I didn’t come to my ultimate athletic goal - to be the first ever heart transplant recipient to complete the Kona Ironman - lightly. There is fear, anxiety, excitement, doubt, and confidence all stitched into one tapestry of emotions regarding this challenging journey. And I am acutely aware that this is no easy or small task.
But it is with your unquestioned support, and my own drive fueled by the courage that I see in my fellow patients - many staring down challenges far greater than my own past and future hurdles - that not only makes this a possibility, but will lead to its concluding reality. A reality that eluded me on October 10, 2009, three years to the day after I got the call that a donor heart had been found, when I missed the swim cutoff in Kona by a mere 8 seconds. But a reality that awaits for me on October 9, 2010, when my stronger, faster, and better athletic self takes a second crack at that most famous of courses along the coast of Hawaii's Big Island.
The journey to that finish line spot began more than 20 years ago when I was originally diagnosed with cancer as a high school senior. Surely there could be no greater exclamation point on my recovery and ultimate survival these last two decades than to complete this mountain of a challenge. And I can’t imagine there will be a greater sense of accomplishment than to hear these six words as I cross that famous finish line on Ali’i Drive: “Kyle Garlett, you are an Ironman.”
Why Ironman? Why Kona? Why do something so hard?
Well, because I can. Because I shouldn’t be able to. Because for so long I couldn’t. Because there are so many that I know who never will. Because the scars on my chest, hip, and shoulder tell my story. They tell the story of my heart donor - a man who exited this world far too early, but in death left behind the most precious gift imaginable.
Because I can now finally scale this mountain. Because however big and challenging it may be, summiting this peak is no longer impossible. It really is this simple: because now I can.
Athletic Accomplishments Since Heart Transplant
> September 16, 2007 - Malibu Triathlon (Finisher)
> April 6, 2008 - Lavaman Triathlon (Finisher)
> July 11-16, 2008 - U.S. Transplant Games
- Gold medal in 100m Freestyle
- Bronze medail in 200m Freestyle
> March 29, 2009 - Lavaman Triathlon (Finisher)
> July 19, 2009 - Vineman 70.3 (Half-Ironman)
> August 15, 2009 - Utah Half-Ironman (Finisher)
> October 10, 2009 - Ford Ironman World Championship