A New Lease on Life Part II – Healed

In 2022 I shared about my experience going through long haul-like symptoms which included brain fog, fatigue, swelling, and putting on over 40 pounds during that year. After almost a full year of struggle I finally found a high level of reprieve. I recovered to about 90/95% but was still noticing some residual issues that nagged me through these past few years slowly improving but ever present. As a long time ultra-endurance athlete and entrepreneur, I’m one of the most self-monitoring people you will ever meet with the ability to shift directions and track changes over time while making the necessary adjustments through each step. After mostly recovering I swore to myself that I would take full advantage of my new lease on life and expressed my gratitude for all those who prayed for me and encouraged me through that very trying season of my life.

Over the last few years I’ve continued to do just that:

  • My wife and our kids have embarked on the Wild Parks Family adventure and after this summer’s trip to Hawaii to visit two national parks we will have experienced 52/63 of the National Parks in the United States.
  • My first step academically to make sure my brain was still firing on most cylinders was to recertify with the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). The test took me three attempts and finally on the third attempt I passed the recertification for personal training.
  • I was offered an opportunity to give a TEDX presentation in Manhattan Beach and the six month journey writing that speech and memorizing the 11 minute presentation pushed me and helped me to heal from my mental fog. From there the smartest thing I could have done in hindsight was to tackle an advanced degree. 🙂
  • I started my PhD program with Liberty University in January 2023 and the last year and a half have helped me get my mental sharpness back and articulate my thoughts and ideas.
  • Most recently, I signed up for an opportunity to be on the Fulbright Specialist roster and a few months ago was selected for a short term trip to Pune, India this summer!

Athletically I’ve stayed engaged with marathons and a few short ultras here and there knocking out an Everesting on the Gibraltar grade in Santa Barbara, hiking about 78 miles and climbing over 30,000 feet in elevation in 2023, and attempting an extreme triathlon last summer and coming up short on the bike with high heat and more intense climbing then my body and mind was ready for at the time.

About three months ago I met with my doctor, Dave Lewis. I was telling him I was close to normal but still having some nagging issues. The main issues I notice have been name recall. I see people that I have probably talked with 100 times and it would take me a second or two to capture their name in my head. I also would switch people’s names at times that were working on similar work crews. I know this is a normal thing with age but it just didn’t feel right and I didn’t have it before. Another was a lack of emotion towards things that used to bring me great joy. Like trail running and hiking. Sure I would still do them and set my routines but it was a lot of going through the motions and aiming to keep myself on track. The biggest struggle that I noticed was in trying to get my weight back down to my pre-long haul levels. Like I mentioned before, as an ultra endurance athlete and entrepreneur as well as a former wrestler the ability to drastically shift my lifestyle or training for a season comes about as naturally to me as picking up riding a bike for a person that rode around the neighborhood as a kid. Yet for years my weight would fluctuate up and down, and I kept fighting the same 15 pounds in an endless match that I was far from getting an edge on my opponent.

Dave asked me if I would be interested in trying a few months of a shift in my diet and a few supplements and seeing if that would change a few indicators on my blood panel that had lowered a fair amount but were still in the normal range but not near optimal. I said sure, I am a major fan of testing things out and seeing how they go. The diet consisted of an increase in eggs, spinach and salmon, as well as taking a few additional supplements including Vitamin D, Polyphenol complex, Glutathione, and Nattokinase. I spent two months diligently taking my morning vitamins, eating about three-four dozen eggs a week, and more bags of spinach then I want to think of and then went back for another blood panel. I had no expectation of any significant changes however the readings that had shifted on my blood had almost all moved back up to where they were in 2021 when I first tested everything and I started to feel an increase in energy and clarity.

