Thursday, June 29, 2017

2017 Vasculitis Foundation Symposium Recap


What a weekend!  I can't believe it came and went so quickly.  For the last several months, I've had the International Vasculitis Symposium on my calendar.  It was the only thing on my calendar for months.  Since I'm used to traveling and racing all over the country for about 2/3 of the year, sitting at home since January has been a far departure from my normal chaotic lifestyle.  For someone who finds so much comfort in his routine, I sure do like to travel a lot.  Besides looking forward to the travel part of the weekend, I was also excited to get to share my experience with other young adults through a presentation as well as meet many members of #VFTB (Vasculitis Foundation Team Brandon).

Myself, along with 3 other incredible young adults (Ben Wilson, Kate Tierney, & Allison Lint) were giving the chance to do a presentation for young adults, which we titled "No Parents Allowed."  The goal of the session was to pass along some of the knowledge of dealing with a Vasculitis disorder and navigating the waters of young adulthood (ages 15-30).  So the 4 of us old geezers (some of us wouldn't qualify to participate in the session if we weren't presenting haha) set out to make a lovely presentation to impress these young budding minds.  Well after 2 sessions (we were only scheduled for 1) and over 3 hours of talking, we never even got halfway through our slides.  We couldn't be happier about that.  For months leading into the presentation, we were all worried about making sure that we kept the presentation "real" and not lecturing in order to encourage the group to participate and get involved.  I can't speak for the others (Ben, Kate, & Allison please chime in), but I was blown away with the attentiveness, intelligence, and personality of everyone that attended the session.

As someone who has given many talks, lectures, and even a few teaching lessons in my day to this age group range, we always struggle to find ways to make it fun for this new generation of iphone kids.  After this weekend, I actually have some... faith, for the future.  Luckily the hours that the 4 of us spent to get the presentation ready, wasn't wasted.  We got to do far more than was on those slides.  So if you are one of the 25 or so kids that attended the session, participated, shared, and encouraged the group I'd sincerely like to thank you from the bottom of heart.  It's my desire that you all got as much from listening and asking as we all got from being able to share our pitfalls and successes dealing with life and a crazy rare disease.

Over the last 6 months I've said time and time again, I have been completely overwhelmed with the response and the level of encouragement that #VFTB members have shown for myself and for each other.  The original goal of #VFTB when I started was to use my platform as an athlete training for the Olympic Trials to inspire others to chase their dream no matter their lot in life.  What I never expected was how much everyone would inspire me.  That couldn't be more true this weekend.  It was amazing to get to meet so many of you face to face.  I want all of you to know that you are all responsible for how I've handled this relapse that I am currently suffering with still.  If it weren't for the encouragement and constant uplifting responses you all have shared, then the last 6 months would've been a lot darker.  My heart was filled with warmth getting to hear you all share your stories and how #VFTB has lifted your head up and put you in a better place.

I'd like to thank everyone at the VF for their tireless work and assembling a group of doctors and speakers that are leading the way in Vasculitis health.  As a scientist, it's incredibly encouraging to see the work being done in so many fields as it applies to our disease.  Thanks to these people, the life of vasculitis patients worldwide are improving every year.  While obviously the goal is always to find a cure, we are all aware that that day may be further in the future than we want, we have faith that there are doctors and scientist out there working diligently to get there.  Science is the future!


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Why Exercise is Important

With exercise under attack by our president, I've felt the need to discuss why I think exercise is an important teacher.  NO EXERCISE DOESN'T USE UP ALL YOUR ENERGY!!!  But I'm not here to discuss science with you, I'll leave that to the millions of articles and research hours spent explaining it's benefits.  I'm going to talk about a few of the things outside of health that exercise has taught me and can teach you.

