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How long did it take to climb Everest?

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How long did it take to climb Everest?

Since I've been home and sharing my story about climbing Mt. Everest, one of the most frequent questions I get is about how long I was climbing. This seems like it should be a pretty straightforward answer but it's not, so I thought I would explain it more in a post.

After a couple days of travel just to get to Nepal, we spent several days visiting the Nepal Hemophilia Society. Patrick James Lynch and the rest of the Believe Limited film crew, as well as my wife Jessica and friend Laurie Kelley, visited the hemophilia treatment center, the society offices and several homes of individuals living with hemophilia in the country. This was an incredibly powerful experience and I could go into an entire blog post just about that…and hopefully someday will.

After that incredible experience, we met up with the rest of the climbing team and got ready to head to the mountain. The first, and surprisingly one of the most dangerous aspects of this whole trip was the flight from Kathmandu to the village of Lukla. Tenzing-Hillary Airport is known as one of the most dangerous airports in the world and once you've landed there you know why! The runway is carved into the side of a mountain, is incredibly short and angled uphill to help planes slow down before the stone wall at the end of the runway! I posted a video below of a plane landing there and trust me, this doesn't do it justice!

Watching planes land at the incredible Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Nepal before our trek to Everest basecamp
Jess and I crossing one of the many suspension bridges Photo Credit: Ryan Waters

Jess and I crossing one of the many suspension bridges Photo Credit: Ryan Waters

Everest Basecamp is still 33 miles and 8,200 vertical feet away! The trek is incredible. We traversed some amazing suspension bridges over raging rivers, marveled at the size and scale of the Himalayas and enjoyed the culture of the Sherpa people. The trek took 9 days total with a couple of rest days in the middle to adjust to the altitude we gained. We stayed in ‘tea houses' which are like little motels and some of the teahouses even had showers which was a fantastic bonus! 

After those spectacular 9 days, we arrived at our home for the next 6 weeks Everest Basecamp! Basecamp is an amazing site to behold! Tents stretch for over a mile along the rock covered glacier with huge mountains towering almost all the way around us. Jess and Laurie stayed at basecamp for three days and got to experience the Puja ceremony before they headed back down to Kathmandu and eventually home. That was a tough day but Tashi, our head Sherpa, told me, "Don't be sad, you will see her again very soon". I learned very quickly that Tashi was a very smart man.

Camp 1

Camp 1

After the Puja, which is a ceremony performed at basecamp that asks for safe passage up the mountain, our team was ready to climb and this is where it gets a little complicated to talk about how many days we were climbing. When you climb Mt. Everest you utilize a technique called ‘rotations'. Doing rotations is a way for your body to start adjusting to the extreme elevations on the mountain without having to stay at those high elevations for an extended period of time. For example, a few days after our Puja ceremony we set out for our first rotation up the mountain. On our first rotation, we climbed through the Khumbu Icefall to Camp 1 and spent the night there. This was our first trip through the icefall and our first big day of climbing. It was hard! The next day we took a pretty casual walk towards Camp 2 to get to higher elevations and then slept back at Camp 1. On the third day of the rotation, we went all the way back down to basecamp.

This process does a few things to help. First, by climbing to a higher elevation and sleeping lower, it tricks your body into adapting to that higher elevation without actually being up there which is cool. Second, basecamp is a much more comfortable spot to rest on Everest. Existing at the higher elevations on Everest doesn't really allow your body to recover and it's crucial to feel healthy before heading for the summit.

After our first rotation up the mountain, we rested for several days at basecamp. We ate tons, did short hikes throughout basecamp and up some trails around camp to keep active and get ready for rotation two. Our second rotation started out exactly like our first. We headed up through the icefall to Camp 1, which felt much better than our first journey up. This was a great sign that my body was adjusting to the elevation. We slept again at Camp 1 before heading to Camp 2 the next day. We had a rest day at Camp 2 before we climbed to Camp 3 the following day. Instead of spending the night at Camp 3, which is extremely taxing, we descended back to Camp 2 to sleep again. The last day of our rotation was spent dropping all the way back down to basecamp.

Inside the Khumbu Icefall. Photo Credit: Ryan Waters

Inside the Khumbu Icefall. Photo Credit: Ryan Waters

Once we completed our second rotation our bodies were in the right place to head for the summit. The only challenge was the weather and the fixed lines near the summit. 
As many of you know, there are a series of ropes attached to the ice and rock of the mountain that climbers clip into throughout the climb. The amazing Sherpa teams on the mountain put all of the ropes in place which is an incredible feat. Once we completed our second rotation, we had to wait for the ropes from Camp 4 to the summit to be set up, but the weather didn't cooperate. We ended up waiting a total of 16 days at basecamp for those ropes to be fixed and then a weather window that my guide Ryan felt was good enough for our summit bid. Those 16 days were some of the hardest of the climb. I was so anxious about the summit push and also desperately missing home. I just wanted my chance but waiting for the right time is essential. We hiked around basecamp a lot during those days. We played hundreds of games of cards and Yahtzee which got boring after a while but we ended up getting our shot.

The summit push encompassed seven total days. We bypassed Camp 1 and went straight to Camp 2 on our first day. It took us the same amount of time to get to Camp 2 on this trip as it took us to get to Camp 1 the first time! We had another rest day at Camp 2 which was filled with prep for the final push. Next, we headed for Camp 3 and spent the night on the side of the Lhotse Face. We had access to oxygen that night which was fantastic because just sitting up to quickly could take your breath away. The next destination was Camp 4, the highest camp on Everest at 26,000ft. We climbed that entire day with oxygen which was fantastic!

Steps from the summit! Photo Credit: Ryan Waters

Steps from the summit! Photo Credit: Ryan Waters

I pulled into Camp 4 in the mid-afternoon and crawled into my tent. The plan was to leave Camp 4 around 11 pm the same night so I didn't even take my down suit off. I just laid down and tried to rest as best as I could. I wore my oxygen mask the entire evening, only taking it off to drink some water and eat a little food. Finding the motivation to get out of the tent at 10:30 pm was difficult but I was ready for my chance. Heading to the summit took a grueling 11 hours and another 7 to descend back to Camp 4. I was so excited to crawl into my sleeping bag after that day and sleep until the next morning when we descended all the way down to Camp 2. Another night of sleeping at Camp 2 and one more long day back to basecamp ended our summit push.

