Orange flags in Johnstown support Beth Connelie while she trains for Sunday’s Ironman Triathlon in Lake Placid.
Flying throughout the town, the orange flags first started appearing in mid-January.
The flags were the idea of one of Connelie’s friends.
“I had sent her a message during one of my workouts on my bike trainer that I loved her orange front door and shutters. It really makes me smile. Orange is my happy color. I just love it. It brings a smile to my face and picks my spirits up,” said Connelie of Johnstown.
Soon, Connelie started noticing the orange flags, putting a smile on her face as she ran or biked by them in preparation for the triathlon.
“Being on this journey alone, I found great comfort in knowing the orange flag fliers, now known as Team Orange, believe in me,” she said. “It’s just proof we live in an amazing community. I’m very blessed.”
Connelie first became involved with triathlons in 2010 when the application for the Peck’s Lake Sprint Triathlon caught her attention. She competed with friends that year. She had such an enjoyable experience that she came back the next year, and now is gearing up for the event in Lake Placid.
With the support from her family, Connelie found ways to keep training for the past 28 weeks.
“At the end of this, no matter how the day goes, I would love to walk away with knowing my children have learned a lesson,” Connelie said. “I would hope that, if nothing else, they may realize that things worth having are worth working hard for.”
The Ironman event consists of a 112-mile bike ride, 2.4-mile swim, and a 26.2-mile run.
She said the swim is her favorite part of the triathlon.
Training for this triathlon hasn’t been easy.
“The most difficult part of the training has been training alone. It’s been a lot of lonely miles,” Connelie said.
Local residents Jared Hammond and Matthew Sherman, who will compete with Connelie in the Ironman, have been training together.
“The difficult part is the time commitment,” Sherman said.
“It’s not like going to the gym every day; it’s really a lifestyle,” Hammond said.
Sherman and Hammond tuned up for Sunday’s event by competing in the 15K (9.3-miles) Utica Boilermaker on July 14.
Sherman placed 69th out of 821 runners in the 30- to 34-year-old division with a time of 1:06.35, while Hammond placed 666th in the same division in 1:43.16.
This Ironman Triathlon will be a first for Hammond and Sherman. Their goal is to cross the finish line, Sherman said.
Although Sunday’s competition will be his first Ironman event, Sherman has had success competing in half-triathlons.
“I have entered three or four of the shorter ones,” the Meco resident said. “I won the Piseco Lake Triathlon last year. That’s a sprint with a half-mile swim, 11 -mile bike ride and 5K run.”
Sherman’s interest in triathlons stems from a job he had in Virginia Beach.
“I worked at Final Kick Sports, a triathlon store,” he said. “I specialized in the running part. The people seemed to have fun doing it, so I thought, ‘why not try it?’ The running and cycling weren’t a problem. but it took a while to get into the swimming.”
With a half-triathlon win under his belt, Sherman has set a new goal – a full triathlon win.
“The store has a wall with pictures of all the triathlon winners that come in there on it,” he said. “I want my picture up there.”
Sherman and Hammond met Connelie when she started running two years ago.
News about the triathlon athletes traveled quickly.
“We’re all very supportive of each other,” Connelie said. “It’s a great feeling knowing other people are working out there trying to reach their goals, too.”