Exercise isn't just my profession and drug of choice, it's legitimately saved my life.  The lessons I have learned from working out as an athlete have given me great tools to succeed in life.  In fact without those tools, I might not be here today.  Although modern medicine and scientific data is amazing, there is no gadget that can explain a feeling.  No Garmin watch or FitBit activity tracker can tell you what you are feeling inside your body.  While they are both incredibly useful tools, they are just data.  Wellness and feeling are intangibles (or haven't yet been quantified).  And that's where the key lies.  Most people start exercising because they know it's good for them, they need to lose some weight, want to live healthier, look better, etc...  but almost all of these points come back to feeling.  Weight lose is a number that can be measured, cholesterol is a number that can be measured, but feeling better, feeling more confident in your body, and understanding what your body is capable of, cannot be measured.  This is one of the reasons I advocate for exercise among Vasculitis or sick patients.  Learning how your body is supposed to feel and react can be a huge help for information gathering for your doctor.

With that intense understanding of what your body can accomplish also comes the understanding of what feeling off or bad is like.  As often as I have pushed through the pain in training, there has been times in my life that understanding what my body is supposed to feel like has possibly saved my life.  Twice I was able to catch relapses with my Vasculitis very early on and possibly avoided some of the physical suffering by catching the relapse before I was scheduled for routine blood work.  The difference might have been small and unnoticed in an inactive person, but to someone who trains everyday, I understood how my body was supposed to feel and knew something was amiss.  My story isn't the only story of people catching things, a man in NYC recently realized he was having a heart attack before it came on because he could feel something was off while he was out running.  So exercise can literally save your life!  But once again I'm bias.

One often overlooked aspect of all fitness training, regardless of discipline, is learning the skill of pushing yourself.  Doing difficult things teaches you valuable life lessons and skills.  We spend so much of our life avoiding difficult or painful things.  Exercise and training are a direct contrast to that.  To get better and see results, you have to push your comfort level.  Learning to be uncomfortable is a learned skill.  During times of inactivity and breaks in training, I have even forgotten how much running can hurt.  We can't make it through life without making tough decisions or challenging ourselves.  Exercise can be an effective tool for teaching the skill.  If I hadn't had running and exercise to teach me over the last 20 years, I don't know that I would have been as effective at making life decisions, dealing with my Vasculitis, or growing as a person.  As we learn new things and our views are challenged, it takes understanding and discomfort to change your habits or views.  Having failed and been forced to learn from those mistakes on the track and in the gym, I've learned to accept that failure and challenge are necessary for growth.  I truly believe this may be the most valuable skill that exercise can teach a person in life.

If you have never felt what your body is capable of doing, then it's hard to truly understand what feeling good is all about.  That may sound a bit silly, but when you exercise your body gets stronger (contrary to what our President said about it using up all your energy).  Even now, there are days where I feel like absolute shit, and I have to force myself to get out and move, but getting out and pushing myself always makes me feel better.  One of the reasons that I am so addicted to racing and training at a high level, and yes it's an addiction, is because of the shear power you feel in your body when it is in peak physical condition.  I wish that everyone could experience the bliss that comes through something like crushing a grueling session on the track or running the perfect race.  I know there are tons of avenues to experience the "zone," but my favorite is by far the track.  I really can't put into words the feeling of your foot hitting the ground and recoiling off the track as you summon the power to complete the intense demands of training and racing.  Just because you may not be capable or even want to run, there are equivalents for each and every person out there and I challenge you to find yours!

Cheers!
Brandon

PS - if you are interested in starting an exercise program, getting advice, or help setting a pr in your next race, visit https://www.brandonhudgins.com/hudginstraining/ to become a #HudginsTrained athlete today!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Fear of Getting Better?

I have to admit I may have found the most irrational fear imaginable.  Over the last few days I noticed an anxious feeling I couldn't quite place.  After some careful examination, I realized I was afraid of getting better.  How could that possibly be?  It makes no sense at all.  For the life of me I can't figure out where the fear is materializing from.  Why would I not want to get better?  That's all I've wanted for the last 3 months specifically (and last 9 years more realistically).  Sitting inside, feeling like dog shit all winter and watching my friends kill race after race really made me miss my sport and my life.

