Category Archives: Athletic Events

Things I Think – Thursday – Everything Happens for a Reason

My Pleasure My New Friend

At the end of January I made a trip out to Phoenix, AZ. While I would love to tell you that my sole intention was to run the Battlefrog AZ race and test my injuries. Frankly, that would be a lie. I went out there to have a “Say Anything” moment and tell someone my true feelings that I would regret if I never did. Well I said what I had to say and to no avail, I left AZ a changed man in more ways than one.

When I arrived to the Battlefrog, I had a heavy heart and I felt like I had been kicked in the head all night. Besides going through my personal issues, I was sick and instead of getting better after I arrived, I was progressively getting worse. Having a horrible case of bronchitis, nursing an injury and basically feeling like a worthless piece of crap, I toed the line and set off on my AZ adventure.

Do you know that phrase “everything happens for a reason?” Sometimes I wonder what that reason usually is. On this day I actually found a couple of reasons for why things turned out the way they did. So while this trip seemed to be a burnout in the desert, it actually turned into a life altering experience that brought joy to my heart and made me realize why I started doing these races to begin with.

Just exactly at the 1-mile mark of this race, I ran into a fellow runner as we both were coming off an obstacle and our watches both beeped the first mile was over. We struck up a conversation and he asked me if I minded if he ran with me. I usually run alone or I am racing others and we never speak during a race, but today was not about racing, truth be told, I was just there to play on the obstacles and get out of the house and try and have fun.

So this is where my life will be forever changed. I don’t consider myself to be this great “Elite” type of runner, in fact, I am just happy most days to hold my own in the “Masters” division.  While talking with my new running buddy Jamie, he told me this was his first race ever. I mean seriously, this was his first race ever, not first Battlefrog or OCR, this was his first race of any kind by way of running…EVER! I remember telling him he picked one hell of a race to start running. He told me he had initially signed up with a group of guys who wanted to prove to themselves that they could complete this race.  Unfortunately for him, everyone bailed on him. He was faced with not going or going and running alone.  So of course he did what anyone would do, he set off by himself.

During the next 5-miles together I learned a lot about my new friend. He is a Youth Pastor for starters, which is why this adventure we had made a huge impact on my life. You see, when we started running, walking and talking, I told him I wasn’t going fast but if he wanted to hang with me, I would show him all the tricks to beat the obstacles. So that is exactly what we did. I showed him feet techniques for the rope climbs, monkey bar techniques, Tip of the spear and more.  This was honestly the best part of the race for me. I am a coach at heart and having someone who wants to learn and try without question was a great experience. We didn’t exactly get everything as planned, but it was a blast trying!

During our Walkabout as I like to call it, we spoke about a lot of things, mostly me and my personal relationships and what was bothering me. He posed one question to me and try as I might to answer that question, in the end he simply said he still had not heard the answer. That made me think even harder about everything.  For miles we talked about life, we played like kids on obstacles and we finished the race. While I also listened to his story of bad luck and relationship woes, he left me by saying he was praying that I would clearly know which direction to go.

In the end, while he thinks I was a blessing from God, he told me God sent me to guide him and help him on this day. He told me I was a great coach and motivator and he didn’t understand why God wanted him to run alone, but now he does. I don’t see it that way, I see it as he saved me.  He showed me why I got in this sport to begin with. Why I love this sport of OCR so much, the people you meet, having fun on the obstacles and helping others. For me this was not an OCR but an adventure. I fell in love with everything all over again, just like I did with my first race in 2010.

Thank you my friend, when I was feeling doom and gloom, you actually made me see some light and helped me understand the path I was on. When I returned home, I returned to a friend who was waiting with open arms to start my healing process. Someone who despite my flaws and this odyssey I went on, understood and was there to comfort me.

I am now on a new path, a path with no ending in sight. I am not sure if God is leading the way as Jamie would say, but I’m pretty happy none the less.

Footnote: I heard from Jamie a few weeks later and his text was simple:

“I am going to talk about you in chapel today and tell them how you were a blessing to me on the obstacle course. Hope things are going well”

Thank you my friend, you showed me what I was not seeing because my judgement was cloudy and in the end I found happiness where I wasn’t really looking!

The 7-P’s

Time to get right

Do you know what the 7 P’s are? Well I do and after running the Spartan Beast Glen Rose this past weekend, I realized some things and this was all I could think about. During the whole race, which was actually shortened due to flooding, all I could think about was writing this blog. Not so much to complain and bitch about how bad I did or the “whoa is me mentality” but to remind myself to not do this again. Never take injuries for granted and think you can just power on through them (mind over matter, sometimes is not wise) and I learned this lesson again.

Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance

Proper Planning and Preparation

I have no one to blame but myself. Basically if you stop running and sit on the couch, do not expect to have good results. My previous race before this, I actually did pretty well, Battlefrog Austin on 10/3, I felt good and redeemed myself from that disaster in Chicago. I finished top 10 and didn’t really think I was injured. But I have been having this nagging back problem since February and going to my chiro is what fixes it.  Well I was in pain a few days later and I decided to do nothing. I had also been experiencing what can only be described as a pulled muscle in my hamstring, which ran down behind my knee.  I also tweaked my groin or something in that area or maybe my labrum is acting up again, either way it has been painful at times. Of course my infinite wisdom told me to sit and rest and not do a thing. Well the week of the race I went and tried to get fixed 3-days before the race.

I also didn’t get in my flow of pre-race rituals. I didn’t get sleep, I didn’t hydrate on Friday and I didn’t get my pre-race meal right.  So basically noting seems to be in my favor driving down to the race.

Prevents Piss Poor Performance

Well piss poor performance is an understatement. This race sucked, I was in pain after about 5 miles in (10 mile race) and struggled to keep a pace, I walked some and my leg was bothering me a lot. I felt like I had absolutely no energy. I failed the spear throw and that pissed me off and then I failed the rig at the end. I was just so over this race, I was ready for it to be done, I never fail the rig, man that pissed me off.

I know, I know, I shouldn’t whine, I am sure my results were still pretty good to some people.  However, I hate it when I feel like I did bad and especially when I know there is more I can do to prevent it. So note to all of you out there, sometimes you can’t just show up and be your best. No matter how great you think you are, training and nutrition have to be on point.

Okay this is the end of my rant…I was disappointed, but this made me realize my injuries maybe more serious than I realized and I need to go get fixed.

How one month has changed my life

One Month, 4 States, 8 Races, 89 Miles, Life Changed Forever

I was going to write about all of my recent races in detail and I still may, but after this past race I had some time to reflect on what I just accomplished as I prepare to take some much needed time off from racing. So I started thinking and wow…I just did a lot of running, probably the most ever and I loved every minute of it!

So this journey of me all started on July 25th. Why is this important? Well it really isn’t except for the fact that I had not really been running. You see in May I rolled my ankle so bad, then attempted to still run on it, I had to do the smart thing and take the entire month of June off.  Sure I raced once in June and it was horrible. I started my rehab running on July 1st. To see where I was at, and knowing I felt like my conditioning was still off, I raced my first race on July 11th in PA.  I felt tired, but I did well all things considering. But afterwards, I feared I fractured my foot, took some time off and eventually went and had x-rays. They were negative so more rest for me.

As I am in rest mode I get an invitation to join a few friends at this Fossil Valley 6 hr trail night run. I originally went to cheer on my friends and spectate. But unfortunately that is not in my DNA.  I brought my gear “just in case” and the foot was feeling good so I went for it. This started a domino effect of what the next month was going to be like. Okay, here is a recap of the month that changed my life.

Race 1 – Fossil Valley 6-hour (26.9 Miles) 7/25/15

I already wrote in detail on this Race, but this one has to be the defining moment when I learned the most about myself. I discovered  can do anything, my mental toughness will get me through the physical pain my body endures. I ran for 6 hours, did 10 laps of a 2.69 mile course.  My first attempt at anything over 16 miles and no obstacles. This was such a challenge to run trails with a headlamp on in the summer Texas heat, in the middle of the night! I loved every minute of it.

Finish – 5th AG, 9th OA

Race 2 – Trinity 5000 5k (3.1 Miles) 8/6/15

I stumbled upon this 5k summer series purely by accident because it was across the river from the float the river night in Fort Worth. So I thought what the heck! It was 100* at 7:30pm when the race started and it was glorious! I was excited to see how my pace was on concrete. I have not run on the road race since January, and seldom train on the road. This was really my first run since the 6-hour too.

