Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Christmas Card from Primus

My Early Days
My name is Primus and I’m a dog. I had a rough start in life but thanks to some great soldiers and a bunch of people who love and care, I’m a very “lucky dog”. My life started in Afghanistan where some very mean people abused me, cut off my ears and tail then left me to die. I made my way to an Army outpost where Slovenian and American soldiers took me in and nursed me back to health. Most of the soldiers were very friendly and I made a living going through the trash and taking any handouts I could get. 

Me & My Best Friend Jesse
As I grew, one American soldier named Jesse took special care of me and became my best friend. He decided I needed a home and a family and arranged for Nowzad, an incredible animal rescue in Afghanistan to take care of me while he raised money to send me to his parents in Colorado, USA. After almost two months in Nowzad a bunch of extremely nice people donated all the money needed to fly me to Colorado.
Waiting for an unknown future at Nowzad
In August, upon my arrival in Colorado I was scared, confused and quite a mess. Strange people, new sights, smells and everything was so different. I met my new family, Larry & Roswitha, but in my fear and confusion I started a fight with their dog Max and terrorized their three cats, Mickey, Murphy, and Emma. My new family was very patient and loving. They took me on walks with Max and introduced me to many of the neighborhood dogs. At first, in my insecurity I wanted to fight every one of them. Slowly Max and I got to know each other and now we are best friends. We play and wrestle throughout the day and Max has been really good at teaching me the ropes. (Every now and then he teaches me some things I shouldn’t do too… :-) I’ve also got to know the neighborhood dogs and found they are all friendly and just want to be my friends. I haven’t quite figured out the coyotes yet though. To top it off, I’ve even learned to get along with Mickey, Murphy, and Emma, although Emma doesn’t seem to care for me much.
My First Day at Home
Through the end of the Summer and into Fall Larry woke me up in the mornings and he, Max and I went for early runs. I had problems with these at first, not really able to run more than a mile or two, but now I’m up to 5 miles! Max and Larry sometimes continued after dropping me off for breakfast. And I love breakfast! Max tells me about some amazing adventure runs he and Larry do with a group called CRUD. I’m aspiring to one day run with CRUD. During the day Roswitha took me on hikes in wonderful places like Garden of the Gods and Ute Park. On weekends, Larry, Roswitha, Max, and I went on long hikes in the mountains. The sights, sounds, and smells were incredible and I just had to explore everything!
Max trying to get me in the Water
Ready to go Hiking with my Bud - Max
This is so Cool!

I Just can't get enough of the Views!

I'm too Sexy for my Shirt - too Sexy for my Shirt
Finally in November Jesse came home. I think that was the happiest day of my life. My stub wagged so hard it shook my entire butt. Jesse and I do everything together. We go on long hikes in the mountains, he takes me on rides in his truck and we’re the best of friends again.
Me and Jesse Back Together!
With Jesse, Max, Larry, Roswitha, and even the cats, I’ve got it made. I’m not quite a year old yet but so far life has been a doosy. I just want to say Merry Christmas and thank-you to all the dogs and great folks at Nowzad, all the soldiers who were so nice to me, the generous people who contributed to get me to Colorado, and my family who loves me so much. Whoever coined the term “lucky dog” certainly had me in mind.

Merry Christmas 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Leadville Weekend

View from Camp at Winfield

This weekend Rebekka Hannula, Steve Bremner, and I headed to the Leadville area to do a little Leadville Trail 100 running and scouting. Rebekka is going to run the Leadville Trail 100 this year. Steve is going to be the crew chief, and I will help with crewing as well as pace/mule for her 25 or so of the last 50 miles.

Our original plan was to do a double crossing of Hope Pass; Twin Lakes – Winfield – Twin Lakes, about 20 miles, then a night run on the Colorado Trail. However, the north side of Hope Pass is still snowed in and not passable, at least not in running shoes. So we had to change our plans slightly.

We camped Friday night near the ghost town of Winfield, which is at the 50 mile turnaround point in the LT 100. At 6 AM we left camp and ran to the top of Hope pass and back for total 10 miles. Absolutely stunning scenery and stunning weather. The run went really well, we all felt good and got to the top relatively quickly, even though we had some icy snow fields to deal with.

