Eight-year-old Connor was diagnosed with leukemia when he was just 1.5-years-old. He underwent chemo for 3 years and 3 months and celebrated his last dose with a family party. For the next couple of years Connor endured several finger pokes for routine blood tests. Sadly, his family learned in February 2017 that his leukemia came back.
Connor’s mom, Jen, shared, “He didn’t even feel sick but the doctors said he had to fight the bad guys in his blood and start taking chemo again. This second time the chemo was a lot harder- it made him really sick and he had to stay in the hospital a lot.”
Connor had a bone marrow transplant on August 1, 2017, from his sister Chloe. His health continued to improve but he couldn’t be around people or go to public places because of germs. He spent most of his time at home and was homeschooled to stay on track with his school work. Connor was able to FaceTime with his class.
One year after his bone marrow transplant, a biopsy revealed that his leukemia was back for a third time. He spent over a month at Children’s Hospital Colorado getting chemo in preparation for CAR T-cell immunotherapy.
CAR-T personalized cellular therapy is a revolutionary approach to treating cancer by using genetic engineering to reprogram the patient’s own immune T cells to find and kill cancer cells. It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For the past two decades, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) has invested more than $40 million in CAR-T research and development. Connor was the sixth person at Children’s Hospital Colorado to receive CAR-T.
Connor had a check-up 34 days after his CAR-T infusion and again most recently during the holiday season at 61 days post-treatment. The results were positive, showing no signs of leukemia. Jen shared, “This was the BEST Christmas present ever for our family!!! His fight isn’t over but this is a huge victory and we are soooo very thankful!”
You can click here to learn more about CAR T-cell immunotherapy.
Connor has been an inspiration to Denver-area teammates training for the Wildflower Experience and other endurance events through The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training, the world’s largest and most successful endurance sports fundraising and training program. Team In Training (TNT) offers a lineup of innovative high caliber domestic and international events, and prepares teammates for marathons, half marathons, and triathlons, as well as cycling, climbing and hiking experiences.
Since its inception in 1988, Team In Training has raised more than $1.5 billion, trained more than 650,000 people and helped LLS invest more than $1.2 billion in blood cancer research such as CAR T-cell immunotherapy.
“We all come to TNT with different our own personal stories and reasons for being involved with LLS,” shared Heather Collins, Team Captain for Team In Training Fundraising Team Connor McStrong. “Coming together to support our Honored Hero is what makes us a team. You realize that what you are a part of is bigger than just you, and your goals and your training. Watching Connor and his family go through the different stages of his treatment really brings the LLS mission to life and continually inspires me to keep doing this kind of work.”
Training for the Wildflower Experience begins on February 2, 2019. Team In Training will get you to the finish line with experienced coaches, training resources and a supportive community of athletes of all skill levels. Teammates also have access to world-class fundraising tools to help them reach their goal to fund blood cancer research.
“Before I joined Team in Training, all of my training was ‘solo’,” shared Heather. “I was hesitant about running with a team. Now I can’t imagine anything else! The encouragement and support from day one of training through event weekend helps me stay motivated. Instead of going into the event weekend nervous and uncertain, I now know I’ll have TNT Staff, coaches, supporters and teammates there to help me through. I find as much joy in cheering on my teammates as I do crossing that finish line myself!”
Join the team for the Wildflower Experience. To learn more, click here. Use code 303TRI for free Team In Training registration ($100 value, expires 1/31/19).
Those reasons often transition into causes and those causes are often taken on by a group of people working to help the same cause and obviously most of those causes involve medical conditions, awareness and advocacy.
Clearly many things motivate people to exercise, train and perhaps ultimately compete. We all know of someone inspired by unfortunate circumstances that might have impacted their life or of those they care about. The reasons are countless and often tear jerking and deeply personal.
This past week, 303radio sat down with Dr. James DeGregori PhD and Brett Kessler, DDS to talk about the community of like minded people they train with–Team and Training.
Team in Training is the largest charity endurance training program in the world. They have over 650,000 athletes that have raised over $1 billion to fight cancer, Leukemia and Lymphoma more specifically. Like many teams the connections and friends that are made ultimately make cause the greatest memories.
In this interview James and Brett talk about those connections, their own personal reasons and why’s, but more, they both know Leukemia and Lymphoma first hand as medical professionals that work directly with those effected and by doing research to help find a cure.
