Friday, July 28, 2017

and then we were interviewed

hi all.
i have told you all about our recent adventure of The Limberlost Challenge.
well the evening after the race we were interviewed.
we discussed what has sparked our running together as a family, and a whole bunch of other questions.
the interview was great.
we had been speaking about dan being the inspiration for each of us and our running.
his story has had a lot of impact on our family, and he inspires me daily.

the article has just come out this week,
so exciting...
she has focused on dan's story, and i believe she did a great job.

you can read the article here:
'How Running Saved an Ontario Man's Life, Bonded a Family Through Sport'

i wanted to share with y'all the open letter she is referring to.
he wrote this a year ago...
and had the opportunity to share it on the MARs facebook page,
i have shared it on my page a couple times.

since the letter he had run his second 50 mile race, and the Ottawa Marathon.
then he has had some fatigue and other health issues that we have been fighting with and recovering from...

and he has, as i have already shared, run Limberlost recently.

here is his open letter, shared in July 2016:
Why run a 50 mile

         This is the question I have asked myself many times over the past few years. It also the question that everyone seems to ask when they hear that i am going to run one.  I guess running a 50 is one of those things you need a reason to do, like you’re crazy if you say ‘just for fun’.  I mean there are many reasons like, to find out if I can, to stay in shape, I just love trail running, I can see more trails in a day than most people see in a week. All these answers are great but they don't really justify running 50 miles.  I mean if it was easy then any meaningless answer would do, and everyone would be running them.  The real answer and desire is deeper than all these things.  It is buried deep inside my soul, it is an expression of my hope.
         When i first decided to run an ultra, i wanted to, but the idea seamed outrageous, it seemed impossible, like something only the truly elite could do.  As i looked into the growing trend toward trail running and ultras i started to believe it might be possible, I mean, not all these people could be freaks. If only a handful of people could do this then, of course, they must be freaks, but thousands of people are doing it.  My view of the impossible began to crumble a little and the line between reality and fantasy began to move.
         Now to fully understand my transition between thinking i could run an ultra and actually believing it, I will have to fill you in on some of my history.  My running career was quite short.  I ran cross country for my last three years of high school.  I wasn't a star runner, really just average, the third scorer on my team.  No scholarships, no post-secondary running, that really was it.  The next ten years of my life i just ran randomly, really random, once in a while i would feel like running so i would go for a run.  I once ran a 10k and my legs hurt so much i wasn’t doing that again.  In fact, i actually believed that I couldn't run further than 10k but then everything changed.
         It all started with my brother-in-law, a stand-up comedian, who decided that he wanted to run a marathon for his bucket list, and he wanted to do it before his next birthday. I started to think if my brother-in-law, Tim, a non-runner, could do this, then i should be able to as well.  At age 29 i signed up for my first marathon.  I started researching training programs to find one that would work for me, but of course i could not find one.  I don't think the people making them are thinking that a guy working a 50 hour work week, of hard manual labor, would train for a marathon. They wanted me to run 4-5 times a week, 3 seemed much more reasonable to me.  The schedule was not the hard part for me but the battle between thinking and believing was where my struggle would be.
         In my head is where my journey really begins.  My life has always been full of unreached goals or a lack of even setting them.  My life was dominated by that crushing feeling that doubt and fear produce when they are not challenged.  I would always give up before i ever reached my hopes and dreams. What i truly believed was that things were only possible for someone else.  Over the years this mindset created a deep depression in my heart.  I believed I was a screw up and completely worthless.  This goal to run a marathon challenged the roots of who i believed i was and this challenged my heart.  If i was to run this marathon I would have to believe differently.  When you are plagued by doubt it is very easy to give up before you start, despite all the fear and doubt I was able to make a plan.
