My name is Adam , I’m 33 years old and I have Cystic Fibrosis, an inherited life threatening disease that affects the lungs, digestive tract, and other areas of the body due to a thick sticky mucus buildup. This is my story…
I was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis when I was 2 years old. At the time, I was failure to thrive and wasn’t yet walking. Once diagnosed, I was able to put on some weight and was up walking and running, in no time.
Growing up, I always participated in sports; baseball, basketball, football, and soccer. My parents never even mentioned my cystic fibrosis as a negative, so naively, I never knew to use it as an excuse. As I got older, graduated college, and started working, my exercise dramatically decreased.
When I turned 30, I knew I had to start to make changes if I wanted to maintain the quality of life I currently had. I needed to get active; I don’t want to cough away my remaining years. I decided to take up an activity that, at the very least, would keep my interest. That was Brazilian jiu jitsu and mixed martial arts. Go big or go home right? I participated in bjj, kick boxing, and everything that goes along with mma around twice per week, for a little more than a year. I really loved it, but it got expensive, and I didn’t feel I was physically ready for such a task.
In August 2010, I decided to join the local ymca. I started a light weight lifting program and added thirty minutes on the elliptical. As I stated working out more and more, 3x per week for a little over an hour, I started to take my nutrition seriously. I added protein (drinks and bars) and small snacks to my diet. Breakfast was again a fixture to my morning routine.
My gym activity started to become mundane, until I heard about ToughMudder. Tough Mudder is described as an mud run. It’s between 10-12 miles and includes around 28 obstacles. It’s an adventure run through mud, water, hills, and whatever other terrain is available. Tough Mudder became an obsession for me. I signed up in March 2011, for the local Tampa race that was to be held in December.
In preparation for the race, I started to really focus on my running and cardio. I had never even paid any attention to how far I could run. I started on the treadmill, just trying to complete one mile. After some work, I was finally able to run continuously for one mile. Then, I focused on increasing my time. A few months later, I was able to get my time under the 10 minute mark.
My next step was entering a similar and much shorter mud run. I registered for the Champions Mudbash in the Orlando area. Looking back, it was kind of disappointing. But at the time, it was perfect. It was less than three miles and included a few obstacles with minimal challenge. It was hot, and by the time race day came around, I’d never ran even two miles continuously. I was able to finish the race without much walking and was just proud to be competitive. I refused to be last. I received my medal, free t-shirt, and free cup with my head held high. The race was a good “starter”. I was nice to go through the registration, deal with the parking, the crowd, and prepare myself for Tough Mudder. I figured the more I experienced now, the less energy I would waste in excitement and nerves when the real race came around.
A few months later, I registered for the Tampa Police Department’s 5k. This would be my first “real” 5k. I was now up to running on a treadmill continuously for 2 and sometimes 3 miles every time I entered the gym. I felt incredible and ran the race with my wife. This time, I could see others that where trying to keep up with me! Completion, free t-shirt.
My last task before Tough Mudder was completion of one more mud run, Iron Crusader. Three miles, moderately challenging obstacles, and another free t-shirt. By this time, I was active in the gym on a weekly basis for over one year. I felt like I was in incredible shape. Three miles was now no problem for me. Obstacles? No problem. Mud? No problem. I could have run that race three times that day. The weather was perfect, and I was more than ready.
Once Thanksgiving rolled around, Tough Mudder was upon me. I was getting nervous as the day approached. Not because I wasn’t physically ready (I was up to running around 5 or 6 miles continuously), but because I was so afraid of getting sick. I worked so hard to get ready for this event; I didn’t want Cystic Fibrosis to take it away from me. This was my opportunity to kick CF right in the face.
November 18th, my 5 year old adopted son had a baseball game. He played the game while battling a cold. After the game, we went out to dinner and he gave me his drink. “Here dada, try this”. I did. Two days later, I was sick, coughing up all kinds of mucus, blowing my nose continuously and slowly losing my voice due to post nasal drip.
I was in pure freak out mode. At 32, I feel like I know my body, and I know what it takes to get over this. I wasted no time and I called my doctor and was placed on an anti-biotic. After a few days, I felt worse. Again, I called my doctor and my anti-biotic was changed. By this time, I knew I would still be on an anti-biotic the day of the race. My regular gym time became a casualty to my new cold. Now, I was really worried. With each day, I hoped and hoped that I would get better. I got some rest, was able to keep my appetite, and tried to stay focused.
As Tough Mudder approached, I began to feel better. I actually started to feel that I needed to be sick. I felt being sick before this race was the ultimate microcosm of my life. While there is no cure for Cystic Fibrosis yet, Tough Mudder was my opportunity to defeat the disease. I would not be stopped.
On the day of Tough Mudder, my nerves began to really take over. I wasn’t sure how my body would hold up. How was my cardio? Would I start coughing uncontrollably during the race? Can I really do 12 miles? At this point, I had no choice. I refused to give in, I didn’t care what it cost me (Of note, at times, even at 32, I do things that would be looked upon as idiotic by others. I feel this keeps my juices flowing).
My wave started at 10:40, my team (my wife, brother, and two friends) and I all recited the Tough Mudder oath. Tough Mudder is all about comradery and team building. The race obstacles included jumping in an ice bath, climbing under barbwire face down in the mud, jumping off a 15ft high plank into water, scaling walls and cargo nets, as well as the last obstacle…running through live electrical wire!
To start the race, I felt pretty good. A little bit of a cough and my voice was almost completely gone becuase of mucus, but over all good. Three miles down, still good. At six miles, I was starting to get tired. At eight miles, I was really dragging. My legs felt like jello. By this time, I was walking. There wasn’t much left in my tank. I was hungry, tired, and just spent. After ten miles and only three obstacles to go, I could see the finish. I nearly started crying. I was so close to accomplishing my goal. It was my way of “beating” CF. I muscled up everything I had left in me and powered through the last three obstacles, including climbing a pyramid of hay, running up a half-pipe, and running through the live electrical wire (only got zapped once). I couldn’t believe I was done. I had done it. I received my free t-shirt and more importantly my orange Tough Mudder headband, only given to those who finish the event. I wanted to hug the girl that was handing them out. This is not a race that everyone can finish, in fact about 10 or 15 %, do not. With the help of my teammates and after dedicating myself to exercise, I was able to successfully complete every obstacle Tough Mudder had to offer. Not bad for a kid growing up with CF!
**Update, I am signed up up for my second Tough Mudder, December 2012**
-Adam aka CF Ninja