Four years ago, Brian Walker promised his wife he would never again compete in a Double Anvil — a swim-bike-run endurance race that is twice the distance of the Ironman triathlon.
His promise came after completing the grueling, 280-mile race in the 2017 Virginia Anvil Fest.
Three years later, he suffered serious injuries in a biking accident that sidelined him for months. During that time, he backpedaled on his promise.
“I started feeling sorry for myself,” said Walker, 55, a Bel Air resident and member of the HCC Board of Trustees. “I resolved to compete again, and to win the Triple Anvil.”
In returning to the competition Oct 7-9, he not only finished the 421-mile race in Lake Anna State Park Virginia, but he won the title by two hours. Walker prevailed over a field of 12 starters in 50 hours, 6 minutes.
In the crazy world of extreme endurance events, the anvil races are not yet widely known. This event had a limit of 50 entrants among the four different races, including the longest — the 703-mile Quintuple Anvil. They are overseen by the International Ultra Triathlon Association.
The Triple Anvil begins with a 7.2-mile swim, proceeds to a 336-mile bike phase, and then concludes with a run of three times the standard marathon distance. There were no timeouts for rest breaks or transitions between phases.
Walker finished the swim portion in 3 hours, 39 minutes, which was the fastest time in his race by over an hour. In the run phase, 78 laps of a 1-mile run course, he was one of the slowest, but he began it with a huge lead that allowed him to slow his pace in the last 15 miles to ensure he would finish on his feet.
At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds — having played lacrosse and rugby in college — Walker is not built for extreme endurance events, but he trained 12 to 16 hours per week in the year leading up to his win. He swam in open-water events of up to nine miles. He biked 100 to 150 miles on Saturdays, and in his long runs he covered as much as 30 miles at a time.
In the race, the cycling phase involved 22 hours on the bike — a mind-numbing 66 laps of a 5-mile loop. He took a 10-minute break every 3 hours and still widened the lead he built in the swim.
The run, which he describes as a jog-walk, was his most difficult part of the race. Being the last phase and lasting 24 hours, it was the most fatiguing. He reached a low point of the race 34 miles from the finish in the dark of night. “When there was a low, it was really a low,” he said.
“When the sun came up Saturday (the third day), my spirits rose,” he said. “The finish was surreal, a complete blur.”
After crossing the line, he walked to a ceremonial anvil and struck it three times with a hammer, signifying him conquering the triple. He had been awake for 56 hours straight.
“In 2017, I said I was never going to do this again. I did it, and I’m glad I did. But there is no way in hell I am doing the quintuple. This time, I really mean it.”
Walker figures it will take him well over a month to fully recover, and he does have one more race planned for October — the Bay Bridge Run on Oct. 31. It is only a 10K.