In 2015 I set what many thought to be an outlandish goal: beat my Ironman PR time by 51 minutes. I knew that I needed help so I hired a professional coach. What I didn’t know was I was about to be diagnosed with a progressive neurological disease.
The first two months my training program was largely base conditioning. Then I had my first training camp with my coach. We went out for a run and within the first 10 seconds my coach stopped me and asked me what was wrong with my right leg. I kind of dodged the question but he wouldn’t let it go. He peppered me with questions: are you injured; are you sore are you tight? Ultimately he forced me to admit to a reality I wouldn’t face before that point. There was something wrong with my mobility – not just with my right leg but the entire right side of my body. My coach told me that camp was over for me and I needed to go see a neurologist immediately.
When you’re sitting in the waiting room of a Neurologist, your mind wanders to some pretty scary places. What if it’s ALS? What if I have a brain tumor? What if it’s cancer? It took my coach’s challenge to get me in this room. The truth is that I had known for some time that something was wrong. I was afraid to face it. I was living in denial.
Thankfully it was not ALS or cancer. But after a series of tests, I was diagnosed with Parkinsons, which is not in any way life threatening or even life shortening, however, it’s a pretty serious issue to a semi-competitive triathlete as it affects my mobility. It was the reason that there is a hitch in my running gate and also why my right arm doesn’t pull as much water as my left. The word “progressive” in the phrase progressive neurological disease is nothing but a euphemism. It’s a nice way of saying my condition will never improve. It will only get worse over time. There is no cure for Parkinson’s. No medication will stop or slow the disease. But in my diagnosis my doctor shared with me that there is one thing that has been clinically proven to mitigate the severity of the symptoms: rigorous daily exercise. So my doctor proceeds to ask me a question……
"Do you think you can work out an hour or so everyday?"
That resulted in my first smile of the day and an upbeat response: "Yes I can doc. I'm training for my 4th Ironman, and I'm going to get my best time ever, and I am NOT going to let Parkinson's stop me!"
Now I'm on a mission (well actually three missions)...
1. To inspire the Parkinson’s community to see one of their own pushing through adversity and overcoming Parkinson’s in order to finish the toughest Ironman event on the planet.
2. To show my children through actions, not words, that you can do anything you set your mind to – even overcoming a progressive neurological disease – when you work hard and work smart
3. To provide an example to people of all ages and all abilities that when you pursue your passions, dream big & set lofty goals, and plan & execute, amazing results are possible!
The goal is to take the mission to the largest platform in the sport of triathlon: IRONMAN KONA, the world championship of the sport. There are two ways to qualify: Top 3 age group finisher or Top 5 Fund raiser. Due to my condition the only way I can qualify for Kona is via becoming a Top 5 charitable donation fund raiser. With your help I can realize that goal and more importantly together we can help a lot of people in need! THANK YOU!!!