The world is on lockdown. The stock market is volatile. Unemployment has set multiple records and not in a good way. Politicians are acknowledging death. None of that might compare to the deprivation of human connection.
We are socially distancing from people we love… or even like. We yearn for human connections beyond those displayed on a 5.5″ screen. We want handshakes and hugs, not YAZ (yet another Zoom). We want to greet our neighbors with a smile rather than suspicion if they washed their hands or have honored social distancing.
In the last few weeks, we have experienced a range of emotions as a new level of uncertainty has crept into the world. These times are rightfully driving the overwhelming feelings of fear, uncertainty, doubt, and anxiety for many.
I feel gratitude – an insurmountable amount of gratitude more than any other emotion. And a nagging desire to express the gratitude coursing through my veins because the source is worthy and surprising.
I realize that my family is navigating this pandemic with minimal pain. That drives gratitude. An overwhelming 22 million are struggling with unemployment. Courtney and I are blessed to still be working. I am fortunate to have a job that allowed me to transition to WFH easily. Courtney has been alternating between WFH and the clinic, which does impose some risk. Our kids have found a balance with online learning, personal time, and family bonding. We are focused on what matters. Oh, and we are getting up to work out together every weekday.
Yet, I realize that my family is navigating this pandemic with near-maximum risk. That has driven even greater gratitude.
I live with an internal enemy relentless committed to attacking my body. I have grown to accept this intrinsic threat and what it means. Multiple sclerosis is the result of an overactive immune system that attacks the myelin sheathing around nerve connections. In plain and fun terms, it’s like having a badass military force that can defeat almost any foe. They are also really bored. So, they attack a subset of those they are supposed to protect.
Many of us with MS and other conditions are on disease-modifying therapies (DMTs). In the case of my DMTs, my immune system is suppressed. It creates truckloads of risks and consequences. I have a minimally viable immune system and get sick easier than most. People with MS commit suicide at twice the rate of the population.
It also means those with MS are one of the most vulnerable during this pandemic – a virus that attacks the body and social isolation that attacks the mind.
I am watching a society sacrifice to help all of us, especially the most vulnerable. Nurses, nurse practitioners, PAs, MAs, doctors, and many other healthcare professionals are risking exposure to assist those with COVID-19. The backbone of society continues to strive to maintain our way of life and create some level of normalcy – retail employees, grocers, truck drivers, teachers, and many others. They are doing this with kindness and concern for all of us.
Tammy, a pharmacy technician at my local Costco pharmacy, is an example of this commitment. She was deeply worried about my health and going out in public even to pick up prescriptions. So, she voluntarily offered to drop off my prescriptions at my house. This is not mail order. This is not a Costco service. This is one person wanting to help another as she was going to personally drive them to my house during her time off.
And in all of that, I feel gratitude over fear, doubt, anxiety, or any negativity. When the best of humanity is in action to help one another, how could I not?
(NOTE: This was one of the most difficult posts to draft. These sacrifices are causing pain and struggle for many. That cannot be taken for granted.)
Two of our three kids have already started school. Those two are Gabe and Owen who will be in separate schools for the first time in 8 years. That breakup with them also means all three will be in different schools for the first time. Ever.
The kids being gone inevitably means that we will have less time with them. They will have less time with each other. School will take up a huge portion of the weekday. Sports and after school activities will fight to absorb its fair portion. Social activities, including even dating in the near future (gasp! ugh), will soon become the black hole of their time.
The reduction of time together may mean the reduction of influence or the increase of influence by others. As I reflected on this, I became proud of who each child is as a person, not just my child. I know this needs to be protected and explicitly called out. For me, it is not worth being subtle with something so critical. The world will enhance their values and character. The world will also test them and test who they are.
With that, I sent them the following before the school year kicked off:
AGO [Avery, Gabe, and Owen] – as the school year approaches, mom and I have less time with you. It means we may also have less influence… or that other people have more influence. We have raised you to know who you are and what you stand for. That can be tested by others who want to influence you.
This makes me think about Anne Frank and how she stood for her ideals.
“It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart…I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more. In the meantime, I must hold on to my ideals.”
In the darkest of humanity, Anne (who is around your ages) still believed in her ideals. I hope we have given you the guidance such that you have built the strength to hold onto yours and our family’s.
Love you all!
It’s not lost on me that Anne Frank was around the same age as our children when she wrote these words. These are words from a peer who dealt with the worst and was able to hold up her ideals – many of which stemmed from her family, her upbringing, and the inner beauty of someone leaving childhood headed to being a young adult.
Perhaps that’s why I was reminded of Anne Frank when contemplating the upcoming school year and its changes…
“Not every end is the goal. The end of a melody is not its goal; and yet: as long as the melody has not reached its end, it also hasn’t reached its goal. A parable.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
March 26th marks an unsung anniversary in my life. On that date in 2010, I stepped out of our house for my first run. The quirkiness of the universe is that I would be diagnosed with MS exactly 4.5 years from this date – September 26, 2014. As this runniversary passed, I decided it was time to retell the story with a new perspective. One half of my running has occurred before the diagnosis. One half has now occurred after.
On March 25, 2010, Courtney told Avery, who was six years old at the time, about the week of our wedding. Right before we wed, my then-fiance had moved back home to spend the week with her family leading up to the big day. As the oldest and first to be married, she intrinsically wanted one last week with her parents and siblings as her immediate family. Once the vows were said, she and I would step onto a path to building our nuclear family.
Her parents and siblings welcomed her home. They fell into the muscle memory routines of living together under one roof. Over plenty of laughter and a few tears, they also had time to recount the memories of years gone by. While everyone was excited by the upcoming nuptials, this was the last time they would all be together like this again – no spouses and no grandchildren.
It was a beautiful story that captured the imagination of a young girl who dreamed of fairytales and wishes granted.
As I was tucking in Avery later that night, she asked if she could “come home like mommy did” when she gets married one day. I told her she absolutely could come home and our house would always be open to her. She gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. She was giddy, and I was, too.
After a few seconds, I could see her mind churning. She then poked me in the belly and told me, “You have a lot of squishy. I don’t know if you are going to make it.” These words were not said with the playfulness of a child. They were said with the piercing reality of someone seeing the world with a binary view.
I was shocked. As Gracian stated in The Art of Worldly Wisdom, “The truth is generally seen, rarely heard.” It was true that my health had taken a considerable downturn the previous five years as I was building Contegix. I could see this in the mirror, and I could feel it. It took hearing these words to see the larger truth. My health was destroying a future with my family. A six-year-old saw the visible health state. It would later take MRIs to see the full extent of my health issues.
I called a friend who was an ultra runner and told him of my plan. I would run a mile the next day. He asked me to call him afterward.
I could not sustain running the full distance of one mile. I ran less than a quarter of it, and I walked the remainder in humiliation. I felt worse because of the emotions delivered by reality.
