Firefighters Honor 9/11 Fallen Brothers at Pacific Coast Triathlon

KT Tape is honored to have been a sponsor of the Pacific Coast Triathlon held on the anniversary of September 11, 2011 in Crystal Cove, California.  The Race Director of the Pacific Coast Tri shared with us this moving article about the event, written by David Whiting in the Orange County Register, “When Finishing Time Takes Second Place”:  Tiny lights from bicyclists peer into the darkness along Pacific Coast Highway early Sunday morning as two firefighters prepare for the Pacific Coast Triathlon. Stationed in Washington, D.C., Dennis Carmody and Daniel Gerdy are in Orange County courtesy of Race Director Bill Leach just to take part in this triathlon. Washington, D.C. firefighters Dennis Carmody (left) and Daniel Gerdy cross the finish line on Sunday after running three miles in full gear including boots. The run was part of the Pacific Coast Triathlon in Crystal Cove State Park. The number “343” sticks in their minds. It’s the number tattooed on the arm of Jason Teter, a firefighter from Huntington Beach I recently interviewed who rode his bike across country to honor his brothers who died in 9/11. It’s also the number Carmody, recently mentioned in an email. And before this day is over, Carmody and Gerdy will do something for that number that transforms this race into something that transcends triathlon. The start  As hundreds of athletes descend a steep hill to the beach, the sun breaks the eastern horizon. But the clouds are so thick, it’s a gradual dawn. This is only Carmody’s second swim-bike-run triathlon and Gerdy’s first. It’s also the first time Gerdy has swum in the ocean. To be sure, these men have faced tougher things than swimming in salt water. They’ve tackled numerous mountain triathlons that require kayaking, mountain biking and trail running. But that’s just training. For a living and to serve, these men walk into burning buildings. Still, this day is special. The firefighters are here take on a challenge that reminds what the 343 firefighters faced in New York. Yes, it pales in comparison. But Carmody and Gerdy aren’t here to imitate fallen heroes. They are here to honor them. “Three-two-one!” The race is on. The swim  Carmody and Gerdy disappear into the white foam of the waves hitting the beach. Wetsuits keep them warm from the chill of the water. But within minutes, it is blood pumping through muscle that warms. After heading directly out to sea, they swim right at the first big yellow buoy. They slip past kelp waving from the depths. As they breathe left, the sea is emerald green. As they turn their bodies right, the sun breaks through the clouds. Through their goggles, they see liquid gold. The clouds shimmer silver. It’s impossible not to think of the firefighters who gave it their all at the World Trade Center. The pair churns past a second yellow buoy. The last and final buoy is just ahead. Turning right again, the pair head directly for the beach. Thirteen minutes after leaving land, Gerdy is back on solid ground. Three minutes later, Carmody joins him. How fit are firefighters? Their times smoke. The bike  Many athletes walk up the steep hill. The firefighters run. It jogs the memory of what firefighters faced inside the twin towers, carrying more than 40 pounds of gear up thousands of stairs. As they run, Carmody and Gerdy start pulling off their wetsuits. They stare at their loaner bicycles, crazy triathlon machines with little pointy handles sticking straight ahead. But the firefighters barely pause. Handling a finicky tri bike is nothing compared to taming a fire hose pumping more than 100 gallons per minute. Some say it is like handling a living, breathing beast. The firefighters turn onto Pacific Coast Highway. They crank down a hill and zoom up another. They make a tight u-turn and fly north on PCH. After completing two six-mile loops, they jet into the triathlon’s transition area. They set their bikes aside and head toward two piles. Carmody, dad to 3-year-old son Tommy, and Gerdy, father of 14-month-old daughter Adyline, start putting on things that help keep them alive at work. Heavy boots, thick pants, thick coats, fire helmets. They aim to cover the triathlon’s run portion wearing firefighting gear. It weighs more than twice the bicycles they have just ridden. The run  As Carmody pulls on his coat he is reminded of one of the firefighters who died on 9/11. His name was Stephen Siller, and he was on his way home from work when the first plane hit. Siller turned around but was told he couldn’t drive back through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. So Siller grabbed his bag of gear and ran to the World Trade Center. It was three miles – the same distance as Carmody and Gerdy will run. Just before Carmody and Gerdy head out, they grab two flags. Carmody carries Old Glory. Gerdy runs with a red flag with gold lettering: “We remember our fallen brothers.” The flags recall an earlier email Carmody sent me. In it, he explained what Siller’s action’s meant: “Total selflessness, a disregard for our own safety when others are in danger.” Carmody added, “That's why we come to work each day...to save lives.” As Gerdy and Carmody run, something exceptionally rare happens during the middle of a race. Athletes intent on posting competitive times stop in their tracks. When they see Carmody and Gerdy, they whoop. They shake the firefighters’ hands. They high-five. They fist bump. Cars on Pacific Coast Highway slow to a crawl. Drivers honk. Passengers wave. As the firefighters head toward the finish line, Carmody can feel sweat sloshing in his boots. Gerdy can feel large blisters growing larger. The discomfort disappears as a crowd of several hundred claps and cheers. But there is no smiling for the firefighters. This is a solemn celebration. The firefighters have fulfilled their mission. They know the crowd isn’t cheering for two guys named Dennis Carmody and Daniel Gerdy. The crowd is cheering for men such as Stephen Siller and his 342 brothers. To read more about the DC Firefighters and Pacific Coast Tri, visit the Orange County Register website.