Tag Archives: OCR

Blydawg Travels – Arizona Adventure

Out with the old, in with the new…

Every year we make these new year resolutions, sometimes we set goals that are totally unattainable, unrealistic, or that are just plain mainstream ideas. In 2015, I said I wanted to “Love Harder” and I feel like to an extent I did, I gave my heart away a couple of times and let myself get the feels.  Well that year ended with a dud, but fortune favors the bold, and fortune favored me when I was asked to get out of town and go on an adventure to Arizona. The main purpose of this adventure was to go on a Spartan Race, but we ended up creating an epic adventure, creating memories to last  lifetime.

symbolsSo our adventure begins with a flight into Phoenix, AZ.  Once we landed, we were starving so we called my old college buddy and good friend Kevin and we had breakfast at The Original Breakfast House.  OMG! All I can say is that this is a must stop! I had this French Toast/Chicken Fried Chicken dish and WOW!! Not to mention the cinnamon danish it was pretty awesome too!

After stuffing our faces, it was time to explore, we had a rental car and we did get to town rather early in the day, so we thought…what the heck, let’s go see London Bridge in Lake Havasu, AZ.  So off we went.

circle-lightbulbBut First! We had this bright idea…since we are so close to  the border of California and Arizona, why not go see Blythe, CA? Why not indeed!

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With a full tank of gas, cooler in hand, we headed that way. As you can see we found it, and we were also able to start our state sign collection together! It is with a huge sigh and disappointment I must admit that the metropolis of Blythe, CA is pretty disappointing.  If you blink you might miss the entire town.  I stopped at the PD station and they were closed. I couldn’t even show them my drivers license and try an get a PD patch. Oh well, maybe next time.

After our brief stop in Blythe, CA and our state sign pics, we took off for the London Bridge!

London Bridges falling down…

For years I have thought this would be a cool place to visit. Never really having the time or having been in that area, I was not sure this was ever going to happen.  However, with my new co-pilot in tow, we said “Let’s do it!” and off we went!

What a cool place! The bridge is a cool piece of history and it is unbelievable that someone took it apart half way across the world and reassembled here in the USA.  This bridge has been a part of Lake Havasu since October 10, 1971.

Lake Havasu was fun, we arrived to the bridge just in time to watch the sunset and get some awesome pictures. From there we were going to hit up the LH Harley Davidson store, but they closed before we got there…bummer, I guess I will have to get my poker chip another time.

After the sunset we ended up getting our carbs on over at Angelina’s Italian Restaurant.  Not a bad place to grab some grub. We had just spaghetti and meatballs but it sure hit the spot! After our meal we hot the trail back to Phoenix for the race the next day.

We are SPARTA!

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Sedona!

After Running the Spartan Race, we had a whole day to kill since our flight was not until late Sunday night. So why not head up to Sedona, AZ and hike! So we took off and headed up to Cathedral Rock. Hiked to the top and watched the sunset!

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We were told about this awesome burger place called the Haunted Hamburger in Jerome, AZ. So we headed up into the mountains in search of this place.

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So the rumor is that the restaurant is haunted from before it was a restaurant. Apparently the ghosts like “hammers” and some patron photos have captured a female ghost lurking in the background.  Did we see a ghost? No we did not, but I did have a great big bacon burger. The location was awesome and this is definitely worthy of a burger review!

Another adventure in the books, the first one with my new co-pilot Mother & Poet and I have to say this was one of the best times I have had. We were silly, goofy, and saw some really cool sights. By far one of the best race weekends I have ever had!

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!

Things I Think – Thursday – Please Stop the Madness!

Thinking out Loud!

I saw this article the other day which was 6 Total A**hole Moves People Make When They’re Getting Healthy. I have to say it was spot on. I’ve been thinking of this post for some time because, well I’m really annoyed with some of my Facebook friends.

Oh gosh, yes I said it. I know some of my friends don’t get it, some are very simple and only have family and close friends with whom they interact with. Me on the other hand, I add people daily, most of them are OCR or fitness related and some I’ve never met. Most people can’t comprehend why I do that. Well it’s simple, I meet people and I like to meet more folks with my same set of hobbies. With that being said, people you have to stop the narcissism, I mean really, I know I post a lot of selfies or usies with friends, I know I post where I go and what I do, but Facebook is meant to share your life with people you care about. So I do…but here are the posts I’m getting so tired of seeing and some of you need to reevaluate your existence.

The workout pics & videos EVERY SINGLE DAY.

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Hey, I totally get it, some of you are proud of what you are doing, I completely understand, I am too. But seriously, give me a break. Dear all OCR friends, WE ALL WORKOUT! Yes we do, we basically have to, I don’t need to see it everyday, I mean I know you do this everyday or you wouldn’t be running so many races. I don’t need to see you box jumping, snatching, mirror selfies at the gym, burpee videos, trail running or your workout times from your watch. It’s pretty much a given you do that everyday. I mean you don’t post pictures of you at work “crushing those TPS reports.” Unless you are a trainer and posting to help others or WOD’s (which you need a professional page then) I don’t care, I don’t think anyone does. Please stop it! I would rather know more about you, other hobbies and interests you have. If you are in a relationship, show it for Christs sake, stop acting like you are single. I want to see your family, kids, adventures outside of OCR or races you run. Be real.

