Big Dreams No Fear

When your race doesn't go as planned.

By Brad Kelley

As athletes, we sign up for a particular race, we train for hours and miles in the months ahead, we have a training plan that our coach has laid out for us....and then race morning comes upon us.

I know from many of my own experiences that sometimes you can prepare all you want for a race and when the time comes to finally step up to the start line or sometime during the race you're given a whole new set of circumstances that you were not expecting. Could be the weather changes in the middle of the race, you are not feeling your best and have stomach issues, a last minute bike problem, or after the race starts you have problems with your swim goggles, sudden cramps and numbness on the bike or you simply forgot to put socks in your run gear bag so now you must go sockless for the marathon run portion of a triathlon knowing that your feet will be blistered badly.

I have had so many situations and odd injuries happen to me over the many years of racing but I know that I always carry an extra pair of goggles in case mine break and I triple check to make sure I have socks in my run bag. Speaking of bad days, what would you do if you saw a bear while racing? That alone would cause many to say...I am done!!! Come pick me up!! The picture below was from the Whistler Ironman a few years ago and unknowingly my friend just past by the bear. Now that is what I consider an unusual day at the races.

Triathlon Bear

It is at these moments in a given race you realize you might not achieve your goals that you set out for a particular race that defines you. I always admire the pro athlete who had an absolutely horrible day where nothing went right, has no chance at a podium finish or cash prizes and yet still finishes rather than giving up. It shows me he came to finish and he did just that.

Being paralyzed 14 years ago and not knowing if I would ever walk again I might have a different perspective than you. I personally realize that I am so incredibly blessed and it is a gift that I'm even able to do the many athletic events I do. I go into each race knowing that I will put forth my best effort, with injuries or obstacles and get to the finish line. In life, we all have good and bad days and it is no different out on the race course. Don't look at those bad races as failures but rather look at them as character building days when things did not go your way. There are many people out there that would love to have an opportunity to do an athletic event but physically it is impossible. We all want to do well in our sporting events but we have to look at the big picture too.

Spending time with and thinking of disabled children and adults who are less fortunate certainly makes my days go better and no doubt puts a smile on my face.

So at that event when you don't achieve your goals think about how lucky you are to even start a race rather than the frustrating day you are having or your finish time that was far from what you expected.

Happy trails.


Feel free to email me if you have questions or comments.


Brad Kelley's bio

Brad Kelley


In 2003, in just a matter of days, I weakened to the point where I could not walk. After four days in the hospital, I was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), a rare autoimmune disease.

It took months of rehabilitation before I returned to work. During rehabilitation I asked my doctor if I could compete in an Ironman one day. He replied, "I don't think that's possible with the condition you have. I've never heard of a GBS patient doing a long endurance event such as an Ironman." That was all I needed to hear - I was determined to prove him wrong.

I began training and at first I couldn't swim 50 meters without getting winded. But I continued on, and with the support of my family and friends, I have completed five full Ironmans and eight 70.3 Ironmans including qualifying for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.

Crossing the finish line of my first Ironman was overwhelming. Seeing thousands cheering me to the finish line was an incredible feeling. I knew then that I wanted to inspire others to get fit. If I can complete an Ironman with GBS, then anyone can get out and exercise. Start small - every little bit helps.

I keep pushing myself to do more. I have competed in twelve Ironman events including Double and Triple Ironmans.

I'm competing in honor of my mother and all Special Olympians. My incredible mother passed away last year. As a speech pathologist she worked with special needs kids. She taught me to accept people as they are, and to help those with disabilities. Through this I found the Special Olympics - they are the true champions and inspiring individuals in my life.

In 2003 I didn't know if I would ever walk again. Today, I compete for those who can't and to inspire those who can.

WheelchairToIronman.com, BigDreamsNoFear.com, And for my speaking presentations at IMBradK.com