Not only will you learn how Team in Training helped them compete in century rides, marathons and even the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, but you will learn a little about the disease from people on the front lines and extremely driven advocates that will likely offer you some inspiration into your own why.
Gene Dykes of Pennsylvania averages 6:39 pace and breaks Ed Whitlock’s famous mark.
Gene Dykes, a 70-year-old retired computer programmer who discovered a talent for distance running late in life, set a world record for his age group in the marathon on December 15 in Jacksonville, Florida.
Dykes ran 2:54:23, breaking the previous record—2:54:48—set by the great Canadian runner Ed Whitlock (when he was 73) by 25 seconds. Whitlock ran his record, thought by many to be untouchable, in 2004.
Dykes, who averaged 6:39 pace for the 26.2 miles, told Runner’s World after the race that he wasn’t sure that his achievement had sunk in yet.
“My first thought was that this really frees up my schedule for next year,” he said. He can sign up for the races he enjoys—ultramarathons and hard marathons on courses that aren’t record-eligible—instead of chasing Whitlock’s mark.
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A frequent racer, Dykes has a knack for recovering quickly from difficult efforts. In October, he ran the Toronto Marathon in 2:55:17 to come within 30 seconds of the age-group record. Then just two weeks ago, he ran an ultra in San Francisco, the Vista Verde Skyline 50K (31 miles) with his daughter on December 1, and the California International Marathon on December 2. It’s a highly unusual racing schedule for an elite athlete.
Kyle Coon has been totally blind since age 6. That hasn’t kept him from rock climbing at 9, climbing Kilimanjaro at 15, and, oh yeah, becoming the fastest totally blind person to ever finish an Ironman race.
KUSA — When Kyle Coon lost his sight at age 6, he says he got depressed.
But that didn’t last long.
“I actually became a competitive rock climber when I was 8 or 9-years-old,” he said.
He climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro when he was 15, captained his high school wrestling team for two years and started doing triathlons a few years ago.
“It’s definitely become a passion and a real lifestyle, and just because I’m doing it blind, it’s just, you know – I’m just any other, any other athlete out there trying to have fun and compete against myself and fellow athletes,” he said.
Then, in 2016, he did his first Ironman race: 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles biking and 26.2 miles running. It all has to be finished under 17 hours.
“It took me just under 16 hours to complete the full thing, and I think I walked the entire marathon,” Coon said.
Brett Kessler was helping blood cancer patients long before it became personal. He did an oncology fellowship after dental school where his focus was on treating patients affected by blood cancer. Then, he moved to Colorado in 1999 and joined The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society‘s (LLS) Team In Training to meet new people, train and raise money for blood cancer research. He then went on to be a triathlon coach for the program.
Brett shared, “I did not treat this population anymore and still wanted to support them. I was hooked.”
Brett’s mom was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) eight years later. She took imatinib (Gleevac®) through clinical trials which were funded by LLS. Sadly, Brett’s mom passed away in 2016.
He shared, “I felt like I directly contributed to her care from the work I did with LLS. The universe works in amazing ways as Gleevec was not even approved when I started with Team In Training.”
The fundraising Brett has done for the LLS mission through Team In Training is in memory of his mom but is giving hope to future patients through the efforts of local researchers.
The work of Dr. Dan Pollyea and his team of clinical researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine is funded by grants such as those from LLS. Three years ago, the team began a clinical trial program for the first therapy that could effectively eradicate leukemia stem cell populations. Dr. Pollyea shared that if you can really eradicate the leukemia stem cells, then you can potentially cure this disease. The results so far have been described as “unbelievable” because they can get 80-90% of people into complete remission with their approach.
The work of Dr. James DeGregori at the University of Colorado School of Medicine has also been funded by LLS. He is researching how the human body ages and its effects on how cancer cells find a way to take hold. He is looking at how can we mitigate those changes and interfere with cancer growth with clinical intervention. Dr. DeGregori’s team has done some work on mice to reduce cancer incidences but will they will be approaching their work with humans a bit differently when the time comes.
“As a practicing dentist in Denver, several of my patients have had various forms of blood cancers,” shared Brett. “Knowing that we have some of the best treatments available here in Denver due to the research of people like Dr. Pollyea and Dr. DeGregori makes me feel good that they have a chance to beat this awful disease. Twenty-five years ago, many of these diagnoses were a death sentence. Now they are manageable.”
