After a very busy week in Cleveland we have arrived home victorious. Here’s a silly video that provides some highlights, and/or you can read a recap of our events below (click on photos to make them big):
We got up bright and early to fly out to Cleveland. Luckily the lines were relatively short and everything went off without a hitch. Since we got in pretty early we weren’t able to check into the hotel, so we headed to the Convention Center to pick up our credentials and check out the sights.
While we were standing in out respective lines to check in, the pin trading began in earnest. I am not much of a collector, so Derek was in charge of distributing/trading. It is a little insane how cuckoo people get about trading pins. There were 44 teams competing from around the country and each team had at least one pin. Some teams had interlocking pins so you had to be savvy to get both in order to get the full set. This seems like a lot of work to me, so I laid low. Derek was pretty restrained, and was really lovely about giving away pins he’d collected to people who were trying to complete their set. We kept a few coveted pins like Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest. The smaller your team, the more coveted the pins are.
Once we were checked in, we walked over to the pool at Cleveland State so I could get some practice laps in before the meet on Sunday. It’s a really nice pool, and the water was nice and cool in comparison to the warm water at the Y where I normally swim. I took a practice start off the blocks and Derek said it looked normal so I stuck to just swimming laps.
Lifebanc, the organ procurement organization (OPO) for Ohio sponsors a 5k/10k race and walk every year, but this year it coincided with the Transplant Games. Most people ran or walked the 5k, but a few hearty folks went for the 10k prize, including Derek. He took off fast and started to feel the heat and the wind pretty quick. He watched as most of the competitors peeled off for the 5k and was left with about 8 other runners in front of him. So much for having some wind blockers. Despite wanting to walk, he kept running and ended up 9th overall for the race, 2nd in his age division for the Lifebanc race, 1st in his age division for the Transplant Games, and 1st overall in for the TGA based on time. He was tired and hot, but happy he gave it his all.
We wandered a bit, got some lunch and then made our way back to the hotel for a shower so we could get ready for the opening ceremonies. The games honor donor families for making life possible for the many participants who have received a life saving gift. Accordingly, the opening ceremonies are a heartfelt tribute to the donors who shared their life with so many.
After an exhausting official first day, we were happy to collapse in bed.
Leading up to the games I had been swimming fairly regularly at the Y, but I was still nervous about the three races I’d signed up for. Lucky for me, when I got to the pool I met a new friend right away, Jennifer, a 3rd generation Oregonian who is a veteran of the games and she calmed me right down.
Jennifer contracted E.coli as an infant which caused her kidneys to fail. As a tiny baby she went through dialysis, and while her kidneys recovered and began to function again, the scar tissue left its mark. Jennifer received her kidney from her mom 19 years ago when her kidneys finally failed, and became a mom herself 4 years ago, something she never thought she’d be able to do. And she is a BEAST in the pool. A straight up beast.
One of the best parts about the transplant games is realizing that everyone has an amazing story to tell, and that despite being in a room full of strangers, you share something so profound and life-changing: understanding what it means to have a second chance. I was so humbled to be in the presence of so many courageous and heroic organ recipients and they were generous and kind to me when they learned I was a donor. It’s easy for me to deflect attention back to Derek, but everyone I met made me feel so proud of what I was able to do. More than anything, they all know what it means to wait.
It was an absurdly long day at the pool, but it was great fun to hang out on the deck and hear everyone’s story and cheer them on as they raced in the pool. Jennifer, Laura, Max, Matt, James: you are all amazing and inspiring to me, and you’re all so badass in the pool I can’t wait to keep swimming at the Y to get my times down. I promise that I’ll make y’all proud.
I managed to squeak out 3 silver medals and it was such a thrill to be racing in the pool again after all these years. I actually had fun swimming the 50 free and wished I could have tried again just to see if I could go faster.
Derek – The morning was a little bonkers between signing up for the track and field events, and the 800m being the second race of the day. Thankfully, the 1500m race walk was the first event, and there were 5 heats, so there was plenty of time to figure out what was going on. Out of the 35 people running the 800m, I was the only 30-39 year old organ recipient. I was happy knowing that I really was just running for a personal best. I was in the first heat, and when the gun went off, 4 people took off running and I was on their trail. I finished the first 200m in ~45 seconds (right on pace!) and kept running. I was able to pass 2 guys in the second lap, and finished third in the heat with a time of 2:52. Gold Medal! https://www.strava.com/activities/608069137
For the rest of the day we cheered on other Team New England competitors and tried to stay out of the sun. I opted not to throw the discus, as it was a bus ride away. I was happy practicing the discus leading up to the event, and didn’t need an official distance recorded.
Late in the day, I ran the 1500m. My goal was sub 6 minutes and I was a little concerned having tired legs from the 10k and the 800m from the morning, but I was relaxed, and felt like I could run a decent pace. In my heat I had a guy who ran a 2:28 earlier, so I knew I wouldn’t win the heat. I once again ran my own race, with even pacing and a strong finish (possibly waiting too long for a kick) and finished in 5:56! Exactly what I wanted to run. I earned a silver medal in my age group with a fellow competitor besting my time by 20 seconds.
I was super happy with my running – I ran exactly the times I wanted in the 800m and 1500m, and considering the heat and wind in the 10k I did very well. Most important to me was actually losing to a fellow organ recipient in the 1500m – It’s a reminder that there are awesome people similar to me that keep pushing themselves to get better. It’s very inspiring to keep running.
Logan – You may recall that I signed up for the 100m & the 200m dash and didn’t train for either. That caught up to me quickly when after running about 20 meters of the 100, my quads gave out. Whoops! Apparently when your body is 40 and your mind is still 14 you can strain your quads pretty severely by trying to bust out of the blocks. I finished by limping to the finish with the crowd cheering me on. Lesson learned. Walking was a struggle for a couple of days, but nothing ice packs, Advil, and an Epsom soak couldn’t help. Needless to say I scratched the 200m.
Bocce! We signed up because we thought it would be a relaxing event. Turns out the registration got screwed up: they were supposed to limit the registration to 32 teams of 2, but instead there were 64 teams of 2. Some people got turned away, everyone else got paired up with another team to make it 4 on 4. Tensions were definitely running high. The courts were super fast and fun to play on, but we were a little relieved when we lost. For some people this was their best chance to medal, but for us it was just a leisure sport. I know if the situation had been reversed and there was this big of a snafu at the pool or the track Derek and I would have been really disappointed, so I do understand why people were upset.
All in all, we had a great time, made some great friends, and were thoroughly exhausted. We hope you enjoy seeing the photos from our adventure.