Finish – 1st AG, 20th OA

Race 3 – BattleFrog Pittsburgh (9.66 Miles) 8/8/15

Battlefrog has become one of my most loved/hated race series to date. I love it because it is so challenging and the mandatory obstacle completion actually give me a chance against the faster guys. I actually don’t hate it all, it just makes me the most nervous of any of the races I do. The DNF possibility is always there lingering in the background.

Pittsburgh was no joke! I mean I heard how great it was from the cave swim to the terrain. It did not disappoint at all! I crushed the first lap, took me 1:30 and only one repeat on the monkey bars. Feeling confident, running in the top ten, I had a mental and physical break down on the RIG. I spent an hour trying to get through it on lap two, then the rest of the race was cake.  I tried to make up some time on the runs, but the creek runs were brutal and I couldn’t make up the hour. Still I finished with my band. Mission Accomplished.

Finish – Masters Elite – 13th place Male, 13th OA

Race 4 – Spartan UltraBeast Hawaii (26.2 Miles) 8/15/15

I went to Hawaii to earn my Hawaiian Trifecta. Three races in two days…no problemo! Then an unexpected turn, peer pressure. Who would have thought at my age I would get peer pressure to run an UltraBeast? I mean I am not a distance guy, I don’t like distance, I like the shorter Sprint type courses, that is my thing! Nervous about the if you don’t complete it, you get nothing and worried about making the check points I was very concerned. But I threw caution to the wind and I went for it.

Running this race I definitely took my time, worked on a slow and steady pace, I knew I wanted to stay in the 15 minute mile running pace if possible. Well I was doing great, I finished the first lap of that tropical hell in 3:30. Half way done! I took a 15 min break, tried to eat PB&J but that was not going down too well. So I went back out on the trail, I didn’t want to lose anymore time than necessary. The second lap I did slow down just a tad, it was hard to get going again after the break. But I already knew I had this, I figured I could have walked the rest of the 2nd lap and still made all of the cutoffs. I was pretty stoked at this point. I continued going, into the tropical jungle hell of 85* and 80% humidity, where many people were suffering, I did not. I guess the Texas heat had me prepared.

What a feeling, tired and exhausted once I finished the second rope climb which was the highest I have ever seen, I knew I had done it, just the spear throw and rig left. I ran into the festival area to the spear and I see my good friend Laura Messner standing there and cheering. I nailed the spear and as I ran to the rig I remember giving her the “double check discount” motion. I am sure she has no clue what I was talking about, but I was referencing to the fact that I am about to get a damn belt buckle! I smoked the rig, over the non-slip, slip wall, nailed my epic fire jump pose and crossed the finish. My time was 7:49 for the 26ish mile race. ZERO burpees, yes I ran a burpee free race!

Finish – 15th OA

Race 5 – Spartan Super (8 Miles) 8/16/15

The start of a two race day. I wasn’t out to crush this, just complete it so that I could get in the sprint also. Feeling the full effects of the day before, blisters, sore feet, tired calves, slow and steady was the objective. Basically as a group effort, we jogged and walked and did all of the obstacles.

Finish – Yes I did!

Race 6 – Spartan Sprint (4 Miles) 8/16/15

Yes I am exhausted, but sadly I am refreshed also. Unfortunately I don’t leave a man behind, no matter how much they beg me to “just go on.” So there is no running even though I swear I could have done it. At this point a lot of people are just trying to finish. This meant strictly walking the final 4 miles to my Ultrafecta glory.

Finish – Yes I did!

Race 7 – Dirty Rock Triathlon (Swim, 6 Mile Bike, 2 Mile Run) 8/23/15

I know its not even a real sprint TRI, but I was itchy watching everyone else race all weekend so I found something to do. It was literally Saturday afternoon and seeing all my friends post about their Spartan races, made me want to do something. So I looked at the local race calendar and boom here I go! Since I only have a mountain bike, this was perfect. I did pretty well considering I have only ridden my bicycle once this year and no trail riding at all. The trails slowed me down, but I was able to make up for it on the run.

Finish – 3rd AG, 18th OA

Race 8 – Battlefrog Cincinnati (10 Miles) 8/29/15

I have to admit I was somewhat intimidated just by the location and after seeing first hand some of the obstacles, I knew I was in for a true test. The running was never a worry for me, it was basically two obstacles I had in my mind. The Rig and the monkey bars from hell. I shouldn’t worry about the rig, but second laps tend to have a mental block on me. The Monkey bars on the other hand, were just plain brutal for me, no strength left in my grip or forearms on the 2nd lap had me hanging on for dear life to not fall. I knew if I did, then I would be done.  Once I got past both of them on lap two…I knew is was over, I did it once again. Now I was just running for time. Trying to catch the ones I let get by me from the rig. Lap one was 1:50 with no failures, lap two with a 45 min break at the rig came in at 3:06. Granted I took my time on the hills and my watch died so I had no idea about time and pace…ugh. I was shooting for the 3:40 mark (total time)…which in the end was the difference between 5th and 8th.

Finish – Masters Elite – 8th Place Male, 12th OA

 What I have learned

When I had my summer schedule out, there were no intentions of running the equivalent of a marathon, much less two. What changed you ask? Well, for starters I stopped thinking there was something I couldn’t do just because it was out of my comfort zone or I thought I would be in discomfort. All year I said I was never doing an Ultrabeast…too much running. Then people began inspiring me, actually watching others go out and do things they had never tried before was exhilarating to me.  It was like I drank some hypnotic love potion, this lust with wanting to challenge myself in a new way.  I mean seriously watching someone nail 50 miles…its just awe inspiring. Secretly observing friends race everything from 10k’s to triathlons to OCR, at all ages, but especially people my age, motivates me to do epic things. This whole thing started with the 6-hour run and just showing up on a whim, no training for distance, no clue of what I was doing, just some good friends doing it so I thought why not. Once I did it, as difficult as it seemed towards the end, I knew from that point on I could do anything. Sure I will admit I was up in the air about the UB in Hawaii, but not because I didn’t think I could do it, I knew I could do it, it was whether or not I could do it in the allowed time frames.  I knew once I completed the first lap of the UB that it was mine. The whole second lap I just smiled and laughed and knew I had a buckle.

My mindset has changed over the past month too, now I want to run the 9-10 mile distances, I love the two lap Battlefrogs.  I am thinking what the future holds and honestly, I have to say I want to try new things, push myself more. If that means less OCR races and more trail running or adventure racing, then so be it.  I’m still skeptical of a real marathon, I think it will be too boring, but you never know.

I posted this phrase the other day which pretty much sums up my last month.

Sometimes

it’s the very people

who no one imagines anything of

who do the things

no one

can imagine

I think I absolutely fit in this category, I have never been a great athlete, I was an average wrestler, I didn’t start running until late in my 30’s.  But I am competitive and everyday I want to get better to be better. So I never imagined in a million years I would be where I am right now, doing the things I never thought I could do.

So the real realization…I am a distance runner.

My name is Travis and I talk to strangers.

My First Marathon – Kinda

30 Miles, 6 hours, No Problemo

So here I am sitting in my doctors office, I am getting my foot x-rayed  and I casually reach out to my friend about going to our local brewery to get a new pint glass they are giving out. During the conversation he tells me they are running a 6hr trail run on Saturday. He then asks me to come, even if I can’t run to hang out with them and be the pit crew. So without hesitation I say yes! I figure even if I can’t run, being a part of someones pit crew for a long event like this would be awesome, especially for good friends.

So the good news was that my foot was not fractured or broken as I had feared, just a bruise they thought.  So by the time Saturday came, the foot was feeling awesome, I had stayed off of it and rested and it felt like I could run.

Saturday comes and I decide that I am going to run if they still have race day registration. Since it was a small event, it was limited to the first 200 runners. Good news when I arrive, they allow me to sign up and I went ahead and signed up for the 6-hour run, I mean hey everyone else did, so I couldn’t not do it.

So not ever having done anything like this before, I was not sure what to expect. I knew the loop was 2.69 miles and the object was just to run it as many times as possible. For me, I initially set this ridiculous goal of 30 miles, I mean I was thinking If I could run two loops per hour and times that by 6 hours that would be 36 miles. But that was unrealistic, so I wanted to factor in stops, water breaks, eating, etc. So I lowered that goal to 30 miles. Which mean I just had to average 12 min miles. In my mind that is doable, I mean I usually can slow down to 10 min miles if needed on my training trails. Plus having this at night and running by head lamp was something new. So in my mind it was perfectly doable. I guess I never thought that I have never in my life run past 16 miles, much less for 6 straight hours.IMG_6096

Lap one

So of course I toe the line at the front, I mean that is what we do at all of the OCR races right? Well apparently everyone else wanted to get in the back and try to avoid the mad rush and just pace themselves. For the first time I thought to myself, this is a long ass run, maybe starting slower would be the way to go.

