Friday, November 25, 2011

My epic battle with Eric Byrnes is over!

It's time for battle!

By now, you're probably aware that I just completed Ironman Arizona, and set a new personal record.  It was a crazy day, and a lot of it went better than I could have imagined.  I've already told you about all of my personal goals and accomplishments for that day, except one.  And that goal was to beat Eric Byrnes!

Image found on Google of Eric Byrnes
Eric Byrnes used to play professional baseball for the Arizona Diamondbacks (and a few other teams during his career).  He retired from the MLB after playing in the majors from 2000 to 2010.  Since his retirement, he has been playing some slow-pitch softball, golfing, and probably a ton of other perfect retirement activities to just enjoy life.  One thing that he also started showing interest in was triathlons.

For his first triathlon, he wore his surfing wetsuit, rode a beach cruiser for the bike portion, and then still clicked out some 6:30 miles during the run.  And doing a few shorter triathlons got his eyes set on the big dance...a full blown Ironman triathlon.

Fast forward to November 2011.  Eric Byrnes could have signed up for any Ironman in the world, but he chose Arizona.  Some might think it was because he used to play professional baseball in Arizona, so he felt comfortable here.  Others might think that he did his research and found that Ironman Arizona is actually a pretty nice race.  But the truth is that Byrnsie was challenging me to a duel.  I'm pretty sure as he was signing up for the race, he said to himself, "Jason Wright!  You're going down!"

When I found out that Eric Byrnes was going to be battling me head-to-head at Ironman Arizona, I started to wonder just how fast he would be.  I had already set my personal goals and felt that they were pretty lofty already, so I wasn't really going to be changing my time goal.  But would the added advantage of beating Eric Byrnes propel me to a speed that I have yet to discover?

All during race weekend, I could tell that Byrnsie was avoiding me.  I went to the athlete check in on Friday, and I'm sure he went on Thursday or early on Friday to avoid receiving my incredibly intimidating glare.  And at the athlete dinner on Friday night, I had saved him a seat, and he purposefully either didn't show up or sat as far away as he could.  Then on race morning, he did everything in his power to get away from me.

Before I get to the actual race results and which one of us was declared the winner of our epic duel, let's set the stage with a couple videos.  This first one is of me getting ready on race morning, and there was only one thing on my mind...

This next video is actually of The Wife and her sister.  While they were spectating, they happened to end up next to Eric Byrnes' family!  The Wife ended up talking with Byrnsie's wife (and says that she was very nice and friendly).  This video is a recap of what happened...

Now, let me clear something up.  The Wife was incorrect.  This is, in fact, a REAL rivalry!  Look at all of the facts, and it is very obvious that this thing is for real.  Moving on.

And finally, here is how the epic battle went down!

The swim was intense.  I kept looking for Eric Byrnes before I got in the water.  I was going to offer to let him draft off of me so he could be fresh for the bike and run (or, maybe I was actually planning on drafting off of him!).  But, I could not find him.  I'm pretty sure he had his body guards keeping an eye on me and telling him to move to the other end of transition whenever I was getting near.  The swim started, and about halfway through I got kicked in the face.  "Darn you Byrnsie!"  I know that he was the one that kicked me.  He had singled me out in the swim and deliberately swam in front of me to get in this cheap shot.  But that's fine.  I didn't let it phase me.  After the swim, this is what our stats looked like:

Byrnsie: Swim time - 1:15:52, T1 time - 8:40, total time - 1:24:32
Jason: Swim time - 1:19:47, T1 time - 9:39, total time - 1:29:26

Sweet!  I was only down by about 5 minutes.  Not too shabby!

The bike was where the tide changed...but not in my direction.  I still had not actually seen Byrnsie out there on the battle field, so I had no idea where he was in relation to where I was.  And that's probably because he was flying on the bike!  He was going so fast that I'm considering requesting that his bike be inspected for a jet engine.  The other thing that I'm sure about is that Byrnsie was the cause of all of the flat tires out on the course.  After receiving the kick in the face from him during the swim, I wouldn't put it past him to have carried a baggie full of thumbtacks out onto the bike course with the intention of releasing them in hopes to give me a flat tire.  He needed an advantage!  Lucky for me, he missed.  But that didn't matter.  He smoked me on the bike:

Byrnsie: Bike time - 5:10:06, T2 time - 6:03, total time - 6:40:41
Jason: Bike time - 5:34:44, T2 time - 2:47, total time - 7:04:10

Crap!  Byrnsie was crushing me!  But on the positive side, I did have a faster T2, so ha!

The run, as you may have already read in my run recap, was a little rough for me.  Byrnsie, on the other hand, had a great run!  Again, I didn't see him because he obviously avoided me, but he had a great marathon time.  Based on his splits, he averaged around 8:30/mile for the first 9 miles, slowed only slightly to 9:20/mile for the next 8.5 miles, and slowed to 10:48/mile for the last 6.2 miles.  It may seem as if he was getting tired near the end, but that's not the case.  He was deliberately slowing down in order to taunt me!  He had such a great race, and had blown me away, that he wanted to savor the moment for a while and really rub it in.  Well played, sir, well played.

Byrnsie: Run time - 4:04:22, total time at finish - 10:45:01
Jason: Run time - 4:32:54, total time at finish - 11:39:49

Back in January of this year, I made the bold prediction that Eric Byrnes could finish this race under 10 hours.  I wasn't quite correct, but I was correct in predicting that he would have an absolutely amazing Ironman debut!  There was no doubt in my mind that Byrnsie would attack this sport with the same intensity that earned him the right to play major league baseball.  On top of that, he is the prime age for triathletes, and he is fortunate enough to have the perfect living situation to become a top level triathlete.  I'm just happy that I was within an hour of his time!  I think he took it easy on me.

It kills me to say it, but congratulations on destroying my hopes and dreams, Mr. Byrnes.  You may have won the battle, but the war is far from over!  I fully expect you to return to IMAZ in 2013 when I plan on racing this course again.

Ok, now that my soul is crushed, let's get to a happier note.  As I said earlier, The Wife ended up bumping into Eric Byrnes' wife.  And as The Wife's sister stated in that video, they sure as heck snapped a picture of their sign:

Awesome sign Mrs. Byrnes!

And The Wife also got a great shot of Byrnsie in action, just as he was passing his family!

It pays to have a great sign!  I'm sure he was very happy to see his family.

And oddly enough, my mother in law was volunteering at the finish line, placing medals on finishers.  Well...she got to give Eric Byrnes his first Ironman medal!  Awesome!  And of course, she and her husband snagged a photo of the lightning fast Eric Byrnes and his beautiful family:

Congrats on the wonder finish!

Thank you Mr. Byrnes for the epic battle.  I am proud to have provided you with a rivalry that could push you to your limits and drive you to finish in such an amazing time in your Ironman debut.  I wish you continued success in your retirement and your new found addiction that is triathlon.  Hopefully one day we can battle again to see who wins round 2!


  1. Correction! "The Wife's **sister** got a great shot of Byrnsie in action, just as he was passing his family!" :) Awesome blog post.

    - Rachel

  2. Epic. Epic! He was avoiding you. There was fear, you can see it in his sunglasses.

  3. Ha ha ha! I know, right!? I'm glad you see it too...