When I found Andy Domina’s webpage, TriforTristan, that diaries his first full Ironman journey as well his son’s life, Tristan, who was born in 2013 without a complete esophagus, I knew this was a story that needed to be shared. Not only does Domina have an incredible passion for raising money for Le Bonheur, by waking up at 4 am to train for Ironman in September, but he’s also a parent who wants the best for his child.
I meet Domina at Victory Bicycle Studio on Broad Avenue, a place where he receives guidance and advice from owner, Clark Butcher, for endurance training. When I walk in I’m not only greeted by Andy, but by the whole shop. We sit down among a room full of bikes to discuss what I came here for: his story.
“At work about 9 months ago, a colleague of mine challenged me to it (Ironman Chattanooga), and before that I had only ever done short distance called sprint triathlons,” said Domina. “They are very small distances. I said, sure, lets give it a shot, it was a year away. That’s what started this story.”
He’s motivated there’s no doubt. He knows about hard work from being active duty in the Navy for the past 12 years and stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii for eight of them. Right now he’s consuming 3,000 calories a day and working out while the rest of the world is still sleeping.
“I probably eat six times a day, and I train, probably the easiest way to say around 10-15 hours a week,” said Domina. “It’s a lot of getting up at like 4 in the morning, and doing a ride before work and going for a run at lunchtime.”
“Even in the heat? You run in the heat?” I asked him. The idea is shocking, maddening. “It’s so hot out.”
“I recently tried to switch it up to do runs in the morning and I try to ride indoors during lunch,” said Domina. “It’s not been easy.”
It’s then very clear to me. Not everyone is born with this fearless determination to preserve through the pain and trials that come with endurance training. It takes up a lot of time. It’s waking up early, going to bed early. It’s also eating right. In another sense, it’s doing all of the things most people “don’t, won’t, or can’t do.” He’s a spartan.
“I did a five hour ride indoors on the trainer last week,” said Domina. “There’s only so much [to motivate you] so you put a movie on…whatever. My son and wife keep me going. I’ve been training for this upcoming year for about nine months with my trainer, Clark.”
Andy practically stumbled upon Victory Bicycle Studio, a national industry leader in bicycle retail, when he moved to Memphis in 2013. Since 2010, Victory houses bike lovers and those born with a pure passion for cycling.
“When I moved here in the Fall of 2013 I had an old triathlon bike about 10 years old and so far its served its purpose well,” said Domina. “This bike was ready to go. I came into Victory and I was just blown away by the whole team here. These guys really know what they’re talking about. It’s been a great experience. I love this whole street [Broad Avenue].”
Since moving to Memphis two years ago, Andy’s son Tristan had to make four trips to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in the past eight months for his esophagus. When Andy’s raising money for Le Bonheur leading up to his big race, you know there’s a lot of heart behind it.
“Tristan just turned two and long story short, he was born without a completely formed esophagus,” said Domina. “We were rushed to a large children’s hospital in Hawaii, five days after his birth. He had major surgery that fixed his esophagus. Where they repaired the esophagus, if you can imagine, putting two pieces of pipe together, you have scar tissue there that formed like an hourglass shape, which caused a lot of eating problems for his first year and a half of life. He’s perfectly fine. It’s his respiratory system thats not quite as robust as yours or mine. So any kind of viral infection that would normally take a kid out for a couple of days would put him in the hospital for about a week. Every day Tristan grows, as he grows, his esophagus grows. It gets better.”
Right now, he’s raised around $25,000 for charity, with half of that going to Le Bonheur, a hospital he gives a whole lot of gratitude to.
“We love Le Bonheur,” said Domina. “It’s like a second home for us. Every time we go, this past week in fact, nurses and doctors from different floors say, “Tristan’s back,” and want to see him.”
He proudly tells me, “We just got a $10,000 contribution from IBM, my wife’s company. That really helped us.”
And I can’t help but feel proud of the recent IBM contribution and the $25,000 that he’s already raised. He’s saving lives.
“My goal is to say that I accomplished the Ironman and raise some money for other families,” said Domina. “That’s icing on the cake.”
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