Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sponsorship and Donor Awareness Activities

On June 19, 08 I met with the Edmonton Donor Awareness Group made up of representatives from the various transplant organizations in the city (e.g. HOPE Program; Alberta Kidney Foundation; Canadian Transplant Association; Lung Support Program; and GoodHearts Mentoring Foundation) to share and brain storm how they could support me in this Trek to the Ironman. There were a number of good suggestions from contacts for sponsorship and media to ideas for gaining attention and support prior to and during the Ironman. Since the meeting I have contacted the BC Transplant group who have responded quite enthusiastically to working with me and will be putting me in contact with a number of media groups when I am in Penticton. There were also a number of suggestions for companies, organizations, and individuals that would be likely candidates for sponsorship. I have 2 sponsors currently (Subaru City and Goran Consulting Services) and have verbal commitment from one other (Computronix). Velocity Cycle is working with the Jamis bike representative to get me a triathlon bike at manufacturer price but unfortunately this isn't looking like it will pan out. The various transplant organizations in the Edmonton area have been particularly helpful in supporting my efforts by offering organ donation awareness promotional items as give aways at the event.
I am working with a friend that will be putting together a graphic that I can put on my tri-gear and bike and would like to have some t-shirts promoting organ and tissue donations in relation to the Ironman for people that will be at the event supporting me. Time is growing short and there is much to do.

On June 21st I organized an activity for the Canadian Transplant Association annual picnic called "Just Tri" as promotion of my "Trek to the Ironman". It was a great success although we didn't get as much participation as was anticipated. there 42 in all that participated as teams in the 3 activities that represented the 3 events of a triathlon. The swim was represented by a water relay, the ride event was represented by a Safeway buggy cart race around the parking lot, and the run event was represented by a 3-legged obstacle course. Everyone, participants and spectators alike had a blast and I was able to share the reason why I am training and anticipating completing the Ironman.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Now the Work Begins

After the Woody's RV Marathon and the resulting pain I experienced in my legs over the last 6 miles of the run I was determined to figure out what I needed to do so I would not have to go through that again; and stopping running or reducing the distance was not an option. For a week I researched the medical and physiological reasons for why I experienced such pain in my legs. Was it because I was ill prepared (e.g. insufficient or inefficient training), was it transplant related (e.g. due to long term effects of the immunosuppressants), was it nutrient related (e.g. lack of water and/or electrolytes). My fear was that if the fatigue and pain in the legs was due to physiological issue (e.g. osteoperosis) resulting from long term effects of the drugs, no training or diet in the world could prepare me for running 24 miles or 42 km.
The following were the answers I found to my questions:
1. What I experienced was common to all runners whether they have had a transplant or not. Coach Ken Riess was not surprised at all that I had such an issue with my quads and that it would take a number of days before I could walk, let alone run, without pain.
Ken Riess also directed me to a blog/website of a man in the UK that was running not just marathons but

ultra-marathons. I emailed the gentleman and asked if he experienced the same issues with his legs when
running long distances. He responded back that he did and that as far as he was concerned, the issues I was
having were typical of all runners and not uniquely related to Heart transplants.
2. Training along with proper nutrition and hydration would prepare me for running marathon distances.
3. If a marathon can be run outside the context of an Ironman than it can be run in the context of an Ironman
according to Ken Riess.
4. Adjustment to my running style would help to diminish the sore quads and knees. I ran across a website when Googling lactic acid build up in the legs when exercising. The site was Danny Dreyers website on Chi Running. I was so intrigued and desparate to try anything that would help my legs that I ordered the book and have begun applying the technique. I believe that the technique is effective in what I have learned and applied so far even though I have not gone through the entire program yet.

I feel as though I am running faster and more comfortably using the Chi method of running but I don't see as marked an improvement in my times as I would expect.

Over the past 3 weeks my workout times have been steadily increasing . From what was 1 - 1.25 hrs. on week nights and 4 hrs. on the weekend to what is now 1.5 - 2 hrs. on week nights and 6 - 6.5 hrs. on weekends. I expect that even that will be increasing.

