Thursday, December 18, 2008

Depression 101


I find it very important to take a moment to discuss Depression a little bit. It is surprising to me how many people think Depression is "just someone being sad." It is WAY more involved than that, and a lot more serious, though it is something that can be over come. It is my hope through my blog, that someone else out there may realize they are suffering needlessly and can seek the help they deserve.

Depression is a serious medical illness that involves the brain. It's more than just a feeling of being "down in the dumps" or "blue" for a few days. If you are one of the more than 20 million people in the United States who have depression, the feelings do not go away. They persist and interfere with your everyday life. Symptoms can include
  • Sadness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Change in weight
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Energy loss
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
Depression can run in families, and usually starts between the ages of 15 and 30. It is much more common in women. Women can also get postpartum depression after the birth of a baby. Some people get seasonal affective disorder in the winter. Depression is one part of bipolar disorder.

Often, people have other illnesses along with depression. Sometimes other illnesses come first, but other times the depression comes first. Each person and situation is different, but it is important not to ignore these illnesses and to get treatment for them and the depression. Some illnesses or disorders that may occur along with depression are:
  • Anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social phobia, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD);
  • Alcohol and other substance abuse or dependence;
  • Heart disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and Parkinson's disease.
Studies have found that treating depression can help in treating these other illnesses. There is help for someone who has depression. Even in severe cases, depression is highly treatable. The first step is to visit a doctor. Your family doctor or a health clinic is a good place to start. A doctor can make sure that the symptoms of depression are not being caused by another medical condition. A doctor may refer you to a mental health professional.

The most common treatments of depression are psychotherapy and medication.

Psychotherapy
Several types of psychotherapy-or "talk therapy"-can help people with depression. There are two main types of psychotherapy commonly used to treat depression: cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT). CBT teaches people to change negative styles of thinking and behaving that may contribute to their depression. IPT helps people understand and work through troubled personal relationships that may cause their depression or make it worse.

For mild to moderate depression, psychotherapy may be the best treatment option. However, for major depression or for certain people, psychotherapy may not be enough. Also, a study about treating depression in older adults found that those who got better with medication and IPT were less likely to have depression again if they continued their combination treatment for at least two years.

Medications
Medications help balance chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Although scientists are not sure exactly how these chemicals work, they do know they affect a person's mood. Types of antidepressant medications that help keep the neurotransmitters at the correct levels are:
  • SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)
  • SNRIs (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors)
  • MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors)
  • Tricyclics.
These different types of medications affect different chemicals in the brain.

Medications affect everyone differently. Sometimes several different types have to be tried before finding the one that works. If you start taking medication, tell your doctor about any side effects right away. Depending on which type of medication, possible side effects include:
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia and nervousness
  • Agitation or feeling jittery
  • Sexual problems
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Bladder problems
  • Blurred vision, or
  • Drowsiness during the day.

Why do people get depression?

There is no single cause of depression. Depression happens because of a combination of things including:

Genes - some types of depression tend to run in families. Genes are the "blueprints" for who we are, and we inherit them from our parents. Scientists are looking for the specific genes that may be involved in depression.

Brain chemistry and structure - when chemicals in the brain are not at the right levels, depression can occur. These chemicals, called neurotransmitters, help cells in the brain communicate with each other. By looking at pictures of the brain, scientists can also see that the structure of the brain in people who have depression looks different than in people who do not have depression. Scientists are working to figure out why these differences occur.

Environmental and psychological factors - trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, and other stressors can trigger depression. Scientists are working to figure out why depression occurs in some people but not in others with the same or similar experiences. They are also studying why some people recover quickly from depression and others do not.
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My Personal Battle
I am suffering from Depression and I have high anxiety and levels of panic. I hate being like this because it's not who I am nor who I want to be. I refuse to let a few "disconnected wires" in my brain to control my life. I've spent a lot of time over the last 21 days trying to discovery where all of this started, how long have I been suffering and what are the key elements in my life that has helped to trigger my depression and anxiety. Without getting into too much detail I can positively say that I have been battling various states of depression for over 13 years. It stems from a variety of situations including but not limited to my parents divorce, feelings of abandonment from my siblings, poor grades in school and the feelings of being a failure, unsatisfied with my "life track," the relationship I had with my grandmother when she passed away (2002), continued mourning of my grandfathers death (2006) and recent relationship issues and associated mental abuse.

