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Separated Since Birth, Half-Brothers Meet Through Triathlon

Jeremy Fand and Darrin Schwenkbeck met in their 40s, and now they train and race together

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Jeremy Fand has always been a runner. He spent his high school and college years as an avid competitor in cross-country and track, and coached college track at his alma mater, Swarthmore College, following graduation. Fand started participating in triathlons about six years ago after he started training with the Rye Tri Club in Rye, N.Y. At 47, Fand continues to train with the club as well as help local triathletes just joining the sport.

Meanwhile, 400 miles away in Buffalo, the half-brother he never knew he had, Darrin Schwenkbeck, was also training for triathlons. Schwenkbeck, 45, found the sport by chance: He witnessed the swim leg of a triathlon while participating in a big bass tournament on Lake Champlain. “I was captivated by the event and it drew me in like a bass on the end of my line,” he says. “I knew I had to do it!”

In January, Fand’s adoptive parents discovered a document in his adoption files they had not seen before, displaying the last name of Fand’s birthmother. Fand hired a private investigator to find her, a process that took four months of searching. This past summer he decided he wanted to meet the woman who gave him up; he simply called and introduced himself. “Funny thing is, mom always knew in her heart that he would [find us],” Schwenkbeck says. Schwenkbeck, who had been recovering from Ironman Lake Placid the previous day at the time of the call, was handed the phone by his mother when she couldn’t hear Fand. This was the first time Fand and Schwenkbeck spoke.

As soon as Fand heard he shared a passion for triathlon with his brother, he invited him to race the Westchester Triathlon — a race Fand has done for the past few years. Four weeks from their first encounter, on Sept. 29, Fand and Schwenkbeck toed the starting line of their first triathlon together.

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“I had basically decided prior to meeting my brother that I was going to give up triathlons and focus on bike racing, because running just hurts too much,” Fand says. “Now that I have this triathlete brother, I’ve decided I have to do an Ironman.”

Schwenkbeck has been pushing Fand to do an Ironman with him in the next two or three years prior to Fand’s 50th birthday. Luckily, the desire to compete was mutual.

“Discovering my brother and that he also is into triathlons has inspired me much the same way he’s inspired so many friends and people in his community to get into triathlon,” Schwenkbeck says. “He waited for me like any big brother, and we finished the race [in Westchester] together.”

This spring, Fand says they are training for the Tour of the Battenkill bike race in April, which is more to Fand’s liking; the 66-mile road race is considered one of the toughest in America. The brothers train together virtually as Fand continually sends Schwenkbeck the workouts via e-mail, though they do plan to meet up at least a few times between now and then to do some training together in person.

With a shared passion and plenty of catching up to do, the brothers’ course will continue far past any finish line.

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