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  • Photo Andrew Cruz

    November 30, 2015

    Cruzin' Through the Ironman

    Andrew Cruz ’03 embarked on the IRONMAN in Lake Placid, N.Y., last July with this goal: to cross the finish line at the end of the grueling 140.6-mile race with a smile on his face and enough energy left to wrap the family members and friends waiting for him in a huge hug. He succeeded – and then some. The Le Moyne alumnus came in 28th in a field of approximately 2,500 competitors, finishing in a time of 10:14:18. He came in ninth in his age group (30-34), and ran the marathon in the eighth-fastest time of the day. In his first ever IRONMAN, he narrowly missed qualifying for the 2016 IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

    Sports have always been a central part of Cruz’s life. As a student at Le Moyne, he played rugby. He continued to play after he graduated and moved to New York City, where he works in the financial services industry. However, in 2007 his focus shifted sharply from rugby to another sport – triathlon – after a Le Moyne classmate and close friend, John Peters ’03, lost his father to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Cruz became involved with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training, which raises money for blood cancer research through endurance sports events. Since then, he estimates that he has participated in 30 triathlons, including events in New York City, Syracuse and San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was successful enough to become ranked in the top 1 percent in IRONMAN’s All World Athlete program in the half-IRONMAN, which includes a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, and 13.1-mile run. (If that is not impressive enough, consider this: When Cruz first began training for triathlons, he could not swim a lap. Now he regularly logs 11,000 meters per week.)

    It is natural for triathletes to set their sights on bigger and bigger challenges. When Cruz decided to complete a full IRONMAN, a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run, he knew he wanted it to be in Lake Placid. He’d been to the event as a spectator and admired the course, which begins in Mirror Lake and ends in the historic Olympic Oval. He witnessed the pride the community, which famously hosted the 1932 and 1980 Olympics, takes in staging the event. Lake Placid boasts the nation’s second-longestrunning IRONMAN, surpassed only by the World Championship in Hawaii, which Cruz acknowledged is, for many triathletes, "the holy grail."

    To prepare for the race, Cruz trained for nine months, logging 17 to 19 hours of swimming, biking and running per week and balancing it with his professional and family responsibilities. On most weekdays he woke at 5 a.m. for a workout that might consist of a one-hour swim or two-hour bike ride before heading to work at Lockton Companies, where he is the assistant vice president for financial services. The weekends were “even more insane,” and might include a five-hour bike ride followed by a one-hour run. Rather than letting that overwhelm him, Cruz noted philosophically, “That’s what it takes to get to an IRONMAN finish line safely, healthily and hopefully fast.” Cruz was also blessed with a tremendous support system. He met his wife, Courtney, through triathlon training, and he said that her encouragement was critical to making it to – and through – Lake Placid.

    When the day of the race came, Cruz fed off of the energy of the spectators, the volunteers and the other athletes who, like him, had worked so hard to prepare for this moment. He knew that he wanted to run past the loved ones who’d traveled to Lake Placid to support him – including Courtney and his mother, Marlene Cruz – “with dignity.” He acknowledged that over the course of the race competitors “face a lot of demons,” including fatigue, pain and hunger. He made it through the course by “digging deep,” and by breaking down the enormous task before him into smaller increments – the first 500 meters of the swim, the next 25 miles on the bike, the final 10K of the run. When he crossed the finish line, a little more than 10 hours after he started, it was with “a sense of massive relief and joy.”

    “Over time, you just kind of develop an aerobic base in triathlon,” he said. “It’s hard work and consistency over years and years. There is no secret sauce.”

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    Category: Great Sports