I’m pretty sure I’ve already talked in this blog about why I donated a kidney to my stepfather. It was the kind of decision that was automatic: if he needed a kidney and was healthy enough for the surgery, someone in the family should try to give him a kidney instead of waiting for some deceased soul to provide it. You make that decision easily, and when you get into the process, you sometimes have moments of pause. Sure you do. As much as a successful, issue-free donation doesn’t affect your day-to-day life afterward, the truth remains that you have forever changed the body that God gave you. And it is then your duty (as much as it ever was) to take care of your body. So, why did I decide to train for an Ironman triathlon after that?
I do have an answer to this question now. But it’s a question that has stalked me since I signed up for Ironman Arizona in November. It’s there when I wake up in the morning, when I’m swimming too slowly in the pool, when I’m sweating un-lady-like on the bike trainer, and when I’m standing in the cold waiting to run on a frozen trail. And, it’s definitely there when I go to bed feeling like I haven’t done enough but hope to do more tomorrow.
It’s early in my training, and I have visions of ramping up to a level I’ve never been at before. But in the meantime, it’s really important for me to know why I’m doing this.
It bothers me that this decision does not feel so automatic. Someone once said that if you have to ask why someone would do an Ironman, you’ll never understand. On one hand, it does feel like a natural progression: you get into triathlons, you do your first races, you try a couple half-Ironmans, and next, there’s only one thing left to try — a full Ironman. Why wouldn’t you?
Like I said, the kidney donation was almost a no-brainer (although I did pray a lot about it). But the Ironman is different for me. As much as it seems like the next logical step, I can still see a life where I’m fine if I never do an Ironman. I’m not particularly competitive, and I’m definitely not a daredevil. So, I wanted to find the reason within myself and answer the question why.
I’m not ashamed to admit that the answer came from a Facebook post by a fellow triathlete. And the answer is yet another question: what if? She didn’t want to live her life wondering “what if”. What if I could have done it and I didn’t try? I’ve already come close to the Ironman distances in my training in the past. I can see myself being able to do it. It really feels within my grasp. I’m not getting any younger. So, I really have to try.
This answer could have applied to my kidney donation as well. What if I had merely thought to myself about donating but didn’t offer it?
So, back to the kidney donation + Ironman question, I also have to think about the purpose of this blog. I wanted other donors and potential donors to know what one person’s experience has been following a donation. There’s just not a lot of info out there about what happens after you donate. I know how important it was to find out – just before I donated – that another donor had qualified for the Boston Marathon twice and did really well in it. That really gave me a boost; it was just the confidence I needed when my stomach was full of butterflies. So, if I am successful in completing this Ironman, perhaps that will mean something to other donors.
In the meantime, you just get to wait and hear how my training is going <smile>.
But that can be informative, too. It goes without saying that it’s important to take care of yourself. While donating a kidney shouldn’t prevent me from doing the race, I think I need to keep my particular situation in mind throughout. My strategies will not be exactly like everyone else’s. But then again, every triathlete probably has to do things in a way that suits them specifically.
So, while my decision to donate was automatic, and my decision to do an Ironman has required a bit more, um, … introspection, the question why can still be summed up with the same answer: What if?
It will be the one-year anniversary of my kidney donation on February 16 and I feel as close to normal as I think I ever will be. Thank you for keeping the blog, it has helped me to know what to expect. I’ve completed several races, including a half marathon, since the donation. Like you, it took time to get back to my pace but I remained patient and determined. It never ceases to amaze me what our bodies are capable of. If anything, I now push myself harder than before the donation. I look forward to future challenges!
Jeni – Congrats on your races and your upcoming donation anniversary! I should mention that now that I am beyond the one-year post-donation mark, I have been feeling stronger and not as tired. I still don’t know if I’ll get my running pace back all the way, but it’s nice to feel even more normal as time goes on 🙂 I have also taken a page from your book and incorporated more strength training this year. Here’s to a good year for both of us! -Jenn
I am in the process of undergoing the testing to be a kidney donor for my dad. I am a runner and have signed up for several races this year but I’m not sure what to expect post-donation and whether or not I’ll be able to do any of them (and when I’ll be able to get back to running, etc – so many questions). So I really appreciate this post and I look forward to reading more.
Hi Stephanie, Good luck with your testing. I was able to start running again about six weeks after the surgery. I worked up to six miles pretty quickly & did a 10k about three months after the surgery. I hope that helps. I did notice that I was much slower in my running for the whole year, but I think it’s getting better as time goes on. So, just be patient with yourself. -Jenn
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I just ran across your post. I am currently going through testing to be a donor. I’ve done two IMs in the past and am signed up or IMAZ in Nov. How was it for you?
Hi Sunny! Good luck with the testing and with IMAZ! I loved that race, and it is definitely still my favorite IM. Within the first year after donation, the longest race I did was a half-IM. It really seemed to take a year before I was totally back to 100%. But I was able to do shorter races within six months of the surgery. I hope all goes well for you!
Jenn – ookgirl – and all of you – this has been so helpful to me. I am new to triathlon, but completed IMBoulder last year and look forward to more, as well as other athletics I am involved in. I am now about to begin testing to be a donor. My concerns are not so much about IM, but just about being able to continue to have an athletic life, which is central to my health and wellbeing. Thank you so much, not only did I find kidney donation + ironman, but also + women. – Carrie