2009-08-28 / Community

Firefighters In Triathlon For Charity

By Jennifer Pagano and Don Rodrigues

Supporters look on as the race starts with a cannon shot and a huge cheer. Supporters look on as the race starts with a cannon shot and a huge cheer. Local firefighter Thomas Dolan participated in the Iron Man triathlon in Lake Placid, New York on July 26. An estimated 2,300 participated in the event that consisted of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle race that ended with a 26-mile marathon. Dolan finished 23rd in his age group and 105th overall with a time of ten hours and twenty-four minutes.

But it didn't matter so much as to where he placed, but rather why he got involved. Dolan and eight other local firefighters including Matthew Long, Shane McKean, Thomas Grimshaw, Frank Carino, and Larry Parker participated in the triathlon to raise money for the "I Will Foundation." This foundation is a non-profit organization that was established to help people with the will to work hard to overcome adversity and challenges caused by life altering illness or traumatic injury. The primary goal of the "I Will Foundation" is to provide motivational and inspirational support through hands-on training, coaching, and financial support when necessary.

Swimmers sprint to the central area where they shed their wetsuits and don their cycling gear. Bike speeds in the up and down terrain can approach 40 mph. Staff make the endurance runs teneble by providing liquids. Bottom right, a woman finishes in good stride. The Rockaway contingent showed well in the crowded field. Swimmers sprint to the central area where they shed their wetsuits and don their cycling gear. Bike speeds in the up and down terrain can approach 40 mph. Staff make the endurance runs teneble by providing liquids. Bottom right, a woman finishes in good stride. The Rockaway contingent showed well in the crowded field. The foundation was started by Matthew Long, who was in a nearfatal bus accident in December 2005. Unable to return to sports as an athlete, Long felt down and out. He decided to turn his bad experience into good and start a foundation to help others who have experienced similar life altering injuries.

The triathlon was divided into Pro Class and Age Groups. The Ford-sponsored event took place in the beautiful, pine-scented Adirondack Mountains. Top competitors entered from around the world. The eventual Men's winner was Malik Twelsiek, from Germany, finishing in 8 hours and 36 minutes. The women's leader, Tereza Macel, from Toronto, finished with a time of 9 hours and 29 minutes. The meaning of the day, however, is not centered on an elite few. Each and every person who takes part in the challenge is cheered and admired.

The day began at 7 a.m. with a cannon shot that echoed off Mirror Lake. Within minutes the school of white and red caps splashed a mist into the cool mountain air as they made their way into the distance. The Women's overall winner was the first swimmer out of the water, beating all of the men, which was a big surprise. The Men's winner was the third swimmer. Contestants then ran barefooted to a central area where they were helped out of their wetsuits and changed into biking gear. Within an hour the day had turned to sun and a flurry of colorful excitement.

The race is an epic to behold. The pace is rapid and it is hard to understand how the triathletes can endure such strenuous activity for such a long period of time. On a hill climb, cyclists work hard because there are few level stretches upstate. On some of the mountainous downhill runs, bikes topped 40 miles an hour. Hundreds of volunteers make sure that liquids are available throughout the race to keep the triathletes hydrated.

A modern touch was incorporated into the ancient Greek tradition as each contestant is required to wear a computer chip, strapped to the ankle. Position and time are entered as they run over digital mats that are installed at key locations. During the day, observers are able to turn to laptops and desktops to follow the finishing times of the swimmers, bikers, and runners.

During the triathlon, the town is literally filled with tens of thousands of families and supporters. Roads are closed down, helicopters buzz and media crews zip around on motorcycles. The greatest emotion in everyone's heart is pride. The display of high-tech bicycles and clothing is an education in itself. Registration for the following year's event is held the next morning and is filled completely within only two hours!

For Matthew Long, competing and finishing was everything. His day was almost 17 hours long but he looks back with a feeling of having been through one of the greatest achievements of his life. He placed 2050th in the race.

- Photos by Don Rodrigues

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