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Athlete with cystic fibrosis won't back down against Ironman challenge


Chris Saling of Louisville, KY, is not only battling the intense elements of the Ironman -- he's doing it all while fighting an illness. (WRDW-TV / Sept. 25, 2011)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011

AUGUSTA -- A 1.2-mile swim, then a 56-mile bike trek and finally a 13.1-mile run -- a daunting challenge for any athlete.

"It's a little nerve-racking, exciting and adrenaline-pumping all at the same time. It's unbelievable," said Chris Saling of Louisville, KY.

While competing against 3,200 athletes, Saling will also be competing against his own body.

"I have cystic fibrosis, which is a disease that mainly affects the lungs, so it makes it very difficult to breathe, so doing an activity such as an Ironman is obviously pretty difficult for people with CF," he told News 12.

Many people diagnosed with it die at a young age.

"When I was actually born, the doctors told my parents that I would live to be about 6 years old, and here I am at 28 years old," Saling said.

And he continues to fight.

"I fatigue much quicker because my organs are working a lot harder. I cramp a lot quicker, because I lose salt at a much more rapid pace, as well as just fighting the lung disease in itself. I'm working at about 60 percent of the lung capacity that most people are," he said.

Sunday's challenge was decided through a poll on his website. He made the journey here all the way from Louisville. He's doing it to prove to himself that anything is possible, but he says it's more about sending a message to his fans.

"It really inspires people to realize that no matter what odds they are facing that they can go out and conquer them," Saling said.

He says it's not a matter of if he crosses the finish line tomorrow -- it's when.

"I think I might kiss the finish line. I haven't decided exactly what's going to happen yet, but I think I deserve to kiss the finish line. You know, I really want that moment to be locking in my mind forever," he said.

To get to that finish line, he says it's all about tapping into a different mindset. He has to push himself through the pain, because he not just doing it for himself; he's doing it for everyone with cystic fibrosis.

Every day he goes through three hours of medical treatments.

He says given the recent advancements in medicine, people with cystic fibrosis now live to age 37, on average.

Click here to visit his website "Everyday Has A Finish Line"

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