Endurance wiz faces daunting road to recoveryA high pain tolerance is often an asset for athletes, yet Dusty Olson of Duluth found himself in rough shape after pushing through various phases of Lyme disease the past two years.
A high pain tolerance is often an asset for athletes, yet Dusty Olson of Duluth found himself in rough shape after pushing through various phases of Lyme disease the past two years.
Debilitating fatigue, high body temperatures, arthritic aches and pains and numbing headaches finally had Olson seeking help. One of the Northland’s tougher endurance athletes, as a runner and Nordic skier, met with specialist Dr. Karen Vrchota of Integrative Health Care in Winona, Minn.
He received a diagnosis of Lyme arthritis, monoeuritis multiplex, Lyme encephalopathy and babesiosis on Sept. 11.
“I found out that being able to deal with a lot of pain wasn’t to my benefit,” Olson, 39, said Tuesday. “My very first symptoms were flu-like, and then I was told I had Lyme disease, and, after taking antibiotics, I thought it was out of my system. It wasn’t and I just kept going. It turned out to be pretty nasty stuff.”
For the next six months he’s on a regimen of four antibiotics, supplements and holistic medicine. He’s already spent about $9,000 in treatment and doesn’t have health-care benefits as a self-employed carpenter.
Olson’s friends have organized a fundraising event, Dusty’s Du, for Sunday at the Boulder Lake Management Area warming shack, about 18 miles north of Duluth, at 7328 Boulder Dam Rd. There is a half-mile canoe paddle and 2.5-kilometer run starting at 10 a.m. Entry fee is $5.
Since his high school days at Duluth East in the early 1990s, Olson has been recognized as a tough competitor. He became the youngest champion in race history in winning the 1993 Minnesota Voyageur Trail Ultramarathon 50-Miler in Carlton at age 19. He won the 1998 Pepsi Challenge 50-Kilometer Nordic Ski race at Giants Ridge and was second in the 2002 U.S. 100-Kilometer Road Championships along the North Shore. He helped pace Proctor’s Scott Jurek in numerous victories across America for more than a decade as Jurek became one of the world’s best trail ultra runners.
In a recent best-selling book “Eat & Run, My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness,” Jurek wrote:
“I don’t know if I could have had as much fun or accomplished what I did without Dusty.”
Olson believes he contracted Lyme disease during a trail run in Jay Cooke State Park in 2010. Yet the distinctive, telling red bull’s-eye wound wasn’t apparent, he said. He said he felt fatigued, but wasn’t concerned. When the disease became more crippling, he met with a Duluth physician in September 2010 and later with a specialist in Colorado Springs, Colo., in February 2011 while Olson was working in Winter Park, Colo., as a sales representative of Rossignol Skis and later as a marketing and shoe representative for Scott Sports.
Olson said he hopes for gradual improvement, and his goal is to be able to start running again.
When: 10 a.m. Sunday
Where: Boulder Lake Management Area warming shack, about 18 miles north of Duluth, at 7328 Boulder Dam Road
What: Half-mile canoe paddle, 2.5-kilometer run
Benefit: Duluth endurance athlete Dusty Olson’s medical expenses for Lyme disease
To donate: Mail to Tortoise and Hare Footware, 4602 Grand Ave., Duluth, MN 55807 (checks made out to: Tortoise and Hare Footware, Dusty’s Du)
Information: Eve Stein, firstname.lastname@example.org