Local triathlete competes for friends battling cancer
By Colin Burdett,Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Marlborough resident, businessman, author and Team USA triathlon athlete Mike McCombs is a two-time national champion in NCAA Division II swimming, an All American for his age group for the last two years, a national aquabike champion in 2012, and a qualifier for the 2013 and 2014 World Triathlon Championship. But his proudest achievement is biking, running and swimming in the name of his two friends battling cancer, Jim DeWitt and Tim Mathis. McCombs has competed in several major triathlons and always wears the name of DeWitt and Mathis on his helmet and bike.
After a 27-year run as vice president of the Gillette Company, McCombs retired in 2006 and began focusing on doing triathlons in 2008. Despite several impressive victories, McCombs is not competing for himself: McCombs was able to raise $2,300 for the Livestrong Foundation and $100,000 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. His main purpose is keeping the awareness of his two friends suffering from cancer alive.
“I am inspired by what anyone goes through fighting this terrible disease and certainly makes any of my ailments seem miniscule in comparison,” McCombs said.
Along with McCombs, DeWitt was co-captain of their high school swim team in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. DeWitt was diagnosed with spinal cancer and is currently in and out of rehab. On his way back from competing in Milwaukee this year, McCombs visited DeWitt in New York. It was the first time he had seen him in 38 years.
“We had a great moment; the last time we saw each other was high school,” McCombs said. “I gave him one of my medals. I will be visiting him next year.”
During his tenure at Gillette, McCombs met Tim Mathis who is currently recovering from brain cancer.
“I am glad to report that Tim is doing well,” McCombs said. “Seeing recovery like this makes me so happy to be doing what I’m doing and only forces me to compete harder and stronger every day.”
In July, McCombs competed in the New York City triathlon and finished third in his age group and 155th overall out of 3,500 athletes.
McCombs has been biking since he was in college but found a passion for swimming much younger. His love for both sports caused McCombs to find a niche in aquabike events, which combine those two events.
“Aquabike is great for older athletes because there is less impact on the body,” McCombs explained. “Running can cause a lot of joint pain. I always like to see these events as competing against myself. The aquabike and triathlons in general are not competitive; I’m racing against myself and setting internal goals.”
Along with his tribute to DeWitt and Mathis, McCombs rode in memory of Michael C. Sullivan, who died at age 10 in a skiing accident, Sept. 21-22 in the New England Century Ride. McCombs is close friends with Michael’s parents, Dave and Barbara Sullivan.
Most recently, McCombs participated in the International Triathlon Union World Age Group Triathlon Championship in London and the Aquabike Nationals in South Carolina. At the latter, as part of Team USA, he finished second in his age group and fifth overall, beating his seventh place finish last year.
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