Tired of the pill life
It's been 6 weeks since my 4th final Rituxan infusion, a month since my follow up visit that turned out to be a failure, and 3 weeks since my last Emergency Room visit.  My body has physically been a wreck since December.  My body has literally been fighting itself for 5 months now and I'm tired of it.  After a Vasculitis patient starts treatment rounds it is just a waiting game.  You take some drugs, get some test, adjust some drugs, and then you either get better or worse.  Well over the last 6 weeks I've gotten better and worse but I may have finally started to see some small signs of some physical improvements.  Of course in my screwed up brain I'm worried that they are fake.  Which I guess is a better fear that every Vasculitis patient has, that you will never find remission again, which I was battling up until a week ago.

Where and why is this fear metastasizing?  Have I gotten so used to being sick over the last 9 years and feeling bad that I don't want to feel good?  That can't be it right?  I've felt trapped and closed off from the world the last several months.  Nothing is worse than the brain energy to want to do something but having no physical energy to do it.  So that can't be it right?  I'd like to be able to enjoy myself again, go out with some friends, have a drink and not worry about whether my body was killing me if I did.

I've suffered through so many aches, pains, infusions, drugs, etc... all while just wishing I could step out my door and run free.  Exercising has been a complete drag, when you know that you are going to half to fight hard every single day for every minute you are out there.  It's like gearing up for a race effort each and everyday just to get out the door.  Now at the slightest signs of starting to possibly see some signs of improvement, I get scared?  What the hell?  Aren't supposed to be super tough and ready to be healthy so I can get my active lifestyle back?  I'm a man right?  I don't get scared! I can't get stage fright before I even get ready to go on stage.

But I'm not.  I'm human.  I have fears.  I have anxiety.  I have depression.  But I've also been learning.  I've learned what to give my energy to now.  I've learned which thoughts need to be feed, which need to be ignored, and which need to be acknowledged and chewed up and spit out.  This fear of health can't be feed and I know that now.  A younger more immature me would've gotten stuck in the trap of this fear.  Learning to work through these mental hurdles is one of the biggest differences in how I have handled my Vasculitis over the past 9 years.  I was young and dumb at 21.  And 25 and 26 was just old enough and bitter enough to get lost mentally.  Now through lots of trials, errors, conversations, books, and self exploration, I've gotten myself on stable ground.  That's not to say that I still can't lose my footing.  I'm one wrong step away from getting stuck in a trap, but I'm much more careful with where I walk and I feel more secure with each safe step along the way.  But with all the mental stuff aligned, it allows me to be more objective about my physical condition.  While I am not out of the woods yet, it has to mean something that my mind is being allowed to worry that I a small sign of getting better might be fake.  If you believe in the power of the mind/body connection, the thought that my body would be experiencing something that would allow my mind to think this, should say a lot for my new direction.


Monday, February 27, 2017

Letter to #myfutureself

Dear BHudg,

I trust this letter finds you alive.  If not, maybe they shot this into the stratosphere with fireworks made from our ashes.  If you are well, my wish is that science has been giving the freedom and encouragement from the public and a cure for our disease has made life a little more fun again.  But anyways, enough blabbering.  I've made a list of things for our dumb-ass self to never forget.  You know, we know, how important it is to keep perspective.  I assume you haven't grown up all that much, so here is a friendly reminder:

- Never forget why you are doing this.  Whatever this is now.  Remind yourself that you have chosen this path.  This path didn't choose you.  You had the easy way out so many times, but you chose the hard way because you saw the fun and potential it could bring if you managed to pull it off.  You committed, now follow it through.

- Don't forget to stop and breathe.  If I know you at all, it's easy to get caught up in the moment and the situations.  I know, I know, I know, some of the best times in the past were when you were going and flowing and didn't have to stop, but that was a younger, different you.  If you don't slow yourself down, you know what damage that can do.

- Keep moving forward.  You have come so far from the rock bottoms that you have hit.  You know all the work that it has taken to get to a level.  Don't undo it all.  It's not worth it.  I know you might falter or slip, but catch yourself, don't lay there, you are smarter than that.  Moving forward helps keep you focused, you know that.  Eye on the prize there champ.  You have handled some of the worst blows life can bring you, so don't let something small and stupid bring you down.  Maybe it is one or two steps backwards, but you keep it in check.

