Clive Bradley’s close to 15-year-long dream is about to come true but the thought of it becoming reality would have seemed impossible just five months ago.
The 24-year-old multi-sport athlete has wanted to compete at Penticton’s Ironman Canada triathlon since he moved to Penticton when he was in middle school.
He watched in awe, as thousands of roaring spectators cheered on the world-class competitors endure the grueling running, swimming and biking events that make up Ironman in Penticton.
Now living in Lethbridge, Alta. with his newlywed bride, Bradley spent all of last year believing 2023 was finally going to be the year he’d participate in the race.
But after several months of training six days a week, his life officially changed.
In April 2023, Bradley was diagnosed with type 1 narcolepsy, a rare sleeping disorder that affects the brain’s ability to control sleep-wake cycles.
In his own words, he could fall asleep at random times during the day — whether it be when he’s riding a bicycle or going for a swim.
“It’s that scary,” he said. “Doing any activity like that now comes with a lot of emotion.”
Still, Bradley continued to train “through the fear” and on Aug. 27, he’ll appear at Ironman Canada in Penticton for the first time ever.
“My dream of being in the Ironman has always been stronger than any life circumstances,” he said.
Bradley says he’s dealt with the effects of the disorder for most of his life, including when he first started competing in triathlon events as a high-school student at Princess Margaret Secondary. His increased fatigue during those years was just assumed as “normal” for someone his age, he said.
It was in the summer of 2020 when his wife noticed something was off, as Bradley would sleep regularly in the middle of the day after work and appeared to lose muscle tone every time he laughed.
It took until this spring for answers regarding his health to finally come to light but not without any hardships.
Bradley nearly drowned in a Lethbridge pool earlier this year, after suffering from increased lethargy and a loss of muscle tone in the water. He was saved by a worker inside the facility’s lifeguard tower after a member of the public noticed what was happening and started calling for help.
“Had no one been in the pool, I would have just died,” the 24-year-old recalled. “There’s no coming out of one of these attacks unless you’re just perfectly calm but now it’s in the back of my mind, what if that happens in Okanagan Lake?”
That incident was just the start of a rocky spring for Bradley, who at that point was eight months into his Ironman Canada training efforts.
“The month of March (2023) was the hardest month of my entire life,” Bradley said. “It was a really scary time because I was in the middle of training, in between getting all these tests done and having to wait on a doctor to get diagnosed,” he said.
“If I could do Ironman with narcolepsy, then other people who live with it would know they can do anything they want.”
Although now living in his wife’s hometown and working at a bike shop in Lethbridge, the multi-sport athlete says there’s no other place in the world he’d rather conquer his goals than in the Peach City.
“I still consider myself a Penticton guy, so it would be incredibly special and profound to do it there,” he stated.
“The reason I am who I am is because of Penticton,” he said. “It’s where I found my love for mountain biking and biking in general and I’m super thankful because I think Penticton was the absolute best place I could live.”
Bradley says he wants to complete the more than 200-kilometre Ironman race in less than 17 hours but also wants to raise awareness and money for the “under-diagnosed” disease.
He has partnered with non-profit group Wake Up Narcolepsy and plans on raising funds through their website while he competes in Ironman later this month.
“I see it as my duty to get involved like that,” Bradley said. “Now I’m going to live out my dream at Ironman and hopefully raise some money while I’m at it.”