Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Fitness Wearables

Fitness wearables don't help you lose weight. This is coming from someone who uses technology to maintain his weight and fitness. I use the LoseIt! app on my phone to track my calories, and my Garmin to track my runs. Before I had my watch, I used MapMyRun to track my runs. And I still use it today to track my biking and swimming (um, I don't bring my phone into the water).

I'm talking about this because I stumbled across a couple of articles. This one about a study where folks lost less weight with a fitness tracker than a similar group without. And this one that's pretty interesting, the big takeaway being that people get bored and stop using their wearables.

Fitness wearables, to me, are just an evolution of the "miracle diet". It's an "easy" way to lose weight and get in shape. Folks feel good having a FizzBit on their wrist, the same way they feel good posting on Facebook® that they just started a diet. But as it is with drinking nothing but chocolate milkshakes, wearing a tracker won't make the pounds magically drop off.
"Booyah. Ten thousand steps! Gimme the cake!"

You can lose weight eating nothing but frosted donuts.... as long as you consume fewer calories than you burn. Or you can lose weight knitting aggressively... as long as you burn more calories than you consume.

A diet can work, because it limits what you can eat, which makes you eat fewer calories. If you're eating only raw vegetables, you simply can't jam any more carrots into your face before your stomach explodes. But it only works if you stick with it. Forever. Some people do. Their whole identity is kale and sprouts; sometimes they're snobby about it. Most people quit diets. Because they're too restrictive and Oh My Gosh look at that eclair!

Exercise too can work. But much to their frustration, many folks who hit the treadmill actually gain weight. If you walk on the treadmill for an hour, and then reward yourself with a sundae, that's a net surplus of like 700 calories. Sorry to disappoint you, but exercise burns crap for calories, unless you do it for a really long time. Every day. Forever.

Fitness wearables don't replace hard work. They're useful tools once you have committed to doing the hard work. I track my calories so I know how much I've eaten and to keep myself accountable. I didn't just install the app and say, "whelp, I've taken a step towards health; now I can go eat a bucket of fries." I track every single meal, and have been doing so for almost 3 years.

"Where's the transition area? I can't find my bike!"

My Garmin doesn't help me get up at 5:30 in the morning. It does sometimes push me to run a little faster, if I see that I'm only a few seconds off breaking a 7 minute overall pace. But in general it's a tool. After I run, I log those burned calories into my app. So that I can go eat a bathtub full of ice cream.

This appeals to me because I'm a math nerd. I like numbers. I like seeing my progress and measuring my successes in numbers. This isn't true for everyone. Although most serious athletes eventually develop an addiction to their "stats". Wearing a step counter is fun, but for most folks it's just a fashion accessory that says, "look at me! I'm stylish and fit!" 

Eventually they realize that they're not using their step count in any meaningful way. It's just a number. Walking 6000 steps is "better" than walking 5000 steps, but most folks have zero idea of what that actually means in terms of their health. Maybe they reward their achievement with a hamburger. Nevermind that a 1000 extra steps only burns about 35 calories, or about 9 peanuts. And then they think, "well it's not that stylish."

You have to choose to lose weight and get fit. You have to make (or Google) a specific plan for how to do it. And then you have to commit. Forever.

"I can't stay for the bridal shower. I have to run!"

That forever part is important. You don't have to do the same thing all the time. It's OK for your eating habits and workouts to evolve and change over time. I've always counted calories, but the source of those calories has changed a lot in the past couple years (for example, I now get zero calories from booze). So too does my exercise constantly change.

You do have to change your lifestyle. And not just your lifestyle, but your entire identity. If your friends get together for coffee and donuts in the morning, fast food for lunch, and pizza and margaritas for dinner, that's just not compatible for you any more. You have to abandon that old you, as hard as it is. The new you may very well replace that morning donut with a 5am workout. Your old friends will think you're crazy.

And you have to accept that.

A fitness wearable is mainstream. Many folks wear one these days. You don't feel weird or out of place wearing one. And - 99% of the time - it accomplishes nothing. So you don't have to abandon your old friends. And you can sympathize with one another about how you totally were walking 10,000 steps per day until your knee started acting up. But you'll, like, totally pull the watch out of the drawer once you're fully healed.

And then you forget and drink margaritas instead.
"Just another mile- Oh Shoot it's happy hour!"

