SPOKANE, Wash. -- KREM 2 News is dedicated to telling the inspiring stories of former Gonzaga Prep, WSU, and NFL football player Steve Gleason, who is battling ALS and has dedicated his life to raising awareness and money to help fight the debilitating disease.
Perhaps Steve's biggest cheerleader at KREM 2 News is its Executive News Director, Noah Cooper.
Gleason is a proponent of pushing people out of their comfort zone to try something new, so Noah is going out of his comfort zone for Steve. Noah is tackling his first Ironman June 29 with the sole purpose of raising money for Gleason's foundation.
Ironman is certainly not for the faint of heart. The race includes a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and is rounded out with the 26.2 mile foot marathon.
In his 18 years at KREM, Noah never had a desire to train for an Ironman until now.
“Steve's story did it," said Cooper.
Gleason has earned a reputation as a man who puts others before himself. Even as ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) strips his mobility, Steve works through his Gleason Initiative Foundation to help others with ALS live a better life.
"Steve takes special steps in his life to make sure it's not just about Steve,” said Noah. “It’s got to be about something else. It can't just be about me doing an Ironman. It's got to be something larger than that."
The desire to contribute to a larger cause pushed Cooper to create the "Team Gleason Ironman challenge." For a $10 donation to Gleason’s foundation, you can guess Noah's Ironman finish time. The person with the closest guess wins a picture signed by Gleason.
But the greatest reward, Noah said, goes to everyone who donates.
"With this donation towards his foundation, he makes people's lives better with that disease."
As he begins his quest to help Team Gleason, Noah has embarked on a mission to become Ironman fit under the guidance of seven-time Ironman finisher Kirk Wood-Gaines. The Ironman veteran has been giving Cooper pointers, including in the pool.
"A real efficient swimmer will swim from one end of the pool to the other -- a length of the pool -- [in] 12 strokes," said Wood-Gaines. “Noah, I caught doing 38."
"I'm not a strong swimmer," admitted Cooper.
Wood-Gaine’s advice already proved to be helpful in January. On a trip to the pool, it took Noah 23 strokes to get across. The number is still well above the 16 strokes Wood-Gaines considers average, but is still a major improvement.
"If I get out of the water, I got a really good chance of finishing," said Noah.
As for the 112 mile bike ride, Noah has been putting in hours and a lot of sweat into spin class.
"He needs to work on his bicycle mechanics,” laughed Wood-Gaines. “If he has a bicycle failure out there, I worry."
"We need the tires to stay inflated, otherwise I’m in trouble," said Noah.
Noah and his trainer were also worried about the trouble Noah’s knees might give him.
“I've torn 3 ACL’s, [had] two meniscus tears and then I've also had a microfracture," said Cooper.
"I knew Noah as an athlete. I also knew Noah as someone who had six rounds of knee surgery," said Wood-Gaines. “So that made me a little concerned."
Still, Cooper believes inspiration will carry him across the finish line.
"Hopefully that inspires people to learn more about ALS and learn more about Steve's mission of inspiration," Cooper said.
Cooper is absolutely sure, however, of his chances of victory.
“I won't be first. That's a hint. I won't be first."
To guess Noah's time and support the Gleason Initiative Foundation, click here