Patient Success: Ironman

Hard Work and Perseverance Pays Off

Bryan Howell has always been an athletic guy, but life somehow got in the way and put him on a path where he was 260 pounds and wasn’t working out as much as he would’ve liked. Back in 2005, he wanted to up his workout game from his usual routine to doing a full triathlon. It was a lofty goal, and he debated it a few times, but then his life started to change. Howell moved from Arizona to Colorado to retire and settle into a new life. A year later, he moved again. Three years after that he moved again, and by 2010 he found himself back in Phoenix, where he’s been ever since.

In 2011, he decided to finally take the plunge and run his first triathlon. He had plenty of bicycle experience — that was his sport of choice for a while — but this time he had a daunting challenge in front of him: a 400 yard swim, 12 mile bicycle ride and a 3.1 mile run. It was tough, but he made it through and placed second for his age group. Not too bad at all.

Howell isn’t a spry 25, however. Approaching the 40-year-old mark, his body performs differently than it would if he were a teenager. He had a new goal, but now pain was stopping him from reaching it. For that, he needed some help.

“I came to Arizona Pain about a year and a half ago,” Howell says. “I was having extreme pain in my knee. I wanted to train for the Ironman triathlon, but my knee was keeping me from doing that.”

The fix was a series of knee pain joint injections, which not only cut back on the severe pain his left knee was causing him, but also helped push him forward to pursue other goals. “Those injections gave me the confidence and the ability to train to the level I needed to get to.”

He had almost a year to go before his first real Ironman competition, and there was a lot of work to accomplish. After all, the Ironman is known as one of the most grueling triathlons in existence — hence the name. And the training for that competition involves doing a lot of triathlons. It was going to be a tough year.

His workout schedule became pretty intense. On Mondays he’s swim for 30 minutes, then run for 60. On Tuesdays, spin class for 60 minutes, then run for another 30. One of his bigger days was Saturday, with a 90 minute bike ride combined with a 60 minute run. It’s the type of schedule that would put some 20 year olds to shame, and he was doing it as a middle-aged man.

At this point, Howell has shed at least 30 pounds from his frame, and things are going fairly well. In October of 2011, he raced his first half Ironman, and finished in five hours, 22 minutes — a respectable finish for someone in the 35-39 age range category. And it was just the beginning.

In May of 2012, Howell competed in the Ironman St. George competition — and it wasn’t easy.

The swimming portion of the race was hampered by bad weather conditions. 4- to 5-foot waves were causing even the best swimmers to have negative process, and things just kept getting worse. It got to the point where the organizers started pulling swimmers out of the water — including Howell — because it had become dangerous.

But the race wasn’t over yet. Race officials explained how they would adjust things for the poor conditions, which gave some people the option to quit right then and there. Not Howell. He pushed forward into the cycling competition and decided to really enjoy himself, taking in the sights and sounds of the course and helping out his fellow riders whenever possible. He even clocked speeds just shy of 60 mph, which certainly didn’t hurt his time.

Next came the run, and at first he was doing consistent 8- and 9-minute miles. The number would drop to 12 minutes around the 18-mile mark, but while other entrants were giving up, he kept on pushing forward. At the end of it all, he finished in approximately 14 hours and 25 minutes, which was 3 hours better than he target time.

None of this would’ve been possible without a lot of hard work and the help of everyone on his team. But Howell does have one particular group to thank. “I really attribute all of this success to my work ethic and some help from Arizona Pain.”

See Bryan’s pictures and achievements in a short video here