Mitchell T. Happeney
Mitchell T. Happeney

Just Keep Climbing: Training for the Challenge of a Lifetime
Wednesday, February 08
In 2008, my dad, Randy Happeney, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer. We have all heard the word “cancer.” But unless you have a close friend or family member with this disease, you probably haven’t heard the phrase “multiple myeloma.” In the lymphoma cancer family, multiple myeloma has a very small number of patients compared to its counterparts, Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Nearly 1.4 percent of all newly diagnosed cancer patients are diagnosed with multiple myeloma. So let’s put it into financial perspective as well. In 2011, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) had a revenue of $5.1 billion and only $54.9 million was allocated to multiple myeloma cancer research efforts. That’s 1 percent of the NCI revenue. In the overall cancer perspective, multiple myeloma research funding is a lower priority. Who will advocate for the 1.4 percent of newly diagnosed multiple myeloma patients and my father? I will.
 
At my local YMCA, a Stairmaster and I have a fragile relationship. During my training, I decided to climb a Stairmaster for 50 minutes. Within the Stairmaster’s training settings, I selected a mild climb and targeted to have good control of my heart rate. Previously, I had been completing Stairmaster training sessions between one to three times a week. And the climbs were becoming easier and easier both physically and mentally. I increased my speed intensity by two levels. And, I felt great after completing my training sessions. Though one day, I received a reality check.

Overall, my training goal was to increase my stamina for the MMRF Mt. Kilimanjaro trek that will stretch eight and a half days. Our group plans to climb the largest free standing mountain in the world. The climbing altitudes range from 7,000 to 15,000 feet, then a steep summit climb up to 19,341 feet. In contrast, the tallest peak of Colorado, Mount Elbert, is 14,440 feet. That means all the Colorado Rocky Mountains are nearly 5,000 feet lower. Mt. Kilimanjaro is tall! I am concerned. I am concerned mostly about my physical fatigue.
 
So that day, I decided to test my climbing stamina and wore my MMRF Osprey pack (sponsored by CURE Magazine and Takeda Oncology) with a 30-pound dumbbell weight. It’s surprising how nicely the 30-pound dumbbell weight fits into my pack. It’s almost like a dumbbell was designed to fit within small climbing packs. Anyway, I noticed a few new effects of the newly added weight.
 
First, I was surprised how the pack weight affected my balance. Prior, I only needed hand rail support if I was exhausted. Now, my body no longer wanted to be hands-free. I needed balance support and the hand railings helped a great deal.
 
Second, the pack wasn’t very comfortable with 30 pounds. I wasn’t surprised because I have worn the pack many times. I hiked Mt. Bierstadt, the Smoky Mountains and Red River Gorge. During these climbs, my pack felt comfortable. It was very weird.

And best for last, I noticed early that I could not keep up with the mild pace. My stamina was gone. I was out of breath. I started a very intense sweat. Overall, I was confused again. I have been climbing for the past few months, and did not expect to see such a decline in my performance. After 20 minutes, I was forced to reduce the speed. Then, sadly after wearing the pack 30 minutes and almost to the pace of a snail, I removed the pack and climbed another 15 minutes. Five minutes short of my 50-minute goal. I was like, “What the heck am I going to do at 19,000 feet!?”
 
Reality check: my training needs to pivot. Just keep climbing.
 
Since that day, I planned to improve all three effects. To improve my balance, I trained my core. To improve my pack comfort level, I continued to wear the pack and adjust accordingly. To improve my stamina, I introduced strength training and continued to wear the pack on the Stairmaster. Mt. Kilimanjaro is the challenge of a lifetime and I will be prepared.
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