2012-08-03 / People


South Portland woman does Tri at 76
By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

Cookie Kalloch Cookie Kalloch When 76-year-old Shirley “Cookie” Kalloch decided she wanted to get involved in the Tri for a Cure for the first time this year, it would make sense, at her age, if she started by participating in one leg of the relay. Kalloch said she is an avid biker, so she had the option to only participate in the 15-mile bike ride and skip the 1/3 mile swim and 3.1 mile run at the race, which was held Sunday, July 29.

But Kalloch said that’s not how she lives her life.

“If I was going to do it, I’d do it all. I’ve always done it that way all through my life,” she said. “That’s just me. So when the time came, that was my decision to do the whole thing.”

For the previous two years, Kalloch was a spectator at the event, held on a course that is centered around Southern Maine Community College’s campus. Kalloch got involved in Tri for a Cure to support her neighbor on Bellevue Avenue, breast cancer survivor Liz Engel, who also participated in the event this year.

“I just admired her so,” Kalloch said of her neighbor.

Kalloch began her training this winter, around the same time she entered her name into the lottery to participate in Tri for a Cure.

“I knew at my age I had to devote everything to the training if I was going to do it,” she said. “From February on I tried to swim twice a week doing laps, and gradually building up to doing over what would be required of me.”

Kalloch’s plans for the race nearly had to be scrapped just two weeks before the event. When she went in the water to train while her husband Ron followed in a kayak, Kalloch suddenly had trouble breathing. A doctor told her she had developed adult onset asthma.

“I was shattered. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, after all this time,’” she said.

But the condition was treatable with an inhaler. Kalloch said she tried the inhaler a couple of times before the race with successful results, and when the day of the Tri for a Cure came, she used the inhaler before the event started and had no trouble.

Kalloch set a goal for herself to complete the race in less than three hours. She finished the event in two hours, 34 minutes, eight seconds. She said the rainy, cold weather actually helped her because when she trained on hot and sunny days, her strength and energy were sapped quickly.

The Tri for a Cure raised more than $1.2 million for the Maine Cancer Foundation, which funds research grants throughout the state. Maine Cancer Foundation Communications and Marketing Coordinator Cullen McGough said that is about $100,000 more than the total from last year’s race, while the number of participants remained the same, which means participants are “really going the extra mile” in their fund-raising efforts, McGough said.

Kalloch raised more than $1,000 herself, helped by anonymous donations that came in after she was featured in a piece in mid-July by WMTW’s Norm Karkos. She said she didn’t even have to ask for many donations – her friends and neighbors came to her on their own.

Now that the race is done, Kalloch is focused on tending to her garden and taking care of some odd jobs around the house she had put aside while training. She isn’t sure if she will participate in next year’s Tri for a Cure, but regardless of her decision, she said she plans to continue to stay active by riding her bike or walking her greyhound, Jasmine, around the neighborhood. It’s not always easy to get out when she would rather be reading a book, Kalloch said, but in the end, the effort is worth it.

“I have to work at it, and I don’t mind working at it because I just feel a lot healthier if I keep up good physical condition,” Kalloch said.

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