Running, biking to battle Alzheimer's

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Dawn Herbert crossed the Tillsonburg Charity Duathlon (TCD) finish line Sunday morning with a personal best performance.


"It's my only best," laughed the St. Thomas resident, shortly after rewarding the ultimate faith of her two top cheerleaders (daughters Kimberly (9) and Carly (7)) by successfully completing her first dual-sport race.

Dawn's daughters had been there at the start, and again at the transition area as Herbert finished the initial 3K run and hopped onto her bike for the 15K cycling portion.

"Good job mommy!" Kimberly had shouted, her young voice cutting through generic crowd support. "Keep going!"

The Third Annual TCD opened its arms wide to around 80 competitors of all abilities and experience levels Sunday. Competitors headed out at 9 a.m. from near the Memorial Park Pavilion for a 3K run essentially around Lake Lisgar, and made the transition for a 15K bike ride before finishing up with a second 3K running leg.

Herbert was encouraged to try the TCD by her boyfriend Howie Walker, an accomplished competitor who finished in the top five.

"She's always at a bunch of Howie's races," Kimberly explained. "And so one day he said she should try it."

Dawn's training regimen was proving beneficial as she completed the first 3K run before hopping onto her bike.

"She's doing her best," said Kimberly.

"She is putting a lot of muscles into it," added Carly.

The two has unshakable confidence their mother would finish.

"Even if Howie has to go back on the second run and say 'don't walk,'" said Carly.

Herbert crossed the finish line in 1:14, beating her pre-race goal and rewarding her two biggest fans.

"She looks good," said Kimberly.

"She did the best that she could do," added Carly proudly.

The 21K combination race was inaugurated two years ago by Tillsonburg triathlete George Papadakos. As well as promoting multi-sport athletics in Tillsonburg and providing a race which can be as competitive as participants choose, it ultimately benefits the Alzheimer's Society of Oxford as a fundraising tribute to wife Nikko's grandmother June Hicks and aunt Margie Rose Thedford who died of complications from the disease and related dementias.

"There is a race component to it, but it's always nice to do something for charity at the end of the day," said Papadakos, who despite significant organizational responsibilities, managed to finish in the top 10.

The field had representation from true rookies like Herbert giving dual-sport competition a try; experienced triathlete Kathy Sinden pacing herself through because it's in her own Tillsonburg backyard; local couple Jane VanLeeuwen and Larry Stuyt whose stated 'life fitness-based' goal was simply to finish; Jodi Rice, an accomplished high school Tillsonburg Gemini sprinter test-driving her racing cleats in the world of triathlon; right on up through professional triathletes, such as Tony Frost, who has completed two 'Konas' (Iron Man Hawaii), a gruelling combination featuring a 3.8K swim and 180K bike ride followed by a full marathon.

"You don't think about it too much," laughed Frost, who says "the heat and humidity," is the Kona's biggest challenge.

The TCD's distances would hardly qualify as a sprint for triathletes of Frost's ilk, who meet up for what they call the Tillsonburg Duo/Duo: a 65K bike ride from London to town, the TCD itself, and a return 65K bike ride to The Forest City followed by an 8K closing run.

"There's no swim," Frost laughed. "It's a piece of cake."

The TCD is lots of fun, family-friendly and well organized credited Frost, whose father Len, a long-time Alzheimer's sufferer, passed away this year.

"It's a great event and it's for a great cause," he concluded. "This is meaningful to me and others as well - glad to do it." 


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