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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

IRONMAN ambassador, From Warren to England to Colorado, Gallagher representing national IRONMAN Tri Team well

IRONMAN ambassador

From Warren to England to Colorado, Gallagher representing national IRONMAN Tri Team well

A younger Brian Gallagher dabbled in organized sports growing up in Warren.

But one of his fondest memories of the area is mountain biking.

"It was one of my past-times, I guess," said Gallagher, who has since cycled all over the world.

"Rocky Gap was one of the places I frequented, the Hearts Content area, and Chapman's Dam," said Gallagher.

A journey that started in Warren County has taken Gallagher all the way to England and back to the states again, in Colorado.

The journey has now led him to be named among 49 people in the entire United States to the 2014 IRONMAN Foundation-Newton Running Ambassador Triathlon Team.

Gallagher and 48 others serve as ambassadors for IRONMAN triathlons and Newton running shoes - competing in IRONMAN events, but, more importantly, giving back to race communities.

On being named to the national team, "I'd never been so surprised and excited in my whole life, other than having a couple of kids," said Gallagher. "I'd felt like I won the lottery. It is my life passion and always will be."

It's been a while since Gallagher started mountain biking in Warren County, but the IRONMAN triathlon is another story. An full IRONMAN (140.6) triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike, and a marathon 26.2-mile run. There are also Half IRONMAN races consisting of a 1.2-mile swim, 66-mile bike and 13.1-mile run, which Brian has competed in among dozens of other triathlons of varying distances.

Gallagher will take on the IRONMAN Boulder (140.6), a full IRONMAN triathlon, later this year.

Obviously, the biking came first, but his father became his inspiration for running. After a traumatic injury nearly prevented his father, Bill, from ever walking again, "I kind of started running for him," said Brian. "I sort of took it upon myself."

After meeting his future wife at college in Rochester, N.Y., they moved to England for three years.

"A buddy of mine who I worked with and I started running at lunch," said Gallagher. "That was the start of my endurance training. He had started doing triathlons, and he told me about the AlcaTri: Escape from the Rock Triathlon (in San Francisco).

"That same day he told me about it, I said, 'I'm going to do that next year,'" said Gallagher. "I got my credit card out (and registered for the next year's race). From there, that was kind of the start."

Gallagher liked the sound of triathlons.

"I just really liked the competitive nature of it, the competitive nature with myself as well, trying to get better," he said. "I was getting into running, and I'm a pretty good cyclist.

"I just can't swim," he thought back.

And the Escape from the Rock had a "pretty daunting swim compared to other triathlons," he said.

The Escape from the Rock triathlon includes a 1.5-mile swim from Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay. The race continues with an 18-mile bike ride out the Great Highway, through the Golden Gate Park, and concludes with an eight-mile run through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area to The Marina Green.

"My wife loves to tell the story," said Gallagher. "She said, 'let's go to the pool and see how you do.' I stopped mid-length - that's how bad I was."

Gallagher said his anxiety was constant throughout the year leading up to the Alcatraz triathlon in 2008.

"The weirdest feeling is the anxiety I had all year was the worst right at the edge of that boat looking down into the water," he said. "As soon as I popped up from the water, it was nothing but excitement and adrenaline.

"I think I realized I was finally a competent swimmer after having done a couple Olympic-distance triathlons," he said. "In 2008, I did the London Triathlon... I remember getting out of the water in the Royal Dock and feeling like I could swim forever now. I've probably done 30 triathlons of varying distance. I stayed active with the sport no matter where I was at."

Relocating from England back to Rochester, then Rochester to Virginia, and Virginia to Colorado, Gallagher enjoyed being involved in running triathlon clubs "and really enjoyed mentoring others and getting them into the sport," he said. "I just loved being part of the community; it wasn't really about the events anymore, but the community itself."

Gallagher injured his knee, which ultimately required surgery in October 2011, during a Tough Mudder adventure race.

"Even though I was off for a year and a half to two years, when I got to Colorado I still stayed involved with the community," he said, "because I just loved this sport."

That sort of leads up to the IRONMAN Foundation Team.

"When the application process (for the IRONMAN Foundation Triathlon Team) came out this year, I had no idea I'd make the team. I thought it was a long shot, but I needed an outlet outside of my career to be more involved in the community, or in philanthropy in general."

The initial meeting of all 49 members nationwide will take place later this month - 24 returning members from last year's IRONMAN Foundation Team will mentor 25 new members to the team, including Gallagher. And all 49 will work together to decide "what philanthropic activities we will be involved in," he said.

There is also an upcoming five-day "camp," he said, in which members will fly into Boulder, Colorado, "to train together and get out into the community.

"I think they chose some people who are newer to IRONMAN as well," said Gallagher. "It was really about people who are excited about the brand - from pros down to people who are new and just passionate."

The Team is also hitting social media running.

"(We) are sharing our stories there," said Gallagher.

The Team is also raising money to support the IRONMAN Foundation's Community Fund, which gives back to non-profit organizations and charitable organizations across the United States. By raising the exposure of service through sport and the good that the triathlon and triathletes bring to communities around the world, Gallagher would love for that to affect Warren.

He said his father is trying to draw him to the Tango adventure race held in the summer in the Allegheny National Forest.

Warren will always hold a special place.

"I consider myself an avid sportsman; always in the woods, hunting, biking, fishing, camping," said Gallagher. "That's what I did. That passion I had for that stuff is not gone, but the level of that passion I have for those things has definitely (steered me toward) triathlons. Being outside and really enjoying nature, that's part of what a triathlon is, too. That's why I was excited to talk to you. I love seeing people get into the sport and I knew the sport is growing, especially in smaller communities like Warren."

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