Comox Valley Triathlon Club member and amateur ironman triathlete Audrey Erlandson will be competing in her ninth ironman distance triathlon Nov. 17 in Tempe, Arizona.
Training and racing in triathlons is a huge passion for Erlandson and she loves living and promoting the “swim-bike-run” active lifestyle with her family and friends. Imagine training for and then racing in a 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike ride, and then immediately following, completing a full marathon of 42 km all in one day. Tempe will be Erlandson’s second ironman triathlon this year.
Erlandson states that all of her training and racing could not be possible without the incredibly amazing community support she receives on a day to day basis from family, friends, and local businesses. “It literally takes a village for an athlete to train and compete. I would not be doing what I do everyday, if it wasn’t for the support I receive, every day.”
This year, Erlandson took on an even bigger challenge than training and racing for ironman. She became a member of the Smile Train Team Empower, a children’s charity that provides free cleft lip and palate surgery for children (and young adults) outside of North America that cannot afford to have the specialty surgery.
Working as a maternity nurse for the last 20 years, Erlandson has seen the struggles that a newborn baby faces that is born with cleft lip and palate abnormalities. “From the moment these babies are born with a cleft lip or palate abnormalities, they are faced with big struggles, depending on the severity of the abnormality, and need special care with feeding until their palate can be repaired.
“I have always felt that my training and racing could be used as a platform for something bigger than just my own selfish goals of participating in triathlon. When I heard about the opportunity to train and race for the Smile Train team, I thought if would be a perfect fit for me to finally give back.
“This year has been one of my most challenging years in sport, but probably one of the most rewarding ever.” Erlandson had knee surgery this year at the end of February, and was told she “could be on the fence, possibly falling backwards” as to whether or not she would actually ‘ever’ compete in ironman distance racing again.
“I had a lot of down time with my knee up on pillows for months after the surgery and a lot of time to think about how I was going to fundraise for something that entails me to actually get out and do my swimming, biking, and running. I thought, people are not going to donate, as my chances of actually getting to the start line were not looking good,” she said.
In order to be on the Smile Train team and participate in the race, you have to raise a minimum of enough funds to cover 20 surgeries. Each surgery costs $250. Erlandson came up with an idea that she had seen on the Internet to recycle used bicycle parts from the local bike stores to make jewelry and wind chimes, with all proceeds from the sales going to the Smile Train team.
This is where the “it takes a village” really came in strong for Erlandson. “My heart was bursting with the support I received from so many local businesses that took me in and helped me promote my goal.”
The fundraising kicked off the first weekend of July at the Wandering Moose Cafe where Erlandson had her jewelry on display during the first day of the BC Bike Race. “Simon’s Cycles has been absolutely amazing. They have had my jewelry on display in their store all summer. This is where the bulk of my sales have come from,” she said.
Steven Martin from Comox Valley Stand Up Paddle Boarding donated the proceeds from one night of paddle boarding (a value of $350) to the charity. Marnie Martin, director of sales and marketing at 40 Knots Winery, had a large display of Erlandson’s jewelry through the summer where Erlandson raised well over $500 in sales.
Alpine Start Publications and Three Point Adventures featured Erlandson as “athlete of the month” and that brought in $100 in donations. To date, Erlandson is sitting at $3,200 in donations. “People are so amazing! I would have random strangers come up to my booths and say, ‘I just want to pay for a full surgery’ and they would write me a cheque right there for the $250!”
Erlandson’s biggest fundraising event yet is coming up this Saturday, Nov. 2 at Simon’s Cycles in Comox. Erlandson will be outside the store on her stationary bike and will “spin” non-stop from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Simon’s will have some items to raffle off and there will be a barbecue with the normal fare of beef and veggie burgers, hot dogs, drinks, and homemade cookies donated from Erlandson’s mom all for a minimum donation of $10.
Erlandson says, “I want to challenge everyone in our community – athletic clubs, families, everyone – to come by the store on your Saturday walk, run, or ride and say Hi!, have a bite to eat, and leave the car at home! Come see me sweat and raise some money for the children!”
– Audrey Erlandson