Original images credits:
  •  By Eric Steinert - photo taken by Eric Steinert at Paussac, France, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=338403
  •  By Jcwf from nl, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=836272
  •  By Kmanoj - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2683173
  •  By Appaloosa - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1468092
  •  CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=110005

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Marathon Report: Lehigh Valley (Almost Killed Me)

Most of my marathons seem to try to kill me. Maybe I'm just prone to hyperbole. I can't really blame the races. I'm the one signing myself up for them! Although sometimes I get the confirmation emails and think, "wait, did I just do that? Another race?!"

I think a lot of runners have this "problem."

I trained hard for Via Marathon. Really hard. Too hard.

I did very poorly in Lehigh Valley. My goal was to qualify for Boston. I didn't come anywhere in the same galaxy as close. I was more than an hour slower than my previous PR.

My friends in LUNAR (Lace Up Now And Run) were wonderful. They were extremely supportive. While I was having a very hard time, emotionally, before the race, they all told me I was going to kick butt and qualify. And then after the race, instead of being disappointed in me, they all told me I did a great job.

That helped me a lot. It made me realize that most of my failure is in my own head. My physical failings were an extension of that. I pushed myself too hard. And it's not because I wanted to do my best. I mean I did. But I trained stupidly, and I knew that, and I did it anyway. My expectations of myself are too high, and I was constantly angry at myself for not meeting those ridiculous expectations.

In the seven days from August 14th to the 20th, I ran 100 miles. In one week. Partly it was to support Shawn Mastrantonio, an inspirational and courageous man who had his third brain surgery in his battle against Von-Hippel Lindau. Partly it was to achieve something I never had before (my previous 7 day mileage record was less than 80 miles). Mostly... I guess I wanted to feel that I can accomplish anything, even if I break myself in the process.

And break myself I did.

I developed a bad case of Overtraining Syndrome. And then I topped that off with CNS (Central Nervous System) fatigue. Those are real things, and they take weeks to recover from. Here are the common symptoms between the two:

  • Persistent muscle soreness and fatigue
  • Increased susceptibility to illness and injury
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Burnout
  • CNS fatigue also comes with insomnia, headaches, and a compulsive need to exercise

Looking through that list, I realize I've had these symptoms for a long time, even before I started feeling really bad. And it's a spiral. The worse I felt, the harder I pushed myself. I refused to rest. Instead I punished myself for my perceived weakness.

"I definitely recommend undertraining syndrome."

It all culminated on Sunday in Lehigh Valley. I was extremely stressed going in. Running races used to be fun, and it wasn't anymore. I really really wanted to qualify. And I knew I wasn't going to. And that knowledge just... destroyed me.

On Friday evening and Saturday morning, I trained with a pair of Rokudan (sixth degree black belts) who traveled from the Pennsylvania Koei-Kan dojo. I was worried about training karate so close to the race, but I'm glad I did. It got me out of my head for a while and I felt good. I needed that. When it comes to running, I still feel like the next race is my last chance ever to do well. But karate is a lifelong journey. That's something I have to realize about running. It's not all or nothing. It's a lifelong mission. It will always be there for me.

Geoffrey, Meghan and I got to Allentown, Pa at about 3. I was definitely excited to spend the weekend with them. I had been neglecting my friends for quite some time due to my pervasive gloominess. So if I had to deal with yet another disappointment, I'm glad I had their love and support. The two of them also weren't feeling super great about the marathon, so we were a somewhat miserable trio. But it was much better than being miserable alone!


We went to the expo. It was just like every other expo... Except it was at the Steelstacks in Bethlehem! There was a mountain of old rusty pipes and structures as far as the eye can see and it was quite epic. I could see folks tiny as ants touring them. It looked pretty cool, although I'm far too boring these days to do something like that. There were also gigantic rollercoasters literally across the street from our motel. Also too boring to do that. But we talked extensively about how we totally would if we weren't, like, running a race... and then totally tired out from running a race the next day.

Ask me if I want to get up at 5am to run double digit miles? Heck yeah I'm in! Ask me if I want to do something fun? Um, I'll get back to you.

We met some fellow LUNARs at the expo, which is always a treat. We had dinner with them afterwards at a pretty snazzy Italian restaurant, Molinari's. Snazzy = expensive. But oh-so-delicious. Totally worth it. We crashed in our hotel rooms. This was our first marathon where we didn't get trashed the night before, since we don't drink anymore. But at least Haiko was there with me.

"Don't do it! Just stay in the motel and drink coffee!"

We got up at about 4:30am. I tried not to think about the race too much. I actually wasn't feeling too terrible. My legs were sore, but then they always are. I felt like maybe I could actually do this thing. I went to the bathroom about.... 12 times. And twice more at the port-o-potties at the race site. We got to the race by about 6am.

I got excited. I couldn't help it. There were a lot of people and a lot of energy. I had been psyching myself up and at that point I had convinced myself that I was going to run the race at warp speed. I was going to qualify by some ridiculous margin that would leave people aghast.


Even at 7am it was already warm, and quite humid. I'm accustomed to a constant stream of chatter from the announcer at these events. But there wasn't much this time. I waited at the starting line with a thousand other people for about ten minutes, just... standing. And then suddenly we were moving. I didn't hear the gun or horn or whatever. I hit the button on my watch as I crossed the starting mat.

My goal was to run the race in about 3:07, which would allow me to qualify with enough of a margin that I'd be able to get in to Boston. I figured I had to average 7:05 miles. By comparison, my last two marathons I averaged a 7:25 pace. So yeah, even at peak condition this would've been quite a feat.

I had to battle the crowds in the first mile, so my first split was a 7:17. I got down to a 7:08 on the second mile and felt pretty good. The third mile was mostly downhill, and I allowed myself to go a little fast to make up for the first mile: 6:58. Mile 4 was a 7:08. I kept doing and redoing the calculations in my head, and decided that a solid 7:08 pace would just do it.

Mile 5 was a 7:13. This was hard. My effort felt like I was running a 10K, except I had over 20 miles to go. I was already feeling gassed. Mile 6 I had to stop to retie my shoe (literally the first time ever; and yes it was double-knotted). I still managed a 7:20. But I was definitely slowing down. Somewhere around here I  passed a woman holding a sign with our projected finishing time: 3:09:58. That was not promising. Mile 7 was a 7:43, and I realized I was done.

I felt extremely dejected. I didn't know if I should try to push it or if I should just give up. And there was so much of the race left. It was a really dark point for me.

But then something utterly bizarre and unexpected saved me.

And by saved I don't mean I suddenly recovered. I meant it saved me emotionally. This single thing completely flipped my mood. After this completely unexpected event, I was able to slow down, relax, and just enjoy the race. I mean, most of the race was on a trail along a river, and it was beautiful. So what could possible have changed how I felt about the race so powerfully?

A train.

A grumbling, clanging, clanking honest-to-God TRAIN.

Right across the course.

I read the post-race reviews online the next day. There wasn't supposed to be a train. The race coordinators spoke with the train company every year to make sure there was no train. There was a special "no train" black out period of no train activity that was planned during the race to make sure there was NO TRAIN.

But there it was. Just after mile 7. I turned the corner and saw several hundred runners. Waiting for a train to pass. And that was it: The message from up high that said, "it doesn't matter if you run perfectly; you still wouldn't be able to qualify because of this train. So you may as well just relax and enjoy yourself."

And I did just that. I actually smiled. I stopped and peed at the side of the road while the behemoth rolled by behind me. That felt good. Then I joined the crowd and watched the train roll by. Most of them were pissed. I was not. I was happy. It was exactly what I needed for the day to not be totally awful.

Even though I felt much better in my head, physically my body continued to deteriorate. I was in a lot of pain. Even my arms hurt from holding them up. And because my legs were so weak, weird random muscles started aching from the effort of compensating. It was bad news. At around mile 10 I decided I was going to drop out halfway.

So then I started thinking everything I would have to do after I dropped out. First I would have to find a ride to the end of the race. I had no phone on me. Then I would have to give away both the shirts I got. I would have to tear up my bib. I would have to forego my medal. And that's when I realized it.

I didn't want to do any of that.

I decided that I would rather suffer for hours than go through all that bull$hit. For all you sane non-runners out there, this probably boggles your mind. I would rather suffer in agonizing pain for hours than deal with the inconvenience of finding a ride and throwing some stuff out.

So I kept running.

I hit the halfway point at about 1:45, which was slow for me, but acceptable for a hot humid day with a $hitty body. I thought, "maybe I can do this marathon in 3:30. That would be OK."

Not. Even.

I kept going slower.... and slower.... and slower. I had to take regular walk breaks because I hurt so much. My ego didn't even care anymore. I just walked every time my legs felt like they were going to explode or fall off. My paces fell to 10 minute miles, then 11, then 12. Mile 25 took over 13 minutes.

Geoffrey caught up with me at around 17 miles. He was suffering too. We ran almost the entire rest of the race together. And that really helped. I hurt, but at least I had company, and that made the pain much more tolerable. It felt like a leisurely adventure on a pretty trail with a good friend. I mean, my body was dying, but other than that!

