Loss of any kind can be challenging. When you lose a family member or friend before their time, the emotion that comes with loss grows exponentially. Over the past three years I lost my Aunt Kath and good friend Daryl Thiesen to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). This past month I learned of two families locally that lost a loved one to the disease that strikes 5,000 people a year in the U.S. The average survival time after diagnosis is 3 years during which time a person's muscles gradually become paralyzed, leading to less mobility.
Currently, there’s no cure.
Experimental treatments become available every day, but scientists have yet to find one that reverses or halts the inevitable progression of the disease.
About three months ago I decided to take on the challenge of completing an ironman triathlon. I'll make the connection to ALS in just a minute. Nearing the age of 50, it sounded like a challenge worth pursuing that would allow me to honor both my Aunt Kath and friend, Daryl Thiesen, while also raising awareness about ALS. The idea was spurred on by a few conversations with friends and the incredible story of Dawn Schroeder, a local Santa Barbaran who had just completed an Ironman triathlon after overcoming significant physical and emotional trauma. Sometimes, when you’re on the edge of commitment all it takes is one great story to push you over the brink. I decided to make the commitment to train over the next 12 months in preparation for what will likely be a 12-13 hour day of competition including 2.4 miles (3.8 km) of swimming, followed by 112 miles (180 km) of cycling and finally, 26.2 miles (42 km) of running.
Now, the connection between ALS and Ironman.
For someone struck with the diagnosis of ALS, the struggle to walk, talk and even swallow food goes far beyond any pain or suffering I might experience while training or competing. I’m fortunate to have the physical capacity to train and put in the miles required, so the question about taking on the challenge became a simple one, “Why wouldn’t I compete?” Now three months into training, I face the usual snap, crackle, pop that comes from stretching a 50 year-old-body after a day of training; but, I enter each day inspired by the memories of amazing people like my Aunt Kath and friend Daryl Thiesen who embodied the best of what life had to offer.
Ironman triathlon tends to bring questions about what most people consider to be unimaginable; while the topic of ALS generates very few questions in what most people would also consider to be unimaginable.
I’m asking for you to share this story with one person the next time the moment feels right so that we can begin to bring greater awareness about the impact of ALS.
If you want to raise awareness by raising money you can do that too. I’m starting the donations with the personal contribution of $1000. All donations go directly to the ALS Association.
Give any amount you like or if you are a numbers person, maybe this will help: Total Ironman Competition Mileage: 140.6 (2.4 swim, 112 bike, 26.2 run) x $1 is $140.60
For the Metric Community: 225.8 km (3.8 swim, 180 bike, 42 run) x $1 is $225.80
Thank you in advance for your time and willingness to share this story.