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Ironman spectators revel in the moment

July 25, 2011
By CHRIS KNIGHT - Senior Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

LAKE PLACID - As they look back on Sunday's 2011 Lake Placid Ironman, the athletes who competed in the triathlon will have plenty of things to remind them of their experience: the memories of a grueling but rewarding race, the photos taken by their family and friends and, of course, the medals each athlete gets at the finish line.

David Mammina will have something a little different to remember his experience by - an Ironman tattoo.

Mammina, a 57-year-old architect from Carle Place, Long Island, competed in Sunday's Ironman with his 27-year-old daughter, Nicole Mammina, who's also from Carle Place. It was the first Ironman for both father and daughter. It also came with a bargain.

Article Photos

Team Bucket List, from the Philadelphia, Pa. area, lets out a cheer on Main Street Sunday during the 2011 Ironman triathlon. The tie-dye wearing team of nearly two dozen people was there to support Ironman competitors Mike Wells, Dan McFadden, Mike Siswick and Erich Maerz.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

"My husband and my daughter are both doing this together for the first time," said Trudy Mammina, David's wife and Nicole's mother. "My daughter is covered with tattoos. My husband and I do not believe in tattoos. But the deal was that if they ever did an Ironman together, my husband would get an Ironman tattoo. After today, my husband will officially have a tattoo."

It was more than just a fun challenge between father and daughter that motivated the Mamminas to come to Lake Placid and compete in the Ironman. They're raising funds for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Long Island Chapter.

"We've been involved with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training going on 12 years now," Trudy Mammina said. "They've done marathons, they've done cycling events, they've done swimming events - everything. Now it was time for an Ironman. This is just the next step for them."

As she spoke, Trudy Mammina stood in the sunshine along the Ironman bike route on Parkside Drive watching for David, Nicole or Trudy's brother Joseph Bencivenga, who was also competing in his first Ironman.

That's how most Ironman spectators spend the day, hoping to catch a glimpse of their loved ones on the race course, the bike and marathon legs of which pass twice through the village. Spectators stand shoulder to shoulder along the barricades, ringing cow bells and holding up signs, eyeing each approaching cyclist or runner closely to see if it's their husband, wife, mom, dad or friend.

When that familiar face turns the corner, it's the beginning of a brief, exciting and emotional exchange between the competitor and his or her family and friends.

"It brings tears to my eyes, happy tears," said Sonja Paradise, of Huntington, Long Island, as she stood with her daughters in front of the Olympic Center, scanning the passing cyclists for her husband, four-time Ironman Michael Paradise. "You want to see them, make sure they're OK, and that they have a smile on their face. That's what's most important."

But trying to get the attention of that passing Ironman when you're just another face in the crowd isn't always easy. Some people wear crazy wigs to make themselves stand out. Others hold up brightly colored signs. Most just cheer and scream as loud as they can when their loved one rides or runs by.

Paradise came up with a unique way of catching her husband's eye. She attached a big yellow balloon to the end of a long foam swim noodle.

"He saw us right away at the end of the first bike loop and after the swim," she said. "It's worked great."

Bringing a large crowd also helps. Team Bucket List, a group of nearly two dozen people representing three families from the Philadelphia area, was making a ruckus for each passing runner in front of Mr. Mike's pizza on Main Street in their matching tie-die T-shirts. They were there to support a group of friends who were competing: Mike Wells, Dan McFadden, Mike Siswick and Erich Maerz.

As each one ran or biked by, Therese Wells described it as "an exciting moment, but also a relief."

"We want to know that they're doing OK," she said.

Just up Main Street, about a dozen supporters of first-time Ironman Dan Fay of Shamong, N.J. had just seen him on the course for the second time. His father, Bob Fay, said it was worth the wait.

"We had ten seconds, if that," Fay said. "But it was exciting. We held our signs up. We cheered him on and he saw us. It doesn't get any better than that. It's phenomenal."



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