So off we go, the herd rushing off to the trail and into the wilderness and darkness. Yeah now that you have that picture in your head, change that to nothing but dust and people everywhere.  There was so much dust in fact it was actually hard to see, all the spot lights did was highlight this damn dust. Then the “hey let’s stay in the back” lasted about 30 seconds as Maynard takes off like he was shot out of a cannon. So of course I follow. We kill the first mile and start the first ascent and the running becomes a walk. Thankfully this was not that tough, we were still passing people left and right. Then May-May got caught behind some girls and I made an “On your left” pass and I thought he was behind me, I didn’t see him again until my 3rd lap.

The best part about the first lap was seeing the photographers. So thinking that they were going to be there for several of these laps, I did the serious run by on the first lap. I wanted some good running action shots! ha ha ha…then I learned my first lesson of trail racing, you need to bring your own bottle or you don’t get water. Of course I left mine on accident in my car so I just took off, getting no water. Lap one done. Watch said 2.5 miles, pace is right at 11 min/miles.

Lap Two

I can say I don’t really remember much, more of the same, passing people hear and there, found some guys who were running pretty good and I stayed with them. On the photo op station, I did the running Messner this time. Completed the lap and finally got some water. Lap two done, just over 5 miles, pace was still under 11 min/miles.

Lap Three

The funny thing about these early laps is that all I was really thinking about was the photo op near the end of the loop. What is the next pose? Will I have to slow down so there are no other people in the way? The first thing I had to do was turn my hat around and hope that my light would illuminate the trail better, nope no such luck. All I could see was white dust. So I just kept running, waiting for the next photo op. I ended up doing the Usain Bolt point to the heavens pose. Nobody was in my way, so it was a good little pose down. I ended up staying with some ultra-guys; they looked like they knew what they were doing so I just stayed with them. During the transition after lap three, I actually stopped and rested. I told myself no more than 5 minutes. During this time I had some PBJ and a lot of water. I also lost my shirt and decided to run the rest of the race without one. Lap three complete, over 8 miles done and maintaining an 11 min/mile pace.

Lap Four

Here we go again, there was really no thinking involved with what I was going to do for the photo op on this lap, it was straight up going to be the “Fire Jump” pose. Boom! Nailed it! The Photographer even gave me a high five as I went by, I think they were just happy to see someone having fun on the trail. Finished the lap and decided it was time to take in more. I consumed a bunch of water, dipped into my pedialite, more PBJ and took a gel and a salt tab. Two hours down, 1/3 of the way there! Lap four done, 10.3 miles and I am now at an 11:30 min/mile pace.

Lap Five

By now the trail is pretty much the same thing over and over. Flat, downhill, flat, uphill, downhill, flat, uphill, flat and on to the finish. I was wondering what to do on this lap. It seems even though I am jamming to my tunes, the only thing at this point on my mind in what to do in the pictures. Well, okay, there were a couple of conversations I had from time to time with people I need to have them with, you know like practice if you will. Should I do a cartwheel? Maybe walk on my hands, no I was too scared for that, I was afraid my legs would give out and I would look stupid. I ended up just doing the “Jet” pose. If you are a Dallas Maverick fan you remember the jet and his pose after a 3-point basket. Oh well, it wasn’t that exciting. Finished the loop and I was starting to get tired. My feet were starting to hurt some. The downhill pounding on the rocks I think was starting to take its toll. Lap Five complete, 13 miles in and now around a 13:30 min/mi pace. The stops at the transition were adding time.

Lap Six

What can I say about lap six? Really nothing I remember other than, now what am I going to do for a picture? It seems kind of stupid they are in the same place every lap and three photographers at the same spot? But no worries because they were not there this time, I guess they just were going to do the first three hours. Kind of a relief but then again, it was a great land mark because they had a light and it wasn’t much further until the festival area. So my feet hurt a lot right now. It feels like there is no padding in my shoes. I tried to think of running on pillows or clouds, I’m a cat, YES! I am a cat, landing soft on every step, no pain here. Well crap, I am more like an elephant and every step feels like I am clodhopping my way through the dark. When I get to the transition area I decide to switch my shoes. I am going to put on the ones with slightly more cushion to see if they help. I am half way there, not really tired at all, but things are starting to hurt. Lap six complete just over 15 miles, pace is dropping, now at 14:30 min/mile. This is also factoring in the transition stops.

Lap Seven

Well it was bound to happen, I could feel my feet dragging slightly and I had tripped over several roots, I started thinking of how great it was that this lap was almost over and then boom, I rolled the bad ankle. It wasn’t a huge deal, not a bad roll, I actually caught myself and I was able to avoid putting any weight on it so it didn’t hurt at all. Just as I wipe my eyebrows with a “whew” moment, I hit a stump right in the center of my foot. I came down on it so hard that it felt like my toes touched my shin. It was like a reverse hyperextension. That smarted some. It felt like everything popped and stretched at the same time and of course it was my bad ankle too. Lucky for me there were just a few more turns and then the straightaway to the finish. Lap seven complete, over 18 miles complete, pace is dropping to the mid 15’s. Took a good 5 minute rest at the aid station and I did what I thought you should do, I started taking in sugar. I took two glasses of Coca-Cola, water, pedialite, PBJ, gels and salt tabs.

Lap Eight

So I have to admit I am effing tired. I have never run this far in my life and everything hurts. I mean everything. My feet, my knees, I think if you took video of my I would look like an old man hobbling around. So I start off on the next lap. I have been walking for the first ¼ mile on the last couple of laps to start the next before the big downward descent. So I am going along and something is not feeling right. I get to the bottom and it is the flat part, usually where I make up my time. But I’m cramping, seriously I am cramping? I never cramp, OMG the sharp pains shooting through my stomach. Is this what you women go through every month? Holy crap I love all of you then for putting up with our shit when you are experiencing this. Wait, what is going here, do I need to take a dump? I can’t do that out here, what if it is diarrhea, I can’t wipe, I am going to have fire ass the rest of the race, I can’t run with fire ass. OMG this pain hurts and I stop and I am doubled over in the trail. Now that I am bent over my back starts hurting, yes my low back. Now everything is failing…WTF!! My groin hurts in the creases so I start stretching that area out, I then do some lunges because my legs have joined this pity party and while I am there I might as well crack my back. Ahh okay better. Okay the cramps are going away, thank god.

Okay T (that is what I call myself in my head), you have to get moving to get the laps in, you can’t quit yet. So I start off and instantly I feel this fire in my crotch. Okay no sugar coating it, my balls are on fire. I don’t know what the hell is going on, but it is like they are rubbing against my legs and trying to start a fire. The pain was like a 7 at least. Holy crap that is not the burning sensation a man ever needs to feel period. No clue at this point what that is but it slowly goes away. Then I start with the gas. All I can think after the cramping is oh God please let these be farts and not sharts. I don’t want to be like that guy who has shit all over his pants during a race. I think it is just gas, it must have been, because I have to tell you, this lap my times were back in the good. The mile after all of this was a 14:35. Those had to be my jet fuel farts!

So I come into the aid station again and basically collapse. I am taking on all fluids I can and trying to get stuff in me to live. I tell Mike (Mike Boone saved my life by giving me a water bottle and then having it filled on every lap! Thank you brother!) this is going to be my last lap, I don’t think I can physically do it. I drink more Coco-Cola and a handful of M&M’s, more pedialite, water, salt tabs and gels. Oh yeah and then there is Maynard sitting in a chair cheering me on. “Good job” he says, “you got this” he mutters and then as I am drinking and eating, he asks me if I want bacon and pancakes. Oh yeah, he is there with a full plate just mowing down. He stopped at 6 laps because he was cramping. Good thing we have this love/hate relationship because I wanted shove that bacon down his pie hole!

We are over 4 hours in; I have 21 miles down and averaging about 15 min/miles. Once again I head out into the darkness.