About three weeks ago I was getting ready for some upcoming gnarly events and family adventures and I wanted to make sure that I was in as good of a headspace and as intentional as I could be so I naturally set up a coaching session with JoDee Ahmann, one of my all time favorite people. We had an hour long session, and I mapped out my intention and goals for the five day trip with my 7-year old son Hudson on his first 50k hike/run at the Born to Run Extravaganza, as well as the two weeks when my wife Kristin was in Japan on a work trip and how I would soak in the time with the kids and take advantage of the time to incorporate some habits and activities I had been meaning for a long time to do with them. I also had noticed not being as engaged with my emotions and prayed for and was hopeful to get more in touch with feeling my feelings. I felt good about the session and the plan but had no idea just how well things would continue to unfold. The time in Los Olivos with Luis Escobar and so many longtime friends and new friends was transformative. Hudson and I hiked and ran 10 miles each day for three days and on the fourth day he woke up and wanted to do one more mile because it’s 31 miles for a 50k, and we had only completed 30. A longtime friend Gareth Evans came out as well and stayed with us in the RV and completed his first 100 mile run! I was able to pace him on the last 20 miles through the night and had an incredible time catching up and sharing about life. When we returned home I put away the television and we spent the next two weeks playing games of Settlers of Catan, riding bikes to the pump track almost every evening, playing on the trampoline and doing sticker books which make paintings, an activity Hudson has as of late become obsessed with.

Kristin came back and I kept with my nutrition routines, and eased off the minimal screens and game nights but still doing the cycling most evenings. A few weekends ago I was able to pace my longtime friend and training partner Gay Hunter on a marathon and it was so fun being out there having the routine and rhythm so dialed in and feeling in tune with nature, the people around me and being able to engage and connect like I haven’t done in years. A few days ago I went out running on a trail half marathon with my training partner Kyle Downs and even though I’m a little tired from the long week and going to bed late and my body waking me up earlier than usual I felt a connection to the trail that has eluded me for so long. As we covered the ground and made each climb and descent along the gorgeous trail I could feel a tingling sensation on my arms. The birds chirping and the heat of the late morning sun invigorated me and the conversation as obnoxious as they always are with my training partners made me smile. As we were returning on the back half of the run I realized that I fell “in love” with the trails again. It was like for the past 4 years I was in a relationship with something that used to bring such a vibrance and passion to my life and I had lost that feeling and now it had returned almost out of nowhere.

It’s been almost a month now since realizing that the last 5-10% of my life that hadn’t returned is now back and I would say that for the first time since January of 2021 I am healthy and HEALED!!! Trying to describe the change the best that I can come up with there are a few analogies. In terms of the name recollection my brain has felt like a slow moving cargo plane where the load is there but you have to sort through it and all of a sudden I have been upgraded to a fighter jet and the recall and retention is as clear as it has ever been. Emotionally I am feeling experiences in such wonderful clarity and vibrance I find myself with happy tears and inspiring flushes of goosebumps multiple times a day. The most apparent outward manifestation of the change has been my ability to adjust my nutrition and my will of what I’m putting into my body. Randomly a few weeks ago I decided to quit drinking alcohol mainly feeling I just don’t need it in my life right now and not having it will help in slowly reducing my weight. At the same time I cut out sweets, shifted up my lunch for a protein shake and in less than a month I have lost 14 pounds and am continuing to slowly make progress.

Rob Epstein and Rob DeCou 2nd Annual Orca Bait Swim
Rob Epstein & Rob DeCou preparing to support swimmers at the 2nd Annual Orca Bait Swim

Where to go from here…

In some of my presentations I talk about capacity shifts and that is exactly what I just went through. For anyone that has ever played video games I feel like a character that went from a level 25 to a level 35 in a few short months and am adjusting to my new armor, weaponry and other useful items that this world has equipped me with. For this season I’m going to take it one step and one day at a time. Over the next few years we’ve already been mapping out finishing up the Wild Parks Family adventure, wrapping up my PhD, expanding the local fundraising campaigns I’ve been working on, taking a deep dive on membership and community development, and once I finish my dissertation at the end of next year taking 2026 to focus on increasing my speed and strength while preparing to pace a few close friends on achieving some of their lifelong endurance goals. I recently applied for an entrepreneurship show “the Blox” and am in the process of potentially being selected to share about Lux Virtual and the creative work that my incredible team of artists produce!

When God gives you an opportunity to get back in the arena, take it. I feel like I am in the middle of a preparation season and am being cultivated to make an impact. I will cherish this time and lean into each learning opportunity that comes my way.

One Comment

  1. Rob that’s great to hear and thank you for sharing! You gave me some ideas just reading your thoughts process about how you self assess, then seek out confirming information and/or expert opinion, make/test a plan, monitor the progress and then make further adjustments etc..

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