Tag Archives: running

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.

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!

Best Kept Secret in Texas – The Patriot Games

Patriot Games – Oklahoma 2014

The Patriot Games have been at this OCR/mudrun world for 4 years now.  This being their 4th year, they usually put on one event a year. 2014 has definitely started off right for them. Usually putting on runs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, they have changed locations twice in the past couple years. But 2014 appears to already to be another new year and plenty of changes are in store. Already boasting two events for 2014, The Patriot Games or PG as they are known around here expanded into Oklahoma, just over the Texas/Oklahoma state line and the Red River.

For the last few years the owner of PG has been working with the guys over at Reebok Spartan Race building their courses. Last years run definitely showed and the obstacles for the event were excellent. This year was no exception, what appeared to be mostly all newly built obstacles, this was definitely a mini-me version of the Spartan. I definitely do not want to take anything away from PG and demean them by calling them a mini-me, they only seem to be smaller in terms of production and festival.

So what about this race? I will be the first to admit, the first couple of races were nothing to write home about, but this one puts them back in the hunt for the best race in DFW outside of a national company. Many of them don’t exactly blow this away either. This course had to be the best course in this area in a long time. Instead of going over every obstacle in detail, lets just go with some of the basics in the likes and dislikes.

What I liked:

  1. The terrain. This course was excellent! Like I said, the only course I have been on that was more challenging was Reebok Spartan in Austin in 2013 and the Glen Rose Beast.  PG had a better terrain than 2013 Savage Race, Run the Jailbreak, Gladiator Rock-N-Run and Merrill Down and Dirty. Why I liked it so much was the elevation. The first 1/2 mile was brutal up and down switchbacks and we constantly weaved in and out and up and down in the ravines. I ran this course twice and it measured 4.38 & 4.40 on my Garmin. So is it was an excellent length also.
  2. The Obstacles. A majority of them were complete Reebok Spartan Race copies, but that is okay, they really didn’t have many of the harder ones so the mix was perfect for both the competitive runners and the fun runners.  The ending with the 1/2 pipe wall was awesome! This is the now the PG staple which I have only seen at a couple of national races and some local Florida races. The obstacles are my favorite part, so when I get to climb over, swim across or jump off, I am in heaven. They had plenty of water/mud obstacles to crawl through so it wasn’t just a dry run.
  3. Registration. I know right! But I have to say that compared to last year at the Irving event, they had a better handle on the process of getting your bib. I never saw long lines and I didn’t have to wait, so all is good!
  4. Festival Area/Spectators. There was a great way to get around the festival area and watch your favorite runners as they weaved in and out of the course that went through this spot. Numerous obstacles to get photos on.
  5. Course Markings. We all learn from our previous races and this course was marked very well. Even in the “we just decided to run this way” part of the course, nice having arrows to follow.

What I disliked:

  1. The Start. Nothing to bad here, I just think that there is a better way to start a race other than, ready, set, go! I mean they own a timing company for crying out loud so an air horn is not even too far-fetched. Personally, going with the theme of the race, I would have air cannons or a real cannon blasting every wave!
  2. Water. They only had two water stations on the course which for a 5k would probably not be an issue, but this was 4.5 miles. The water stations were at 1.5 Miles and 2.6 miles and obviously at the finish line. I personally didn’t have any issues as I don’t really drink water during a run, but I did hear it afterwards with some of the other runners.
  3. Timing. Only because the timing results were somewhat confusing to read once they came out. Still not sure where I finished because everyone was mixed in so if you sorted by time, you would have to go through each one to see if they were in the competitive wave or not. I think I was top 10 for overall males.
  4. Race Photos. I don’t think they took bad photos, in fact I was pleasantly surprised with how many were taken and the quality. My only complaint is that I can’t afford to buy them! With so many races opting for free race photos, I hope more events adopt this avenue. Because $80 for 10 digital downloads is a bit extreme.
  5. Medals. Bummed I didn’t my hands on the new bigger medal. Instead I have another blue one, all three look the same. But maybe at the next one!

