|IRONMAN'S 40 year of Dreams
Bob was interviewed a few weeks back in Seekonk, Massachusetts by the Ironman Production Team reflecting back on what Ironman meant to Jon and what he wanted to accomplish...finishing and putting a face on ALS. Jon did that and more.
My contribution...an excerpt of what I sent to Lee Gruenfeld for his article about Jon for the 40 years of Dreams.
"From the time Jon was 12 he had dreams of doing the Ironman at some point in his life. Our yearly tradition of watching the IMWC on TV every year as a family watching the big four and others digging deep to cross that finish line solidified his love of the sport. For me, it was always about those inspirational stories...little did any of realize Jon's one opportunity would come as a one time chance at age 33 in the throws of ALS. Lee, I have always believed that Jon was the most challenged athlete that day...there would not be a do over if he failed to finish. He had that one chance to put a face on ALS and his last race had been in October 2003 when he had raced his heart out that year as he prepared to put triathlon on hold while he taught full time and worked on his masters in special ed in that accelerated year long program.
I remember clearly the day that he got the call from Ironman that he would be one of their stories...it was very bittersweet...not how he had planned to do his dream race. On top of that he couldn't train-they thought it would accelerate the progression of his disease. His preparing was limited to drawing on his race experience, digging deep into his mind and soul to make it to the finish before the cutoff, actually meeting all the cutoffs.
Bob and I wanted success for him...he would always say that not finishing was not an option...it was the longest day of our lives...rolling across the finish became a symbol for a "treatment and a cure" which still lives on today. He carried the weight of so many Pals ( persons with ALS) that day.Jon had inspired so many to enter the sport and also helped triathletes dig deep when the going got tough. We will always be grateful to Ironman for making Jon's number 179 an honorific number back in 2006 in Clearwater at the 2006 half Ironman championships.
Ironman gave us all the opportunity to meet so many wonderful and supportive people. Yes, Chrissie, Leanda, Dede, Matt Russell (he lost his mom to ALS) Mike Reilly, Dr Bob Laird, Peter Henning, Ken Woo and ST, just to name a very few...the kindness of strangers that helped make Jon's last months meaningful...while he sat here in this condo just a few feet from where I am sitting now, building his foundation.
We are also grateful to have all the Ironman Videos where we can watch Jon frozen in time...hear his voice and also the voice of Al Trautwig refer to Jon as Competitor #179, Jon Blais
Jon's foundation has made inroads in the WAR ON ALS...he was the first back in 2005 when very few knew what ALS was...we only wish we would live to see the day an athlete with ALS crosses the finish line and says...I am an ALS survivor".