IG/Facebook cross posting.

circle-quote5So many of you do this and it drives me insane. As someone who is involved in social media daily (as a job), for the love of God, stop posting on Instagram and pushing it to Facebook. On occasion it is okay, but every single time is just annoying. Okay, I’ll explain, here’s why:

Facebook = sharing your life,

Instagram = sharing your life through pictures.

With that being said, you probably have a ton of the same people following or friends with you on both places. I don’t need to like your pic on FB and then run over to IG and like the same pic. When I see you post from IG on FB, that tells me it’s in both places, my mind automatically says, like it on FB, ignore on IG. I say this because all of us are the same, we all want likes and as many as possible. Yes you know you do, you want a ton of likes, most of us are wired that way, it makes us feel good to know people care about our pictures and thus us.  So…be unique on IG, don’t always post the same pictures, make me want to look in both places, I guarantee you will start getting more likes.

Sponsor Tagging in every picture

circle-quote4Speaking of IG and FB, please, please, please stop sponsor tagging on every post. Seriously!! Again, I get it, we all do. You are either giving us a buyer discount (which you get a kickback) or you are sponsored by them. I understand you might get paid or have to post a quota on social media and I get race pics, I’m okay with that…but come on man, every picture? Really? It kind of goes back to showing me you are more than an athlete and seriously none of you are Amelia freaking Boone or Ryan Atkins and they don’t do it that often. Plus YOU ARE NOT A PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE! There I said it, you are a weekend warrior at best and it pays for this expensive hobby. Stop looking like a NASCAR add, it’s honestly annoying. So if you take my advice and start posting more life pics, please don’t post a pic of your kids school play or your dinner/movie date night and also tell me how I can get 10% off of ORAL IV.

Professional Athlete Pages

circle-quote3Which leads me to the “Professional athlete pages”…seriously stop it. OCR has more pro athlete pages than any other sport ever. Okay I made that up, but seriously only about 10% of the people in this sport actually need them. Plus, nobody cares, I can’t speak for everyone, but I am pretty sure most of your friends will tell you – we don’t like looking at two different locations about your life. What is really funny is when you have to share what you said on your Athlete Page on your personal timeline just so people will see it…isn’t that the reason you created your AP, so you could keep your private life and athlete life separate? Facebook changed the Algorhythms within the past couple of years and fan pages are basically obsolete these days. Even for big brands, unless you are paying Facebook to advertise, less than 5% of your actual fans will see your posts unless they physically click on your page and look. The fan page is useless and again, you really are not a professional athlete or brand and who wants to update in two places all of the time?

Stop living in the past!

circle-quote1So you want some advice on how to use Facebook and Instagram? Well for starters, stop living in the past. It all started with Throwback Thursday, then it was Flashback Friday, now I see Way back Wednesday & Memory Monday. People please stop it! Start living in the present and future, stop living in the past and showing me the same stuff you already did. Plus there are rules to Throwback Thursday, the first being that your pics need to be at least 4-years old! Yes those are the rules! Not last week or last month or last year. 4-years people! This was started as a way to show great pictures of your youth, those pics which some of us have still on real actual photographs, and Polaroids. Those pictures before everything went digital. Come on get creative, there are 52 weeks this year, pick past holidays, birthdays or when you lost your first tooth! (Yes I have that one)

As for the other days, just stop it. You can’t be remembering things everyday, it makes me feel like you hate your life and all your good times were in the days of yore.

Put your shirt on!

circle-quote2To some of my friends, please put your shirt on! Yes, to all my bromance bro’s, for all that you hold sacred in this world, put your shirt on.  Don’t get me wrong, your abs look great, your pecs are on point but COME ON MAN! I understand all the race pics, but then you add in your workout pics (even the staged ones where it’s so obvious you took off your shirt for a picture), and your running pics and any other pic you take where your shirt is off! If people like you, they will like you with a shirt on, trust me, we all love you for your personality! I liked your running picture yesterday without a shirt on and the day before that and the week before that. It’s snowing outside and you have no shirt on…seriously? Maybe it’s because I’m uncomfortable posting pics without mine on, but come on, not every pic.

Okay my rant is over, I have been sitting on this stuff for awhile and my head just exploded and it feels so good. I know people probably block my feed, I get that, not everyone cares about my races and I tend to post a crap ton of race pictures. I also try to keep it real and post other things about my life, I do have other hobbies other than running and racing believe it or not.

My Name is Travis and I talk to strangers.

Things I Think – Thursday – PA Road-trip Edition

11 States, 3368 Miles, 2-Races, 1-Speeding Ticket

Every once and awhile you need to take a road trip and experience what this great country has to offer you. If you are lucky enough then you can take your time and explore some of the great things that are out there. So, while we had to do a cannonball run up to PA and back, it was without a doubt a fun trip filled with adventure and laughs.

