Brian Temple Overcame a Freak Bicycle Accident to Become a Competitive Triathlete
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
The motto “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is not lost on Brian Temple. Rather those words resonate with him in a way few people could ever understand.
For several years he had been trying to win his age group at the Los Angeles Marathon, only to be bitterly disappointed. On the morning of Sunday, March 8, however, the 53-year-old achieved that goal, running the 26.2-mile course from Dodger Stadium to the Santa Monica Pier in two hours, 48 minutes and 37 seconds to take first place in the male 50-54 division, except he didn’t know right away.
“At Mile 23 I hit the wall and was cramping up, so I had to slow my pace a bit and I thought I’m not going to do it,” he confesses. “But then my running buddy Tim Smith texted me: ‘Hey Dude, you won!’ and I was shocked. I actually thought I could do it this year. It always depends on who shows up. The previous four years I got either second or third for my age. The winner last year ran it in 2:42. I can run 2:45 because I’ve done it before, so my gameplan was to run sub-2:45 and hope the doctor from Sacramento (who won last year) didn’t show. He didn’t and I was running a 6:15 per-mile pace at the halfway point—faster than I’d planned. This was my 10th LA Marathon, the last five consecutive, so it was exciting to finally win my group.”
Temple pushes himself to ever greater feats and for the last four years has competed not only in marathons, but also in triathlons.
“I actually transitioned to triathlon and Ironman in 2016,” he says. “I turned 50 that year and figured some cycling and swimming would add a new challenge and reduce the stress that up to 80 miles of running a week brings. I recall a friend of mine’s brother complimenting me for being a single-sport athlete. It made me realize there are other activities and if I want to run until I’m 100 I have to do something else to cross train. Triathletes look cool and I said to myself ‘why not? So I’ve been cycling and swimming a lot—this is the first year I worked on those before the marathon. As a result, my legs were fresher and my physical fitness was better because there’s less stress on my body.”
Over the last 10 years Temple has run over 30 road marathons, including those as part of Ironman Triathlon. He has also completed multiple off road races at both the 50K and 50-mile distances. He has run the Palisades Will Rogers 10K about 15 times—including the inaugural race in 1978 with his father Hugh and older brother Hugh, Jr. In fact, he credits his dad (who passed away in 2015 at the age of 93) with introducing him to running at an early age.
“We lived in Brentwood and Dad took us kids to the arcade at the Santa Monica Pier,” he recalls. “I was dragged down San Vicente and Ocean every Sunday, whether I wanted to go or not. It was probably three miles from our house. I finished the Palisades 10K the first year with my dad when I was 12. He was a regular jogger but did it more for fun and fitness.”
Temple, who lives on Villa View Drive, a quarter mile from the entrance to Will Rogers State Historic Park, has finished first in his age group the last three years at his hometown Fourth of July race, including a time of 37:51 last summer, placing him 12th overall.
While Brian inherited the running gene from his dad, it was his younger sister Tracie who encouraged him to run his first marathon (the Rock ‘n’ Roll in San Diego).
“She decided to run the New York Marathon in about 2000, then challenged me and my brother to run one,” Brian says. “Well, of course we didn’t want our younger sister to be the only one to do it. Tracie has run New York two or three times and we’ve run in many marathons together.”
Brian’s resume includes Boston (six times), Chicago (three times) and New York, London and Berlin once. He would’ve run Tokyo this month to complete his last of the six Abbot World Marathon Majors, but it was canceled because of the coronavirus.
Although his fastest clocking was 2:45 at the California International Marathon in Sacramento in 2017, the LA Marathon is still Temple’s favorite, especially now having erased the “close but no cigar” label.
“LA is the best marathon in the country point-to-point,” he says. “It’s challenging, the weather is great, the people are great, you’re running through a city that’s usually clogged with people and cars and it finishes practically in my backyard. Runner’s World rated it No. 1 for good reason.”
Temple got his first taste of a three-pronged race at the 2016 Nautica Triathlon just up the road in Malibu and, to his surprise, was seventh in his age group.
“I had never cycled or swum before,” he admits. “I borrowed a bike, bought some swim goggles and I was hooked. I said to myself ‘This is the next hill to climb.’”
He returned 12 months later to tackle the Olympic Distance (a 0.9-mile swim followed by a 24-mile bike ride and finishing with a 10K run) and it was during the cycling phase that he suffered a fall while pedaling on Pacific Coast Highway that gives him jitters to this day. He recounts the scary incident in vivid detail: “A pedestrian walked onto the bike course, obscured by another rider. There was a rider in front of me, he broke left, I broke right, and the pedestrian took a sudden step back into me and knocked me off the bike at 30 miles and hour. I landed on my head and neck. There was plenty of time to think about it in the air, it happens fast, then slows down, then… boom!”
