Read this article published in the Telluride Daily Planet here.
Lanier Nelson: Ironman for True North
November 21, 2016
By Vivian Russell
After only five months of training, Lanier Nelson of Telluride competed in his very first Ironman Triathlon this past Sunday November 20th in Tempe, AZ to raise funds for the nonprofit he co-founded, True North Youth Program.
Nelson swam, biked, and ran a total of 140.6 miles to become an Ironman triathlete. Nelson completed the event in 11 hours, 50 minutes, and 45 seconds, ranking 67th in his division.
Nelson has always been an athlete, competing in local races such as the Rundola and Imogene, but this was his first Ironman. Nelson was motivated to undertake training for the event last year after speaking with Erik Fallenius, founder of Just for Kids and advisor to True North. Fallenius had shared with Nelson that he raised some of the initial funds for the Just for Kids Foundation by competing in the Hawaiian Ironman in 2002. Nelson was inspired and began training last May, just five months before the Ironman.
A carpenter by trade, Nelson fit his training schedule around working full time at BLN Construction, and his part time work as a youth soccer coach. Nelson set his alarm early and trained at 4:30 in the morning as well as squeezing short workouts into his lunch breaks and evenings after work.
Some of Nelson’s training included swimming in the 48 degree water of Trout Lake, as well as laps in the more tepid waters of the Town Park and Peaks pools. “I am grateful to TelSki for their generous donation of allowing me to train in the Peaks pool,” said Nelson.
Nelson had little experience biking, and didn’t own his own road bike. He borrowed an aero bike from his friend Nathan Geist, and received bike fitting from Adam Sczech of LTR Multisport of Grand Junction. Sczech donated biking equipment and became Nelson’s Ironman coach. Once Nelson was up to speed, Fallenius invited him to join a 215 mile group ride as part of his training. In September, Nelson tested his newfound skills by completing ½ the Ironman distance in a competition called 106 degrees West in Dillon, CO.
Nelson’s efforts were buoyed by many supporters who donated an excess of $14,500 to True North. “And that amount is what we have so far...” Nelson said, “Pledges are still rolling in and it’s not too late to donate.”
Friends, relatives, and community members alike made pledges by the mile and in lump sums. Nelson’s Ironman was also sponsored by local businesses Jagged Edge Mountain Gear, Slate Gray Gallery, Telluride Sleighs and Wagons, and Pete DeLuca Construction.
The weekend before the race, some of the teens involved in True North took to the streets with Ironman pledge forms, knocking on doors to tell people about what the program meant to them. Manolo Nieto, a True North teen who gathered pledges to support Nelson, was recently elected Student of the Month by high school faculty. “Hard work follows a good cause,” said Nieto of his fundraising efforts.
For some of the youth, the True North program means academic support, jobs, apprenticeships, life skills training, group mentoring, community service opportunities, outdoor education, college prep, and the opportunity to interact with adult “Navigators” who provide assistance in planning for a future past high school.
Now in it’s third year, True North serves over 50 regional teens each year. This school year True North is again offering ongoing weekly academic tutoring sessions for teens who are struggling to pass a particular subject. Last year six of the lowest performing teens raised their GPA and were able to advance to the next grade. Five out of five True North Seniors graduated with a college or continuing education plan. Four out of five seniors received scholarships and financial aid to cover 90% of full college costs. Additional volunteer tutors are needed, notes Nelson. Sessions take place Wednesdays from 3:30-4:30 at the Telluride High School library.
True North Youth Program’s vision is that with the help of adult “Navigators”, (who may take the form of tutors, coaches, mentors, employers, career exploration providers, and outdoor educators), every teen will graduate High School with a plan and a path to follow into adulthood. To this end, True North matches teens with jobs, internships, and apprenticeships in fields of work in which they are interested. Last year True North matched a Senior boy with a local architect Peter Sante for a semester long internship, resulting in a scholarship to study architecture at Colorado Mesa University. This past summer, Nelson facilitated assistance for two teen boys to procure full time jobs in their field of interests, specifically ranch management and sound and vision technology.
Volunteer staff member, Betsy Walker works each year with students from the West End in researching and applying for a variety of scholarships and financial aid opportunities. Thus far the True North scholarship coaching program has helped students earn $480,000 toward further education. In addition, a cohort of 9th grade girls completed a summer bridge program called Rising Stars, led by local teacher AJ Crocker which supported their transition into High School, as well as initiated post graduate planning with a Fort Lewis College campus tour and college prep activities.
Community Service is a cornerstone of True North, and projects have ranged from neighborhood snow removal, food preparation for the homeless, decoration of 4th of July parade floats, and revamping the skate park in Norwood. “The kids have bought into it, they understand it, it’s taken off," said Nelson, "I’m really excited about what the future holds for True North. There is no other non-profit like it in the area because we work with teenagers and we are all volunteers, there are no salaried staff. We are doing what we do because we believe in it and we see a need for it. We are truly starting to see the fruits of our labor.” Last year alone, True North volunteer staff contributed over 4000 hours toward general operations and direct youth services.
True North’s next community service event takes place in partnership with the Telluride History Museum’s Olde Fashioned Christmas at Schmid Ranch on December 10th. True North youth will continue their yearly tradition of assisting families in carrying freshly cut Christmas trees to their cars as well as serving up hot chili and apple cider to community members.
"Thanks to the community for believing in True North and in me” said Nelson. “Big thanks to my friends and family, especially my wife Denee for being the most amazing supporter."