I called my friend in embarrassment. I expected disappointment or sympathy. Instead, he congratulated me and celebrated my success. He also told me I needed to make it farther the next day and continue to repeat that pattern. I went out the following day and did just that. It was not much farther, but it was more than the previous day. (This same man would later be the person who guided me into Leadville in 2018.)
I would never forget the lesson I began to learn that day. This lesson would show up time and again over the next few years. This moment may not be perfect. It does not diminish the gift of the moment and the relentless pursuit to make the next second perfect. That is how we have continuous forward motion even when it is just a few steps farther. The mere effort, almost regardless of success, has a compound effect on the next second.
“The act of discovering who we are will force us to accept that we can go further than we think.”
– Paulo Coelho
Over the next four and a half years, I would lose a significant amount of weight and run multiple races. I would dial in my eating habits. I would fall in love with running trails, and that would lead to running ultramarathons. Those two factors would end up being critical on the day of my diagnosis.
On that day, the doctor shared the results of my MRI and lumbar puncture. I have “greater than thirty lesions on my brain and spine.” The cerebral fluid from my lumbar puncture shows signs correlating to MS. Yet, these are only two of the tests often performed.
I had also undergone a Visually Evoked Response Test and a neurological examination. These tests partially measure the impact of MS. VERT records how long it takes for a stimulus to reach the brain. Basically, it measures how fast I process visual input. The neurological examination includes understanding how much stress my body can endure. Intolerable stress can often lead to exacerbations (the fancy word for “
These tests reflected the reality and its impact.
When Courtney asked if I should continue to run, especially long distances, the doctor replied, “Yes. The results of your visually evoked response test and stress test are off the chart positive. It is probably related to how much running you do and where you do it. You have built a tolerance to the stress and the volume of visual input.”
One of the reasons I love trail running is the visual stimulus. Every step is different and always changing. That makes it beautiful and familiar yet new. It is also an immense amount of visual stimulation. All of this makes it imperative to keep attention on the next step. Failure to do such could mean a sprained ankle, a fall, something even more catastrophic.
The doctor also told me to “keep going for as long, as fast, and as hard” as I can for “as long as you can.” That is the lesson I learned. It is about the continuous, relentless forward motion when things are easy and when things are challenging. That is the only real means of change regardless of whether that is running, health, relationships, business, or whatever.
As for running, I am doing such with a goal of the most important distance – an aisle in a wedding one day in the long term future. It is the least I can do for someone who helped me hear and see reality. It is the least I can do for someone who gave me the motivation that would lead to saving the quality of my life.
Even then, that is the goal and not the end.
“Why are you here? What made you come all the way to Poland to walk into freezing water and hike a snowy mountain in only shorts and boots?”
Before answering this, I have an admission. I am struck with dichotomies. I live a life of dichotomies.
I love running races in the summer, and I hate cold weather. Yet, summer race finishes are earned in the winter. They are earned in the running on the dark, cold mornings and evenings during the bleak winter months.
I have multiple sclerosis which makes extreme temperatures an adversary. My trigger is radical temperature changes in a short period, such as one from a nice, warm bed in a nice, warm house to the frigid trail at 4:20 am.
I run trails over terrain for long distances. The temperatures can change over a distance and are inevitably impacted by the terrain, such as mountains and lakes. It’s no surprise that my first flare up occurred at the Clinton Lake Ultra as I was making my way around the lake. The temperatures rose steadily throughout the race. At one section around the lake, the winds shift, and temperatures dropped ~15F degrees in a few minutes.
I live in Saint Louis which has decided to embrace the temperature contrasts like a moth to a flame. In this case, it’s the flame of the ice dragon from Game of Thrones. It has brought these contrasts to the forefront with a vengeance this year. We have been struck with one of the fiercest winters in a lifetime. The temperature fell to -6F on January 30, 2019, which canceled schools, events, and any semblance of normal life. This insanity was then followed by a massive change in temperature. Temperatures reached 70F three days after this cold spell. (That’s not a typo.)
With this backdrop, it may be surprising that cold immersion therapy has captured my mind in the past 2 years. (Or depending upon how well you know me, it may seem wholly expected the I would run right into this fire.) It started when a fellow ultra runner recommended I research Wim Hof and his breathing techniques. The recommendation came with a promise that I would better be able to deal with elevation, cold temperatures, and extreme changes. I would be conditioned to mentally and physically manage my temperature within reason regardless of the elements. The idea of carrying less gear, such as jackets, gloves, and other cold-weather gear, over >50 miles was also very appealing.
Thus, I began my exploration into Wim Hof two years ago that led to me jumping in 24F streams in Poland and hiking up a mountain wearing shorts, socks, and boots.
The breathing techniques proved to be effective at both Leadville Run Camp in June 2018 and through most of the race 2 months later. I crossed Hope Pass in shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt in both situations. It was incredibly comfortable even with temperatures in the mid-20s Fahrenheit and stopping for a bit at the aid station. For most of the race, I was able to maintain my core temperature when the weather was dry, especially with the Colorado sun beating down.
Around mile 65, the world turned on this idea. The sun had set hours earlier. The outside temperature continued to drop, and the misting drizzle had transformed into the pelting rain. Cold rain where each drop reminded me of my exposure. Trying to maintain my core temperature without gear became a double whammy on my energy.
I was expending too much mental energy on the task, and I was shivering which burned additional energy. Energy is always a precious commodity for me in races. It was worse at Leadville 2018. I was struggling to consume calories due to complications from suspected food poisoning the previous day. My calorie intact was half of what I had planned. I relented at approximately mile 65, and my pacer grabbed a hooded jacket and gloves.
After doing my post-race evaluation analysis, I had identified this was one of the challenges to fix in 2019. This decision led to further research into Wim Hof and the studies on him, his technique, and cold immersion therapy. I was delighted to learn about the positive impact on the neurological system and those with autoimmune diseases. In short, the results are promising, but more study is needed. More important, the risks and downside were minimal, if existent. (I am not a doctor nor do I play one on television. Do your research!)
Thus, my 2019 daily goal of performing Wim Hof breathing exercises was born. I knew it would be a struggle. I would often get distracted in the midst of performing breathing exercises. I would cut the cold shower short because I was in a hurry. I know evolution has trained the human brain to find the easiest way, especially when pain is involved. I would find a way to shortcut, if at all possible.
With running, I have both a running coach and strength trainer. I still have them as part of my team. They force me to be highly focused. I have an obligation to them. I needed to be highly focused
Why would this be any different? I needed a trainer. I needed a coach. And I saw an opportunity to train with the best… with Wim.
On October 2, 2018, I signed up for the Wim Hof Winter Expedition from January 29 to February 4, 2019. I signed up to travel to Prague then Poland where I would willingly choose to swim in freezing streams, walk into a half-frozen waterfall, and hike up a mountain in shorts.