The last two days at basecamp were spent recovering from that insane climb and packing all of our gear for our trip back home. It was a bittersweet moment. We had called basecamp and the mountain our home for 47 days and I had so many unforgettable experiences there. We also had to say goodbye to much of the amazing support team we had including the cooks and the climbing Sherpas. It was hard to say goodbye to them and tell them how much they helped me along the journey. I couldn't have done it without them.

So that was a long explanation but to make the answer simple, we spent 47 days at basecamp and on the mountain but only 15 days of that was actually climbing Everest. It sounds crazy saying that but I felt we were incredibly well prepared and picked the best weather window possible for climbing. Those 47 days, plus the rest of my time in Nepal will go down as one of the greatest adventures of my life!

Mt. Everest Climbing Route

Mt. Everest Climbing Route

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Bombardier Blood!

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Bombardier Blood!

While I was starting my trek to Everest Basecamp Patrick James Lynch, my good friend and the director of our documentary, headed to the Hemophilia Federation of America's Annual Meeting. We just spent the week before running around Kathmandu having so many powerful experiences it could fill a lifetime. I headed out on the biggest endeavor of my lifetime and Patrick had about 5 days to work with the Believe team to edit this video together before he presented at a huge annual meeting. I can't imagine how stressful that was!

This was this first time the title Bombardier Blood would be announced to the public and honestly I was nervous about it and pretty happy I was distracted elsewhere. I was initially a little hesitant about the title, I didn't really want my name in the title. It seemed a little egotistical and made the documentary about me and not completely about the story. I told Patrick my concerns and then he explained his reasons for picking the title. Of course the blood references makes sense with the hemophilia but he really sold me when he reminded me that my uncle said it the first day of filming.

We were sitting on a wooden fence with Red Rocks in the background. It was a sunny day and I loved that we got to share this moment together. Uncle Dave is one of the main reasons I got into climbing and he always encouraged me to chase these dreams. After hearing that reason I was sold.

We were about a week into the trek when HFA started. I wanted to hear Patrick's talk about our incredible experience and see the reaction to the clip I hadn't seen yet. I was excited to finally watch it but.....we were on the trek to Everest and although we had some internet, downloading any video was out of the question. I saw the traction on facebook and everyone seemed to enjoy it which made me happy but I was looking forward to watching it.

It wasn't able to do that until I had summited the mountain and returned home. I almost forgot about it honestly until Jess brought it up. I was so nervous to watch it. I don't particularly like watching myself in videos, it feels so strange but I wanted to see Patricks work. I was blown away. The shots they were able to put together and the emotion the captured was powerful. I'm so glad we were able to partner together and I can't wait to see the entire film!

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Denver Post

Denver Post

Thank you Denver Post for this awesome write up, and special thanks to my friend Jeff Bailey for describing my adventure so well. It was really cool to see my story printed in the sports section ... and just below a story about the Rockies!

By JEFF BAILEY | jbailey@denverpost.com | The Denver Post PUBLISHED: June 2, 2017 at 8:25 pm | UPDATED: June 24, 2017 at 9:39 pm

By JEFF BAILEY | jbailey@denverpost.com | The Denver Post
PUBLISHED: June 2, 2017 at 8:25 pm | UPDATED: June 24, 2017 at 9:39 pm

How the Seven Summits Quest Began

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How the Seven Summits Quest Began

Since the public announcement of the Everest climb and documentary went live a few weeks ago I have really enjoyed sharing my story about the Seven Summits with a few folks that I've ran into. I've really appreciated all the support and encouragement I have received especially the stories from some hemo moms who shared my story with their kids!

As I have revisited my story in the past few weeks I have really enjoyed reflecting on what brought me to Everest and Nepal. It's been a pretty wild journey the past six years climbing five of the seven summits and on my way to number six but what keeps coming to the forefront of the story is how I reached my first summit and how Africa truly changed my life forever. I will more than happily share my story with you if we ever run into each other in person but I really wanted to share it here as well.

My first view of Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2011

My first view of Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2011

This crazy journey began late in 2010 when I was working as a lab technician in the Hemophilia Research Lab at the University of Colorado. My boss had been collaborating with a group from Indiana's Hemophilia Treatment Center on a project in Kenya to establish a hemophilia clinic and lab. She had already made one trip but needed some help on trip number two. That's when she asked me to go with her! I didn't even let her finish the sentence when I said yes! I was so excited to help the hemophilia community globally and something else got me really really excited. Mt. Kilimanjaro was only few hundred miles away from where we were heading! Climbing was still relatively new to me but I really wanted to try a big mountain and Kili was the perfect starting point!

About 3 months before my climb, I attended my first hemophilia community meeting, NACCHO. One of the speakers at the meeting was an incredible woman who spoke about hemophilia in the developing world. She showed images of joints damaged by years of untreated bleeds and massive hematomas. I was in tears by the end but had a better grasp on the importance of the work we would be doing in Kenya. At the end of the talk, this woman mentioned that she was climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro later in the year as a fundraiser for her international hemophilia nonprofit Save One Life. It was fate! I worked up the courage to introduce myself and that's how I connected with on of the most inspirational women I know and best mentors I have ever had, Laurie Kelley. She invited me to join in on the fundraising efforts with my Kili climb even though my trip was a few months before hers. It felt good to have a mission involved in my climb.

I trained for several months for the climb and when the time came to head to Africa I was nervous but ready for the physical challenge. What I wasn't prepared for was the eye opening, life changing, experience I was about to have. Once we arrived in Eldoret, we went straight to the hospital to tour the facilities and the potential lab space. One of our teams doctors had already been there for a few days and introduced us to a boy she found on the hospital wards. When she found him, he was bleeding out after a surgery. His joints were all swollen and he was extremely weak. It was clear he had hemophilia to our team, but no one at the hospital knew it. He was bleeding out because he had a surgery without any factor. A surgery he probably didn't even need. Our doctors had brought factor and treated the boy and he ended up leaving the hospital before we left. Meeting him changed my life forever. It changed my perspective on my own hemophilia and what was truly important in life. 

