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?