This trip awarded me time in one of my favorite cities, Prague. A few years back, Courtney and I visited as part of our Oktoberfest trip. We still remark that this was the best part of the vacation. I relished the opportunity to spend some additional time in this beautiful city. Besides exploring, I used the morning of Day 0 to visit the Apple Museum which brought back memories to hacking on my Apple ][e as a child.
After spending 36 hours in Prague, I met with the Wim Hof team at Prague airport around 5 pm. I was surprised by how many people were there. I had imagined a more intimate gathering. The videos portrayed this as an intimate gathering rather than seventy strangers with visions of being Junior Ice Women and Men. Regardless of the size, I was there for the cold and my health. We boarded 2 buses at 6 pm for the nearly three-hour journey to Wim’s home town of Przesieka, Poland.
As we arrived in Przesieka at the hotel around 9:30 pm local time, we were greeted with the Innerfire (aka Wim Hof’s company) team welcoming us to the Expedition. The Expedition had taken over the entire hotel, including all the guest rooms, common areas, and the sauna. We would eat, sleep, and learn here. We would build a community in this hotel. The community would not have locks on the doors. The hotel would be my home for the next week, and twenty other participants would become close friends, including the two with whom I shared a large, four-bed suite.
Wim would not make an appearance until the next day. Instead, we were broken down from the seventy into smaller groups. Our group was around twenty in size. This would be our tribe, and our tribe began the expedition that night with the exploration of a single question – “Why are you here?”
My answer was two-fold. It was the two aforementioned tactical reasons – carry less gear in races and better able to deal with temperature swings. I would later learn I was in Poland for much more. It would become internal, personal, and profound.
Reflection: Day 1 was mostly introduction and getting comfortable with the group. The guided breathing exercises built into something different than I had experienced on my own. They brought forward an energized, almost euphoric, state.
Our tribe co-leader, Elee, shared with us that she has been learning from Wim for six years. He told her that the cold was part of it. It was not just the breathing. Thus, she wasted no time in getting us to embrace cold.
After breakfast, we were instructed to dress for a warm, summer hike despite it being in the mid-20s Fahrenheit. This meant only shorts for the males. Females added bikini tops. This hike was not the famed mountain hike. It was a jaunt of fewer than 90 minutes with learning mixed it. While we learned techniques to generate heat, such as the horse stance (aka haha), this hike was the beginning of a lifelong journey to learn about embracing the cold. I would need it.
I remember thinking that I should have worn Yak Trax and that there was absolutely no way I was making it through the week. As I reflect back, I realize it was fear of the cold and fear of falling that occupied my mind more than the cold itself.
Wim made his first (of many) appearances after lunch. It was inspiring to see and hear the man himself. His passion is addictive, and his knowledge of the science is undeniable. He is clear that it is correlation until studied and verified. He is extremely proud that this is beyond his belief and that he is being investigated. That does not stop Wim from occasionally yelling, “Just breathe, motherfucker!”
Recap & Reflection: Day Two began with more breathing exercises, reflection, and meditation in the morning. We finished by deciding the order of the future cold immersion. As we finished and prepared for breakfast, I decided to head for a run instead of eating. Cold immersion would be uncomfortable, if not painful. I wanted to do something comfortable, and running is always comforting even when it hurts. I was also attempting to push out of my mind that chattering whispers.
Chattering whispers are the default mode of communication at WHE. Schedules are communicated this way. It seems disorganized and, yet, highly orchestrated. It is almost by planned design. It forces people to connect and bond. As we headed toward the breakfast hour, the whispers began. The chatter was becoming clear right before the meal break. Elee was serious about embracing the cold, and we would be meeting promptly at 11 am donning boots and winter clothes.
Swimsuits should be worn underneath.
At 11 am, I had finished my run and met our group assembled in the lobby. We walked past where we practiced the horse stance and headed along the previous day’s hiking path. We stopped as we crossed the first bridge. Ice was still on the edges of the stream that intersected with the land. This would be where my fear of cold and temperature swings had to die. The water was approximately 24F.
I gathered with 3 new friends when it was our turn, and we walked into the stream. Walking into the water was not a single decision. It was a series of repeated decisions. Each step away from the land was a choice. As the water reached my torso, I started regretting the earlier decision to go for a run. Lactic acid had built up in my legs, and it was freezing.
The water reached my neck. My legs locked, and the early feelings of Charlie horses nagged my calves. I was actually warm until that moment. The fear of never being able to leave the water broke my concentration, and that broke the warmth. I began to head for the shore. After only a few seconds, I needed to get out of the cold. I did not care; it had only been a few seconds, maybe 30 seconds.
The reality was much different. When I reviewed the GoPro video, I had been in the water for approximately 2 minutes.
After lunch, Wim joined the group for a talk. He covered the science of breathing and cold while sharing his stories. Wim has a manner that allows him to be utterly charming and humble while being humorous, braggadocious, and sometimes vulgar. He’s also insightful into the soul of what comprises emotions, intentions, and the soul of humanity. He welcomes others to compliment and even challenge his learnings. This invitation included every instructor with us.
The most profound insight for me came during this session. It was unexpected in the midst of talk around science and university studies. It summarized my ungathered and unsaid thoughts and mantra over my life and over a body that could potentially betray me.
“You are the master of your fate. You are the pilot not the passenger.”
Before the evening could move into dinner, Elee had one last
surprise fun activity. We were instructed to dress for a winter hike to be held an hour before dinner. The walk would lead us to a beautiful stream that was entirely frozen just days earlier. The movement of water unthawed some with plenty of ice around the edges.
As we reached the stream, we removed our socks and boots for two rounds of ice extremities training. Each dip of the feet was 2-3 minutes in water below freezing temperature. Once our feet had endured this, it became time to do the same for our hands. In hindsight, it was the right order as tieing boots with frozen fingers is nearly impossible.
Recap & Reflection: Day Three was the turning point for me in regards to the breathing and the cold. We would oscillate between breathing exercises and cold immersion.
One of the claims around the Wim Hof breathing method is that it changes the pH of blood from acidic to alkaline. According to Wim and others, alkalinity combats inflammation, makes it more difficult for bacteria and virus, and decreases the sensation of pain. Wim states that studies have shown the blood to be alkaline more than five hours after performing the exercises. I had a chance to test this during the morning’s exercise thanks to another tribe member.
One of the other participants brought pH strips to test. Our pre-breakfast morning breathing exercises gave me an ideal opportunity to test this. I restricted food and minimized drink until afterward. I tested prior to the breathing and immediately after finishing. I cannot attest to the medical benefits of the change, but I can unequivocally state that mine changed from acidic to alkaline after ~35 minutes of performing the breathing exercises. I have repeated this test several times since Poland with similar results.
