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The 110: How We Give
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Dark times are not unusual – or even rare in any of our worlds. We all confront them – on virtually every front – the training front, the racing front, the home front, the work front. The real challenge lies in how we face those inevitable dark times and deal with them. For us, we choose to face them head on, and simply – though not always easily – Suffer Better. Nothing happens in an instant, but you surely know that. Things build, stir, ferment and even fester until the pain – physical and/or emotional – is enough to force us into realizing it’s there and figure out how to deal with it. Sometimes that realization comes too late, and damage is done. Sometimes we catch it in time. For us, we each came at it, or it came to us, from different places and through different circumstances. And, naturally, we each saw it through a different lens, and still do, but we arrived at similar places with comparable attitudes and that led us to here. For Bob, rising star in the ultra running world, president/CEO of a very cool young company, married to the “perfect” girl and father to a gorgeous 5-year old girl, the shit was hitting the fan. It was, as Bob describes it, a perfect storm of personal, professional, and emotional wars. Fighting to save his company, something he’d poured heart, soul and mind into for the last 4 years– battling unhappy investors and intransigent board members, desperately seeking workable alternatives, dedicated to saving the jobs of his valued team – he spent virtually every waking hour exploring potential opportunities and new financing options. No way could he imagine it going down the drain, though the circling had begun. Life on the home front was no different. Challenges and struggles, knowing you love someone but not seeing eye to eye. We’ve all been there. Focused on protecting the little one – utterly selfless, both of them, while also selfishly realizing it can’t go on. Shouldn’t go on. The trails offered solace – quietude for reflection and as clear a thought as he could get. A place to let it go, blow off steam, think, and gain some much-needed clarity. In the midst of it all, at the Leadville Marathon, the first of five events in the annual Leadman competition, Bob dug, as he can, deeper than many and finished with an uncanny kick. Over those last oxygen-free miles, he passed a number of top tier runners, finishing strong and in the top 4 or 5. A friend, crossing the line not far behind, asked Bob the simple question – “holy shit, dude, how do you do that?” Bob’s simple answer – “I suffer better.” And so he did. Bob’s gone on to win that Leadman competition and placed second too, along with 3 other Leadville finishes, a top three in the Grand Traverse, and a ton of other endurance events that test one’s mettle. Peter, in a different place – but facing his own challenges – kids growing and leaving the nest, a so-called career going nowhere way too fast, and a highly competitive runner – a 2nd and 4th at Leadville, 4-time winner and original course record holder at the Collegiate Peaks 50 – facing that proverbial twilight; not getting faster, in fact the opposite, and a string of injuries that were cutting into the man he thought he was and still wanted to be. Damn. Fifty wasn’t proving to be the Golden Years at all – plagued with doubts, frustrations and, yes, some pain, Peter was suddenly rethinking things. Questioning. Now what? A well-executed back surgery had gotten Peter back on the trails, and the arrival of Hoka’s on the shoe front provided much-needed pillows for longer runs. The smile was beginning to rise again. The career thing wasn’t such an easy fix – a former teacher, teacher of teachers, lawyer, Peter desperately wanted that meaningful something that satisfied both heart and brain, and even put a little money in the bank. Like Bob, nothing soothed the soul or quieted the angry spirits like a long run on the nearby trails. Suddenly everything seemed clear – the what, how and why. But that was changing, all too fast. Friends for a lot of years and running buddies, too. You know what those are like; the guy you call when you have this wild hair for some crazy adventure – the one you call knowing not only that he’ll be up for it, but also because you know you two are compatible for the long hours of running headed your way. Rim-to-rim-to-rim. The Four Pass Loop. Fourteeners. Someone who appreciates the adventure, the effort and the camaraderie. Those folks are rare. And special. Bob reaches out with an idea. Peter’s on board, of course. There’s something there in the suffer better thing, they think. An attitude, a mantra – something that others experience too, no doubt. A rallying cry. There’s more though. Realizing how fortunate they are – despite the struggles – to have what they have, to do what they do, and that too many others are less fortunate, they know that they have to give back too. It has to be about more than just pushing yourself to get faster, stronger. You should give your all and you should give back. That became what’s known as The 110. A little spin on that “give 110%” thing: Since you can’t really give 110%. But you definitely can give your all and give back. The 110 is the Suffer Better take on that. It all made sense. So they create a few Ts, share the story. People get it, like it. They develop a so-called plan, build a website, buy a few more Ts and put it out there for real. What started as an internal mantra to finish strong had become a movement, and a community, which grows everyday. Pretty cool, really, thanks to everyone out there.
