LOCAL TRIATHLETE TO TAKE ON HAWAII IRONMAN
By Pierre LaBossire
Observer Staff Writer
Many adults still have that recurring dream that we're back in school, only we've forgotten our homework or can't find our classroom.
Imbler's Brian Dretke has a recurring dream just like that. His dream is that he's made the trip all the way to Hawaii only to discover at the last minute that he's forgotten his bike, not his homework.
That dream is a symptom that for the past several months, Dretke's life has revolved around Hawaii. It will continue to do so for the next few weeks.
Dretke, 43, is competing next month in one of the toughest athletic endeavors on the planet the annual Hawaii Ironman Triathlon World Championship.
Dretke is a veteran of about 50 triathlons, but he's never competed in an ironman event. In the Ironman, he must swim 2.4 miles, ride a bike for 112 miles, then run a full marathon 26.2 miles. These distances are about four times longer than a typical triathlon.
Just getting in the Hawaii event to begin with is exceedingly difficult. It not only takes athletic ability, it takes some luck, too. More than 50,000 people annually attempt to qualify for the 1,500 slots in the race.
Dretke qualified by completing a half-ironman. His name was put in a lottery pool, and out of that pool, the names of "150 everyday Joes" were picked. On April 16, Dretke was notified his name was one of those selected.
"I should have used that good Karma for Powerball," he said. "The odds are about as good."
Dretke said he had a wild swing of emotions after learning he had qualified for the Hawaii Ironman. "There was about 30 seconds of sheer elation, followed by the dread of, can I actually finish this darn thing?' "
Dretke figured that since he had qualified, he'd better take his training seriously. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, he's a big man to be running ironman triathlons. Since he started training for Hawaii, Dretke said he has lost 35 pounds.
While at first he wasn't sure he could do it, after several months of training, Dretke is more confident now. "I think I will finish. If I didn't think that, I wouldn't be doing this," he said.
Dretke said his weakest of the three triathlon skills is running, and he gave a lot of credit to local "ultra" runner Howard Brown for helping him with his running.
Brown taught him the kind of courses he can use that would help him with his training. For instance, Brown and Dretke probably startled plenty of chipmunks and mountain goats in the wilderness, recently running for 231/2 miles one day up and back the Elkhorn Crest trail near Anthony Lakes.
Dretke said he has enjoyed this training so much that he's planning to compete in the ultra running circuit after he finishes the Hawaii event.
It's a huge commitment for Dretke. The former assistant prosecutor in Union County is an attorney in Pendleton, so he already spends two hours a day commuting to and from work. Throw in another three hours a day training for the Ironman, then six hours a weekend of training, and he hardly has time for anything else.
Dretke said his family has been incredibly supportive. He said his wife, Khuelien, knows that he has always wanted to run in the Ironman and has been great about all the long hours he's spent away from home.
However, his biggest fan and supporter has been his 14-year-old son, Tyler. "He's the most excited. He can't wait to go to Hawaii," Dretke said.
Dretke said his goal for the race is simple. "I have a time that I know I can do, (but) I just want to finish," he said.
Dretke first got involved in triathlons in the mid-1980s when he was an officer in the Tulsa Police Department. He was inspired by a famous video shot many years ago of a completely exhausted competitor staggering to the finish line of a triathlon. He was impressed with the level of commitment it took for that person to finish the race.
"I thought that was the coolest thing," he said.
So with the help of a Tulsa police sergeant who ran triathlons, Dretke began training and has now competed in triathlons all over the Midwest and Pacific Northwest.
While Dretke jokes about the recurring "lost homework" dream and the fear that he won't be able to go to the bathroom after the race because of dehydration, he really has one fear, one that he's hoping to stave off with his athletic training.
"What I'm really afraid of is that I'm going to wind up fat, middle-aged and working all the time a couch potato," he said.