Pushing Past Cancer

Alfred in Thailand

I doubt there is a person reading this that hasn’t been affected by cancer. You may not have it, but you’ve been affected by it. You have older relatives, friends, family members that either have it, or had it. It is probably impossible that you don’t know anyone that had cancer.

I know someone, a good friend that I’ve written about here at this site and others, that was recently re-diagnosed with cancer of the lymph nodes. He had it once, kicked it (they said), and now it’s back full-force and trying to kick my friend’s ass.

My friend is turning 76 years old in about ten days.

He is one of the most amazing guys on the planet. I’ve never had role models. I’ve never had someone I wanted to be like. This guy is like the father I never had. He’s like the coach I never had. He is incredibly inspiring to me. He motivates me to go beyond what I’ve ever done before because his determination, his internal fortitude is mind blowing to me.

His name is Alfred. He’s from the United Kingdom.

At 70 years old I saw him climbing the outdoor staircase up the side of a hill in Thailand that I was climbing almost daily. It’s 280 meters vertical and the steps are not the 7-inch steps you see in a skyscraper, there are some of those, but the average step height is about 9-inches. None of the steps are average though, so they vary between 5-inches and 22-inches high.

On the day I first remember seeing Alfred climbing, it was over 90 degrees Fahrenheit that day, as it was nearly every day. The sun was blazing down on us as I poured sweat. He was only lightly sweating. We were at step 1057 when we stopped for a few seconds to talk. He told me he’d been climbing there for years. I couldn’t guess how old he was at the time, I thought somewhere around 60. His bright grey hair said otherwise, but his body was so fit and his disposition so full of life, I couldn’t have guessed he was in his 70’s.

I started to climb the steps around the time he said he was there and I ran into him often. We met there at times and climbed together. He could hold a steady pace the entire way up, and was climbing it in 15-16 minute pace regularly. He frequently ran up the section from step 840 to 925. Not bad, right?

After meeting him a couple times he said something that totally blew my mind.

He’d climbed, on a whim, four times in a row after having nothing for breakfast and sparse liquids. He had just felt like climbing, and quickly knocked out four climbs in a row in the heat of the mid-morning sun!

Though I knew him somewhat well at that point, I didn’t know how to take what he’d told me. Was this guy totally out of his gourd that he thinks I’m going to believe that BS?

I had done twice up the stairs a couple of times. I thought that was enough for me. I didn’t see any point in attempting to go three times up. Two was an excellent workout and it took me about 30 minutes of climbing and 18 minutes of running down the steps to do it. Even today, if I climb twice (up and down) in an hour, I feel like I did something worthwhile.

Here was this guy, seventy, telling me he went up 4 times with little water and no breakfast or preparation – just on a whim?

I pretended to believe him. But, it plagued me all day.

Was this guy a bullshitter? He sure didn’t seem like it. I tend to know people within a few minutes of meeting them. Alfred seemed like a very straight up guy. Four times?

So, the challenge was set. He’d done four times in 3h 30m. I had to somehow find it in myself to beat that time, or maybe to go even more times than that. I was only in my early forties. I had done triathlons and races of all sorts in my twenties, but for more than a decade I hadn’t really pushed myself very much. Alfred was forcing me to up my game, just by being there. Just by me knowing him and hearing that he was capable of such an astounding feat.

I ramped up my training and set my focus on four times. I completed it after a couple weeks. It was very difficult to do. I was excited to tell him that I’d done it. He seemed a bit surprised I could do it. He started talking about doing a vertical mile on the steps. I thought for sure we already had. Turns out we had to go 6 times to reach a vertical mile. WOW.

Anyway, and so it went. Alfred was really into walking long distances as well. At times he’d climb the stairs up the hill and then the same day walk 10 kilometers (6.2) miles or more along the beach near where he lived. A couple years ago he entered a 12-hour walk-race in Malacca, Malaysia. Out of 300+ participants he came in 43rd overall and was the 16th person to reach 50 kilometers! The guy is an animal!

Then he came down with cancer. He took chemo for a few months and the doctors proclaimed him CURED! Well, they must have missed the huge tumor in his stomach, because shortly afterward another doctor found it.

As I write this, Alfred is on a flight back home to England to be treated by a doctor there. He’ll have some rounds of chemotherapy again and this time he’ll come out clean and stay clean. That’s what I’m betting on.

Facing cancer is something that I am already sure I will have to endure. I am prepared for it. I know what I’ll do. I know how I’ll go about it. I’ve done some research in the past, and I’ve already got a plan for when it all goes down. It just seems wise to prepare for it now because it hits so many people and they’re thrown into a tailspin. Some crash and burn. I won’t. I’ll fight it and kill it.

The mindset one needs to fight something that is living inside and trying to take nutrition from organs essential for life, is on a different level than most of us have reached.

I tell myself I have terminal cancer daily. I don’t, far as I know, but I tell myself this so I don’t waste time. The most important resource we can optimize – is time. We do so by being aware of it, and filling it with things that help us and others. Time marches on, but we can march along with it, completing everything we set our minds to. If we can plan most of our day and accomplish it, we’ve used time to the best of our ability. I think most people across the globe plan about 50% of their day. The rest is left up to whatever influences fight for, and win-over, our attention. TV is a mind cancer. Talk Radio is another type of mind cancer. Porn, games, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, chat… all of it is cancer that steals time from us.

That which steals our time away is the worst kind of cancer – isn’t it?

So when cancer comes calling, have a plan for it. My plan is to continue living life as I am living it now. I’ll exercise daily. I’ll run until I have to bike. I’ll bike until I have to swim. I’ll swim until I have to walk. I’ll walk until I have to sit in a chair and twirl my arms in circles. I’ll twirl until I have to rotate my hands or raise my fingers up and down.