Initially I was going to travel alone as I could not find anyone to travel with me, then my good friend Natasha from Making Natasha a Spartan said she has nothing else going on and since we choose to LIVE OUR LIFE, off we went.  Life is too short these days and without knowing if another opportunity like this would ever happen for her, it was awesome she wanted to go.

Louisiana

OIMG_5039ur first state was Louisiana. We stopped in Shreveport first and we had a few items we needed to see, so off we went! Here is our list:

  • 14-Story Mural – this is the largest mural in the United States. It was created in 2000 and contains 19 people and 40 objects, capturing the people of Shreveport, their treasures, triumphs, and tragedies.IMG_5043
  • Giant Dalmatian -“Art” is 19-foot-tall statue peeking in the window of the Central ARTSTATION. He is said to be the guardian of the arts in Northwest Louisiana.  At night the spots light up in the dark!

The other highlight of this city was see what is claimed to be the only “World’s only Tattoo School”. I am not sure about this one and I can’t make this up I swear, but this little jewel deserves its own photo, well just cause it makes you think about who would actually go in and get tattooed by one of these “students”? I had an apprentice give me a tattoo once and I had to have it redone because it was so bad and looked nothing like the picture I had picked out. Needless to say we did not get any new ink!

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IMG_5156We then made our way on to Monroe, LA and no road trip would be complete without seeing the Duck Dynasty place. It was shocking how it was the same building you see on TV. The loading docks and everything. I was not surprised that they sell everything under the sun in products. They have their label on just about everything there.

Mississippi

So the only cool thing we stopped to see here was the great Mississippi River. Oh and there was a cool ass cannon at the top of the hill too! Otherwise there wasn’t really any cool roadside attractions we found on our route.

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Alabama

Sorry Alabama, but we kinda flew through your state and we didn’t stop to see anything. Not that we didn’t have a couple of items on the list, but by the time we got to Birmingham, everything was closed and it was dark out. But we did have these two places…maybe next time.

  • Statue of Liberty Replica
  • World’s largest Motorcycle Museum
 Tennessee

Traveling at night through a state makes it very difficult to actually experience anything. Especially when you are driving in the wee hours of the night.  On the return trip it was more of the same, we entered the state in the early morning hours and left at 0600.

Virginia

Sorry Virginia, while I am sure you have a lot to offer since you are made for lovers, we were on a mission to get to Phily to see some cool stuff.

Maryland

Your morning traffic sucks! We didn’t see much because of it.. I know you have some cool stuff and things, maybe on a different trip.

District of Columbia

The only non state we visited, we drove right though and waved. I will admit that I did hold my breath through the Fort McHenry Tunnel, just to see if I could. I did and I didn’t pass out thank goodness!

Delaware

I think I sneezed and we were already out of the state.

Pennsylvania

PA how I am growing to love you. I don’t think I had been to PA since I was 16 and now I have been there twice within a months span. Opposite ends of the state but I never thought I would say I was in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh (even if Pitt was just the airport).

So off to Phily and yes I had to refrain from yelling “How ’bout them cowboys!” for the fear of being stoned by batteries! But none the less we were able to take in a few sights.

  • IMG_5483Rocky Statue – no trip would be complete without visiting the statue and going up the steps. While I had this whole video parody planned, it just was not as feasible as it was in  my head. Next time I will take a film crew! But we did get to see the statue and walk up the steps.  There was also this really cool statue at the foot of the museum and I took some rather interesting pics there too!  So some of the funnier things to happen was watching Natasha look both ways before crossing the street and then walking out in front of a bicycle. While I yelled ” Waiiiitt” in slow motion voice, somehow they just missed each other and she stopped before crushing into the bike.
  • IMG_5579Love Park – this was cool, we saw this love statue and what could be better then a rally for legalizing pot! I kid you not, they had flags, big ass bongs and legalize it everywhere. Of course it was right were all of us “tourists” were trying to take our pictures and they were annoying. It was definitely a hodge podge collection of people, because you also had kids playing in the fountains like it was a water park and the homeless hanging out like they were on the couch watching TV.

quote  “Have you seen a big bell around here? It has a crack in it, maybe bronze in color?”

  • IMG_5549Liberty Bell – now this was probably the most interesting part of the trip as we found the plaza where the phone said it was; however, it was not visible as I thought it would be. My co-pilot who has since been nick named Magellan for her awesome navigational skills (NOT), was lost getting there, so I basically rolled down my window and asked the question “have you seen a bell around here? It has a crack in it, maybe bronze in color?” Needless to say that after circling the block no less than three times, getting honked at at every green light because we didn’t take off like a bat out of hell, we finally parked and found our precious bell.

I am having a hard time finding this to the city of brotherly love when people drive in walking lanes, almost run over a man in a wheelchair and don’t give a crap.  One of the other funnier moments in the trip had to be when I was trying to find the bell and I casually say, where is this damn bell and Magellan responds with “what smell?” Oh that’s great, the wax in your ears is working perfectly! (she had an ear infection and put wax in her ears) It reminded me of my grandma who was hard of hearing and never heard anything correctly…so this became the new joke of the trip, yes I can’t ever let anything go.

