Our Race SLO ambassadors share their stories about motivation, determination, endurance and growth to inspire us and remind us that we are on this journey together.
In 1979, I found out I had a kidney disease following a tough tackle playing Rugby at Penn State and was told the disease would eventually lead to dysfunction, dialysis, and ideally transplant. My fitness levels have always been high as I started running for fitness at 15 playing rugby all through high school, college, and a few years after that. Following a couple knee surgeries and bad ankles, I picked up cycling in 1995 and have been addicted ever since. It all started with an organized century ride, then one a month for 5 months before I joined a club and started racing Cat 3 and masters on the road (mostly crits and road races participating in two Masters National Championships).
After 23 years of 150 miles a week, my kidney function was at the point where I went on dialysis for about 3 ½ years and hoped a living donor would step forward for transplant and a double nephrectomy (kidney removal), all at the same time. During dialysis, I continued working full time leading successful hotels sales and marketing teams around the country, and fortunately was able to ride all during dialysis except the day after my twice a week, 4-hour treatments. Two-hour rides before work 2-3 times a week, and a 3+ hour ride on one weekend day kept my spirits and fitness at a high level.
Fortunately, Colleen, an elementary school friend’s wife stepped forward to test as she saw me in my cycling team kit during a charity ride in Boston with my “beer belly” (my kidneys weighed over 12.5 pounds when they are normally 10 ounces; twins together average 11 pounds). Sure enough, PERFECT MATCH! In May 2016 they performed the nephrectomy and transplant at the same time. I was only spinning (about 35 hours a month), the month before surgery as I didn’t want anything to happen that would jeopardize the transplant. Surgery went great, 4 weeks later I was spinning; at six weeks, riding 100 miles a week outside.
Less than 4 months later, I planned to ride a small fundraiser metric century with my donor and her husband. We left 10 minutes after the 100 milers and about 5 minutes in, our group of 20-25 was just one – me. Rather than slow down or wait, I tried to catch the 100 milers. As I approached the 17 mile rest stop, they were pulling out. In another 3 miles I caught them. At the metric century turn-off, I decided I didn’t want to ride the last 38 miles alone so continued on with the 15 or so 100 milers. There were 3-4 others along with me that shared the pace-making and 4 of us were the first finishers. I felt great and shocked how well I rode, especially those last 15 miles. No cramping, nothing, again, all less than 4 months following an 8-hour procedure.
Most importantly, I can’t express enough the enormous and never-ending debt of gratitude I have for my donor Colleen and her beautiful and giving family for their sacrifice and support of her. I can’t neglect to mention a huge thank you to my wife of 33 years, Grace; to our son Andrew, 26, his wife Aaliyah, son Grayson (2), and our granddaughter Charlotte Lily-Grace (6), for the years of work they did on my behalf actively advocating and campaigning for a donor to come forward. Yes, I’m a grandpa too and thanks to the generosity of the human spirit of giving, I live to see my family another day, month, year…
We moved to SLO in February 2017 (after beautiful stints in Monterey and Long Beach), and have been loving it, mixing our family hikes with mountain biking and lots of road rides. This year, my focus is to participate in an organized century ride in CA once a month. All is good, my new kidney is working great and I love supporting Race SLO, taking the long route on the SLO Ultra MTB, volunteering for the Marathon, and participating in other regional events in the region like Eroica California and the SLO Triathlon.
In support of the donor community, please register as an organ donor on your driver’s license since there are so many others wait-listed for transplant who aren’t as lucky as I was. You never know who in your family, or maybe a friend, may benefit from this enormous act of kindness. See you on two wheels!
Race SLO Ambassador
REGISTRATION FOR SLO ULTRA NOW OPEN. On September 1, 2018, join us for an epic day of trail running, live music, BBQ and more! Pick your race – 50K Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) State Trail Championship, cross country half marathon or a 5K run. Plus kids races! Racers can register HERE.
ABOUT RACE SLO
Established in 2008 to bring world class sporting events to the beautiful California Central Coast, the Race SLO endurance event portfolio includes the inaugural California Warrior Experience (Spring 2018), 7th SLO Marathon + Half, Relays and 5K plus Kids Races (Spring 2018), 3rd SLO Ultra trail races (late Summer 2018) and the recently added US Trail Running Conference (late Summer 2018).
The Race SLO Team produces both fun & competitive running events year-round to create human connection through fitness and raise funds for local nonprofits: Jack’s Helping Hand, The Land Conservancy of SLO, Team Red, White & Blue, Grizzly Youth Academy and SLO County Parks.
Our mission: Through human experiences, we create social & economic impact to share our legacy.