The first cold immersion was the jump in the stream. This is a >10 feet drop with only one decision – just take one more step. I cannot explain the beautiful sensation of joy and happiness that washed over me. The warmest point was during the complete immersion with the water over my head. I felt I could stay under the water for eternity. There was no struggle for air. There was no struggle for warmth. There was just peace.
I stepped up to the jump point and asked Elee a few questions. I was more fearful of the drop since water depth was difficult to see. I repeatedly asked where I should jump. Before I jumped, she asked one question, “What do you want to leave behind here in Poland?” My answer was left in that stream.
The afternoon’s cold immersion was the famous waterfall seen in numerous Wim Hof videos. The group held hands and walked into the pond below the freezing waterfall. We gathered and formed a circle.
After exiting the waterfall, we were treated with an afternoon at Wim’s house with Wim. Wim graciously welcomed us to his house and its amenities, specifically the ice baths and saunas. He answered questions while hanging out with us. Toward the end of our time at his house, Elee and Wim gathered us to teach the brown fat activation technique.
Day Three ended with an evening talk by Wim and then dinner. I estimate I spent over 35 minutes in sub-freezing water over the course of the entire day.
Recap & Reflection: Day Four is the second part of what most see as the Expedition. The first is the aforementioned jumping in streams and waterfalls. Today was the hike up the mountain.
Despite my feelings of accomplishment the previous day, I dreaded this moment. It brought back my thoughts from Leadville and needing to grab winter gear. Little did I know that the weather would exacerbate the challenge and elements with rain, sleet, and snow. The hike would be a light of truth whether this endeavor was leaning towards success.
As we boarded the bus, my nerves took over. I boarded the bus dressed in warm gear. It seemed insane to leave the warmth of the bus to strip down to shorts with the intent of hiking up the mountain. This would be a hike not a run. I would not have the benefit of an elevated heart rate to generate heat. It would be the learnings of this week or relenting to warm clothes just like Leadville.
The drizzle started as we took the first steps. Yet, the first hour passed with ease and the backdrop of laughter and conversation. People were gleeful. Why wouldn’t we be? We were living the images seen in those videos. The group mood was euphoric, but this would quickly flip as the weather rapidly increased its ferociousness in the second hour.
Wim led physical the charge up the mountain. Elee, Patrick, and the other instructors led the emotional charge up the mountain of our commitment and psyches. The uttered the drumbeat of reminders to stay focused. We were the pilots
After more than two hours, we reached the summit and the ski lodge where we would have lunch. I remember how warm I was and wondering how to transition to the warmth of the lodge. Clearly, Wim knew these people, and this group would be considered normal. Can I stay in just shorts? Is there a “no shirts, no shoes, no service” rule?
Then, I heard the cheering from the group. People wanted pictures at the top before settling down for lunch, and their excitement could not be contained. I broke focus. I broke concentration. That broke the warmth, and the cold flooded my blood and muscles. My question of whether to gear up had been answered.
Recap & Reflection: Day Five would be the final full day of the Expedition. It lended itself to being anti-dramatic. We had accomplished all we came to do and answered all the questions with which we came.
I regrettably cannot comment on the final walk and ceremony. The informal communication method failed me, and I somehow missed this.
I have continued the breathing exercises and cold immersion since returning from the Expedition. A few weeks ago, I laid out by the pool in a recliner covered in a foot of snow while on a ski trip in Park City. Yesterday, I completed a trail race and hung out for an hour afterwards wearing a sleeveless t-shirt, shorts, and footwear. People repeatedly asked if I wanted to borrow a jacket or if I was freezing. The idea of wearing more did not appeal to me.
Yet, I still do not understand what happened and how the transformations came about. I cannot explain it. That is perhaps the mystery and the benefit of the expedition and Wim Hof. It unlocks the capability without any need for explanation.
Somewhere in Poland, a monumental change in my mental strength regarding breathing and the cold occurred. My suspicion is that a physiological change has also, which continues to this day.
It has been nearly 3 weeks since I returned from Poland. I have spent hours putting together my thoughts, this blog post, and answering questions about the experience. The most important question needing to be answered was the opening one of this blog posted as it was the one asked by the tribe instructors on Day one.
I found the unstated answer to that opening question. Yes, I was there
I was also there to find something deep inside me. I was there to answer a different question.
How would I address the challenges, pain, opportunities, and uncertainties of my future? With the same joy and warmth that crashed over and enveloped me from a single step forward off a cliff and into the coldness.
“There is only one rule. You can’t give up.” This is the advice I give someone when diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It’s probably the only rule that matters for everyone even Lance Armstrong.
I recently heard Jesse Itzler retell a story Lance Armstrong shared with him. Regardless of how one feels about Armstrong, the story puts forth a lesson, and it is a lesson with which I wholeheartedly concur and must live every day.
Lance was speaking about a time when he was struggling in the middle of the Tour de France. He wanted to get off his bike, and his coach could see Lance’s mindset and state. It just wasn’t his day. In the midst of this, his coach told him that no matter what, Lance cannot get off the bike. Lance had to keep peddling. His coach knew that if Lance got off the bike, it was over. Perhaps the coach meant the race was over, or maybe he meant Lance’s career because quitting is a fundamental mind shift from which it’s hard to come back.
When I heard the Lance Armstrong story, two things came to mind. The first was the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF).
I have spent the past few years working with the Foundation and those with cystic fibrosis. On December 31, 2018, I completed my year as Board Chair/President of the CFF Gateway Chapter and my first year as Gala co-chair. The previous years, I served on the executive committee and as committee chair for FestivAle, the annual craft beer event.
My involvement with CFF began when I was searching for a way to give back. I chose CFF because one of my closest and oldest friends has this life-threatening disease. I may have also picked them because of the aforementioned craft beer event held committee meetings at breweries. I failed to anticipate the positive impact it would have on me (and my later diagnosis).
Those with CF who are over the age of 30 are living beyond expectations a few decades ago. When most were born, high school might have been possible, but college was usually not in their future. Life expectancy charts did not allow for long-term dreams and plans.
The community and those with CF keep peddling, and they do it with an eye toward adding. That is not just those with CF. It includes their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncle, brothers, sisters, and sometimes a close friend. It is not an accident that their motto is “Adding Tomorrows.” All of that work led to small changes and significant breakthroughs – enzymes, vests, CFTR regulators, and many others.
Since 2015, the majority of the CF population is now over the age of 18.
Those I have met in the CF community know that they must keep peddling. The community acknowledges the pain. It also celebrates the successes and appreciates every win, every additional tomorrow.
My exposure to the CF community has provided an incredible view of true grit and genuine hope. It’s incredible how much insight this has brought to my diagnosis and perception of it.
This leads to the second thought. Is there a stark difference in emotions and perception between being born with a disease or condition vs. developing and being diagnosed after decades of seemingly normal health? Is this the difference between addition (of life in quantity and quality) vs. subtraction (of life in quantity and quality)? If so, maybe we need a mindshift. What can those of us with MS learn regarding how we tackle our futures and our perceptions of it?