As you can see from the list above, everything on the list is something I can get over and should get over. In reality, I should probably be over it now all ready but some people are incapable, move slower than others or just simply have a hard time letting go. This is a trait of depression. I hope through the continued use of medication and through regular visits to a psychologist I will be able to over come these thoughts and feelings and move on into a happier place in my life. I know that Depression is NOT a death sentence. I know that it needs to be fought. The hardest part thus far has been standing up to the fight, toe to toe with an illness that tries it's damnedest to keep me in bed. Regardless, there are people in my life who are also suffering from depression and their fight is NOT going the way it should or could. I beg them.. please... stand up for yourself. You don't have to be a prisoner... you don;t have to suffer. Get the help you desperately need and deserve. This life is worth living.

There is a process in all of this and I think I'm going to be OK. I recognized that I had a problem that was quickly getting out of control. I took control of my life and my thoughts and sought the help that I needed immediately. No, going into the hospital was NOT an easy decision to make. I spent 3 days in a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit. Why? To escape. Some people choose suicide as their escape.. I choose to fight the feelings of despair and to take control. It was a hard choice.. it took some coaching from good friends.. but I got there. I recognized I had a problem, I acted on it, I owned it, I'm fighting it and I AM WINNING IT.

This is just the beginning of a long battle... but I will win. Just like a long 100 mile ultra. I was stuck in an aid station, I rose from the ashes, stepped back onto the trail and can only do what I've trained to do... Relentless Forward Progression, on step at a time. The finish line is calling.. I can smell the barn... Full speed ahead.


The Road Im On - 3 Doors Down

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gear Review: Nathan 2V Plus


I used the Nathan Elite 2V Plus during the 2008 running season as a product tester for Nathan Human Propulsion Laboratories. There are various pro’s and con’s to this product, of which I will discuss in detail below in the hopes that any changes made to these products will better serve my fellow runners.

Running with handheld bottles can become a drag, especially 50+ miles into an ultramarathon when your arms are tired from running in the same posture for so very long. Having an efficient waist pack is an integral way to ensure that you are able to utilize the various parts of your body that help propel you, instead of holding you back. I choose the 2V Plus because of its functionality.

The pack comes with two 22 oz. Hydration bottles of which I am not a fan of. I find the plastic used to make the bottles is very stiff. I do not like the mouthpiece because it has a tendency to leak, and is very hard to pull up and push down. I do very much like the clip ring that makes up part of the bottle cap as it makes the unit easier to clip anywhere and carry if I am doing activities other than running such as hiking or snowshoeing.

The pack has twin angled insulated holsters for quick bottle access. I love the angled idea as it allows the bottles to rest comfortably against the back. The angle of the bottles leaves you plenty of room so that when you swing your arms while running, it is very unlikely that you will hit them. The twin holsters are functional in that you can easily remove the bottles and place them back in without any hassle at all. This is essential in preventing the annoying. The insulated pockets keep drinks warm or cool.

The zippered rear pocket is one of the reasons I love this pack the most. I can place many of my run essentials in this pocket; hat, gloves, buff, arm warmers, batteries, supplements, flash light headlamp. It is also easy to reach back and unzip the pocket while running. While it is obviously difficult to put everything in this pocket, the fact that the pack has additional twin removable zippered pockets in the front for easier access. These pockets are also great for gels and other supplements. You can remove these zippered pockets for easier cleaning.

The pack also has front glove/jacket draw cords on the front. This increases the functionality of the pack. On cold race mornings or colder runs where the temps are bound to rise; the draw cords allow you to store your gloves or jacket out of the way.

The pack does come loose while running, though not as quickly as other packs I’ve had. The strap stays do tend to get in the way and when I go to tighten the waist strap, I sometimes have to stop to move the strap stays aside. This has been known to be a major nuisance as it causes me to stop during the run and waste valuable time. If there was a way to prevent the pack from coming loose or slipping, the pack would be PERFECT.

