Monday, March 23, 2009

Al Kayner Run - Bay City

I decided to run in an 8k road race this weekend. My brother Trevor and a friend of his were doing it. So I thought I would join. Sounded better than just a regular Sunday training run. As the weekend got closer, it was obvious that the turnout was going to be a little better than what we have initially thought. Our other brother Brandon was able to join us, along with some others that I had met here and there.

Race morning was COLD and WINDY and just not all that pleasant. But we laughed almost the entire ride up there...and while we were waiting for the race to start. Come to think of it, when we weren't running... we were laughing. It was really cool to get to hang out with some of the people that I had just met in passing prior to that.

The race was much larger than I had pictured in my head... so the start was pretty packed. Cindy started close to the front. She was nervous, but ready... she really wanted to run. Trevor also took off from the start. Brandon and I got about a mile into the race and met up with Dave. The three of us cruised along pretty good until about 3.5 miles in. Brandon decided to take off... so Dave and I maintained a steady pace... actually going faster every mile that we went. It was a good race, uneventful... which is good. But it was fun.

Everyone there had a story... Cindy was there to rock. And she did, 3rd overall and 1st in her age group. I was the one overflowing with excitement for her. So proud of her... I didn't tell her, but I was nervous for her. I knew how badly she wanted to perform well. Boy did she ever. I think everyone in our group was happy with their performance. Trevor ran really well, and finished under his goal. Brandon ran about a 6:50 pace for the last mile. Dave and I ran the second half of the race 9 minutes faster than the first half. Jessica was debating on the 5k or the 8k, she did the 8k and ran really well. Josh, has only been running a week and ran the 8k. I would say a good performance by all.

Only after, do you start to think about what you have just done and more importantly, WHO you did it with.. It's funny how you can start off the day with people that you have only met once or twice before... spend an hour sweating and come out of it with a friendship. I guess with some people you just feel like you are on the same page with.

You really can't explain the atmosphere at a race... there was an old man running, he had to be 70 - 75 years old. He was running the race with a small American flag in his teeth. The entire race, with a flag in his mouth. Our group celebrated his finish... we were clapping and yelling for this guy. He walked directly to Cindy, pulled out a red, white and blue handmade bracelet and gave it to her. He could barely breath... and whispered to her "these colors don't run". I thought she was going to cry. Its about people at these events.

For us... we have been fortunate enough to be reminded of that here and there. We all raced well, but we all supported each other better than we raced, even Cindy. It usually takes me a day or so to realize what just happened. I ran with my brothers... on the weekend of Chase's birthday. It wasn't a sad day at all. I miss Chase... but the people that "get it"... I feel a connection with too and it all helps. I feel lucky to have that experience again this weekend... some of the usual people were there and some new ones.

Happy Birthday Chase.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hurley Donation Forum

You know, the longer I wait to update this blog... the more things there are to write about. That can have a downside too. I mean now I don't know where to start or how much detail to get into. I guess that might be another reason why I should be doing this more often.

Ok lots going on... on the Gift of Life front. My brothers and I were asked to speak to the Hurley Hospital Forum on Donation. Of course Terry comes along with us... we can't do a talk without him there. Again, for you first time readers, Terry is the recipient of my brother Chase's heart.

The hospital works with the Gift of Life staff to go over procedures, policy and other details of transplantation inside of Hurley Hospital. They thought it would be beneficial to have us come in and speak to the members of this group. First off... I knew this one was going to be tough. Hurley is where Chase was brought after his accident and I am not really fond of the place to be honest. As I sat there and listened to the Gift of Life staff talk numbers... conversion rates, successful potential donors, and all kinds of other things... the more I realized... that without all the medical staff in that room... the medical staff that took care of my brother, maybe WE wouldn't be sitting there. There would be no transplant story. If WE weren't one of the "successful conversions". I began to get a little overwhelmed at the thought. Before I knew it...I was being introduced and welcomed in front of this group.

