–Snowdrop Ultra 55. 12/30/2015

–Snowdrop Ultra 55. 12/30/2015

I am often reminded just how fragile life is. The first child I ran for, Bo Johnson, passed away from AML a month before I was able to meet him. I honored his beautiful life by running the Door County Fall 50, wearing orange, through his hometown of Sister Bay. I have run for kids that beat cancer and return to healthy lives. I have had to make a difficult phone call to a Mom who lost her child sooner than expected to this ugly disease, asking if I could honor her son by running for him. I have attended a funeral of a 7 year old girl, hugged her Mom, and just shook my head in disbelief…wondering why I can’t do more. The past three years of my life have been dedicated to raising awareness and funds to fight pediatric cancer. Snowdrop Foundation WI has brought in over $100k in that three year time span…yet it doesn’t help Lily’s Mom one bit when she has to bury her child.

This year was very personal. I looked at my own children differently. Unlike the 40 plus kids I have met who are fighting cancer my own kids are healthy and full of life. They have no fear of the future. Snowdrop provides some incredible benefits to the kids I have met, yet I feel I can always do more. I SHOULD always be doing more. I look at the fight in these kid’s faces. Their determination to overcome and reclaim their life, and I am inspired.  I don’t want to see them fearing their next scan results, worrying about the next six months constantly.

I often get asked, why do you get up at 2 am and run a marathon on Friday morning and then go to work? Aren’t you tired? When do you sleep? Well, do you think Jacob gets tired when he has to go through chemo for the fourth time? Do you think, at four years old, he enjoys getting spinal taps and poison dumped into his body? Not to be crass, but who gives a crap if I am tired. Don’t get me wrong, my alarm goes off and I often resist the urge to roll out of bed. Then I think about the kids I am running for, have run for, and those who need Snowdrop’s funds in the future…and there isn’t a damn thing that will stop me from delivering on a promise.

I had a friend who approached me and said, ‘I feel Snowdrop lost its way. It is all about the money’. No shit! It is about the money. Every cent of it! When I attend a funeral of a 7 year old girl whom I previously met and personally delivered Christmas presents to, I feel personally responsible for not doing enough for her. We have kids depending on us to deliver scholarship funds to further their education. Yep. It is about every single cent we can raise. Along the way, we build relationships that are founded in trust, honesty and passion. That is why I know I am in the right place in my life. My passion is front and center. Snowdrop is transparent in every way. What you see is what you get.

As the year progressed, I knew the Snowdrop Ultra 55 hour race was getting closer and closer. I hired a running coach to help me achieve what some would see as a personal goal to reach 200 miles in 55 hours. Every running decision I make is geared towards two things. 1. Raising funds. 2. Running for a particular child to make them feel special. I made a promise. I would not collect any pledge money unless we hit 200 miles. Because of Jacob, the other kids that depend on Snowdrop, and all the support we were given, we delivered on that promise.

Do I really want to run 200 miles? I don’t know the answer to that question. I just did it last week and it hurt…a lot. My feet were numb and bruised, my quads were completely blown out, and I have massive wind burn all over my face. So no, it wasn’t ‘fun’. The Snowdrop WI board and I accomplished something truly special together. We were able to get pledges of $55 per mile that I ran. Every mile, every cent counted. I ran for Jacob, a 4 year old boy who has ALL-B cell. He is currently in remission and thankfully doing fine. His picture, his Angelic smile, and his toughness carried me during the moments when I didn’t think I could do another lap. When I was truly down, Laura showed me a video that Jacob posted on Facebook. He was cheering ME on! I sobbed uncontrollably. Later, with 15 miles to go, I received another message. Cole, a family friend, was running laps at the local YMCA until I finished the 200 mile goal. Again, I cried. For several laps, I would pass the kids pictures on the course. As I passed, I said a quick prayer for them and their families. It is interesting how you set out to honor and give others strength…yet it is their strength that is returned to you!!