The success of local researchers continues to inspire Brett. He earned a coveted spot in the 2018 IRONMAN® World Championship event in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, crossing the finish line this past October. He is still raising funds for this event and has raised $67,000 and counting in memory of his mom.
“This is an emotional journey for me,” shared Brett. “I am able to honor my mom by bringing awareness and raising money to help eradicate blood cancers. I am also able to honor the many people who are connected to the disease that I have met along the way.”
Team In Training is the world’s largest and most successful endurance sports fundraising and training program. Since its inception in 1988, Team In Training has raised more than $1.5 billion, trained more than 650,000 people and helped LLS invest more than $1.2 billion in blood cancer research.
Team In Training offers a lineup of innovative high caliber domestic and international events, and prepares teammates for marathons, half marathons, and triathlons, as well as cycling, climbing and hiking experiences, with experienced coaches, training resources, a supportive community and world-class fundraising tools.
Since 2013, Smile Train’s endurance fundraising program, Smile Train Team EMPOWER has partnered with IRONMAN as an official charity partner to help raise funds and awareness for children with clefts in the developing world. A global endurance fundraising program of Smile Train, Team EMPOWER is the world’s largest cleft charity and gives athletes all around the world the opportunity to make their race count by providing 100%-free, safe, high-quality surgery and comprehensive cleft care for children. Smile Train Team EMPOWER athletes have helped more than 14,700 children.
Tis the season for discounts for your favorite endurance athlete! Here are a few partners from 303 offering you smoking deals to kick off your holiday season!
Blast Radius Coffee Check out the special Blast Radius Gift Pack. It’s perfect for those coffee-loving caffeine junkies on your holiday gift list. Enjoy the Cyber Monday discount of 15% off on all online orders. Enter the code “303C15″at checkout. Promotion expires Dec 3rd.
Blue Competition Cycles
Special Cyber Monday Offer from Blue Competition Cycles. Get a FREE Stages Power Meter with the purchase of any Triad Elite triathlon super-bike. Use discount code: “Stages303exclusive”
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — USA Triathlon today announced the roster for the 2019 USA Paratriathlon Resident Team, an elite squad based at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Melissa Stockwell (Chicago, Ill.), Kendall Gretsch (Downers Grove, Ill.) and Kyle Coon (Carbondale, Colo.) will join current resident team athletes Allysa Seely (Glendale, Ariz.), Howie Sanborn (Denver, Colo.) and Hailey Danz (Wauwatosa, Wis.) as they train for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and other elite races on the International Triathlon Union circuit.
The resident team first opened its doors in April as the fifth Paralympic sport to call the Colorado Springs campus home. USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach Derick Williamson (Colorado Springs, Colo.) is the program’s head coach.
HAMPTON UNIVERSITY BECOMES FIRST HBCU TO ADD WOMEN’S TRIATHLON AS A VARSITY SPORT
NCAA Division I program in Hampton Virginia, to receive HBCU-focused grant from USA Triathlon Foundation
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — USA Triathlon, along with Hampton University President Dr. William R. Harvey and Director of Athletics Eugene Marshall, Jr., today announced that Hampton University will introduce women’s triathlon as a varsity sport starting in the fall of 2019. The school, located in Hampton, Virginia, is the first-ever HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) to participate in the sport at the varsity level.
The addition of the Hampton women’s triathlon program is made possible through a $225,000 grant from the USA Triathlon Foundation, which was reserved for the first HBCU that added the sport at the varsity level in a proactive effort to increase diversity in collegiate triathlon. The grant will be distributed over a five-year period and may support travel, equipment, coaching, scholarships and other expenses related to building a sustainable varsity program. 101918 hampton logo_406.png
All other varsity women’s triathlon programs, including future HBCUs, have the opportunity to apply for the standard USA Triathlon Foundation Women’s Emerging Sport Grant.
USA Triathlon is planning a number of other initiatives focused on HBCU community engagement, including an indoor triathlon series at HBCU campuses, an HBCU triathlon combine to identify multisport talent, a campus rep program and a professional development program for HBCU students interested in working in the Olympic movement.
These initiatives are part of USA Triathlon’s larger mission to increase diversity in triathlon. The organization has been recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee for two consecutive years for its diversity and inclusion efforts, receiving the USOC’s Advancing Diversity & Inclusion Award in 2017 and the Diversity & Inclusion Choice Award in 2018.
