By: Chris Wilno
It may be odd to say it but my catalyst into endurance sports was hardship and loss. While I had run cross-country and track in high school, I had taken a 17-year break from running until my father was diagnosed with cancer in September 2002. My father fought for 15 months but ultimately lost his battle. He was doing his best to fight the disease. Ten months into his diagnosis, my daughter Isabella passed away at birth. It was a horrible day for my wife and me. It is the one part of the story that never seems to heal. I also believe it was the beginning of the end for my Dad. He was fighting to see his granddaughter and this loss took away his will. The last part of this story takes place soon after my Dad passed away. My wife had become pregnant again when tests came back tied to the loss of our daughter Isabella. Those tests led to a cancer diagnosis for my wife. What was already considered a high-risk pregnancy became an even scarier situation. We had tough decisions to make: Do we fight the cancer first risking the baby or have the baby first risking the cancer gaining strength? We decided to protect our little one and on October 29, 2004 our very healthy son, Jaden, was born. Two weeks later my wife was in the hospital dealing with the cancer. I am happy to report that she beat the cancer on this occasion and five years later when it returned.
When my father was at the end of his journey, I was feeling quite helpless because there was nothing to do but wait. While sitting around watching my father die, I came up with the idea to run a marathon. That led me to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and specifically their endurance sports program called Team in Training. I ran a marathon to honor my father and I raised funds to honor him, Isabella and my wife. That one race turned into many marathons, a 50-mile ultra marathon, multiple century rides and four Ironman distance triathlons. Along the way, I have raised $250,000 all of which led me to be chosen to represent Team in Training at the 2017 Ironman World Championship. I have a goal to raise $130,000 to honor everyone touched by cancer and to hopefully lead us to a cancer-free world. Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it is done.” There was a time when a marathon would have seemed impossible but I did it. An Ironman would have seemed impossible but I did it. There was a time when a cancer-free world might have seemed impossible, too, but I believe we can do it and hope you might join me. We can make a difference. We can change the world. We just have to stick together and get it done.
The Ironman World Championship will be a big challenge for me. An accident on the bike led to multiple surgeries, which has me far less than 100%. In addition to that, the conditions in Kona are less than ideal for me. I whither in the heat and suffer cramps that are tough to work through. I have tried many different approaches but nothing has ever worked for me. This is why I am excited about HOTSHOT. Since using HOTSHOT, I have seen huge improvements on long rides and in the pool where I really struggle with cramps. For the first time in my life, I am looking forward to the warmer months approaching so I can get in some long workouts in the middle of the day knowing I have a good chance to stay strong start to finish. This race is not about me. It is about raising vital funds to lead us to a cure and HOTSHOT is giving me the best chance possible to make this race a reality.
Follow Chris’ journey here on his website.
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