Friends and family honor man who died in Ironman 70.3

MIDDLETON, Wis. (WMTV) -- One day after his death, family and friends are remembering the life of Michael McCulloch.

McCulloch, 61, died on Sunday after participating in the swimming portion of the Ironman 70.3 race in Madison. He was a Cottage Grove native.

But Sunday’s triathlon wasn’t McCulloch’s first. As NBC15 News learned, McCulloch had been compete ting in triathlons for years, often times working for something much more than a medal.

"Our community is stronger because of men like Mike,” says Lannia Stenz, Executive Director and CEO of Gilda’s Club. "He had such a big heart, and really gave as much as he could."

NBC15 News reached out to those who knew McCulloch. Stenz says he worked with Gilda’s Club for about seven years.

"He did everything from help us cook meals, to secure turkeys for Thanksgiving for our members who are facing cancer, to cooking them and making gravy for us. To hosting a fundraising bike ride in Rosco's memory,” Stenz remembers.

After he lost three bothers to a battle with cancer, McCulloch made it his mission to help Gilda’s Club, a support network for cancer patients and their families.

He even started a fundraising bike ride called “Rosco’s Route,” honoring his brother Rosco, and benefiting Gilda’s Club.

"When people step forward and they get involved with a non-profit that touches their heart, and that they truly believe in, they strengthen community, they strengthen families, and he helped us make sure no one had to face cancer alone,” Stenz says.

McCulloch’s many triathlon runs often were dedicated to something much more.

"I know that he became very involved in Ironman because he believed that he could outrun, out swim … out swim cancer."

McCulloch had already planned to compete in the Door County Triathlon, set for next month.

NBC15 News reached out to McCulloch’s family, but no one wanted to speak on-camera, or via the phone for an interview. One family member did write in a message, “You couldn’t profile a finer man than my Uncle Mike.”

An autopsy shows McCulloch’s death is consistent with an accidental drowning, due to a medical incident. Additional testing is underway.