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Weight-Loss Goal Turns to Life-Changing Lesson

Written by: Matthew Dale
Posted: Monday, 14 January 2008
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Insufficiently hydrated with two water bottles, Kaplan experienced cramping quads. Asked what went through his mind during the ride, Kaplan recalls, “I hope I fall and get hurt and I can’t do this. I hope I blow out my knee and can’t possibly do the ride. It’d be my excuse.”

Like the kid who experiences growth after a challenging assignment, Kaplan’s tune changed upon completing the ride.

“I got there and I finished and I said, ‘Okay, I can do this,’” he says.

Kaplan has used his radio pulpit to keep listeners informed of his progress, raise awareness for CAF and to create a contest where one cyclist won the opportunity to participate in the MDC. About 500 listeners entered the contest, detailing in 56 words or less (the miles ridden in the San Diego Triathlon Challenge) why they should be selected.

Twenty participants were selected. Each week, in an “American Idol” elimination-style format, a CAF panel voted one of the riders off.

“I watch reality TV and see people crying after getting kicked off and I’m like, ‘C’mon, get over it.’ Now, I understand. You get attached to these people,” says Kaplan.

One person Kaplan got to know was San Diegan Alan Greenberg. In February 1994, Greenberg’s first wife, Susan, died of a brain aneurysm. He remembers they were watching “Hill Street Blues” in the bedroom when she sat up, said his name, then collapsed.

In December 2005, Greenberg, 53, got a 3 a.m. call from a stranger, asking if he could come to his house.

“Who are you?” said Greenberg. “Where’s my daughter?”

“I’m a medical examiner.”

When the examiner arrived, he showed Greenberg a picture and asked if it was his daughter, Avi, a San Diego State freshman. It was Avi, who died that night in a car accident. She had been a passenger with a male friend when the guy fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a pole in downtown San Diego. The boy survived, then months later died when he again crashed after falling asleep at the wheel.

“A couple days earlier I had dinner with Avi,” says Greenberg. “The next time I saw her was in a casket. She died for no reason whatsoever.”

In the fall of 2006, Greenberg, who cycled a quite a bit in his mid-30s, began riding again. Pedaling has proved therapeutic.

“When you’re riding, you’re not thinking about too much more than dodging pot holes and crazy drivers,” he says. “And when you’re in shape, you’re able to deal with stress and grief better.”

Since riding again, Greenberg has stopped drinking alcohol, smoking and swore off coffee as well.

I’m a clean boy,” he jokes.

Greenberg was one of the last riders eliminated in the Scott and BR Show contest but still hopes to participate in the MDC.

“Tell your readers,” Greenberg says in all seriousness, “I’m still looking for a sponsor.”

Getting to know people like Greenberg has personalized Kaplan’s cycling journey. Besides accepting a challenge that has hardened his once Charmin-soft body, Kaplan has enjoyed bringing awareness to CAF.

One CAF athlete who inspires him is Sonny Cataldo. After losing his left leg in a motorcycle accident years ago, Cataldo has recovered to regularly race triathlons.

“He wants to show his children that he’s a survivor no matter what challenges he’s been dealt with in life,” says Kaplan. “I want to show my kids, who weren’t born when I was playing football, who hear daddy talk about the old glory days, that I can still do some things. When you set your mind to do something, you can do it. You start what you finish. I can use it as a lesson to my kids.”

For more about the Qualcomm Million Dollar Challenge (MDC) as well as the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), go to www.challengedathletes.org.

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Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved.