The streets around the campus of Wheeling Jesuit University and throughout the Elm Grove area will be teeming with people Saturday, July 10, as the ninth annual Faith in Action Caregivers Triathlon-Duathlon gets under way.
For the uninitiated, a triathlon consists of swimming, biking and running events - done as a team or all by an individual - while a duathlon consists of two rounds of running with one round of biking in between.
Registration for the event closes at 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 7. Registration forms can be picked up at the Faith in Action office, 1359 National Road, Wheeling; participants also can register online at www.active.com.
Proceeds from the race benefit Faith in Action Caregivers, an organization dedicated to supporting the independent living of older adults and people with disabilities in Ohio, Marshall and Belmont counties through the shared ministry of faith communities. Assistance is provided without regard to race, socio-economic status, gender, age or religion. There is never a charge for any assistance provided. Faith in Action Caregivers is supported by grants, individual contributions, faith communities and fundraising projects.
Those who have taken part in the triathlon and duathlon competitions have a variety of reasons for participating. ranging from the love of competition to the desire to push themselves physically all while supporting a great cause.
Three people who have been participating in the event since its inception are Wheeling residents Harry Foose, 59 and Jon Quinlisk, 71, as well as Ben Gandy, 37, of Washington, Pa. All three are signed up to participate in this year's race.
Foose said the Wheeling event was not his first triathlon. "I had been doing triathlons for several years and this was the first one I saw in the Wheeling area so I hopped on board," said Foose, who now serves as a participant liaison to the event planning committee.
He was in his late 30s to early 40s when he first undertook the task of completing a triathlon. "This was really part of a journey," said Foose, who had quit smoking, began walking and progressed to jogging. "In the process, I had dropped 40 pounds and found I enjoyed running and the changes I was seeing in myself."
Biking came fairly easily. As Foose said, "I had always biked as a kid so biking was natural."
Swimming was more of a challenge. "I could survive ... I could swim like a rock, he joked. "The swim is where I give everyone a head start because it is the area in which I am least proficient."
Over time, Foose became more comfortable with his ability and caught the triathlon bug. "As I progressed, triathlons became a reason for me to go places and see new things. I was able to challenge myself and it felt great," he said.
Gandy, a natural sprinter who participated in track throughout college, said he became involved with the Wheeling event because of Foose.
"Harry goaded me into it. I think he wanted to a chance to beat a young guy, he joked. "Up until that time I had never ran more than two miles at a clip. I had never biked and couldn't swim. I knew I was in for it.
Gandy said he undertook the challenge as a way to stay fit. "I realized I needed to do something to stay active so I spent about two months training for my first race," he said, noting his first 10-mile journey on a mountain bike felt like "I had done the Tour de France."
Despite his work, Gandy said his first race was a humbling experience. "Anyone who didn't pass me on the bike, lapped me on the run, he said, noting he was determined to improve and eventually won the race in 2005. "I continued to work at it and was able to make a lot of improvement from my first attempt.
Quinlisk first participated as part of team, riding the bike leg of the race, and eventually began competing as an individual.
"The first year I was part of a team, and when the team didn't want to do it the second year, I decided to do it myself. I did not swim. I got in the pool and dog paddled around. I like to say I took a 12-minute warm bath, he said. "By the third year. I was able to do the crawl in the pool which was an improvement.
Cycling was the easiest of the three events for Quinlisk who bikes everywhere and only rents a vehicle when necessary for long trips.
"The biking was easiest for me because I bike every day but I will admit my times have become a little slower over the years, he said, noting he still manages to at least place in his age group. "I am not an athletic person. I started jogging to help me lose weight and it took off from there. I have never been an athlete but I do enjoy the competition. It is very exciting."
Foose acknowledges the fact that his fastest times are probably behind him, but he still enjoys the challenge of doing the Wheeling event.
He joked that the most difficult part of the race now is "getting up that early in the morning," noting the check-in begins at 6 a.m. and the first wave hits the pool at 7:30 a.m.
All three participants noted the race would be impossible if it weren't for the volunteers working along the route and the local fire and emergency personnel who make themselves available for the event.
"Everywhere along the way there are people looking out for the participants, directing traffic and working to keep us safe along the way," Quinlisk said. "It is just a fun and well-run event."
Foose said, "We are blessed that the citizens of Wheeling and the service and emergency personnel allow us the opportunity to do this race. Without them, as well as all the sponsors, we wouldn't be able to do it."
Gandy said he is pleased to be able to support an organization such as Faith in Action Caregivers.
"As you get older and you see your parents and grandparents aging, you realize the importance of keeping these people as independent as possible for as long as possible. Faith in Action helps people maintain a quality of life they wouldn't have otherwise," he said. "I am happy to be a small part of that."
Foose encourages anyone even thinking about competing in a triathlon to participate in the Wheeling event. '
'People can participate as individuals and as part of a team. This is a wonderful way to support a wonderful organization and, at the very least, people come away with a T-shirt that says they did a triathlon and not everyone can say that, Foose said. "Bottom line is that the event is fun. If I can do it, then anyone can do it.
Quinlisk agreed. "I think anyone can do it. Most people who biked as a children can still ride a bike. If you can run for half an hour at any pace, you can do the run. And, if you can paddle around in a pool for 12 minutes, you can do the swim," he said.
Gandy is currently training seven days a week for an upcoming Half-Iron Man. "I am taking things a bit more seriously these days ... just to see how far I can push myself and what I can really do."
He summarized the triathlon experience in this way, crediting his friend Harry Foose, "I think Harry summed it up when he once said that even if you are the slowest person out there, when you think of the very small number of people in the world who undertake such an event, you are still faster than 90 percent of the population.