I was a little caught off guard and I knew that this talk would not follow the typical pattern as previous ones. I went through the story, but this time I could be specific... about the ER and the waiting room... about Nero ICU on the 5th floor and that damn waiting room in one corner and room 520 in the other corner. I could look into the eyes of each of those people and tell them what it was like that day to be here as a family member. They do a job, but I would like to think that for a minute I had them seeing things from our point of view. And from the looks on most of their faces...and the tears that were flowing. They saw.

This time my story ended different... it ended in a thank you. A thank you from my family to those people, departments and employees that do their job. It's because they do that... that I still have the forum to discuss and talk about Chase.

Afterwards...we were well received and had open discussions about getting us back and getting this message out to larger groups and other hospitals. I hope this happens... I feel like I am doing right by Chase after each one of these talks. I feel like we take every single opportunity to talk about him and the benefits of organ donation... even from the donor family side. During this small gathering... we were asked to visit the ER and Nero ICU. So the staff there could see a first hand the benefits...of course Terry is the most important piece to that.

We agreed to visit both areas, but I will be honest here. I had real apprehension about it. If Brandon and Trevor would not have been there. I would not have went. With them there... I feel its more than strength in numbers...its strange...but especially in that hospital.

We went to the ER... nothing to unusual there, until I see the waiting room. The same pictures on the wall and I can still see the state police officer standing there. This time, I was a bit uncomfortable...this was a little too close. We got behind the desk at the nurses station and the ER manager gathers the staff. And then asks me to say a few words about who we are and why we are there. To do that is tough... a quick intro doesn't do it justice. But I was ok with it. And we were on our way to the 5th floor.

I knew this was going to be WAY more difficult than the ER. This is where the majority of memories are. I think this was a tough walk for Terry too. Him and I have discussed the hospital and that day enough for him to know a lot of what we were feeling... and I think he was feeling. As we started down the hall... I saw the first and very vivid reminder of where we were. There is a set of double doors that blocks the regular 5th floor rooms from the Nero ICU. These were the very doors that we had to close behind us that night when Trevor, Brandon and myself left our little brother for the last time. Terry knew... we had talked about those doors before. Upon going through them, Chase's room was straight ahead. #520 All the rooms had patients in them...except that one. An empty bed... a reminder that Chase is gone. God the image of that bed has been in my head for 2 weeks. Again the manager asked the staff to gather round. Again I said a couple sentences about who we are and why we are there. Small things jumped out at me... the counter top. I remember looking at the counter top at the nurses station when I was approached by the Gift of Life rep. Liz Ayotte. That is where the first conversation took place... a conversation that changed the lives of a lot of people... directly and indirectly. And still changes lives today.

All I can say is... have a conversation. Talk about organ donation. Move people... one conversation can change this world. I believe that.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Off-Season Update

2008 was our first season racing as a team, we have set goals and learned a lot along the way. Honestly, we are much further along than we thought we would be after only one year. Now the bar has been raised and it's up to us to keep the momentum moving forward. We want to keep everyone informed on the progress the team looks to make during the off-season.

There are several things that will need to be worked out this year. A couple take priority...

  • Gaining the federal 501(c)3 non-profit status

  • Setting the race calendar for 2009

    Both of these will need to be completed in order to come up with a budget for expenses. As everyone knows, traveling out of state is not going to be cheap. We will need the 501(c)3 status in order to to be eligible for sponsorship cash donations. Still, we think it will take 6-8 months to gain the federal non-profit recognition, so there will not be much help here this coming summer. We would like to set a travel schedule based on contacts we have with people in other states and the quality of race in that location. Please keep out-of-state friends and family in mind, if they could help us with lodging or travel.

    Fundraising - Ideas or activities are something else that we are thinking about. Talks have been in the works about hosting our own cycling or triathlon event. More information on this will be coming as it's available. We may need volunteers to work an event.

    Sponsorships - We have been in contact with a couple companies... including a new one. Clif Bar, they stated that we need to be recognized as a federal non-profit in order to donate money. Again, if you can think of a company that could help us out, please let us know. We have proposal packages that we could get to you.

Marketing - We are working on improving our image at each race. Designs for new posters and additional team banners are being looked at.

