By Aly Morrissey | 3/20/12 11:30 AM
Defenseman Brian Kuczma may have retired from Major League Lacrosse after playing in the league for eight years, but he continues to challenge himself physically and mentally for a good cause. On August 11 he will race over 140-miles in the Ironman U.S. Championship in New York City with Team Continuum, a non-profit organization that raises money for cancer patients and their families.
When Kuczma first learned about Team Continuum, he realized the cause struck an emotional chord within him. “I lost my mom two years ago to cancer so I knew this was something that would be a great cause. I understand the hardships families go through when they struggle with this ugly disease. To not worry about everyday payments and bills and to be able to concentrate on treatment would be an asset to any family going through it,” Kuczma said. As an avid racer, the opportunity to compete in the New York City Ironman and raise money for a great cause was something he could not pass up.
A seasoned athlete, Kuczma played college lacrosse at Johns Hopkins University where he had an illustrious career as a First Team All-American in 1996 and 1997. To cap it off, he was named the national defensive player of the year as a senior. In 2001, he joined MLL in its inaugural season and went on to play professionally for eight years with the league. He was a defensive standout with the Boston Cannons and Philadelphia Barrage and played in two MLL All-Star games.
While his love for lacrosse was tangible, Kuczma’s wife (who also played lacrosse at Johns Hopkins) introduced him to the culture of racing, which has become a self-proclaimed “weird addiction” of his ever since. He began racing while he was playing with the Philadelphia Barrage and says the demands of playing professional lacrosse have helped mold him into the highly competitive athlete he is today.
“Being a lacrosse player and an athlete at the level of MLL has helped with the mental aspect of racing,” said Kuczma. “I think anyone can handle the physical part as long as they put the time in and train. It’s the mental aspect of fighting through the tough times that’s challenging, and in the case of the Ironman, you’re going to be racing anywhere from nine hours if you’re an elite athlete, to 17 hours. So I think the mental challenge you go through in a typical MLL season really helps you prepare for that.”
While Kuczma says his experience playing in the league has helped fine-tune his athleticism, he explains that the mental toughness required to successfully finish an Ironman pales in comparison to what cancer patients actually go through. “There will be times when you’re on the bike for over five hours by yourself and you definitely do a lot of soul searching and thinking about the past. Sometimes you draw upon the struggle that cancer patients may be going through and you realize, ‘What I’m going through in a race is easy compared to what they went through,’ so that drives you to move forward.”
The Ironman U.S. Championship will take place on August 11, 2012 and covers over 140 miles of terrain. It begins with a 2.4-mile swim in the Hudson River, followed by a 112-mile bike course spanning the cliffs of Palisades Parkway followed by a 26.2-mile run (marathon) over the George Washington Bridge and finishing at 81st Street in the heart of New York City.
“The part I enjoy the most is the swim,” he said. “It’s probably my weakest area but I like being in the water and having that freedom of floating and moving forward.” From a competitive standpoint, he relies on the run to give him his best time. “The nature of the sport of lacrosse makes us runners and playing for over 20 years, it’s always been something that I’ve done well.”
As for personal goals, Kuczma jokes that his first is simply to finish. “Each race is going to have its own challenges. In August in New York City we’ll obviously be battling the heat.” In his last Ironman challenge, he boasted an 11 hour and 10 minute finish, something he looks to beat this summer.
“If I don’t beat that time, I know that finishing is an accomplishment in itself.”
Brian will continue to blog about his training efforts leading up to the U.S. Ironman Championship this summer. You can find his blog posts here at www.majorleaguelacrosse.com.
Team Continuum is a non-profit organization dedicated to taking immediate care of anyone involved in fighting cancer including vital, non-medical assistance and funding to health care facilities and foundations. To donate to Brian as he trains for and competes in the Ironman, please visit www.teamcontinuum.net and enter “Kuczma” into the Donate to an Athlete field, which will take you to Brian and his wife Carlene’s page.