The Ultra 55 was a great success for our foundation. We raised over $11k towards research and scholarships. I feel blessed for my health and my family’s health, yet I still feel hollow. I don’t want to attend any more funerals. I don’t want to experience that side of Snowdrop. We can do more. With your help, we will do more. Thank you to all of our supporters. You are all sincerely appreciated and loved by our board. We love the kids we run for. It is an honor we do not take lightly…but it is our mission to someday not have any additional kids to run for. We will continue our work and with your help, end childhood cancer by putting one foot in front of the other.

B

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Snowdrop Ultra 55 – You want courage…

This past week, I was blessed to have the opportunity to run the Snowdrop Texas Ultra 55. A 55 hour run around a .75 mile crushed gravel trail in Sugar Land Texas. I chose to run for Ella Manner, a beautiful little girl turning one on New Years Eve, that was diagnosed with cancer while in her Mom’s womb.

Motivation. Inspiration. Drive. All these things were racing through my mind the past few weeks leading up to the 55 hour run. I have to show others that kids like Ella inspire me to do more. Kids like Ella provide all the motivation I will ever need and kids like Ella drive me to demand more from my body, mind and spirit.

I am typically not very competitive. I like to push myself and finish races, raise awareness for Snowdrop Foundation and share the story of the child I am running for with all the other runners. It isn’t very often that I get angry and run hard. This past week, I got angry.

I started the run with a few goals in mind, but my mindset quickly changed. Wearing ‘Pinky’ Manner’s picture on my back, I started thinking about what a blessed life I have lived. Despite going through a divorce and being a single Dad for five years, my life has been pretty easy. Ella’s life was seemingly hijacked before she was even born. She went through cancer treatments from birth to nine months! How unfair is that!? I started thinking about ALL the kids I have run for since founding Snowdrop WI and how they deserve better. They deserve a world without chemo treatments, spinal taps and radiation. Simply put, my mind went numb and I got angry. I got competitive. I wanted to win all the prize money and donate it back to Snowdrop. Every dollar counts. Every child’s story matters.

I put my head down and started hammering with no regard to the fact that this event was 55 HOURS long. I was the first runner to the 50k mark, first to the 50 mile mark, first to the 100k  mark, and first to the 100 mile mark in 20hours and 33 minutes. I just set the course record. Who cares. Snowdrop WI just won $500, that is what really mattered! Awesome! Let’s do it again. Let’s shoot for the most miles now!

I hit a buzz saw. From miles 100 to 112, I was destroyed. I couldn’t get my body right. I decided to take a quick shower and have some hot chocolate and in the process give my mind a break from the track. I came back to the track and found out that Jered had taken the lead by one lap. Jered is a childhood cancer survivor who was also shooting for 200 miles in 55 hours. His story is so inspiring and throughout the event thus far, he had proven to be a great runner and an even better person. You see, Jered wasn’t supposed to see his 2nd birthday yet here he was attempting to run 200 miles and raise funds for Snowdrop TX.

I took off, catching up to him and running shoulder to shoulder with him for HOURS. The feeling was there, but it went unspoken…we both knew if we pushed each other, there would be more money to put toward the cause. You see, Jered was making $41 per mile from pledges! Inspiring to say the least! As time wore on, we were still racing at hour 48! I was breaking down. We were both cramping. If he stopped, I stopped. If he walked, I walked. I told him I was cheering for him. To be honest, I was simply hanging on as long as I could. I was beat down badly.

I have never experienced anything like this before. Jered was pushing his body to the brink. I had already pushed further and harder than I have ever done in the past. Our bodies were destroyed. Muscles were cramping everywhere, my feet were bruised and blistered, my mind exhausted from racing for 48 hours…and yet here we were, separated by a couple laps.