Lap Nine

You know that saying “The Struggle is Real”, well it was absolutely real here. Lap nine I am barely upright, my knee hurts so bad I think that something was terribly wrong with it. My feet are killing me, my left calf is starting to twinge a little, not cramping yet but it really wants to that bastard. So I start moving again, I have to get back closer to 5am then to 5:30am if I am going to have a shot at two more laps. I know, I know, I said I was done, but screw that I set 30 miles a goal, “go for it fucker” you are so close. I start my run hobble, and then no shit, like ½ mile in it all hits me again. The cramps, this time it is worse, I actually fall to my knees on a bench on the trail. You know I haven’t even pissed since I started this, which I thought was odd, but dang it, why didn’t I try to crap back at the bathrooms at the aid station. Seriously I can’t go in the woods. Okay I am a dumbass, it’s the Coca-Cola. It didn’t start until you drank that crap. So I started breathing to myself and it went away last time, you just have to move no sitting. Then the fire balls decided they wanted back in on the action. I mean how can you only hurt part of the time? I seriously think I could start a campfire with the heat down there right now.

Onward damn it! We have to get back, have to steal the last lap. If nothing else I want to get that damn 26 miles in, it would be a marathon…kind of. So the rest of the lap is my hobbling around in the dark with a shitty headlamp, going extremely slow downhill because if hurts to take a step down and trying to just keep moving on the straightaways and power walking up the hills.

Thankfully I had plenty of motivation. No need to give shout outs, but there was someone who I wanted nothing more then to make them proud of me. I was inspired to do this just because it is way out of my comfort zone and sometimes you need to do that to prove to yourself you can do EPIC shit. So I had to finish what I started even if it killed me. I make it back to the aid station, it is 5:25 and I slam a water bottle, grab a second headlight and I head out into the darkness. Lap nine completed 23 miles down, still working about a 16 min/mile pace.

Lap Ten

The rules are if you are out of the aid station area by 5:59:59, then that lap will count. So All I have to do is get back quickly. I was watching my pace I was watching my pace a lot and it varied from 14:30 to 15 depending on which section I was on. So I had already done nine stinking laps, I grabbed the extra headlight because I wanted to light up that damn trail because I was tired and I knew I was going to push it, I was going to give it all I had to get back to get the bonus lap which would get me 30 miles. Guess what no cramps! Eff You Coca-Cola!! Never drinking you again!

At this point all I can say is that everything is mind over matter, pain will go away and I am not going to die so I need to do this. I have to do this. I put down the first ½ mile and I was feeling good considering, I was at my target pace and then the wheels fell off. My right foot slammed hard into a tree root stubbing all my toes seemingly at the same time. Then the left foot followed suit right beside it and slammed hard into the root. Somehow I didn’t fall but it was a good trip. The pain was so intense I took a knee. It was here that I knew I was finished. I couldn’t run, my toes were not working, and the pain was so much it hurt to just take steps. I told myself to just move, so move I tried. I wasn’t going to make it and I was extremely bummed. I felt like I had a chance.

Now my music is telling me to “don’t give up”, “One more, just one more”, “you’ve got to move it, move it” oh hell shut up already, if I could move it, move it, I would damn it. Now the burning balls are back. Apparently they only burn when I am walking or moving slow, so the last two miles sucked righteous ass. I hobbled for two miles, until I got to the road, then I decided to run, it had to be about ½ mile left but I was tired of walking and I wanted this to be over. So I did my best and it was ugly and painful.

I finished at 6:16:10 and officially ran 26.9 miles. I should take pride in my accomplishment, but I still shake my head thinking about what could have been if I would have been able to go for it. I learned a lot about myself, in the dark running on a poorly lit trail with a crappy headlight at 3AM. I would not trade this experience for anything either, I ran farther than I have ever done in my life and it felt good.

IMG_6105Injury Update:

Toes – So I ended up draining my ring toe on the right foot with fluid under the nail, on the tip of my toe and on top of the toe. That little guy hit hard.

Fire Balls – were a result of extreme chaffing from the mesh in my shorts. So yes, I won’t ever wear those kind of shorts ever again. Some lotion and the boys are all fine.

Knee – resting it for a few days seemed to do the trick.

Feet – I learned to not wear two pair of socks, I think this caused my feet to cram into my shoes and made the whole experience hell in the later miles.

My name is Travis and I talk to strangers

 

 

Making Natasha a Spartan

Austin, Texas 5/16/2015 – Spartan Sprint

quote“There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps, for the rest of our lives, we will be unwilling to settle for less.”

~Kurt Hahn

Every once in a great while, you get an opportunity to change someone’s life.  I find most of the time I have no idea if something I did or said has made any impact on anyone’s lives. Sometimes I get emails from people who tell me I did, but I don’t go out trying to be a difference maker, I live my life and if I can be an example then I am happy to hear how I have inspired you in some way.

Last December my friend Natasha was in the ICU unit and posted on facebook she would love some company or someone to visit her and bring movies.  So of course I grabbed some DVD’s and went right up there.  I still get confused as to her illness (I’ll explain in a minute) but I gladly went up to visit. Unfortunately at the time she was under some heavy sedation so we did get a chance to talk in between her naps. I watched her sleep and chilled for a few hours. I don’t know if she really remembers everything, but I am sure she was grateful I was there if just for a short time.

I monitor her status from time to time and she has been living in the hospital basically for the last few years. Well this past week she commented on one of my pictures at how great I was doing at my runs. I privately asked her how she was doing and she said she had been out of the hospital for the past 3 weeks and was feeling great. In jest I mentioned if she ever wanted to run a race I would make her a spartan. Well she took me up on the offer! She decided on a Friday afternoon to up and participate in the Reebok Spartan Race Sprint in Austin, Texas the next day.

 Natasha’s Illness

So what I found out is that Natasha actually suffers from Eosinophilic Disease. What is an Eosinophil? An evil white blood cell that is a type of B cell. It has one job: attack parasites in the body. In her case these cells went rogue. Two (2) in every million people have  EGPA. In her case the Eosinophils are attacking multiple organs. EOS diseases have NO cure & NO FDA approved treatment. Let that sink in. We fight a losing battle daily with band-aid medications that rarely work.

She is currently in Stage 3, this is the last stage of her illness, and the cause of her recently mild heart attack. Yes you read this correct, she had a heart attack in March 2015 and is also on the transplant list for a new heart. Oh yeah and she also undergoes up to 5-hours of experimental Chemotherapy to fight this.

In September of 2014, she received her “death sentence” as she calls it, they told her she had give or take 5-years to live. As she told me “I no longer consider my illness a death sentence because I keep fighting through the tough times. Like I’ve said before, I’m Chronically Fabulous!” These are words of a true fighter.

The Race

Most of what I actually knew of her illness I learned during our race. I had no idea of some of these things when I asked her to do this, like the heart attack or that her cardiologist was probably going to hunt me down and shoot me because she has a strict no exercise policy or lifting anything over 5lbs.

But we started our adventure on the course at her insistence, she told me her illness was not going to determine how she lives her life and jokingly stated this could kill her today but it would be fun.  I guess it is a good thing she signed the Spartan “death waiver” then huh? So she tells me YOLO and off we go towards the start line.

Seriously I am a little worried at this point, but she is all smiles and doesn’t have a care in the world. We are in the starting coral and yelling AROO, AROO, AROO and now I can see it all sinking in, this is about to get real.

Just to review:

  • Heart attack in March (2-months ago)
  • On the heart transplant list
  • No exercise or lifting over 5lbs
  • She forgot her inhaler
  • 6-days post race she goes in for 5-hours of chemo

So armed with her feeding tube (yes still in), oh yeah she can’ eat real food either, her chemo port and the biggest smile ever, we took off on our Reebok Spartan Race adventure.

So off we go, walking our way to glory.

Mile 1

As we start off we instantly start talking about the past 6-months or so. Sometimes I am amazed at how fast time flies by. This is where I learn of her disease in depth, all the restrictions and how we shouldn’t even be walking. But she won’t quit so we keep going. She went up and over the saw horse looking things and then the 6-foot wall, at first it was intimidating, then she went for it and made it!

We hit the 1-mile marker and and she asked me if it was really a mile. Then it gets silent for a second and I can see something going on in there and she tells me, if you had asked her if she would have ever done this, she would have said no. I could tell she was proud of herself and she was ready to keep going.

Miles 2, 3, 4

It seems I did most of the talking, (I know imagine that!) but it was okay because we were working on her breathing and keeping her heart rate low. So I talked and talked and talked some more. I had plenty to say, it has been a busy 6-months!

As we approached the obstacles, she did just about all of them. I stuck the spear throw for her and then let her try, she had obviously never done that before and it did go straight, just not enough arm.  I asked her if she played softball as I was showing her how I throw it and the response was “No, I was a cheerleader!” okay then, cheer for me!

I did the rig pipe thingy because they would not allow me to assist her in any way to even try and she could not hold herself up there, so no big deal I knocked that out.

