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Mike McBride


Mike McBride's Thoughts on Living with COPD

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21555 Michael A. McBride 55 …. Toting an 80 pound cart of air

5K 0:48:30

10K 1:36:56

15K 2:27:32

20K 3:18:07

1/2 3:29:04

25K 4:12:15

30K 5:06:57

35K 6:07:20

40K 7:05:21


Overall: 22849

Gender: 13547

Division: 1064

Pace: 0:17:14



Mike McBride, COPD sufferer and oxygen user is running in the Boston Marathon on Monday April 20, 2009.  We at Everything Respiratory want to congratulate Mike on his efforts and will be following his preparations for the run.  You can follow along too by staying in touch with this website.  We will be giving weekly updates (located at the end of this first article giving you Mike’s background).  Let’s all wish Mike luck and good lung health!

Below are a few questions and answers where you can familiarize yourself with Mike and his journey to become the first COPD/Oxygen patient to run the Boston Marathon.   We will be following Mike’s training leading up to the run and hope you will come along with us as we follow his progress and cover the day itself. 

Q: Tell us a little about yourself  -- education, career, etc. -- and when you were first diagnosed with lung problems.

I grew up in Golden, Colorado (home of Coors Brewery).  My father managed and owned a portion of a pretty good-sized drug store.  I attended Western State College in Gunnison, CO (frequently the coldest place in the nation) and graduated in 1976 with a degree in Business Administration.  I have had 2 career paths: 1) I started working in the Title Insurance industry (the people that perform closings on real estate). When it became apparent that someone was going to have to die or retire before I could move further up the food chain, I went to work for Mountain Bell Telephone.  I actually got to use my collage degree, since my job was to conduct cost studies for various types of equipment and file rates and tariffs with the public utility commission.  After 11 years I took early retirement and returned to the Title Insurance industry.  In February of 2007 I started another career path, and went to work for a law firm that specializes work for the oil & gas industry. 

I have many jobs in title insurance Industry, serving as Regional Vice President for North American Title Company with responsibility for several states.  I have been President of 3 smaller subsidiary companies for United General Title (which is own by First American Title, the largest title insurer in the US).  I have stepped way down in scope, but not necessarily in responsibility.  I really like my current job.


I was first diagnosed with COPD in late February 2005.  I was admitted to the hospital with some an unknown lung ailment.  It took a week and half to make the diagnoses of emphysema/COPD and that I had bacterial pneumonia.  (I was told about 2 weeks later, that when they admitted me, they were not sure if I was going to be alive by morning, that’s how serious the pneumonia was.)  They treated the pneumonia with lots of antibiotics, and then I developed BOOP.  It seems the BOOP also did considerable lung damage before we were able to shut down my immune system enough to stop the BOOP (the doctors have used the term COP mostly inter-changeable).

Q: What type of lung disease are you suffering from, and how is it being treated? How have respiratory therapists been involved in your care?

I have emphysema/COPD.  I was one of those strange animals that would workout 3 to 4 times a week, and smoke on the way home.  I am currently on Spiriva and Foradil, oxygen therapy and EXERCISE.  I quit smoking whilst I was in the hospital and I’ve never looked back.  I started walking when I was still the hospital.
I can tell you exactly how many laps of the 4th floor at University Hospital it takes to equal a mile. 

Unfortunately I have not had a respiratory therapist involved my care. I have good health insurance, but for some reason it doesn’t extend to respiratory care.  The insurance company didn’t seem to mind paying $95,000.00 for a 10 day stay in a private, isolation room, while administering a bunch of test, but they would not pay for pulmonary rehab so I could learn to stay out of the hospital. 

Thank goodness the respiratory care profession make lots of information available over the Internet.  I was able to take much of that information with me to my local YMCA, where I enlisted the help of several of their trainers to help me build and maintain a workout/exercise plan.  I am currently working with Nancy Lamberston, the wellness leader at the “Y” who is helping me train for the Climb Chicago and the Boston Marathon.  It’s an American Lung Association event hosted by the local chapter in Chicago.  I will be walking up 360 flights of stairs; 180 floors, 4 building; 2,340 steps.  I am very excited about doing that on March 8.  That is about the time of year I received my original diagnoses.

