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Kris Dreessen/Messenger Post Staff
posted 8/4/01

Will, not muscle, got him through the final miles. When Dan Fitzgerald wasn't sure he would finish the last leg of the grueling Ironman triathlon, he was inspired by the spectators' encouragement and a woman's simple tip: Move your arms and your legs will follow. It worked. Despite the nausea and exhaustion, he ran the final four miles of the 26.2-mile marathon - the last segment of the triathlon. "The last mile I could hear the crowd at the end. I don't know, I just felt better," he said. "Positive vibes go a long way in changing your state of mind." Fitzgerald, a Canandaigua native, started the race on July 29 in Lake Placid with a 2.4-mile swim in an Adirondack lake at 7 a.m., followed by a 112-mile bike ride and the marathon. "It's just such a great experience," Fitzgerald said. "There was so much positive energy from the crowd. It was beyond what I ever thought it was going to be. People were cheering you on all the way." Fitzgerald, now a Boston resident completed the race in a time of 13 hours, 5 minutes. The Lake Placid Ironman competition is one of 22 such events around the world where people can qualify for the world championship held annually in Hawaii. Members of Fitzgerald's family were there to root him on. Fitzgerald's sister, Judy O'Donnell of Canandaigua, said her family plotted out where they might see him pass on course maps and raced from point to point. "It's just astounding to me," O'Donnell said. "... When we finally saw him come through the (finish) area, I had new respect for him, to think that you could train your body and your mind to do such an incredible thing." Fitzgerald, 31, graduated from Canandaigua Academy in 1988. He manages the quality assurance department at a software company. He started training last October for one to three hours each day. Biking around Canandaigua Lake when he visited his family was good practice for the hilly Adirondack routes, Fitzgerald said. He swam across Canandaigua Lake with his 14-year-old niece, Kaitlin O'Donnell, this past June. Dan and the other 1,600 competitors started out with the 2.4-mile, early morning swim in Mirror Lake. "It's like swimming in a washing machine," Fitzgerald said. There were so many swimmers, they created a current. Spectators came out to cheer the racers along the route. More than 3,200 volunteers helped at the triathlon, Fitzgerald said. That's what keeps you going," Fitzgerald said. The run was most challenging of the three segments for him, because he felt nauseous for the last 13 miles. "I really doubted my ability to finish, but you just do it. You just put one foot in front of the other," he said. And he did...

This story ran in the Daily Messenger on 8/4/01.