While some 2,600 Ironman participants geared up for Sunday's 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run in Lake Placid, Katie Mannix fought tears following the 5K "Miles with a Message" race at the Queensbury cross country trails on Saturday.
For Mannix, a cross country and track runner who graduated from Queensbury this year, the 3.1-mile event was more than a run. She innovated the race idea to raise suicide awareness while on the Hike for Hope-Cody's Climb more than a year ago.
Atop Prospect Mountain in Lake George, Mannix paid tribute to Cody Miller, who committed suicide at age 15 in 2007, and remembered her cousin Robert's suicide at age 18 in 2008.
"Once I was able to pull myself together for the most part, because it was so traumatizing, I knew I wanted to do something," Mannix said after the race. "I tried awareness groups, and I went through all these possibilities.
"When I went to the Hike for Hope it just clicked," she added. "I'm a cross country runner, why don't I do something along those lines?"
Five other Queensbury students joined the cause and formed a committee to make the event happen on the Queensbury school district's wooded trails.
After about five months of focused planning, which involved sponsors, donations and the T-shirts Mannix designed, the inaugural "Miles with a Message" took place with more than 150 participants, raising more than $4,000 the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Capital Region Chapter.
"I think it's cool that it's all local people," said Stephen Satterfield, Mannix's cousin and Robert's brother. "So most of the people (here) were definitely affected by the people that were lost to suicide in some way."
Two adult advisors, Queensbury coaches Kevin Sullivan and Bob Underwood, could not make the event, but Mannix, who will pursue psychology at St. Lawrence University, said they spoke of its return.
"We'll be back next year," she said with a smile.
Miles upon miles
Preparing for his third Ironman triathlon, Underwood had a legitimate excuse to miss Mannix's race. On Sunday, he and his wife, Heidi, completed the ultimate endurance test, a race requiring a vastly different mindset than a fundraiser 5K.
While Heidi had her best Ironman performance in her fourth Lake Placid triathlon, finishing 476th out of more than 2,600 athletes in 11 hours, 22 minutes, Bob was less satisfied with his result (11:33:37), but said finishing is always rewarding.
"You're pretty elated when you finish," he said. "Even when you have not had your best race, it's pretty neat to think that, holy cow, you did this."
For a decent competitor, well over an hour of swimming, six or more hours of biking and a 4-5 hour marathon would elicit that response.
As I biked on parts of the hilly course, catching a few of the elite athletes in action - the top man finished in 8:39:34 - I can't say I was inspired. Humbled, yes, by what they were achieving, but not so much by the pain I figured they must have felt.
The day after the race, Underwood expected the soreness to linger, but said he will recover better than he would from a marathon alone.
"There's such a volume of training over such a long time, your body is used to it," he said.
I'll stick with the feel-good 5Ks.
Sportswriter Alex Matthews can be reached at email@example.com.