Our next people to go under the spotlight are a husband & wife team. They show that having a can do attitude, nothing is beyond the realms of possibility. Oh and they have some awesome kids too!
We got chatting to Shane and Caroline at Quest Killarney, and already knowing most of their backstory, we thought it would be a great way to shed some light and remove any stigmas about life after organ donations.
Names: Shane Herlihy & Caroline O’Rourke
Age: 50 & 47
Occupations: Environmental Consultant & School Teacher \ Yogi
Family: 3 Boys (9-12) Luke, Sam & Alex
Before we get into the nitty gritty of your racing experiences, tell us a little about yourselves, your sporting backgrounds etc.
S: I grew up in New York state and found a love for the outdoors hiking, cross-country and alpine skiing in the mountains while my family were working there. We returned to Ireland when I was starting university, so I had to find a new pastime without snow! The Boat Club in Trinity spotted my height, and I was recruited into a fantastic rowing club in freshers week and went on to earn a place in the senior crew. We were reasonably successful winning a National Championship and coming second at Henley twice. The physical fitness regime required to row is strenuous, and it gave me a good foundation that makes it easier to recover now.
C: I grew up with four brothers and always loved sports (hockey, athletics, judo) and fell in love with yoga in later life. I’m a bit of a tomboy and love the adrenaline rush of a competition. I enjoy surfing and stand up paddle boarding.
What got you into adventure racing?
S: Like many parents of young families, I ended up becoming unfit in the early years of parenthood because I was just too busy. I needed to find something to aim for to spur on some regular training, especially since I donated a kidney to my eldest, Luke. Caroline tried it first, and I had to follow suit after seeing how great the events were!
C: One Friday evening it popped up on social media and it looked like a great thing to try!
What is favourite part about it?
S: I love the warm camaraderie that everyone brings to the event. It’s a fun bit of competition without being too serious. My favourite disciplines are the cycle and trail run descents.
C: I love the post-race buzz and the pre-race nerves! Makes you feel alive!
Do you have any races on the horizon?
S: Quest Glendalough and might try Gael Force West. Definitely will be returning to Killarney, what a fantastic course!
C: Quest Glendalough and Killarney
What kind of training did you do in the run up to Quest Killarney?
S: Because I entered the longer distance 73km route, I did increase the amount of training I put in over the summer gradually building up to 10-15km hill runs and 50-80km cycles with hills. In a good week I would manage to squeeze in 4-5 sessions, however school holidays and other commitments often interfered at times, so it was not a textbook training plan by any means! Caroline’s yogazest.ie yoga sessions also helped with general conditioning and flexibility.
C: I opted for the Challenge Route and managed to do very little training, finishing 2nd in my age category, so don’t let Shane’s overzealousness put you off if you are looking to get into adventure racing!
Do you have any words of advice to first timers?
S: Go for it, get some basic training in and you will have a blast. Try a shorter distance first. Don’t underestimate the amount of food and water you will need on the longer distances.
C: Just sign up and go at your own pace. There is something for everyone. Warning, it’s quite addictive!
They say all heroes don’t wear capes. This is certainly the case with you guys, you guys have quite the amazing backstory.
S & C: It was a parenthood baptism of fire for sure having to cope with two serious illnesses, but we both found huge strength in ourselves, family and friends. First off, Luke was born prematurely with end stage renal failure, so his first months were spent in and out of intensive care, multiple surgeries and dialysis. It was touch and go whether he would survive, but he has turned out to be quite a fighter. He always would need a kidney transplant, and I turned out to be a near perfect match. We did the transplant in April 2017 and thankfully it was a success. During the middle of Luke’s ordeal, his younger brother, Sam, was struck with Leukaemia. His was a very different type of medical treatment, and thankfully after 3 and half years of chemotherapy he came out smiling the other end!
The stories we hear about your amazing kids, is stuff of legend. We often wax lyrical about people who do adventure racing being as tough as teak…well we can’t wait for your boys to turn 18 and show us how it is done.
S & C: Our boys love seeing us compete as they are all very sporty themselves. They would love to be lining up on the start line before they turn 18! Sam & Alex have already done triathlons so please bring on the kids adventure race series somebody!
Can anyone be an organ donor? Who do we contact to become one?
S: Yes, as long as you are fit and in good health you can consider live donation. In fact, the same week I donated to Luke, there was a sister in her late 60’s donating to her brother. The nurses used to slag me during the recovery that she was up doing the stairs sooner than me! It would be fantastic if everyone gave donation serious consideration when the pass away, as this is how many of the 550 currently waiting in Ireland will benefit from the gift of life. It’s also the only way that heart and lung transplantees will receive an organ. It’s very important to discuss it with your family so they understand your wishes. Organ donor cards can be obtained from the Irish Kidney Association https://ika.ie/get-a-donor-card/ , free texting DONOR to 50050 and there is the option to include it on your driver’s licence.
At the Glendalough event, there was a heart transplantee competing, fair play! Many transplantees go on to have very successful sporting adventures, and I have been lucky enough to meet some of them at the World Transplant Games https://wtgf.org/ . Their stories and zest to live life every day are truly inspirational! Luke & I will be representing Ireland at the next winter games in February, so I’ll be able to don the skis competitively again!
So Shane, you are down a kidney and you still rocked the 73km in Quest Killarney and also Quest Glendalough sport in 2 seriously impressive times. This clearly removes any stigmas surrounding post organ donations limiting your sporting abilities.
S: I don’t find it any different operating on one kidney, in fact the experience has made me more conscious of looking after myself and keeping fit.
We usually ask what inspires you and drives you on when you reach the tough end of a race or life in general, but we think we might know the answer to this one….