Runners exit Big Fish Lake after the swimming portion of the triathlon. Photo by Patrick McAbee.
By Susan Bromley
Brad Burrick has two very important reasons for competing in races, including the Big Fish Triathlon on Sunday.
The 39-year-old Fraser father wants to be healthy for his children, Adrienne, 6, and Grayson, 3-and-a-half-months-old.
“Looking at my daughter and son, I want a healthy lifestyle,” said Burrick, who is married to Nicole. “I love cookies, but I want the longest quality time with them. When I get up at 5 in the morning to train, my motivation is to be physically fit so I can have a better life with them.”
Burrick has already lost his own father and brother, both to cancer, as well as his mother, who died from complications of multiple sclerosis. He is doing what he can, including waking early four days a week to train for races like the one June 11 at Ortonville Recreation Area, to be with his children for years to come.
Competing in the sprint triathlon at the event, which offers multiple disciplines, Burrick and 116 other competitors swam 500 meters, biked 20 kilometers, and finished by running a 5K, or 3.1 miles. Total number of participants at the 13th Annual Big Fish Triathlon and Duathlon, which also includes the “Olympic” distance triathlon, was just over 300, including athletes from five states and Canada, said Kenny Krell, National Events Director/President of 3 Disciplines, sponsor.
This was Burrick’s third time competing at Big Fish Lake, where in 2015 the software developer volunteered to do the swim portion of a relay team at the request of his boss at Go-To Transport, Bob Stemple.
Burrick had long been a competitor in kickboxing and martial arts, but laughs as he calls himself “kind of an old man” in that sport. Ironically, what attracted him to give triathlons a try was the age of some of the athletes— some whom he notes are in their 70s.
“The longevity and the health benefits you get in return were huge plusses,” said Burrick.
He underestimated the difficulty of the swim leg of the triathlon, however. While he had to do swims during a stint in the Army from 1995-1997, he soon learned that swimming is the most difficult portion of the race for him.
“Swimming is the hardest thing to tackle— I run pretty good and the bike I’ve gotten better at,” said Burrick. “But in the swim, I am always in the slower finishers and I think, ‘Gosh, I worked through the whole winter.’”
He swims twice a week for an hour, putting in about 40 laps each time. Two days a week he puts his bike on a stationary trainer and does 35-45 minutes of timed intervals.
Two weeks ago, as he got closer to Big Fish Triathlon, the first race of this season, he added in 1-mile runs around his subdivision following his bike workouts.
On June 11, he lined up on the Big Fish Lake beach with all the other sprinters, entered the water, and mentally pushed himself to move through the hectic mass of swimmers so he could reach the shore as quickly as possible, where his daughter was waiting to give him a high-five, an extra push.
“When you get hit, it throws you off, there is a little bit of anxiety, too, because you can’t touch the bottom, but you gotta keep going,” said Burrick, and he did, with a goal of passing his boss, who was doing the duathlon. Burrick got on his bike after a “blooper reel” of a transition from swim gear to bike gear. As he climbed on his bike and started pedalling away, Stemple came “whipping by.” Burrick stayed close and then passed him about a mile into the 5K run, the final leg of the race, even as his legs felt like “mush.”
He laughs when questioned about the wisdom of beating the boss.
“No hard feelings,” said Burrick, who completed the triathlon in 1:25:59. “The people who do this a lot don’t have the egos, they know the work. Another day could be a completely different result. I was very happy with the results, except for the swim.”
Waiting for him at the finish line were his adoring fans, who he hopes will one day swim, bike and run next to him.
“I plan on doing this as long as I can,” said Burrick, who has four more triathlons planned this year and for Father’s Day will be attending a cancer fundraiser walk at the Detroit Zoo in honor of his father-in-law, followed by a German festival.“I would love to do a super sprint with my daughter and son when they are old enough. You can use this as a bonding experience and maybe my wife can jump in. This time together is priceless.”