We ran/walked together and tried to keep each other's spirits up. We worried about Meghan and our other friends running the race. There seemed to be a lot of people having a tough time. The miles crept by. Geoffrey decided to do the last mile fast. I tried to keep up, but I felt exceedingly nauseous and gave up. I was a total loser but it didn't matter. I crossed the finish weakly after 4 hours and 15 minutes.


Meghan cheered us on at the end. It turns out she dropped halfway. That super sucked for her, but it was the smart choice. Here's her recounting of the race: A Big Fat DNF. Afterwards I was really lightheaded and loopy. I lay down in the grass for a while. Eventually we got on a bus and rode back to our car.

We rested, we ate, we loitered. Then we watched Sully, which is an awesome movie about a guy who runs! Apparently he also saved 155 people in an epic plane landing. But mostly he runs! I can't remember the last time we went to watch a movie like regular humans. We slept a lot and left the next day. The construction on 476 was awful.

I haven't run since then. I broke my 114 day run streak. I realized the only thing that accomplished was to ruin my legs. It's inspirational to see folks with run streaks in the thousands of days, but that's not me. I do more than just run. Monday I biked, and it was awesome. Tuesday I swam and taught karate, and it was awesome. This morning I got up early and lifted with my cat (she didn't lift much; she's lazy).

I'm relieved the race is done. I hadn't realized how badly I was stressed before it. Now I'm actually enjoying exercise again. My body is healing. And my mood is significantly better than it's been in months. I even feel good about Via Marathon. It became a fight for survival, and I survived. I did not give up. Despite the immense challenge, I finished the race. And I'm proud of that.

Two relieved runners.

The other LUNARs who ran the race had a hard time as well, and like me they're beating themselves up. Don't! It was a brutal day, and all of you amaze me with your strength and tenacity. We will all see one another again at a future race. And we will destroy it! Together!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Running Until His Last Breath - An Interview with Brian Simpson

On October 11, 2015, Brian Simpson almost died. On that day, he ran the Steamtown Marathon in northeastern Pennsylvania. It was cold that morning, only 32 degrees.

He had bronchospasms and a lot of mucus at the start and it only got worse as he ran. He was wheezing and short of breath. At 14.5 miles his friend Jill, who was running with him, fell and broke her ankle. Brian should have stopped then too.

He did not.

By the last mile Brian couldn't take a breath deep enough to use his inhaler. He couldn't talk at all and was completely blue in the face. When he crossed the finish line he was immediately taken via wheelchair to the makeshift ICU. His oxygen level was dangerously low; his carbon dioxide level dangerously high.

He was officially in respiratory failure.

His friends sat and watched in terror, but there was nothing they could do. Even though he was the one who was dying, Brian felt worse for them. He didn't care about his own suffering. He just didn't want to watch them suffer.
Brian.... Nebulizing.

He received several IV's, oxygen, and seven Nebulizer treatments. His oxygen level eventually came up some. A few hours later they thought they were transporting him to the ICU in their local hospital.

"Thought" is the key word.

Instead, Brian took off his oxygen and politely said, "no thank you, I have all the meds and oxygen I need in my car. I have a 3.5 hour drive home now."

"Thanks for saving my life!" And with that he left. He missed the next month of work. It was worth it.

Running long distances is hard. Running when you're hurt or weak is really hard. Now imagine running when you know you may not live long enough to see Christmas. Brian Simpson's doctor told him he was going to die at 35. He is now 46.

Brian runs, knowing that any run could literally be his last.

Brian has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). If that sounds bad, it's because it is. On a good day, his lung function is about 12%. If you want to know what that's like, try breathing through a straw all day. And if that's not tough enough, go run for an hour with that same straw.

Brian's been sick all his life. It began as very severe asthma. By his early 20's he had irreversible damage and it progressed to COPD. By his mid twenties it had progressed to stage 4 (the most severe). At this point he began wearing oxygen intermittently, but he still worked full time.

He qualified for complete disability but didn't accept it. At 22, there was no way he could sit back and watch the world go by. "I would rather die than do that," Brian told me. Work was all he had at the time; it was his identity. And today it is running. And clearly he'd rather die than quit that either.

When he was 31 he was placed on Hospice. In case you don't know what that is, they basically prepare you to die. Maybe there's kittens involved, I don't know. The doctor told Brian he had 6 months to live. At most.