I carried her sandbag and mine too, can’t break the lifting restrictions and the water was a refreshing break.  This  is where we almost called it a day. You could say she was a bit stubborn and refused to let her illness stop her from at least trying the things that were doable. But her heart rate was going off the charts and we ended up sitting down at the water station to rest.

She wanted the medic and then didn’t want the medic so we sat and we talked and I tried to crack tasteless jokes to lighten the mood. Then I told her about my Houston Battlefrog DNF and how my motto for the Dallas Battlefrog was “Not Today.” So I told her that was her new motto to, not today. You are not dying or quitting this race today. Tomorrow you can, but not today! Then we looked around and I pointed out all of the other people just sitting around, taking breaks, goofing off, not doing anything. You see she felt bad she had to stop and was mad that she couldn’t lower her heart rate a tad. Then I calmly stated the obvious…what was their excuse? They were all healthy people, granted maybe out of shape, but they don’t have a death sentence or chemo therapy this week or a heart attack a couple months back. At this point it was like I turned on a light switch, she looked at me and said “yeah, what is their excuse?” she looked around and mumbled you are all healthy people just sitting around, then she stood up and off we went.

I also ended up doing the sled pull for obvious reasons, but she did do the Z-wall, even after much discussion on if should could, well she could and she did! She also did her own barbwire crawl and did the tunnel crawl.

But after the tunnel she saw the hill. She became petrified she would not make it up such a steep incline. She asked the volunteer to call for a medic just in case she died on the way up, no lie her words. The volunteer walked with us, we went slow and steady, up and over the big rocks and when she got to the top, out came a big “I did it!” and a huge smile and a high five! She truly has no idea how inspiring this is right now that she is just beasting this course. I mean, she isn’t even supposed to be walking to the mailbox! I told her the hard stuff is over, we are almost there. Then we took a selfie! 🙂

mountain selfie

Mile 4 Mile Marker was another milestone for us. When she saw the sign, knowing we had roughly a mile left she got really excited and of course we took the gratuitous picture. With her heart racing and struggling to get her breathing under control she looked at me and said “well crap, I’ve come this far, I can’t quit now with a mile left”…no, no you can not, not today.

Mile 4Continuing on we just keep going, I scale the 10-foot wall and then we approach the floating bridge. Without hesitation she gets up on it and starts across. On the last one she jumps off and immediately her arms shoot over her head and starts jumping up and down in the water. What a sight to see, such a huge smile on her face. When I get over to her, she is out of the water and on the shore and crying. I instantly think something is wrong and I ask if she is okay and needs a medic and you know what? It was a happy cry, she got so emotional completing that obstacle she broke down. I told her not to waste her tears on this one, you save them for when you leap over the fire and get that medal!

On we go, walking to the bucket carry she was having issues and we stopped and again I was about to get the medic. But she no, and just said when she got so excited it took its toll. Actually the whole day had now taken its toll on her and every step was a milestone. She marched on to the bucket carry and got some water and rested while I completed it with no problem.

The Last March

You can hear the festival area, I kept telling her we were so close, but the walking was really starting to break her down. I offered to piggy back ride her, but no that was not an option. It took a while but we made it to the slip wall, I knocked it out. I did the Herc hoist, Tarzan swing and I kicked the bell for her on the rope climb. Then we marched to the dunk wall. I could see the terrified look on her face. I told her not to get in but she did, then she started to hyperventilate of the thought of holding her breath and going under. In the end she did it, like a champ! Nothing but smiles as we get out and look to the fire.

The fire took awhile for her to go, but at this point we were not in a rush. I know her breathing was an issue and I think the thought of jumping over fire and into a water pit may have also been somewhat intimidating. She looked like a lioness actually, she was staring it down, pacing back and forth looking at it as if where to attack it. I am just standing off to the side waiting, my plan was to go with her and jump together and get it all on video from the side view. She walked up to me as if to talk to me and then she just took off.

I am so happy she went, but it was the funniest moment of my day. I wasn’t expecting it, I was a step behind trying to catch up to video and she also kinda blocked me and went to the far right. I was behind and now worried about landing on her, but I just pulled up and went in right behind her. Then I heard it. That laugh. That happy laugh I had heard all day every time she accomplished something.  We climbed out of the pit and marched to the finish and she got her medal.

It was hard to not break down. While her little heart was bursting from over use and stress, my was the complete opposite, sure I was getting choked up but my heart was full. I made her a Spartan and now I know no matter what life throws at her, she will always have this moment to reflect on. I hope this makes her stronger when she gets sick again and we end up watching movies together. I guess the next time I can take 300 and the sequel and we can yell our AROO AROO AROO down the ICU hall! Hopefully I don’t have to do that for awhile. For now, I will visit on chemo day and we can laugh about our adventure.

Natasha we may not get 5-years more with you, but I hope we get more. You have a fragile heart, but it is a heart of a warrior and you have one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know. Thank you for allowing me to bring you this special moment. I look forward to more adventures in the future! I am so very proud of you for this accomplishment.

Here is our video of the EPIC day.

The Day I Actually Quit

The longest 3 – Minutes Ever

quote

When your desires are strong enough you will appear to possess superhuman powers to achieve.

~Napoleon Hill

Have you ever flipped that switch in your head and you become almost obsessed with something? Well that happened to me when I DNF’d at Battlefrog Houston earlier this year. Since then I made the decision I was never going to do that again. So I got off my ass and started working out hard to achieve my goals.  It never stopped, I kept getting more and more into what I was doing and I was driven and on a mission.

Although the Spartan Race has recently lost its luster in my eyes, I was none the less excited about the upcoming Austin Races, 4-races in back to back weekends. Training was going great, my diet had also changed and I was feeling like this was actually going to be a great couple of races for me. For the first time in a long time I went into a race extremely confident and ready to perform at a high level.

I was challenged the night before to not run the OPEN race and upgrade to the ELITE MASTERS race. My camp kept telling me I was ready to take the next step. They believed I could do really well and were pretty convincing. Ultimately I went with the plan I started out with and I remained in the Open heat. Not only to I regret that decision now playing armchair QB, I knew it the moment I watched the elite men take off for the start of the Super.  But nothing you can do now I told myself, just crush the race and try to catch the women elites.

So our heat started and off we went. I always try to control myself and not get caught up in the initial sprint off, I mean it is a 9-mile race, no need to die in the first mile. So I let the knuckleheads take off but I also kept a good pace myself. The beginning was all trail and I train on this, so I felt good. I caught up to the small group who took off and I was passing them. I even yelled out “on your left” as I was going by. Then it happened. I took my eyes off the technical trail with the wet slippery rocks for a second to look ahead at the group I was passing and my left foot came down, the ankle slipped and rolled on a wet rock and I heard a “POP” sound, this was worse than anything I had ever heard before with my ankles. I came down hard too, full force on the foot.  I took a knee, in near tears with the pain.

Time: 3:31

Yes I took a knee, I looked at my watch and I was only three minutes and 31 seconds into the race. My ankle was throbbing and I was not sure what to do. People started to run by now, people asking me if I was okay and each time I responded with “No, I am not.” Reflecting now, this was the first time I ever got hurt and admitted it. I mean like, I was saying, “yes I am hurt and I need help” never in a million years did I ever thing this would happen. I remember I could not put any weight on the ankle, I couldn’t stand, so I just kept kneeling and semi rubbing it. There were offers for people to send back a medic and one guy said he would tell the next water station for me.  I was in a state of bewilderment. All I could think was “why is this happening to me? I was in great shape and I was ready, this was supposed to be my race! I was supposed to kill it and then show them and myself maybe I can run with the elites.” Then I hear a familiar voice. My new friend Darlene came up and started talking me, made me stand up. I told her I was done. I couldn’t race, I needed to just head back towards the start line.  So we started walking back,  back to the start line, back to the festival area, away from the race.

During this walk so many emotions started going through my head, “what would people think?” for starters, I know I shouldn’t care but still, that goes through my head. I didn’t want the sympathy, I didn’t want to let down all of the people I trained with, the ones who took time to train me, I was feeling this defeat and I could feel myself getting emotional. I know Darlene was talking to me and I half remember what she was saying over the voices in my head. But then something happened, the foot started feeling a bit better, so I tightened up the laces on my shoe and I stopped walking the wrong way. I looked and Darlene and I said I can’t quit. I just can’t do it. I absolutely had to cross that finish line, even if I was crawling I was going to cross that finish line. She told me to lightly jog and see how it felt, so I did. It felt good, only some sharpe pain here and there. But then I started running a bit faster and then a bit faster and then I just took off.

quoteWhy is this happening to me? I was in great shape and I was ready, this was supposed to be my race! I was supposed to kill it and then show them and myself maybe I can run with the elites.”