Before one of our educational talks about bleeding disorder with Dr. Chite and a young man with hemophilia from Kenya

Before one of our educational talks about bleeding disorder with Dr. Chite and a young man with hemophilia from Kenya

We spent two more weeks at the hospital, training and educating the staff about bleeding disorders and how to diagnose the different types of hemophilia. It was a fulfilling experience but I couldn't shake the feeling of how easily this could have been me. If I wasn't born where I was, when I was, my life could've looked like theirs. I finally realized what hemophilia really was.

When my uncle and I separated from the rest of the group and headed to Kilimanjaro I still couldn't shake that experience. I struggled with feelings of guilt as we began our climb. Why was I so lucky to be able to climb this mountain when those living with hemophilia just a few hundred miles away were suffering? As I summited Kilimanjaro I realized two very important things; first, I loved climbing big mountains, and two, I needed to do more for the global hemophilia community. That moment is when I set my sights on the Seven Summits and now it's time for the big one, Mt. Everest! 

Summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro

Summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro

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BloodStream Podcast

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BloodStream Podcast

On my way back to Colorado from Alaska Hemophilia Camp I had a quick stop over in St. Louis. And by quick I mean about 10 hours total! My friend Patrick James Lynch had invited my to take part in Powering Through, which is a nationwide live speaker series for and about the bleeding disorders community. The event went great and I had a blast sharing my story which you can watch below.

After the event Patrick had asked me if I wanted to be interviewed for his podcast. Having recently become a podcast addict I thought it would be great to take part. We had a great conversation and despite a lack of sleep I think it went great! You can watch the podcast by clicking the photo below or clicking here!

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From Fun in the Sun to Camping in Alaska: June Recap

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From Fun in the Sun to Camping in Alaska: June Recap

June has been absolutely amazing! I haven't posted much from a lack of wifi and lack of time but I do want to share a little recap of an amazing month! Belize has been on our calendar for a long time. My good friend Brandon, who I've known since I was eight, and his awesome fiancé Kait decided to do the whole destination wedding thing and Jess and I were all for it. we headed down a couple days early to check out some sites and meet the rest of the crew there.

Our first day was spent cruising up a river on a speedboat and checking out wildlife. We saw crocodiles, iguanas and even got to feed a spider monkey named Mickey! If that wasn't cool enough we stopped at the amazing Mayan ruins of Lamanai. Our tour guide explained the significance of the city, the uses of the temples and a little about the Mayan culture. It was fascinating to think how old the ruins were and how many people lived there. The city was over ten miles long with an estimated 40-60,000 people living there! Only a tiny fraction has been unearthed but every jungle covered hill hides something amazing. It was a fascinating place and I loved visiting the site.

The boat ride back to the car was not nearly as much fun as the trip out. A huge thunderstorm hit and the rain felt like needles hitting our face! We did our best to protect ourselves but it was uncomfortable and we got soaked! It was an interesting end to a really fun day!

The rest of the crew was arriving in Belize that next day so we just decided to stroll around Belize City and a few museums before meeting them. It was an interesting day and the Mayan museum was fun but the overall feel of Belize City wasn't great. Apparently they have a very high crime rate in the city and you can feel that tension. We felt safe and almost everyone was incredibly friendly but the feel was strange. We jumped to the airport to meet the rest of the crew and then took a water taxi out to Ambergris Caye, where we would be staying the next five nights.

The houses Brandon and Kait rented were amazing! The first night was spent drinking beer and relaxing. We got up the next day and headed out to for an all day boat ride and my first SCUBA dive in the ocean. I was really nervous. I'm not as comfortable in the water as Jess but once we dove in, it was amazing! We stayed at around 40ft the first dive and saw a manatee, a sea turtle, a moray eel and more fish than I could imagine. I was hooked. We jumped back on the boat and headed to Shark Ray Alley where you could jump in and swim with nurse sharks and sting rays. The sharks and rays are so comfortable with people that they swim right next to you and we all touched the sharks. It was a pretty wild experience. I do have to say that as I reached for the shark I thought to myself, "As a bleeder, should I really pet a shark?" Obviously this passed quickly and I did.

The next day we got another dive in and went deeper. I wasn't nervous about the dive at all but the surface water was super rough. I actually thought about bailing on the dive except then I would have to sit on the boat the whole time which sounded worse. Once in the water everything was awesome! We swam through a narrow passage with coral walls on each side and it was absolutely breathtaking. After the dive we meet some of the other party members and snorkeled around before heading back.

The wedding day started out great. The divers in the group decided we had enough time to get in a dive before the wedding. It was another great dive and at one point a nurse shark same up between my legs! It was a crazy experience! We headed back to the house and got ready for the big day. We gathered on the beach outside the house for the most beautiful wedding I have seen. It was so great to see my friend so happy and taking such a cool step in life. Thats when things went downhill for me. There had been a stomach bug going around and I thought I escaped it. I felt great all day until dinner after the wedding. Something just felt wrong. Over the next day and a half I have never felt so terrible or been as sick. For everyones sake I won't go into details. It was a disappointing way end a great trip but we still had a blast!

After that great adventure I came home for a day and then headed out to Alaska for Camp Frozen Chozen. This year I was asked to help with the CIT (counselor-in-training) training that took place before camp. We camped for two nights and did some really amazing training activities. The CIT's setup camp, had a chili cook-off, hiked a glacier, saw a bear and really bonded. It was amazing to see these young people grow so much in a short weekend. After the weekend we headed to the main camp. I have always had fun at Alaska's Hemophilia Camp but this year was even better that usual. Besides struggling to paddle a "raft" built by my cabin out of a kick board, milk jugs, pool noodles and duck tape I had a blast! My cabin was full of great kids that teach me more about life than I can ever teach them. I can't wait to see what's in store next year and see my Alaska family again!

My first dive in the ocean was amazing! We saw a manatee, eel, a turtle and more fish than I could believe. I wish my underwater video skills were a bit better but here is a glimpse of our dive!

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Sometimes Plan B Doesn't Always Go As Planned: Mt. Hood

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Sometimes Plan B Doesn't Always Go As Planned: Mt. Hood

Yesterday my wife and I attempted to climb Mt. Hood, a beautiful dormant volcano just outside Portland, Oregon.  This was our backup after our planned climb of Mt. Rainier was derailed due to horrible weather. Mt. Hood is 3,000ft shorter than Rainier and most people climb it in only one day instead of 2 to 3 days like Rainier. It's still a glacier which means hiking on snow the entire time and some objective dangers that we needed to be aware of.