Compare the homepages of these two organizations, and one sees the stark difference. The CFF.org homepage talks about the “dreams of people with cystic fibrosis and their families.” The background images and videos show celebratory moments, such as weddings and graduations. These are people living their lives with CF. It does not take away the pain and realities of CF, nor does it allow them to override the success of living with CF. This approach amplifies hope and grit.
In comparison to CFF.org, the National MS Society homepage regular uses pictures of those negatively impacted by MS.
There is something broken with multiple sclerosis beyond the disease itself, the risks from medicines, and the general populations’ lack of knowing what MS is. (Don’t ask me how many times someone has asked if MS is the disease for which Jerry Lewis telethons raise money.) It heavily leans towards the negative.
We should talk about how this is a never-ending fight. It’s akin to holding a glass of water with a straight arm. It is easy to do for a few seconds, not fun for a few minutes, and painful for a lifetime. Perusing the Facebook MS groups and the MS subreddit, one sees this pain and the horrible effects of this disease. We need peers to share our pain, but it trends too much on the negative IMHO.
I am concerned because of the contagion of negativity and pain. Mark Manson wrote about drama and pain.
Pain is contagious. It’s like a virus. The more we hurt, the more we will feel inclined to hurt ourselves further and to hurt others further. Our own perceived shortcomings will be used to justify further destructive behaviors towards ourselves and towards those around us.
“How To Grow From Your Pain”, https://markmanson.net/how-to-grow-from-your-pain
Hell, if mice can spread
When I was first diagnosed, this non-stop message of pain only added to the situation and reality of the unknown. It attempted to pull down to the bottom like quicksand. It attempted to deplete hope and grit. We also need peers to share our hopes, successes, and dreams.
We can do better, and we should do better. Perusing those same MS resources, one also sees the camaraderie of the MS community. This should be the foundation to talk about our successes living a regular life while fighting MS. We need to talk about the pain while continuing to live non-perfect yet beautiful lives.
When I stepped forward, I committed to myself that part of that journey would be helping others diagnosed MS warriors. I would tell my story and share my experiences. In that light, please know that I have bad, even horrible, days. I am grateful they are rare.
A few months ago, I spent nine consecutive days in pain. The peak of the pain occurred at night. I woke up screaming because the sheets and blankets hurt. I could not take anything touching my skin. I would describe it as being burned without feeling the heat. What did I do during these nine days?
I got my ass up. I focused on being a great husband and father. I went for a run. I saw my personal trainer and did my daily running strength exercises. I went to work to lead an incredible team. I served my community.
Why? Because I remembered one fact in both the good and the bad moments. It’s something I learned from a person with CF. Every second is a gift. Every day is a gift. They are opportunities to live, to breath, to connect with someone, to achieve, to fail, to love. It took being diagnosed to hear this message.
Regardless of how I am feeling, I push never to lose sight that I was given the gift of time. How I feel and what I think should never take from those gifts. I have a responsibility to respect and appreciate them.
That brings me back to the Armstrong story and a third (bonus) realization. I realized I was on the bike, and I would never stop peddling. I am not alone. All of us are on the bike with our unique struggles – family, children, weight loss, health, money, a loved one dealing with a disease, etc.
Let’s stay on the bike and make sure we are helping the other stay on theirs. There is only one rule – you can’t give up. You must stay on the bike.
A few years back, I attempted to write one thing per day that I appreciated and loved about my wife, Courtney. This would remain a surprise until Christmas morning. Then, on that glorious day, I would see her opening it. I would explain what the journal was. She would smile and maybe even shed a tear.
A few months in, we hit a moment when the world was allowed to bleed in. The foundation of our marriage was rock solid. We were just covered in too much crud. I allowed it to impact me. The journal became a burden. I surrendered to poor judgment, and I stopped. Even worse, I told her about the journal and stopping.
That decision has haunted me for years and remains a huge regret. I knew our relationship was strong. I could feel the strength of our relationship. It did not truly reflect our marriage, my commitment to her, and the inexhaustible list of her incredible qualities. It did not reflect how I felt about her. Yet, I stopped, and I did not truly know why.
On January 1, 2017, I quietly began a new gratitude journal for Courtney. One day, one entry. It took two journals in all. She received those on Christmas morning.
The obvious question is “What changed?” The answer is that I changed.
The better and truer question is “What did I learn that caused this change?”
I later realized that the original attempt was a journey that began with the wrong purpose. Beginning with the wrong purpose would have been acceptable if allowed the option of anything else.
This was all about my aforementioned vision for Christmas morning and how I would look. I wanted to quietly but triumphantly nod to myself like the superhero of Christmas. It was about my story. It was selfish and vain.
This changed with the simple act of writing in the journal. The days when we didn’t click? I wrote in the journal. The days when the world was perfect, and I didn’t want to let go? I wrote in the journal. Days spent away from each other and days when everything was just ordinary? I wrote in the journal.
Pissed off at your spouse? Write down three things you love about them. Don’t use words like “but”.
This changed the purpose somewhere along the way. It became about honoring her and our relationship. This caused the journals became the greatest gift I could have given myself. There were no more visions of grandeur for her opening them. They allowed me to see Courtney in a positive and appreciative light every day regardless of the circumstances of the day.
Thus, I learned that purpose often comes on the journey and to be skeptical if it comes before.
Startups and entrepreneurs love to talk about failure should not be feared. Past failures are considered badges of honor or a rite of passage. This completely misses the point.
Failure typically comes with damage and destruction. At a minimum, it destroys the currency of time. One should fear failure. One should not be proud of the failure itself.
It’s what happens after the failure that matters. Failure can be a seed of growth. This is the growth of a person, a team, a family, an organization, and a relationship. That growth can often reimburse and replenish the failure’s damage.
It took failing for me to get here. It was a course correction for me. I grew from failing the first time around. I approached the endeavor this time with the correct priority and commitment.
Describing a role as a firefighter conjures images of danger and treacherous situations. That’s not the daily reality for firefighters. Calmness reigns over most days. Actions are not dictated by a crisis because there often is no crisis. They remain diligently prepared while conserving mental and physical energy. It’s boredom bookended by crises.
When the fire does happen, they run into it fully prepared together as a team.
This was the mistake made my first time around. The outside world caused a fire in the midst of calmness and bliss. I wavered between running away, running in ill-prepared, or going alone.
Courtney and I are peers and partners in this relationship and this world. We do not need to go it alone, especially when it impacts the relationship. The right response would have been to open a dialogue and communicate. This gives time, options, and support.
I learned to enjoy the bliss and to be prepared for the moments when called to action. Once called, battle the blaze with heart and as a team.