I looked at my watch and this whole thing took a little over three minutes. Darlene was running with me and I told her, it was starting to feel good and now I was pissed that I just lost 3-minutes.  Her comment was something like “just run faster then and catch up, its a long race still.” So off I went to cross the finish line.

I was actually very surprised at how I actually was able to keep going. Mile after mile, obstacle after obstacle. I did twist the ankle three more times during the race, two were very slight tweaks and one was a good roll again on a wet rock. It wasn’t until around mile 8 when I hit the wall. Which is odd because I was actually putting down a good pace on mile 7, I was passing female elites and I had not failed an obstacle.  Mile 9 was hell, for some reason as long as I kept running I was good, when we stopped for any reason, I was getting bad. The last barb wire crawl, the tubes, and the sled pull, all actually hurt. Walking was becoming difficult but I motored on, I went slow through the rolling hills and I carefully went over the floating docs, but I couldn’t run as we approached the bucket carry.  I went through the bucket carry and then I tried to run to the festival area, I am glad there was no one there to watch because it was ugly. It was a jog/hobble combo thing. Slip wall was no biggie, up and over the bridge and then the Tarzan swing,  the only thing I failed. I think it as a combo of things why, but I was for sure doing everything off one foot, but I doubt that was why.  So I did my burpees (so easy when you practice them!) The rope climb was no problem and then the fire jump. It was a sad day, I didn’t jump (yes no fire jump pose) I calmly stepped over it and into the water pit, crawled out and crossed the finish line.

I crossed the finish line, mission accomplished. I basically walked right through the finish area without stopping and made a beeline to the medical tent. I got wrapped and ice and called it a day. I was sad I didn’t get to race the Sprint the next day, but the swelling was worse and it hurt to walk so I thought it would be a good idea to just lay low. Of course this did mean that I could be cheerleader to my friends, take pictures and try to take it easy.

So I learned something about myself again this past weekend, I do have a never give up mentality. I could have easily called it a day, but I didn’t, I forged on. What really makes me feel both good about things and somewhat disappointed at the same time is that I ended up with this time:Screenshot 2015-05-13 14.04.11I am pretty pumped about this considering I had a bum ankle and when I compared my times with the elite masters, I would have taken 5th place. So I think I do have the confidence now to try and run the elite class and say goodbye to the Open heats.

One more weekend lies ahead and I am not ever sure at this point if I will be able to compete or not. So for now I am resting this week, staying off the foot and hoping I can feel good enough to at least run the Sprint on Saturday. If not, I will have my camera and video camera, so I can take a ton of pics!

 My name is Travis and I talk to strangers!

Battlefrog Redemption

By: Travis E. Blythe

The Ultimate Transformation Tuesday!

I started writing a blog a couple weeks back about my first experience with Battlefrog and how it “took my soul” away from me at the Houston race.  But now fast forward a couple of week and and instead of reviewing the Dallas race, I thought I would just write down how I felt I transformed myself after both of these races. There really are no before and after pictures or some incredible physical change that took place, no this rather is a transformation of my mind, will and determination.

Houston

So a quick overview of the Houston race, I think I was just a little to over confident. I went into that race thinking I was ready to run in the “elite” wave, even in the Masters division. Competing against the 40 and over crowd seemed doable. I was so sure I was going to get at least 3rd place. I mean I have been training hard, I have been running well at other events and I was all about “chasing the money”.  Then the race started, the most brutal ORC/mudrun I have ever attempted in my life. I know I have done some hard Spartan Races, but the fact we had to do 2-4.8 mile laps with roughly 68 obstacles, was just exhausting.

But this is also a mental game as much as a physical one. Case in point, I lost my bracelet pretty early on (10th obstacle) and after that, I was mentally defeated. I let that defeat creep into my mind and even though I finished my 2-laps and I attempted all of the obstacles, my head was not in it. I barely attempted things and used the I am so tired excuse, but in reality looking back I wanted to finish, get my two laps in and just be done. So It did.

The Takeaway

So what did I learn? I definitely learned a few things about myself, preparing correctly and race strategy. I talked to a lot of the true “elites” in the sport and picked their brains, how they did things, technique and I learned a ton about what I did wrong. I think the biggest mistake was just being to much in “Race mode” and trying to hurry through the obstacles instead of taking my time and doing it right. So I left Houston knowing my deficiencies and what I needed to work on.

The Plan

So if you are running a battlefrog and you want to know what you should spend some extra time training on? Then my answer to you is grip strength! The jerry can carry is no joke and having to do it twice is a beating. So I bought 2 cans, I filled them with water and I weighed them and they are 55lbs each. I simulated the distance of the Houston race and practiced carrying them. I would even do it twice sandwiched between a 4 mile run. Started running with the wreck bag and playing on more monkey bars. I have to admit I was lacking on that. I also put my gripmaster in the car and I drive around all day squeezing it!

The second phase for me was to attack the course very methodically. I was really nervous about several of the obstacles, but I knew if I took my time and did not rush I could be okay. Knowing the location of the Dallas race, I knew it wasn’t too hilly, so I figured I could make up time on the running after a slow obstacle. The object was just to finish anyway. No stress on trying to get on the podium or win the race, I just wanted to finish with bracelet.

Dallas

One of the greatest parts of being in the sport is that all of the people you meet are really some amazing people. I meet new people every week it seems and my core group of friends are some of the most supportive I have ever met. So here we are at the starting line and it is like the who’s who of racing toeing the line. I always think “what on earth am I doing here?”, but not today, because I am only racing the Masters division, the 40+ guys. I know I belong, I am only getting better with every race, I have a plan.

Lap one

20150415215845The race starts and off we go, with every obstacle my confidence is growing. The wreck bag carries seem so easy now, I run with that 50lb bag like it is nothing. My first major test was the “Bridge over River Cry”, I couldn’t get this one in Houston, but it was real early in the race, so I still had a ton of grip strength. As I approach, I see that Isaiah Vidal failed once and was still in line waiting to go again. No worries though..I got this. Three rings from the top I look away from the task at hand to see where the pole was and I missed grabbing a rung and I slipped and fell. All I could think was, oh hell here we go again. But I got out, got back in line and kept telling myself to be patient and calm. Nailed it on the second attempt!

Then my friend Melissa who was volunteering gave me the mantra of the day “Not Today!” Not today was my new theme, not today will they be taking my bracelet, not today will I fail, not today will this course beat me!

The rest of the obstacles were just flying by, one after another I was pushing through them without any difficulty. Even the dreaded jerry can carry. I stuck to my slow and steady plan, don’t burn out the arms was all I could think of. Then before I knew it I was at 5 miles, I came up on the rope climb, nerves setting in because this is my worst obstacle, nailed it. At this point I am like wow, I can see the finish area, two major obstacles left before lap two. Confidence is growing. I dominated the “Tip of the Spear” and rolled through the “Monkey Bars” on my first try. I think I let out a slight yell and a fist pump as I ran on to the next lap. I am thinking holy shit, I just did the lap and I have my bracelet.

Lap one: 1:18:38

Lap Two

I think the endorphins of doing so well on the first lap were at an all time high and I think it helped me on lap two. I set a goal, just duplicate lap one and I would be happy with that. I knew the course now, where the flat parts were, where I could rest my strength and where I could run just a bit faster. Most of lap two was a blur, I was smoking the course, “Bridge over River Cry” one shot and over! I saw Melissa immediately after and I ran over and gave her a big hug, kissed her cheek and I said “Not Today!” I showed her I still had the bracelet and I ran off!

I was so ecstatic after that, I remember feeling like superman, because I was just crushing these obstacles, one by one, I was 5 min ahead of the first lap when I got to the jerry cans for the second lap. Stick to the plan, don’t get too far ahead of yourself, save your strength.

I was closing in on the end of the race, I was running great, faster on lap two, then the wheels fell off.  I came upon the rope climb. The ropes were horrible, muddy, wet and a ton of people around trying and not succeeding. I ran in to one of my friends who was still on her first lap, had been stuck there for an hour already. Another was on lap two, was in 4th place in the female elite race and she got stuck.  In the end I spent close to an hour trying to climb up the ropes. Panic started to set in, several people started piling up, several elites just looking exhausted and defeated. More kept coming, some made it up real easy and that just made me feel worse. I finally rallied one last time, not today. I got up that rope and punched the bell as I let out a primal scream, jumped down and took off for the finish.

