When Long Island’s Marc Blumencranz enters the waters of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, for the start of the Ironman World Championship’s 2.4-mile swim on Oct. 12, there will be a lot more on his mind than simply crossing the finish line -- that is, after he completes the ensuing vicious 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run. For Blumencranz, this race is more than attaining the title of an Ironman.
“The son of one of my teammates [on Long Island Tri Coach] has been extremely ill for most of the season and is still hospitalized at Cohen Children's Hospital,” Blumencranz said. “Frankie has endured a lot more than I ever will competing in a race. He is the most amazing person and his parents are as special as they come. I plan on dedicating my Kona experience to him.”
Blumencranz, 50, from Manhasset, was introduced to swimming and biking only after suffering a potentially career-ending leg injury while running the Boston Marathon in April 2008. After being told by three orthopedists that he would never run again, Blumencranz took the advice of friend Andrew Motola and started to swim. “After getting comfortable in the pool,” Blumencranz said, “I decided to try cycling. I was hooked.” One year later, 2009, Blumencranz competed in his first triathlon, raced Ironman Lake Placid in 2011 and 2012, and is now entering into his first world championship.
Each year, the Ironman World Championship combines 2,000 of the world’s most elite triathletes in 140.6 miles of brutal currents, hills, crosswinds and heat. In what’s been labeled arguably the most difficult single-day sporting event on the planet, the Ironman World Championship requires competitors to qualify through yearly worldwide full or half Ironman-distance races by finishing at the top of their age groups, or by lottery.
Joining Blumencranz on the Big Island will be Long Islanders Adam Quinn, 24, of Port Jefferson Station and Robert Spina Jr., 50, of North Massapequa.
For Quinn, his first year competing in triathlons proved to be the charm. The Stony Brook University medical student qualified for the world championship at Ironman Lake Placid in July, which was his first Ironman and, ironically, his first year racing in triathlons. Quinn, who is a former cross country and track athlete at Binghamton University, swam two to three days per week, biked four to five and ran four in order to prepare for his first place age group finish -- 99th overall -- at Ironman Lake Placid.
“Earning the opportunity to compete at the Ironman World Championship is a dream come true,” Quinn said. “I don’t know if I will ever get the chance to race in Kona again, so I want to make the most of it. Other than that, I just want to leave it all on the course.”
Spina, who is also a member of Long Island Tri Coach, returns to Kailua-Kona for his fifth world championship quest and 15th Ironman, overall. The attorney, who practices in Lynbrook, qualified at Ironman Lake Placid, finishing fifth in his age group.
“I was in my 30s, then 40s,” Spina said about his previous trips to the world championship. “Now that I am 50, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be there again.”
Spina, who trained about 15 hours each week in preparation for the world championship, has molded himself into a workout veteran. “I’m older now and I consider myself a little wiser, so I don‘t spend a lot of time on the junk miles,” he said. “Every workout has to have a focus.”
And for Quinn -- even though physically spent -- finishing the Ironman World Championship on Kailua-Kona’s Alii Drive would be sweet.
“If I’m unable to walk once I cross that finish line,” Quinn continued, “I’ll know I’ve done all I could.”
Brian T. Dessart is a nationally accredited Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, a New York State Critical Care Emergency Medical Technician and an FDNY firefighter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @briandessart.