The kids knew what I was doing. I did that because I often wanted their thoughts on what they saw in Courtney. It also created this vibe and excitement as the year went along.
I began to believe that one of the greatest gifts a parent can give her/his child is the true image and story of herself/himself. This also includes the reality of relationships. I want them to see that we love each other and our relationship is not all roses and unicorns. It’s real.
Leave something your children will smile reading when you are gone. Leave something your children will learn from (but not idolize) when you are gone. And also leave something your children will blush reading when you are gone.
Finally, I believe that our marriage is imperfect yet a loving and relentless commitment to each other. We each make a decision every morning and every night that our relationship and the other is important and that each is 100% responsible. Thus, we each commit to improving and growing our individual selves and the relationship.
For me, this is a fairly easy commitment to make when your other truly is your better half and brings you joy. Don’t believe she is? She has two journals put together over one year to prove it.
When I posted “Oh, and I Have Multiple Sclerosis”, I had one hope – to share my story in an authentic and honest manner. I did not have any expectations other than a few people reading it. I did not know if I would receive any feedback or responses. Yet, I have been overwhelmed and blessed with responses of support. Many of them have been directly from friends and family. Some of them have come through those same people.
I can not thank everyone enough. The responses represent the best of humanity. They have been surprising, heartwarming, and, at times, heartbreaking. I have especially appreciated the thoughts of support for Courtney.
– Lil Jon (On every song)
Buried in the responses were a few questions. I wanted to share some responses and respond to some questions.
Question #1: What has surprised you most since the announcement?
Answer #1: I am surprised by the people I heard from and the stories they have shared. This includes a few people who I don’t personally know. I am reminded that we never know the burdens people carry and the stories they hold.
Question #2: Why don’t you raise money for MS (instead of CFF)?
Answer #2: I have always disliked the pictures of people holding big checks with amounts they have given to a charity. It has always seemed self-serving. The exception is if the picture will inspire someone else to write a bigger check.
I believe charity should be done because it’s the right thing to do. These should be selfless reasons. It is about helping others. The MS charities feel a little too close too home. It may sound weird, but it feels somewhat selfish because it could or will be helping myself.
For now, I remain committed to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation as my primary charity. This may change one day. I occasionally ponder if this the right response.
Question #3: Is this related to you being gluten-free/celiac?
Answer #3: Who knows? Celiac and MS are both autoimmune diseases. Consuming gluten appears to increase my chances of a flare-up. Plus, who doesn’t love rice flour seasoned with a pound of sugar? Or beer made from sorghum?
Question #4: Did your MS have anything to do with the investment in Contegix and your departure from day-to-day there?
Answer #4: Wow, no. Absolutely no. I actually did not even mentally connect those 2 events until someone asked the question.
We took the investment in Contegix to further our mission and to push our commitment to our core values. Craig and I are committed to the Rapid Accelerated Growth of our talent (their personal development), our customers, and our stakeholders. We wanted to build and expand our Go Beyond philosophy. Our industry is ripe with companies that do not care about the customer. Contegix is something different, and I am incredibly proud of that. It’s why I remain a shareholder and am on our Board.
We could have continued as-is, but we found a partner who concurred with and supported this mission. It allowed an acceleration, and I see the benefits of this decision every day. Contegix has achieved FedRamp certification. We have continued to hire and grow our people. It’s truly a joy to see it.
As to my stepping away from day-to-day operations, I am drafting a blog post regarding this, but it had nothing to do with the MS. Many people have heard me talk about this topic – Know Your 100 Miles. I hope the piece helps other entrepreneurs, leaders, and founders do what they do best. In short, Contegix needed a CEO who could take on the next phase of our mission, and we have one. I have an opportunity to observe, guide, and lead from our Board.
Finally, I will call out the elephant in the room. While this post and the last one were about MS, this blog will not become focused on MS. It will be what it always has been – my random thoughts. Sometimes, that means MS. This blog will not be defined by MS just as I am not be defined by MS.
I am a (doting, loving) father. I am a (faithful, nightly cuddling, giddy) husband. I am an (intensely loyal) friend. I am an entrepreneur. I am a (math and computer) geek. I am a mentor and a mentee. I am an ultra marathoner. Oh, and I have multiple sclerosis.
Three years ago today, Courtney and I walked into a doctor’s office. We left with what we knew was the outcome. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, specifically relapsing recurring multiple sclerosis. It started with an MRI to check some neck and spinal issues. It was followed by Courtney ordering a full with and without contrast MRI. It culminated with the official diagnosis that day.
This will come as a surprise to many, including some very close friends and family. Please know that is a reflection of the situation rather than my love for you. We told very few people in order to limit the exposure. We wanted to protect our family and our children. We wanted to ensure we had the answers to our questions which would be their question. We wanted them to see how it has not stopped our family. We wanted them to all be old enough to know rather than have 1 or 2 hold the secret. We wanted to be able to prepare them for what others may say, think, and whisper. Time gave us that breathing room and allowed us to not live on the margins. We only recently told our incredible kiddos.
Graciously share, and help people be the best they can be.
– Bob Cancalosi
Why am I talking about this now? Because I am tired and angry. And neither of those are symptoms caused by MS.
When I was first diagnosed, I researched everything I could about MS. It painted a picture of a very difficult life. It was a life spinal taps, canes, wheelchairs, hospital beds, MRIs, pain, etc. Many of these were covered by the phenomenal organizations working hard to cure MS. I understand why. These stories and images create emotion, and emotion drives people to open their wallets and purses. They are working to ensure this disease is cured.
This is a noble goal, and I commend everyone working on it. I have already benefitted from their relentless commitment and will hopefully benefit from a cure. These stories are also the realities for many with MS. That can never be forgotten. I repeat – these stories are the realities for many with MS and that can never be forgotten.
Yet, these stories were scary for me. These are all I found when I searched online. They might be driving energy and money to find a cure. This will create tomorrows for those with MS and their families. Yet, they were destroying my todays.
I am tired of only these stories, and I am angry at only these stories. These cannot be the only stories and experiences. I believe they are having another impact, and it’s not positive.
I have been blessed to meet and talk with numerous people with MS. Too many have given up their dreams, goals, and lives to this disease. Some of it was because of the symptoms and realities of the disease. Some of it was because the disease emotionally and mentally stole it. I met a woman who decided against having children because of her MS. She has not had a relapse in nearly a decade. My nurse coordinator gave up cycling months after being diagnosed. She still had the strength and balance to ride. She told me her fear of the disease paralyzed her.
Bow our heads and pray to the lord
Til I die I’m a fuckin’ ball
– Who Gon Stop Me by Kanye West & Jay-Z
Since my diagnosis, I have completed the Contegix investment by our private equity firm. (Small side note – our PE firm was extremely supportive of my decision to become public. I can not rave enough about the team and their character.) I took an 87-mile jaunt through Leadville that was cut short by a torn hamstring (not my MS). I have given a dozen speeches on tech, entrepreneurship, and the future of Saint Louis. I have become scuba certified and completed over a dozen dives. I have logged thousands of miles running. I have made coffee for my wife nearly 1000 times. I have hugged my children too many times to count.