Okay, so I just lost an hour or so, its okay, we are going to finish, there is literally nothing left I can’t do. I am still finishing! I blasted through “tip of the spear” again and headed to the monkey bars.

When people talk about gut checks and never giving up, survival instincts, I am sure mots of us roll our eyes and just say whatever. Well I spent close to 3 hours trying the monkey bars. I suffered through the cold water, shaking uncontrollably until the sun came out and warmed me up. My first run I was 2 bars from the end and I just lost my momentum and just stopped, then I was dead and I fell.  So close, I wouldn’t get that close again for hours. I remember trying to keep calm. Don’t rush it, so I waited 10 min, then 15 min intervals, then 20, then 30. I must have tried easily over 10 times. My last three attempts I gained a blister on my right hand. Worse than a blister, I had the skin ripped off and I was bleeding. My hands would not close, I had no grip strength. I was actually contemplating quitting. One by one my friends would come over and offer support, pep talks, instructions on how to defeat this. They were giving those of us left a time limit and we would be pulled off. I had the mentality that I was going to be pulled off the course before I quit.

Finally I waited 45 min before my next run. I thought my hands had one last attempt. So I went for it and it had to be possibly the ugliest crossing of monkey bars ever attempted. I wish someone would have gotten video of it. After the transition I went from straight on to sideways to backwards and pretty much back around again. I thought I was going to fall, the bar twisted and I started losing my grip, I basically did a pull up to get closer to the bars and just kept moving, Don’t stop, please don’t stop. Well I made it. I will never tell you what I was thinking about that really got me over, my motivation to make someone extremely proud, not fail can be a strong motivator when you are whupped.

I made it, “Tsunami” was a piece of cake, I finished the mud crawl and the rest is kind of a blur. I remember dancing and screaming and jumping up and down. My friend Melissa was the first person there with my medal. I got my medal and a huge hug. There were more friends there clapping and cheering and it made it all that more worth while!

Lap two: 6:04:00

Yes that is correct, over 6-hours on the second lap. I thought I would finish around 2:40:00 which would have been a podium finish and 3rd place, had I been able to get through it and not wait those couple of times. My official time was 7:22:38, that is right over 7-hours to run a 11 mile race and complete every obstacle without failing.

The Takeaway

20150415220048I bet you might be wondering WTF is with this guy and why would anyone care that I just wrote this blog. Well honestly, I find it a huge accomplishment for me. I’m a 43 year old guy who is not elite by any means, but I am not the open weekend warrior either. I am somewhere in between. I love the challenge this gave me. How it crushed my soul in Houston and I had sweet redemption in Dallas. Now I can see where I can improve. I can continue to get better and stronger by working on the things I already was working on as well as learning the techniques which would have given me a higher finish.

I can find solace in knowing that I still have a long way to go and that honestly drives me to get better. Who knew at my age I would feel this alive doing something so brutal but yet so much fun!

I found I have some of the best friends ever, we share a bond, even if we just met to days before, have been Facebook friends and never met until we spoke on the course or have bled together the last year to be better. The comradery  I have with these people is truly amazing. I can’t mention everyone who I bonded with this day, but if you helped me, I thank you. If I somehow gave you motivation to keep going, then you are welcome, but that is me, I will always be a coach at heart and a motivator.

Until the next event! See you on the flip side!

XPLOR Bravest Race – Mexico’s little gem

By: Travis E. Blythe

I had a great opportunity to head down to Mexico for little R&R and check out a little race called the XPLOR Bravest Race down in Playa Del Carmen at the XPLOR park. This was exactly what I had hoped it would be, a nice vacation race. I had a ton of fun and I can’t wait to do it again!

While many of you reading are going to be die hard Spartans, Tough Mudders, Warrior Dash or BattleFrog enthusiasts, take a min to clear your mind and just think about what I am about to tell you and open your mind to something that is out of the realm of OCR for a minute.

Sometimes you come across an event and you think how it would be fun, or the location sounds amazing and you wish you could go.  Everyone thinks of Cancun and Playa del Carmen as vacation destinations and a place to get away for a long weekend.  We had an opportunity to travel to Mexico and see what this little race was about.  I have run many different types of events over the years and the uniqueness of this race put together with the location has to definitely be one of my favorites of all time.  I know, I know, that is a pretty bold statement but I will tell you why I absolutely loved this race and why I want to return every year!

DSCF0132I am so used to running for time, trying to win age divisions, or just being so competitive that I forgot why I fell in love with this sport in the first place. This race made me remember why, made me remember how much fun you can have doing something that you love.  This race was not timed, there were no competitive waves, no chip timing, the only objective was to finish with my flags on.  Now I know what you are thinking, but no this was not a zombie run. Did they have people pulling flags?, yes they did. But this race was much more than that, I equate this to being a race almost in a water park and you ran from one obstacle to another.  Technically, a rare few even ran, the majority of the participants just walked and talked and had a good time being in the company of friends.

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I know you are thinking…what is so special? Well, if you have never been to XPLOR park or explored the caves and rivers down in Playa Del Carmen, then you definitely do not know what you are missing. This race had two water-slides, numerous cave swims, walls, cargo nets, rope cylinders, low crawls, swamps, monkey bars, tarzan ropes, canyons full of tires, tunnel crawls, a half pipe/warped wall and one epic cliff jump. I am sure I left out some other obstacles but those are the ones that come to mind the most!

DSCF0151We had an absolute blast, painted our faces in warpaint, high-fived the flag pullers and had fun along the way.  I ended up finishing with one flag and got my awesome finisher medal for the ones who kept a flag! Yes they had two different medals!

It looks like the 2015 Race is going to be on September 13th! This is  must race if you need a break from competition and want to just have a blast!  The after party was awesome, live music, food and people everywhere!

Transformation Story – The Mud Pixie

By: Travis “Blydawg” Blythe

The Mud-Pixie

Not all transformation stories are created equal, what motivates one person to make a change in their lives may not necessarily be the same thing that motivates another.  Recently I was able to speak with Kimberly Easterling-Stewart, aka The Mud Pixie Kim recently debuted her new mud pixie look this past spring and while many people think her costume is “cute” there is a deeper meaning behind why she wears the costume.  Before we get into all of that, lets get down to the nitty gritty, who is Kimberly Easterling-Stewart?

Kim was an ordinary girl growing up in Texas, she was involved in sports, very athletic and she was a wrestler and played softball in high school.  She was so good in fact she scored a scholarship to play softball at Northwood University.  All was going great for Kim until after her first year of college.  Personal hardships ensued and she was unable to go to school for her sophmore year.  Faced with a difficult decision on what to do with her future, she took an easy way out. She ran off with her boyfriend at the time who was a military man.

Vincent Van Gogh once said “As we advance in life it becomes more and more difficult, but in fighting the difficulties the inmost strength of the heart is developed.”  I believe that after speaking with Kim, everything she has gone through to this point, has made her the person she is and her inner strength was forged.

The military years were to say the least, less than thrilling. This us where everything started to snowball into the place where this transformation truly begins. After having their first child, it started with trying to just lose the baby weight. Several years consisted of yo-yo dieting and no exercise. Then came the car accidents, two car totaling accidents in a six week time period. Having hurt her neck in these accidents, this is when she felt the first signs of depression.

Depression hits us all in different ways, sometimes we feel like we are not good enough, skinny enough, or worthy enough for all of the people in our lives and unfortunately we are the only one who can eventually tell ourselves we are and we can and we will. She told me “You don’t know how strong you are, until strong is the only choice.” Before we get to where Kim was able to say all of that, she had a few more hardships to endure. As if the accidents and neck injury was not enough, she found the holidays approaching in the fall of 2012. The only bright spot she had, is that they found out they were pregnant with their second child. Unfortunately on black Friday of that year, she lost the baby. This started a spiral of self loathing and more depression.  Not only was she dealing with the loss of the unborn child, but she had to also deal with the fact that her two sisters had also become pregnant and were having their babies around the same time she would have had hers.

quote“You don’t know how strong you are, until strong is the only choice”

kim1In 2013 fast approaching the year anniversary of her loss, she found herself weighing close to 220 lb at 5’5″. She had been battling her weight and was fluctuating between 168-200 lbs, but now she had finally had enough. In February of 2013, she saw an advertisement for “The Vampire 5k.”  She made a decision she was going to run that race, she went to Ehow.com and downloaded how to train for a 5k run and started working the plan. Kim stated: “I had this feeling, like I had wasted my life and I never lived up to my potential” and she was determined to do something about it.

quote“I had this feeling, like I had wasted my life and I never lived up to my potential”

Four weeks into her training, she was sticking to the plan, she started eating a little better, making smart swaps on eating healthier. Then a friend asked her to run in a race benefiting Lupus. She ran her first 5k, running the whole time in 33 min. Having felt such a sense of accomplishment, she continued to train, vowing to run at least one run a month.

