ACSS Inspires Triathlete: A Message from Hawaii

ACSS board member and triathlete Bishop Leatherbury

ACSS Board Member and triathlete Bishop Leatherbury is in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii to compete in the October 8 Ironman World Championship — a race that combines a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a marathon, all of which must be completed in less than 17 hours! As he embarks on this grueling triathlon, he hopes to raise funds and awareness for ACSS. Today, he emailed us this update from Hawaii:

IronMan World Championship race week is here and the race is now less than two days away! As we wrap up this phase of the IronMan World Championship fundraiser, more than 122 people have contributed a total of $17,815 to support the great work of the Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency. THANK YOU so much for your support!

On Friday, before departing for Kona, I attended the graduation ceremony for the 13th ACSS graduating class. It was a thrill to hear them enthusiastically and energetically yell their class affirmation “Powerful Achievers, Victorious Warriors.” I also had an unexpected treat – Mr. Hampton who usually hands the graduates their certificates of graduation was unable to attend and I had the honor and privilege to hand each graduate their certificate and congratulate him or her on achieving this important milestone in the journey to self sufficiency. It was really encouraging to see the energy and enthusiasm of our VIPs embarked on a new beginning.

I headed to the race on Saturday and arrived in Kona with my son Rob and my training partners Mike Wien (and his wife Nannette) and Michael Berger. There were quite a few athletes on the plane to Kona and I could feel the energy and excitement building as we arrived in Kona. Sunday morning, we took our first swim in Kona Bay – the water was crystal clear and we could see the coral reefs and schools of fish below as we swam. We start each morning with a swim and trip to the “coffee bar.” That’s right, during race week there is a Hawaiian outrigger catamaran anchored a half mile offshore, giving out coffee and a cookie to anyone who cares to swim out that far. On Monday, we rode our bikes to Hawi, the turnaround point in the bike segment. The road to Hawi is famous for its headwinds and crosswinds. The winds have been known to gust over 30 miles an hour and to knock the occasional competitor off the bike. The legendary winds lived up to their billing – this was my friend Mike’s fourth ride to Hawi and he said he has never seen them as bad. It was a bit scary but the good news is that I know I can handle it and the ride was real confidence builder.

Monday evening, I had a real treat. I was Mike’s guest at the IronGents banquet. This is a banquet for all the competitors over 60 years old. Almost 40 of the 150 men and ladies 60+ who will be competing on Saturday attended the banquet. This is truly an incredible group of positive and accomplished people. One of the real highlights was meeting and spending time with 81 year old Lew Hollander. This will be his 22nd IronMan World Championship race. He is one of my heroes and role models. I find it amazing that there will be four men in the race over eighty years old and they are as competitive as any other age group. By the way, the oldest lady competing is 76 year old Harriet Anderson. These amazing people are truly living the IronMan motto of “Anything is possible” and they are a real inspiration.

As the week progresses, people continue to pour into Kona. During our last two morning swims, I was surprised to see hundreds of spectators. The town is now full of competitors, friends and family supporting them and the volunteers. The volunteers are a really special group of people and many come back year after year. I met a volunteer from San Francisco yesterday who has volunteered at Kona for the last 11 years. The volunteers really do make it happen! There is a growing excitement and the positive energy is contagious.

As we head toward race day, I am a little nervous but feel well prepared. As with the 13th graduating class of ACSS, I plan to be a “Powerful Achiever, Victorious Warrior.”

If you would like to follow my progress on Saturday, you can go to ironmanlive.com and click on the Athlete Tracker. You can enter my name or my bib number (305) and track my progress. The race starts at 7:00 am (noon Atlanta time) and my goal is to finish in around 14 hours.

Friends, as they say in Hawaii, “Mahalo!” Thank you for your support of ACSS!! Without you and the many other supporters of our programs, the homeless men and women of Atlanta would not have this valuable and life changing resource to help get back on the right track and rebuild their lives. If you had planned to donate but have not yet had the chance, you can go to http://ironman.acss.kintera.org for more information and to donate. And again, thank you so much for all of your kind words of support and encouragement!

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