At this point there is only one last thing we need to get before we can take off and make the final destination…you guessed it, the Philadelphia Cheesesteak sandwich. So I asked a local where we should go, the suggestion was “the best” in the city a small place called Jim’s. So we ventured a few blocks and found said Jim’s. Now the first thing you need to know about Jim’s is that they are cash only, well it is a good thing they keep an ATM in the lobby for losers like us who NEVER CARRY ANY DAMN CASH! So we get the sandwich and head upstairs to eat. Now I am not going to say it was a bad sandwich, okay it was a horrible sandwich, I think I have made better ones myself! It was dry and needed salt as it was tasteless. Anyway I am sure it was the best cheesesteak in Philly at one time, actually I know it was, they had a plaque on the wall, “Best Cheesesteak Sandwich, 1979” so there you go, in 1979 they ruled this place!

Spartan Race

What can I say, this is probably a totally different blog post because this was a different kind of race I have not experienced in a long time. So lets just say, I participated in two races and I completed two races and they were on a ski resort. Made me kinda wish it was the winter time again so that I could ski!

Return Trip

So during our trip my shotgun rider took sick and we had to take her to the ER on Saturday and combine that with some family issues going on in Texas, we bolted right after the race on Sunday to get home as soon as possible. For the most part we took our state sign selfies to add to the collection, had another late night waffle house experience and got a speeding ticket!

Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas

Here are the states which were traveled through…nothing exciting except for rest stops and fuel. The bandit was on a mission, had to get back to Texas, family was waiting.

But…that is not to say we didn’t have a few highlights along the way, yes we truly are a comedy of errors and you can’t say that I won’t show you a good time.

  • So we were at this restaurant called Westy Bar & Grill, you know grabbing lunch before the trek home. Anyway they are having a wing special and the menu says flat out “the biggest wings in PA!” Well shit! I gotta have some of them, oh yeah and they are known for their hamburgers. If you know me and my quest for the best burger, hell why not, I’ll take the wings and the burger.  Well without giving a whole burger review (because it doesn’t deserve it) it was not that good. Oh yeah and the wings looked like normal wings you get anywhere, I have had bigger at hooters. Well everything is bigger at hooters! bada-bing!
  • IMG_5840Tasha gets a speeding ticket. Okay so let me set the stage…I’m sleeping. I am suddenly awoken by the rumble strips and I open my eyed to blue lights flashing. Still in a foggy state, Magellan is freaking out because she got pulled over. I have to say I have never laughed so hard in my life while receiving a speeding ticket. Maybe it was the combination of the very thick southern accent the Virginia State trooper had, combined with Natasha’s instantly blonde demeanor acting like she was the most clueless driver on the planet. Well here are a few of the highlights:

circle-dartSpeeding 85 in a 70, we were advised that anything 85 and over is considered reckless driving in the great state of Virginia. Which carries a $2500 fine and or Jail. He also advised he could take her to jail right now if he wanted to. After he leaves I get this “I can’t go to jail Travis, I just can’t go to jail”…ha ha…

circle-dartHe asks for her license and registration. She gives him her license and a copy of her personal insurance. He tells her that is great but he wants the registration. I advise him it is in the window, at this point Natasha grabs the flier from the Spartan race and tries to give it to him. If I had been drinking anything it would have been all over my dashboard. I calmly say, no it is the sticker in the window. To which the response was “they don’t give you a paper copy in Texas along with the Sticker?”

circle-dartSo he cuts her a favor and writes her up for 80 in a 70.

 

circle-dartWhen asked why she was speeding she calmly says she was just keeping up with traffic. I mentioned about how fast she was going to which her response was, “I don’t look at the speed-odometer, I just keep up with traffic”

IMG_5837circle-dartThe best part of the stop was when he goes back to his car and we both bust out out cameras to take selfies with the blue lights in the background. “did you get a good shot?” “No, did you?” “No, I wish he would turn off that stupid spot light!” I think we both took several shots and I can only image what it looked like from the rear, two cameras and arms up taking pictures!

circle-dartUpon completion, I calmly asked the trooper if he would take a selfie with me, I mentioned it would be the perfect end to our epic roadtrip. He politely refused and told us to drive safe!…Dang it!

So there you have it, after that, it was a pretty calm trip home. We will take with us the memories of this and all of the great state signs that were captured to add to our collection!

 

Footnote

So there was as usual a ton of pushback about taking Natasha with me, as people just don’t understand why she does crazy things like this. I am sure I am a hated person as it seems to always be on my watch that the adventures kick in and something arises to cause concern to everyone. So while yes, I can tell you I am greatly concerned about the health of my friend, but sometimes you can’t predict what the future holds for any of us. Any of us could kick the bucket tomorrow and who wants to have regrets? Certainly not me.

While many see this trip as something crazy and hazardous to her health, she viewed it simply as a way to escape from all of the pain she encountered in her life lately. The prior week was filled with heartbreak on a family level. So sometimes people need a good get away to keep their mind off of things. We could never have predicted the complications which lead to taking her to the ER and then checking herself out to get home.