Top of Hope Pass
Once finished we packed up camp headed to Leadville for some food and relaxation, then set up camp near the pipeline. At about 7:30 PM we left Twin Lakes for the 11+ mile run to our camp at pipeline. The course has changed somewhat over the last couple years and is a little bit more complicated to navigate, especially at night. Luckily, the LT100 organization was conducting an LT100 training camp this weekend and had put course markers up. We never made a single wrong turn! We arrived at camp feeling great and Rebekka has a little better idea what she is getting in to. Great day!

Steve and Rebekka end of Night Run
Sunday we said our goodbyes as Steve and Rebekka headed back to Colorado Springs. I decided to stay and ride my road bike to the top of Independence Pass and back; a 40 mile round trip from Twin Lakes. 20 miles up and 20 miles down! When I arrived at the top, there was a group of Vietnam Veteran Bikers. They were impressed that I could ride a bicycle up there. I was impressed with them for being who they are. All in all a great weekend!

Two Veterans, Two Bikers

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ring the Peak & Sailin Shoes

4 AM - 9 of the 11 Starters (2 were stopped by the Manitou  Police) Photo Steve Bremner

Last Saturday, a group of CRUDers embarked on the “2nd Annual CRUD Ring the Peak Fun Run”. This is an informal approximately 65 mile run around Pikes Peak with over 14,000 feet of climbing. The 1st annual CRUD Ring the Peak Run last year, as far as I know, was the first time anyone ran around Pikes Peak in one day. This year 11 CRUDers embarked on the journey leaving Manitou Springs at 4:00 am for a 14 plus hour adventure. Manitou Springs, at just under 7,000 ft, is probably the lowest point on the entire route, so the run starts right off with a climb. Most of the run is between 9,000 & 11,000 feet. Of the 11 starters, 3 actually ran the entire loop; Nick Starkey, Rick Hessek, and Steve Bremner!

The 3 Ringateers at ~ 55 miles

Some had planned to only run a portion of the course. We had two informal aid stations set up in remote areas along the route so anyone not wanting to do the whole run caught a ride back to Manitou Springs. I had the joy and honor, along with Rebekka Hannula to join the “Three Ringateers” for the last 20 miles – Crags Campground to Manitou Springs. I figured they would arrive at the Crags with 45 miles & 12 hours in their legs, so I would be able to keep up. It was incredibly fun. Rebecca pushed the pace,  I was able to keep up, and the “Ringateers” were strong to the finish. The "2nd Annual CRUD Ring the Peak Fun Run" (that’s a mouth full!) is in the books.

Nick, Rick & Steve - The Last "Ring the Peak" Trail Marker
65 Miles, 14,000 ft vertical, 16 hrs 48 minutes

Slide shows of the Ring the Peak Run: Steve's Start to Finish  & Larry's Last 20 Miles

Today I ran the Colorado Springs Sailin Shoes 10k race with Roswitha and surprised myself by being much faster than expected: 43 + minutes, avg 7 min a mile. I was very surprised considering this is only the third weekend after completing treatment. A 20 mile run last week, and a faster than expected 10k this week. I'm back and getting stronger every day!

Have a great week!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

Memorial Day Weekend; Back on the trails, back in my beloved mountains. My first weekend back, ran with CRUD knowing it was going to be painful - and it was. Started out with the group and as soon as we turned up Buckhorn I was off the back, walking more than running. Steve hung back until we got to Bear Creek then I headed down alone (Trail 666 of all trails) to High Drive, then walked and jogged up high drive to Helen Hunt Falls. Ten miles, lots of climbing and back in the mountains!

Ute Park

Sunday, first Mountain Bike ride since early December. Ute Park with Kevin. I was a little apprehensive about the technical aspect after being off the bike for so long. While walking with Max over the last six months, I wondered how we ever rode this stuff before, and if I would ever be able to ride these trails again. Well as Kevin said “it’s just like riding a bike”. No problems, seems like (technically) I picked up right where I left off. Definitely got to work on fitness though.

John, Wes, Steve, Max, & Chewey at Lake Morain

Ran & rode all week. Back to getting up early, getting a run or ride in before work and getting stronger every day. Did hill workouts both running and biking during the week. There is only one way to get good at climbing – and that is to climb, climb, and then climb some more. Today (Saturday, June 04) was a huge test. Up Barr Trail and over to Lake Morain (About 10, 300 ft) and back, just a little over 17 miles with 4 – 5,000 feet of climbing. It went better than I could possibly hope. I didn’t get totally dropped, felt good the whole way, and was able to breathe while going uphill… and the scenery was spectacular.

Max is glad to be back too!

