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Feet of iron | Upland Current

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Beacon athlete sets barefoot record

Completing a triathlon is tough.

Completing the Lake Placid Ironman Triathlon — a 2.1-mile swim in Mirror Lake followed by a 112-mile bike ride through the Adirondacks before finishing with a marathon — is tougher.

Guy Felixbrodt, who lives in Beacon, went one step further last month when he did it barefoot, the first person to accomplish the feat. It took 16 hours and 49 minutes.

Beacon resident Felixbrodt juggled the 13.1-mile race segment of an Ironman. (Photo by Brian PJ Cronin)

This is actually his second album. A few years ago at the Half Ironman World Championships in South Africa, he juggled the entire 13.1 mile race. The forward motion makes juggling easier, not harder, he says. “What I couldn’t make up in speed, I made up in skill.”

Modern barefoot running came into vogue in 2009 with the publication of Christopher McDougall’s born to run, which suggests that “running shoes may be the most destructive force to ever strike the human foot”. The theory is that today’s over-cushioned shoes weaken our feet by causing them to pronate excessively, leading to a host of injuries and misfortunes.

Although he read born to run and agrees with its premise, Felixbrodt lost his shoes through a different route: a YouTube video that introduced him to the concept of “grounding.”

The earth, says Felixbrodt, vibrates with energy from the stratosphere, deposited by constant lightning. “We basically walk on charged ground – some call it sacred –,” he says. “And then we do the most dangerous thing possible: we isolate ourselves from it. We have rubber-soled shoes, rubber-soled sandals, flip-flops, all of which disconnect us from the earth. Walking barefoot “anchors” a person, connecting the body to electrons in the earth, he says.

“I’m a person who likes to think differently,” says Felixbrodt.

Felixbrodt got involved in triathlons because he was going to donate stem cells to a stranger and felt he needed to get back in shape. “I wanted to give it the crème de la crème of stem cells,” he says.

After switching to barefoot running, he says the pain in his feet subsided and he was able to recover faster between runs. He also ditched his bike shoes and bought some ground wires from AutoZone to turn his bike into a “ground cycle.”

the iron brother

iron brother 2Guy Felixbrodt isn’t the only local notable when it comes to Ironman. Father Dan Callahan of the Franciscan Brothers of Atonement at Graymoor in Garrison has been involved in events for 25 years, earning him the nickname ‘Iron Brother’ and helping to raise over $350,000 for charity .

In June, the 71-year-old finished second in his age group at the Tupper Lake Tinman Triathlon and on July 24, in what he said was his last race, competed in the Lake Placid Triathlon for the 24th time, finishing in just under 17 hours.

“I don’t compete, I complete!” callahan said in an interview published on the brothers’ website. “That’s the strategy.”

Felixbrodt’s feet are indeed not indestructible. He prefers not to run on sharp gravel and he wears shoes in the winter when walking his dog. But he says if he tries to run in shoes now, he trips. So he goes barefoot everywhere, helpfully explaining to people at grocery stores who point out to the manager that there’s no state health code prohibiting it.

Felixbrodt completed the Lake Placid Ironman Triathlon last month

Felixbrodt completed the Lake Placid Ironman Triathlon last month

Besides, he asks, what’s unhealthy about feet? “Am I going to go to the grocery store and pick up the cucumbers with my feet?” he asks. “Yet people put their hands in it, and who knows where their hands went?”

When Felixbrodt took his barefoot gospel to the Adirondacks, some contestants told him he was crazy. He says he replied that it was an inherently crazy event. To those who were intrigued, he explained that walking barefoot would allow them to discharge the energy their bodies were generating, instead of pumping it back into their muscles, wearing them down. “You improve your fitness but ruin your body,” he explained.

With the race behind him, Felixbrodt is ready to hit the road. He will soon be leaving with his dog to travel the country in a trailer and start a physical consulting business known as The Body MC. He is eager to cover long distances without worrying about time limits that could disqualify him.

“As they say on a bike: when you go down, enjoy the wind, and when you go up, enjoy the view,” he says. “Along the way, you might set a world record or two.”