Training - Look for exciting news about our off-season training. I know that doesn't sound that exciting, but we have some great possibilities. As soon as we can get you more information on that...we will. If you would like to train with us this winter, please reply to this email. We would like to setup a group training schedule with anyone that is interested.

Recognition - The main goal and focus of this team will always be to raise awareness for organ and tissue donation. Gift of Life Michigan has posted this to their website, recognizing TRI for Life as a Shining Star.

Overall, the donor awareness has gone incredibly well. I think that every member or volunteer of this team can tell a story about impacting someone's life by educating them about transplantation. We have signed up several people to donor registries in Michigan and in Illinois. Next year, we will be spreading our message farther and wider

Monday, August 25, 2008

Chicago's Accenture Triathlon

Well, we traveled to Chicago for the largest race in the world, and it lived up to that and then some. First... the event. Oh man... it was triathlon heaven... an HUGE hotel full of athletes and bikes... it was awesome to see so many tri-bikes being wheeled up and down the hallways. So many athletes and gear all in one place. There was a 3 day triathlon Expo in the lower level of the hotel that had everything that you would every need in the sport of triathlon. A major shopping spree.

Sunday morning was a truly remarkable sight... sunrise over Lake Michigan and 9000 athletes ready to rock...

Brandon took off @ 6:04, Trevor and I were not starting until 8:45... I will save everyone the individual race details. But I would like to share the overall experience.

After the Swim start you had about a 1/2 mile run to the transition to get your bike. Sounds pretty simple... but check out the size of the transition area. We could not even fit it into one picture. Its HUGE!

Here is a picture of the finish line area that just seemed to NEVER come any closer while on the run.

I could or should do an entire post just about the race... but I am just not into it right now... maybe in a day or so.

And I guess the rest of the weekend might explain why I feel that way. We got to Chicago on Thursday... we were to meet up with a local triathlon team that was hosting a dinner and fundraiser in our honor. I am still blown away by that. But the evening was incredible. We sat in attendance while the team conducted their business followed by a nice dinner. After dinner I was to give a speech about the meaning of being a Donor Family and basically tell my story... after I finished... Terry (the guy that got my brothers heart) went next. I think the speeches went very well... not a dry eye left in the place and you could hear a pin drop throughout the entire thing. It was great to say the least. I still can't believe how much Libby and her Together We Tri team did for us.

I don't know if I can really put into words how grateful I am to everyone at Together We Tri... without them this trip would not have been possible and they were the nicest people you could ever meet. I will see them again...

At the Expo while on my shopping spree... we came across a booth that said... "Find a Cure or Die Trying". Naturally, thinking that somehow this guy might be doing something similar we asked him what he was all about. Danny has Cystic Fibrosis... he is trying to qualify for the Kona Ironman and will be running a marathon it Milan, Italy soon. He does this to stay in the best shape possible and raise money to find a cure for CF. Danny has about 50% lung capacity... and pushing himself to the limits is the best way for him to combat his disease.

We met another guy along the way. I have emailed him several times in the past... and he decided that he would like to have lunch with us on Saturday. He calls himself Breathin Steven. Steve had CF just like Danny, but 8 years ago he received a lung transplant. He was given the lungs of an 18 year old girl from Iowa. Steven now is that biggest Iowa supporter I have ever seen and is truly living his life in memory of Kari... his donor. After meeting him for a 45 minute lunch and saying our good-bye on a sidewalk full of people... my entire family and Steven were all left wondering what just happened... and why all the tears. It was an unforgettable meeting.

On Sunday... Trevor and I were sitting in the grass waiting for our swim to start... guess who walks up? Ole' breathin Steven... back again wearing more Iowa stuff. It seems like every 5 minutes the guy would tell us that we "rocked" or how "awesome" we were. He sees it more than we do, the effect that we could have while promoting the organ donation... and after hearing that from him. I know we are doing the right thing. Here is a final picture with us, Danny and Steven in it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How Can I Describe It?