Grade: A-

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ice Storm '08

For those of you who remember the Run Across New Hampshire, you'll remember that the run was a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Hampshire. Nate has been selling raffle tickets for $20 each, through his company National PowerSports Distributors. We are raffling off a sleek 2007 Honda Shadow 600LX! The raffle is THIS WEEKEND! So please, if you haven't yet purchased a ticket, do so now! You can go HERE and click on one of the purchase boxes on the right. We really need your help in making it to our $10,000 total.
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Ice Storm '08
Clean-up continues from last weeks ice storm here in New Hampshire. I was one of the lucky ones who never lost power. There are over 800,000 households and businesses in NH, and of those more than half were without power at some point over the last few days. Today, over 100,000 homes and businesses are still without power. New Hampshire is still under a state of emergency and has been declared a federal disaster area. The national guard has been called in to help in the relief effort as well as utility workers from Maryland, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Canada and other surrounding states.

I had a chance to drive around some of the towns here in Southern, NH yesterday. It is easy to say, "How bad can it really be" when you drive around your own town out here on the seacoast, where we often escape storms given the warmth of the ocean. While we had our own problems here in Dover, driving through other towns really opened my eyes to the severity of the situation. To see the sheer devastation caused by the ice was both beautiful and terrifying. Seeing rows of telephone poles bent over or broken, trees down closing entire roads... its really something to see. Winter has yet to begin this year in NH and after 4 or 5 days without power, many residents have all ready had enough. Our first accumulating snowfall here in Dover looks to be heading our way for Wednesday. Hopefully crews can clear the roads enough to be plowed safely. Today, there are still over 100,000 homes and businesses without power.

I haven't run since Thursday when I took Alex out for his half marathon. I'd like to use downed power-lines and trees as an excuse, and the gym being closed as another... but the "funk" has crept back in over the last few days. Friday was a scheduled day off, Saturday I never got up early enough to run before work and then Sunday I spent with family and checking out the damage. Tonight, I'm going to make up for lost time and getting out on the roads with the RUnners Alley group. if they'll allow me. They meet on Monday evenings at 6pm at the Redhook Brewery in Portsmouth. They also have a Thursday group at 6pm and a Saturday 8am group. Both of those groups run 4-6 miles and are open to all levels. So.. I'm going to show up and see how it goes, maybe make some new friends.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Weekend America

On November 29, 2008 I was featured on NPR's Weekend America. The short segment was a follow up piece to Sean Hurley's earlier piece that aired on New Hampshire Public Radio. You can read a copy of the story or take a listen by clicking HERE.

Part of the piece talks about why I run, or why I started embarking on such adventures. And here is what was said:
"When I ask directly, John doesn't talk about running. He tells me about his childhood. John's parents divorced when he was 12. His family drifted apart. His confusion and loneliness intensified and he soon found himself struggling against a powerful rage.

"For many years," he says, "I decided I was just going to take it and deal with it, and as the years went on it kind of got worse. I ostracized some of my family members and went away to college. I was pretty suicidal in college and ended up failing out.""

I can't help but think about the interview now. The interview was while I was running across New Hampshire. I remember thinking all morning about the questions I knew Sean was going to ask and I remember not being able to think of any answers.. until that is, he asked. And what I came out with surprised even me. I knew that day, that "for many years" is still happening. I'm still suffering from depression. I should have caught it then, done something about it then.. but I waited, and a month later I hit rock bottom. It just strikes me as odd, that I would ignore my own intuition. That I would ignore acknowledging that something was wrong.

Many people have sent me e-mails, commented or called about my openness on my blog. I've been asked a few times, Why would you put all of these thoughts up here? Why? I'll tell you why. Because I want to help. I want to help myself, but I also want to help YOU. "You" is out there. Someone else who is lost, unsure of what to do, going through the same daily torture that I am going through. They are afraid to get help, afraid to step up to their problems.. Well, I'm going to show that you CAN step up to your problems. You CAN take them on head on. Its like being in an ultra. It will almost always get better, just one foot in front of the other and sometimes... some times you can't do it alone. But one thing is for sure, you can't fake it. A lot of people have faith in me, but what is most important is that I have faith in myself. I gather my hope from various places, I garner faith, I am struggling, but fighting. "You" can and will too.