Two weeks ago I did a 3 hr. ride and a 1 hr. run without any real pain or stiffness. I made sure that I took in an appropriate amount of energy drink and protein (Access Bar) which, now that I think about it, really helped.
Last week Thurs. I did a 1:50 run and experience more pain and post training stiffness than I did following the 3 hr. ride and 1 hr. run. The only thing that was different, other than the distance and time on the run, was that I may not have hydrated myself well enough and did not eat an Access Bar. Since that run the inside of my right knee has been sore and my legs have been stiff following every subsequent run that I have done.
Tomorrow is expected to be an easy day (e.g. 1 hr. swim and 1 hr. ride) while Sunday will be a long brick (e.g. 3 hr. ride and 1.5 hr. run). I will be sure to hydrate properly, take in electrolytes and protein during the ride, and apply the Chi Running method. If the leg soreness and recovery time is minimal than I beleive I will have found the answer to running long distance pain and injury free.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Eat; Sleep; Work; and Work Out

Seems like all I am doing these days when I am not getting paid to work, eating, or sleeping, I am working out. Coach Ken Riess has been increasing my times to 1:30 a night on the week nights and 2-3 hrs. on Saturdays and Sundays. Lately I have been having a lot of trouble with my lower back that works its way down into the IT band and down my legs, in particular my right leg. When it gets bad I have a hard time sleeping at night cause the back and legs are so tight. I am hoping that the deep tissue massage I am scheduled for tomorrow will do something to relieve the tension and soreness. If it does I will schedule one every week.

I am also having trouble with my little toe. Sounds stupid that such a little thing could cause such discomfort but it does. It is a result of the new shoes that I have been trying to break in and the fact that they are not wide enough at the toe. I think I need to amputate the toe so it doesn't keep getting in the way.

Also had some problems with my watch heart rate monitor. The display on the watch for my heart rate seemed to freeze at 134 bpm. I didn't realize how much I depended on the heart rate display until I was without it. I was finally able to get it to work yesterday during my run. Once I got the heart rate to display the increase in heart rate as I increased the exercise intensity, I was suprised to find how hard I had to work to get my heart rate up past 150 bpm. I had to pretty much sprint for 5 minutes to get my heart rate up to 148 - 151. I sure hope that the reason for why I havm to work, seemingly twice as hard, to get my heart rate up is because I am in better shape. I must admit that I felt pretty good running at the pace (an estimated 7.5 miles/hr) I was and not feeling all that fatigued. Now if only my legs weren't giving me so much trouble.

Please note the new link ( on the right side of the blog (Transplant Information Links). The video is taken from one of the TV stations that interviewed me a couple months ago after learning that I was training for the Ironman.

My Story

What stories inspire men to dream and more importantly inspire them to achieve their own dreams? Are the stories that attract and inspire men so exceptional and so far beyond the grasp of human ability that men can only dream without the hope of ever achieving?

It has been said that exceptional men are simply common men that find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. Every day men all over the world (e.g. military personnel) find themselves in situations where they must either perform beyond their physical, emotional, and mental abilities, or die. Few men willing put themselves in situations where death, for the purpose of proving themselves extraordinary, is imminent.

What makes this story different than all the other stories of human will, faith, desire, determination, perseverance, strength, survival etc.
Why would anyone want to read my story? Is it any different than a 100,000 other stories of men that have overcome the odds in order to achieve their dreams. Maybe what makes a story unique and inspiring is not so much what was done in the face of overwhelming odds but the why and how any man, finding themselves in the same set of circumstances, has the potential within them self of achieving the same success.

It is my hope and prayer that my story will inspire people to not only dream but more importantly make their dreams a reality. It is faith in action that results in greater faith and action.

What did I do to deserve this?

I must have done something terribly wrong to deserve what happened to me on August 4, 1986 and which I have now had to live with for the past 21 yrs.
What did I do to deserve such a fate?
Was I abusive to my body?
Was I abusive to my wife?
Was I an evil man that God decided to punish?

A better question might be why not me?
I was no different than any other North American male. You will have to forgive me for labeling males in the same category of what I would describe as the typical North American male. I was egocentric in that all I wanted to do was enjoy life even if it meant taking time away from my wife of 3 yrs. so I could do those things that would provide the most excitement and self fulfillment in life. Week nights I was either, catching up on work, playing community league sports, or watching sports. Weekends, I was either, water skiing, playing football, camping, or playing golf. There was very little time for much else. Of course where I could I included my wife (Colleen) and those students I taught. Although I was not a partier in that I did not smoke or drink, I had an addiction to busyness and sport. Unless someone, or something, was to slow me down my life as a husband and future father was headed toward disaster. Then it happened.

What Happened?

In April of 1986 I came down with what I thought to be the flu. I had all the flu symptoms plus a few besides (e.g. aches, pains, nausea, migraines, fatigue to the point where I didn’t have enough energy to brush my teeth, lack of appetite, constant thirst). Common flu symptoms right? What I couldn’t figure out was why it was taking so long to get rid of this flu bug. Besides that when I laid down at night to sleep I felt as though I was suffocating and ended up having to sleep sitting up. After a couple weeks of nagging from Colleen I had finally had enough and went to the doctor. A doctor’s examination proved Dr. Dwight’s prognosis, as suggested to Colleen, was right, there was nothing wrong. However, the doctor did say that if I had difficulty sleeping that the evening I was to come in the next day for a chest x-ray and further tests. Wouldn’t you know it I ended up in the doctor’s office the next day. Upon further examination Colleen and I were called in for a private consultation with the doctor where he shared that there was something wrong with my heart. My response was “either fix it or just tell me what I need to take or do to fix it”. After all I was a fit and active 26 yr. old with a belief that all problems have solutions. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite that simple.

