Running, swimming, biking for a cause

Terilyn Hanko Dave Mandelkern in Central Park immediately after finishing the New York City Triathlon.

As Dave Mandelkern reached Dead Road in New York City on Sunday he realized a goal — finishing 50 triathlons in 50 states and the District of Columbia before the age of 50.

Forty-eight-year-old Mandelkern is known around the county for a number of things: Starting software companies, a new way of offering health care and being an advocate for education and California state parks. His personal challenge of raising $50,000 for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Challenged Athletes Foundation and World T.E.A.M. Sports before turning 50 isn’t as well known. However, the local businessman accomplished the grand challenge this weekend during the eighth annual Nautica New York City Triathlon.

He took on the challenge with a simple motto: "If I can do it, anyone can do it.”

Over the course of participation in the triathlons, Mandelkern has swum 47 miles, biked 1,341 miles and ran 328. He traveled over 175,000, experienced one flat tire and helped save one life.

The life-saving experience occurred in Indiana. Water temperatures were supposed to be close to 70 degrees with wet suit optional, however they ended up being in the mid 60s. A swimmer without a suit began struggling for help. He couldn’t breathe, was cold and going down, Mandelkern said.

Mandelkern and another competitor helped the man back to the start and began the race again.

Sunday’s event was similarly dramatic as one man died while he swam in the Hudson River. An Olympic athlete collapsed a few feet from the finish line before receiving help and crawling across the finish line. Competitors endured jelly fish stings, heat and humidity. Needless to say, it was a trying day. But the challenge paid off for Mandelkern who began his quest at 40 after having a mid-life crisis epiphany that he should be more fit.

He began training for triathlons with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program. Although Mandelkern admits his athletic skill began as mediocre, the dedication has generated some increased skills but also created a drive to continue the fundraising efforts.

Helping other people by raising money balances the self-absorbed nature of endurance sports, he said. After learning of a marathon challenge other athletes participated in by running in 50 marathons in all 50 states inspired Mandelkern’s 50x50x50 challenge.

At this point, Mandelkern accomplished the physical part of the challenge, but has yet to reach the financial part. He’s about one-third of the way to his goal of reaching $150,000. Raising the other $100,000 is Mandelkern’s main goal.

He plans to continue participating in triathlons — even a few more this year — however, not at the pace of 10 to 12 per year.

To donate visit Anyone interested in becoming a triathlete can get support locally by visiting or

Heather Murtagh can be reached by e-mail: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

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