After all of the complications we encountered on this adventure, Natasha has the can do attitude and one comment that will always resonate with me long after she has left us.  When she yelled at me “I am not going to just lay in bed and wait to die!” a cord was struck down to my bones, which although I was very concerned, it made me realize just how much of a fighter this woman was and she is going to live her life. No my friend you are not, your illness does not define who you are and you are going to do whatever you want, even if it does literally kill you one day. Until then, I cherish all of the times we have had and I look forward to many more.

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!

Things I Think – Thursday – 4/23/15

By: Travis E. Blythe

Random thoughts after a week in Vegas!

Okay a few from Vegas and a couple others, because hey it’s random right? So typically I pick some topics and give my 2-cents on them, kind of ranting if you will. Since it has been about 5-years and I think I have matured a bit, I am going to give you my weeks top ten things going on in my mind. In no particular order other than how they popped into my head.

1.  After spending a week with world class chefs, getting a recipe out of them is like pulling teeth! Seriously though, the problem is they just tend to make stuff up and I can’t write fast enough! But I can tell you this, when you do get one, watch out that stuff is like gold! Plus when they are athletes, they make nothing but healthy food and it is awesome!

2. They don’t call me the “Road Captain” for nothing. Yes I like to have fun, yes sometimes I am still 12 and if you want to have adventure in your life – just add me. I had several messages from people who followed along just to see what I would do next. Never expected it, but it does make me happy to see others living vicariously through me and if it puts a smile on their face…I am happy. I am looking for a partner in crime, a Bonnie to my Clyde if you will. Although there maybe an asterisk by that statement, the jury is still out on that. But in the mean time I had such a blast with my friends exploring Vegas in the most unusual way.  That blog is coming out soon so be ready for a detailed account of our shenanigans!

3. I love the song Mirrors. My favorite version is this one.

4. It is snowing up north, in April, and I am laughing hard. It really sucks to be you and hence why I live in Texas, the greatest country…errr state in the world!

11159509_10153311297097962_5283471119770058671_n5. So I made this video while in Vegas poking fun at Matt “The Bear” Novakovich and his spears. See he sells them for $80/ea and autographed. You can make them yourself at Home Depot for $10. So while in Vegas I made a video saying I was going to pawn an original autographed spear at the famous Gold & Silver pawn Shop as seen on the TV show “Pawn Stars”.  Needless to say he has a great sense of humor and since we have been bantering in chat rooms every other day.  What a cool guy.

6. I think I am so grateful for all my friends. You know who you are, you have massive shoulders, you put up with my crap and I appreciate everything!

7. So what is the deal with Hummus and Blue Bell ice cream recalls? Its a good thing about ice cream because it is not on my diet! But I just started eating hummus and I kinda liked it…WTH?

8. So I am pretty sure Spartan race has jumped the shark for me. After two very grueling Battlefrog races, I traveled to do a Spartan Super, which is basically the same distance. All I can say is that it was easy. There was a ton of running and hardly any obstacles. Those they did have were really easy and I had no issues.  I even hit my spear throw for the first time ever.  So, I went burpee free, finished top 35 out of over 8,400 people and not to boast but I was also sick all week and day of the race and injured. Kinda makes me think how I would have done healthy. I’ll take it, but I really don’t need to do a bunch of these races this year.  I would rather travel to the Battlefrog races and battle to keep my wrist band.

9. I made it a week in Vegas and I did not gamble! I am so proud of myself. I also only had 1-beer and 1-drink the whole time. I really didn’t want those either, but sometimes peer pressure gets to you. Okay I take that back, I also had 2-beers after the race, but those don’t really count because I was so thirsty I just gobbled them up and that was really early in the day.

10. This is going to come as a shock, but after spending a week in Vegas one thing I was starting to dig was the mountains. I instantly became jealous of all the running they do in the mountains. So now I am very open to possibly moving or spending some time this summer in a place that has mountains so I can run up and down them. Who knows, the winter might not be so bad either as long as I can ski.

Bonus thoughts

Okay, I know I said the top ten, but there is apparently more in me so here are a couple more bonus things I think…

11. I am so grateful for getting into this sport I have come to love. I have met some amazing people and I continue to make new friends and acquaintances every week. Whether I am connecting with Facecrack friends in person that I have never met before or meeting total new people, they have been nothing short of awesome. Over the course of the past 2 weeks I have met some funny people. Sometimes it amazes me how different people are in person and once you crack that shell they are so funny. I have new friends from Colorado, Florida, Atlanta, BFE Georgia, Utah, California and Mexico (yes the country). So what do I think? I think I am blessed and I look forward to seeing more unicorn farts in my inbox!

12. Forks in the road can come in all shapes and sizes. I find myself standing at a new one. One direction leads to parts unknown, new adventures, new people and new possibilities.  The other leads to paradise, it leads to where I could call home, familiar faces, warm hearts and every one of those happy quotes you people post every day. This second path is also filled with new adventures, new responsibilities and endless possibilities. So the question is, where do you go? The decision is not mine alone, although it does feel like it is. So of course I have one side I am leaning to and where I want to go. Now don’t go getting all sappy on me, don’t read to much in to this, because I have not told you if this road was personal or professional or both? Hmmm…inquiring minds want to know I am sure. I guess you will have to stay tuned for this little nugget and see where I go.

