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Special friendship helps two Arizona men conquer Ironman Triathlon after years of trying

<i>KNXV</i><br/>Timothy Bolen and Patrick Canez will challenge their minds and bodies this weekend in Wisconsin. The longtime friends will complete their first Ironman together.
Timothy Bolen and Patrick Canez will challenge their minds and bodies this weekend in Wisconsin. The longtime friends will complete their first Ironman together.

By Cameron Polom

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    GILBERT, Arizona (KNXV) — Timothy Bolen and Patrick Canez were in no hurry as they savored a slow walk around Gilbert Regional Park Thursday morning. For seven years, they’ve had their sights set on the impossible dream to complete an Ironman event together.

“For me, it’s been very emotional,” said Bolen.

ABC15 met the pair in September last year as they prepared for their second attempt at the race after failing to finish in 2015.

“As long as the lord is letting me do this physically, I’m going to do whatever it takes on race day to get to the finish, to get this done,” said Bolen through tears in 2022.

Bolen and Canez’s relationship flourished through Tim’s nonprofit 2gether We Live. It pairs athletes with folks like Canez, who was born with Cerebral Palsy. It’s 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. It’s been an emotional ride, especially after Bolen was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2020.

“You just make me a better and stronger person don’t you,” said Bolen to Canez, who requires a wheelchair to get around. “He just has a desire to race, and wants to race, and I wish he could verbally say that to you. 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.”

They use specialized gear for the race that allows Bolen to pull Canez in a raft for the 2.4-mile swim, use a tandem bike for the 100+ mile cycle and push a running stroller for the final 26 miles of the 130-mile race. When race day arrived in Wisconsin last year following ABC15’s interview, a massive rainstorm spoiled their plans.

“We put him in a raft, and he sat in that raft for an hour and twenty minutes and it was just down pouring on him the whole time, the raft was filling up with water,” said Bolen. “Once we got to the bike, Patrick was freezing cold, and it just wasn’t safe for him, so we made the tough decision to stop.”

For Canez’s health, they had to pull out of the race. Then a few months later, course conditions in Tulsa sidelined them again.

“The hills during the bike ride were just nonstop and I knew weren’t going to finish within the time requirements,“ said a dejected Bolen. “After Tulsa, it was so demoralizing, I mean I had to do a whole reset for myself of saying am I really going to be able to get this done for him.”

Glory called them one last time in California last week. This time would be different. They flew through the swim and cycle portions. By the time they reached midway through the run, they knew this was it. They finally cross the finish line, cheered on by family and friends.

“A willpower of steel for both of them, willingness to fight against all odds no matter how hard it is,” said team member and friend Sara Keeling.

“They’ve proven that anything is possible,” said Canez’s mother.

“You are an Ironman, you are an Ironman, that’s what you heard isn’t it,” said Bolen to Canez.

The journey may be over but what it created will last forever.

“He has truly taught me the gift of gratefulness, and how blessed I am to know him, to make me that way,” said Bolen.

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