I have bad days. The most common issue is pain, especially something known as the “MS Hug”. I had one a few weeks back on a Sunday. Courtney asked me how my day was as we settled into bed for the night. I shared I had been in pain most of the day. She seemed very surprised and ticked off a list of things I had done that day. From picking up donuts for the kids and a sleepover guest to running 15 miles to taking the kids to lunch, I was in pain.
She then asked why I didn’t just relax and take it easy. I told her that I was going to be in pain most of the day regardless of what I did or what happened. That day, like every single day, is a gift. I was not going to waste a gift. Pain was going to be there, and I had enough strength to push.
I strive to live my life with integrity, authenticity, and grit. I am going to continue living my life the same. Every second is a gift to make the world better for myself, my family, my community, and the world. I believe this is only achievable by going after impossible goals and helping others do the same. My MS is merely part my journey.
Thus, I am going to share more in the hope it helps those struggling with achieving their goals, including those with MS. I am going after Leadville Trail 100 in 325 days. I am working on my next venture to fix a century-old problem. I will walk my daughter down the aisle one day in the far-off future. I have huge goals for myself and my family. I am going to set sights on the impossible. Oh, and I have multiple sclerosis.
Two weekends ago, I had the opportunity to crew and pace a friend, Jeffrey, making his second attempt to run the Leadville Trail 100 race, aka LT100 or “The Race Across the Sky”. For those unfamiliar with LT100, it is a 100 mile race held annually that was first held in 1983. This would be the 33rd running of this scenic out and back race that starts and finishes in downtown Leadville, Colorado.
During the race, runners cross through the heart of the Rocky Mountains. The highlight of the race is the climb up to Hope Pass at 12,620 feet above sea level which one gets to experience twice! Racers run unsupported the first 50 miles. Pacers are only allowed on the second half of the race. Runners must complete the 100 miles in under 30 hours to be considered a finisher.
When describing the finishers, Abby Long of Life Time Fitness, the company that operates the race, once stated, “They look like death coming in.” The motto of the race says it all, it takes “Grit, Guts, and Determination”. Yet, runners and crews keep coming back year after year.
I now know why, or at least, why I want to come back and eventually run it. This race is about humanity. It’s about our relationship with our respective selves, with each other, and with the world around us – and sometimes the struggle between those.
That clarity started with another friend, Corky (@CorkyMillerSTL), jumping in and crewing at the last minute. Corky is an alumnus of this race. He has paced twice and ran once. He is also the person who got me into running. He would be the only person in our crew who had either paced or finished Leadville. Corky has done both. He’s a phenomenal runner and someone I adamantly admire – for his running and how he lives his life with deep integrity and commitment to family and friends.
By coincidence, we had scheduled to have breakfast on Wednesday, 3 days before the race and 1 day before I left for Leadville. I mentioned to him that I was headed to Leadville and leaving in 36 hours. I asked if he could share any advice. Within a few minutes, Corky had shifted from giving advice to deciding to cancel his weekend plans and head to the race with me. He would miss his anniversary (with his wife’s support) to help me and a person whom he has never met.
Corky was not alone in his commitment to the runners. Everything becomes about helping your runner cross the finish line. Sometimes that meant physically supporting him. It meant logistically support him, and other times it meant emotionally supporting him. There are effectively two avenues to support – aid stations and pacing. For the aid stations, every member of our crew, including Jeffrey’s mother-in-law who came over from Japan, was there to support him. We were prepared for whatever Jeffrey needed irrespective of whether he knew what it was that he needed. We swapped his camelbacks with fresh water, fuel, and salt pills as he came into each aid station, often without stopping. When Jeffrey arrived at Winfield Aid Station (mile 50), we removed his shoes and socks knowing that he crossed the river 7 miles earlier. These were quickly replaced.
Corky, John (Jeffrey’s business partner), and I all served as pacers. LT100 is unique in that it also allows pacers to carry their respective runner’s gear. So, we carried as much as possible whenever we were passing, such as headlamps, jackets, and fuel. The pacers are mule, cheerleader, drill sergeant, nutritionist, and time keeper. It is about thinking for your runner when he can not think beyond taking the next step.
As previously noted, being a pacer is about physical, logistical, and emotional support. This was most evident as a pacer. I had the chance to run 2 segments with Jeffrey as his pacer for a total of 24ish miles. The first section was 10.5 miles (mile 50 to 60.5) from Winfield to Twin Lakes. This is often considered the hardest segment of the race. This is the turnaround point and the start to climbing back up to 12,620 feet elevation at Hope Pass. This is a grit point. It’s either pull out of the race time or climb the damn mountain time. Jeffrey chose the latter.
This would be the farthest distance he had run. Managing his time up to Hope Pass and encouraging him to drink and fuel were my top priorities; however, it could not take a backseat to the awe in front of us – both the world below us and his commitment. At the top, runners are pleasantly greeted by a woman wrapped in warm coats as the temperature had dropped to below 40F. She was accompanied by a small generator, a Chronotracker, smiling words of encouragement for all, and an amazing view. It was hard to see the beauty come into view with every step. I felt part of my job as cheerleader was to ensure Jeffrey did not miss out.
From the top, we descended 800 feet to one of my favorite points – Hopeless Aid Station. How do you get water and supplies to 11,800 feet? Llamas, of course. Water is pulled from a stream, packed onto the llamas, and purified up at Hopeless. After the haul up to Hope, Jeffrey needed some time to recoup and fuel. It’s hard to do these while climbing; however, he came into Hopeless looking better than he did at Winfield. He was rehydrated and smiling. Back down from Hopeless and into Twin Lakes, we went.
Corky took the next segment from Twin Lakes to Outward Bound (fka Fish Hatchery) which totaled 16.5 miles. He pinned the needle with Jeffrey at times and helped reduce his time. Puking aside, this gave leeway in time for John and me to tackle the next two segments, including John and Corky climbing Powerline. John returned Jeffrey in great spirits and added even more time; however, he was spent.
We now had a little more than 13.5 miles to go of LT100. We had predicted this segment would take approximately 4 hours. If so, this would give Jeffrey 20 minutes to spare from the 30 hour cutoff. The first 3-4 miles, it was a combination shuffle and walk with an average pace in the mid-18s. My gut feel was that there was more left in his tank and that the sun rising would energize him. This was about supporting him. Frankly, at this point, I lied to Jeffrey about his pace and numerous facts. For example, I claimed he would have not finish on time if he didn’t pick up the pace. He would have finished with 10 minutes to spare based upon the mid-18s. When he asked for an energy gel to eat down the road, I “accidentally” opened it before handing it to him.
