Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Lovely Walk

As the weather turns over to autumn here in Colorado, I've been stuck in pretty much the same holding pattern with my health. The good news is that I'm feeling gradually better and better, but I still have had no luck in pinning down any kind of definitive answer as to what has been ailing me. It has now been almost 3 months since the first symptoms began to appear and in that time I have had more odd sensations, pains, and fears than the rest of my life combined. The past 6 weeks has pretty much felt like a never ending bad dream.  The reality though is that it hasn't really been that bad, and as I've begun to feel a little better, I've been able to start living a somewhat normal life again. I even have some good days now in which I feel almost completely healthy. The problem is that after one or two of these days I seem to almost always relapse back into a bad patch. This past weekend was without question the most I've done active since early August. I even went for a 15 minute run on Friday! First run in nearly 6 weeks. We then had a birthday party for the little one on Saturday and went camping Saturday night and Sunday night. I would've been excited about having the energy to do this much under any circumstance as of late, but considering that I also had a Lumbar Puncture on Friday afternoon I was pretty stoked to be able to do much of anything at all. This coming weekend I'm hoping to take a trip out to Utah if I'm feeling up to it.

I've noticed in the past week or two that my mindset has shifted in all of this. For awhile I was more scared than anything. So much so that I was probably being too patient with seeking advice, care, and testing. Now though I have moved much more to a place of just wanting to heal in all ways possible. I don't feel scared anymore of what I might find out, or that I might not ever find anything out. I've also been fortunate enough to be accepted into a financial assistance program through the local hospital so I can afford to be much more aggressive in terms of testing and/or procedures. I've already had an MRI, the lumbar puncture, and a few thousand dollars worth of blood work (all out of pocket), but at least going forward I know that if I have any more major expenses I won't be footing 100% of the bill. This combined with having a few really good doctors trying their best to help me figure this out, has me now not feeling so helpless, the way that I did 6 weeks ago. I've also come to a better understanding of how important it is to integrate numerous approaches to medicine/healing when dealing with something like this. I truly believe 100% that I have some kind of specific biological condition which is causing my health to be compromised, but it's been cool to realize that western medicine might not be the only way to approach this kind of situation.

At any rate, this is a running blog. Where am I at in terms of my running? Well, of course, I want to run. I miss it dearly at this point, but just being able to get outside quite a bit in the past few weeks has been so helpful in all of this. I've been going out fishing a little bit lately, something I haven't done in a few years, but which has been a large part of my life in the past. I've also been really enjoying the simple act of riding my bike a few blocks to the market or to school to pick up/drop off the little one. One thing I do dearly miss here in Boulder (as compared to being in Juneau), is being always positioned right up against nature. On some of my bad days I hardly have enough energy to go out for a 10 minute walk. If I do that here I am only walking through the city. In Juneau, no matter where one lives you can go out for a 10 minute walk and 8 or 9 of those 10 minutes can be in the natural world. In this sense I have been cherishing our weekend trips to the mountains. I've always loved the feeling of waking up in a tent out in the natural world, but never has this had as much of an impact on my life as it has in the past two months. This past Sunday I spent the entire day outside in nature, and it was without question the best day I've had in several weeks.

It's been fun to observe things going on in the "running world": Run Rabbit Run, Wasatch, UROC, Cavalls, Bear, etc. It seems like there's been so much going on. I've been content to keep most of my focus in my little world here at home and trying to keep moving forward toward better health, but I'd by lying if I said it wasn't really hard to not even be able to do something as simple as go out for a short run. I miss the racing, and the culture of the races for sure. Each time I follow one of these races online I find myself imagining what it might be like to be there. Who I might have the opportunity to meet, and what landscapes I might have the opportunity to run through. Much more often than this though, I find myself missing the remote landscapes that I haven't been able to take myself out to on a daily basis at home. There are dozens of places in Juneau, and a few here in Colorado, that I can't even think about without crying. There are a lot of things that I value very highly in this world, but somewhere right near the very top of that list are all the amazing places I've traveled over the years under my own power. Whether it's been on bike, canoe, raft, or foot I can't possible find the words to describe how lucky I feel to have passed through all the places that I have. The views and the splendor in these places has been beyond anything imaginable, but even much larger has been the impact that these experiences have had internally. The list of ways in which I am in part defined by these experiences could fill numerous pages on this blog. Through some of the most difficult times in the past several weeks, I have felt like my strength has been lower than ever in my life, but never once have I not felt an intense desire to endure, to heal, and to get back into my strength. Without question this optimism and forward thinking has been hugely fueled by my running- past; present; and future, and by my vast experiences in nature over the years.

Today is a near perfect autumn day here in Boulder. I'm not feeling very good today, but I have the energy and the excitement to walk to Elle's school to pick her up from school. Never would I have imagined that I could experience so much and look so forward to walking 4 blocks, but right now I'm really excited for this walk. It's not quite the same thing as running for several hours in the mountains, but when your perspective shifts the way that mine has right now, it's not actually that much different. And I need to find the magic and value in these short walks before I can even begin to imagine running for several hours in the mountains again, something which I have every intention of doing thousands of times again in my life.


