On Monday night at about 8:30 I was in the shower when Jen answered the phone. I could tell something was very wrong. I turned the water off as Jen came in with a deep look of sadness and told me my oldest brother Jason had been in a serious car accident on his way home from work. Jason is a brother I have drawn deep inspiration from. A few years back he had gastric bypass surgery to lose weight. He was obese and knew he needed to do something quick. He lost over 100 lbs. but a couple years ago those pounds started to creep back up on him. It was then that Jason turned to triathlon to live a healthier lifestyle. He competed in his first sprint distance triathlon 2 summers ago and did the Hy-Vee Triathlon as a relay with my wife Jen and his wife Deb. He vowed to do it alone the next year. This past year Jason has worked extremely hard. He did the same sprint triathlon that he did last year and dropped over 35 minutes!! He was working very hard and was ready to do the Olympic Distance triathlon in Des Moines last June. He called me afterwards and was really disappointed that due to weather it had been shortened to a sprint triathlon. He finished and it was his best race ever. What was more inspiring to me is that he finished with a tear in his meniscus that he had gotten through training in the months leading up to Hy-Vee. He put off going to the doctor because he was afraid they would tell him not to race. He did the race...because he could. I tailgaited with him at the Iowa game this past Saturday and Jason told me his knee was healed and he was excited to get back to training for next year's races. After getting the call my 2 other brothers and I drove to Des Moines to see him late last night. We got there after midnight and my parents prepared us for what we would see. Jason lost his left arm from the shoulder in the accident. He was heavily sedated and was on a ventilator. It was tough to see but miraculously he was alive and it appears he has no serious brain injury or spinal cord injuries. Today the doctors woke him up and I was able to see him and talk to him. He responded by trying to open his eyes. He was able to shake his head when I asked him questions and he could squeeze my hand and move his toes. I told him I expected to see him in a triathlon again some day and he shook his head in agreement. I told him how proud I was to be his brother and I could see the smile on his face. I left Des Moines this afternoon to return home to Jen and the kids. My mom said tonight they took him off the ventilator and took the tubes out of his mouth and he has been talking a little bit. He has a tremendous work ethic and has so much to look forward to. God has given him a second chance in life and I know he'll make the most of it. Jason reminds me of my late grandpa Lehman who showed me what toughness is all about. He showed me how a relentless work ethic can lead to success and I know Jason will make it through these challenges. Although he's got a tough battle ahead he has so much to look forward to. He will watch his kids grow up, see them graduate from high school, watch them get married...he will be an awesome grandfather to their children. He will still watch the cubs and hawkeyes and I wouldn't put it past him to do another triathlon. Whether he does or not I'll always be proud of him.
Back to Monday afternoon...I went out on my 8th period prep to run the mile with the kids during their gym class. They ran it in 2 sections. I said I would run whatever the fastest kid wanted to run. In the first section I ran with a good sized boy who said he wasn't going to try until I coaxed him into doing his best. He ran 6:18. He was really excited. I got back on the line to run with the 2nd section next and one of the kids said, "Why are you running it again?" I didn't even need to answer as a different kid gave the perfect response for me. He said, "Because he can." God has blessed me with so many gifts. I run, swim, and bike because I can. I know not to take that for granted and was reminded of this later in the day when I got the call about my brother. Jason didn't compete in triathlons to win. He did it to model good healthy fitness habits for his children. He did it "because he can." I will enter the 2011 season on November 1 and the day can't come soon enough. I will compete this year for my brother...to make him proud...to show him how much he has inspired me. I will compete with the best because I can. In the blink of an eye that gift may be taken away. I'll enjoy it while I have it. I appreciate all your thoughts and prayers for my brother. I love you Jason. I'm so glad to still have you in my life. DREAM BIG!