13. I love coaching and motivating. I realize I post a bunch of stuff every week and I try to relate everything to my personal journey, but I want to thank every single one of you who take the time to read stuff like this. You message me privately and tell me I made a difference in your life and that means more to me than any medal I get at a race. This week I saw a friend ask for help, not from me, but just in general. She needed an accountability partner, someone to make her stay active and on track for her goal in two weeks. Sure I could have ignored it and just gone about my business. But you know what, I am not that type of person. So even though I had no sleep, catching a redeye flight home, getting in at 5:30am, staying awake all day, I still met her and walked step by step with her up and down hills. It didn’t matter to me, I was doing my job. Fast forward to the following day and I schedule a brutal workout, mostly for myself, but there she was doing it. I mean everything except for the dreaded monkey bars. So we finished and we made her do the monkey bars.  I could tell she had a ton of self doubt, but we pushed and she went. She did it, the whole length, without stopping! She finished and as I go to high five her, she busts out in tears. You see she had never done anything like that before, not even as a kid. That is what it is all about folks, that is why I help people and I have been my whole life. I get knocked because I sometimes give to much and get nothing in return. But it is not about me, so I am going to keep posting motivation and transformation stories and hopefully secretly inspiring others to live the life they want to live and that they can do anything they put their mind to.

14. Just throwing it out there, if anyone wants to sponsor me and help fund me to go to races, I would much appreciate it. And no I am not going to start a “Go Fund Me” account, I think that is just wrong to beg for money to go to races. Now if you wish to donate to me, that is something different all together.  I mean, hey I do have a birthday coming up and if you were to send me a card with money in it, who am I to refuse that?

15. So there is a special someone I need to thank. You see as much as I just said I like to motivate and inspire, sometimes the “Struggle is real” and it takes a lot to get me going. This year has been a bunch of ups and downs. The truth is, I rarely do anything after the Glen Rose Spartan race, that typically ends my year and then the cold winter and time change sets in. What that normally means to me is that I hibernate.  See you in March when it warms up is usually my M.O.  However, this year was much different. I met someone who changed me, inspired me and made me want to not be idol. Whether this person thinks so or not, they have had a direct impact on this years racing season.

You see, I started the year on fire in January. I was running, working out and I was the most active I have ever been in January. Then February came and laziness crept in. I had excuses and no matter how bad this person tried, I was an ass. I think this caused some serious damage in the friendship because I was just not feeling it, I had one excuse after the other.

  • it’s too cold outside
  • it’s raining
  • I don’t have a gym membership
  • I think I just sh!t my pants

I had a ton of excuses. March hit and the weather started changing and as usual so did my attitude. Unfortunately I wasn’t really prepared for my first race because I was lazy. Sure I did okay, I finished decent but I know I could have done better. So at the end of all this, there was a comment made to me which has stuck in my head since then. The comment was thrown so loosely I doubt they even remember saying it, however, the comment was:

quote“You know, if you trained harder, you could actually be a beast”

This person was absolutely right. So since then I have refocused on my training. I started running again and adding strength workouts to my day.  March was a stellar month, I put in a bunch of miles and I felt great! I even lost that winter weight I think I put on in February during my “comfy” stage.  So thank you, you know who you are and you need to know I am sorry for my stubbornness, you were right (damn that hurts to admit I was wrong!). So go ahead and do your “I was right” dance…you deserve it! See it was a win/win!

16. Okay so this week has two songs, well because I said so! This one I heard two weeks ago and it has stuck with me, I just love it. If you don’t well then you can suck it. Sam Smith and John Legend…come on man! Here is the video.

Until next time, 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!

2015 Goals

Ringing in the New!

my-goalsEvery year we get to this point and the new year resolutions start rolling in.  I have been victim to it before as well, we all commit to doing things that we really have no intentions of working on past the month of January.  So this year I have decided to commit to accomplishing goals for the entire year and then updating said goals every quarter to let you know how I am doing in my struggle to maintain accountability to myself.

So without further ado, here are my 2015 goals:

Updated 4/1/15, Updated 7/1/15

1. Laugh Hard

I want to laugh as hard as possible, laughter is my release, it is what helps me cope with the real world and problems.  I know that if I laugh hard all year, the world will be a better place. So if you know me well, you know I am full of jokes and sarcasm, don’t get all upset, that is just my personality. I am really just a big kid, but I can be serious when I need to be.

QTR 1 Update- I can honestly say that for the first three months of the year I have been laughing so hard it’s crazy. I am loving life right now, I have great friends and special people in my life who keep me smiling on a daily basis. I’m pretty sure you can see through all my pics and it’s not just a happy show on social media, I am one happy lucky guy!

QTR 2 Update- I guess you could say the past three months brought about less laughter. April and May were brutal with injuries, illnesses and heartbreak. However, June snapped me out of it. I mean how could I not smile and laugh in same month as my birthday? New friends and fun times all month definitely have me one happy camper again!

