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Special friendship inspires Ironman attempt in the face of a terminal diagnosis

Tim and Patrick
Posted at 4:36 PM, Sep 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-07 13:48:57-04

Timothy Bolen and Patrick Canez will challenge their minds and bodies this weekend in Wisconsin. The longtime friends will complete their first Ironman together.

“As long as the lord is letting me do this physically, I’m gonna do whatever it takes on race day to get to the finish, to get this done,” said Tim sitting next to Patrick.

Tim and Patrick’s relationship has flourished through Tim’s nonprofit 2gether We Live. It pairs athletes with folks like Patrick, who was born with Cerebral Palsy. An organization inspired by another called Best Buddies, both with an overarching mission to help those with intellectual or physical disabilities live their best lives.

“He just has a desire to race, and wants to race, and I wish he could verbally say that to you,” said Tim. “When we’re on the course and he’s laughing and he’s engaged and he’s yelling at every person we’re running by, he’s just in his element.”

To accomplish the feat, the two will team up using specialized equipment. Allowing Tim to perform the swimming, cycling and running over the 130-mile race with Patrick every step of the way. For the 2.4-mile swim, Tim will pull Patrick in a raft attached to his waist, they will share a specialized tandem bike for the 100+ mile cycle and Tim will push Patrick in a running stroller for the last 26 miles.

In 2015, the two took on an Ironman event in Lake Tahoe. But course conditions sidelined their efforts.

“It was not conducive for the equipment we had,” said Tim. “For us not to be able to finish that was devastating for me personally.”

This time around, they’re determined to change that. Especially considering their newfound urgency, as Tim was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2020.

“I think anyone who hears the phrase, you have cancer, and you get a diagnosis, especially one that’s a terminal one knows that everyday counts, every minute counts, every hour counts,” said Tim.

He was given an average of seven years to live. A devastating diagnosis that makes their journey even more remarkable.

“He lights up when Tim and him run together,” said Patrick's mom Sandra. “He’s blossomed, it gives him a chance to go out and experience what we experience. To have a fuller life despite the challenge he faces.”

We asked Patrick's parents if they worry about the day Tim is no longer here alongside their son.

“Yes,” said Sandra holding back tears. “But I can’t focus on that, I have to focus on their friendship, and just the bond that the two of them have.”

A bond that will not only survive this grueling race, but whatever comes next.

Instead, Tim, Patrick and their families are focusing on the here and now, the love and kinship they all now share. With plans to cross that finish line together and shout out the phrase they've dreamed of for so long.

“Oh, easily I can tell you, Patrick, we are iron men, right, that’s exactly what I’m going to scream when we get done,” said Tim as Patrick nodded in excitement.