Then on June 1, 2013, she ran her first obstacle style race, the Fair Park Urban Dash.  This race had become her motivation, where she feels it all started. Her grandfather passed away just days before this event. So along with her cousin, they dedicated this race to him. Kim is still weighing close to 185 lbs and felt like she was doing everything right. This event is where the light bulb went off, she fell in love with OCR.

By August she decided she would sign up for the Tough Mudder. Knowing this was a serious race, she decided she needed to get serious about everything.  Not only was she training, but she also went on an 8-week therapy session to get her neck, back and hips fixed from those accidents she had a few years before.  Better eating habits, running, physical therapy and spin class is what her weeks entailed. Then in October 4-weeks before the Tough Mudder, she started taking supplements. When she started this, she went from 175 lbs down to 158 lbs by the time she competed in the TM at the end of October.

quote“I want to be the best me I can be and the person I was always meant to be.”

She then went on to compete in Savage Race and The Spartan Beast to end the year.  In 2014 she made an all out dedication to the OCR world and as she says, “I want to be the best me I can be and the person I was always meant to be.”

After competing in the Atlanta Spartan Sprint, she felt after placing 3rd in her age group and 13th overall on day 2 in the open heats, she had a new goal. She was going to focus the remainder of the year to reach her goal of running in the elite heats instead of the open heats.

kim3So now we have come full circle since the beginning of the article.  Kim created the Mud Pixie persona to show everyone that anything is possible if you believe in yourself. Her costume, or her wings rather represent her transformation, on how she didn’t let depression beat her, she didn’t let her weight slow her down, she made the decision to reshape her mind, her body and most importantly her spirit. She has started this journey and she really shows no sign of slowing down.

Dress Code Sparks Craze Debate “On the Line”

Dress Code – What?

Two days ago the Reebok Spartan Race set the interwebs on fire with the announcement about no costumes in the elite wave of the Tuxedo, NY event this weekend. Obstacle Racing Media had a great article yesterday which you can read here. In that article they interviewed some of the more notorious athletes who participate in the elite waves who also potentially wear a costume of some sorts. Stephen Sinek, aka “The Painted Warrior”, Stephen “BowTied” Spartan, and Michael Deater aka “The Panda”, all left quotes and opinions on the Spartan press release. The most shocking interview was with Mr. Spartan himself Joe Desena; he considers body paint to equal a costume. Here at mudrunfun we have to wonder how will this play out? We already know that The Painted Warrior has a different paint scheme on his body for every race. But what about other elite wave runners like friends of mudrunfun Thing 1 & Thing 2? Andrew and Eston Jones don’t wear a ton of body paint and would you really consider them a costume? They have two words marked on their chest with a marker and they wear their signature red headbands. Will they get pulled out of the chute? We had a chance to talk with Andrew Jones aka “Thing 1” and here is what he had to say: 945222_201074453378031_804304775_n

quote“Whether or not what we wear is considered a costume can be debated, but the reason we wear what we wear, is for bigger and better reasons than being an elite Spartan athlete.”

So what about the future of this so-called sport? What about the up and comers who have a story to tell and want to inspire others? Recently we ran across an up and coming elite wave runner named Kimberly Easterling-Stewart who also goes by “The Mud Pixie”. We recently sat down with her and discussed her transformation story (separate story to be released soon) and how she became the Mud Pixie and why. She had planned to start competing in the elite heats officially later this summer after a few races and more training. Here is what she had to say about the ORM article: 10448656_720690051322838_187398030010595107_o.jpg

quote“The Mud Pixie arose from believing in myself, using perseverance and the sport of OCR to reshape my body, mind, and spirit. Isn’t that what Spartan is supposed to be all about? And the underlying meaning of their new book Spartan Up?”

She further stated,

quote“My purpose now is to continue to progress as the elite racer I was always meant to be and prove to the world, anything is possible when you believe! If they would like me to drop my leather get-up for elite races I can understand that. I ran in athletic compression gear before the pixie and I can do it again. But my wings are simply a part of a full functional camelbak that I have always used. They don’t slow me down or get in the way! After everything I have overcome, all I ask is they don’t clip my newly found wings!”

I guess it wouldn’t look good on TV to be “Spartan Chicked” by someone wearing a pixie outfit or having two people in athletic gear and one as a mud pixie standing on the podium. We couldn’t write an article and not get some of the opinions of other owners and race directors in the industry. So we reached out to a couple races to get some feedback. The first one to give us a sound bite was Troy Levy with Armageddon Ambush, who puts on events up and down the East Coast, he has two thoughts on this, the first being,

quote“What Spartan is doing with their national media coverage is great for the sport and industry. Obviously Reebok, Spartan and NBC know what they are doing and if they want to market the elite aspect of the sport that is their purgative. If the vision is to bring credibility and legitimize the sport then having someone run the race in diapers and costumes probably won’t do that. I can see why they would not want that on national TV. But on the other hand, I am not sure if showing just the elites would drive the masses to sign up for any mud run event. The industry as it stands now shows a large gap of participants from Elite to non-Elite. So having the non-elite or elite participants freely showing their freedom of dress wearing speedos and panda hats is welcome to many events So that being said I can see both sides of the coin.”

The Armageddon Ambush is one of the most unique races going, they combine the physical challenge of the mudrun with obstacles as well as a color run! There is nothing like getting blasted with color after crawling out of a mudpit! It’s like two races for the price of one! Our next conversation was with Tim Scrivner with the Texas based mudrun series “Run the Jailbreak.” Here is what he had to say on the topic:

quote“The explosion in popularity of obstacle events over the past five years has been fueled primarily by non-traditional runners. People are flocking to these types of runs because they are fun and challenging, it gives them the opportunity as an adult to get together with friends, dress up, get dirty, have fun and enjoy the camaraderie of a shared experience. A big part of that experience has been the costumes and group themes that people come up with to brand themselves and their groups, people watching is nearly as much fun as the events themselves. I understand what Joe is trying to accomplish and the last thing you want is for your sport to be marginalized for a WWF atmosphere. However, I believe that you need to have personalities and story lines for people to follow if you are going to gain a wide audience for your sport. Your local marathon will have runners in all forms of outfits and costumes but the elite runners will not be wearing anything that will hinder their performance, I assume the elite Spartan competitors are responsible enough to not get “carried away” with their attire and would be conscious of how it could possibly affect performance as well. The Gen X and older crowd remembers countless “hokie” events that were passed off to us as “sports” by ABC’s Wide World of Sports and ESPN 2, but the Millennial’s have grown up on X Games, video games and TMZ. They judge by a different standard than we do.”

While the “Jailbreak” is not a themed event in terms of mandatory costumes in which to participate, his events do draw thousands and you can typically see the masses dressed as a convict or police officer! Which is funny in itself, because if you ask them why they dress up, the typical response is, “I never get to be bad, so I’m a convict today!” and having attended one of these events, you will not find a greater assortment of “Sexy Cops” even the Reno 911 guys! Our Final Interview was with event owner Sean “Ace” O’Conner with the National Superhero Scramble series;

quote“I think it’s comical…I understand why Spartan is trying to regulate, but also think that this and other regulations take away from the overall experience for racers and spectators.”

While Sean was the least outspoken event owner of the three, it is easy to see why, his race is about Superheroes and pretty much the entire field gets to be a superhero for the day! The only dilemma is are you a DC or Marvel guy? So at the end of the day there are lots of opinions and views from all sides. Mudrunfun just wants to raise the awareness of the industry as a whole, so whether or not you are an “elite” runner or a weekend warrior, we want everyone involved. We don’t care if you wear a costume or run stripped down to the “bare essentials” we just want everyone to have a good time. We also don’t necessarily think you have to be labeled in one category either, we love all the events whether OCR, Mudrun, Color Run, Zombie Run, Glow Run, or X-Run. We live in a wonderful country who doesn’t discourage you and allows you to have the freedom of expression, so express yourself, tell your story, be a Painted Warrior, a Mud Pixie or Bowtie Spartan or be yourself and the best you, you can be. At the end of the day the consensus seems be on the side of The Mud Pixie, so please Spartan, don’t clip our wings.     Want to know more about the people mentioned in this article? Click below on the person or event you want to see.

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