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My Indoor Endurance Event for a Cause

By Tony Rich

This is a story that I've told few people about. I completed my first Ironman on November 3, 2007, at Ironman Florida. After the event the first person I called back home in Boston to rejoice with in my accomplishment was my mom. She and I had that unbreakable mother/son bond. She was incredibly ecstatic! She shouted out in happiness like I never heard before. I told her all about the race, and we exchanged pleasantries and made plans to celebrate when I returned to Boston. At the time, I never would have dreamed when I hung up, that the phone call would be the very last time I would hear my mother's voice. Unfortunately she passed away just four days later before I could see, or talk to her again. 

tonyOur family later determined that she passed away from complications of cardiovascular disease. My mother, although very petite in body composition, led a sedentary lifestyle. She was also a life-long smoker. Undoubtedly the challenging life and stress as a single mom contributed to her non-active lifestyle, and made it difficult for her to seek out, obtain, and participate in effective health and wellness programs. The cumulative effect over her 67 years of life was the cause of her laying down to go to sleep, and never waking up on Nov. 7, 2007. It still hurts, and just writing this and reliving this is tough.

I took solace in the fact that my last conversation was a happy one rejoicing with her that I completed the toughest endurance sport known to man, the great Ironman race. 

I went on to do countless other endurance races for charities and even another Ironman (Lake Placid 2010). But I wanted to do something special for families in need of health and wellness programs and for my mom.

In 2011, I found the perfect opportunity. I found out a man in Arvada, Colo., completed an Indoor Ironman for his local YMCA's charity. I contacted Jack Fucci, the Executive Director of my local Y, to see if he wanted to do the same thing, and I got his immediate buy-in. We decided that we'd try to raise $10,000 for the Y Reach Out Campaign.

tonyThe Reach Out Campaign is the annual campaign that supports the Boston YMCA financial assistance program. For over 70 years, they've provided financial assistance to families in the most need for health and wellness and after-school programs. This is the program that I wished my mom had taken advantage of. But at least I could be in a position to help other families escape the damaging effects of cardiovascular and heart disease. Also it was fitting that this was the very same YMCA that I learned how to swim to complete Ironman Florida.  You can find out more about the program in The Reach Out Impact Statement.

The event was a huge success. I completed it on July 31, and we broadcasted it live on USTREAM. Between online and offline donations and silent auction items we raised more than $6,000 for the Reach Out Campaign.

I finished in a total time of 10:13:36 — a personal Ironman record overall and across the three disciplines. The swim was 1:15:39, which was 170 lengths in the pool, the bike was 5:03:39 on a CompuTrainer with a programmed flat course and the treadmill marathon was 3:53:44. I'm happy to become one of the very, few known people in to complete an Ironman triathlon outdoors as well as indoors. The support was amazing, and people from high school, college and people from the community that I didn't even know came to support and even ride and run beside me. There is a story and a YouTube video about it on my blog.

tonyThere is talk of repeating this fundraiser this year to earn more money for The Reach Out Campaign and going after the Guinness Indoor Ironman World Record which was about 40 minutes faster than my time. I've already sent in an application to Guinness World Records!

This event for my mom had a great impact on me. I know that I want to spend a great part of my life helping others reach their fitness levels and averting the dangers of obesity and disease through endurance sports and self-propelled motion. That is why I became a USAT coach and launched my own coaching and training company and website, EventHorizon.TV

I often say to myself, wow, I've come a long way since 2007, and I wonder what my mom would say if she could see me now.

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