But in the mean time, the story played on Weekend America, yet the story is still just beginning. It never ends. A good friend told me, "While you cannot change the past, you can change the ending." Onward, upward, forward.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Stick vs. Rock


5 or so years ago my good friend Zepp had come home from the military and had soemthing to tell me. He emerged from his truck, a lost and sunken soul. Crying, unsure of what to do, he told me how his girlfriend was pregnant. Zepp was all of 19 years old, I had no idea what to tell him, but I listenned. We went for a walk that day, headed down the road to a local trail I knew and walked to a swamp. When we got to the water edge, I asked Zepp to join me in an experiment.

"Zepp, pick up a rock and throw it in the water and as you do.. tell me what you see." Zepp picked up a rock, threw it in the water and he tells me, "The rock makes a splash and a bunch of ripples and then it sinks." I asked, "And what happens to those ripples?" He replies, "Well, eventually they die out." I smiled and then asked him to pick up a stick and do the same has he had with the rock. Zepp picks up a stick, throws it into the water and he answers, "The stick makes a splash, it keeps floating along and it keeps making ripples the entire time." I then looked my good friend straight in the eye and told him "You have a choice to make Zepp. Do you want to be the rock? or the stick?"

Years later I asked myself that same question today. But a good friend of mine helped me think about it from a different angle over lunch. For the last few years of my life I've been the rock. I splash, I make big waves.. I sink. But now I want to be the damn stick. I want to make tiny ripples. But the new perspecti8ve that was brought to my attention today was this though, "Sometimes, a stick is just a stick." I need to learn that I can be just me. That no one can strip me of my "bark" and glue new bark onto me. I am ok just the way that I am... being who I want to be, doing what I want to do. The ripples will come... the wind will blow..

One of my classmates wrote in a paper recently, "A man known as Keith King once said “Take it where you want to take it, however before you do something with it, you don’t understand it.” ....it (education) offers endless possibilities to experience new things. Yet it isn’t till you actually go out and face them when you will really understand it. Everyone knows that running twenty-six miles is long and strenuous on the bodies yet that’s all they know. It doesn’t matter if you run a short distance everyday, for that is an entirely different experience then running fifteen, twenty or twenty-six. ... Education is experience, which you then reflect on afterwards. Same goes with running, just with a little twist. You can prepare your body for months before you run a marathon, however if your mindset is not there, you won’t be able to make it to the finish line. It’s when and if you do, the time you spend reflecting on it afterwards when you realize what exactly you got out of it."

I've done a TON of reflecting as of late. I ackowledge my problems and my weaknesses. I know my strong points and my weak points. I know what I can work on alone.. I know what I really need help with. I know what hurts me. I know what hurts others. I know what makes me happy. I know what makes others happy. And yet I struggle with understanding the word PATIENCE. I've always been an "all or nothin" kind of person. I hate that. I want to take things one day at a time. I want to smile again. I want to feel loved. I want what everyone else, I think, wants. But I'm stuck.. because I'm not entirely in control. I know what I AM in control of.. and that's all that I can work on. And I'm working on it very dilligently. Truth, honesty, integrity and courage. These are my morals moving forward. I have the unique opportunity to reinvent myself in the weeks and months ahead. These morals are the framework of a better being.

Rock or stick, sink or swim.. big splash/dying ripples.. little splash/undying ripples. I'm not sure as I have a choice in this.. but either way I know that I can either BE a rock or BE a stick... and both are fine just laying on the shore just being themselves. Regardless... I know my mistakes. I will forever own them. I will continue to reflect on them and learn their lessons. I have no other choice... I just feel like I'm losing, losing what I truly want.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Jackson


My alarm went off at 6:40am. I rolled over and hit snooze, as most anyone would. I laid there, and started my day as I seem to start most days recently... thinking. Like you twist the key to turn over your engine and start the car.. as the gas flows into my engine for the day, my gears start turning and I'm all ready in hell. I'm torturing myself. I just want to be happy. I know what used to make me happy. I have an idea of what will make me happy. But I'm not happy... I struggle to get out of bed to face a new day. I reset my alarm for 7, then 7:15. Finally I get up, drag myself out from under the covers, throw on my hiking clothes, grab my food for the day and head out into the chilly morning. Its damn cold for December and the wind has been howling all night. If it's cold here at the seacoast, I can only imagine what I'll face up north in the Mountains.

