LSMNJ Triathletes Give Supporters Reason to Donate and Cheer

Exactly a year ago, we reported the story of Gary Jacques—LSMNJ’s resourceful director of purchasing and plant operations for LSMNJ—finishing 204th out of 800 athletes in the 3rd annual Escape the Cape (May) Triathlon. This was Gary’s first ever triathlon competition. Heady in the euphoria of training, competing and finishing, he signed-up for the next year. To mix things up a bit, he convinced Shawn Thompson—his colleague and LSMNJ plant operations manager—to join him in the 4th annual Escape the Cape Triathlon.

After months of grueling workouts, pulled muscles, and asking “why am I doing this?”, both Gary and Shawn were just about ready AND becoming very competitive. Age, weight, builds, natural athletic skills, and training styles made for two very different competitors—each sure he could best the other.

Yes, they were ready to compete but Gary and Shawn wanted this exercise in endurance and strategy to be about more than themselves. They partnered with the LSMNJ Foundation on a donation campaign that was promoted through social media. People were encouraged to show their support could identify as a member of “Team Gary” or “Team Shawn” by making a $5 (or more) donation to the LMSNJ Adoption Program in support of Team Gary or to the New Visions Homeless Day Shelter in support of Team Shawn. Donations and comments posted to the LSMNJ Facebook page came pouring in.

Weather conditions on Sunday June 12 at Cape May made this year’s triathlon more daunting than usual. Close to three foot waves made most competitors hesitate before jumping off the ferry and the 15 mph winds made them wonder if they should just give up and walk their bikes. But at the end of the day, both Team Gary and Team Shawn were winners in every sense. Here are some results and their thoughts on the experience.



  • Time – 1 hour 32 minutes 10 seconds
  • 193 out of 900 competitors
  • 3rd out of 23 in age group (Gary medaled and was on the winner’s podium)
  • NOTE: In the months leading up to the race, Gary suffered a neck strain, pulled muscles, and knee issues. But he managed his training to regroup, repair, and compete.


  • Time – 1 hour 31 minutes 13 seconds
  • 171 out of 900 competitors
  • 25th out of 58 in age group
  • NOTE: Shawn became “lean and mean” through his dedicated training. He lost so much weight that, on the day of the race, he had to drop to a lower weight class than the one he registered in months earlier.


As of Monday June 13, $490 had been donated in total. $305 to the Adoption Program, $105 to New Visions Homeless Day Shelter, and $80 to the LSMNJ general fund.

Many comments and words of support submitted along with the donations. A favorite: This is Gary’s race! You don’t get to be 60 without enduring pain like getting out of bed, bending over, getting out of a car, kneeling and then standing up. So, based on that I see Gary shredding Shawn, as this triathlon is just one more trial to endure!


Escape the Cape - LSMNJ

Shawn Thompson“Team Shawn”

I feel as though I owe this entire experience to Gary. I‘ve never been a strong swimmer, and I’ve never found comfort in water. So this whole triathlon made no sense to me or anyone that knew me. But, out of sheer pride, I accepted Gary’s challenge, Yet, in the back of my mind, I didn’t think the swim was a possible reality for me. Even with my training, up to the race day I hadn’t yet made the distance of the swim comfortably. But I knew it was a comfort thing and not a conditioning issue, so I psyched myself out into thinking I would be mentally ready. Well now it’s the morning of June 12 and time to jump. After my good friend—that I talked into signing-up and basically dragged along to the front of ferry that day—finally jumped into the water, we were off. The swim was both the best and worst 18 minutes I’ve experienced in my life. Once I calmed down and started using unorthodox strokes with my head above water, I realized that if I stayed calm and kept pushing I would be ok, “I can swim like this forever.” I was frightened yet so proud of myself at the same time. When I finally reached shore, I actually thought, “This is enough for today!” But hearing my family cheering me on changed that mindset immediately. They cheered me throughout the race and that made a huge difference. Without the combination of their support, my buddy Dan braving it out with me, and Gary waiting for me at the finish line, I wouldn’t have had the drive to finish the race with a decent effort. I appreciate every single person that rooted us on and every cheering spectator along the road that day. And, it only makes the whole thing sweeter knowing we raised funds for two great LSMNJ programs, New Visions and Adoption. Thank you for the donations, the encouraging words of support, and this unforgettable experience!

Escape the Cape - LSMNJ

Gary Jacques “Team Gary”

So Steve, the guy that runs the Escape the Cape Triathlon, had a video out before the race telling people to “have a plan.” My plan…get off the boat early. I was the 12th person off the boat. I don’t wear contacts so I depend on following people. Evidently I was out in front on the swim, because when I looked up about 100 yards in, I was all alone in two or three foot choppy water caused by 15 MPH winds and had no idea where the heck I was. Hmmmm…a fatal mistake in my “plan”. I couldn’t even see land over the waves. For all I knew I was heading to France! So I flipped over on my back and waited for some swimmers to follow. They were all going in different directions. That was one wild swim. My thoughts briefly turned to Shawn at that time, who I know is not a good swimmer. Right, for about 5 seconds then my mind came back to ”Hey, he’s on his own. I need to survive.”

Everyone looked exhausted coming out of the water and jogging to the bikes.  The wind was brutal on the bike and run. A tough day. But, I met my goal of being on the podium for my age group and did really well overall. But, the most important thing I want to share is how proud I am of Shawn. My hat off to him. You have to be fearless and dedicated to jump off a ferry in those waves and find a way to finish that swim, when swimming is not even close to your strength. Best of all, together we raised a few bucks for Adoption and New Visions—we know are making a difference. My sincere thanks to those who supported us with encouraging words and donations to these LSMNJ programs.