Ande Edlund’s father and grandfather are always with him in spirit, even when the Redmond man swims, bikes and runs in grueling triathlons. His father passed away from kidney cancer in 2011 and his grandfather died from a form of Leukemia in 1983.
The 47-year-old athlete has knocked off 24 triathlons over the years, including one where he finished the event with 50 stitches in his face following a bike crash the night before.
On Oct. 12, Edlund dug down deep to raise funds for blood cancer cures in his father and grandfather’s names while competing in the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. He was selected as one of five athletes to represent The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in the ultimate triathlon, which features a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.22-mile marathon.
“It’s really cool. I was doing it to honor my family and to remember these two guys who were such a formative part of my life,” said Edlund, who finished the race in 14 hours, 30 minutes and 23 seconds. It was the second ironman he’s completed, the first being in 2013.
More importantly, Edlund raised $110,000 with his Team Dash through the recent ironman and he continues to raise money with other events. Every $50,000 raised goes toward a research grant, so that’s two that he’s attaching to his father and grandfather’s names.
“The fundraising doesn’t stop just ‘cause the race is over,” said Edlund, whose initial fundraising goal was $100,000, and they reached $104,000 two days before the race. The team’s site is DonateWithDash.com.
“I like making a difference. I guess what kind of drives me is, ‘How can I be a positive influence for the people that I’m with or around me or my greater community?’” said Edlund, who learned from his father and grandfather how to keep your head down and get the job done.
Edlund began his involvement with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training program in 2006, first doing a triathlon with them and then becoming a mentor, coach and national volunteer.
Edlund’s mother, Ann, said it’s been an emotional ride for her while watching her son fundraise and compete in triathlons.
“He’s always been very athletic. He has a tremendous group of people working to support him. He’s a creative person, he figures out how to do things,” said Ann, whose brother-in-law was recently diagnosed with Leukemia.
Ande’s 8-year-old golden retriever, Dash, sparked the idea to try and notch one of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society spots into the Ironman World Championship. First, Dash gained Internet fame after a video was posted of Ande placing a hot dog in Dash’s mouth at a Seattle Mariners game last year. They were seen on “Good Morning America” and local newscasts, and Ande thought, “I gotta do something with this celebrity.”
The ironman fundraising campaign idea was soon hatched and Ande was on his way. Dash didn’t travel to Hawaii for the event because the dog has never flown before and the weather was too hot, topping off at 89 degrees.
During the ironman, Ande said the swim on choppy water was the easiest part, segueing into the hot and windy bike ride that zapped some of his energy for the running portion. Ande said he’s a good runner, so he kept his head down and grinded away to the finish line. One image that made an impression on him was running alone on the highway at night and watching the moon rise over the mountain.
The Washington State University graduate crossed the finish line waving a Cougar flag and further honored his father, who was a massive Cougar fan.
“It was kind of cool to take the whole Coug nation along with me on that, too,” said Ande, adding that he’s pretty sure no one’s ever completed that race with a WSU flag in their grasp.
To further honor his dad, Ande wore his father’s Navy dog tag during the ironman.
Ande — who gets a rush out of finishing and cheering his teammates on — remembers showing up for swim practice the day his dad died and telling his team, “‘Cancer doesn’t take a day off, so I’m not gonna take a day off from the cause either.’”