My latest goal is to participate in the Boston Marathon on April 20.  I am the first athlete to gain entry with COPD.  I will be in the mobility-impaired group of athletes.  This is really an honor and I fully expect to be the first COPD athlete across the finish line.

Q: How long have you been using supplemental oxygen and what is your prescription? What type of oxygen equipment do you use and how has supplemental oxygen helped you in achieving the things you want to achieve?

I have been on supplement oxygen for 4 years.  My current prescription is 4-6 liters at rest and 7-18 liters when I’m active or exercise.  I live in Denver, so I am lot more sensitive to changes in barometric pressure and pollution.  So some days I require more, because of the activities require me to use oxygen at higher levels especially when I race walk.  I have 2 oximeters and a heart monitor that I use all the time. 

Originally my goal was to keep my saturations above 90 (mine can jump all over the place some days), but lately I have been trying to keep them at 94% or above that’s requiring me to use O2 24/7.   I have an Invacare concentrator that I use when at home.  The rest of my equipment is all Caire.  I have a large Reservoir that I use to fill my portables.  I have 4 of the newer Stroller models and I have Spirit 1200 that I use at the office.   There is absolutely no way that I could enjoy the life I do without portable oxygen. I put it carts, or a backpack and I off and going.

In December of 2008 I had a SCOOP Transtracheal oxygen catheter installed.  My hope is that the device will reduce my high flow oxygen needs when exercising.

Q: Have you always been active in marathons and the like, or is this something you've taken on since going on oxygen? Please explain and what are some of the events you've taken part in while on oxygen, and why do you continue to get involved in them? How do they affect your quality of life as a lung disease patient?

I have always been an active person.  I work a lot, and play a lot.  But I have had a more formal workout schedule since 1992 when my Significant Other went back to college and need the house quiet so they could study.  We owned a condominium in a complex, that had a big racquet club with an extensive gym and I could use it for free.  So I did.  That really helped me when I was diagnosed with COPD, because I already knew about exercise discipline. 

My first “event” was the Bolder Boulder, an annual 10k event in Boulder CO, that attracts about 55,000 + people.  I completed the 10k in 1 hour 42 minutes and 2 seconds.  (the winner completed it in 28 minutes).  That was May 2005.  I spent most of that summer hiking in the mountains.  In September 2005, I hiked my first 14er, Mt. Evans, elevation 14,235 using supplement O2 that I carried in a backpack.  In February of 2006 I met Lyn Cole and we did the “Run the Register” and climbed up 47 flights of stairs in the Wells Fargo Building in Denver.  I have been doing that event ever since.  In 2007 I did the “Hustle up the Hancock” in Chicago.

I have completed 2 full marathons, Las Vegas and Oklahoma City; 14 half marathons; 1 ten mile; 1 5 mile; 4 10k the Bolder Boulder; a bunch of 5k. (I can’t remember them all) and climbed 2 14,000 plus mountains. Grays Peak at 14, 270 and Quandary 14,265, all since my COPD diagnoses.  Generally I walk 15-20 miles a week, and 25+ during late winter early spring getting ready for the racing season.  In addition I hit the gym 3 days a week.

The competitive events such as 10k’s and half marathons, as well as the full marathon are something I started after being diagnosed and beginning oxygen therapy.  Those events give me something to target my training toward.  They all require conditioning different body parts. 2 of the half marathons are down hill.  The Slacker half marathon is done in Georgetown Colorado. You begin this race at an elevation of 10,500 feet and come down to 8, 000.  It is without question the hardest race that I do.  Downhill, ain’t easy and to make it harder, 5 miles of the 13.1 are on national forest fire break roads.  

When I participated in the Bolder Boulder the first time, there was a women that set a good pace for me to follow, when we both were crossing the finish line I thanked her for setting the pace, and she looked a bit surprise and said through tears that “she had to lose 95 lbs, just to be able to participate”, and I said through my tears that “I had, had my own challenges this past year”, and we both agreed that it was a soul soaring day. 

