“Holly Bosse, you are an IRONMAN!” As these words blasted throughout the Ford Ironman racecourse in Tempe, Arizona, Holly Bosse, a local elementary school teacher and mother of two, crossed the finish line after a grueling endurance triathlon comprised of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run. Her husband Brian, a community redevelopment supervisor, finished the same race 2 hours earlier and was there to greet her with their children, Summer and Colin, as she completed the race for which this family took almost a year to prepare. After months of hard training, Holly and Brian Bosse gained not only the lifelong accomplishment of completing an Ironman, but also the satisfaction of knowing that with this race, they were able to raise thousands of dollars for cancer research.
From Inspiration to Reality
At first glance, the Bosses seem to be your typical Santa Barbara family. After earning their bachelors and masters degrees from UCSB, Holly and Brian usually spend their average weekdays going to work and taking the kids to sports practices, while participating in community events, watching sports games, and exercising on the weekends. But when their ten year wedding anniversary was approaching, this couple didn’t make reservations at Santa Barbara’s finest restaurant. Instead, Holly and Brian celebrated the occasion by completing an Ironman Triathlon together through Team Duke, an athletic fundraising program supported by the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.
The road to becoming Ironman competitors began when Brian, a former football player who began participating in triathlons only a few years before, saw an Ironman race on TV. “Initially, I though to myself, ‘These guys are nuts!’ But the more I thought about it, the more I realized, ‘I have to do this.'” The following year, in 2004, Brian completed his first Ironman in Coeur d’Arlene, Idaho. After experiencing such a rewarding accomplishment, Brian wanted to turn his success towards a good cause. “The feeling of finishing an Ironman is so exhilarating that I wanted to use this experience to make an impact.” With that, Brian decided to compete for charity in honor of his family members that have battled cancer.
Losing his grandfather to lymphoma, his uncle to melanoma, and supporting his cousin who is battling colon cancer inspired Brian to use his health and fitness abilities to save lives. Brian found Team Duke to be his ideal organization because it not only provides training services and apparel, but it also supports any type of competition that its members decide to pursue. “There are some great organizations out there, but they’re often limited to marathons or triathlons. Team Duke will support any event that a member wants to compete in,” Brian explains.
Through the inspiration of his family, he found the motivation to continue to complete the same endurance race in 2006, where he became the first Team Duke member to complete an Ironman Triathlon, and raised over $1000 to support cancer victims. “The pain of an Ironman is nothing compared to the pain that millions of people struggling through chemotherapy go through every day,” Brian explains, “For a cancer patient, every day is a struggle and they must push their limits to make it to the next day. Cancer patients don’t have the option of quitting and coming back to treatment when they feel like it.” This proved to be an inspiration not only to the community and Team Duke, but to his wife as well. “At a race like this, the vibe is incredibly supportive around both the athletes and their families. After being on the sidelines and just watching these events, I was eager to take a more active role and do an Ironman with Brian.” They aimed for the The Arizona Ford Ironman on April 15 2007 because it was right after their wedding anniversary. “We’re not into fancy trips and jewelry, so we thought this would be a great way to celebrate ten years of managing two jobs, two kids, and two training schedules.”
So how could these busy parents possibly find time to train for an Ironman while each holding their full-time jobs and raising their children? “While living a structured life with jobs and kids, we didn’t have the flexibility in our training schedules that many athletes have.” By waking up early, staying motivated, and sticking to a workout schedule from Team Duke trainer Mike Swan, the Bosses somehow made it work. Many Sundays became “brick workout days” comprised of ten hour workouts that combined a 3 hour run with 7 hour bike ride. During the week, Brian would spend hours running on his treadmill in the garage before and after full work days. Holly would train on their stationary bike to a conditioning workout video, set at “ultra difficult” level, only taking a quick break when it came time to unload the laundry. It seemed that training cut deep into family time and leisure time, but it was for a noble cause. Throughout these months of training and sacrifice, Holly and Brian were also raising thousands of dollars for Team Duke. The Bosse’s were able to raise over $3000, donated from over 40 supportive families and fellow athletes.
On April 15, 2007, Holly and Brian began their race at sunrise with a mass start amongst thousands of other competitors. After an exhilarating 2.4 mile swim, they headed into the 112 mile bike ride, where participants faced heavy winds on top of the hot weather. During her ride, Holly got a flat tire and had to stop to repair it. She saw people around her dropping out of the race and taking van rides down to the finish area. Although tempted to rest, Holly fixed her bike and kept going. “I had to remember that I had made it this far, so there’s no way I’m backing out now.” Reaching the last leg of the race, a 26.2 mile run, Holly reconnected with Brian who was starting the second of three laps of the 9 mile course. As they jogged together, they crossed paths with famous athletes whom they recognized from TV and magazine covers. Despite their differences in fitness levels, they exchanged words of encouragement to motivate each other through the end of the race. “An Ironman strips you to your core. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, where you’re from, what you’re job is, everyone is on an even playing field,” the Bosses explain, “We were among professional athletes and famous runners, but there was a common ground between us because we were out there on the same course striving to cross the same finish line.”
And cross the finish line they did. Brian finished the race in 13:06, and Holly in 14:59, but they stayed at the racecourse until the very last competitor completed the race. “There’s such a sense of community at a race like this,” Holly says, “and that was amazing, truly life-changing.” With the encouragement from their fellow competitors as well as family support, it’s clear that the Bosses consider this race a huge success. “Your finishing time doesn’t matter as much with these longer races. It’s more about family, energy, and fulfillment.”
Exhausted, relieved, and barely able to walk, Brian had one main thought in mind: his next Ironman. “It’s a painful race, but later that day I said to Holly, ‘Ok, What next?'” It looks like the Bosses will be wearing their Team Duke jerseys for another race soon enough. “The feeling is addicting,” Holly describes, “Through this experience we were able to teach our kids the importance of health, exercise, nutrition, and balance. But the most important thing is to have fun. The person who finishes with a smile is the one that wins the race.” Whether it’s another crack at Arizona, heading back to Coeur d’Arlene, or venturing out to a new course, “there will be more,” Holly affirms. “Anything is possible.”