We left Washington Monday morning to do a light waterfall hike close to Hood before we headed up to Timberline Lodge. This would be our starting point in the morning. We set up "camp" in the back of our rental car, I heated up some water for dinner, we ate, I infused, and we laid down. It was surprisingly comfortable for being the back of a car, but there wasn't a whole lot of sleeping. I couldn't help thinking about the climb especially since an epic view of Hood appeared just before we laid down. It's an impressive mountain and a little daunting! 

The view of Mt. Hood from our car.

The view of Mt. Hood from our car.

Our 11:30pm wake-up call came quickly. I think I slept for 30 minutes, but overall I felt good. We tried to dress as much as possible in the warm car and just after midnight we stepped out into the wind. As we started the climb from the the east side of the lodge conditions seemed good; the snow was in good shape and the winds were mild. It was much cloudier than I expected but the full moon would peek through intermittently. We climbed for 20 minutes before the winds picked up. There was a forecast of 10mph winds overnight diminishing into 5mph in the morning. The winds were much stronger than forecasted and with it came some nasty sleet precipitation. To make it worse, it was blasting us almost straight in the face.

Jess and I got our hardshells on to keep us dry but after over an hour of this weather it started to take its toll. The sleet finally broke but the winds persisted. I asked Jess how she was doing and she said that her fingers were getting cold. We took a moment to adjust her layers; she put some mittens on as well as my expedition down jacket. We were hoping that would be enough to warm her up but it didn't help. 

There is a running joke with Jess and I about our body's ability to regulate temperature. She laughs when I go outside in shorts to shovel in a snowstorm and I tease her that she is wearing a hoody and slippers in the middle of summer. In the instance of being on a mountain in not ideal conditions, temperature regulation is extremely important. Unfortunately, this nasty bit of weather chilled Jess to the bone and she couldn't warm up. She pushed herself really hard to overcome this, which I am very proud of, but she was miserable. We reached the top of the Timberline Ski lift at about 8,500ft and I could see the misery in her eyes. She's not a quitter, and she was willing to push herself farther for me.

I really appreciated her drive but the right call was to go down and get her warm. It was a big bummer just because I felt really good on the climb, especially considering my recent hamstring injury, but we are a team and we make decisions that are right for the both of us. On the way down, Jess admitted that she hated every bit of that climb. This type of glacier mountaineering is a brutal sport that puts us in very uncomfortable situations and for some individuals, like myself, we enjoy it; for others, including Jess, there was no joy. I'm bummed that she is probably done climbing glaciers, but i'm really glad that she was brave enough to try something that I love. I can't ask for more than that!

Jess was so cold when we got back to the car she crawled back into my -40 sleeping bag and laid there as we started our drive back to my brothers house!

Jess was so cold when we got back to the car she crawled back into my -40 sleeping bag and laid there as we started our drive back to my brothers house!

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Mt. Rainier Status Update

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Mt. Rainier Status Update

Here is a quick update about our attempt to climb Mt. Rainier. Not what we we're hoping but I believe that it's the right decision.

Quick update on the status of our Mt. Rainier climb.

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GutMonkey: Who are they?

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GutMonkey: Who are they?

Yesterday I got to hangout with some really amazing people in Portland, Oregon, the GutMonkey crew! What is a GutMonkey you might ask? Well, it's not a what, but a who. They are an outdoor experiential education company with close ties to our hemophilia community. But they are so much more than just a company; they are an exceptional group of people that want to use their unique wilderness skills to change our community's perspective on how hemophiliacs seek adventure.

Pat Torrey is the head monkey and started the company in 2005. He has a wealth of knowledge in the outdoor world, especially with knots, as he knows hundreds of them! He designed and built high ropes courses for years, and after a chance meeting with someone in our community, Pat got sucked in and has never left. His brother Joe joined a few years ago to make this a family affair and Jacose Bell joined a little over two years ago to round out the group.

One of their missions as a company is to help facilitate emotional and physical growth through outdoor experiences. I have a shared vision with GutMonkey; to inspire people to be adventurous and genuine. GutMonkey creates those moments by running week long trips in some of the most beautiful places in the United States called Leading X. Their Leading Edge program teaches teens about leadership skills in conference and camp settings. They run an amazing strictly Hemophilia B program called GenIX which emphasizes mentoring while men with inhibitors go camping and on ropes courses on their Leverage program. They provide people in the bleeding disorder community with unbelievable experiences and the confidence to do more and Be Brave!

I joined them on one of their Leading X programs last year on the Green River in Utah. It was an incredible journey, not just because of the spectacular views, but because of the friends I found and the bonds I made. There is something special about sitting around the campfire after a long day of adventure and physical work and reminiscing about how each of us were affected. It's easier to connect with one another and be honest about your feelings and thoughts about the world. I will never forget that trip, and I'm so excited for the group heading out to the river this year to get to build some of their own memories!

Please check out this incredible company and their programs here and join one of their trips! Few people get the chance to experience these magical wonders while being led by such experienced and fun people. I guarantee you won't regret it!

The first Green River trip for Leading X! The crew brought plenty of leadership experience, and left with a plan to help the bleeding disorders community.

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Meet James DeFilippi!

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Meet James DeFilippi!

Like many of us with bleeding disorders James DeFilippi remembers doctors telling him, “You can’t do this, you can’t do that.” And like many of us he felt like that had a huge impact on his mentality. “For me, for a long time, I felt like I had something to prove,” James reflected. It is that drive and that mentality that  has helped him successfully finish 40+ triathlons, 2 IronMans, a handful of marathons and a selection to represent Team USA in the 2014 Olympic Distance Age-Group World Championships.

His journey with mild hemophilia began with a diagnosis at birth after his older brother was diagnosed a few years earlier. In retrospect, his grandfather probably had mild hemophilia as well but was never diagnosed. James describes himself as a rambunctious kid with bleeds happening around once a month. He also was unfortunately infected with Hepatitis C through contaminated factor. He had to fight through Interferon treatment in his early teens, “It was brutal, absolutely brutal” and thankfully he cleared the virus.

