Taking on the triathlon ‘feels like I’m doing something that
makes a difference’
The journey that brought Gail Frongillo of Cumberland to the Tri for a Cure triathlon for the first time in 2013 began a year earlier when her employer was diagnosed with colon cancer.
She had just started running with a local group at that time and was training for the Beach to Beacon road race, her first 10K. Whenever Frongillo, 47, felt like giving up during training for the race, she would think of the battle her boss was waging with cancer and tell herself that she could keep on, for him.
“It helped me as he was suffering to feel like I was doing something,” said Frongillo. “If he was fighting and working hard, I could, too.”
Frongillo said she became more and more inspired by her employer’s fight, with his optimism, the way he interacted with colleagues and friends during his illness, and his strength and determination.
“He was a big help in conquering my own fears and uncertainty,” said Frongillo.
One of those fears was competing in a triathlon. While Frongillo is an experienced runner and spends time working out at a gym and biking, she said she is not a swimmer. A close friend, who was participating in the Tri for a Cure women’s triathlon for the first time in 2012, tried to get Frongillo to join in. She said no.
“I had done a 5K occasionally and had raced in my first 10K around that time, but I had never biked and swam at the same time, never been a swimmer – it was a scary thought to me,” said Frongillo. “The cold water, fear of the creatures that might be in the water, I thought, ‘I could never do this.’”
But the more she thought about it, and the more she thought about her boss, who, she said, wouldn’t let discouraging thoughts hold him back even as his condition worsened, she knew she could and would compete in Tri for a Cure.
“I started training last spring, and as I trained I thought about him and the others that were dealing with cancer and I kept on,” said Frongillo. “I did the race by myself, alone for all the people that feel so alone with cancer.”
Frongillo trains in running, swimming and biking as much as possible with a busy work schedule and three young children. She works out five days a week whenever she can and said being a part of Tri for a Cure is one of the best things she has ever done.
Her training regime is aided by her involvement in sheJAMS, a club based in Portland that offers women an opportunity to train together in an encouraging and supportive atmosphere. Members train for all types of activities, including Tri for a Cure, which lists sheJAMS as a sponsor. Frongillo said she enjoys training with the other members of the club.
“I feel camaraderie and am building friendships with new people,” said Frongillo. “We are not out to beat each other, we are out to help each other.”
Frongillo will be among the competitors in the 2014 Tri for a Cure triathlon for a many reasons, not the least of which is that she believes a cure is possible.
“I do. There will be change, more ways to help as people become more aware of cancer-causing agents, along with new discoveries,” said Frongillo. “I’m in the Tri for a Cure for a bigger cause. It feels like I’m doing something that makes a difference.”
For Frongillo, participating in the Tri for a Cure competition has become more meaningful to her in a number of ways during the past year.
“First and foremost though, I love the team approach to sponsoring and supporting so many cancer victims, friends and family of victims, survivors and the deceased,” Frongillo said.
One of Frongillo’s closest friends, who is also participating in the triathlon, is one she wants to support and encourage.
“Her mom underwent a double mastectomy recently,” said Frongillo. “We’re training together. I want to be there for her.”
Regrettably, Frongillo’s boss lost his battle with cancer. While still fighting for him, Frongillo said, she will dedicate the triathlon this year to survivors.
“I want to do this for my mom, who is a survivor, and for my friend’s mom as she deals with breast cancer,” she said. “I want to raise money with her on her mom’s behalf, my mom’s behalf and for so many others. I want to cross the finish line to show my support for a cure.”