The Meso Foundation would like to thank Tim McDonnell for his participation in the HITS Triathlon Series in Naples, Florida to raise funds for the Meso Foundation. Tim annually hosts fundraising events for the foundation, and his dedication to our mission is greatly appreciated. Below, read the article written about Tim’s participation in the triathlon from Naples Daily News.
NAPLES, Fla. – He had just swam 1,500 meters, biked about 25 miles, and ran close to a quarter marathon, but Timothy McDonnell still kept a brisk pace to greet her.
She was standing near the finish line having earlier completed a triathlon of her own, but still looked radiant in a bright yellow athletic tank top with short blonde hair. McDonnell hobbled over quickly, paused for an iPad photo, before embracing her with a hug and a kiss.
McDonnell and his wife, Andrea, had come a long way for this moment.
Part of the HITS Triathlon Series held in Naples this weekend, Timothy, 52, and Andrea McDonnell, 50, completed the Olympic and Sprint distance events, respectively.
But their accomplishments were really just another leg on a longer journey, one that expands beyond the miles they trekked Sunday.
It begins, with sickness and tragedy, in Michigan.
In 2009, Timothy McDonnell’s brother-in-law died of mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer — he’d been diagnosed five years prior, right after his honeymoon.
That same year, Andrea McDonnell was living what she calls a “miserable” existence in Michigan. She, too, had been given a diagnosis — breast cancer, in 2008 — and her chemotherapy sessions were all but unbearable.
“You’re watching the nurses get into full protective gear, and they take a bag that has a bio-hazard label on it, and they’re dumping it into the vein that goes right into your heart,” Andrea McDonnell said Sunday. “They’re completely protected, but they’re dumping it into my heart.”
Andrea McDonnell, almost literally, stayed on the couch for five years.
“You sit down and you don’t move,” said McDonnell, whose chemotherapy ended in 2013. “You have no energy. You feel sick all the time. I had pain everywhere.”
Timothy McDonnell tried to keep his wife active. After Andrea was diagnosed, Timothy began participating in cancer fundraisers every year. He’s done nine breast cancer walks, five rides-for-the-cure, and scores of other events.
For the past three years, Timothy McDonnell has competed in triathlons, in part to honor his late brother-in-law and raise cancer research money.
Andrea, who gained 70 pounds during chemo, tried accompanying Timothy to his spin classes at the gym. Always in pain, she couldn’t get through the workouts without crying.
“It was so freaking hard,” Andrea said, tearing up.
But in August 2013, the family hired a trainer who got Andrea on a diet and a daily training regimen. She lost the 70 pounds she gained — plus five more pounds — and began competing in triathlons like her husband.
On Sunday, Andrea finished the Sprint distance event — a 750-meter swim, 12.4-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run — in 1 hour, 42 minutes and 47 seconds, good for ninth place in her age group.
“It’s a good means to an end,” she said about triathlons. “I’m really proud to say that I’m now able to do it. Not everybody’s able to do one.”
The McDonnells were a couple of the estimated 2,000 visitors to the city this weekend for the HITS Triathlon Series, held in Naples for the fourth year. The event brought about $1 million in revenue, according to the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau, and attracted international competition, including athletes from the United Arab Emirates and Puerto Rico.
Most of the weekend, intersections on Vanderbilt Beach Road were manned by traffic officers, allowing for participants in the triathlons’ bike portions to pedal through. But cars still were allowed on the roads, which caused some issues.
Mike Aubrey, an athlete competing in the half triathlon, said he was struck by a car while biking Saturday morning. He said he was making a turn on his route when a car pulled out in front of him, cutting off the bike lane, and sent him crashing between the car and the guardrail.
“People are clueless. Really it’s a shame,” said Aubrey, who was able to finish the race. “It was a fun race, but the drivers are just crazy.”
Timothy McDonnell didn’t have any issues with his bike portion. That part is probably his strength, he said. But he struggled during the final leg — his 6.2-mile run in the Florida sun.
“About mile four, the heat was starting to get to me,” McDonnell said. “We haven’t had this weather in Michigan in four months.”
At the finish line, McDonnell came huffing and puffing across. His run portion was more like a “walk/jog,” he would say later. He doubled over for a moment while receiving his medal, but he quickly lifted his head up to lock eyes with his wife, waiting for him several yards away.
Then he started moving again.