College was a huge turning point for James as far as controlling his hemophilia. He was on the rowing team in high school and when he joined a division 1 rowing team in college his access to strength coaches and trainers changed his perspective. His trainers took time to understand his condition and adapt his training for it. “It kept my joints stronger and more mobile to avoid injury” a philosophy that he still lives by today as he follows his new passion of running, cycling and competing in triathlons.

Training for triathlons is a lot of work and James knows he has to #playitsmart in order to compete at the level he wants. “I started small and worked my way up to longer distances, and I’ve been able to go very fast at triathlons … but it’s because I spend the time to do the strength and flexibility work and I am kind of careful to go to the edge but not go past it regularly.” Being fast at those triathlons has lead to him joining an elite amateur triathlon team called Team Every Man Jack. Being a part of such an amazing team provides James the opportunity to be surrounded by the nation’s best amateur triathletes.  In addition, James has a professional triathlon coach who understand his personality and his bleeding condition, and tailors plans regularly for him, to ensure he is ready on race day, no matter what the setback. He is open about his hemophilia with his teammates, but doesn’t typically lead with it. “I want to be considered for my athletic abilities first and second for having a bleeding disorder.”

James also believes that being successful physically with hemophilia is in part due to making smart choices in what sports we choose and how we approach them, something I agree with fully. “I literally believe that you can do anything you want if you have hemophilia, it’s just a matter of understanding consequences and being willing to deal with it.” James tells me. We both agree that you have to take ownership of your condition and your health. James is an amazing role model for this but he is also quick to point out others in our community that are incredible role models. “You look at somebody like Barry Haarde, who’s an older guy who’s had issues in his life but now is riding his bike across the country and now there are guys trying to row across the Pacific Ocean and climb the Seven Summits! The more people like that out there, that are showing other people what’s possible, then I think more people will understand how to pursue their dreams and find success and fulfillment.”

James so fervently believes in this message that he started his own not-for-profit with his siblings and a friend called ST3: Strive Today, Transform Tomorrow that will help support individuals that are chasing amazing dreams. This year ST3 is supporting Barry Haarde’s fifth ride across the country. “My goal is to support people who are doing things that push the limit but also people who are doing that in a responsible way and are being role models for the community.”

James is also going to have a busy year competing. He just completed the Boston Marathon for the 3rd time, will be running the New York City marathon for 1st time, compete in 6 triathlons and is also climbing Mt. Rainier like myself. I can’t wait to hear how all his competitions go and to follow his incredible journey!  If you want to keep up with James, please check out the blog on the ST3 website (www.strivetoday.org) or the ST3 Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ST3Transforms), where he will post recaps of his adventures!

To follow my Mt. Rainier climb stayed tuned on May 23rd and be sure to follow me on social media and twitter for updates and pictures.

James after finishing the Almanzo 100, a 100mi all gravel road race in southeastern Minnesota

James after finishing the Almanzo 100, a 100mi all gravel road race in southeastern Minnesota

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Happy Mother's Day!

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Happy Mother's Day!

This year on Mother’s Day I want to share a story about my mom. Moms have a special place in our hemophilia community. My mom spent countless nights with me in the emergency room and at our treatment center helping get me through bleeds and infusions. She always wanted to protect me and keep me safe but at the same time, she let me live the life I wanted. I’m sure this was a struggle and gave her anxiety, she tells me that all her grey hairs are my fault, but I have to say, I’m really glad she faced her fears and let me live my life.

Since I began my Quest for the Seven Summits I know more of those grey hair have popped up. The anxiety of waiting to hear if I safely made it to the summit of some of the craziest peaks in the world must be unbearable. I don’t think my mom really understands why I want to climb these peaks and what drives me. Honestly, I don’t think most people get it. They see all the dangers and exhaustion and don’t understand how a sane person would want to put themselves through that.

That was until last summer when my mom and dad climbed a 14’er with my wife and I. Colorado is home to some amazing scenery, fantastic wildlife, and 54 mountains over 14,000 feet high, affectionately known as 14’ers. The peaks range from easier hikes to multi-day backpacking trips, but nothing is really easy about getting to the summit of a 14’er. We decided on climbing Mt. Bierstadt, one of the beginner climbs. 

Starting our climb just after sunrise, we went slow to prevent altitude sickness, took a break every hour to drink water and eat some food, and I explained some techniques to make the climb easier. As we approached the summit, the terrain became a rock scramble and finding the trail was a bit more difficult. I went ahead and tried to pick the easiest path. Before we knew it we arrived at the summit! It was such a great experience! Seeing the excitement on my parents’ faces let me know that they understand why I climb…at least a little more . 

We had to leave the summit shortly after arriving and eating our lunch. The notorious afternoon thunderstorms of Colorado were building to the west and I could tell they would reach us soon. I didn’t want us to be above tree line when the storm hit and the lightning came. We would have no where to hide and could be dangerous. As we started down the mountain we ended up hiking in rain and hail, but we missed the lightning. It was a relief to get back to the car and relax and as we drove back to Denver and reflected on the climb.

Having a burger and beer after climbing is always a treat, but chatting with my mom and dad after the climb was amazing. My mom said “After seeing you on the mountain and how safe and aware of your surroundings you are, I am much more comfortable with you climbing.” That meant the world to me. I always tried to explain that I am smart on the mountain and not taking any unnecessary risks; however, it was more fun and impactful to show her! 

As I prepare to climb Mt. Rainier, and the rest of the Seven Summits, I know my mom is worried about me and my safety. I get that. It is my hope that she can now relate to my climbing. She has seen the draw that I have towards the mountains and the connection I have to these incredible places, as well as the personal challenges. She as experienced first hand the rush and sense of accomplishment climbing can give a person. And even though I know it’s hard for her, I know she is proud of me.

I never would have made it where I am today without my mom. We had our ups and downs but I thank her for everything she has done for me. It takes really strong people to raise someone with a chronic condition, and I feel guilty at times for all the stress I have caused her.  Thank you mom for believing in me and allowing me to become the man I always dreamed of being. I love you and Happy Mother’s Day!

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First Hike in 3 weeks! Rainier here we come!

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First Hike in 3 weeks! Rainier here we come!

This past weekend was supposed to be filled with some major Mt. Rainier training but Mother Nature had others plans. Colorado was hit by a storm that dumped snow in the mountains and even some in Denver. Our plan was to climb a couloir, a steep narrow gully on a mountain, but with all the fresh snow, avalanche danger was a bit too high for us to feel comfortable. 