“Hampton University’s addition of a varsity women’s triathlon program is cause for celebration for many reasons,” said Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon CEO. “USA Triathlon is in the process of collaborating with HBCUs on a variety of initiatives to increase diversity in triathlon at the youth and collegiate level, and this is an important step in that direction. The academic and athletic administration at Hampton have proven to be leaders by committing to this unique opportunity for female student-athletes, who will shape the future of our sport for years to come.”
“This is another example of Hampton University leading the way,” said Hampton University President Dr. William R. Harvey. “I am proud of the Department of Athletics team that made the Hampton University women’s triathlon program a reality.”
A national search for a head coach will commence immediately, and the athlete recruitment process will begin as soon as a coach is hired.
Hampton becomes the sixth NCAA Division I program and the 26th school overall to sponsor women’s triathlon as a varsity sport. Other programs in USA Triathlon’s Mideast Region include Belmont Abbey College (Belmont, N.C., DIII), Davis & Elkins College (Elkins, W.V., DII), East Tennessee State University (Johnson City, Tenn., DI), Queens University of Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C., DII) and Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky., DIII).
The NCAA named triathlon an Emerging Sport for Women in 2014, a designation that gives the sport a 10-year window to demonstrate sustainability at the NCAA level.
Women’s collegiate triathlon is a fall sport. The varsity season, which is comprised of three regional qualifiers and the Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championship, features sprint-distance races covering a 750-meter open water swim, draft-legal 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run.
For more information about triathlon as an NCAA Emerging Sport for Women, visit usatriathlon.org/ncaa. For questions regarding varsity collegiate women’s triathlon events and programming, contact Jessica Welk at Jessica.email@example.com.
What others are saying about the addition of women’s triathlon at Hampton University:
Amy Wilson, Managing Director, NCAA Office of Inclusion
“Congratulations to Hampton University on adding women’s triathlon — an NCAA emerging sport — and further enhancing its remarkable tradition of providing meaningful opportunities for student-athletes. I commend USA Triathlon for partnering with Hampton University through its impactful grant program, as well as for its extensive plans to engage with HBCUs across the country to increase the number of diverse student-athletes participating in intercollegiate triathlon.”
John Cassimatis, President, USA Triathlon Foundation
“The USA Triathlon Foundation is proud to present Hampton University with grant funding to build a sustainable women’s varsity triathlon program. The Foundation’s mission is to open pathways to triathlon for all, and a key component of that is increasing racial and ethnic diversity in our sport. Hampton’s presence in the NCAA triathlon family means that young women with dreams of attending an HBCU can now consider triathlon as a collegiate sport option for the first time, which opens new opportunities both academically and athletically.”
Shelley C. Davis, Senior Associate Commissioner and SWA, Big South Conference
“There is tremendous significance in Hampton University adding triathlon. Not only does this provide additional opportunities for women to compete in the sport, but Hampton is also the first Historically Black College/University and Big South Conference member institution to sponsor triathlon. It is exciting to see the growth of triathlon as an NCAA Emerging Sport, and the Big South looks forward to celebrating Hampton’s success and exposing the sport to the rest of our member institutions.”
Charles Harris, Executive Vice President of Averett University, Former Commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and Hampton University Alumnus
“I am delighted to offer congratulations to Hampton for taking an innovative step into offering women’s triathlon as a varsity intercollegiate sport. Hampton has a 151-year history of being a pathfinder for opportunities. It comes as no surprise that under the leadership of President Dr. William R. Harvey and Athletic Director Eugene Marshall, Jr., they would seize the opportunity to take a leadership role in opening a new pathway for women in sport. This announcement is the first in what I anticipate will be a wellspring of unique opportunities for HBCU student-athletes to participate in sport at the highest level possible.”
Dr. Tekemia Dorsey, CEO, International Association of Black Triathletes
“Hampton University’s partnership with USA Triathlon provides a pathway into the collegiate arena for the sport at an HBCU for young black women from urban communities around the world. As IABT’s Youth & Junior Club Programs continue to expand here in Maryland through partnerships with urban local school systems, we are now able to advocate, support and encourage enrollment in Hampton University’s triathlon program. I have great hope that other HBCUs will come on board to introduce the program, especially in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area. This has been an initiative of mine for several years, and I am ecstatic to see it come to fruition. Historic, groundbreaking, monumental. Great job, Hampton University and USA Triathlon!”
