After months of rigorous training, all five LLS Team In Training teammates finished at the 2017 IRONMAN World Championships in Kona, Hawaii on October 7. The team came together from across the U.S. and Canada to compete in the 140.6 mile iconic triathlon – raising an incredible $435,000 and counting, for blood cancer cures.After months of rigorous training, all five LLS Team In Training teammates finished at the 2017 IRONMAN World Championships in Kona, Hawaii on October 7. The team came together from across the U.S. and Canada to compete in the 140.6 mile iconic triathlon – raising an incredible $435,000 and counting, for blood cancer cures.
KONA is one of the world’s most demanding athletic events – featuring a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run. The team joined more than 2,000 athletes from around the world. Each of them went above and beyond to raise funds to cure cancer, as the cause is personal for all of them. Here are their stories…
Chris Wilno – Orange County, California
Chris has experienced a whirlwind of tragic events in the past several years. His father, Al was diagnosed with leukemia in September 2002. Shortly after, his pregnant wife, Crea lost their daughter Isabella at birth. Then, after a 16-month battle, Chris’s father passed away.
Chris saw light at the end of the tunnel when he learned his wife was pregnant again, but soon they learned she had cancer too. Thankfully, she gave birth to their healthy son, Jaden, and Crea is in remission today.
This adversity fueled a fire in Chris to make a difference. “My story is born out of sad events but my story is about hope. It is about believing anything is possible,” said Chris.
He joined Team In Training, has completed 12 endurance events and raised more than $350,000 for cures. He also serves as a marathon coach and has led hundreds of individuals across the finish line while at the same time raising millions of dollars towards cancer research.
Eric Braate – Houston, Texas
In 2010, Eric completed his first marathon with Team In Training in Paris. More than 30 marathons and triathlons later – including two IRONMAN triathlons – the Houston NBC meteorologist was elated to pair his passion for endurance sports once again at KONA this year. He even used his media platform several times to help raise awareness and drive donations.
Eric saw the devastation that blood cancer can bring early in his life when his childhood friend lost a long battle with leukemia. He’s since witnessed the impact of blood cancer many times throughout his life as both sides of his family have a long history with various forms of cancer.
While training on his bike for his first IRONMAN triathlon in 2014, he was hit by a truck and broke his neck. After a long and arduous recovery, he came back a year later to cross the finish line of IRONMAN Canada.
Eric completed the KONA race in just over 14 hours and said, "We crossed the finish line today. Hopefully we cross the finish line sometime soon in the battle against blood cancer.”
Sonya Heitshusen – Des Moines, Iowa
Sonya, an NBC affiliate news anchor in Iowa, first got involved with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society when her co-anchor’s daughter was diagnosed with leukemia in 1999. Ten years later, her brother was diagnosed with lymphoma.
Sonya has completed multiple endurance events in honor of her friend’s daughter and her brother —both who are cancer free today — but says that KONA was her most difficult race by far.
“My training and the competition was challenging, but nothing in comparison to those facing a cancer diagnosis and the ensuing treatment,” said Sonya.
Keith Ramon – Aurora, Ontario
Keith is currently a teacher at St. Andrew’s College, an all-boys private school, in Aurora, Ontario Canada where he also coached the school triathlon team. In addition, he coaches cross-country running, Nordic skiing, biathlon and weight training athletes.
He has completed numerous IRONMANS and triathlons, but this year was his first time as a fundraising participant with Team In Training.
Keith’s entire family was involved in helping him reach his fundraising goal for KONA 2017. His father-in-law, Paul passed away in June 2016 after a battle with acute myeloid leukemia. Keith completed KONA 2017 in his honor, and finished at an incredible time of 12:32:51.
Teri Abrahamzon – San Francisco, California
Teri first got involved with TNT in 1997, and since then, she’s been touched by blood cancer in many ways. Her sister-in-law, Tina has been battling chronic lymphocytic leukemia since 2005 and inspired her to take on IRONMAN Arizona in 2014. Also, her good friend Lindy was recently diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Teri works as an architect at Genentech and says that her passion for LLS and her job align perfectly. “TNT will not only help you realize your athletic goals but more importantly, it will help you find a way to help so many individuals and that will bring you gratitude,” says Teri.
Teri completed IRONMAN Kona in honor of Tina, Lindy and friend, Stacie.
Team In Training's triathlon program allows multisport athletes of all experience levels to support the LLS mission through a variety of challenging event experiences – from elite Ironman events to Olympic and Sprint triathlons. To learn more, visit TeamInTraining.org.