I was disappointed but it might have been a blessing in disguise. My leg wasn't ready for a big climb. I just started walking comfortably earlier in the week so pushing it now could've been bad. Instead of our big climb I was determined to at least get outside. Despite some very wet snow coming down we had a great hike at Lost Creek. 

It's amazing what being in nature does for me. Although I was slow and hesitant with my movement I was excited to be outside in nature and even more determined to get my leg healed and ready to do more! I'm hoping to get some more hikes in this week and I look forward to sharing it with you all soon!

On Saturday I was able to hike for the first time since my hamstring injury and bleed. It was an easy hike which was a great starting point for healing my leg. This hike was not only a great place to start to improve my physical health but also mentally.

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Thoughts on Hemophilia; The Hard Times

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Thoughts on Hemophilia; The Hard Times

The last few weeks have been tough for me. Recovering from an injury and bleed have a huge impact on my mental health. I wasn't quite sure how to share my feelings in a blog post so I wanted to share it through this video. It's easy to share the successes we have with hemophilia but the reality is that it's not always easy, sometimes it sucks. 

Just wanted to share a few thoughts about my experiences with hemophilia. I've been struggling with an injury and bleed lately and wanted to share the tough moments, mentally and physically that come with hemophilia.

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Row for Hemophilia: Meet Jacob Pope and Christopher Lee

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Row for Hemophilia: Meet Jacob Pope and Christopher Lee

Imagine rowing a boat from California to Hawaii, a journey of almost 2,500 miles across the dangerous and unpredictable Pacific Ocean. Now add in the thrill and stress of competition. AND the fact that one man on your two-man crew has hemophilia. Seems a little crazy, right?! I thought so too. But Jacob Pope and Christopher Lee don’t think so. They plan to complete this amazing feat this summer and hopefully out-row the 11 other teams they will be racing against. I spoke with Jacob and Chris a few weeks ago to get the rundown of how they came up with this amazing idea and how they are preparing to complete such an arduous task.

Jacob wasn’t diagnosed with hemophilia A until the age of seven when a fall in a creek led to massive swelling in his hip. Being in a rural area doctors didn’t think about hemophilia being the culprit of the swelling and ended up having surgery to remove the hematoma….when they didn’t know he had hemophilia! They then inserted a tube to drain the blood...and still didn’t think of hemophilia. Finally Jacob was transferred to another hospital where he finally found out he had hemophilia.

Despite his rough start with hemophilia Jacob was still able to explore different sports and found a love for tennis and swimming. He wanted to stay active and hemophilia wasn’t going to hold him back. This love of being active stayed with him as he headed for college. Jacob had never been into rowing before but an opportunity to join the rowing team appealed to him. He gave it a shot and was hooked!

That’s where he met Chris Lee, another rower with an incredible dream. They had both walked onto the University of Georgia’s rowing team almost three years ago and Chris didn’t know about Jacob’s hemophilia until they were roommates at the national championships. Chris walked in to Jacob infusing, “I was really confused and thought it was weird.” Chris recalled. “I remembered hearing something about Jacob having a disease but I didn’t really think about it until that point.”

Chris had heard about the Race Across the Pacific and thought Jacob would be a perfect teammate, hemophilia or not. “When Chris first asked if I wanted to spend the summer rowing a boat across the ocean I said ‘No way!’ but it stuck with me. I did more research and learned what it entailed and told him I was in.” Jacob recalls. And this decision is where the journey began.

Jacob and Chris testing out the boat they will row across the Pacific!

Jacob and Chris testing out the boat they will row across the Pacific!

After speaking with Chris and Jacob, I can see my mentality preparing for my climbs in them as well. One big thing that I constantly tell myself is “Whatever your excuse is, it’s time to stop believing it”. Jacob and Chris have some insane hurdles ahead of them, plus the hemophilia, but they are determined to succeed. Jacob is still planning how to carry enough factor on the tiny boat, keep it from getting to hot, and infusing on a ridiculously bumpy ocean but Jacob is positive, “There’s a way to do it if you’re smart about.” Having a teammate like Chris makes the challenge easier. “This does give me some fear but it’s one of those challenges that we can strategically and logistically overcome.”

Their biggest challenge might actually be before the race even begins. They have been training intensely, modifying their boat for factor storage, learning the ends and outs of navigating the ocean. All things that training can prepare them for but even getting to the race is where they need some outside help. Our help! Jacob and Chris are struggling to raise funds for their challenge and it’s coming down to the wire. Please support these two on their worthy journey by clicking here and sharing! Lets help these guys make history and show how we can #playitsmart to the world!

Row for Hemophilia is a fundraising campaign benefitting Hemophilia of Georgia and research for a cure. Jacob and Chris are University of Georgia students who are on the rowing team and have a connection to hemophilia and to Hemophilia of Georgia.

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Mount Rainier

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Mount Rainier

Despite my recent hamstring injury, I will be climbing Mt. Rainier in less than 30 days! Mt. Rainier is the tallest mountain in Washington state and one of the most dramatic peaks I have ever seen! Rainier is over 14,000ft tall and what makes it more dramatic than the 54 mountains in Colorado over 14,000ft is that it starts close to sea level. On a clear day you can see Rainier towering over the Seattle area and I’m really excited to climb this peak!

Although this isn’t one of my Seven Summit climbs it will have tons of amazing challenges. My wife Jess and good friend Steve will be climbing with me and we won’t be using guide! We have been preparing for months and we are itching to go! We are heading for the mountain May 23rd so keep your eye out for posts from the trip and as we train before the climb!

The goal is to climb to Muir camp on May 23rd. This camp is located on the Muir snowfield at 10,080ft. We are hoping to start very early that morning and arrive around noon at camp. We will set up camp and try and get as much rest as possible. If the weather is looking good we will head out shortly after midnight on May 24th up the Disappointment Cleaver Route for the summit. We will have to ascend over 4,000 vertical feet in order to reach the summit. This will probably take us between 6-8 hours. Once at the summit we will descend back to Muir camp. If we are all feeling awesome we will pack up camp and head back down to the base! 

There is a countdown to the climb on the homepage and keep checking back for more updates!