QTR 3 Update-

End of the year Update-

2. Love Harder

2014 was such a whirlwind of a year, I learned so much about myself and and what I am looking for in a partner in crime. I didn’t love very hard at all, I know I didn’t give my all in my marriage and thus it ended in divorce. I had another person with whom I loved that I also didn’t give it my all and I spent most of 2014 not loving very much.

So this year I am not going to guard my heart, I am going to give it to you if you deem worthy enough to penetrate my circle. I wear my heart on my sleeve and if I only get a few months or a lifetime to love you, I will do it without hesitation. I tend to leap before I look and my favorite quote is:

quote    I would rather learn what it feels like to burn, than to feel nothing at all ~ Ron Pope

QTR 1 Update- What a first three months! Well you guessed it, I gave my heart away and fell in love. Definitely was not intended but sometimes you meet someone who makes you feel the warm and fuzzies and you can’t help but fall in love with them. No idea what the future holds, it is definitely hard being in a long distance relationship (4hrs away), along with the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But I through my heart out there and I am happier than ever!

QTR 2 Update- I am not sure what is actually funnier, the fact that I last updated this on April Fool’s Day or that the following day is when I was dumped by the woman I was in love with? Anyway, yes the last three months have definitely been different than expected. I would say there was not a lot of love out there for the first couple of months (APR/MAY) but again June is another story.

I know I wear my heart on my sleeve and I jump right in, but sometimes moving on is harder than expected and just when you think you are, you are not. But I have met some amazing people the past few months and sometimes someone you lean on and talk to can become someone to help you get over that hump. Am I saying I am in love again? No not that, but I am always open to the possibility and there might be someone who I would definitely like to spend more time with to see where it would go, because that would be such a trill ride.

But I also have made new friends who I also enjoy spending time with, do I love them, yes and no, some people are easier to love at a friendship level than others. I have been able to reestablish old friendships that went to the wayside and now I have incredible bonds with them and I also made amends with old friends who I may have hurt in the past. So yes, on the friend front I was able to love more than previously.

QTR 3 Update-

End of the year Update-

3. More Handstands

So I started doing handstands last fall and it totally spiraled into me doing them everywhere I go. So instead of your normal “I am here at destination X, you will see me hand-standing at destination X! My goal is to not only handstand in some cool places, but also when I am not traveling post at least once a week. #HeWhoStandsOnHands #Handstands2015

QTR 1 Update- I started out so good! I think I got the first 5 or 6 weeks in a row of various handstands. I am sure there are also a few I didn’t post, but I was there on a weekly basis. So chalk this up to a failure, I was only good on 50% of the goal.  Time to get back to standing on my hands! (it should be noted that I did injure my back in Feb and handstands were tricky)

QTR 2 Update- One of the few things I have managed to do! Handstands Across America started in April, continued in May and now I am going to get them all! Birthday week provided a ton of handstands, so I definitely made up for the lack of them the first few months.

QTR 3 Update-

End of the year Update-

4. Walk on Hands

So my old college buddy says to me “that’s cute, you can stand on your hands, how about you walk on them!”, so #ChallengeAccepted! I can already go a couple of feet, but I really want to work on my form and get this down, so I can me a circus trick at parties!

QTR 1 Update- So nothing to report here, I never even really practiced much. I definitely need to work on this more.

QTR 2 Update- I started working on this, not as much as I should but I can walk a few feet. It’s not the prettiest thing ever, but I am getting there.

QTR 3 Update-

End of the year Update-

5. Learn to Play Guitar

I have never been able to play an instrument, well I take that back, I did play the piano for about a year as a kid, I can’t read music very well so I ended writing what the notes were on all of the sheet music so I could play it. Well I have forgotten everything, but I would love to be able to play this acoustic guitar I have. It would be so cool to just be able to sit down and play whatever.  Since I love to sing, it would just be campfire cool!

QTR 1 Update- Nothing to report here either, I never even looked into what is required to do this.  I guess I will chalk it up to just being to darn busy enjoying all of the other things in life!

QTR 2 Update- Still not started this one, but hey I still have 6-months right? Can anyone teach me? hint hint

QTR 3 Update-

End of the year Update-

6. Top 5 in the Spartan Open

I didn’t by any means intend for this to happen but as of January 1st, 2015, I was sitting in 3d place in the WORLD standings. It shocked me, so I know I want to get a couple more trifectas this year so I thought why not just keep racing the opens and try to keep the points up there and go for it!

QTR 1 Update- Unfortunately I have not raced a Spartan Race yet this year, most of my events will be in May/June and Sept. So I fell to 8th place, but that isn’t too bad, first place is still within striking distance and I am only a couple hundred points behind. 

QTR 2 Update- So this goal has shifted dramatically, in fact it isn’t even a goal at all. The open points with Reebok Spartan Race have become a joke simply because most of the people in open heats seem to be dishonest and don’t do burpees. I really find it hard to believe on some of the courses that late afternoon heats with all of the people on the course and the condition of the obstacles, times are turned in faster than the morning times. I’m disgusted with this and I am not even on the Spartan koolaid either. My goals on this have just shifted to running the elite heats to compete with the Masters. I seem to fit in pretty well there.