- I know you are in this to prove people wrong, so do it.  Quit complaining,  Shut up, nobody cares, so make them.  Don't make excuses, don't find ways out, don't let the circumstances get you down.  Whoever it is we are trying to prove wrong clearly still hasn't gotten the memo.  Head up, middle finger high in the air.  The bitterness of letting them win will always sting, so don't give up on anyone's terms but your own.

- Above all else, don't forget to trust yourself.  Self trust is the backbone of success.  Some of the best situations in your life came we stopped worrying and just trusted ourself to get it done.


If I know us, then I know that these issues will all be driving forces and possible pit falls.  If I also know us, I know that we are always learning.  Use that knowledge and work ethic to stay ahead of our major pitfalls.  If we can do that, then just maybe we will stand a chance at living a happy, fulfilling life.

Much Love,
BHudg

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Relapse #3

Relapse is a word that every vasculitis patient fears.  Those are unfortunately the words that my Rheumatologist uttered to me on Monday, February 6th.  After 3 years and 8 months in remission, my immune system has again decided to go haywire again.  For those are unfamiliar with vasculitis, vasculitis is inflammation of the small blood vessels the body.  My specific vasculitis, Granulomatosis with Polyangitis (aka GPA or Wegener's) affects my sinuses, ears, lungs, and kidneys.  This diagnosis confirms something I had unfortunately suspected for well over a month.  As a professional distance runner and vasculitis patient, I am used to all sorts of weird things happening, but the last 6 weeks have been plagued by just too many to ignore.  I've had an ear infection for 6 weeks, body aches, lethargy, night sweats, bloody noses, coughing, shortness of breath, unexplained joint pains and a recurrent fever.  Distance runners are incredibly in tune with there bodies, and I knew something was off in my early December workouts.  I wanted to attribute it stress and other factors like getting sick, but in the back of my mind I knew the feeling wasn't normal.  To attempt to describe the feeling, it's like running with a governor on.  I could run paces and times that you should be, but they are much harder.  I felt my energy was just being sucked away slowly.  Despite the bad feeling, I kept telling myself I was alright because I was able to hit the times I needed, but deep down I knew I was lying to myself.

This relapse comes at a time when I was so excited to continue to climb the United States ranks in the mile and compete for a spot on the World Championship Team at 1500m this summer.  My spirit is not broken though.  I'm as motivated as ever to follow the doctors orders, get back into remission and get back on the circuit.  I don't know how long that will be, it could be a few months, or it could be a whole year.  Never the less, I'm more prepared than ever to fight this and win. What's insanely weird is the fact that I am less nervous about the coming months and treatment than I was about competing at the Olympic Trials this past summer.  That tells you really how screwed up my 20's were haha.  But to all to all my friends and competitors, be glad I'm spotting you a few months to get in some training, I'll be back!

While my last 2 relapses were plagued with depression and anxiety, this time I'm hell bent on not falling off that cliff.  I also am no longer fighting for just myself.  I am fighting for all of the warriors that are part of Vasculitis Foundation Team Brandon.  Having the VF and VFTB behind me has given me a sense of purpose to this fight and journey and I won't let everyone down.  The next few months will be difficult and trying, but just like I have attacked my training the last 3 years, I am ready to attack my disease and get back to my life.  One big thing we talk about as part of VFTB is not letting disease and life situations stop you from chasing a dream.  Three years ago the thought of fighting through another relapse would have crippled me, but now with a purpose driven attitude I have the strength to take on this fight.  It's weird how calm and strong I have felt over the last few days since hearing this news.  Having this mountain to climb in front of me has given me another obstacle to defeat and I'm ready.