This is the Disappointment Cleaver Route that we will be climbing!

This is the Disappointment Cleaver Route that we will be climbing!

 

 

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World Hemophilia Day 2016

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World Hemophilia Day 2016

Today, I am sitting at home with my wonderful wife, enjoying our warm house while the last snow storm of the winter (hopefully) is wrapping up. I'm still sore from my pulled hamstring and subsequent bleed but I'm recovering. It would seem like today is turning out to be pretty wonderful but there is something different about today. It's World Hemophilia Day.

World Hemophilia Day is about spreading awareness because it looks vastly different from country to country. In my home it means that I treat prophylactically, and when I get an injury I infuse more. There is still pain and swelling, and even a few days on crutches, but it gets better. My pain is only temporary. This is pretty typical for most hemophiliacs in the U.S., and other developed nations.

That isn't the case for many others around the world. In fact, about 25% of the world's hemophiliacs use over 75% of the medication. Treatment isn't available to most people with bleeding disorders in developing nations, and their suffering and pain don't end. I've witnessed the pain first hand and it's crushing to know that these young men and women with bleeding disorders have so much to overcome. I often feel a sense of "survivor's guilt" that I was fortunate enough to be born in the United States and have access to treatment, while so many others were never afforded that opportunity. I feel even more guilt during those moments when I loathe having hemophilia due to pain from a bleed.

The only way I have found to tolerate this guilt is to harness it. Use it to help educate others about the disparity in care, and to help reduce that disparity. I think of how strong our bleeding disorder family is and hope that when united, we can continue to make a difference around the world.

Thankfully we already have organizations helping in developing countries. Save One Life, The World Federation of Hemophilia, and the Novo Nordisk Hemophilia Foundation already have well established and effective programs. But these programs should just be stepping stones for more. As a community we can demand more from manufacturers and from ourselves: to create factor donation programs, to spread awareness about what hemophilia is really like, and to advocate for our blood brothers. Please support the above organizations in any way possible. Share our message, educate, and donate if possible.

I want to share an amazing video that my friend Patrick has produced for the World Hemophilia Federation. This video gives a tiny glimpse into hemophilia in the developing world and the everyday struggles their communities face. Let these young people linger in your mind and find your passion to help them. Let's spread awareness today that will undoubtedly make a difference tomorrow.

The Treatment for All video series shows what the WFH Humanitarian Aid Program is doing to address the global disparity in care for those who have a bleeding disorder. The lack of access to care and treatment in developing countries is an urgent and important public health challenge, as the cost of products to treat is prohibitively expensive for the majority of those affected with a bleeding disorder.

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Meet Barry Haarde!

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Meet Barry Haarde!

This week on #playtismart, I’d like to introduce my friend Barry Haarde to our #playitsmart campaign. Barry is a dedicated cyclist and fundraiser. So far, in his career, he has ridden his bike across the United States FOUR TIMES and raised over $150,000 for Save One Life. Those feats alone are pretty incredible, even more so when you learn that Barry has completed them with severe hemophilia, HIV, and Hepatitis C.

I met Barry in 2013 at the end of his second ride across America, shortly after I completed my Aconcagua climb. We had both just finished amazing physical feats but our journeys were drastically different.

Unlike hemophilia today, Barry was born before factor concentrate. Life before factor was extremely difficult. For Barry, each bleed meant driving over an hour to the closest Hemophilia Treatment Center (HTC) where he would have to be admitted and treated on site. Once factor finally became available, treatments shifted to Barry’s home and life was more or less normal. Hemophilia was easier to manage, at least.

But convenience came with a cost. At the time, factor concentrate was made from large pools of donated plasma. This “miracle drug” that the hemophilia community was so excited for was often tainted with HIV and Hepatitis C. Over 10,000 people with bleeding disorders lost their lives due to this contamination. Barry was among those infected; his brother, sadly, among those that lost their lives.

Even before he was infected, Barry struggled with being active. Sure, the factor made it easier to treat a bleed but it didn’t mean those bleeds were any less painful. As anyone with hemophilia knows, it can be very easy to feel incapable of participating in your life for fear of injury. “In my 20’s and 30’s I was a confirmed and documented couch potato,” Barry recalls.

It wasn’t until a desperately needed knee replacement that Barry even considered cycling. “My doctor told me I needed to build some muscle around my knee before the surgery so recovery would be easier and he suggested biking for that.” He struggled to complete 25 miles in those days but after a successful knee surgery and months of rehab, he realized he could bike more without having knee bleeds. “For the first time in my life I could be an athlete and get away with it! I was looking forward to doing longer multi-day rides.”

Just a few years after his knee replacement, Barry’s brother passed away and Barry found out he had cirrhosis of the liver from Hepatitis C. This was devastating for him. Years of difficult treatments kept him off his bike and threatened to crush his newfound athletic spirit. But Barry refused to be a couch potato again. He finished his treatments with a vengeance and a newfound goal: to ride his bike across the entire United States!

Here is where our stories align. Like myself, Barry wanted his achievement to be about more than personal achievement. He wanted to do something great and challenging to raise awareness for those living with hemophilia around the globe. Similarly, I wanted to share the hardships and victories of those within the bleeding disorder community and support their journey through feats of education, endurance, and empowerment. Combined, Barry’s rides and my climbs have been in support of Save One Life, an international hemophilia non-profit, and raised a total of over $200,000!

Barry is nowhere close to being done - and neither am I.  His biggest undertaking is coming up this summer. He will, once again, be riding his bike across the country but this time he will not only go west-to-east but also north-to-south covering over 5,000 miles. 5,000 MILES!

Barry is able to #playitsmart while completing his incredible goals with great preparation. He begins training months before his trips begin, starting out slow with shorter rides and gradually increasing the distance and frequency. He also always has factor with him in case of an emergency- like on his last ride across America when he was hit by a car. Fortunately, since he played it smart, he was able to get treatment quickly and keep going.

And that’s typical Barry, never letting an accident or misfortune keep him down for long! Keep it up, buddy! You can support his amazing adventure here.

Barry Haarde, an adult man with severe hemophilia, HIV, and Hepatitis C, shares his story about growing up during a time when treatment was limited, and about the many challenges he and his family faced.

