Chris Saling wasn’t expected to live to see his seventh birthday. He also wasn’t expected, nor supposed to engage in strenuous activity like a triathlon or a half Ironman. But Saling, a 28-year-old employee of Brown-Forman living with cystic fibrosis, doesn’t let expectations define him; instead, he defies them. We sat down with Saling to talk about his experience with CF and the Ironman 70.3, which he will compete in on Sunday, Sept. 25, with his organization, Team CF.
How have you defied the odds in terms of life expectancy?
When I was born, there hadn’t been a lot of research done on cystic fibrosis. Over the past few years, doctors have had a lot of medical breakthroughs to enhance the life of someone with cystic fibrosis. Right now the average life expectancy (of someone with CF) is 37. Having said that, there are still a lot of people with cystic fibrosis who struggle to live to their 20s or 30s.
Why did you decide to compete in endurance challenges to raise awareness of CF?
As a kid I had done speeches and fundraising events, but I felt like I could do something more, and I wanted to do something different. I thought it would be neat to have someone who could be an inspiration not just to people with CF, but people in general. I came up with (the foundation) Everyday has a Finish Line. I named it that because with diseases like cystic fibrosis, it’s really tough day-to-day. Every day is kind of its own race and its own challenge, and the end of the day is your finish line. I tied it all in by doing challenges and hoped that they would inspire people to pursue life to the fullest.
I let the public decide on my latest challenge. I came up with four different ideas and the public chose the Ironman 70.3.
How long have you been training for the Ironman 70.3?
I started training around Christmas. I biked in my apartment and added on swimming and running around March.
Have you ever thought to yourself, “Why am I doing this?”
Every day. (He laughs). The stress and exhaustion builds up. But I know exactly why I’m doing this. When I want to take a day off, I think of the kids in the hospital who I hear about who can’t take a day off because they’re fighting for their lives. That emotionally pushes me through.
And about 65 people are coming to Augusta with me to watch the race. We have six brands within Brown-Forman and each made a very nice financial sponsorship. There’s a lot of people backing this cause.
You have less than two weeks before the race. Are you getting nervous?
I’m still worried I won’t finish. I have to swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 and run 13.1 miles. It’s exhausting thinking about it.
People with cystic fibrosis have a deficiency in salt in their body. When I exercise, every hour I lose four times the amount of salt that the average person does. I cramp and fatigue easier and don’t recycle any salt once I lose it through sweat. The other week, I did a bike and running workout and had to go to the hospital because I became extremely dehydrated.
To overcome dehydration in the race, I have to drink two to three 20 oz. bottles of Gatorade an hour and take eight to 10 salt tablets an hour.
What do you hope people with and without CF will take away from you competing in the Ironman 70.3?
It’s not about what you have in front of you; it’s not about what obstacle you are facing. It’s about what you do in that moment; it’s about how you find the happiness when things seem bleak, and you use it to continue fighting!
For more information, visit www.everydayhasafinishline.com, or search for Everyday Has a Finish Line on Facebook.
Category: The Spotlight
About the Author (Author Profile)
Ashley spends half her time writing stories at The Voice-Tribune office and half her time out on the town conducting interviews, while occasionally dressing in wild outfits to fully immerse herself in the experience (aka Princess Leia at Comic Con). Ashley is a huge UofL fan and loves the Yankees and the Boston Celtics (she is fully aware of the irony). She hopes to one day outshine Erin Andrews on ESPN and enjoys running, Bardstown Road/Fourth Street, Breaking Bad and reality TV (she’s not ashamed to admit that).