Business Journal reporter fighting cancer completes Ironman Triathlon

WASHINGTON – Tucker Echols is back at work Monday. But what you’d never know by looking at him is that he just completed a body-taxing 70 miles swimming, biking, and running an Ironman triathlon.

And, he did it while undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma.

Echols, the Washington Business Journal reporter heard mornings on WTOP, tackled the EnduraFit Ironman 70.3 EagleMan Triathlon on the Eastern Shore in Cambridge, Md.

“You swim 1.2 miles, then you ride your bike 56 miles and then you end with a 13.1-mile run — that’s a half-marathon for you runners out there,” said Echols.

An experienced marathoner, Echols hadn’t done much training since getting married and having kids.

He was in the middle of training for the triathlon when he was diagnosed in January with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

Echols decided to turn his challenge into an opportunity to raise money and awareness for the American Cancer Society, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the Cure Starts Now Foundation.

Echols had received three cycles of chemotherapy over nine weeks before the race.

The cancer-killing drugs were very evident during Echols’ training and the triathlon — especially in the cycling and running aspects.

“I could see my times getting slower and slower as each cycle of chemo progressed,” said Echols.

During the race, Echols’ main challenge was getting enough air into his system.

“Chemo knocks down the number of red blood cells you have, so you don’t have as many red blood cells to carry oxygen to the muscles. So I was breathing a lot harder to maintain the same pace,” Echols said.

As he ran, Echols was concerned about his inability to breathe comfortably.

“I slowed my pace,” Echols said. “I tried to keep my same foot cadence, but I wasn’t striding as far, I wasn’t moving as fast.”

Ironically, Echols’ muscles weren’t aching.

“I didn’t have the muscle pain, but I needed to breathe very heavily to get oxygen to them,” he said.

With family cheering him on, Echols finished the race in seven hours, 40 minutes and 25 seconds.

He received a medal for his accomplishment, but that’s dwarfed by news he received from his doctor two days before the race.

“I had a PET scan last week. My doctor told me my tumors were inactive. The chemo has had a complete response. It’s as good as we could have hoped,” said Echols, who will begin his fourth round of chemo Monday — “mop-up chemo,” he calls it.

With the race behind him, Echols hopes to continue to spread awareness and help raise money to find a cure for cancer.

Echols continues his efforts to aid cancer charities. Click on the links below to donate:

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