As ultra runners we both knew what were doing. We were hurting ourselves voluntarily. We were honoring kids who have or who are fighting cancer. The pain they go through isn’t by choice, it is out of survival. I could simply stop running and end the pain. I could simply say enough…

In the end, I ran 175.5 miles in 53 hours. Jared ran 185 miles in 54.5 hours. We both donated our prize earnings to Snowdrop. We both learned a lot about each other and ourselves over the 55 hours. Sharing the course with over 200 like minded, cause based runners at the Ultra 55 proved to be the most inspiring experience of my life. The volunteers, the timing clock folks, the race director…everyone in attendance had the same mission – to help kids with cancer. The atmosphere was both electric and down right incredible.

I have been through a lot in my life, but the Ultra 55 experience is one I will never forget. The brotherhood I formed with a few runners will last forever. The friends I made in Texas over three days are life long. The memory of running for Ella is one I will cherish forever. It was and always will be a blessing to run and share a child’s story.

Kevin and Trish Kline – thank you for everything you do. Thank you for allowing me to come down and participate with so many incredible people from Texas. I will never forget the embrace we shared at the finish Kevin. It meant the world to me. Kevin, you are such a wonderful mentor and role model to me. I have never met anyone like you. You are one in a million brother.

To my host family, Frank and Erica Medrano. You two are like a Mom and Dad to me. Thank you for taking such great care of me! Your selflessness was on full display at the event and I will never forget your hospitality. Love you guys and I hope to see you in May!

Finally, thank you to my wife, Laura. We support each other through everything. Your love and encouragement can lift me from the brink every time. Thank you for allowing me to travel to another race and represent Snowdrop WI in TX. You are and always will be the love of my life. The phone call we shared as I rounded the track for the final time is one that will live in my mind forever.

To everyone involved in the Ultra 55: Congrats on a massively successful and incredibly inspiring event. The finish line at Ironman has nothing on the finish line at the Ultra 55.

B

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Now and Forever

How much longer can I go on?

How much more can I take?

I have to ignore all the pain

There is too much at stake.

 —

Sitting here in my personal prison

I can see outside

But there is nothing here

Nothing inside

 —

The disease has taken hold of my body

…and it thinks it will win

My will was once indomitable

My soul used to be full of faith.

 —

The disease has taken my friends

It has taken family members

I stare out the window

The chemo continues to drip

 —

My hair has fallen out

I am a shell of my former self

Yet everyone says I am beautiful

I feel like screaming, but I don’t think anyone will hear

 —

Amidst my despair, I had a visitor

I was asleep…yet we spoke

He told me it wasn’t my time

That I had things yet to accomplish

 —

I remember everything about him

He brought calm

He brought hope

He lifted me up with his presence alone

 —

As I awaken, the sun shines through my window

I lay in bed thinking about him

He is with me

Now and forever

 —

I feel his strength

It gives me the push I need

The misguided anger is now gone

My will has returned

 —

The disease and I will be linked forever

But I am ready to fight

I am ready to show the world

What a survivor looks like…

 —

I rang the bell today

Everyone was cheering

I felt a hand on my shoulder

A reminder that he is with me

Now and Forever

 

—-For those who have lost their battle: Colton, Bo, Kim, Superman Sam, Chelsey…and thousands of others. We will continue to run in your honor, albeit with a heavy heart. Jump on our back and take a journey up the mountains in the West and through the prairies in the Heartland. You continue to inspire us.

—-For those who are still battling: We look forward to supporting you during your journey back to health. We would love to run for you and honor your fight. We will keep running and raising research funds until there is a cure!

The Snowdrop Foundation Wisconsin Family.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Time

None of us are promised a tomorrow. None of us are even given a guarantee to make it through the current day, so why do we live our lives like we have endless amounts of time on our side?

I recently spent some time with four kids that brought those thoughts back to the forefront of my mind. While running 165 miles in 4 days from La Crosse to Neenah, I had some time to reflect on my own life and why I choose to run long distances to bring attention to a cause like childhood cancer.   