Wyatt Hornsby said...

Geoff: Reading about what you're enduring is tough for us fans (but obviously it's way tough for you!). I'm sure in time you'll regain your health and--who knows?--maybe you'll return to form. The important thing is to stay positive and continue accessing care. Working in healthcare for many years, I have to admit my bias toward Western medicine.

Good luck and God bless you.


Anonymous said...

Very sorry to hear about your health problems, Geoff. Here's hoping the docs get to the bottom of it soon!

Unknown said...

So sad to hear of your struggles and pain at the moment Geoff. I pray things will come good for you super soon and you'll be hittin the trails at speed soon! Rest up mate and enjoy the small things at this time!

jdawg said...

rooting and praying for you. Strong healthy thoughts and positivity in the air for you!


Anonymous said...

Geoff, I don't know if I've ever told you this, but you unknowingly played a significant role in me taking a plunge into this sport 2+yrs ago. I remember watching you cross the finish line at Western States in '10 (and having watched throughout the day) and knowing without a doubt ultra running was for me. On the trail and off, you continue to inspire. No matter what, keep pushing forward; and in pure Roes-style, find a way to turn it around.

Eli M said...

Hello Geoff
I am the 15 year old that tried to get into your Camp (dont expect you to remember that). I have recently been going threw a low point in my life and the thing that has almost imidiatly turned my life around is that I find a quite place and I imagin bright white light eminating from every part of my body. within a day things that made me cry smiply went away and I fould a peace that my soul yearned.
hope this works for you,
Eli Modjeska

Andrew said...

stay positive... keep returning to nature in whatever fashion you can... enjoy the extra time with family and feel Blessed!

praying you'll be crushing the trails again soon and putting miles between you and whatever ails you.

Unknown said...

Geoff...sorry to hear of your health problem. Lot's of us are thinking about and praying for you. Hope you and the docs can get on top of this soon. Hang in there.

eric said...

the head needs healing as much as the body, one can't go without the other. good to hear the head part (at least) is working out.

steady and slow, you'll get there... and we'll all be willing you there and supporting you along the way.

George Volp√£o said...

All the best, geoff. Mountain runners here in Brazil are with you!

Unknown said...

You take care brother! In my thoughts...

B to the A said...

As others have said, stay positive! And as you said, you will be running again for hours at a time someday. I've been dealing with a confusing injury for almost 5 months now - no racing, no training. Some days I wonder if I'll ever run again for hours at a time when all I can muster is two miles, but then I quickly snap out of it and literally say out loud "I will be running again soon and right now my body is healing so that I can come back." Whatever is ailing you, you can beat it!

Randy Richmond said...

Geoff- Although I have no idea what your symptoms and issues are, I can't help myself feeling that it has to do with a similar situation I've been dealing with. Without going into a mile long diatribe, at 45 after going hard for years I hit the wall with my health. I've had everything tested and probed and all I get from traditional medicine is I am really healthy- but obviously not...After talking to many athletes around the world, I've come to the best possible conclusion that it is "Adrenal Fatigue" Now what that means is open for debate is there is no way to test for it or know exactly what adrenal fatigue actually is. For me I feel that my adrenal system was taxed so much, that it is now slow to "re set". It took me 2 years to figure out how I can best control it and for what is okay for my body and adrenal to cope with. I am sure it is different for everyone and being older than you its probably a little slower for me to get better. For me- I gave up Mountain bike racing after 15 years and through my misery of trying to figure out how I can replace such a HUGE void in my life I stumbled onto your blog and, voila, I became a trail runner at 50yrs old. For me it was time between events that was its cure; which meant two runs a week, but they can be as long as I want as long as it was only twice. Which now has translated into 7-12 hours for my weekend run in the mountains. It is the time in between the runs is what my supposed Adrenal's needed. My motto used to be "There is lots of time to sleep when you are dead"...now it's " Trail Running is my Love, but I need sleep to get there"

Unknown said...


The one thing that keeps coming through is your increased appreciation for the little things in life that we all take for granted. Thanks for reminding all of us to enjoy each breath we have.

But even more than the beautiful creation we have the opportunity to enjoy, we need to applaud the Creator of this masterpiece.

I'm even reminded of a verse in the bible that says, "“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” - 1 Corinthians 2:9

It gets even better than this for those who put their faith in Christ

Wishing you continued recovery

Olga said...

Life is so precious, it's scary. Hits anybody you would never think of - and at any time. I am sorry you have to deal with whatever it is, and very much hope you can return to jaunts in the mountains one day.

Talus said...

Stay strong Geoff! You've got what it takes to turn all of this around. Every time that wheel turns round...

Run Home Pam said...

Thanks for writing this, Geoff. Often (and more often as I get older and life seems to get more complex) I wonder why I keep running all these miles in all these places, and why I miss it so much when I can't. You captured the spirit of "why" so beautifully in this piece. I wish you continued strength in your journey.

Burt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Burt said...


I very much appreciate you being as open in sharing in your most difficult times as you are in sharing the great times (i.e. winning just about every ultra you race.) All of us who have the genetic privilege of running really long distances can easily take it for granted or, even worse, think that it somehow is even close to what is most important. As a once spry, now rapidly slowing 20+ year ultra-runner, I thank you for framing the gift of endurance so well, for putting it in proper perspective, and for maintaining hope once the innocence of ease is lost.