It was a bit easier to drag myself out of bed knowing that I'll be hanging with two friends I haven't seen in a long time. One is Hans Bauer who lives in North Conway. Hans is a genetically gifted runner who ran 198 miles in last years Across The Years 48 hour run, winning the event. Hans is a real life Forrest Gump, having criss crossed our country on foot, on bike and by thumb. The other is Phil Rosenstein who just completed his own run across the United States, completing his journey in New Jersey last month after 96 days of pushing a jogging stroller. Phil is also a gifted runner and gifted human. Last year he completed the Grand Slam of Ultra-Running and The Last Great Race all the while running in Australia's version of Badwater, a 155 mile desert Run. This year, Phil had life changing open lung surgery to remove infection from pulmonary edema and pneumonia. I'm very lucky to have both of these men in my life, and knowing of the adventures I'd hear about today on our hike.. I knew I had to go.

The drive to North Conway is only about an hour and twenty minutes from my new place. It felt like six hours. I scanned through radio stations looking for good music. Looking for morning shows that aren't corny, repetitious or just plain old lame. It's not hard to sink into thought while driving for so long. Passing by places you've passed a zillion times, letting the car make its own way up Route 16 as it has each and every time before. I manage to get my mind off of thought for a little bit and tried to enjoy the morning. But I feel empty.. something is missing. I arrive in North Conway and pick Phil and Hans up. Hans is dressed like a soldier in The French Foreign Legion. Phil is dressed like someone wanting to die. Phil is merely wearing a pair of running tights covered by bergelene long johns. He has three technical shirts on, a fleece lined jacket and a hard shell jacket for protection. I question whether he'll be warm enough, but trust Han's judgement in the outfitting. We head to International Mountain Equipment (IME) in town to rent Phil a pair of boots suitable for the day. He goes downstairs to find his own pair of "moon boots" and pays the $20 rental fee. Finally we're off. I drive us up 302 and into Crawford Notch. The wind whips across the road, so strong that my car slows from time to time and is pushed from side to side. As we pass American flags, they are straight out and look ready to rip from their poles. Snow and ice over the road, we climb to the top of the Notch and park across from Saco Lake.

As we open the car doors, the air is so cold our throats immediately dry up. We are left breathless, standing beside the car, scrambling to get what gear we need to get going. I use the car as a barrier from the wind and lace up my Koflach Mountaineering Boots. The boots are heavy, but my feet will be warm. That's all that I need on a day like today. Hans and Phil are ready to go and all ready jumping around. I reached into the backseat and pull out my pack. Hans takes off, he's only carrying a camera and a water bottle. I throw my pack on and Phil asks, "You're going to carry all that?!" I looked at Phil and noticed again how he was dressed. He also was only carrying a water bottle.. no pack. "You never know Phil.. and just wait until you see what it's like above tree-line. I have extras incase you guys need them.. They don't call me Sherpa for nothing." And with a smile we head across the street and onto the Webster-Jackson Trail.

The Webster-Jackson Trail is the most direct route to the top of Mount Jackson (4.052'). Though the average gradient of the trail is definitely not steep (2,150 feet over 2.6 miles) it is somewhat deceptive, as there are several rather flat sections that alternate with much steeper ones. Nevertheless it is one of the easier 4000 footers, and has excellent views (as do all the peaks in this section). I'm not sure there was anything easy about today's hike. The trails are covered in snow, and packed out by travelers before us and frozen over making the trail a relatively "paved" trip. This is one thing that makes winter hiking so much more enjoyable for some folks, as the rocks and roots are filled in and there is less to negotiate. As we wound our way up the trail, we weren't but 15 minutes from the car when Phil started to complain about his hands freezing. I heard Hans trying to encourage him to keep wiggling his fingers and moving about. Then I asked what he had on for gloves, "Scuba gloves, they are excellent." Too bad we weren't scuba diving. I stopped, took off my pack and reached into my bottom pocket to retrieve a better pair of gloves for Phil. I gave him a pair of fleece gloves with Thinsulate. His hands would warm within 5 minutes and his trip would be much happier.

