he should not continue.

After medical treatment, Kyle perked up and vowed to give it another shot on another day.

When that day comes, the finish line will be packed with 20,000 spectators just waiting to say, “Kyle, you are an Ironman.”

— Find out more:

Some days end in the medical tent. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

One Response to “Ironman: Clay’s courage and Daniel’s demons”

  1. Emily T Gail says:

    More good coverage and photos by Karin Stanton and Hawaii 24/7. Hear Karin talk about covering Ironman for 19 years on Emily T Gail’s show tonight Sunday October 10 6pm on Click listen live.
    If you miss it it stays on the web site.
    Aloha Emily T Gail


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