Monday, February 6, 2012

Member Spotlight: Brendan Hall

by Heather Nicholson

October / December 2010
“Do you shave your legs?” I say to B
“Shave my legs? NO! I will never.” B says looking at me as though this is an absurd question.

March 2011
“Have you decided to shave your legs yet?” I say to B.
“I will never shave my legs. What is it with you and the shaved legs?” B says as I laugh to myself. “You’ll see. You will.” I say.

October 2012
Brendan walks into a team social proudly sporting his bow tied ironman tattoo on his baby smooth calf. “Hey Heather, come check out my legs!” B says.

Brendan, B, BHall has a gift for the gab, a quick wit and a dreamer’s outlook on the future. He’s a former rock star, an Ironman, BTT’s 2011 rookie of the year, and one snappy dresser. With a can do attitude, a spit up your drink sense of humor, he is no shrinking violet. Last week, I sat down with Brendan to learn more about the man behind the pocket squares, what goals he has for the future and why he joined the crew of men that shave their legs.

H: What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about triathlon training?

B: If we were doing a true psychological test, akin to the ones where they show you blotchy paint and you say, "Grandma!" or "Hungry Hungry Hippo," I would have to say that riding the trainer was the first thing that came immediately to mind which, to me, is symbolic of an equal parts discipline and suffering sandwich that you feel pride for having eaten... much like the honey badger enjoying the fruits of his recent tangle with the cobra. However, you are not a psychologist nor is this a test. Wait, is this a test? I thought you worked at BU. What's really going on here? I want my money back. [H: shhh no one tell him my background is in sport psychology. I am working towards the deep questions.]

H: Tell me about your childhood. What sports did you play growing up? Are there any that you wish you played or would like to learn?

B: I played hoops, swam and played both soccer and baseball as a little dude. I also played volleyball in high school which was a great sport! Swimming has definitely come in handy with triathlon, as I usually start the race in or around the top groups out of the water before quickly relinquishing said position to everyone and their mom. It's a brief ego boost with immediate consequences but I'm working on it. I wish I had played lacrosse because every moderate athlete in my high school on Long Island seemed to get a full ride to play in college. Not sure that's the case anymore but I know my parents would have appreciated the extra scratch. They probably would've bought an ice sculpture in my likeness for the front lawn...just like Rocky...only cooler.

H: You did, however, play basketball in college. What skills have you used from this experience in triathlons?

B: My coach in college was an angry, red-faced sort with whom I had a very confusing love-hate relationship. Sort of like the dad who invites you to play catch (Alright!) and then proceeds to hurl split-finger fastballs at your cash and prizes (Wait a minute?). His personally tailored motivational speeches involved a lot of very hostile and expletive-laced suggestions delivered at close proximity to my face. The result of these heart-to-hearts was me playing like a furious animal which was what he intended. I hated him at the time for it but he knew what I was capable of and that my general make-love-not-war disposition needed some swatting about the head. It was his way of teaching mental toughness which may have been a little misguided but I appreciate it now, and it's certainly something that I benefit from in racing and in life.

H: Sounds like a challenging yet rewarding experience. So, somehow despite your Long Island roots, you became a Boston sports fan, how did that happen? Speaking of Long Island, why don't you have the lovely Long Island accent?

B: You mean, why don't I sound like Brady since we grew up on the same tiny island about 20 miles from each other? You just made this really awkward, Heather but I'll answer anyway. My parents don't have heavy accents and I guess I never did either but any remnant of an accent was subconsciously neutralized during college. I also listened to Rosetta Stone Anti-LongIslandBro tapes while sleeping. As for the sports question, I didn't really watch the pros much until I moved to Boston but then quickly realized that, being from NY, I better adapt or face a future with no social life and being treated like a KGB spy or worse.

H: Let’s talk about some happy times in your life. Can you tell me about your favorite experience with the team this year?

B: I don't want to go into detail here but… Training Weekend. Long rides, free Harpoon and a dance floor where maybe people rip your shirt off and people stand on chairs and glasses get broken and there's an iPod mix and more broken glasses and shirtless dudes dancing with other dudes and flying high fives and it's all so much fun that the next day you just grab some Powerbar stuff and do an Irish Goodbye. Like I said, I don't want to go into detail...

H: I’m sure the benefits of shaving one’s legs came up during conversations at TW. Why did you finally decide to do it?