Sometime during the first day of running, I started thinking about my childhood. I remember waking up super early before my parents and watching Saturday morning cartoons, then running outside like a madman at the first hint that one of my friends were outside. I would then run around with endless energy playing pickle, football, basketball…the list goes on. I don’t remember taking a break to even eat or drink! I realized I have so many fond memories of my childhood. I had an older brother who I looked up to and always tried to emulate and I had two amazing parents that were always supporting us no matter where our interests turned to.

Around mile 17 on day 1, we stopped for a little food/hydration break. I watched my Dad, now in his sixties, climb out of the vehicle to help us get our nutritional needs. I made him a peanut butter sandwich and thanked him for being our support driver. My mind was racing. Here is my Dad, once again supporting my dream, sacrificing his time to make our event run smoothly, always there to lean on. I texted my wife and told her I loved her. I was in a deep groove already and knew day one would be easy.

As we continued, Sam, Josh and I shared some great laughs. I was truly myself that day, cracking jokes, poking fun at myself and my friends. It was one of the most enjoyable runs I have ever had. I felt like a kid again and despite being 38 years old, I had endless energy and no concerns. I had my Dad with me, my wife’s support at home with our children, and two of my best friends running with me.

I began thinking to myself, tomorrow is never promised to you Brian. Enjoy the day. Be in the moment. Then I started thinking about Gavin, the young boy we were running for that day. At such a young age, he was battling leukemia. Sure, I had been through a divorce, being a single Dad for five years, numerous surgeries with one of my children…but I never had to stand directly in front of something as ominous as cancer. Gavin, his brother Owen, and their parents were not even guaranteed to make it through the rest of the day…

I called my wife that night and had a really nice conversation with her. She said to me, ‘birthdays are important to all of us, but especially important to the kids we run for’. She was right. I thought about how I don’t look forward to my next birthday because I am getting older. I am almost 40!! But after listening to Laura talk about how special a birthday is to these kids and their families, I realized how selfish my own thoughts were. I should relish every day I have this earth. I should tell my wife every day how much she means to me. I should hug and kiss each of my children and tell them how much they mean to me because you never know when those moments will cease to exist. Becoming a year older is a blessing – period.

I always find it interesting how a child can bring an adult back to reality. My thoughts of my own childhood on day 1 were telling me that it’s ok to let go. Remove all those mental barriers you have put in place over the course of your adulthood. When I was a kid, none of those existed. I was invincible. On day 1, I was a kid again. I enjoyed the sights and smells of nature, the company of friends, the watchful eye of my father, and the joy of knowing that with each stride, I was making a difference in some child’s life. I realized that my life is pretty damn amazing. From a loving wife and kids to an amazing running community to an incredible group of Snowdrop Friends…I have it all…but I am dreaming of a day when kids like Gavin can stare down cancer and know that tomorrow WILL come because there is a CURE. A day when Gavin’s parents can hold onto today, tomorrow, and the rest of Gavin’s childhood because all of us have done everything we can to find a cure for him…and millions of other kids just like him.

Thanks to all of the Snowdrop Foundation Wisconsin supporters for making our first year a true success. Together, we raised over $25,000!  

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Courage Over Cancer – Day 4 Braeden

We started early on day four so we could finish our journey at Memorial Park in concert with the 5K, which started at 10. The weather was nice and cool which meant we would have no obstacles from Mother Nature on our last day.

With Braeden’s picture on our backs, we headed towards Omro and Winneconne. Just outside of Winneconne, a white truck pulled over and the dome light came on. It was Braeden and his family! As Josh, Sam and I talked with Braeden, he was excited that it was four in the morning, he already had a donut, and that we were running for him! Needless to say, his magical smile lifted our spirits. As we would find out later, day four was purely a mental test to overcome all the pain, fatigue, and stress our bodies were going through.