Fresh snow from the days prior glistened in the morning sun. The trees had a tiny layer of fluffy snow clinging to their branches. It's cold... damn cld. So cold that the trees are cracking from the freezing temps. I couldn't speculate how cold it was at this point, but I knew it was cold. The trees were sheltering us from the wicked winds that swirled above. I could hear the rush of air rising up and over the ridge above. I knew what to expect above tree-line. I managed to keep our pace light and cordial so we could all not only talk and keep warm, but also to prevent sweating. Only problem is that I kept my jacket on and I was overheating a bit. I was sweating, and when we'd stop, I'd start to chill. I should know better, I know how this layering and de-layering process works in winter. I was failing myself in scary conditions. I needed to be careful. Watching Phil maneuver the trail in his rented boots was kind of comical. He didn't do too bad for a guy who spent 2 of the last 3 months in the desert south-west running 30+ miles per day. He'd never been to NH before, never experienced our winter.. never experienced our "Worlds Worst Weather." And was all ready quite surprised. I was surprised by his will to continue on.

As we reached the junction of the trail where you can choose to go to Jackson or Webster, I took off my pack and we stopped for a break. We heard a bird calling above and we wondered what it was. I heard Hans say, "There it is!" I stopped and looked... ah yes, the tree rats. A grey Jay had found us and he was hungry. I reach into my pack and break off a few pieces of bread and tell Phil to hold out his hand and be still. I place a drop of bread in his hand and get my camera out. The bird swoops in and lands on Phil's hand, grabs the bread and flies away. Phil was excited and was definitely enjoying his NH experience. I took off my glove, ripped off more bread and held out my hand. I love these birds. They just want what makes them happy.. food. After we finished feeding our friend, he came back and perched humbly on a branch, just looking at us as if to keep us company before we moved on. I drank a strawberry yogurt smoothie, one of the only things that won't freeze in these temps, and I got some much needed energy to push on. We threw on our packs as we began to chill a little too much and carried on our way.

"So that was only 1.4?"
"yup, 1.2 to the top."
"wow"

We continued to climb slowly into the heavens. The snowy landscape now reflected the deep deep blues of the morning sky. The sun merely tickled the tops of the frosty trees over head. The higher we got the colder it got. My throat started to hurt from breathing in the frigid air. The snow on the trees started to thicken as most of is was plastered in place by a heavy coat of rime ice. The wind began to pick up and Phil started to feel the effects of the constant climb. The snow drifts blanketed the mountain side and as the wind whipped through the trees, created many carved drifts akin to any kaleidoscope design. Conversation began to quiet and I began to prepare my friends for the top. We turned a corner and could see the summit dome. "Almost there guys.. it's going to be cold.. be ready." We climbed the last few pitches in the trees, and we popped out at tree-line and enjoyed magnificent views. The wind swirled and howled around us. Nothing but mountains surrounded us, rising above plumes of blowing snow and the effects of up slope winds.

We climbed the final pitch to the top of Mount Jackson. As I maneuvered up the final pitch, the wind caused me to literally float to the top. Each step into the frozen tundra kicked up chunks of snow and ice and they flew violently through the air. As Phil and Hans approached from below, I stopped to look back. The chunks they dislodged hit me in the face and felt like someone was shooting me with 300 pellets. When I reached the top, the wind blew so violently that it whipped me around. My cheeks immediately began to freeze, my breath was taken away, my eyes froze, icicles formed on my facial hair and my eyelids tried to freeze shut. The temp was -13F and the wind blew at 40+ mph with gusts over 60 mph. Wind chills were around -40F. I've been cold a few times in my life... and only one time had I been colder than this. My ears began to sting and burn, I was starting to worry about frostbite. I tried to move my hat to adjust it, make sure my skin was covered, and I felt my hair pull. I had sweat and my hair was frozen to the inside of my hat. The condensation on my buff from breathing had frozen the buff stiff. I took a few photos and then ran to the southern side of the summit where I hunkered down below some trees on a rocky out cropping. Phil and Hans followed. Phil's face was lit up and red. He was smiling and in a bit of disbelief. "I've been in wind like this before.. but I've never been this cold. WOW!" It was cold for sure but we were safe. We stopped for pictures, smiled, enjoyed the gorgeous day. Hans wanted a group photo of the three of us on the top near the cairn. So we walked back out into the wicked winds. Phil sat down on the rock so he wouldn't be tossed about by the wind, I crouched down beside him and vigorously rubbed my hands together to keep warm. Hans tried to set the self timer on his camera, his hand was in pain from an old frostbite injury in his ice climbing days I could hear him rivaling in pain. He ran over, the camera blinked and the picture was taken.