Just got back from the US Transplant Games in Pittsburgh. Here is a little history before I try to put everything that happened into words. From my past experiences with the Transplant Games... I knew this was going to be big. My brothers were going with me this time, we had the magazine article (which was a big deal in the transplant community) and we have the triathlon team going strong. I guess I REALLY under-estimated just how big it was.

We arrived late afternoon on Friday, we had tickets to the Pirates baseball game and needed to get checked into the hotel and get moving over there. We met up with Jenny Klouse.... she is originally from Millington (our little home town) and is a Kidney recipient from Illinois now. Her mom was Chase's second grade teacher. We had a great time with her at the game and walking around downtown Pittsburgh afterwards.

Saturday morning, we were off to the Swimming events to watch Terry and Jerry. This was going to be the first events my brothers would experience. It seemed that the more people we were around, the more asked us about the magazine article. People from all over... South Carolina, Connecticut, Iowa and even New Mexico asked if we were the ones in the article. I was pretty surprised at how many people recognized us from that. We were taking pictures with people from all over and exchanging stories of personal tragedy and triumph. Terry and Jerry both received a medal in their events on Saturday.

Saturday evening was opening ceremonies and this is where things really took off. It starts with about 6000 people being lined up into teams and then living donors and always coming in last is the donor families...and its always entering to a standing ovation. From the first person to the last... it never lets up and is very emotional. The ceremony is always good, and this year Terry was selected to give a speech during it. My brothers and I went with him on stage and were introduced. Here are a couple pictures...

Terry is talking about Chase and holding the button with his picture on it.

Right after Terry finished his speech, a great picture and a great moment. The thing you can't see and definitely can't the standing ovation by about 20,000 people. It was pretty awesome.

Here is Terry and Trevor leaving the stage... another great picture and even better if you can picture everyone one their feet with tears in their eyes.

The day or so that followed the opening ceremonies were remarkable. We were approached by so many great people sharing their stories, their hugs and their tears with us. We have pictures with people and invitations to visit all over the US. It was remarkable how we were acknowledged after that. A true testament to Chase...

Here is another picture taken during the swim event... it is of us three, Kathy Homan the Team Manager for Team Michigan and Julie... the sister and living donor to Jerry.

I will have to post more about the experience and life lessons learned at this years games. It is so difficult to put this into a blog entry. I am thankful that my brothers enjoyed themselves and really saw what the Transplant Games are all about. I enjoyed spending time with them, I know it would not been the same without them. I will continue to thank God daily for the relationship that we have... and for all the things that they bring to my life.

More soon...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Some Good News and Some Not So Good....

Hello all...

I know that I am not very good at keeping things up to date... But I guess I prefer to give you substance over quantity. At least that is my reasoning.

I was off work all last week and that is never a good thing... yep you heard me right. I tend to work harder around the house. Which again was the case. I also can get distracted by not being in a regular schedule... I think I only ran twice and went on one bike ride. (but it was a 32 miler)

I am getting ready for the Transplant Games in Pittsburgh. I am pretty excited that Trevor and Brandon are going. I think they are going to be just as overwhelmed as I am everytime I go. It is truely amazing and I wish everyone could experience it once. We have some exciting events planned. On Friday we are going to the Pirates vs. Cardinals baseball game at PNC Park. It is supposed to be one of the best places to watch a game. So that is kinda cool.

On Saturday Terry (the guy the got Chase's heart) and Jerry (the kidney recipient on our tri team) swim for Team Michigan. Each will be in their own events but also on the same relay team. The opening ceremonies will also be on Saturday. Terry and I are going to be a part of that. Which is a pretty big deal... maybe 20,000 people or so. It is usually a pretty exciting thing.

Then there is the bad things that happen to good people... looks like my uncle has a long road. He had his first kemo treatment yesterday... We are all praying for the best and know he is a fighter.

A little more news that wasn't so good. We were chosen for a People Magazine article about the Transplant Games and our family. But I found out yesterday that the story was scrapped due to the AP getting the a hold of the story that was supposed to be a People Magazine exclusive. So know I am working with the reporter on getting the story for us and the triathlon team. She says that she is really going to push us getting in...but I need to write something up for the editors and make a presentation.