The Las Vegas Marathon was also an amazing experience.  I am/was lucky to have terrific friends to help me.  It took 8 hours 20 minute 51 seconds to complete all 26.2 miles.  I needed to have my oxygen tanks refreshed 5 times during that timeframe, and there is no way I could have done that without help.  Completing that was an emotional event as well. 

The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon is hosted by the most gracious group of people I have ever met.  I got an early start at 4:30 am.  It snowed and the wind blew head-on until we turned around for the 2 half of the race.  The wind should have been at out back, which would have help propel us forward.  Nope, it just died.  Still a great race.

The mountains are an experience un-to themselves.  I had to carry 2 full stroller tanks plus food and water.  The backpack weighs 34 lbs when loaded with O2, water and food.  When you summit a 14er, it’s the most spiritual moment I have ever known, next to the birth of my children and granddaughter. 

Q: What’s the most exciting event you've participated in and why?

The most exciting event I have participated in recently is when I testified before the Colorado Air Quality Commission and as a result of my testimony and a few other people they tightened ozone restrictions and increased penalties and enacted the first statewide ozone control measures.  Now that’s a gift for my grandchildren!

I am looking forward to the Boston Marathon, coming up in April.  All the athletic events give my exercise and training purpose, so that when things get boring (and they do!) I have something to look forward to.   I know how exhilarating I feel when I cross the finish line and it makes all the work seem very small, indeed.

Q: What message do you think your involvement in these events sends to others on supplemental oxygen? If you could tell these folks anything about being active on oxygen, what would you tell them?

COPD is a disease that carries plenty of shame.  People, me included, somehow have come to believe that COPD is penance or punishment for having been a smoker.  That is pure BS.  I refuse to stay indoors or hide because I have to take oxygen with me wherever I go.  My life experience says “that I would rather you feel awkward because you find my appearance distasteful, than me hide indoors and miss the great and wonderful things God intended for me to be a part of.”

I just heard this evening that the group of people in Chicago with COPD that were going to go up the stairs at Climb Chicago event, have decided not to.  Some because their doctors told them they “probably” shouldn’t, and the others because they saw their compatriots dropping out.  It makes me wanna scream!   I will bet that if you took 200 average people and had them walk a marathon distance, maybe 5 would finish.  You take that same 200 people, have them work with trained and certified professionals for 3 months and I am willing to bet that 195 of the 200 would make it.  Seems like a pretty good payback to me.


Mike McBride’s Marathon Update – 3/10/09


Late last night we got back from Chicago where I had finished the Climb Chicago event for the American Lung Association.  4 buildings; 180 floors; 360 flights; and 2340 stairs.  My time was 1:06:13.  I find that remarkable.

I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to finish, but going to a lower elevation really helped.  I was amazed at how much easier it is to breath at lower elevations. I live in Denver and I only needed to use half the amount of O2 I normally do with exercise.  I was able to keep a strong steady pace.  My O2 consumption was half what it is at home. I still needed 10 PLUS liter flow to keep my saturations above 92.

The whole feeling has been one of amazement.  Amazed that I completed it.  Amazed at wanting to do it in the first place.  Mostly what I feel is gratitude.  There is pride in my accomplishments, but mostly the humbling variety.  But there is some bravado that says “I’m a tough guy……ok world, what’s my next thing I am not supposed to be able to do?……..bring it on!!!”

Thanks for your prayers and words of encouragement; I never could have made
it without them.

Now I need to spend some serious training time getting ready for the Boston
Marathon on April 20. I have this fear, that after all the BS I went through just getting to compete, I won't be able to finish.  I told the race director the last time I talked with him, that I would finish even if I had to do it on my hands and knees.  

He just laughed.  I would have thought by now he'd know how determined I can be.

p.s. I have a strong spiritual relationship with the God of my understanding.
And my prayers are for myself, and I ask for courage to be the man he designed.  That can be a daunting task on those days when I don’t want to train.  When I want to feel sorry for myself, when I feel entitled and better than.  I get angry because I have always had to do things the long and hard way, or so it seems.  The truth is the hard way is usually the easier, softer way for me; I just want to warp it around and make it my own.  That’s usually when God starts laughing.

You can view photographs of me in Chi town at the following link.


