Everybody was betting against them. Everybody except their wives, and wives are a gimme — but I’m not sure that privately, they didn’t also have their doubts.
It’s hard to do one Ironman, but last week 56-year-old Steve Dalke, general manager of the Kern-Tulare Water District, and 42-year-old fireman and paramedic Charles Brown did five Ironmans in five days.
“Dalke’s nuts,” said people who knew him, and I know him and I might agree.
However, this is a different kind of “nuts.” “Nuts” describing an athletic feat. “Nuts” meaning tough. “Nuts” meaning won’t quit.
The Ironman is a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26-mile run completed in that order in one day.
Brown and Dalke did the swim at McMurtrey and the biking and running legs pretty much on the bike path.
One Ironman is athletic torture, five back-to-back is unthinkable.
“Our biggest mistake was we thought we could finish every day in 15½ hours and get 6½ hours of sleep, which we did for the first day,” Dalke said. “The other days took 17½ hours (the rain and cold didn’t help) and we got 4½ hours of sleep.”
Dalke and Brown specialize in the “unthinkable.” Over the past four years, Dalke has run across the Grand Canyon and back, taken on a 50-mile trail run, swam 36 miles down the Red River in North Dakota, hiked 75 miles across the Sierras in three days, completed three double century bike rides in one summer, climbed nine mountains over 14,000 feet, backpacked 135 miles from Badwater in Death Valley to the top of Mt. Whitney and swam 12.4 miles across the Santa Barbara Channel from Anacapa Island to Oxnard.
Brown’s feats have been no less demanding and are equally impressive and could take up the rest of this column.
Why would anybody do this? For insight, perhaps.
“I learned that my body is capable of more than I thought,” Brown said. “If you push through pain, there truly is magic in misery.”
Five Ironmans in a row turns out to be a team sport.
“No way could I have done it without Steve,” said Brown, who really needed a friend after straining his Achilles tendon on day two.
“Steve and I both had moments when we felt we could not finish, we would look at each other and say, 'I’m having dark thoughts,' and somehow we would help get the other person through it. I woke up on day four and thought, 'Steve would be fine if I didn’t go to the pool this morning.' I went because I knew Steve would be there.”
They ran out of things to talk about, Thank goodness for podcasts. Every couple of hours, they took out the ear buds and asked, “How are you doing?”
Last Thursday, with two Ironmans to go, I asked Dalke how he felt.
“How do you think I feel?” Dalke said. “I feel like I’ve done three Ironmans in a row and am starting the fourth.”
No one does this without food. Lots of it. Brown estimated the pair was burning roughly 8,000 calories a day.
They had bagels and peanut butter for breakfast and a water bottle every hour and a half with a combination of meal replacement, recovery drink and energy drink that Kerry Ryan at Action Sports recommended. They plowed through Clif Bars, Picky Bars, Gu Energy Gels and Clif Bloks Energy Chews.
Lauri, Steve’s wife, met them at the finish line every night with a pasta dinner and a recovery drink, and a friend made them peanut butter and honey sandwiches.
They finished the fifth Ironman Saturday at 12:15 a.m. Dalke slept all weekend. They both went to work Monday.
‘It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and one reason might have been because I didn’t respect the distance,” said Brown, who lost seven pounds.
Brown is going to take two weeks off before training for Ironman Santa Rosa in May.
Dalke has a half-marathon this weekend.
Don’t bet against them. They’re too tough. Nuts or not.