Absolute best to you and your family. And please, no matter what, keep writing about your experiences.

Tom R.

Kurt said...

I understand exactly what your going through. I have so many positive thoughts for you. After dealing with fatigue, an inablility to recover, and irritability for six months I found out that I had Atrial Fibrillation, which means an irregular heartbeat. I went through so many stages of depression thinking there was never a way out of the tunnel. I couldn't find anything that gave me the joy and happiness as cruising mountain singletrack. Two weeks ago I had my heart shocked, which put me back into sinus rhythm and gave me the ability to begin again. You'll get there, don't loose hope.


Hoppy said...

Geoff ,may the trail back to full health be a short one for you .In daily life your an inspiration.

Bridgett said...

Hello! I just checked out your blog through my brother's blog (Ryan Burch), and I live in the Boulder area.I wanted to throw out that there is a Chinese medical clinic through South Western Acupuncture College in Boulder that gives treatments at a discounted rate:)


Ken Michal said...


I can only imagine how difficult this must be for you. I'm glad that you're celebrating the small victories!! The little things are really what make it all worthwhile!

You're in my thoughts often these days! I really hope to see you flying through the mountains again sometime soon! In the meantime, enjoy this downtime as much as possible and cherish those 15 minute runs!! The mountains have been there for a very long time and will be waiting for you when you're ready!!

Rest and recover well my friend!

All Day!

Brian Garcia said...

My prayers are with you Geoff. You know what it is to endure. This is just a low point on your life's race and you will come back. Just keep moving forward....

Brian Garcia

Sarah Lavender Smith said...

Geoff, I'm so incredibly sorry. I've done some research in the past about the various ailments and possible causes that fall under the umbrella term "chronic fatigue." Your situation makes me think of Laura Hillebrand, the author of Seabiscuit and Unbroken; she was a competitive athlete and then came down with a disorder that made it so she couldn't move her muscles to get out of bed. You might google her to read her interviews about getting through that ailment.
I'm glad you're getting out to the river for fishing; I find Colorado rivers incredibly restorative. I know it's not the optimal time for a river trip, but perhaps you can float the Green or Yampa rivers. I'm really rambling here. Just want to send you my heartfelt wishes for a recovery. Hang in there and keep writing!

Sarah Lavender Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doug said...


In August of 2011, I was hit with a fatigue issue that just wiped me out. I remember taking naps in my car, just so I could finish a 5 mile run. Many of those five milers lasted all of twenty minutes, and then I'd be shaking my head as I walked back to the car.

I went to the doctors, and they ordered a multitude of tests. Nothing. No culprit.

I ended up in the hospital, after passing out on my girlfriend's floor. She witnessed a "seizure," and called 911. I spent a couple of days in the hospital, and I went through more tests, including a stress echo. Nothing.

Later, I ended up with a EMG test to explore some R side weakness. The EMG revealed a non-functioning thoracic nerve. I remember the doctor being apologetic as he told me the news.

Concurrent with this, I was getting some physical therapy. The therapist was an excellent local runner (female,) who was capable of 1/2 marathons at 6 minute pace. She told me that she had a major fatigue issue for one year. Completely screwed up her training during that time period.

She also mentioned a girl friend of hers with equal running ability who had the same problem, again, for a year.

Both girls bounced back and ran at their previous levels.

Me? It took about a year before I could run 10 miles again, and those tens all came within the same week, which was about two weeks ago.

On October 4, I ran 20 miles for the first time in ages. The thoracic nerve is functioning again, too. I'm turning the corner.

The common thread for the three of us is that we got the devil tested out of us, and the docs found nothing. What happened to us?

We don't know, and no one else knows either. What I can say is this: It will undoubtedly go away, and you'll be able to resume your running lifestyle to the level you used to run. I'd bet on it.

One thing to add: I'd explore any book by Dr. John Sarno. He came up with the term, "tension myositis syndrome." His most important work is "The Divided Mind." I'd recommend checking him out.

Good luck to you, Geoff!

Doug Brandt

Kristin said...


I am saddened by your debilitating illness. I hope you find out what is going on and please know that you are in my thoughts.


Kristin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jacobmontereal said...

Your in my prayers Geoff, Thin positive it is the best thing you can do.

Jacob of running Philippines

Andy said...


We met at UROC last year, and I have been following (and inspired by) your running, writing, and approach to life and nature for some time now. Like others, I feel for you and what you have been going through. But I am very encouraged by Doug's comments above, which reinforce your realization that Western medicine only goes so far. Yes, it's important to get the tests and "rule out" a diagnosable and treatable condition, but healing from the unknown -- although frustrating and perplexing -- is probably more likely than defeating the known. The same strengths that carry you 100 miles -- patience, determination, and faith in yourself and the beauty of the natural world -- will see you thru this journey as well. Hope to see you running strong soon. All the best.

Marcelo Lafuente said...

Boom!! Just sent some healthy happy vibes your way!
Get well soon my friend.