Morse Accomplishes Longtime Dream

Completed Ironman competition after 50th birthday

October 26, 2017

By Maggie Gebhardt, CMU media content specialist

MorseFor many, turning 50-years-old represents a great milestone. Some dread it. Others look forward to it. And almost everyone takes it as an opportunity to look back on all they have accomplished in life.

For Central Methodist University’s Wayne Morse, the idea of turning 50 was a chance to look forward. It meant it was finally time to accomplish a lifelong dream – which he did, with unwavering, flying colors.

It was December of 2016 when Morse’s daughters asked him what he wanted for Christmas. He told them when he turned 50, he wanted to compete in an Ironman competition. In turn, they told him if that was his dream, they’d pay his entry fee as their gift.

Only three weeks after this 50th birthday, he competed in the Ironman Triathlon held in Louisville, Ky. on Sunday, Oct. 15. The world-famous race is organized by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), with top athletes qualifying for the Ironman World Championship, according to Morse.

“Making it that far wasn’t really my goal this time; I just wanted to get one under my belt,” he said. “It’s a huge weight that’s been lifted off my shoulders.”

He crossed the finish line with a time of 13 hours, 42 minutes, and 18 seconds – which consisted of a grueling 140.6 mile race beginning with a 2.4 mile swim in the Ohio River, followed by a 112-mile bicycle ride, and ending with a 26.2 mile run to complete the intense challenge.

As if the feat itself wasn’t taxing enough, competitors faced environmental conditions that really upped the level of difficulty. Rain and 30 mph winds made bicycling and swimming unexpectedly problematic.

“The winds made staying on your bike pretty challenging, and the water was rough because of the weather blowing through,” Morse said.

A large branch fell nearby on his bike route, and a fellow swimmer even had a panic attack and had to be pulled from the water to safety, according to Morse. Clearly, a lot was at stake, and the strenuous journey could be described as anything but smooth sailing.

Morse's medalOut of competitors who were age 50-54, Morse finished 142nd out of 219. He was 1,083rd out of 1,534 men participating, and placed 1,475th out of approximately 2,750 who participated.

“It was great – such a sense of accomplishment, and it felt really good,” Morse said. “After it was all over, though, I immediately started wondering how I could do it better.”

A native of Billings, Mont., Morse is the assistant director of plant operations at CMU. His job deals primarily with campus safety and security – perfect for someone with his personality and background.

Prior to joining CMU in 2016, he taught Military Science for the University of Missouri’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program. This was after being in the military himself, successfully completing 20 years of active duty and retiring as an Army Master Sergeant.

“I have a different level of discipline,” Morse said. “It wasn’t only because of the way I was brought up, but also because of the military. I live by those values, and something I will never give up is my integrity.”

It’s this level of discipline and values that have translated to so much accomplishment for Morse over the years. With only 10 months to prepare for the Ironman competition, there was no time for those qualities to alter. He had to develop himself mentally, most of all, and hit the training hard.

Many days he woke at 3 a.m. to get in several hours of exercise before heading to campus for work. Much of the training consisted of long runs, bicycle rides with CMU Director of Athletic Training and Associate Professor Wade Welton – who Morse described as a great supporter – and long swims in a friend’s pond.

“My daughter and wife would get in a kayak and go out in the pond to watch me – you know, just in case,” he said.

Without the support of his family, and his friends in CMU’s Athletic Training Department, Morse said making his dream come true wouldn’t have been possible.

But this great accomplishment was not in any way a finale for the 50-year-old.  It was not an ending; rather, it was a step of improvement that satisfied a big piece of his competitive spirit.

“It was me against the clock this time – and my goal was to finish,” he said. “Now that I have an established time, I want to know how I can be better.”

Morse doesn’t intend to slow down. He has plans to participate in several competitions in 2018, and hopes to compete and improve his race time in another Ironman competition in 2019.

“It’s a big deal, and a lot of people don’t get these opportunities,” he said. “Thankfully, for all I’ve been through with the military, I’m still physically able to do these things, so all I want to do is keep moving forward and remain grateful.”