Brian Mason, Houston Airport System’s safety manager, swims, bikes and runs between 15 and 18 hours a week while helping to juggle the 24/7 safety management programs for three airports and working with his wife, Tyla, to take care of their 8-month old son, Brady.
Mason completed the IRONMAN North American Championship on April 23 in The Woodlands in 11:16:41 hours, finishing 445 overall with 2900 total competitors.
“It’s a really incredible feat,” said Steve Runge, HAS’ Division Manager of Safety & Emergency Management. “He did this six days after running the Boston Marathon on April 17.”
Mind over Matter
“To me, I think anybody can do IRONMAN,” Mason said. “It’s a mental challenge. All sorts of little things can and will go wrong. It’s how you react and handle the challenge.”
Mason says that you can be the “fastest of the fast,” a strong athlete that prepared for years, or a “weekend warrior,” but it’s how you handle yourself when things get tough.
“I’ve gone to see the IRONMAN for several years,” said Runge. “There are people of all shapes and sizes. It’s all mental will, but that’s the way Brian works. He’s focused and dedicated. Get the job done.”
With about 20 marathons, three IRONMAN 70.3 Texas triathlons (or “half IRONMANS”), several long run, swim and bike races over the last eight years under his belt, Mason was well prepared for his first IRONMAN North American Championship.
“You can have a game plan or how you think the race will unfold,” Mason said, “but once you start, you don’t know what’s going to happen. You may get kicked in the face by a swimmer, get a flat tire on the bike, or an upset stomach during the run, but you just have to adjust to the event.”
Jessica Brown, HAS’ management analyst for Safety & Emergency Management, said she not everyone can complete an IRONMAN.
“I think Brian is extremely modest when it comes to his accomplishments,” Brown said. “It takes the right combination of mental and physical strength, which he obviously possesses. He is one of the most determined and hard-working people I’ve ever met, and I think that plays a major role in this kind of achievement. He trained for months in the wee hours of the morning, evenings and on the weekends for this. He deserves all the credit in the world!”
Mason and his wife met while training together, and she’s also his coach. He will also let you know that training safely is critical for endurance sporting events. Whether it’s open water swimming next to a kayak or paddle board escort, riding in large groups on the backroads of Crosby or Montgomery Counties, or running through the neighborhood, proper personal protective equipment is always required.
“At night when you see the ‘nerd’ running through the neighborhood with the head lamp and reflective vest, or cyclist with a helmet and flashing red light…that’s me. It’s integrated into everything we do.”
As for the HAS’ S&EM team, Runge says Mason's extracurricular activities, “exemplify who he is as a person and the kind of work he does.”
“One of the most impactful things I do is analyzing the occupational injury data for the organization, putting it into useful reports, and Mason conducts safety trainings based on my data,” Jessica said. “Our data proves that all of Brian’s trainings have made a tremendous impact on our employees’ safety. Our occupational incidents have decreased in the last couple of years, and we feel this is directly related to his hard work.”
A Family Affair
In January 2015, Mason and his sister, Stacey, participated with their 65-year old mother (at the time) in completing her first marathon in just under eight hours.
“My mom is amazing,” Mason said. “Her hard work, mental and physical strength, and determination is something to admire. We make half-marathons and marathons a family event.”
Runge has known Mason for almost five years, half of this time working at the HAS. He says that it’s “normal” for Mason to come in on a Monday after running a marathon or some other type of endurance race and not mention it.
“He’s an outstanding person,” said Runge. “Brian puts 100% into everything he does and takes a similar approach to work.”
As for next year, Mason says it’s his wife’s turn -- 2017 was his year, 2018 is Tyla’s year.
“Doing an IRONMAN is truly a family decision,” Mason said. “Your family has to make sacrifices. Everybody has to support the commitment.”