Sunday, February 15, 2009

First Race of 2009

Today I ran my first Race of 2009; The Edmonton Hypothermic Half.
The significance of this race was not so much the fact that it was the first run (1/2 Marathon) of the season but that my good friend and Heart Researcher Dr. Mark Haykowsky, along with our coach Ken Riess ran with me. The sick thing is that Mark has only been running for 5 months and was out running me. Somehow doesn't seem quite fair. Of course I was running with a broken toe which, sounds like a good excuse, but in reality didn't hinder my running. I did find that my quads were getting quite sore by the 15 km mark and knew that any further than 21 km would have resulted in the IT band tightening, which is something that happens in long races and has become really frustrating. I've not given up hope though in finding some way to deal with the muscle fatigue and lactic acid build up on longer runs.
The positive thing is that my legs are not as sore as they usually are which is a good sign.
My next challenge is to run another Marathon (Vancouver Marathon May 3rd) with the goal of beating the 4 hr. mark. I know it is possible if I can just figure out a way to solve the muscle fatigue in the legs.
Overall health wise I can't complain. I have struggle with additional and different health issues so far this year that I have not had to deal with in the past. Unlike so many other transplants, in comparison it has not been anything serious.
Recently I had to take some time to re-evaluate priorities in my life. I had found that the pressure I was putting on myself to exercise had really distorted my view of life in that regardless of how I was feeling, not exercising was not an option. Thanks to the loving counsel of my wife I have begun to realize that who I am is not based on what I do but in knowing and being who God created me to be. In other words, rather than focusing my attention and priorities on a task or a goal, focusing on that which is most important, the relationships built and developed along the way; expecially my relationship with God, family, and friends. I have recognized that just need to be intead of always doing. It is ok to just sit and build relationship.
Who said that old Dogs can't learn new tricks.
That's about it for now. I still would like to go to the World Transplant Games but that will depend on whether God makes a way, financially, for me to go. As well, Lord willing I would like to do the Arizona Ironman in 2010.


Daniel said...

Good to see you're still active and training hard.

You're an inspiration to me, also being a heart transplant recipient.

I am currently 42 years old and was transplanted 3 1/2 years ago after a sudden and major heart attack damaged my heart beyond repair. Everything went smoothly and I am also one of the very lucky ones who leads a completely normal life without any side effects.

About a year and a half ago, before I ever heard of your story, I decided that I would become an Ironman.

There were a few issues with my 5 year plan. First, I didn't know how to swim. Second, I didn't own a road bike. Third, I've done all kinds of sports in my life, but have never been a runner. Fourth, I later learned that my wife was pregnant with twins. That will put a hold on anyone's life for a while.

So I started by documenting myself as much as I could. Then I bought a used but decent triathlon bike at a very fair price. I also got myself a very good treadmill. My last step was learning how to swim.

I took an introduction course at the local pool, but the young instructor wasn't very good at passing along his knowledge, therefore I didn't learn anything. I then found Total Immersion Swimming and decided I would teach myself.

Things went well from September 08 to January 09, then the cold season started and with three young kids at home, I wasn't able to avoid it. So my swimming progress has been delayed for the past two months or so.

My plan is still to do at least one triathlon (sprint distance) this summer. But instead of being early in the summer, it might have to be much later in the summer.

We never know, we might one day race together. How about Kona in 2 1/2 years to celabrate my 45th birthday ?

Keep it up, hope to meet you one day !


Dwight Kroening said...

Good to hear from you Daniel.
I recall conversing with another gentleman who was intending to do a 1/2 Ironman last year with the hopes of doing a full Ironman the summer of 2009.
I can appreciate where your coming from regarding time to train with all the other responsibilities that go along with family and work. Before I decided to train for the Ironman I asked for permission and support from family knowing that it would mean less time to spend with them. On the flip side I think they knew how grumpy I get when I don't exercise. Fortunately my boys are older (21, 14 and 15 at the time) which required less of my time at home.
The Total Immersion swim program is a good program that I used as well. I have also taken some one on one coaching from swim coaches to help me refine my swim technique which has helped.
As you noted from my previous posting, my goal is to do the Arizona Ironman in 2011 which would be the 25th anniversary of my transplant. This Sunday I will be running the BMO Vancouver Marathon with Dr. Mark Haykowsky and Coach Ken Riess. My goal is to beat the record set by a heart transplant in Ireland who's record time was 3:45. If my legs hold up I know I can do it. Ken has been training me specifically for the event so we'll see if I have prepared well enough.
I would love to do a triathlon with you some day. If you would like to stay in touch feel free to add me as a contact (Dwight Kroening) through MSN. You could also Skype me.

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?