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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When it comes to farming nowadays, the right way isn’t always the easiest. Local fifth generation farmer Jim Vough knows this all too well. He is tasked with turning Sammis Farms in Vernon, NJ into a 100 percent organic farm that in 2013 will supply fresh produce to the restaurants of Crystal Springs Resort.
“It’s not easy to be organic around here, unless you really put a lot of effort into it,” said Vough. “Organic is not the norm. You’re growing naturally, transforming from traditional agriculture. It’s a little more intensive, but worth it.”
Crystal Springs’ Executive Sous Chef Florian Wehrli is excited to have the crops of Sammis Farms literally at his fingertips next year. “Vegetables don’t ship well,” according to Wehrli. “It will be so nice to get produce right from the farm. Not only is that convenient and cost-effective, but also better for our customers who will experience the freshest, highest quality food available.”
With organic gardening, Vough has to have the soil prepared ahead of time and spent the summer testing how various crops would grow. He dismisses any type of spray chemicals. “Gardening requires constant attention,” Vough explained. “You can’t just spray and walk away. We don’t want to harm local wildlife or affect the water supply.”
Vough is also adamant about “making plants happy.” For instance, he plans on mixing his own compost, brewing it into a tea and treating it as a liquid fertilizer. Hay will be used as mulch, corn plastic will battle weeds, and an organically-approved clay will deter insects. “The goal will be to grow super healthy plants that can defend themselves.”
These careful farming techniques will lay the foundation for nutritional and delectable gourmet meals created by Crystal Springs Resort chefs, and you will certainly taste the difference.
A spectacular dinner took place in the award-winning Wine Cellar of Restaurant Latour on July 19th, featuring some of the world’s most sought-after labels. The value of the bottles of wine together totaled over $50,000 and paired perfectly with a custom menu (pictured below) prepared by Chef de Latour John Benjamin. Owner Gene Mulvihill was in attendance and this special meal did not disappoint.
Crystal Springs’ Executive Chef Michael Weisshaupt called the gathering “amazing.” He said, “There is no dinner I have ever seen with better wines than this one tonight.”
Sommelier Susanne Lerescu shared her thoughts on the event: “To me this was a serious dinner. In fact, I would call it a once-in-a-lifetime dinner. To taste all these wines in one night is a sommelier’s dream and as good as it gets. These are some of the very best wines ever produced (pictured below) and most people don’t even get to try one bottle in their lifetime.”
“The 1929 Latour was opened, tasted and poured immediately. An 83-year-old wine doesn’t need to be decanted, since it is now delicate and fragile,” explained Lerescu. “Many times I compare wine to us humans – after living a full lifetime, you don’t want to play rough anymore. So we just caressed the glass the wine was in and slowly took in the light aromas it offered, subtle notes of dried fruit and a little cedar; but when sipping the wine I was surprised about the dried cherry flavor it offered, the little hint of tobacco leaves and the balance it showed. The finish was so smooth and surprisingly long. I like to be surprised by a wine and this 1929 Chateau Latour did just that!”
Rooms in the wine cellar can be rented out for private parties for all occasions. Call 973-827-5996 ext. 3 to reserve.
Crystal Springs Resort is the coolest place for a summer vacation with endless activities and attractions for the whole family to enjoy. Whether you’re interested in relaxing by the pool, exploring the outdoors, or playing a new sport, you can find what you’re looking for right here in the mountains of Northern New Jersey (only 47 miles from Manhattan)! Choose accommodations at the sophisticated Grand Cascades Lodge, recreation-rich Minerals Resort & Spa, or the action-packed Mountain Creek. For more information, please visit TheCrystalSpringsResort.com.
Your step-by-step guide to a quick and delicious gourmet snack, as demonstrated by Chef de Cuisine Pat Duffy of the Tavern.
Crystal Springs Resort now offers wine education seminars at just $30 per person for the public and $25 per person for social members. Whether you’re a wine expert, beginner, or somewhere in between, you’ll discover a new-found appreciation for this timeless beverage 8,000 years in the making.
Restaurant Latour Sommelier Susanne Lerescu will inspire you with her wine knowledge during this two-hour class, which includes tastings of five varietals. (Pictured below are a couple of the wines to be sampled.) Afterward, explore the 135,000-bottle Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning collection on a mind-blowing tour of the wine cellar.
Join us Sunday, May 6th in the Napa Room at the Crystal Springs Clubhouse for the wine education seminar and wine cellar tour from 2:30-4:30 p.m. Call 973-827-5996, ext. 3 to register. And if you can’t make it this week, look out for more class announcements coming soon!