Brady’s family drove ahead to a gas station where we would stop and talk for a bit. As we approached, Brady was running towards us. I couldn’t help but think, here is a seven year old boy so full of life. The amount of courage that fills this boy’s body is unmistakable. He looked cancer in the eye and said, ‘No thanks. I have things to accomplish in life’, then went on to beat the disease…and ring the bell signifying that he was cancer free.  He gave me a high five and my energy stores were completely replenished. I brought him to the back of the support van and gave him a couple bags of fruit snacks.

As we departed, I knew the toughest part of the entire journey was forthcoming. The last 20 miles is where you can easily let your mind go and lose the edge, so I kept my mind on Brady’s struggles and his enormous will to continue fighting cancer. If he can keep fighting, so can I. Honor the picture on my back and keep fighting.

Braeden – you told me at the pasta dinner on Saturday night that your gift from Snowdrop was one of your favorite birthday presents ever. Let me tell you brother, listening to 100 people sing happy birthday to you that night was one of the most powerful and memorable moments of my life. Birthdays are never guaranteed in life. I am thankful that we were able to celebrate your birthday with you and I hope many more to come. You inspire the heck out of me. Stay strong. Give your family a hug and thank them for always being there you. I am looking forward to seeing that amazing smile again real soon buddy!

…until the next adventure, COC165 is now complete, but our work has just begun.

B

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Courage Over Cancer: Day 3 Emma Paulson

Day 3 started off with a bang, literally. Our 44 mile day started at 2:45, in the lightening and driving rain. The lightening lit up the sky, divulging the giant hill ahead. 19 miles of monster hills, up and down, over and over. This would be challenging on fresh legs, so day three, 89 miles, it was super tough. 

I put my head down and ran. Stride by stride, mile by mile, thinking about Emma Rose Paulson. If she can go through chemo, spinals, blood work, and endless worry, I surely can handle 44 miles. I think the world of Emma and her family. They are just incredibly gracious and humble. 

Day 3 was the hardest for me. But it ended with such an amazing pasta dinner sponsored by Thrivent Financial. We had so many families there. Emma, Braeden, Gavin, Beckett…all the warriors who inspire us. 

Having the chance to listen to Emma tell a room of 100 or so people her journey from cancer diagnosis to present had me in tears…and I am certain most of the room was crying too. At the end of her speech, a room full of people gave her a standing ovation. Justly deserved. 

Tonight I was in the presence of greatness, and they were all children. Think about that for a second. These children are teaching me something about life every time I meet with them. I can’t even describe how emotional this evening was for me. We started Snowdrop last October. One year later there is a room full of people supporting our mission and also supporting Emma Rose A Patient Helping Patients. 

Thank you Emma for the incredible work you do for all the kids in the HOT unit. When the Lord made you, he broke the mold. One of a kind. One in a million. Never change and continue to pursue your dreams. Thank you for letting me be a small part of your journey. 

…oh, and I wore a pink tutu today. Only for Emma. 🙂

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Courage  over Cancer : Day 2; Isaiah 

Today was seriously amazing. We started off slow and really ran within ourselves. The weather was cooler and we had rain for about two hours, but wasnt bad at all. Besides, how can I complain about sore muscles and a little rain, when I am running for a little boy who looked cancer in the eye and told it to get out of his way! 

Isaiah fought neuroblastoma and has had two clean scans, which means as of right now, the cancer is gone. This is a testament to his fighting spirit and incredible will to overcome. 

Isaiah’s Mom and Dad drove to meet us just outside of Arkdale (mile 31 for us). My favorite moment of the day was when we put the Worth the Hurt medal around his neck and watched his smile beam!! I then held his hand and walked around with him, listening as he told me how his medal was metal just like Ironman. 

What Isaiah doesn’t realize is that he is tougher than any super hero! I also don’t think he knows how often I think about him. He is just an adorable little guy who deserves a clean slate of health for the future! I am hopeful that someday other kids will have an even higher success rate at beating this cancer!

Thank you Patterson family for allowing us to be a part of Isaiah’s life! That kid melts my heart every time see him!

Take care , Sincerely

Your Snowdrop Friends! 

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment