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Nick Waaler Is An Iron Man: Shows Day-Long Endurance To Support CMAK Foundation



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A nearly two-and-a-half mile swim, 100-plus mile bike ride, and 26-mile run.

Any of the above would be enough exercise in a day (or more) for most.

That is not the case for Nick Waaler who, on September 5, combined the three — basically nonstop, no less — finishing a personal ironman triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile ride, 26.2 mile run) in honor of Chase Kowalski, a victim of the Sandy Hook School shooting. The event is called Sandy Hook IronChase.

Waaler had signed up for the Lake Placid Ironman with goal of raising $10,000 for the CMAK Foundation. That event was canceled due to the impact of the coronavirus, but Waaler, whose children attended Sandy Hook School, and who has several friends whose children were killed on 12/14, continued training with the goal of doing an ironman triathlon for this cause somewhere, somehow.

The Sandy Hook resident took it upon himself to hold his very own ironman event, which started at 5 am with 169 laps in the Newtown Community Center pool; continued with a bike ride to Woodbury and back to Newtown, then down to Stamford where an interview was set up with WTNH News Channel 8, and back to town again; before a run in the dark, which included strides in Fairfield Hills and on the Housatonic Rail Trail and through Monroe’s Wolfe Park, twice passing Chase’s bench at Great Hollow Lake there. It all came to a finish at the Kowalski house in Sandy Hook late in the evening — at 11:30 pm.

That’s close to 20 hours of continuous exercise, save a break here or there to rehydrate and refuel. One of the stoppages was an unwelcome one, when Waaler got a flat tire just over a mile out of town on his way to southern Fairfield County, and he borrowed a friend’s bike to keep rolling. Waaler’s friends accompanied him on parts of his run and ride, helping to make the experience more enjoyable. His wife, Neasa, ran 20 miles with him as she prepares for the Hartford Virtual Marathon.

“It was really hard — for sure, it was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life,” said Waaler, who exceeded his goal and has raised close to $12,000.

Upon completing the ironman, Waaler learned that more than $11,000 had come in.

“That was a massive surprise. It really was thrilling to hear that,” he said.

Paul Wishneski was Waaler’s support crew for the long day. “He followed me by car for the whole bike ride and then got on his bike and followed me for the run. He made sure I was hydrating — filled my water bottles whenever they were empty, getting nutrition, carried all my essentials, etcetera. He got me through the day,” Waaler said.

Waaler’s friends repaired his gashed tire and got his bike to him in Stamford, allowing the almost 49-year-old ironman to get back on his familiar pedals to head back to his hometown.

From there, Waaler conjured up enough energy to run a marathon.

“The last three miles was a struggle. All the little hills I would normally run up, they seemed more like mountains,” he said.

All in all, however, running after dark was a thrill for the Sandy Hook resident.

“The night run was amazing,” said Waaler, who set up with lights and a reflective vest for safety.

This was Waaler’s first full ironman. He had done shorter but still grueling sprint, Olympic, and half ironman competitions. Each of the activity distances were personal highs for Waaler, who previously ran 17 continuous miles, biked 90 miles, and swam 1.2 miles. He not only increased each distance but did it back-to-back... to back. The training for this effort was more difficult than you might think. Actually, Waaler was only able to get into the pool twice since March, initially due to closings because of the coronavirus and then due to his work and family schedule limiting his time to train hardcore for all three events throughout the summer.

Waaler first got involved with this sort of event back in 2013 when he was asked by Ian Hockley, whose son Dylan was killed on 12/14, to run in the Ragnar Relay Cape Cod event. Waaler was not a runner, but was persuaded to be a driver to support the participants. He had a change of heart, became inspired to run, and the rest of his athletic fundraising career is history.

“It was amazing. It was more than I could have imagined,” Waaler said of completing this ironman event in support of the CMAK Foundation, for which he has volunteered throughout the years. “It’s such a great program.”

Waaler said Chase has “inspired so many people to accomplish goals that never seemed possible in their lives.”

To help Waaler support CMAK, visit https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/race4chase-ironman-lake-placid-team/nickandneasawaaler.

Nick Waaler stands with his wife, Neasa, at the Newtown Community Center pool where Waaler began his Sandy Hook IronChase event to support the CMAK Foundation, on September 5. —Kevin Grimes photos
Nick Waaler biked 112 miles as part of the ironman triathlon.
After his swim and bike ride, Waaler ran a marathon to complete the event.
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