I’m feeling pretty sore after such an incredible week. And it feels great!

And here is a little "Back in the Saddle Again" for your intertainment,  courtesy of Aerosmith!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Finish Line

Just as the last 6 miles of a marathon or the last 20 miles of a 100 mile run can get very tough psychologically, the final weeks of this adventure tested me to the limit.  If it wasn’t for incredible friends like Steve Bremner and Kevin Cahn, my amazing doctor; Dr. Pinto, my boss, and of course the angel of my life, Roswitha, I may not have made it. I definitely entered the gates of Hell, and they came and rescued me.

A few minutes ago, I gave myself the 24th and last interferon injection. I’ve crossed the finish line. Of course I’ll be sicker than a dog over the next couple days, but the last injection has been administered. I’ve made it, or I should say we’ve made it, as this was a long hard journey for Roswitha too. I can’t begin to thank everyone enough who helped get us through this and/or offered words of support. Roswitha is an absolute unbelievable angel. She was steady as a rock and somehow never faltered. She was and is my rock. I love her so much.

My Angel

It’s been a tough but educational 6 months. This blog was origianlly intended to explore and share what it is like to participate in and accomplish ultra endurance events, to demonstrate how we can go beyond our perceived limits and have fun doing it! Although this was not what I had in mind when documenting these adventures, it was certainly an ultra endurance event!  I can only hope that this blog will somehow help or inspire others going through similar situations. I do need to warn anyone on serious drug treatment though that the perceived limitations, both mentally and physically, are real in most cases. I pushed the limits a couple times and paid a price. Luckily nothing permanent. My advice is to just focus on getting better. Don't worry about anything else. Just get better.

Looking forward to hooking up with CRUD next weekend as well doing my first mountain bike ride since December!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Rules of Endurance

When I start an ultra event be it running or biking, I imprint three rules into my brain:

1) Stay positive
2) Be nice to my crew
3) Quitting is not an option

In this “special” ultra in which I’m currently participating, I stamped these rules into my brain right from the start. It has been tough, but all ultras have their ups and downs and I expected that. I have stuck to my rules (not exactly 100% on the first two though) and will continue to stick to them through the finish.

With five months down and one to go, I started thinking about life after treatment. With my current energy level and lack of red blood cells it’s hard to imagine running or riding in the mountains again. So I asked a doctor friend of mine what kind of recovery time I can expect. He sent me a study that wasn't very encouraging, but that study turned out to be special cases. He conferred with two specialist who both agreed it varies, but normally 2 - 4 weeks. My doctor confirmed that prognoses also.

The good news is that I’ve been pretty atypical throughout this entire adventure, so I’ll keep pushing the envelope as much as I can. It looks like I won’t be racing this summer, but I’ll play it by ear. I have my eye on the American Discovery Trail Marathon  on Sept 5 (my birthday) and if I can get some decent training in and feel like I can push it, I’ll go for it. In the mean time I am committed (and signed up) to run with “Team Colorado” in a 6 day ultra marathon run called The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica starting on January 21, 2012.

During this down time, I’ve had the opportunity to read a lot of books. I just finished “Running on Empty” by Marshall Ulrich. Marshall is one of the most accomplished ultra-endurance and adventurers of all time. This book is about how at 57 years old he ran from San Francisco to New York City in 52 days. That’s an average of over 60 miles a day for 52 straight days! Marshall, over time has put together the “Ten Commandments of Endurance” or “Marshall Law” as some call them, based on his experience and incredible accomplishments. They are:

1) Expect a journey and a battle
2) Focus on the present and set intermediate goals
3) Don’t dwell on the negative
4) Transcend the physical
5) Accept your fate
6) Have confidence that you will succeed
7) Know that there will be an end
8) Suffering is okay
9) Be kind to yourself
10) Quitting is not an option

Great advice for any endeavor. Perfect for this one.

Here is a video clip of Marshall’s incredible run across the USA. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Week of Firsts

Dogs are the best. Yesterday, (Saturday April 2) I was having a typical Saturday since I started treatment in that it was almost noon and I was still in bed. Roswitha and Max had just returned from their run and Max blasted up the stairs, tore open the curtains to let a beautiful day shine in on me, jumped up on the bed and started giving me puppy kisses. I think he said something like “It’s a glorious day outside; I think it would do you a lot of good if you take me for a walk.” OK I have to admit I might have exaggerated on the curtains, Roswitha probably opened them. There’s also a good possibility that it was her that mentioned taking Max for a walk. But he DID give me puppy kisses. Dogs are the best!

