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NIEHS Takes on the Triangle Triathlon in Style

By Shannon Baker
August 2008

team members
The team members, from left to right, Braithwaite, Tvermoes and McElwee, were interviewed in their lab office two weeks before the competition. At that point, Braithwaite was still apprehensive, little knowing how well she would do in the triathlon. Snyder, not shown, was unable to participate in the interview. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

"I'm retired," stated trainer and NIEHS scientist Matthew McElwee after finishing the grueling Triangle Triathlon 2008 July 13 at Lake Crabtree. McElwee is a predoctoral fellow in the NIEHS Comparative Genomics Group. ( He, along with three of his lab mates, Staff Scientist Elena Braithwaite, Ph.D., Predoctoral Fellow Brooke Tvermoes, and Research Assistant Daniel Snyder, took on the challenge of competing in the event, a USA-sanctioned race featuring a 750-meter swim, 15-mile bike ride and 5K run.

The event began at 7:30 a.m. with 738 eager participants. By the end of the fray, the NIEHS team had ample reason to be proud of their performance - and McElwee could certainly justify resting on his laurels in well-deserved retirement from competitive racing.

Training for the group began months prior to the event when McElwee designed a rigorous workout regimen for his teammates with exercises tailored to help them prepare for the day's event. McElwee and Tvermoes are no strangers to triathlon competitions. Both have participated in local triathlon and Ironman competitions. This year the veterans were joined by newcomers Braithwaite and Snyder.

July's record breaking heat didn't stop the NIEHS team from breaking records. "The heat wasn't bad, probably because we were so busy," Braithwaite explained afterwards. Tvermoes came in 4th place in the Overall Women category with a time of 1:11:38. The Novice category celebrates achievement for first time competitors, and Braithwaite came in an enviable 6th place in the division for women. Snyder broke into the Novice category for men, placing 5th.

Several lab members and NIEHS employees came out to cheer on their fellow co-workers and friends. "I think this experience was so fun because we did this as a team and that makes all the difference," Braithwaite remarked. Recalling the ups and downs of the day, McElwee noted that there had been a bike accident between two riders that left one unconscious. The 2008 race proved to be an especially competitive one for the Triangle Triathlon.

After the race was over, Tvermoes hosted a barbeque in celebration of the day's achievements. When asked if they would ever do another triathlon together, they said in unison, "We are planning one for September." McElwee added, "Maybe I'm really more semi-retired."

(Shannon Baker is a rising senior at Peace College in Raleigh who spent a three-week internship in the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison. She is currently working part time in the NIEHS Office of the Director.)

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