New Paltz to host bike/run to fight cystic fibrosis May 13

These young runners are helping to preview the Spring Dual Against Cystic Fibrosis taking place in New Paltz on May 13. A Kids Dual event is scheduled to take place after the adult duathlon. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

A chance encounter, sometimes, is all it takes. When Marcy and Austin Rynne stepped into a triathlon shop in New Paltz back in 2011, they were just seeking a donation, looking for local business sponsorship to help raise funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The Rynnes were in the early years, at that time, of endless rounds of hospitalizations and treatments for their younger son, Eamonn, who’d been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) within hours of his birth. But the salesperson at the triathlon shop, Kurtis Nordahl, saw the bigger picture. He’d been wanting to bring back the Springtown Sprint Duathlon in New Paltz, a multi-sport race consisting of a two-mile run, a 12-mile bike ride and another two-mile run. The event had been put on locally for a few years but was no longer happening. “Why don’t we organize a fundraising race?” Nordahl said to the Rynnes. “We’ll raise a lot more money for CF that way than if the business just gives you a one-time donation.” And as simply as that, the Spring Dual Against Cystic Fibrosis was established.

Pre-registration is open now for the seventh annual Spring Dual on Saturday, May 13 at 8:30 a.m. A Kids’ Dual follows the adult event, and the day ends with a Kids’ Fun Run for ages 2-7.

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Participants in the duathlon can compete as individuals or as part of a relay team. The event will start at the transition area on Huguenot Street, with the two-mile run following North Front Street then making the left onto the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. For the out-and-back bike portion, racers will exit the transition area, make a right on Huguenot Street and go through where the chain is normally up, toward the Gilded Otter. Making the right onto Main Street and going over the bridge, cyclists will turn onto Springtown Road, riding for 5.5 miles before turning back and returning to the transition area, where they’ll complete an identical two-mile run to the first.

Nordahl, who serves as co-director of the event along with Marcy Rynne, says that racers participate in the Spring Dual Against Cystic Fibrosis for a number of reasons. Some are beginners challenging themselves in their first duathlon to achieve the accomplishment of finishing, while others are elite athletes coming out for the USA Triathlon-sanctioned event to earn points toward qualifying for USA-T championship races. “And some people are out there just to show support for Marcy and fight for the cause,” he adds.

The number of participants ranges from 80-100, with 120 their top field, says Rynne, who estimates that about half its supporters are from families affected by the disease. Most competitors race as individuals, she says, with some who race as part of a relay team coming back the next year to complete the event on their own. “We get people with every level of athletic ability, but what’s really nice is that the fastest finishers are still there at the end, cheering for the last finishers. It’s turned into a really nice community event.”

The third annual Kids’ Dual will follow the adult event, at approximately 10:30 a.m. A half-mile run is followed by a bike ride of 1.75 miles, then another run of .35 miles.

The Kid’s Dual will go north on Huguenot Street, a mix of street, rail trail and open field with plenty of volunteers directing the athletes. The Kids’ Dual is for ages seven through 17, but racers over the age of 14 who wish to run in the adult duathlon or do a portion of it as part of a relay team may feel free to sign up for the full distance race. The Kids’ Fun Run for the little ones will start around 11:15 a.m., right after the Kids’ Dual.

Pre-registration for the Spring Dual Against CF and the Kids’ Dual is open through Thursday, May 11 at 11:59 p.m. at Active.com (there’s a link on the event website at springdualagainstcf.com). The cost for the adult event is $60 for individual duathlon competitors, $80 for relay teams. The fee for the Kids’ Dual, divided into two age groups (7-10 and 11-plus) is $25. The Kids’ Fun Run is free, requires no pre-registration, and includes prizes. Registration on the day of the race is at the New Paltz Reformed Church from 7-8 a.m. and the day prior from 2-6 p.m.

All proceeds raised benefit the nonprofit, donor-supported Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The Spring Dual typically raises approximately $10,000 for the organization, primarily through local business sponsorship. All funds go directly to support research for a cure.

“The CF Foundation is remarkable,” says Marcy. “When my husband and I went to their conference in April, they said, ‘We’re going to be called the best story in medicine,’ because they’re literally finding a cure for specific strains of the disease. In the last five years, there have been two drugs released that are acting as cures for certain strains of CF.”

There are approximately 1,700 different gene mutations that cause Cystic Fibrosis, she explains. The Rynne’s son, Eamonn, now eleven, is somewhere on the middle of the spectrum between mild and severe. There is not yet a cure for his particular gene combination, but because of research and development work by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation over the past ten years, there is now a drug for 55 percent of individuals with specific gene combinations that fixes the defect at the cellular level, curing them. Eamonn is benefitting from drugs developed in the last ten years since he was born, Marcy adds, but until a drug for his particular genetic mutation is developed that would cure him entirely, the family feels like they’re in a race against the clock.

Cystic Fibrosis is a chronic, genetic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system. It causes the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that leads to potentially life-threatening lung infections and/or prevents the body from releasing an enzyme from the pancreas that breaks down food and allows the absorption of nutrients.

In the 1950s, few children with CF lived to attend elementary school. Today, with advances in research and medical treatments funded primarily by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the average life expectancy for those with the disease is 41 years old.

Local restaurateur Garvan McCloskey (Garvan’s) is a major sponsor of the Spring Dual again this year, says Marcy. “He’s been incredibly supportive of our family, and he’s a huge supporter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. He has a personal connection to someone with the disease in Ireland, and he raises funds for CFF throughout the year. We are super thankful he wanted to be a sponsor again.”

They’re also grateful, she says, for the community support they receive; the family, friends and volunteers who solicit donations for the event and the local businesses who have responded. The list of merchants that donate water and snacks for participants is not yet complete for this year, but in past years has included Hannaford’s, ShopRite, Wallkill View Farms, Stewart’s Shops, Freihofer’s, Starbucks and New Paltz Health & Nutrition Center.

Kurtis Nordahl brings in the people doing the race timing, who also donate their time. Now a local CPA with a young family of his own, “he is the reason this race exists,” says Marcy. “I can’t imagine it happening without him. Even though it’s tax time, and he’s an accountant, he still handles a lot of the event organization. We’ve become friends over the years, and he’s just unbelievably generous; it touches our hearts so much that there are people in the world like this.”

More information is available at springdualagainstcf.com and on their Facebook page.