We got back from Chicago late Sunday evening.  I was all fired up after having completed the Climb Chicago event.  This week has been hard to back in the swing of things.  I haven’t wanted to workout.  I had to force myself to meeting with my trainer Nancy at the YMCA on Wednesday.
Nancy had me do a bunch of new exercises, using the SOBU.  (It’s like half of one
of the big exercise balls, with a solid bottom)  I was doing the balance lunges. They are so hard, and I was so uncoordinated.  Then she had me on the rowing machine. Row slow pace (2O strokes per minute) for 1 minute then faster (30 strokes per minute) for 2 minutes.  I was having trouble doing that.  I could only speed up for 30/45 seconds. Then I would be so SOB that I would have to stop completely.  I don’t respond well to sudden bursts of energy that require fast breathing.  I can work my way up to where my heart rate is between 150 and 155 bpm.   I can maintain that for long periods of time.  But to go from 125 to 150 quickly is more than I can handle and it frustrates me.
I got lots of nice kudos for my stair climb efforts and that felt good.  I am still not entirely comfortable in the limelight.  They also filmed an interview.  I’m told it will be accessible from the Climb Chicago website.

The granddaughter was over this weekend.  She is growing up way too fast.  

The past two weeks have been a blur.  My firm sent me to a small town in eastern Colorado to do research.  I work for an oil and gas law firm that specializes in energy issues.  So I do the fieldwork.  I have missed a lot of training the past 2 weeks.  The weather has been totally awful and the wind was something else.  Gust up to 65 miles an hour, and then it snowed. The storm dumped up to 17 inches of snow in the Denver area Thursday before pushing east, where 20 mph winds created drifts up to 5 feet deep.

This lack of training time is make me nervous.  I have been staying in shape with trainer session on Monday and Wednesday and Pilates on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  The walking I’ve done as been mostly on a treadmill.  I vary it a lot but its still not like walking on the street.

I have been really short tempered and I know its stress.  I have just not sure what to do about it.  Well that’s it for now. My thoughts are more than a little bit scattered.

Mike McBride

April 12, 2009 Marathon Update

These past 2 weeks have been frantic, or at least they feel that way. I have this whole list
of things that need to be finished before I leave this coming Friday. It’s hard for me to imagine that the Boston Marathon is a week away.

It was snowing today in Denver, and the YMCA was closed because of Easter, so I have
lost another day of training. I am going to trust the race gods are in my corner and hope
for the best. I will finish, I just want to do it with an official time, and to do that, I have to come in within 7 hours 45 minutes.

I don’t normally have to deal with all the things that are going on. Usually my support
crew is able to meet me every 6-7 miles with fresh O2 tanks, we swap those out and then
they leapfrog ahead of me to the next 6-7 mile stop. I don’t have to worry about a lot of traffic, usually the biggest hassle is closed streets. I don’t have to worry about trains not running or whether or not my equipment is a terrorist threat.

I am excited and bit scared at the same time. Kind of like my first kiss. Only difference
is I only get one shot to get it right.

We had Easter with the family and that was a pleasant distraction. And as if I didn’t already have enough on my mind I received a job offer last week. I already have a job I
like but it was great to get the offer anyway. A year and a half ago I was out of work because the company was sold and I wasn’t part of the deal. (Which is just as well because I would have not worked for the new owners.) Back at that time I couldn’t get people to even return an email, and now they are seeking me out. Strange life I lead.

My start time is 9:00 with the other Mobility Impaired athletes, and I am shooting for a
7 hour finish. There are so many things that way into that time, but I’ll give it my best.
I consider myself lucky and grateful to have so many people supporting my efforts, not the least of which is my partner. For that I thank the power greater than myself. I have an interview on race morning with VB Goudie on Fox TV at 6:45. And Tuesday 4/14 Doctor Radio, Sirius 114 and XM 119 from 7:30 to 8 Eastern Time.

I also want to thank Ron Kadrlik from Caire, Inc., and Kimberly Snyder from Resprionics. They have been great support and the good folks from Caire, are actually going to be helping me during the race.

My mother died of COPD in 2005. I wish she were still around to see that you don’t have to live with a cannula and inhaler in one hand and a killerette (cigarette) in the other.