This week was a week of firsts and has been very encouraging. Before I started treatment there were few things that gave me the absolute joy that running and cycling did. When I was out running or riding my bike, I felt like a little kid out exploring the world, or a dog let loose to run his heart out in a field of rabbits; pure bliss. I haven’t had that feeling in months. Practically every run, every ride has been a real test of my will. I don’t enjoy them and I can feel wiped out for days if I push too hard. But, I continue to get out there and keep the faith, that when this is over I’ll love running & riding again.

One of the firsts this week was (after Max’s puppy kisses) we went out on a 2+ hour hike in Ute Park. Contrast that to last Saturday and many Saturday’s before that, where it takes all of my will power to drag myself out of bed at 2:30 – 3:00 PM, force myself to do what I call “my 90 year old man shuffle” around the neighborhood, then spend the rest of the day sitting in the kitchen, with my head buried in my hands, or laying on the couch, or going back to bed until about noon Sunday. It is during these “old man shuffles” that sometimes I think about those incredibly epic runs with CRUD and those great mountain bike adventures with Sharon, Dan, Kara, Nick, James, Ralph & others in the past. It sometimes seems like that was a different life, and I was a different person. It’s during these times that my morale can get low and I wonder if I’ll ever be able (or even want) to do that stuff again.

Another 1st Shorts & T-shirt Weather!

This week, again another first, I was feeling unusually good by Wednesday. Now I always feel somewhat better by Wednesday but never GOOD. Thursday, I rode my bike to work and felt traces of my old self again. I actually enjoyed the ride, felt a hint of strength on the small climbs, and even sprinted through a traffic light. (It was green). I didn’t feel wiped out until later that evening, and Friday morning I had an enjoyable “run” in Ute Park. I even “ran” (probably a better description would be “didn’t walk”) the hills, and again, felt traces of my old self and my past love and joy for running! And I felt GOOD at work!

Now this is all very encouraging and inspirational for me. So much so, I started making a list of races for my come back. I know I probably won’t be competitive this summer but my goal is to do some epic races, enjoy them, and finish. It’s been a bit of journey and it ain’t over yet . 17 weeks down, 7 to go. I don’t know what the next 7 weeks will bring but if I have a couple more like this, I’ll gladly take em. Oh and by the way… dogs are the best!

And here is a heartwarming dog story

Family dog kept watch over missing 2-year-old overnight

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Little of Somthing is Better than a Lot of Nothing

So this week I continued with “maintenance”, running and riding when I can. I know that right now I am very limited as to what I can do, but as long as I can do something I will. I look at this as preservation of muscle memory, making sure that the body doesn’t forget. Eventually, I will get through the treatment and slowly get stronger and stronger. As long as I can keep doing even a little bit, my return will be easier.

A very good friend of mine, Steve Bremner, who is two years my elder, made an attempt Saturday to break his own winter ascent record of Pikes Peak. Steve is a mountain man’s mountain man. He currently has the record for climbing the most 14,000 foot mountains in a 24 hour period. He’s climbed pretty much every 14er in Colorado, has ran a marathon in every state and dozens of countries. Two years ago he ran every marathon in Colorado, which required running back to back marathons on some weekends. He just came back from a week long ultra marathon race in Costa Rica, then did a marathon last weekend. Last year he set the winter ascent record for Pikes Peak in 3 hrs 21 min. Think about that. That’s 13 miles straight up a mountain of 14,000 feet, in snow, ice, wind, and altitude, at 55 years old! So Saturday, one week after running a marathon, he attempted to break his Pikes Peak record. He came up short by 32 minutes but gave it a heck of a try. He sent out a great trip report that (without asking) I’ve appended to this week’s blog entry. There’s a bench in Ute Park from which one can sit and take in the beauty of Pikes Peak. I sat there Saturday morning taking in the sights and sounds of being in nature, and cheered Steve on as he ran up the mountain.