He picked up the pace after that a little bit. Something clicked at mile 5 though, and we were off to the races.
Jeffrey became a damn machine. We started passing runners and their pacers in handfuls. At one point, a pacer and runner started running with us. Jeffrey was in lead, and I was behind him. This pair was behind me with their pacer screaming words of encouragement. “We are a g*d damn freight train. CHOOO-CHOOO!! Roll on, mother f*ckers!” Leading this pack did something for Jeffrey, and he dropped the hammer.
I looked down at our pace. We were sub-10 min/miles. We clocked miles 95 & 96 at around 8:43 min/miles. We were flying and had already dropped the runners trailing us. As we ran past more people, I distinctly remember a female runner asking her pacer, “How the hell are they doing that?”
With less than four miles to the finish, I had to call our crew. We were coming in well ahead of time, but I didn’t know how much ahead. Unfortunately, I caught them at breakfast. They hadn’t received all of their food yet. Regardless, it’s about the runner. Food was abandoned, check was paid, and they were out the door to be there. He had completed the final segment in 2 hours 51 minutes 38 seconds (2:51:38). He slaughtered the expectation of 4 hours.
finished with a time of 28 hours, 27 minutes, 19 seconds (28:27:19) to claim his first Leadville Trail 100 Finish with his wife by his side. This was her race, too, after a year of supporting and nourishing him.(Endurance sports are a selfish sport. Period. No discussion.) His crew was there to cheer him on.
Yet, we were not anything special in our commitment. (We did have the best driver, though.) Every crew operated in the same manner with their runners. And it extends past the crews. Like many, including the elites who had finished the previous day and most of the town, we waited around to see the remaining runners cross the finish line over the next 1.5 hours. Jeffrey finished 162 of 313 finishers. Another 161 runners would cross the finish line before the shotgun blast signaling the 30 hours cut off. This includes Rui Pedras, whom I have never met.
Rui came in at 29:46:56 for spot 307. What amazed me about his run was the last 150 yards. Every single step of the last 150 yards was heartbreaking. He could barely maintain keeping himself upright. It required the use of hiking poles that were splayed out at 90 degrees from each other. His legs would cross as he took steps. He looked like a first-time skier. Mental and physical exhaustion had pushed him to the brink.
The crowd was there every second cheering and encouraging a person whom they don’t know. He surged on their volume and words. It may have taken him nearly 20 minutes to cover the 150 yards, but he made it.
There’s something about seeing someone struggle, never giving up, and gritting down. There’s something about seeing strangers cheer and energize the spirit of someone they have never met and will probably never see again. It’s the commitment of one’s self, the crew’s to the runner, and the town to this race and its human endeavor against and with nature. It is the “Grit, Guts, and Determination” of all on display with humility and pride.
That is the essence and the spirit of Leadville – the race and the town. And that is why I will return.
I previously stated that it was an opportunity to be involved. The reality is that it was more than that. It was a gift and blessing. LT100 has the potential to be life-changing if one lets it. For me, it was that, and that is not a phrase I use casually.
For more information about the race and this year’s results, check out the following:
Sadly, I had not focused on my health the past few years. The crazy hours between 3 kids and a growing company had taken the toll on my health and appearance. I decided that walking into Spring 2010 it was time for a change. I had reached an unhealthy 199 lbs. and did not want to cross over the mind startling 200 lb. mark. This is weight unhealthy on a 5’9″ medium-sized frame.
Within a few short months of this, I had lost a substantial amount of weight. In September, I ran into a friend I had not seen in 18 months. His words were “You are freaking me out! I didn’t even recognize you.” The total as of today is over 40 lbs. The amount of weight is important and could be considered a great success, but it’s not what I actually care about. Weight was merely an indicating factor. It was never the goal.
FWIW, I stopped caring about my weight at the start of this journey after reading “Born Round” by Frank Bruni.
I feel much better. I have significantly more energy and think clearer. I am taking care of myself and more focused.
So, what has been the “secret” to the weightloss success? Sorry folks, there is no magic pill. I did simple things that I now call DRY – diet, running, and yoga. Here is the breakdown and tools that helped me:
Diet – First, I want to be clear that I do not mean “diet” by the following definition:
“such a selection or a limitation on the amount a person eats for reducing weight”. I mean “diet” as defined by “food and drink considered in terms of its qualities, composition, and its effects on health”. Therefore, I focus on a few key critical factors of my diet – calories, protein, and cholesterol. This is not about restriction. This is about balance and providing nutrition.
I watch and document the food I consume. Every drop. Every nibble. Every meal. It’s amazing to watch how the nutritional elements, especially calories, add up. It does hold me accountable and forces me to be honest with myself. For calories, I aim for approximately net 1800 calories per day. Therefore, if exercise burns an additional 1000 calories, I add this back into my caloric consumption for the day. Often this is difficult
Running (Phase 1) – I am now running 3-4 days a week, even in the cold weather of Saint Louis. If you follow my twitter feed, you may have noticed how addicted I am to this. Most weeks, I am averaging 25-32 miles per week. For 2011, I have a personal goal of 1500 miles, 1 half marathon, and 1 full marathon. This would have been unimaginable a year ago. I once told Courtney that I would rather walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding with blisters on my feet from running than being pushed down the aisle in a wheelchair due to ailments caused by not taking care of my health, such as Type II diabetes.
Given that I had not run anything more than sprints in a few years, I started with the Couch to 5K (C25k) exercise program in late February/early March 2010. It is a 9 week program that consists of 3 workouts per week and helps condition a beginner to run a 5k. Each run progressively challenges the runner without overdoing it and risking injury. It is critical for the body to be conditioned properly for any new activity. The muscles, joints, and heart are not designed to be jump started like a car battery.
Running (Phase 2) – After I finished the C25k routine, I focused on my form and started actually enjoying running. I was able to quickly start adding miles to runs, overall miles per week, and number of runs per week. In October 2010, I met my goal of running 100 miles in a single month. The last 3 days of the month, I added over 20 miles and felt great. It’s safe to say that I have experience a “runner’s high” on any run past 2-3 miles.
I can not stress form enough when running. I firmly believe this has been a huge factor in the ability to add miles safely and without injury!
Yoga – I was recommended yoga by a friend (and customer) 4 years ago. After doing some research, I decided to give it a try in late May 2007. I immediately fell in love with the physical and mental aspects of it. It also had the added benefit of helping address some (genetic) back issues I have.
Courtney and I turned Tuesday evening yoga into a weekly date night. Every Tuesday you can catch us at the a yoga class at Jane’s House. They conduct classes in a predominantly hatha style and offer something from beginner to advance. My goal in 2011 is to increase yoga to 2-3 per week.
I hope this posts and these tool can help others. Leave a comment or hit me up on twitter if you have questions.