Resort CFO-turned-Ironman competes in triathlon
By MARIA MARINO
It seems nothing scares Joe Bellantoni. When asked if he felt afraid to race in the recent New York City Ironman Competition, one of only five blind out of 2500 total triathletes, the chief financial officer of Crystal Springs Resort simply answered, “No. I was prepared.”
The Ironman is a grueling test of physical and mental strength, requiring participants to swim in open water for 2.4 miles, bike for 112 miles, and run a marathon of 26.2 miles. For most people in the world, this feat would be considered impossible. For Bellantoni, who was blinded in a disastrous 2007 car accident and almost didn’t live to tell the tale, anything is possible.
Participants in the Ironman had to face a variety of obstacles on a particularly difficult course, such as the treacherous Hudson River and long stairwells leading on and off the George Washington Bridge. Bellantoni did it all – and in complete darkness – with guide Mike Erstad right next to him.
Failure to finish before midnight on Aug. 12 would have resulted in disqualification. That wasn’t an option for Bellantoni, not when he and his wife Denise had trained for months leading up to the 7 a.m. start on Aug. 11.
“I was nervous,” Denise said. “It was a nail-biter to the end. I was crying because I didn’t know if he was going to make it. But he did!” Bellantoni crossed the Riverside Park finish line at 11:22 p.m.
“I definitely felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment,” he explained. “The energy at the finish line was just amazing. I rolled through a crowd of hundreds of people cheering and screaming. Those last ten feet or so, it really sunk in.”
After running the 2012 Boston Marathon in April, Bellantoni began his training for the Ironman. “To get ready for a race like this, you really have to put the time in. It’s hard to fit it all into your schedule, but it worked out very well because I was able to do everything right at Minerals.”
Minerals Sports Club is just down the road from Bellantoni’s office in Hardyston. Utilizing the Minerals facilities, he was able to run, bike, lift and swim in one central location. Weekday workouts averaged three hours per day while weekend workouts lasted about five to eight hours.
Describing himself as an amateur swimmer, getting in the pool was Bellantoni’s first order of business. Denise was by his side, giving him pointers she found on YouTube and directing drills. Then the couple attended spinning classes two to three times a week, in addition to their running and weight-lifting routines.
“The instructors at Minerals are very motivating and personable. They make it fun there,” Denise said.
As strenuous as the Ironman competition was, Bellantoni says he would do it again. Since recovering from the nearly fatal accident that blinded him, he has lived by one recurring theme: moving forward. Returning to New York for his sixth marathon race this November, he won’t let fear (or anything else) stand in his way.
Just as the loud speaker announced when crossing the finish line: “Joe Bellantoni, you are an Ironman. Congratulations.”
*Photos courtesy of Denise Bellantoni.
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