Utah man competes in Ironman World Championship after ALS diagnosis

Sep 28, 2021, 12:09 AM | Updated: 10:05 am

ST. GEORGE, Utah — An elite cyclist from Farmington finished a half Ironman he vowed to compete in last month after he found out he had an aggressive and terminal form of ALS.

Kyle Brown has been diagnosed with Bulbar ALS, and he just completed the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in a time of 5:38:35.

The race was held in St. George on Sept. 18.

“You know, to experience this, and especially with this support group behind me, I hate to say this, but I can die happy, I really can,” Brown said just after he crossed the finish line.

The misdiagnosis 

Kyle Brown actually got the devastating diagnosis of Bulbar ALS twice.

“Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is a progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control. ALS is often called Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the baseball player who was diagnosed with it,” according to The Mayo Clinic.

When symptoms begin with speech or swallowing problems, as they did for Brown, it is termed “bulbar onset” ALS.

When symptoms begin in the arms or legs, it is referred to as “limb onset” ALS.

Bulbar onset ALS is said to be more aggressive than limb onset.

Brown’s doctors first told him he had it in March 2021.

“Doctors said, ‘You have Bulbar onset ALS,’ and we freaked out for like a week. Went to see more doctors and they were like, ‘No way do you have this,” he said.

Brown is in his early fifties, an elite athlete, in peak physical condition, vegan, and trains for his Ironman six days a week.

The confirmation

At least six doctors told him there was no way he could have the disease.

It was months after that, in July, when doctors reconfirmed to Brown he did, indeed have Bulbar ALS.

He had gone to see his specialist at The University of Utah.

“And he said, ‘I’m sorry. The first time you saw me, I was wrong. The original diagnosis was correct,'” said Brown.

During that time, Brown had actually raced and qualified for September’s Ironman.

The marriage

The same day it was confirmed to Brown that he was indeed dying, he proposed to his girlfriend, Colleen.

They were married in less than three weeks.

It was an emotional ceremony after they biked three hours to the top of Francis Peak in Davis County, where they were met by more than 100 friends and family.

Brown shared tender words with his bride that day.

Race day

As the sun rose over Sand Hollow Reservoir on that mid-September race day morning, emotions were high for Brown, before the race even started.

He’s already been on a journey just to get to this point.

“You can’t hide behind someone and draft. You ride an uncomfortable bike, and you run like you stole and the cops are behind ya, and that’s after you swam a long ways,” he said, describing how different an Ironman is from a cycling race.

As he took off for the 1.2-mile swim, he struggled.

His family nervously watched from the shores of Sand Hollow Reservoir as he started choking after stopping early in the swim.

“I was throwing up the whole time — in the water, on the bike — and it was affecting my stomach,” said Brown.

But, he was determined. He had plans to do a log roll over the finish line, and nothing would stop him.

His log roll was to honor a fellow triathlete named Jon Blais, who died from ALS.

The Jon Blais connection

Blais is the only man to complete a full Ironman with ALS.

He was the originator of that roll over the finish line.

Triathletes still honor him by doing it. It’s now known as the Blazeman roll.

“His doctors said, ‘If you’re going to do it, they’re going to have to roll you across the finish line.’ So he said, ‘Alright,'” said Brown, fighting back tears. “So, he finished it.”

Blais stopped right in front of the finish line, laid down and rolled across.

That’s what Brown planned to do while wearing his number.  

The bike and run

Brown made it out of the water. Then, it was a 56-mile bike ride through the grueling red rocks of St. George.

With each mile, he grew wearier. Biking, however, is in his blood.

“It’s my true calling in life, I guess,” he said.

And finally, the run — 13.1 miles.

The last 100 meters, Brown said his legs were cramping.

“I don’t know if I can do this anymore, that about killed me,” he said. “And I don’t need help.”

The finish

As Brown approached the massive Ironman black carpet and archway, party music blaring in the background, he got about two feet from the finish line, got down on all fours, and log rolled. His very own, Blazeman roll.

He then buried his head in his hands and sobbed.

“I got there and it all hit me,” he said, crying. “Just overwhelmed.”

Not only did Brown finish the race, he gained support from fans, strangers, and other athletes along the way who heard his story while at the race.

After the race, Brown held up a white flag with black lettering.

“It’s too late for me but not for someone you love, the cure for ALS is close,” it read.

Final race day message

Brown’s final message on race day: go out and live.

“Don’t waste time. Do somethin’ crazy and stupid, do something you love because you don’t know what could happen tomorrow,” he said.

When you’re faced with tragedy, he said, you can come alive, or you can come undone.

“I hate to say this, but I can die happy. I really can. I’m not lacking anything. I haven’t missed out on a thing,” he said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

Jared M. Boyce, 27, of Springville, Utah (Kootenai County Sheriff's Office)...

Michael Houck

Utah Patriot Front member will be sentenced for child pornography charges

A Utah man who was arrested last year for his involvement with a white nationalist group in Idaho has admitted to possessing child pornography.

22 hours ago

The scene of the crash in Mexican Hat. (Utah Highway Patrol)...

Michael Houck

Driver killed in single-vehicle crash near Utah-Arizona borders

A driver was killed in a crash while crossing the San Juan River at the Mexican Hat bridge Friday afternoon.

22 hours ago

A member of the Salt Lake City Police Department’s SWAT Team speaks with a firefighter and a SLCP...

Michael Houck

Police take fugitive into custody after SWAT standoff in Sandy

A man wanted for aggravated assault and a domestic violence incident barricaded himself at a Sandy hotel Friday evening.

22 hours ago

Gabriela Sifuentes Castilla, the victim of who was shot and killed in October 2021....

Lauren Steinbrecher

Sister of murdered Utah radio show host ‘can finally sleep’ after suspect’s jailing

The sister of a Utah-based Spanish radio show host is sharing her relief that the justice system is moving forward after her sister was murdered more than a year and a half ago. 

22 hours ago

Salt Lake police reports about Utah neuropsychologist Parth Gandhi, who killed his 16-year-old son ...

Pat Reavy

Utah psychologist was under sex assault investigation at time of murder-suicide

Salt Lake police reports about Utah neuropsychologist Parth Gandhi, who killed his 16-year-old son in a murder-suicide, describe lengthy custody disputes of the boy and a sexual assault investigation underway at the time of Gandhi's death.

22 hours ago


Larry D. Curtis

Kamas orders residents to boil water, possibly for E. coli

Residents of Kamas in Utah's Summit County have been ordered to boil water for all uses.

22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Asian little girl playing arcade game on the computer machines at the shopping mall outlets...

Get Out Pass

Family Fun Activities in Utah You Have to Try This Summer

These family fun activities will entertain you all summer, so if you ever feel stuck in a rut wondering what to do, refer to this guide!

Woman IT specialist in elegant suit working on notebook computer in data center next to server rack...

Les Olson

Your Complete Guide to Outsourcing IT Services

This guide covers everything you need to know about the different benefits of outsourcing IT services to meet your small business needs.

diverse group of friends dance outside under string lights...

Lighting Design

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Outdoor Lighting

Read for the most frequently asked questions about outdoor lighting to help narrow the search for your home.

Stack of old laptops with dark background...

PC Laptops

Old Laptop Upgrades You Need to Try Before Throwing it Away

Get the most out of your investment. Try these old laptop upgrades before throwing it out to keep it running fast and efficient.

Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...

BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.

Close up of an offset printing machine during production...

Les Olson IT

Top 7 Reasons to Add a Production Printer to Your Business

Learn about the different digital production printers and how they can help your company save time and money.

Utah man competes in Ironman World Championship after ALS diagnosis