So I just have to wrap up by saying I loved the event, I hope they add some more new and different obstacles at the next race. I think PG might just surpass the local giant Jailbreak as the best homegrown race in 2014. We shall see, that run is in September!

Things I Think Thursday – Go Pound Gravel

Stop Drinking the Spartan Kool-aid!

I was going to let this go, just sit here with my thoughts and let the Spartan Cult spew on each other how much they love their almost but not yet an Olympic sport.  Which is kind of funny within itself, because if it ever does, which I seriously doubt, all of the people who commented on that post, will be watching from the sidelines, with the ability to say “That’s so cool, I can tell my friends I kind of did an Olympic sport!”

I don’t want to hijack another blog or draw more attention to it, but here is the ORM Post – “Go Pound Gravel”  Below is the infamous picture which drew all of the slander and ire from the Spartan faithful.

 

spartan-cheater-2014I know speaking my mind on this will only make you cult members dislike me, it will hurt my business, but that is okay, really. Every once and a while a person needs to be able to speak their mind right? I mean all of you Kool-aid drinkers did, so why can’t I?

Don’t get me wrong, I like Spartan Race as much as the next guy, in fact I have run all of the Texas races over the last 3 years except one. But guys come on; there are other races/runs whatever you want to call them other than Spartan. So I am going to defend this guy, I’ll play our devil’s advocate and you should all be ashamed of yourself for the harsh statements you have been saying about these people.

Fault one:

Bucket dumping. You say this guy is dumping his bucket, how do you know that from one picture? He could have been carrying it on his shoulder and adjusting it and it fell. That happened to me last year at the Glen Rose beast, except I was carrying it in the correct position and it slipped as I was adjusting my grip and fell over. I had to pick up my gravel, when returned my bucket, it was full of grass and sticks and crap. How do we know that this man did not? No one has mentioned it that I have seen. Maybe he did have some integrity and put it back and finished.  Now as for the girl with the empty bucket, yeah I am assuming she was happy just to finish.

Fault Two:

So you Kool-aid drinkers really do crack me up. Who really cares? You have made such a big deal out of doing an obstacle right, doing the burpees, etc., etc. Except for the elite runners in the first wave, no one else is running for time. If you are and if you are actually worried that this guy is going to finish ahead of you and steal your precious Spartan points, then you are a sad, sad person. I mean, come on really? This guy is not going to beat anyone, if you are all that and a bag of chips, then you certainly do not have to worry about this guy, more than likely at this point in the race you are way ahead of him. If Spartan really cared about the general population completing obstacles and doing burpees, then they would hire course officials to marshal this activity and not have volunteers at the obstacles. People skipping obstacles and not doing burpees would have their bib numbers written down and be accessed a timed penalty at the end of the race. Spartan does not care!

Most of you people commenting on this are volunteers and you just want your free race anyway. You can’t enforce this or make them do this, hell Spartan can’t even decide from race to race what their own “Elite” rules are because someone is always trying to get an edge and doing an obstacle in a “different” way than you and I perceive it. Ever listen in on a pre-race discussion on the “proper” technique to complete an obstacle by these elites with Spartan HQ…it is kind of hilarious.

I won’t call anyone out, but I do know of several people in these “Spartan” groups who are so AROO AROO into Spartan and yet at Glen Rose Beast last year, while I am struggling to stay warm, doing my burpees for falling off the Tyrolean traverse rope, just skipped the obstacle, skipped burpees. Some didn’t even try. Some tried, failed, and moved on or did a token 5-10 burpees and moved on. Do I care? Yes and no. At the end of the day, people who skip and don’t do it have their own moral dilemma. I am not going to judge. They tried, failed and felt satisfied to move on. They paid their money, so I don’t think it is fair for you to be the judge, jury and executioner on these people. At the end of the day don’t we just want people out being active and enjoying life? I know what you must think, “But Travis you hypocrite! You totally skipped obstacles at Savage Race in Dallas last year!!” Hell yes I did, I even wrote a blog about how I am not proud of it, but I refused to quit so I just kept running, 32 degrees and hands going numb means I’m not getting in the water, it was about my health. So judge me if you want, but I will pick my life and health over your stupid judgments.