Why Belly Fat Is Bad for Your Lungs, and Why Exercise Is Good

Mike McBride, age 55, has climbed the 56 stories of Denver’s Republic Plaza four times and has hustled up Chicago’s 100-story John Hancock building. While he may sound super healthy, all the activity came after a life-changing moment: While hospitalized for a severe bout of pneumonia in 2005, McBride found out he was one of the more than 12 million Americans with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.

McBride, from Arvada, Colo., has always spent time in the gym. But he was also a smoker, one of the most common causes of COPD. It was during his hospital stay that McBride quit smoking and started walking. He participated in his first race, the Bolder Boulder, with liquid oxygen tucked in a backpack. He also plans to racewalk the Boston Marathon with a specialized oxygen cart in tow.

COPD refers to a group of diseases that includes emphysema, which is caused by damage to the air sacs in the lungs, and chronic bronchitis, which narrows the airways through swelling. There is no cure for COPD, a progressive disease that is usually attributed to smoking and typically diagnosed when people are in their 50s and 60s.

McBride’s physician and respiratory therapists recommended walking to keep his lungs strong. But even for people without COPD, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly reduces strain on the lungs and strengthens respiratory muscles. For patients with COPD, research has shown that working out may slow the progression of COPD or help keep the disease in check.

How belly fat can harm your lungs
Having excess abdominal weight may lower one’s lung function, regardless of a person’s age, smoking history, or body mass index, according to a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Researchers studied 120,000 Parisians and found that abdominally obese patients (a 35-inch waist for women and a 40-inch waist for men) had poorer lung function than their slim-waisted counterparts. (And these were healthy, COPD-free people.)

One factor that may contribute to the problem is the inflammation associated with fat tissue. But excess fat may also constrict the lungs, making it harder to breathe.

“Carrying around extra weight is work,” says Gail Weinmann, MD, the deputy director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Division of Lung Diseases. “The more you weigh, the more work it is to carry it around. It’s like carrying a backpack. For someone who has a reduced capacity, the extra weight would be like carrying suitcases.”

The weight of the fat on the chest wall decreases the amount of room for the lungs. It also pushes up on the diaphragm, restricting its movement, particularly when bending over or lying down.

Being overweight puts a burden on your entire body, says Norman Edelman, MD, the chief medical officer at the American Lung Association. More oxygen must be moved around for the excess tissues; this causes the heart to work harder and places a greater burden on the cardiovascular system. It is also more difficult to breathe when someone is overweight. Dr. Edelman says diseases like asthma tend to be more severe in heavier individuals. (Many people with COPD have asthma too.)

How exercise helps COPD
A small percentage of people diagnosed with COPD lose weight due to the disease. But this often occurs in patients with late-stage emphysema and happens over a long period of time, says Dr. Weinmann. It is attributed to the excessive strain that comes with difficult breathing over a number of years, and physicians often prescribe supplements to help patients maintain a healthy weight.

For individuals who are able, exercise is important for good lung health. It has not been proven to heal the lungs of COPD patients, nor can it turn back the clock, but it reduces weight gain, strengthens the heart and respiratory muscles, helps deal with shortness of breath, and increases overall activity, which makes it easier to perform everyday tasks like walking up stairs, according to Michael Berry, PhD, a chair in the department of health and exercise science at Wake Forest University, in Winston-Salem, N.C.

“If the muscles of the rest of the body are well conditioned, the burden on the lungs to do a task is less,” Dr. Edelman says. “And if the muscles they use to breathe are conditioned, they are less likely to get respiratory muscle fatigue, which is one cause of respiratory failure.”

A 2007 article in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that people who took part in regular physical activity experienced less intensive declines in lung function than those who did not. The study, which took place in Copenhagen over a 10-year period, also found that active smokers who worked out had a reduced risk of developing COPD.

McBride participates in races because they give him a goal and motivation for exercising, which he knows is good for his physical and mental health.

“When I am feeling healthier, I feel better spiritually and I’m more receptive to people in general,” McBride says. “Exercise gets rid of the ‘Why bother, nobody cares, what difference does it make?’ feeling, which does sometimes happen.”




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