         Running three days a week was all i could handle with my job, and I began to surprise myself.  Very quickly I surpassed the furthest distance I had ever run, 11k, and found with training I could run further than i ever believed possible.  While my running was going well the rest of my life was becoming a mess.  Stress from work and home was becoming too much.  I now had two kids and we had just bought a house, I felt we had no money and when looking back, my wife was possibly going through postpartum depression.  It was all too much for me. My head was just swimming with stress.  I kept running, trying to escape the stress, but the running was beginning to be a stress on my relationships as well.  I wasn't ready to give it up though, it was the only thing making me feel good about myself.  The depression was uncontrolled and soon took over my life; sleep and eating patterns were messed up, thoughts began eating away at my soul.  I was in misery and eventually a day came when something happened that ruined me. I saw myself as so valueless that I tried to take my life.  I truly thought that everyone was better off without me, especially my wife and kids, they knew all my failures and faults.
         Thanks to many great people, first responders, nurses and doctors, my life didn't come to an end that day. I very quickly became overwhelmed by the love and support i received from friends and family.  i was sent home from the hospital quickly, i think because i had so much help at home.  This life altering event definitely woke others up to my situation, but I was not fixed.  I was still a broken man.  I didn't know how i was supposed to get better, but one thing I did know was suicide was not the answer.  Up until this point in my life my belief in God was a key part of my life, but I was beginning to doubt the very existence of God.  The Bible says that Jesus came to seek and save the lost.  At this point in my life I was a Christian, I was found and saved, but I didn't feel like it.  I felt completely lost and not at all saved, where was I going? what was i doing?
         I went cold to God, deep down i still had a root belief in him, but I didn't want to think about it or deal with it.  How could something like this happen to me, I was trying to do what was right.  My head was exhausted and I couldn't handle thinking about it, so I made a goal for myself. Take one day at a time, and rely on others to help me.  I slowly began to heal.
         I still ran the marathon with my brother-in-law even though it was only 2 months after trying end my life.  It was by far my worst running experience ever.  I had the stomach flu and walked and ran, with many outhouse stops, to a 4:48 completion.  Afterwords i told Michelle, my wife, that i was never running a marathon again and i meant it.  There were two positive things that stuck with me through the experience.  One was the fact that i actually completed it.  I didn't give up, even with how awful things got, and the other was what my brother-and-law told me. He said “I had already pretty much given up on the goal until I heard that you were still ready and willing.”  He had quit training about the same time i was in the hospital and didn't think we would end up doing it. The whole experience had opened up my eyes to what can happen if you don’t quit.  I found it hard to believe that i had actually gone 42k and i didn't give up.  It was the beginning of the restoration of confidence in myself.  For someone plagued by giving up it really meant a lot.
         It took a whole year and a half for me to start running again.  Through the downtime I realized how good Michelle had been to me.  She had never given up on me even though I had given up on myself.  I also began to realize the Bible is correct when it says the three most important things are faith, hope, and love, but not just for or with other people, but for yourself as well.  Those three things are really what bring joy.  They also laugh at fear, the fear that had so long ruled and controlled my life.  I needed to once again establish those three things in my life.  I had, for so long, hated myself and lived without hope or faith.  This is where running started to play a big part in my life. it gave me the opportunity to face all my fears, in small ways, little bits at a time. 

