Dave Orlowski finished 3rd in the first Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon in 1978 in 13:59:13 and this big man with an even bigger heart sadly just lost his battle with leukemia. His smile was infectious and he was always willing to offer a kind word or helping hand. Orlowski was part of the Timex squad for a long time and more recently part of the Suunto Elite Team.
"He has always shown such great love and concern for me and my family. We met up in places all over the country to race, eat, or explore together. He always had my back. Relationships were so important to him and people were his #1 priority. Thank you for your friendship and for teaching us all about perseverance. You are a legend, and legends don’t die. Until we meet again dear friend," said Trista Francis - a fellow Suunto Elite Team member.
Back in 1978 he raced in jorts and regular tennis shoes on a borrowed Sears Free Spirit 10-speed bike with reflectors and a spoke protector and had to figure out all the logistics since there wasn't anyone else to really lean on.
"The night before the event I took a scissors and cut off a pair of blue jeans so I would have shorts with pockets to stick money in for stopping to get food or drink. I had a Marine support vehicle that was supporting three people and did not know when they would be around. There were no aid stations so my nutrition consisted of stopping at gas stations and eating Hershey bars, water, coca cola, juice. I did stop to eat at a McDonalds and had a burger, fries and shake as well as stopped at a grocery store. At the grocery store I had to park my bike outside the store and worried whether it would get stolen while I was inside getting food," said Orlowski during an interview back in 2008.
After that 1978 event Orlowski did not return to the sport of triathlon until 2004, and had to deal with various injuries over the years. In 2008 he returned to Kona to compete in the 30th anniversary event and had a ball. He was hooked again after that and traveled around the world to compete in various events. He had hoped to do every Ironman event there was, but he also went to Challenge Roth. Along the way he made many friends and his smile and hearty laughter were always present. And if you ever wanted to experience an amazing big hug, Dave Orlowski was the right man for that job.
Hopefully he is getting some angel hugs now.
R.I.P. Dave Orlowski