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Hemophilia Federation Annual Symposium

Hemophilia Federation Annual Symposium

This last weekend I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak at the Hemophilia Federation of America's Symposium. Not only was this my first time to the meeting but my first time speaking in front of several hundred people! 

To be honest, public speaking is really nerve racking for me. It's gotten better over the past few years as I have been able to share my story more and more but in the minutes before I go on stage I still feel like I'm going to lose it.

This time was no different except for what happened on stage. I calmed down quickly and really felt the support in the room. It's probably partly because I'm getting more accustomed to it but also because the room is full of my family, the bleeding disorders family.  There is something indescribably special about.

During my talk I ask people to think about their goals and dreams, "What's your Everest?" I asked. Then everyone was told to write their goals on a piece of paper to remind them to take steps towards that goal. The next day a man came to me with his piece of paper, he wanted me to sign his goal. What I said connected with him and he wants to reach for his goal. It felt incredible and I hope that I inspired some others to do the same.

If you happened to be at my talk, thank you so so much for coming out and listening. I also want to thanks to everyone who took a minute to stop by that night or throughout the rest of the weekend to introduce themselves to me. It was great meeting so many new people and hearing all your stories!

What I truly love the most is connecting with friends I haven't seen in awhile, laughing, and being inspired all over again! HFA's theme was "Together We Are Resilient" and that was a repeating theme throughout the weekend. We all have a unique story but together we can overcome anything! Can't wait to go to my second HFA next year in Providence, Rhode Island! 

Meet Misty Diaz!

Meet Misty Diaz!

Misty Diaz, aka Lil’ Misty, is an adaptive athlete and motivational speaker. She has completed over 110 different races including 5k’s, 10k’s, half marathons, and Spartan races. And she was born with Spina Bifida. To me, Misty is the epitome of strength, determination, and drive.

Spina Bifida (latin for split spine) is a birth defect where there is an incomplete closing of the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord. Misty had many operations within the first 3 days of her life and has been through 28 surgeries to date. It hasn’t been easy but she attributes her success to one simple rule: Don’t listen to people when they say you can’t.

As we spoke, I found a kindred spirit of sorts in Misty. Our experiences, while different, were remarkably similar. We both felt betrayed by our bodies and struggled for years to figure out how to overcome the challenges presented to us- not just the physical but the emotional as well.

Neither of us were connected with a community growing up. “I didn’t know anyone growing up with Spina Bifida, and didn’t meet another person with it until I was 20.” Misty told me. That feeling of seclusion, paired with bullying in school and the pain of 20+ operations led to an addiction to painkillers and a reliance on antidepressants. I,too, felt extremely alone with my hemophilia and hated it at many points in my life. I hated infusing and hated it even more when I had bleeds and had to sit on the sidelines. I couldn’t understand why I had to struggle when my friends seemed to have it so easy. I denied my depression for years and years.

“There’s always a moment in life where you can either keeping going down the same path or you can stop, start over, and try things you have never done before.” -Lil’ Misty

For me, that moment was when my Uncle Dave took me climbing for the first time. I had finally found an outlet where I felt truly alive and like I could excel and I knew I didn’t want to stay on that sad and angry path that I had been on for so long.

As I’ve found acceptance in the hemophilia community, my confidence has grown and with that, so has my success. Both my Uncle Dave and my climbing guide, Ryan, have pushed me to do things I never would have considered before (the Seven Summits challenge!). They acknowledge my physical challenges but don’t allow them to be excuses. They’ve taught me how to push past my mental barriers for incredible physical outcomes.

For Misty, that moment was the day she decided she wanted a different life. One without a constant fog from pain pills and depression. She started slowly by just getting up and walking to the mailbox. Then down to the beach three blocks away. As her depression waned, so did her desire to take painkillers. Misty started looking at the challenges of her condition differently. Her thoughts changed from “I can’t,” to, “Why can’t I, I don’t care how hard it looks I’m going to find a way to get it done, even if it’s an adaptive way!”

Like me, Misty didn’t do it all alone. She had a mentor who never never looked at her and saw a condition but instead saw heart and drive. Mike Ainis came into Misty’s life as she was struggling to train for a half marathon. She proved to Mike and herself that she was committed to her goal and completed the 13.1 miles and immediately wanted another challenge, a Spartan race! If you have ever seen a Spartan race, you know it’s an exceptional event. There is fire jumping, rope climbing, wall jumping, and so much more. Mike jumped on board believing it was possible and has encouraged Misty in the 38+ Spartan races she has competed in since! She even holds three adaptive athlete world records in the Spartan race!

After hundreds of races Misty isn’t done…not even close. She is always searching for her next big challenge. And true to form, her next one is pretty wild, the Red Bull 400! It’s basically a 400m sprint up a 36 degree slope! Her philosophy to prepare and #playitsmart, “I know it’s going to be hard so train hard!” Words to live by!

Make sure to check out Misty’s website and facebook page to keep up with her adventures!

 

Misty Diaz, spina bifida runner and Live Ultimate athlete, shares with us how she lives ultimate! How do you Live Ultimate? Share your story. liveultimate.com

Bleeding Disorder Awareness Month

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Bleeding Disorder Awareness Month

March was an incredibly special month for our community. This year Congress officially recognized March as Bleeding Disorder Awareness Month and the National Hemophilia Foundation kicked off the Red Tie Challenge to spread awareness. By wearing the red tie and posting and sharing photos they hoped to educate people about bleeding disorders including hemophilia.

To do our part for the Red Tie Challenge I decided to wear my red tie in one of my favorite places, the mountains! I hit up the slopes with my parents and we all decided to take turns rocking the red tie down the slopes! We had a blast and I'm sure we turned some heads with the tie flapping around our necks as we flew down the runs. It was an amazing day and I was happy to participate in the challenge.

The CEO of the National Hemophilia Foundation Val Bias said it best, "Since blood ties—embodied in the color red and the tie—are what bind our community together, the red tie is our new symbol. The color red also conveys strength, leadership, courage, determination and, above all, love—qualities and emotions that define our community." I couldn't agree more with this sentiment. As I have become more and more involved in this amazing community as see all those traits on a daily basis. It inspires me and has shaped me into the man I am today. 

 

In honor of Bleeding Disorder Awareness Month my family took part in the Red Tie Challenge on the slopes. Here is a video of my dad rocking the red tie!

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