My Stadium Seat of Steve's Ascent
Last Day of Winter, March 19th, 2011 (Steve Bremner)

Snow plumes were swirling off the summit when I first got a glimpse of Pikes Peak about two miles up the Barr Trail. The forecast was for winds of 45-50 MPH and temperatures of 25 degrees by 1100 AM when I expected to be up there. I started my journey at 7:40 A.M. at the trailhead proper. My intent was to make a go at breaking the winter speed climbing record of 3 hours 21 minutes that I had set in January of last year, however when I reached the top of the W’s in 27 minutes I knew it was not going to happen. I wasn’t moving fast enough for any number of reasons: carrying too much stuff, ran a trail marathon a week before, getting older….pick your excuse, any excuse will do. Other time hacks at the 7.8 mile-to-go sign (1:10), Barr Camp (1:36) continued to reinforce the realization that it was not going to be a record setting day.

The trail up to Barr Camp was melting out well. Indeed the trail to Noname Creek was dry and from there to Barr Camp no spikes were necessary. I finally put on spikes just above Barr Camp. I followed one set of fresh footprints in the snow, but caught him just before the end of the long switchback before A-Frame. This was also where the trail became mostly un-runable. I cut straight over to A-Frame from the “willows switchback,” reaching A-Frame in 2:34. The creek by the A-Frame was completely frozen over. From here I climbed straight up the slopes, post-holing up to my knees on the soft snow, seeking firm ground on heather slopes as much as I could. Though it was a direct ascent the going was slow. I crossed the trail at the long traverse to the 1-mile-to-go sign about three hours into it. It would take another 53 minutes to reach the summit. As I approached the summit at first I thought the train was up there, then I realized it was the wind. Wow. The wind was screaming like a freight train. After the 16 Golden Stairs sign I angled left and gained the south ridge, popping out on the tracks. I walked the tracks towards the summit house in the face of bitter wind. Finding some shelter out of the wind I put on all my clothes: coat, an extra set of gloves and wool cap.

My next goal was to get off the mountain as fast as I could. I really didn’t want to go back down the rock pile, so I set off jogging down the tracks. Problem was, this was directly into the face of the biting wind. My fingers were going numb despite two sets of gloves and to keep my nose from getting frostbit I had to hold a hand over it. Finally, I rounded the first turn where the wind was mostly at my back. From the summit it is about two miles down the tracks to Windy Point, which is still above tree-line. What did I find there? Three trains, and one of them was coming up the tracks towards me. I called Chewy and we climbed up into the rocks while the maintenance train drove past. I’m sure they must have seen me but they pretended not to. It didn’t take very long before they gave three toots and turned back. Windy Point was the highest point the passenger trains would go that day. I waited until they all had started back down the mountain before I resumed my run down the tracks. Just below treeline the maintenance train had parked and workers were working on the tracks. Chewy and I diverted into the woods until we had passed safely beyond the train, then resumed our run down to the Mountain View station at 10,000’ elevation. At Mountain View it was so hot that I stripped down to short-sleeve shirt before running the connector trail back over to the Barr Trail near the half-mile-to-go sign to Barr Camp. I was running on “six hour legs” by this time and that is not too fast. Even at that pace Chewy was lagging. I realized he was not behind me when I reached Noname Creek. Backtracking I had to go all the way back to above “Town Overlook” before I found him. It was a long day on the mountain by the time I finally got home.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Different Kind of Ultra

Pikes Peak from Ute Park 3/13/11

The last update to my blog was way back in November. I mentioned that I had some type of a virus and would be taking a break for a while. Well the last 4 months have been anything but a break. The virus I contracted is Hepatitis C. This was a huge shock, and at first I was in denial. I got tested three times before I accepted the truth. The first few weeks after the diagnosis were feelings of shame and trying to figure out how I got it in the first place. I kind of went into seclusion and didn’t want anyone to know. In December I started a 6 month treatment that is anything but easy. It consists of one injection of interferon per week and 2 doses of Ribaviron per day. I have hit a major milestone in that after 12 weeks of treatment I tested negative. I still need to go through another 3 months of treatment to ensure there is no relapse.

My first order of business was to find out how I got it. Hepatitis C is a blood born virus that can only be contracted through mixing blood with infected blood. Hypodermic needles and needles used for tattoos and  are a good source since the virus can stay alive outside the host for up to 4 days. Another fact about this virus is you can have it for 20 – 30 years and never know it. There are no symptoms until the damage is done (to the liver) then things get real complicated. With that knowledge, almost all evidence pointed to my teenage years. I lived a very high risk life back in those days including drugs, fighting, reform schools, incarceration, and homelessness (It was called runaway back then). However I donated blood on several occasions after 1992 which would have been screened. So after more research the evidence points to an incident about 6 years ago. I was riding home from a mountain bike ride in Cheyenne Canyon and came upon a man beating up a woman. I tackled the man and held him down until bystanders were able to pull her to safety. I had open road rash, he was covered with her blood, and I believe that our blood mixed and I contracted HepC. They were both homeless, a very high risk group.