I ran across the top of the summit and scurried quickly down the steep pitch we climbed up before. I made my was quickly to below the trees, the wind tried to push my back up, as I crouched down I was blown upright. I was in pain from the firigid air, I could barely breathe, I was frozen, I ducked for cover. In the tree's it was still cold, but the respite from the wind was welcomed warmly. I wanted for Hans and Phil, we turned and continued our descent. Hiking down in winter is always much faster. From glissading to boot skiing to just being able to wander faster, it is enjoyable. I enjoyed hearing many more running stories, thoughts, annecdotes... and even had the chance to share some of my own. I enjoyed their company, and I was pressed to remind myself that a day outside is better than a day inside. We stopped to enjoy the view off of Bugle Cliff, then finished our hike back to the car. I took off my boots, hopped in and drove us to the Muddy Moose where we enjoyed lunch. We sat right next to the fire place. Hans had a beer, Phil a lemonade and I a coke. We ended a frosty and frigid day in the mountains with a warm fireplace and the company of great friends.

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Thoughts:
In February of 2000, Guy Waterman a legendary climber and mountaineer, took his own life on the summit of Mount Lafayette in NH's White Mountains. Guy's legacy will be carried for hundreds of years, especially through his institution of the Alpine Steward Programs that helped revitalize NH's alpine zones. Guy also is the only person who has ever hiked to the summit of all 48 Four-Thousand Footers, from all 4 Points of the compass, in winter. But there is more to Guy's story. Guy suffered from depression and was having a hard time dealing with his long standing battle with cancer. In February 2005, on a day much like what I hiked in today, he nestled down next to a cairn with his dog, a bottle of Jack and some pills. Guy froze to death that day, and its how he wanted to go.

Many times I have talked about Guy and many times I've heard the question, "Why would anyone want to die like that?" And I think today I learned the answer on my own. Not because I thought about taking my own life, but because I understand some of Guy's pain. As I battle my own depression, I know the internal struggle that comes with it. The inability to just shut your brain off. The inability to simply be at peace. While standing on the summit of Mount Jackson today, it was so damn cold that it was all I could think about. I didn't think about how to get warm, I didn't think about moving.. I just centered my brain on COLD. I had a moment of peace. I looked up and enjoyed the views, I took them in... my brain thought COLD. Guy fell asleep on the top of his favorite mountain, one he was most passionate about. He sat in the cold and that's all he probably thought about that day. Not what pained him, not what troubled him. Just peace, quiet and cold with his best friend. I think I understand, but know I'd rather live than die.

I love hiking. I love the thrill of reaching new heights. I loved challenging myself in the harsh winter air. I felt like I accomplished something today... I survived. But I still feel empty. "Big deal, I've been here before.. its not THAT bad." And it's funny.. it was treacherous up there. It was dangerous. I'm sporting new frost nip on my right thumb and pinky.. all because I wanted to snap some photos. My ears burn and have frost nip of their own. And my old frostbite location on my cheek is stinging. Worth it? Yeah.. but I'm not sure why.

For more photos from today's adventure click HERE
You Are Here - NEEDTOBREATHE

Saturday, December 6, 2008

2000 Miles

2001 as of the writing of this post to be exact. That's how many miles of managed to get in this year thus far. I'm kind of surprised actually, I thought I'd be much further along mileage wise considering how things were going at the beginning of the year. But as the year is slowly coming to a close, I'm beginning to realize that I may just barely run more miles this year than I did last. I guess thats not a bad thing. Why? Because once again I've managed to stay injury free, healthy and racing often. There are some tricks to this trade, and I think in this avenue I've figured it out. Moderation is key. You don't need to run crazy miles to be an ultra-runner. I know marathon runners who run more miles every week/month/year than I ever will. It's kind of ironic actually.

At any rate, I went out for an 8 mile run yesterday with my good buddy Steve. It was a good run with a mix of roads and trails. It was a brisk day here in New England as temps struggle to get near the upper 30's and a chilly breeze kept us from thawing out really. I know I even managed to get a little muddy and I sweat quite a bit. My pace is up and you'd think it feels good to run. I'm not sure if it's the depression or the chemical reactions from my medicines, but I'm not getting my usual runners high after running. I really just feel numb, like I didn't do anything. Almost jipped in a way. Come to think of it, I felt this way after my run Across NH. Regular visitors to my blog will remember me talking in the days and weeks after the RANH how I had yet to really wrap my head around what I accomplished, or how I felt or what I learned... and from what I've read, my depression has a lot to do with this.