Family news... Cade was picked to play in an All-Star Baseball Tournament in a couple weeks... he is really pumped up about it. That is the only thing that the kids have going on... well, sports related thing that is going on for the entire month of July. A nice break from running here and there every night.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Big Fish... didn't get away

Well, it's over... and it really happened. I finished my first Olympic distance race. I have to say I was a little freaked out, but overall... I was confident I could finish. I just didn't want to embarrass myself in front of all the people there. For the most part... I am very happy with the race, the day and the first official event for Tri for Life. Here is the race recap....

Saturday - Terry (recipient of my brothers heart), Jerry (kidney recipient) and his daughter Chase (ok, sometimes things get really weird) came into town for a little pre-race get together. We went over to the course and setup the tent and showed them the course layout. After some good food and vi sting... it was off to bed early.

Race morning... Woke up around 4:45, had a bowl of oatmeal and started drinking water... We were out the door by 5:30 or so. We arrived at the park and I took all my stuff to the transition area to get setup. It was then off to the tent to make sure everything was in place and accounted for.

I heard that my heat was going first... first in the water. This is the only course I have done where it is 2 loops on the swim. I think that was a good thing for me. I didn't have to get intimidated by seeing a full 1500 meter swim course. That is a long ways. At about 7:45 I jumped in the water for a little warm up swim. I thought the water temp was perfect and I was suddenly very confident that I could do this. It was going to be a long slow Sunday morning cruise for me.

I was not as nervous when the race started... I started towards the back of the pack and went out pretty slow. I really didn't know what to expect being this was my first Olympic swim distance so I stayed slow and steady. The first 500 meters was a true battle... people pushing and kicking... climbing over, you name it. But I settled in and just cruised. Before I knew it, the first lap was over and I felt pretty good. The second lap was pretty uneventful...except for the couple of sprint wave athletes that were swimming on the wrong side of the buoys, coming head on into me. But I was fine getting out of the water... maybe a little "too" fine. I left a lot in the tank, but being my first one... I know what to expect next time.

Transition 1 - went fine... I have a new bike computer and while pushing the bike out of the transition area... it popped off. So I had to take time to go back and get it and pop it back on. Lesson learned... I can't push the bike by the stem next time.

Bike - I was pretty good on the bike. Although, it is the one area of the race I was hoping to do better. I was hoping for a least an average of 20 mph, I ended up with 19.5 mph. I can understand it... given my philosophy of trying not to blow my legs out before the run. I knew that was going to be a killer. So I took climbing the hills a little easier than I should have. except for the big one... that thing stays in the back of you mind the entire time... and when I got too it... I just blasted up it. So bike was good, not great.

Transition 2 - Smooth and pretty fast. Next time I will keep a small thing of water available and not rely on my bike water bottle. I think I could have been faster if Trevor's crap wasn't in my way. I mean he had a big enough lead... he didn't need to resort to that... just kidding Trev. It feels great when we are side-by-side like that. Looking back, that is a small memorable thing that really sticks out in my mind.

Run - Well, what can I say... I knew this was going to suck. I started out way too fast but couldn't slow down. During our training runs, I ran a 9:15 per mile pace. I told Trevor that if I could run 9:15 on race day, with those hills and follow the first 2 event... I would be ecstatic. The first 2 miles went by pretty quickly, I talked to a lot of people while running was enjoying myself. But after the sprint turn-around, things thin out a bit. I saw Trevor on his way back in, just as I was getting to the hills and he was coming out. The middle 2 miles really kicked my butt and I hit the wall at that point... I was running 9:30 or slower most of the time. I shuffled (or at least it felt like it) back to the park entrance... and I know its deceiving how far you still have to go. So I maintained the "keep some in the tank" mentality. I actually didn't start "running" until I saw the Finish area.

Overall, I achieved my goal of under 3 hours. But more than that, it was a great day. I met and talked to a lot of people. Several people came by our tent. Terry was introduced to the crowd and was well received. He was also able to hand out the awards after the race. What a great way to end the day. Lots of family and new friends on hand to see this. Very cool!