Last week we got the following note from one of our amazing community. His story is a powerful one, and one we thought worth sharing. This is why we keep plugging along and why it matters. Hey Suffer Better: I've mentioned it before, but the idea of Suffer Better really strikes me. I got turned onto it because I watch and really enjoy the show Boundless, and I saw Simon and Turbo collaborating with you to raise money. As I looked more into it, I was caught up by the simplicity. What you stand for, suffering for a cause, really resonates with me. Here's why: I've been silently suffering for a long time. Ages ago, I was a collegiate runner. Not elite, just doing it for the love, the camaraderie. About 5 years later, I found myself overweight and out of shape, going through the motions of life with ignorant bliss. Then the greatest thing happened, my wife got pregnant with our first child. I realized that she was about to go through something extraordinarily hard, and I wanted to do something to show her that I was committed, too. So I decided that, for each child, I would run a marathon. Mind you, I was a sprinter when I ran. Nothing more than 400m, so this was a real stretch for me. But I made the first one mind over matter. It wasn't pretty, but I finished. I guess I consider that my intro to suffering. 18 months later we realized our first child, a son, had some developmental delays and was missing milestones. We were first time parents, and just trying to figure out what to do, and where to go. By the time he was 3, he had a little sister, and we still didn't know what was wrong with him. He struggled with walking, he did not yet talk, and he was never fully responsive. He began having seizures, and then the seizures became intractable, even with cocktails of medications. Neurologists, geneticists, developmental pediatricians. Constantly, sparing no expense. No one had a diagnosis, just attempts to treat the seizures, and therapies to address his developmental delays. Cutting edge genetic testing proved nothing. He seized, we treated, and on and on. I began to understand suffering, but it wasn't physical, and it definitely wasn't better. Our daughter was now 3, and was lapping our son with regards to development. We added a third child, another daughter. A blessing, really. Because at about 9 months, we realized she was following the same path as our son had almost 6 years earlier. That was the worst news possible. But it forced us to revisit root causes, because having two with the same thing means it has to have some genetic linkage. We changed hospitals. New doctors, new eyes, new rounds of tests. And shortly after, a diagnosis. Guanidino Acetate Methlytransferase Deficiency, or GAMT for short. An error of inborn metabolism where their bodies do not manufacture their own creatine, and therefore they are depleted of key fuel for muscle and neurological function. Incredibly rare. Less than 100 cases worldwide at the time of diagnosis. When left untreated, it is very damaging, as we had found out with our son. But, there was a treatment regimen of special diet and supplements that we could try. We went at it very aggressively, and what an amazing thing. Our littlest one, she made tremendous progress. Diagnosed at about 14 months, by the time she was 4, she had no signs of any developmental delay. Today, she's a typical 2nd grader who dances and plays, as long as she gets her 3-times daily dose of supplements. And our son, who had suffered so mightily from seizures and delays, stopped having seizures altogether under the treatment. The delays still remain, and the neurological damage is done, but he slowly continues to make progress, and his world is a much happier place than it would have been without diagnosis and treatment. And for me...my suffering changed. Having a child with special needs never gets easier, but having clarity and understanding helps. The rarity of our condition doesn't necessarily allow me to race to raise money for a specific charity, although some groups are emerging now, so there may be an opportunity coming. But what early on was emotional suffering became something for me to channel into running, and continues to drive me forward through training. Just as I had wanted to suffer in empathy for my wife during her first pregnancy, now I found that I wanted to suffer for my son, who may not get to feel the joyous pain of competition the way I have. I'm still not elite, and could care less about that. But I try real hard, and I now have something to focus on when the hurt sets in, that pulls me forward when I don't want to keep going. Something that makes the suffering "better". And so it is that your single phrase, "I Suffer Better," rings so loudly for me. I've shared it with friends and relatives, and get asked about it all the time when I'm flying the flag on a t-shirt or hat. It has a special meaning for me, and I hope that there are loads of others out there who can feel the same connection, the same resonance, and that something that allows us to not have to suffer silently any longer. It's understanding how lucky we are to be able to suffer, and finding a motivation to makes that suffering better. Thank you for what you are doing. I'm on board. For more information about these creatine-related disorders, go here: https://creatineinfo.org/
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