Ernie’s Triathletes make their presence felt in Glenwood Springs
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Their ubiquitous purple shirts read “Ernie’s Triathletes.” Some raced. The rest lent moral support.All venerate one man: Ernie Schwartz.Eight years ago, Schwartz’s son-in-law, Jerry Rubin, decided tackling a triathlon was the way he wanted to celebrate his 50th birthday.
He chose the Tri-Glenwood Triathlon.Rubin’s father-in-law made the trip from Chicago to show his support. And he’s been back every year since.”As his father-in-law, I came up to watch,” Schwartz recalled after Sunday’s Tri-Glenwood race. “Everybody was so nice and we had such a good time, so I encouraged the rest of the family to try it. If they did, I told them I’d host a high-carb dinner before [the race].”The offer proved too good to refuse, and Schwartz’s family and friends have occupied a healthy chunk of the Tri-Glenwood entry list ever since.”I just love it,” Schwartz said. “I have three grandchildren in it [this year]. I’ll have five in it next year.”Schwartz, wheelchair bound from a stroke he suffered five years ago Sept. 11, has missed just one Tri-Glenwood since Rubin set out on his birthday quest. Caretaker Raul Mate assists Schwartz in his travels from Chicago to Glenwood Springs every September.
For which an entire family is thankful.The grateful bunch – Ernie’s Triathletes – sported those purple shirts proudly on Sunday. Thirteen of them participated in the triathlon, and another 26 were present to cheer them on.Those numbers have grown on a yearly basis.”By the year 2025 I estimate there’ll be 400 on the team,” quipped the 76-year-old Schwartz, whose wit remains razor sharp even in the wake of his stroke.Schwartz, who’s worked his way up to walking a few steps, is undoubtedly a source of motivation for those who become one of Ernie’s triathletes.Take Schwartz’s daughter, Terry Rubin, who in 2004 completed the triathlon despite undergoing a chemotherapy session to treat breast cancer a week earlier.
“It’s because Ernie was an inspiration,” said Terry, who lives in Denver with her husband, Jerry.Schwartz leads not only by example but also through his words. A ritual of Tri-Glenwood weekend is a Saturday night speech – one that accompanies dinner catered by Italian Underground. “I congratulate them on their training and tell them what a good thing they’re doing for themselves,” Schwartz said.And don’t expect Schwartz to stop inspiring any time soon. The Tour de Ernie – as it’s described on those purple shirts – will continue on as long as he’s physically able to make the trip to Glenwood, he will. Sidekicks and all.”I love the area,” Schwartz said. “It’s so beautiful and everyone’s so nice and respectful.”
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