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Ironman Takes on the World

Enfield Resident Qualifies for Pair of International Events

Tomasz Jankowski in the 2012 Lake Placid triathlon. (Courtesy photograph)

Tomasz Jankowski in the 2012 Lake Placid triathlon. (Courtesy photograph)

After attempting for 12 years to qualify for the World Ironman Championships in Hawaii, Enfield triathlete Tomasz Jankowski finally did so last year.

An outstanding summer competing in grueling swimming-biking-running events around New England, Quebec and New York secured Jankowski spots in the 50-54 age group for both the Half-Ironman World Championships (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bicycle ride, 13.1-mile run) outside Las Vegas last September as well as the Full Ironman Worlds (distances doubled) the following month in Kailua-Kona.

Jankowski, a native of Poland who’s called the Upper Valley home for 30 years, placed 35th of 103 men in the 50-54 age range in Nevada, but never got to compete in the Full Ironman Worlds. In an accident he still doesn’t remember, Jankowski spilled onto his left side during a light training ride on Hawaii’s Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway. The impact broke his clavicle in three places, gave him a concussion that rendered him unconscious for hours and caused deep abrasions that have left parts of his shoulders and legs still discolored nearly six months later.

Yet after surgery to insert a metal plate in his shoulder and a full winter of rehabilitation, Jankowski is back on course for the 2013 triathlon season. His first race since the accident is a half-Ironman in Galveston, Texas, on April 7.

“All things considered, I am very lucky,” said Jankowski in a phone interview from Biloxi, Miss., where he is training in the gusty Gulf Coast winds to prepare for similar conditions in coastal Galveston. “The helmet I was wearing, if it didn’t save my life, I am certain that it prevented a traumatic brain injury.

“The surgery for the shoulder went very well, and so has rehab. I am almost back to full range of motion. It’s almost good as new. I don’t know how the first race will go, but we’ll see.”

Jankowski, who stayed in Hawaii to volunteer at the World Ironman Championships last year following the accident, has been admitted to this year’s event without having to re-qualify or re-pay the admission fee. He still plans on a rigorous schedule of competitions in preparation, including half-Ironman stops, after Texas, in New Orleans, Tennessee and Connecticut before half- and full competitions on Quebec’s Mont-Tremblant over the summer. Then it will be time for the Half World Championships in Nevada and a trip back to Hawaii, where, as the schedule posted on his blog notes, he’ll be tending to unfinished business.

“After the injury last year, I stayed to cheer on the competitors, volunteer and be part of the atmosphere,” Jankowski said. “I was happy to do that, but it killed me not to be able to compete. I never thought for a second that the injury would end my career. Luckily for me the (World Triathlon Corporation) determined I had extenuating circumstances and re-admitted me. But I still have to validate (my participation), so it will be another full year of competing.”

It required a rigorous winter of rehab for Jankowski to get to that point. Beginning with light exercises on his stationary bike and treadmill at home, he eventually advanced to swimming workouts at Upper Valley Aquatic Center, including high intensity intervals meant to simulate Ironman segments. While shoulder strength is naturally most important for the swimming portion of triathlons, aptitude in the upper body also factors into the other two sports.

“For a lot of the bike ride, you want to be in an ‘aero’ position with your elbows on the handlebars to help make less wind resistance,” Jankowski noted. “Your shoulders need to be able to handle the leaning of your body weight to do that. Even when you’re running, you need the support of your shoulders to keep the body upright. It’s less significant than the other two, but really, the shoulders come into play with all of them.”

Jankowski, who is unsponsored, has relied on his support network during his recovery and training. “I’ve learned a lot about just how committed to the sport I am, both physically and mentally,” he said. “A huge part of what I’ve been able to do is because of the support I’ve gotten from my wife (Kasia), my friends and my colleagues.”

Claremont’s Tate Reels Them In: As a high school senior in 1978, Ellsworth Tate was a two-way lineman on the Stevens High football team’s Connecticut Valley League championship squad. These days, he spends his time earning a different kind of trophy.

Tate, 51, reeled in an Upper Valley-high five trophy fish last year in New Hampshire, as recorded by New Hampshire Fish & Game. It was the most big ones he’s landed since 2002, Tate said.

Beginning with ice fishing catches on Unity’s Crescent Lake in winter 2012, Tate surfaced eastern chain pickrels measuring 26.25 and 24.45 inches, respectively. He later reeled in a 14.13-inch yellow perch on Crescent Lake.

“I love that lake, because it’s small (about 200 acres) and there are a lot of fish,” Tate said in a recent phone interview. “It’s a great spot and it’s close to home.”

Tate took to the Connecticut River during the open-water season last year, catching a 23.38-inch small mouth bass in Orford as well as a 10.75-inch bluegill in Walpole.

A certified guide in NHFG’s “Let’s Go Fishing” program, Tate prefers live bait for ice fishing and plastic lures in open water. He loves fishing with his daughter, Katie.

Tate is already having another great year in 2013, recently registering four trophy fish — two pickrel and two perch — while ice fishing on Post Pond in Lyme and Canaan’s Crystal Lake.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.