Brian grew up in a strongly conservative Southern Baptist family. "I don't care!" You're thinking, "I just want to know how Brian fought off the Grim Reaper!" As if at the climactic moment in the film it flashes back to him playing legos in church. Here's why I mention it.

Brian is gay.

"Oh," you're thinking, "well... maybe his life wasn't totally awful, besides the dying part." It totally was. When Brian was 12 he realized he was gay. And it was disastrous. He prayed to God every day to "fix him." He knew that as long as he was gay, he had no chance at happiness. Not according to the church anyway.

As a Baptist, he was taught what was "good" and "bad". Being gay was an "abomination". He couldn't imagine how God had screwed up on him. Brian explained to me that contrary to what some may believe, being gay is "NOT A CHOICE." I believe him.

Between being sick and being "evil", he no longer wanted to live. He couldn't work. He couldn't do anything. He wanted to die. And, when he was 32, he tried to make it happen.

I'm going to take a moment here to show you a picture of some puppies.

Just take a deep breath.

Between Christmas and New Years, while everyone else was drinking hot cocoa with their families in front of a crackling fire, Brian took an overdose of his respiratory medication. And he waited. About 20 minutes later, his doctor - and friend - called him. Just out of the blue. Just to check up on him. Brian was afraid and panicked. He went to the local ER.

He didn't die.

After that, Brian began to play the oboe again.

It saved his life.

He hadn't played since college. Its double reed provides a great deal of resistance to the lungs: The same kind of resistance those with severe obstructive lung disease do. At first he could only play 3 minutes at a time. Within six months, he was playing 5-6 hours a day. Brian called it "aerobics for my lungs."

He was featured on the CBS Early Show because of it, as well as other news outlets. He was able to return to work.

Brian didn't come out to anyone until he was 30. He didn't tell his mom until he was 35. He wasn't sure how much longer he had to live, and he wanted her to know.

She accepted him. She always had, from day one. She was one of the few people in his life who did. She was a truly amazing woman. "My mother was always my biggest fan," Brian told me.

He asked his mother not to tell his father that he was gay. And she didn't... until Brian was 40. On Christmas of that year, she finally told his dad. Unlike his mom, Brian's dad had never been there for him. And after his dad found out Brian was gay, he didn't allow him to see his mother anymore. He saw her only twice more.

The first time was in the summer. The previous time he'd seen her he had weighed 360lbs. That July, when he saw her, he was 210. And by that point he was training to run his first marathon. She was so happy for him and so proud of him. She cried when she saw all the progress he'd made.

The last time he saw her, he held her as she died in his arms.

You look like you could use another break, reader.

Take your time.

Brian's mother had a terminal condition known as pulmonary hypertension. She was 74 and hadn't wanted to undergo any more treatment.

It was a five hour drive to the hospital near Baltimore. She had been unresponsive for a few hours by the time he arrived at her bedside. As he walked up to her and bent down to kiss her, she opened her eyes.

"I'm sorry," she said. And that was the last time she spoke. About 8 hours later, she took her last breath. Brian was very emotional at this point in the interview. I don't blame him. It amazes me that, with all the pain and hardship he has gone through, he keeps on fighting.

After Brian turned 40, he decided that he didn't want to add heart disease to his list of health conditions. So, at 360 pounds, he decided to lose weight. He lost 16 pounds in the first month just by watching what he ate and walking on the treadmill on his lunch break.

He got himself a trainer. After 6 more months he lost another 90 lbs, and he kept on going. Today he is about 190 lbs. Brian is still good friends with that trainer, and saw the trainer and his fiancé when Brian crossed the finish line in Pittsburgh this year.

Brian and his trainer.

Friends are very important to Brian. He has been alone all of his life. I asked Brian about his "dating life". This is how that conversation went:

"Soooo... Dating life," I said, with zero easing-in.

"Ugh.... Well that won't take long," he replied, as if I hadn't just stepped into yet another painful topic. But I kept prying.

"Honestly?" He said.

"Yeah, honestly," I replied, feeling like a badass reporter on a hot scoop.

"I've never really had one," he replied. Dejected, I asked him if he'd at least tried. He told me that he never really liked himself, so how could he expect anyone else to like him?

It got worse from there. And I've depressed you enough, sad reader, without delving into Brian's non-existent love life. He's been used a couple of times, but as he doesn't want to accidentally destroy any lives (yup, that bad), we'll leave it alone.

Brian does have some good friends, however, and they help keep him sane. The one who's been the most constant in his life is Dr. Albie. They've been friends since highschool, where they were both "music dorks".