A liver biopsy shows no damage to my liver which supports the evidence that I contracted it 6 years ago vs. 40. With that news, I could have decided not to get treated and just monitor the progress with liver biopsies every five years. I decided that I don’t want to be a risk to anyone and I just want to get this behind me, so I started treatment in December.

What’s the treatment like? It’s nasty! The interferon injections have fairly immediate effects with the worst of it being the first 2 – 3 days. The Ribaviron effects are more accumulative and build over time. I give myself the injections on Friday so I can experience the worst over the weekend and be able to work on Monday. The first few weeks were incredible. I spent the weekend with every joint and muscle aching, chills that were out of control, jaws aching, my eyes felt like they were bulging out of my head and my brain was in a total fog. So completely wiped out, I had to crawl up the stairs. I couldn’t help but laugh when I realized this treatment lasts 6 months. By Monday I am somewhat recovered and am able to go to work, although it is rough as I’m definitely not firing on all cylinders. Each day through the week gets a little better although the brain seems to be foggy off and on. (Not that my brain was all that clear before the treatment). I force myself to do some running and bicycle commuting to work 2 – 3 days a week, but it’s a chore. On Friday I give myself an injection and start the cycle all over again. With time, the weekends aren’t so severe, as I think my body has adjusted somewhat. Some weekends are better than others. Friday was my 14th injection. Although I spent most of Saturday in the fetal position with chills, I still got out and walked (very slowly) in Ute Park with Max for an hour. Today I hiked with Max for over two hours. I’ve found that no matter how bad I feel, if I can just go outside and walk, it helps tremendously.

Max doesn't mind that I've "slowed down" a bit

One of the accumulative effects of all this magic is anemia. As I mentioned above, during the week I still try to run and bike commute. It feels like I’m doing everything at 14,000 ft instead of 6,000. I now understand the term “feels like breathing through a straw”. Although I haven’t been consistent, my goal is to run 5 miles Tues AM, Ride my bike home (17 miles) Tues PM, Ride to work Wed, run 5 – 6 miles at lunch, Run 5 miles Thurs AM, Ride home Thurs PM, and ride to work Fri AM. I’ve had different variants such as one Friday I decided to try and run the 17 miles to work. I made it, but what an incredibly rough weekend resulted from that! I quickly came to the conclusion that that was not a good idea! With the anemia, I found that not only do I have to run much slower, I cannot run as far, and I don’t recover very well. Hills, even small ones completely take the wind out of my sails. Sometimes I have to push my bike up my driveway!

During this time, I’ve been overwhelmed by the support and encouragement of my friends and co-workers. My doctor and his staff are definitely among the best. They go beyond the job and provide support and encouragement beyond the call of duty. My wife, Roswitha has been an absolute angel. I think this whole adventure has been more stressful for her than me. She has been there every step of the way, and I think we’ve become closer due to this experience. I know this sounds absolutely ridiculous, but in some sick way, I’m actually glad this happened. I’ve learned so much on this journey. I’ve learned to appreciate Roswitha a lot more and I’ve learned what it is like to be sick. I’ve had employees and co-workers in the past with certain ailments such as cancer, among others. Although I did everything I could to support them, I never really knew what they were going through. Now I have a clue, and this will help me understand and associate with friends and co-workers who experience anything similar in the future. I’ve learned that suffering is a frame of mind and the whole experience can change with your thoughts. I kind of already learned this from ultra runs and rides, but now I’ve definitely been given the opportunity to put this theory to the test. If you focus on the suffering things get worse and one runs the risk of depression. I’ve learned the easiest way to avoid depression (a side effect of the drugs) is don’t feel sorry for yourself. It’s that simple! When things are the worst, I just tell myself over and over again, “something good will come out of this”. I write that down every morning and I believe it makes a huge difference. I encourage others who are suffering from some sort of sickness or treatment to not focus on the suffering, don’t feel sorry for yourself, and focus on what you can learn from the experience. It does make a difference. Some of our best lessons are the hardest. Yesterday while I was in the fetal position most of the day, I visualized running in the mountains, effortlessly enjoying nature, and the feeling I could run forever. I suddenly realized I was grinning from ear to ear! It will come again.