Transplant Ironmen

When I first signed up for Ironman Arizona, I knew of at least one kidney transplant recipient who had done an Ironman, but I thought there had to be others.


I found Shad Ireland when looking for kidney transplant recipients who had done triathlons.  It amazed me when I learned that Shad had done an Ironman, not only after transplant, but also on dialysis.  And it was his first triathlon (and Lake Placid is not an easy course).  Shad was the data point that made me believe that I could do it.   Shad now does a handful of Ironman events per year, and I’m really hoping he’ll be in Arizona (he told me he was planning to be there, so I’m excited about getting to see him in person).   In my world, Shad is the definition of a bad ass.

Dwight Kroening

Dwight Kroening became the first heart transplant recipient to run an Ironman.  A Canadian, he chose Ironman Canada (another not so easy course) to attack.  His account of his race is pretty amazing.

Scott Johnson

Every breath to me is truly a gift.”  These are the first words of a video on Scott Johnson, the first double lung transplant recipient to finish an Ironman.  This one still gets me, because cardiovascular is everything to a distance athlete, and transplanted lungs handling the 140.6 mile race seem like a miracle, what it is.  More info at:

Who’s Next?  What’s Next?

For anyone who has tracked the Kona race (Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii), you’ve probably seen a part of Kyle Garlett‘s story.  A cancer survivor and heart transplant recipient, Kyle raced in Kona last year, and missed the swim cutoff by seconds.  This year (just this Saturday), Kyle was back to tackle the brutality of the ocean, the burning asphalt, and the grueling marathon course.  Kyle’s courage astounds me, because despite my challenges and obstacles, I am still a conservative person at heart who attempts what I know I can succeed at.  I followed Kyle’s race, and was so excited that he had made the swim cutoff and was on the bike.  And then this message on

We just got some sad news from the course – Kyle Garlett has had to pull out due to low blood pressure. Because of the heart transplant he had four years ago (tomorrow is the official four year anniversary) the nerves to his heart were severed, so his heart doesn’t respond to the same stimuli the other athletes in the race will use to control their heart rate. (In other words, when other athletes see a hill, their heart will respond at some level and start beating faster. His heart only beats faster when his body gets an adrenalin rush.) Needless to say, that poses quite a challenge during an Ironman. We’re sorry to hear that Kyle has had to call it a day, but remain in awe for his bravery to just be here.

The news hit me pretty hard.  I’m sure it hit Kyle even harder.  And then this post from Kyle, which blows me away.  He’s incredibly positive even at what has to be yet another of the toughest moments of his life.

As you all heard, medical pulled me from the bike course because of dizziness and low blood pressure. It’s hot and I spent a lot of energy on the swim. It was really choppy out there but I was still able to swim 20 minutes faster. It somewhat blunts the overall disappointment of the day. But don’t worry, my spirit and my dream remain strong. IM mentioned getting me into IM Arizona at the end of November. No decisions today but I definitely think I’m leaning that way. And of course there is Beach2Battleship with the Tin Men on Nov. 13. So, today was a disappointing obstacle to be sure. But by no means is this obstacle permanent.

I’m excited that Kyle and I might be racing together in Arizona, and that hopefully I’ll find some time to say hello before the race.  The Beach2Battleship he mentions is a Ironman distance race where he’s found two other heart transplant recipients, and they are going to do a relay, with Kyle on the bike.  Unbelievable.

Any others out there?

If you know of any other Ironman finishers who are transplant recipients, please let me know.  Or if you even know of other transplant triathletes, I’m always “collecting them.”

One thought on “Transplant Ironmen

  1. Hi I to am considering completing an ironman I’m a kidney transplant of 9 years currently I’m the athlete at the world transplant games who achieved 5 gold medals and 2 silvers in Gothenburg 2011 I’ve since gone on to training up to half marathons and hope to work towards an ironman in 2014. Any thing of benefit or advice you can give me would be much appreciated
    Regards stephen Jarvis

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