To my partners, Skechers, AthletesInsight, Cocoa Elite, and AthleteBiz, I'll be back before you know it.  To my meet director friends, BHudgNasty will be back and better than ever I promise.  The moment I'm cleared to train and race I'll be calling!  This is just part of the journey to 2020 and beyond.  Thank you for being apart of this journey and I promise to always represent you all with pride.

The journey still needs your support here: FlipGive Campaign



BHudg

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Dirty 30

I'm 30 years old.  What the hell?  When did I get old enough to be 30?  I'm definitely 30 going on 13, more than 30 going on 31.  I've jokingly called myself grandpa and the old man for a while, but 30?  Really?  When did that happen.  It feels like just yesterday I was so happy to leave high school behind and start college, and then leave college for life as an adult, but now I'm 30 wondering how I even made it here.  There were certainly times in my early and mid 20's where I didn't think I'd make it to 30.  While that's funny to think about now, after emerging from those dark moments I decided that I was going to live life my way.  If my time on this earth comes up short, I want to be remembered for living life hard.  While that has often been a danger to myself, difficult for my friends and family, and stressful at times, so far it's been worth it.  While I'm not short on regrets, I have the hand I've been dealt and must play it.  While I grow little by little each year, I strive to still maintain my personal integrity to do things my way, no matter how hard it may get.

For years I joked that I would finally have to grow up when I turned 30.  Well with 30 finally here, I'm happy to admit I just got some Star Wars lego's for Christmas and growing up may have to wait till 40.  I'm the old guy in my group of friends, but as 30 comes I feel that I finally have to embrace that role.  Its the next step in the evolution of BHudg.
So often you get asked the question "Where do you see yourself in x number of years" while in college and in your mid 20's.  Looking back 5 and 10 years ago, I couldn't have possibly predicted this life.  It's taken so many unpredictable turns,  I'd put any world class roller coaster to shame.  30 is shaping up to be the best year of my life so far.  So much has changed over the last few years and I'm finally in a place where I have found some peace in my life.  The biggest part of that is being able to pour all of my energy into the things that I care so much about.  I no longer have the weight and stress of a daily job takes away much needed energy for my passions, but that also creates a new stress for making sure I have enough money for rent and food.   I've traded one stress for another.  A lot of people would look at this as a giant risk, but I hate that word.  This move was calculated.  To me calling a move like this a risk dis-empowers you.  Forcing myself to get rid of a safety net, made me realize that I wasn't fully trusting myself and I needed to empower myself and take back control, or I was never going to get where I wanted.  It's been a new stress that I've taken on, but I've relearned the art of the hustle, and it's been astonishingly invigorating.



I've been running now for 2/3 of my life.  I caught the running bug at 10 and now at 30 I'm as hooked as ever.  Despite all the miles, races, wins, loses, and accolades, I still feel a burning desire to get better.  From 28 to now 30 I am just now becoming the athlete I dreamed about as a 13 year old kid.  Nothing is more gratifying and terrifying than realizing your dreams.  There was even a time after the Olympic Trials this summer where I thought, what now?  I was scared that I may have finally run out of mojo accomplishing such a big goal on my bucket list.  But after a few months of turmoil and thought, I realized I'm not done.  I'm back in 15 or 19 year old Brandon who has just come onto the scene and looking forward to the journey of working my way up the ladder.  That top peg is of course a birth on the 2020 Olympic Team.  But till then I have a lot of running and growing to do as an athlete and a person.  I look forward to the challenges ahead, but even more important now than my personal journey is the journey of #TeamBrandon and my Victory Over Vasculitis Campaign.  It's our goal as a campaign and group to inspire each other, lean on each other, to live healthy together, chase ours dreams by holding each other accountable.

So cheers to growing up one small step at a time, but keeping that youthful energy to fight for our dreams!  More exciting BHudg news coming soon!  Stay tuned.

All Hope is Gone,
BHudg


PS - I'd like to welcome Skechers Performance to #TeamBrandon.  For 2017 they will be my apparel and shoe provider.  I plan on being their 3rd best decision (behind Meb Keflezighi and Kara Goucher) in entering the ranks of Elite Distance running!