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Elk Grove Man Dies During Michigan Triathlon

ADA TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Kate Grunwald is trying to come to grips with being off-balance in a way she hasn't been in 15 years since she married her husband, Gary.

"Everybody says we were the yin and yang, so he balanced me," Grunwald said.

Grunwald lost her husband Sunday in Michigan while he was running a triathlon. She spoke to FOX40 by phone from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

"His sense of humor and his beautiful blue eyes," she said.

Those are just two of the things that drew her to the 61-year-old she blended a family of five kids with.

Gary Grunwald, who lived in Elk Grove for 12 years, ran locally with the Black Rhinos club and did the triathlon hosted by Total Body Fitness in Rancho Seco.

After retiring in October, he had the freedom to train and travel more. He had just wrapped up a family trip to the Badlands in South Dakota when he headed to Michigan to prepare for USA Triathlon's Clydesdale and Athena National Championship.

A committed civil engineer, Gary Grunwald was always paying attention to patterns and signals but loved ones who flew in for the race say there was no sign that the robust adult, committed to his health, was at risk for death while racing.

His devastated baby sister, Dawn, spoke to FOX40 from Oregon.

"He was great. He was amazing," Dawn Grunwald said. "He was my hero. He was really fun, and really strong, and he taught me to be strong and he was my inspiration."

Barbara Casey lived next to the Grunwald's for 12 years.

"Really sad, sad case," she said. "Wonderful neighbors, have a great young son. And always friendly and do anything for you. Just a really nice, down to earth couple."

Kate Grunwald says she will always remember her husband as a great encourager, uplifting her through the pursuit of her college degree and any other challenge life presented.

"'If it was easy everybody would do it,' and he said that about a lot of things in life," Kate Grunwald said. "So things that were worthwhile weren't always easy but he would encourage you to do your best."

USA Triathlon had this to say about Gary Grunwald:

"The sport lost a member of its beloved community, and we extend our heartfelt condolences to Gary’s family and friends. USA Triathlon is working closely with Tris4Health, organizer of the Grand Rapids Triathlon and host of the Clydesdale & Athena Nationals, to collect more information."

Since he had no obvious medical problems, relatives say an autopsy will be performed to determine a cause of death.

A celebration of Gary Grunwald's life has been planned for July 1.