So I believe I am down to 9th or so in the male open point series overall, but I am only running open when I walk a race or run with others to have fun. No more competitive open runs for me.

QTR 3 Update-

End of the year Update-

7. Win more age groups in races

The days where I can compete with 20 & 30 years olds are sadly past me, but I think I can compete pretty well with people my own age. So I am challenging myself to get better and win my age groups in what ever race I attempt!

QTR 1 Update- So I have raced 3-races this quarter. I finished in the top 5 overall in the Polar Dash, 2nd in Age Group at the Atlas race, 2nd OA & 1st AG at The Original Mudrun and a big DNF at Battlefrog. I’ll take that, seeing as I took off the month of February.

QTR 2 Update- More racing this quarter, I officially ran 9 races, only 6 were competitively. I have yet to run a race since April where I have not been 100%, which is frustrating since I was primed for great races in Austin for both weekends of the Spartan Race.  I rolled my ankle and have been hobbling through the races since. But here are the results of the races I did, which I am fortunate to be top 10 in every race in the Master’s division. I feel like I am on the cusp of top 3 if I can just stay healthy.

  • Battlefrog Dallas – 7th (masters elite)
  • Vegas Super – 5th (open AG)
  • ATX Super – 5th (open AG)
  • ATX Sprint – 5th (masters elite)
  • OH Sprint – 10th (masters elite)
  • Dallas Stadium Sprint  – 10th (masters elite)

QTR 3 Update-

End of the year Update-

8. Take more video

I noticed at the end of the year I hardly took and video. I took a ton of pictures, but when making an end of the year video it comprised mostly of pictures.  So this year I am going to document my travels and quirks more by taking video. Some will be posted on social media, some will not, but watch for more video this year!

QTR 1 Update- I am doing good but not great here.  Took lots of video of various things, but not much personal video or commentary video as I call it.  Most everything is athletic video at this point, I think I need to capture more of my life than just working out or running races.

QTR 2 Update- What a great past couple of months! I have a ton of video and my end of the year video is going to be EPIC! I have everything from having fun to singing to just being silly.

QTR 3 Update-

End of the year Update

9. More travel/adventure with my favorite hobbies

Over the past 13 years, I stopped doing the things I love the most. No single person is to blame, some things were not as important and somethings just got lost in the shuffle of life. I’ve decided that life really is too short to not do the things I grew up doing or the things that really make me happy. Some of these things include riding my motorcycle more, traveling around the country, riding dirt bikes, snow skiing, running races and just hanging with my good friends.

QTR 1 Update- I had a great first three months! I bought a dirt bike and went out riding once so far. I want downhill skiing in Taos, NM and it was one of the best trips of my life. Skiing was so much fun, my company was great and the roadtrip was just EPIC! Traveled to Houston and San Antonio to race and had a blast there too! There were also a couple of other cool things went to ICE, Legoland, and Aliens in Rosewell, NM! I am so looking forward to April and May, I have a ton of adventure planned!

QTR 2 Update- I definitely kept this train going the second three months of the year. I raced in Las Vegas, Ohio and down in Austin, TX. I took a killer road trip to the Ohio race and then spent 5-days in Erie, PA what a blast!

So my original travel plans did go according to plan or with how it was planned, but oh well things happen for a reason. So I went solo and found some new great people to hang out with. So other than racing what did I do?

  • Visited Graceland
  • Sang Karaoke in Nashville
  • Cedar Point in Ohio
  • Sunset on Lake Erie!
  • Indoor Skydiving
  • Adult go-carts
  • ROT Rally – Austin, TX
  • Zero Gravity

QTR 3 Update-

End of the year Update-

10. Complete the Iron Butt

added 7/1

One of the things I have wanted to do for the last 15 years or so is complete an Iron Butt ride on my Harley. What is an iron butt you ask? Well it is pretty simple. Ride 1000 miles in 24 hours, document the whole thing with their paperwork, receipt time stamps and photos. Why do this you ask? Well because you can of course! It is also to get a certificate to put on your wall of fame!

QTR 1 Update- N/A

QTR 2 Update- Having just decided I was going get this done on my way home from the ROT Rally, it is still in the planning stages! Stay tuned, but the goal is to do it in July or August.

QTR 3 Update-

End of the year Update-

11. Write a book

added 7/1

I have wanted to write a book of my travels for about 8 years now. Actually I have two in mind and one is more like a life biography of my travels and the other is cool stuff to see. So with some encouragement, I started this project on 6/1. The goal is to have it completed and out for Christmas, it would be a great gift for any motorcycle traveler!

QTR 1 Update- N/A

QTR 2 Update- Ride one is almost complete, along with all of the graphics which will be used for the book. I am behind schedule, the whole birthday week threw me behind some. Original goal was to be completed by 8/10, but I think I am redoing my timelines and it looks closet to 9/10 now.

QTR 3 Update-

End of the year Update-

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!