Ironman shows his mettle
She crawled on her hands and knees the rest of the way, waving away people offering their help.
Meanwhile, some 2,600 miles east in Oregon, Art Bradley watched “ABC’s Wide World of Sports” in astonishment. Even now, as the 57-year-old employee wellness coach at The Springs Senior Living in McMinnville trains for the Ironman himself, the image of Moss’ perseverance never fails to inspire him.
That’s fitting, said Jay Leo, the director of operations at The Springs. Bradley inspires people in the office every day with his employee fitness program.
With Bradley’s help and encouragement, Leo has shed 30 pounds. “It’s hard not to be inspired,” he said.
Bradley will compete in this year’s Ironman Triathlon, set for Oct. 10 in Hawaii. The Ironman, considered one of the most grueling one-day athletic competitions in the world, consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike race and 26.2 mile run, all of which must be completed within 17 hours.
This is not Bradley’s first Ironman. He has competed before in Idaho and California. However, this one is special.
“This is the one all of us who do Ironmans want to get to, because it’s such an iconic event,” he said. “This is the largest Ironman in the country. It’s the championship.
“It’s also the longest running. The Ironman started in Hawaii in 1978.”
Bradley got the chance to compete by winning a lottery. Literally.
He went to Lake Tahoe for an Ironman competition last year, but smoke from nearby wildfires forced a cancelation.
Some 3,000 competitors left disappointed, but event organizers entered them into a lottery for the Hawaii triathlon. And Bradley’s name was among those drawn.
“It’s an amazing honor,” he said. “It’s a hard, hard thing to get one of those slots.”
Bradley has never been anyone’s idea of a milquetoast. “Fitness has always been a big part of my life,” he said.
He ran track and played basketball in high school. However, he first learned about triathlons from watching Julie Moss.
“It was amazing to me to watch that,” he said. “I later got to meet her at an Ironman in California in 2000. I was like a kid meeting his sports hero, even though I was 43 years old at the time.”
Moss proves there is more to athletic competition, especially the Ironman, than its purely physical aspects, he added.
“It’s so spiritual,” he said. “You constantly have to psyche yourself into moving forward. For a lot of us it’s important for us to see it through to end.”
Bradley used to run the UPS Store in McMinnville. Then he started his own business as a personal trainer.
One of his clients was Fee Stubblefield, the founder of The Springs Senior Living. And Stubblefield hired him to be the company’s employee wellness coach.
“It was pretty rocky at first,” said Lisa Maynard, the company’s director of people and process, and Bradley’s immediate supervisor. “Buy-in was difficult. However, we tied it into employee safety, and participation is now 30 to 40 percent.”
Bradley led the decision to remove the machine-dispensed snacks in favor of a selection of fresh fruit and adding a treadmill when the company moved into new office space on N.E. Evans Street. “When we changed buildings, the junk didn’t come with us,” said Joyce Richter, the company’s marketing director.
The Springs operates 13 assisted-living centers in Eugene, Milwaukie, Salem, Lake Oswego, Medford, Sherwood, The Dalles and Wilsonville, as well as centers in Missoula and Whitefish, Montana. Maynard said the company’s 1,100 employees are susceptible to back injuries, making Bradley’s fitness efforts invaluable
Leo, who suffers from diabetes, swims with Bradley on Tuesdays.
Last fall, Leo cut out all forms of fast food. “This was big for me,” he said. “I often found myself eating on the go.”
Thanks to Bradley, he’s also taken to running 30 miles a week. “For me personally, Art has been very inspirational,” he said.
As for Bradley, he gets up between 4:40 and 5 a.m. every day. He said he usually trains 12 hours a week.
Although he doesn’t mind the discomfort, he’s careful not to over-train.
“It can be an obsession,” he said. “You have to balance that obsession with what’s healthy. Exercise is the single most powerful drug any of us can take.”
However, he added, it’s a healthy drug. His 85-year-old father walks two miles daily.
“Exercise affects one’s mental and emotional state,” he said. “That’s the idea I am promoting here at The Springs as well. I think we’re building a really nice and healthy culture here.”