Brian and Dr. Albie

Regarding Dr. Albie, Brian says that he "gets me". They came out to each other when he was 32. Dr. Albie currently lives in Phoenix with his partner, who is also supportive of Brian. The two have an amazing relationship, and Brian thinks part of the reason he's not willing to settle is because he wants to have what Dr. Albie and his partner share. Brian wants the same kind of relationship.

When Brian was very sick, Dr. Albie ran races with Brian's name on the bib. They ran the Los Angeles marathon together and are doing Las Vegas in November. Dr. Albie even gets some of his students to run with him (he teaches bassoon at ASU).

As uncertain as Brian's future is, at least he knows he won't have to face the end alone. Brian knows that if he needs help when his "time is up," Dr. Albie will be there. I call that a good friend.

I'm discovering the value of friendship myself lately. Much like Brian, I often don't think too highly of myself. Brian finds this hard to believe, and I'm the first to admit how irrational it is to judge myself so harshly. However, having people in your life who care about you keeps you from sinking too deeply into the muck of your own despair. Friends are there to remind you that things aren't so bad and that life is worth living, especially with you in it.

Not everything Brian shared with me was sad or terrible. He told me a story that I found... just... amazing. In a funny way. Not an even-more-terrible way.

Brian's current PR (personal record) in a marathon is 4:51:44. He got this in Pittsburgh in May of this year. He was on target for a 4:35 until.... When Brian told me what happened, he said it so casually that I thought maybe autocorrect messed it up. Either that or he thinks that this is an extremely common thing to happen to people in marathons.

He slipped on a banana peel.

You read that right. He slipped on a banana peel: A real, honest-to-God, banana peel.

He threw his back out and the last six miles were very painful. But he kept on running. I asked him one last time if he really honestly slipped on a banana peel. It just boggled my mind. I couldn't even handle it.

Apparently there were bananas all over the course. It was a flippin' road hazard! A friend of his came up from behind him and put her hand on his shoulder. He turned around and POW.


His friend beat him by 3 minutes. F@#k that banana. Brian was very proud of himself though. Even in all that pain, his slowest mile was 12:43. The year before he ran the same race in 6:08. So he shaved an hour and 17 minutes off his time. That's pretty awesome.

For his previous PR, he ran with his former hospice nurse. They crossed the finish line holding hands up high. Brian's running friends are the constants in his life. They treat him like a runner, not a guy with a terminal disease. They are the only people he sees.

Brian running with his hospice nurse.

His illness scares his friends, but they respect his decision to keep training. They support him, but don't interfere. Brian doesn't see what he does as being inspiring. He considers it more educating.

I see what Brian does as educating and inspiring. Very inspiring. If you can read up to this point and not have an urge to get off the couch and hit the pavement, then you're dead. I mean, what excuse do you and I have?!?!

Brian's friends say he's crazy and that they don't know how he does it. I don't know how he does it either. It's hard enough to go run outside at 4am. But doing it with the threat of your lungs shutting down at any moment....

And he does it anyway.

Doing it anyway

Brian doesn't think what he does is that epic. He doesn't even like himself that much. He tells me that I inspire him. Which is funny, because I think I'm a lazy douchebag.

And that's what I realized over the course of my interview: How much of it I could relate to. I'm not terminally ill. But any time my body isn't performing at 100%, I hate myself.

I often feel alone. Despite the fact that I have friends who are just itching to cheer me up, I feel alone. And much like Brian, it's often because I don't feel that I deserve to be loved. It's as much bullshit in my case as it is in his. And yet there it is.

And much like Brian, I keep running every day... because I'm too scared not to. As scary as it is for him to go running - knowing that run could be the last thing to push his lungs off a cliff - the idea of not running is even more scary. He's picking the challenge, picking the pain that he knows. And I do the same thing. I tackle the difficulty that I know I can tackle. It makes everything else in life seem more bearable by comparison.

Music and the oboe saved Brian's life. Running has made his life worth living. He pushes himself every day. He never wants to take anything for granted.

And I hope that, if nothing else, you take that lesson to heart: Never take anything for granted. Brian's story may be hard to read, but he refuses to give up, despite the extremely $hitty hand that life has dealt him. We all have obstacles and challenges. Brian faces his head on every day. And he will keep doing so until he physically can't anymore.

You and I are blessed. And after speaking with Brian and hearing his story first hand, I can't possible allow myself to squander the gift I've been given. I hope you don't either.

Brian Simpson: A magnificently handsome man

If you wish to contact Brian, you may reach him here: Blsrrt@yahoo.com