By Jessica Shambora
October 10, 2009

“It would put an exclamation point on my recovery.”

— Kyle Garlett, the first triathlete to compete in the Ironman World Championship with someone else’s heart. Tomorrow is a special day: Garlett will be among 1,800 triathletes attempting to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles (a marathon) in Kona, Hawaii. It’s also three years to the day when Garlett, 38, received his heart transplant. Garlett’s own heart was damaged by treatments after he was diagnosed with leukemia four times. “I really want to finish the race, but it won’t define anything about me,” he said.

Clearly, he’s already defined himself: Kyle Garlett, fighter.

I have my own special relationship with the Ironman in Kona. As a volunteer at the race four years ago, I handed a water bottle to the winner. And recently, I left the sidelines, completing my first Olympic distance tri (.9-mile swim, 25-mile bike, 6.2-mile run) on a rain-drenched Sunday in September, when I crashed my bike…and I’m hooked. A contingent from my triathlon club, Terrier Tri, is racing in Kona this week. Best of luck, Terriers–and if you’re seeking inspiration, think of Kyle! –Jessica Shambora

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