After being admitted to the Hospital and having two cardiologists provide their diagnosis of the situation I was given the news that no person wants to ever hear; your condition is terminal and there is nothing that can be done to reverse it. You will not live beyond your 28th birthday. If you have ever felt total hopelessness where you suddenly realized that there is nothing humanly possible that can be done; that was the feeling I felt for two days. If you have never had a sense of real hopelessness, I liken it to being dropped off, by your parents, at a camp where you don’t know anyone and the resulting feeling of loneliness that is felt in the pit of your stomach.

After a couple of days I had come to terms with the fact that I had a very short time to live and was ready to make the best of it. Knowing and sensing that there were hundreds of people praying for me throughout North America resulted in a peace that could only be described as the hand of God. My faith was still in tact believing that whether God wanted to take me or spare my life was ok with me. Then one morning the Cardiologists paid me another visit where they suggested that I consider a treatment that could result in adding years to my life. How many years they could not tell me. When I heard their suggestion I thought they were crazy. Why would I consider such a ludicrous option. Their suggestion was something that only happened in science fiction and horror movies. The cardiologists still encouraged me to consider the option and take a trip down to Tucson Az. where, at the Tucson Medical Center Hospital, they were performing, what in my opinion, was experimental research on human subjects. Who could imagine, 21 yrs. ago, that doctors were actually taking out a live people’s hearts and putting in dead people’s hearts. In any case since we were living in Phoenix at the time we would make the trip and meet with the people that were performing these “experimental” procedures.

When we met with the transplant team coordinator I made it clear from the start that I had no intention of agreeing to such a procedure unless they could prove to me that I would have every opportunity to live a normal live. Of course normal to me was the ability to do all that I had ever done before the transplant. They assured me that I would and showed me pictures of a transplant recipient that was doing triathlons. It seemed us that we were being given a lot of attention but didn’t give it much thought at the time. We were introduced to the head transplant surgeon (world renown Dr. Copeland) and other transplant recipients that were doing well. We were strongly encouraged to consider the option of a heart transplant and at least go through the “work-up” to determine if I would qualify as a candidate. We went back to Phoenix still believing that transplantation was not an option and that we would simply trust God to work things out. Over the next week after discussions with Colleen and continued deterioration of my health Colleen checked with the insurance carrier for her group plan and miraculously found that they had just determined transplantation to be clinical and would cover the entire down payment and transplantation costs. This was confirmation to us that we should go ahead with the work-up. The results of the work-up were, on the positive side, that I was a good candidate however the bad news was that it was estimated that my condition was more serious than first thought and had only 2 months to live.

To make a longer story shorter, with lots of patience, faith and prayer I received the call that a heart had been donated and was given new life 4 days short of 2 months on August 4th, 1986. Over the past 21 yrs. there have been many challenges as well as blessings. Colleen and I have 3 healthy boys, which we were told was a real miracle since there were issues around the effects of the medications on our ability to have children. All three boys have grown to be fine young men with whom I enjoy many outdoor and sporting activities. Colleen has been a tower of strength through all this and continues to show great patience and love for me during those times when I am moody and irritable. For the past 3 yrs. I have been training and running triathlons with a life goal to be the first Heart transplant to complete the Ironman which I hope to be realized August 24th, 2008.

Why the longevity?

What do I attribute my longevity as a Heart Transplant to:
· A faithful, loving God and family
· The transplant team of the University of Alberta that has taken care of me for 20 out of the 21 years post transplant.
· Dr. Mark Haykowski friend and researcher of the effects of exercise on the transplanted heart.
· Ken Riess friend and triathlon coach who inspires me to push the limits of a Heart Transplants physical fitness.
· GoodHearts Mentoring Foundation members that inspire me, in spite of the physical challenges they face, through their perseverance, determination, and desire to live healthy and productive lives.
· The organizations that promote donor awareness and support my efforts in becoming an Ironman.
Without these people in my life I would not be alive today let alone training and believing that I have the ability to complete an Ironman.

Final Questions

Two final question remain to be answered.

What motivates me to keep pressing on?

Does a Heart Transplant recipient have the ability to meet the requirements of both a physically and psychologically demanding exercise program in preparation for and completion of an Ironman event?