Fault Three:

Let’s face it, there is no OCR world. Oh Snap! Yes I said it. Other than Spartan who does not want to be called a mudrun, there really are no other events that are labeling themselves OCR. Oh wait there is Extreme Nation, but didn’t that have an epic fail because they only wanted elite runners instead of everyone? Why would anyone else choose that label? A mudrun is what attracts the people. You elite runners make up 10% if that of the registration. The general couch surfer is who is buying and paying for these events. Hell, I am pretty sure every RD will back me up, but 60% of all these runs are females. These females are usually first timers who gather up the girls, put on an outfit and go “do it”.  Once you digest and understand that, you kool-aid drinkers, then you will know why the races don’t care if you complete an obstacle or not. Everyone gets a participation medal whether earned or not. Spartan Race just happens to be one of the better companies out there branding their race. So everyone wants to do it once. It is sad to say, but I will assume in that picture above, those people had no idea what they were getting into. Maybe they did do a Warrior Dash or another local event and figured this was the same thing. Who knows, I certainly don’t care and I doubt that Spartan does, they got their money. They don’t care if you run or no show.

In Conclusion:

I can’t resist, I love debate, so here are my thoughts on this wrap up from another blog:

A simple concept:

It makes me crazy that this is such a difficult concept for some in our community to grasp, and especially when you consider the roots of OCR, and the strong influence of police, fire and military conduct. The roots of OCR? Are you talking Spartan? Because I tend to think that the majority of the RD’s who put on these events have nothing to do with Military, Police or Fire. I am pretty sure that 3/4 OCR’s or Mudruns are actually put on by people not in the military. If you mean the participants, then you need to do more research, because again 60% women 25-35. Even in your precious Spartan Elite, I would think very few of them fall into this category.

Do the task or stay home. Why do you care? They are paying for this event, they want the experience, and theirs is going to be different than yours. Let them take home whatever sense of pride and accomplishment they want from the event. If you specifically mean Spartan, then why not ask Spartan to let the people know what obstacles they will have to do? Why does it have to be such a big secret? You know why, 1/2 of the people can’t do them; it would kill registration if they told you how hard it really was going to be.

Can’t do the task? Do your burpees. Take your lumps. Go home, learn the task, and come back to fight another day. Really dude? Learn the task and comeback? Most of these people barely run much less want to go home and start carrying buckets around. Be realistic. These guys are not elite athletes, they are weekend warriors at best. Why are you all comparing this guy to you? If you run for time and are trying to win prize money, then critique some of your elite buddies, not the average Joe.

It’s that simple.

That’s not just a lesson in OCR, that’s the basic premise of living a successful life. I thought it was okay to fail? Don’t you elite guys all have a motto of what doesn’t kill you… or failure is the way to be a champion? I would venture many of these people are successful just not very athletic.

Cheating is universally unacceptable in sport. Finally something we agree on, but is this really cheating? I don’t see a rulebook anywhere; I don’t see any enforcement going on to hold everyone accountable equally. Hold on, I have some pine tar on my neck.

OCR should be no different. I still raise the question, what is this OCR you speak of? What makes up this world of OCR? Is it just Spartan Race and Extreme Nation? I know everyone wants Obstacle Course Racing to be something, but for the most part isn’t it just really a mudrun world we live in that is made to be easy for people to have fun?

Okay so all in all, did this really cheat anyone or just himself? How does this really affect all of the Spartan elites who seemed to get so upset over this? Let it go already, you people are making yourselves look bad. Who are you to really call anyone out? Would you like it if we pulled a picture of you and made a fuss over your technique? People are human not superhuman. If this guy in the photo ever wants to run another race, I will run with him. Hell I know a whole group of people who will also. Doesn’t have to be Spartan, but it can be, or it can be a Superhero, Savage, Armageddon, Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash (you get the idea) and I can get a group of people to run/walk, stop pose for pictures do whatever, because that is the beautiful thing about this sport, we can go as fast as we want.

My name is Travis and I talk to strangers.