Temple’s ambitious instincts kicked in immediately. His initial reaction was to refuse to be driven to the hospital, so the paramedics took him back to the starting line. While at home the following evening he suddenly lost his equilibrium and fell over backwards, at which point his wife Kristi took him to UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, where an x-ray revealed three non-displaced hairline fractures in his neck.
“I wasn’t allowed to run or swim for three months,” Temple laments. “I rode an indoor bike wearing a neck brace with my wife giving me the evil eye. I wasn’t surprised. I was in a lot of pain. Fortunately I landed in the dirt along the shoulder, not on the asphalt. I do have a high tolerance for pain, but it really hurt.”
After the accident, Tracie (a licensed psychologist who lives with her fiancé in the Castellammare neighborhood) coaxed her brother back into action, stoking his competitive fire.
“She said don’t let it prevent you from competing, that was a fluke,” he remembers. “I skipped 2018 vowing to never ride a bike on PCH again, but I returned to Malibu in 2019 for the 70.3-mile Long Course and finished second in my age group.”
Hugh Jr. and Brian continue to own and manage The Temple Companies, the real estate development business their father started in 1955. Brian went to USC, graduating in 1989 with a degree in Business Administration. As a boy he enjoyed surfing at Sunset Beach and it was his love all through high school and college. He surfed all over Southern California and Mexico, although in terms of swim technique he knew nothing about stroke efficiency.
In ninth and 10th grade, he played tight end and noseguard for the 8-Man football team at Brentwood School before transferring to Palisades High his a junior year. He graduated in 1985 and his mother Linnette, now 81, still lives in the house he grew up in on Burlingame in Brentwood.
Brian and Kristi, who is active in Pilates and takes spin classes, lived in New Jersey for eight years before renting a house on Arno Way above Bel-Air Bay Club for two years. They bought a house on Marquette Street in the Las Casas Loop and lived there until relocating to Will Rogers in 2007. Their 22-year-old daughter Kayla studies sociology at Chapman University in Orange while their 19-year-old son Sean attends Belmont College in Nashville, Tennessee and is an aspiring singer/songwriter. Both went to New Roads High in Santa Monica.
For the most part, Temple trains alone but he sticks to a regimented schedule devised by local running coach Gareth Thomas.
“He’s been my mentor for seven years now and successfully coached me to my first sub-three hour marathon,” Temple says of Thomas. “He’s taught me about heart rate training and prepared me for my three Ironman races. I did the work, but Gareth came up with the training plans, pushed me hard and kept me focused.”
Temple’s daily routine isn’t for the weak-minded. He gets up at 5 a.m. with a military-style fervor and each day presses him to the edge of exhaustion. Still, he’s usually in his office in Santa Monica by 9, although he falls asleep at his desk on occasion.
“On Mondays it’s the bike trainer, then either hill or interval training,” he says. “Tuesdays its Tower 26 workouts at the Pali High pool with [founder] Gerry Rodriguez. On Wednesdays, I do a long mountain bike ride followed by a run off the bike in Will Rogers. On Thursdays, I do a long run which is typically 14-20 miles. I start at my house, run along Sunset to Allenford by Paul Revere, follow that over to Brentwood Country Club, then take San Vicente up to Ocean, head south to Venice Pier and then back home. On Fridays I’ll do a medium distance tempo run, maybe 8-10 miles fast, I’ll swim again at Tower 26 then go to gym for a strength workout. I also mix in an ocean swim from Gladstones to Mastro’s Ocean Club and back. On Saturdays, I’ll do a long there-and-back run. My 20-mile route is called the Backbone Trail and goes from my house to Los Liones, then on the single track you make a left and go up to the top of the ridge, make a right to get to Topanga, across to Mulholland, back to Will Rogers.”
The next mountain for Temple to climb is qualifying for the Kona Ironman World Championships in Hawaii in October.
“You generally have to finish first or second in your age group,” he says. “For me, the bike is still the hardest part to do fast. I need to get five minutes faster in the swim portion and 15 minutes on the bike, but being new to both I’ve got my work cut out for me.”
Since coming back from his neck injury, Temple has placed 10th in his division the last two years at the Arizona Ironman. Training for an Ironman competition (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile ride and 26.2-mile run), requires mental discipline and physical stamina the likes of which few possess. Most would be afraid to even try.
“If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t do it,” he says. “When the alarm goes off in the morning I’m excited. I’m psyched to go do what I need to do. The day I stop enjoying it is the day I call it quits.”
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