In 2016, Brandon Wyant thought he was having a heart attack. He laid down on the floor and talked to his wife, a nurse who was five months pregnant with their first child.
“Right away, she said we needed to get to the ER,” remembers Wyant. “Her dad passed away from a heart attack the year before and hadn’t gone to the doctor, so I listened to her."
On the way to the hospital, Wyant took stock of his life. He was barely 31 but was no longer exercising or mountain biking regularly, like he used to.
“The whole way to the hospital, I kept telling myself that I needed to get into better shape and be healthy for my family.”
Luckily, the pain Wyant felt wasn’t due to his heart, but he left the ER that evening with a new resolve to take better care of himself. His wife’s doctor had given her the green light to swim during pregnancy, so the couple began making regular trips to their local pool at the YMCA.
“After my wife was put on restrictions, I started swimming every morning and I saw all these people who looked super fit,” said Wyant, now 33. “I noticed they were all triathletes and I thought, you know what? I already mountain bike and I’m learning how to swim. Maybe I can do this.”
Wyant went online and saw that XTERRA Fort Custer was taking place on his birthday – September 30th. The race was still eight months away, so Wyant signed up.
Unfortunately, a few weeks later, his wife went into premature labor almost two months early. Their son Knox weighed three pounds, 7.9 ounces at birth, and the couple spent the next 31 days in the NICU with their child.
“It was extremely tough to go through that,” admits Wyant. “You never know what it’s like until you experience it first-hand. We had no idea the magnitude of what was going on. For us, it was about trying to keep each other strong and get through it.”
Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo was only a few minutes from Fort Custer Recreation Area, and Wyant was still committed to staying healthy for himself and his new family.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever spent time in a hospital but you really need to find something productive to do. It was a very rough time. What saved me and kept me strong for my wife was riding my bike on the trails in Fort Custer or running laps around the hospital grounds. It made a really tough situation a bit better. I’m really glad I made the time for that because I needed something positive so I could stay strong for my wife.”
A few minutes from the hospital, Wyant found a YMCA with a pool and swam there when he could.
“I learned how to bilateral breathe during those weeks. I was really starting from nothing.”
Wyant’s ability to stick to his training and health goals gave him the strength to stay positive for his wife, Jenna, who was dealing with high blood pressure as a result of pregnancy as well as post-partum depression.
“Now, we look back and feel so blessed and fortunate we made it through,” said Wyant. “That hard experience definitely made us closer. We don’t take anything for granted anymore because you never know what can happen.”
In August, 2017, Wyant competed in his first XTERRA at XTERRA DINO North in Potato Creek State Park. He placed tenth in his age group in his first race. In September, he placed fifth at XTERRA Fort Custer.
However, later that year, Wyant began suffering from pain again. This time, the doctor diagnosed the pain as a gallbladder attack. Wyant had been exercising so much and had lost so much weight so quickly, that his gallbladder was not functioning properly and needed to be removed.
“That was definitely a bummer,” he said. “While I was laid up and couldn’t race, I started looking at the 2018 XTERRA schedule and decided I wanted to try for the XTERRA Regional Champ title.”
After he recovered, Wyant got back into training. This year, he competed at XTERRA Knoxville, XTERRA Illinois Wilds, XTERRA Tsali, XTERRA DINO North, XTERRA DINO South, XTERRA Ionia, XTERRA Rockport Rugged, and XTERRA Panther Creek. He was second in his age group in three of the races and third in another three.
Wyant finished the season with 542 points, but lost the XTERRA Regional Champ title to Tyler Guggemos, who won with an astounding 745 points.
“Tyler is great,” said Wyant. “He’s always cheering me on and giving me good advice. I never beat him so he absolutely deserves the title.”
Wyant is not only happy with his performance in his second year on the trails, he’s very happy with his health. His training has resulted in a 50 pound weight loss. Even better, he’s passed on his new lifestyle to his family.
“My wife has been super supportive of me I want to do the same for her,” said Wyant, who admits his wife has caught the triathlon bug as well. “She’s the healthiest she’s ever been and she and her sister and a friend signed up for a triathlon relay. It’s just great to see all of the good that is coming from XTERRA."
Last weekend was Wyant’s birthday. He took that Friday off from work and drove with his family to Fort Custer Recreation Area. His parents joined them and celebrated Brandon’s 33nd birthday at XTERRA Fort Custer. Wyant finished 12th overall and second in his age group. The only one who beat him in his age group was the overall Fort Custer Champ, Mike Hermanson.
“I’ve still never won a race, and I always get passed on the run,” said Wyant, who has made that a focus of his training. “When you see a leg go by that says 30-34 it’s like, ah, man. But it’s a great incentive to try harder and do even better.”
While Wyant hopes to keep marching up the podium steps, it’s clear that what he values most from his XTERRA training is that it has brought his family closer together. He picks races that are fun for his wife and 17-month old Knox. He also tries to train with Jenna whenever possible.
“Some days we put Knox in the bike trailer and take bike rides around town,” said Wyant. “Or we put him in the baby jogger and run laps around the track. This has been so great for our family. I want to be a role model for my son when he gets older. I want him to see what I’m doing and be healthy too. Honestly, I never would have expected that I could do XTERRA and I feel so fortunate I’m able to. This has just been a huge, life-changing experience.”