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

Tim and Patrick
Posted at 12:26 PM, Sep 07, 2022

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 Bolen sitting next to Canez.

Their relationship has flourished through Bolen's nonprofit 2gether We Live, which pairs athletes with folks like Canez, who was born with cerebral palsy.

It's an organization inspired by another nonprofit called Best Buddies, both of which have 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 Bolen. “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 Bolen to perform the swimming, cycling, and running over the 130-mile race with Canez every step of the way.

For the 2.4-mile swim, Bolen will pull Canez in a raft attached to his waist, they will share a specialized tandem bike for the 100+ mile cycle, and Bolen will push Canez 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 Bolen. “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 Bolen 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 every day counts, every minute counts, every hour counts,” said Bolen.

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

“He lights up when he and Tim run together,” said Patrick Canez's mom Sandra Canez. “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.”

Sandra Canez said she does worry about the day Bolen is no longer here alongside their son.

“Yes,” said Sandra Canez, 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 survive this grueling race and whatever comes next.

Instead, Bolen, Patrick Canez, 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 Ironmen, right?' That’s exactly what I’m going to scream when we get done,” said Bolen as Patrick Canez nodded in excitement.

Cameron Polom at KNXV first reported this story.