B: Well, it's pretty obvious that vanity is the answer here. Anyone who tells you that shaving your legs makes you faster in any respect is a liar, disillusioned or misinformed. It’s like saying you were able to drive faster not because of the lack of traffic but because you ditched your Kenny G's Greatest Hits double-disc before departing. It took me a while to come around to doing it but in the end I have to admit I liked it and kept them shorn for most of the season despite many bloody nicks along the way.

H: Speaking of vanity, aside from the opportunity to fill your wardrobe with blue and green, what drew you to BTT?

B: I wanted to train with people who were better than me. It's the only way I've ever improved in anything I've ever done. You push yourself in ways you didn't know you were capable of and the next thing you know, your times are faster and maybe you win an award or two and now you have a favorite "Award Winner" pint glass to drink from and show off to your friends. I knew BTT had the type of athletes I wanted to train with, and it's just been a stroke of good luck that you're all the kind of people I would be honored to have over for dinner and a game of Yahtzee. Let's not slough over the wardrobe piece though. I had custom-freakin sneakers made for this squad. I love me some BTT!!!

H: Yes, and you seem to be a pretty social guy. Have you found this helps in your work? What do you do for work?

B: It definitely does. I love and am genuinely interested in people. I speak to more strangers on a daily basis than most people do in a year. Some think that's weird but, in sales, it's vital. This is especially true since I sell to lawyers who are, well, I'll leave that one alone. I work for a software company that patented a form of artificial intelligence called "predictive coding" which assists litigation attorneys in more efficiently and accurately reviewing massive amounts of data. It's very much a disruptive technology that's causing major waves in the legal community and though it's hard work, it's also a lot of fun.

H: Your alter ego is a lead singer in a band, can you tell me about that? What’s your favorite prerace song or band you listen to? Any wild stories from your rock star years?

B: That's a great (many) questions because although the band is mostly defunct, I still fancy myself as a lead singer. In the car, in the shower. Why just the other day I was singing at the Laundromat and I signed a pair of some dude's tighty whities. He didn't ask me to, per se but I could tell he was digging it. I also trash my hotel rooms on business trips just to keep my mojo flowing. All kidding aside, I was the lead singer in a band called Sucka Brown . We did a lot of regional touring and were signed to an indie record label in NYC. We have two records, both on iTunes, and I'll always be very proud of that. To know that for a while, I truly chased my dream, and it was AWESOME!!! Lots of great/crazy stories but if I had to share one it would be more anecdotal. When people in a crowd sing your songs along with you, it's truly incredible! Something that you created out of thin air that connects you with friends and strangers alike. Really cool stuff. My favorite band to listen to while training or pre-race is Rage Against The Machine. For the record, they are still the best live band I have ever seen.

H: Hmm..I see so, if you could play any instrument which one would it be and why?

B: Bass, hands down. I play a little guitar, and typically it's the instrument everyone gets all fired up about but bass? Bass is the glue. It's funk, it's sexy, it's primal, it's the quiet guy in the corner who steals your girlfriend when you go to the bathroom. Just a ridiculous instrument.

H: Okay, let’s talk about some goals. What are your goals for the 2012 tri season?

B: My goals every year are roughly the same: get faster, get stronger, and look less awkward in spandex (impossible). I have my second Ironman on the calendar and would love to shave an hour off last year's time so I'm setting my white-hot laser focus on that. What does that entail? I'll tell you. I drink a pint of raw eggs and snort hot sauce for breakfast everyday. Then I rip 100 push-ups with a small cat on my back while analyzing my latest power meter data. It's intense! I'd also like to beat Pokress up the Kank and unseat Dwyer's self-proclaimed "legendary" bar tab. Be afraid, gentlemen. Be VERY afraid. I may have just made myself a little afraid but that's ok.

H: What’s on your bucket list ?

B: The plan is to squeeze as much life into everyday life, as possible and live past 100. Other items in no order are: See the Northern Lights, climb Kilamanjaro, do the Rim-to-Rim Run in the Grand Canyon (scheduled for Oct 2012 if anyone wants in), bike across Europe and/or the US, have a family and be the best husband and father I can be.

H: Quotes you live by?

B: I have to give you two here because there are just too many greats:

“Have a healthy disregard for the impossible.” Sergey Brin, Google

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle... when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.”

Lace 'em up, BTT!!!!

H: Interesting, okay Brendan, our time is up. I will bill your insurance. I mean, thanks for the interview.