Tony Brown, Founder and President, Black Triathletes Association
“On behalf of the Black Triathletes Association (BTA), I would like to congratulate USA Triathlon and Hampton University on this landmark achievement. It has always been the mission of BTA to promote the sport of triathlon to the black community, and this partnership exemplifies the importance of diversity and inclusion in collegiate-level athletics. Several of the member athletes and volunteers of BTA are HBCU alum and have expressed overwhelming praise and gratitude in this endeavor. We are committed to a multisport lifestyle and look forward to supporting the success of the NCAA women’s triathlon team at Hampton University.”
Current Varsity Women’s Collegiate Triathlon Programs (as of Oct. 30, 2018)
NCAA Division I
Arizona State University (Tempe, Ariz.)
East Tennessee State University (Johnson City, Tenn.)
Hampton University (Hampton, Va.)
University of San Francisco (San Francisco. Calif.)
University of South Dakota (Vermillion, S.D.)
Wagner College (Staten Island, N.Y.)
NCAA Division II
American International College (Springfield, MA)
Belmont Abbey College (Belmont, N.C.)
Black Hills State University (Spearfish, S.D.)
Colorado Mesa University (Grand Junction, Colo.)
Daemen College (Amherst, N.Y.)
Davis & Elkins College (Elkins, W.V.)
Drury University (Springfield, Mo.)
Montana State University Billings (Billings, Mont.)
Queens University of Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C.)
St. Thomas Aquinas College (Sparkill, N.Y.)
Southern Wesleyan University (Central, S.C.)
NCAA Division III
Calvin College (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
Concordia University Wisconsin (Mequon, Wis.)
Millikin University (Decatur, Ill.)
Milwaukee School of Engineering (Milwaukee, Wis.)
North Central College (Naperville, Ill.)
Northern Vermont University (Johnson, Vt.)
Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.)
Trine University (Angola, Ind.)
Willamette University (Salem, Ore.)
About the USA Triathlon Foundation
The USA Triathlon Foundation was created in 2014 by the USA Triathlon Board of Directors as an independent tax-exempt 501(c)(3) entity. Under the leadership of its Trustees and Committee members, the Foundation serves as a means to create a healthier America through triathlon, and seeks to transform lives by opening up new pathways to the sport for all, especially those who are otherwise underserved. The USA Triathlon Foundation operates with the belief that every child should have the chance to participate, every paratriathlete should have the opportunity to compete, and every aspiring elite athlete should be able to chase his or her Olympic dream. Since the Foundation’s inception, more than $1.9 million has been provided to worthy causes and organizations that support its mission. Donations to the USA Triathlon Foundation ensure America’s youth are introduced to the benefits and fun of a multisport lifestyle, athletes with disabilities receive the training, support and gear to be able to participate and excel, and the best aspiring young athletes have a chance to pursue their Olympic Dreams. Visit usatriathlonfoundation.org to learn more and donate today.
About USA Triathlon
USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,300 events and connects with more than 400,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work at the grassroots level with athletes, coaches, and race directors – as well as the USA Triathlon Foundation – USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the ITU and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).
The next Team Colorado event/ride will be May 20th at Tom Watson park.
This is a special event as we pay tribute to a well known, and well loved Colorado triathlete, Joe Vrablik who recently passed away. He was coached by D3 and good friends with Michael Stone, owner of Colorado Multisport. Both organizations will be present at this meeting and would like to share a few moments and stories with you at the ride briefing. Joe had just qualified for Kona through the legacy program. His story is well documented and subject of a couple of IRONMAN special videos. Tim Brosious, race director of IRONMAN Boulder will be on hand as well. This is what Team Colorado is really all about, the community and supporting each other, please come join this last meet up before IRONMAN Boulder.
We will ride, and D3 will have coaches on hand to help us break into groups and try to sort of ride together and finish about the same time so we can enjoy a picnic/tailgate. We are working food details and park accommodations so stay tuned–it very well could be a byoe–bring your own everything- but we shall see.
Afterwards will be a great time to chat with coaches and get some last minute training ideas if you are doing IMB and to ask Tim about anything to do with the race and meet your “neighbors” and people sharing the course with you!
Arrive at 8, briefing at 8:15, wheels down at 8:30
Return approx 12:30 with routes following the IM Boulder course with at least one loop, possibly two or a modified second loop. Depending on the group and how we split up we will accommodate all levels.
Check out this video if you want to learn more about Joe