I’ll do whatever is possible with the time I have. I’ll radically change my diet. I might drink juice only for months or years, to get the advantage. I’ll dive headfirst into researching the latest news on the issue and focus my whole being on beating the hell out of it.

If in the end, I lose the battle – such is life. All we can do is give it our best shot. I think many people don’t even give it their best shot. You know, there are people walking around with cancer that are still eating fried foods, junk foods, smoking, drinking, and not exercising. Some with cancer are still filling their heads with TV, talk, and chat that means nothing to them or anyone else. They are ignoring the problem, not fighting it with every bit of energy they possess.

I have to say, sadly, that when Alfred was diagnosed with cancer the second time, there was a hopelessness in his face. I saw it. I felt it. He never said it, but there was definitely a change in his mindset the second time. It hurt me to see it, and I did my best to help him maintain a positive outlook on it.

Today I said goodbye to my friend Alfred at the front of my home before he drove to the airport. I do hope he switches gears and goes into fight-mode. His body has shriveled up quite a bit. He has shrunk in stature. His face looks older and more serious. He told me on the phone a couple times that his body is falling apart. The pain in his back and stomach are crippling.  He looks 75 now. On the outside he looks beaten. I’ve never seen him look like that. But it isn’t the outside that matters.

I know on the inside he is not beaten. His mind is stronger than this. His love of life is stronger than this. Cancer cannot beat his mind, unless he lets it win. I do hope he finds the motivation to kick cancer in the ass this second time too.

Alfred, if you’re reading this –

Kick cancer right in the mouth! Kick it for your son. Kick it for your daughter. Kick it for the friends you have here in Thailand and the life-long friends you have in England. Kick cancer in the head for all the people you inspired while climbing the mountain in stifling heat and humidity.

Don’t forget to kick it a couple of times for me too!

Kick it to destroy it, not just beat it back. Kick it to eliminate it without another chance of regrowth. Kick it like you mean it this time. Kick it to show yourself that you are what you have been for so many years. Spinal meningitus couldn’t bring you down. Depression couldn’t bring you down. The suck of life couldn’t bring you down.

You’ve kicked all of this in the past. It’s time to kick harder than you ever have before. Kick until you’re consumed by it. Kick until you’re inside-out. Kick until cancer tires of your fight.

You are still full of fight. I hope you realize that soon my friend…

Best of Life!

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Good Points and Bad Points – Suunto Ambit2 R GPS Running Watch

Suunto Ambit2 R

So I’ve had some more hands-on time with the Suunto Ambit2 R, as I’ve had it for about a week now. I’ve run with it on trails, at the park, and up a concrete stairway on the side of a mountain. Overall, I must say I’m happy with it. I definitely needed to upgrade from my featureless Timex Ironman from a decade past.

Here are some good and bad points about the Suunto Ambit2 R.

Good Points

  1. GPS satellites are found near instantly, even in my house.
  2. GPS works well on the flats and through the dense canopy of the rainforest trail. I think the GPS is very accurate in most situations.
  3. Beeps warning me I’m below or above my specified heart rate threshold, kilometer beeps, and all beeps, are loud enough to hear clearly.
  4. The big display on the middle row is very easy to read in all situations.
  5. The watch charges quickly – less than two hours to full charge from zero %.
  6. The buttons are designed well, a forceful push, and I haven’t made a mistake by not pushing them fully more than 2-3 times.
  7. Movescount.com (MC) is useful. I really enjoy the charts and being able to customize my displays for different exercise activities.
  8. No scuffs yet, despite hitting walls, doors, and trees with it.
  9. The heart rate monitor (HRM) strap is soft and doesn’t slip down – ever.

Bad Points

  1. Altitude readings are pure junk if climbing a steep mountain. I’m in Thailand, maybe the map data is junk to start with?
  2. In the rain the display is all but useless for all other than the middle row of data.
  3. The bottom and top rows of data are about useless in all situations. Too small to see while bouncing around running. Would be better to see all 3 rows the same size.
  4. Movescount has no stairclimbing activity, and yet they have cheerleading. Come on.
  5. No sleep activity in movescount either. I like to sleep with the HRM on and see what my pulse did at night. Interesting!
  6. Recording my sleep last night with GPS on showed me moving in elevation up to 40 meters difference. I don’t know where in the hell I went last night, but I don’t remember a thing.
  7. No easy way to remove sections off the map. You know, in case you leave the GPS on at the end of your run and it catches the entire trip home on the motorbike at 90 KPH. Strava has.
  8. Not sure there is anyway to remove the GPS from kicking on any time I do an activity. Sometimes want just the HRM. I know I can do it in movescount for the activity, maybe have to setup a new activity to do that. That sucks because sometimes I would like to save the battery and kill the GPS. Can’t do it without connecting to MC.
  9. The default setting of kilometer laps to “on” is annoying as hell. Took me a bit to figure out what was going on. Default should be “off.”
  10. It’s pretty damn big (thick, wide) for how little it does. I hope they slim it down – like cut it in half before next iteration.

Comprehensive Review of Suunto Ambit2 R here.

If you’re a runner and you need a GPS watch with heart rate monitor, you’ll probably be happy with the Suunto Ambit2 R watch. It seems durable and is a great tool to help take your training to the next level. Particularly cool is movescount.com because it’s free and has some nice functionality. My next watch will also likely be a Suunto, though I’ll probably go all out and get whatever the newest model is at the time.

Don’t look now, but the Suunto Ambit4 is coming in 2015 – here’s what we’re hoping for!