         In 2013 i signed up for the Band on the Run, half marathon, with the goal of completion.  My logic was that I had already completed a full marathon, so a half should be possible.  Training went easier without the deep depression looming over my head, but doubt was still in the back of my mind looking to sabotage me.  The end was such a surprise to me, I not only finished the race but I placed 6th overall.  Things were awesome for a while my hopes were up and i felt good about myself.  There was only one problem my body never recovered from the race.  No matter how much I slept or how little i did I still felt tired.  Exhaustion began ruling my life as well as every sickness that came.  This was dangerous for me for obvious reasons, with depression, that monster, still lurking behind me.  I went to the doctor a little scared that nothing, or everything, was wrong with me.  The initial assessment was there was nothing obviously wrong with me, but we still had to wait for blood work.  The results indicated that my thyroid levels were off.  The only thing I really knew about that was that my dad had a thyroid issue and they had thought it might be cancer.  The doctors ended up removing his and finding out the lumps were not cancerous, but the fear hit me deep and I told Michelle that if it was cancer i was going to run and keep running until i beat it or it took me.  I realized that i had so many uncompleted dreams in my life and I wasn't going to sit in bed and die.  After more blood work and an ultrasound I found out that I had Hashimotos disease, and not cancer.  I also realized fear was kind of like sitting in bed and letting yourself die. I mean when you are dying there might come a point when all you can do is sit in a bed, but to do that early would mean that you miss out on so much in life.  That is when my dream, to run an ultra, began. No more waiting for something to happen to me I was going to run an ultra or break my body trying.  During the fall of 2013 I tried to start running again, but I was really having a lot of problems with energy going up and down and I couldn't really run.  Still the dream of an ultra began to grow inside my heart and I became really sure I wanted to run one.
         Through a friend, Sharon Bennett, I heard about The Limberlost Challenge (TLC) and the 56k became my goal.  It was on the short side for an ultra and I thought it might be manageable, it was in the range of possibility. The thing that really got my attention with the TLC is the fact that it is hidden away in the woods, no crowds of people, and I might be by myself at times.  I felt that being alone at times was good thing because if i have a breakdown and want to give up, maybe no one would see it happen.  This was a good place to continue facing my social fear that was the aftermath of a suicide attempt, and also would really help me feel significant to complete such a large goal.  The Bible teaches that we have value, that our creator cares for and loves us, and that we are significant, but I had forgotten that.  Maybe not forgotten, I just didn’t believe it any longer.  Nobody wants to believe they were made to scale mountains when they are afraid to leave the house.
         After a spring of training I took on TLC 56k, I was really underprepared although I didn’t know it at the time.  Two laps out of four was all I could really handle, and I had to push hard to complete lap 3.  At the end of lap 3 I was spent, but my wife and kids had arrived and they cheered me on through the start/finish area and onto lap 4.  You know that point where you start to feel like everything you have to give isn't enough and you are ready to just give up and quit.  My life has been controlled by that feeling it haunts my dreams when I’m awake and asleep.  I was there, ready to quit 1km into lap 4.  I hit the big hill and i quit.  I sat down on a rock and was done.  Tears began to run down my cheeks as i thought of my kids waiting to see me to finish, and me walking back, in shame, and dropping out.  I sat for a minute thinking, there was nothing wrong with me, I wasn't broken, my legs still worked.  I could walk.  I was well under the time limit.  I decided to continue by walking.  I thought it might be slow but I wasn't quitting. After a couple km of walking i soon found that I could run, and hope was being renewed, I would finish and my kids would see their Dad cross the line.  I was glad to be alone on that lap because i cried most of the way, and i was glad that fear and doubt didn't win this time.  I finished, believing that I had just done the most difficult thing in my life.  It took more courage for me to finish than I ever thought possible.
          At the time i didn’t know if I would run that far ever again, but I still didn't quite feel like I was done.  By definition everything over a marathon is an ultra, but most ultra runners consider 50 miles as the line, almost double a marathon.  I took my time to enjoy my victory, but was already on the market for my first 50 mile.
          Out of this new found courage, I also went out to a running club practice, The Muskoka Algonquin Runners (MARs).  My road to recovery continued with MARs.  The first run I joined them for should have scared anyone away, we ran about 20k with an attempt on a 3:30 final kilometre.  I also heard words and stories that cannot be repeated, even on a construction site.  I wouldn’t let them scare me away even though I’m sure that is what they were trying to do.  Even now MARs is growing on me and they are becoming my family. In the fall I ran cross county with MARs, and had a lot of fun, and my desire to run a 50 mile was planted too deep to ignore despite the fact that i was still having energy issues associated with my thyroid.  In November I signed up for the Cayuga 50 mile, I was committed and now had to really train. I went through the hardest winter I ever faced training for Cayuga, but when spring came and all the training paid off I ran 50 miles with relative ease, finishing in under 10 hours, which is apparently a big goal for a lot of ultra runners.  I was satisfied that I had pushed through all the hard times to complete this goal. It meant a lot.
         More than anything I fear failure.  Failure is a difficult thing to understand because success can be defined in so many ways, and is different for every individual.  It really comes down to knowing who you are and where you want to go.  In the past my fear has crippled me, causing me to miss opportunities and chances to really chase dreams which were close to my heart.   Running has opened up a door for me to face fears and to pursue goals which, in the past, I had no belief that they were even possible.  The most amazing part of facing fear is that no matter if you succeed, or not, you have faced the fear and that fear doesn't hold you prisoner anymore.  As bad as we think failing is, the thing that is truly worse is not giving yourself the chance to succeed. 

            When I really look at why I run a 50 mile, it comes down to hope, that is all.  I cannot survive without it.  The Bible says, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;  but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not grow faint.”  Some people might pretend that they don’t fear or don’t fail, but I believe without either of those two evils you cannot  fully experience hope or joy.  True freedom comes when you escape fear and failure through Christ, when you live each day as a new beginning.  The past and its mistakes are gone, some of which I have made are most horrible.  This is where my wife continues to be a most amazing example.   She does not bring up or dwell on my past and all the ways i have hurt her, but instead she enjoys my freedom with me, and is most patient when I continue to struggle with fear and doubt.  I used to run to get away from things.  I poured my anger into my running and it was a battle and a fight and time and time again I would be defeated.  Now I run towards goals and places I want to be. Instead of being a release, from tension, running has become a tool to gain hope and freedom.  Strength is renewed not destroyed.  The Bible says “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yolk of slavery.”  I have experienced that burden of slavery and wish that upon no one. 

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