But there is hope.. I went to the gym yesterday after my run and did day 2 of my circuit training. The workout is quick, but thorough. My quads and hip adductors are sore today. I'm sore to the touch, sore when I walk up or down stairs.. THIS IS A GOOD FEELING. I haven;t been sore from anything since October and I guess in a way, my masochistic nature is actually enjoying this. Perhaps I need to just run a little further when I go out?

I'm feeling a little better all around. I'm not obsessing as much as I was and the non-stop shaking and trembling has finally stopped. Thank god because it was driving me crazy. I'm still thinking quite a bit but when I do my thoughts are centered, clear and concise. I come to conclusions quickly and am able to make decisions. I am eating again and obviously running and working out again too. My sleep cycle sucks. I toss and turn all night and I wake up more tired in the morning then I was when I first went to sleep. I hope this changes because I'm BEAT! All in all, I know the medication is working, but I still have a long way to go. My first regular psychiatrist appointment is on Friday, and I can't wait to get there and get down to business. I'm a fighter, I have hope, my head is high. I know what I want in life, I know who I want to be and who I want to be with... I'm happy.. and I'm a fighter. So once again, I take me trusty sword and enter the tunnel to fight off my inner demons... the battle will be long but in the end, good will prosper.

"I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!" -Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Stuck In An Aid Station....


Thats how I feel... like I'm at mile 88 of a 100 mile race... stuck in an aid station, unable to move, no motivation to continue. Depression sucks and it is something I am struggling to understand on a daily basis. All I know is that for the last week or two, I have done nothing but tremble. I shake constantly, from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep... that is IF I sleep. I can't seem to really concentrate on anything, I think I spend a majority of my day spacing out, staring at nothing... thinking.. about what I have no idea. And when I am not spacing out, I am thinking, obsessing about my mistakes. I end up hating myself and want to do nothing but quit.. quit everything. BUt I guess thats the easy way out.

I always thought about how ultra's are synonymous with life. I think back to the Vermont 100 this past year, 88 miles into the race, I know I'll finish, I know I can break 24 hours if I try. But the medical staff sat me down in a chair, and I still to this day have no idea why. And all I did was sit there, and pout.. and wonder. So to in this life right now, all I can do is sit and wonder, I'm having my own little time out and I have no idea why. I feel trapped in my own body, I feel lost, I feel helpless and I feel like there is no way I'm going to finish this "race." Quitting is oh so easy... just like in a race, a nice warm bath and a bed isn't all that far away and its so easy to say it. But I like challenges, its why I choose to do what I do... to push the limits, to find the limits. I can overcome depression.. and I will. Relentless forward progression, one step at a time.. I'll get there.

I made it to the gym today. Its the first time since maybe April that I had been. I spent maybe 2 hours there. I started by hopping on the treadmill and warming up with a 3 mile run. I even put the treadmill's incline up to 15 and practiced my power walking. Then I broke right into my circuit training which still kicks my butt as good as it ever did. It felt good to sweat, it felt good to focus on something, to put the negative energy to good use. I felt like I was doing something again, like I'm fighting back. But the feelings are only temporary..

I woke up this morning sick to my stomach. I rebounded well. I went to the doctor, missed a few classes in the process, and got a few things straightened out. I went home for a bit and decided to start taking the steps to getting life back in order. I showered finally. I ate some food (hasn't been normal), I went to school and got a 100 on an EMT Practical. I went grocery shopping and then went to the gym. I made an appointment, finally, to see a psychiatrist next week. But regardless of how well today went, I am still sitting here with my head in my hands. Lost, sad, unsatisfied. I still want to crawl back into that hole I dug and hide. I feel like I'm there, my thoughts and my feelings, and others, just keep shoveling some of that dirt from above on top of me. I'm suffocating in my own self destruction, my own self pity. The medication (Lexapro) isn't working yet.. its still probably weeks away from working its magic. I hope I can make it because I'm going crazy.

I think the worst thing right now is knowing that I can't have what I want in this life. Time heals all wounds and this is one that I truly hope heals. And I fear that I truly will never be happy... I'm just stuck in an aid station.