Self-described ex-crack addict wins Lacombe Charity Triathlon

Nigel Cook decided to celebrate his birthday by entering the Lacombe Charity Triathlon while Bernard Maillet celebrated a second chance at life by winning the second annual event Monday.

Some of the 135 competitors begin the swim in Gull Lake during the Lacombe Charity Triathlon Monday.

GULL LAKE – Nigel Cook decided to celebrate his birthday by entering the Lacombe Charity Triathlon while Bernard Maillet celebrated a second chance at life by winning the second annual event Monday.

Cook, 53, performed for his second year in the event which started last year.

Maillet, in his mid 40s, meanwhile, said he was a crack cocaine addict up until mid-March 2000 when training and performing in triathlons “saved his life.”

The Chestermere Lake resident crossed the finish line in Lacombe after the running portion of the event in 59 minutes and 13 seconds.

Monday’s event, which kicked off with a 750-metre swim in the lake, was much warmer than last year’s send off.

“It was bitterly cold last year,” said Cook as he waited to plunge into the lake.

Cook said the water appeared cold but he was still getting in despite not wearing a wet suit.

A native of the United Kingdom Cook sad he entered last year to help round into better shape.

“It was many years since my last event.

“I hadn’t done anything in a long time, so I decided to see how it goes,” said Cook who lives near Markerville.

Cook said swimming was probably his best event.

The event also featured a 20-km bicycle race followed by the finishing five-km run.

Cook said he entered last year’s event to get into better shape.

“I hadn’t done any exercise in a long time so I wanted to get fit and give this a go.

“I said I’d try to keep it going through the winter. I really enjoyed myself and now we’re here again.”

Judy Ventry, who helped organize the event last year with Mary West, was busy helping answer last minute questions during early morning registration but obviously pleased with the competitor turnout and community support.

Last year about 75 people entered while this year the number was almost double at around 135.

Putting a little back into the community while supporting two groups is motivation, Ventry said.

“Both Mary and I are former triathletes and we wanted to give it a family atmosphere because so many kids and other people come on down to support the entrants,” Ventry said.

“We wanted to create something that gives active families an outlet and this is a fun event because it’s about half of what an Olympic event is.”

Children between the ages of 5-15 also get involved with a fun run around Cranna Lake.

Last year’s event broke even in terms of finances but this year Ventry said organizers hoped to give it a charity aspect by donating any surplus to the Lacombe Family and Community Support Services and the Alberta to Africa organization which helps fund and support an orphanage in Ethiopia through the Canadian Humanitarian Organization for International Relief.

Ventry paid tribute to the 100 volunteers at the lake and in Lacombe.

“There’s just been great volunteer community support. Without them this couldn’t happen,” she added.

She also said without the support of several sponsors including Lacombe RV 2000 Ltd., managed by Pat Hodgins, the event would be hard pressed to succeed.

“He gave us an initial donation and last year said whatever money we came up with he would match.”

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