This entry is part 31 of 36 in the series Faces at the Races

brandon-nielson-10Name
Brandon Nielson

Age
36

Lives
Windsor, Colorado

Occupation
Dentist

Favorite OCR series
Spartan Race

Favorite obstacle
Multi Rig

brandon-nielson-3Least favorite obstacle
Bucket Carry

Ideal race distance
Super (8-10 miles)

Favorite previous race venue
Lake Tahoe

2016 OCR goals
Finish in top 25% at races in the Elite Heat

Brief bio
I was born and raised in Arizona then completed most of my schooling in Louisville, Kentucky. I’m married and father of three kids who are 12, 10 and 7. I am a practicing dentist in Windsor, Colorado.

Social media
Facebook – Brandon Nielson
Instagram – @blnielson
Twitter – @blnielson

Why do you compete in OCR?

When I moved to Colorado my friends introduced me to Spartan and Tough Mudder. I had never run anything like this before. I never had the desire, but I needed something in my life to motivate me to get out of bed and get to the gym and improve my health. I compete in OCR not only because it has turned into a passion, but it keeps me fit both mentally and physically.

I also compete in OCR because this is something that I am able to do with my family. We are able to travel to different locations and the rule in the family has become, “If dad races, everyone gets to race”. At the beginning, my kids asked why they don’t get to race. I then realized the importance of competing as a family and having fun. Everyone needs the physical competitiveness and drive in life!

The little things seem to add up the most and most people don’t realize how easy it is to gain weight. Walk me through your battle with being overweight and how you overcame it.

For me, I gained a lot of weight during school but then continued to keep some of the bad habits that I had started and continued to gain weight. I would use food for comfort. Drinking Dr. Pepper and eating candy was what I loved. I would eat until I was stuffed, not just full. For me, I had to make a hard change all at once. It was tough! Not easy at all, but that is how I had to do it. I knew that if I continued to drink a little soda here and there or eat a little candy here and there, I would revert back to my old ways. I cut everything out the best I could. I worked through the headaches and withdrawal of candy, but once I fought through it, it was easier not to go back to old habits.

My wife and I learned that as we didn't buy those things, we didn’t eat them. I was blessed to have my wife by my side at the same time wanting to change, too. It made the process easier. Those that go through it individually have a much tougher road. I had to have my reason of “why”. Once you find your “why,” you have to take it and run with it. There needs to be that desire and goal in mind. Once I started, I felt so much better, and once I felt that initial change, I wanted to keep that going. Having that mental clarity became my desire and it was fulfilled with eating healthier and working out.

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When it comes to eating well, what are your top-3 recommendations?

1. Include everyone in the family, not just you. Everyone deserves good nutrition.
2. If you don’t buy it, you won’t eat it.
3. Be prepared. You will keep goals much easier and won’t find yourself getting off track for a last-minute meal.

What was the turning point in your life when you decided to make a change for the better?

My wife and I had moved back to Colorado and had only been back for about four months when she was in a serious car accident. She fractured four of her vertebrae. She was required to wear a large neck brace for three months. Towards the end of the three months, both of us were struggling mentally and physically. I personally had hit a low mentally. I was struggling with work.

My wife was asking me if I needed to switch professions. I always turned to food for comfort. I found myself at my heaviest. We were chatting one evening and we both knew we needed to make a change. We needed something drastic. I am a penny pincher and knew that if I spent the money, I would stick with it. We began using a meal replacement shake/program. I began losing the weight and noticed that there was also a change mentally that was occurring.

Why did you sign up for your first obstacle course race?

It was friends asking me to do it with them. They talked of great times and accomplishment. I also knew that if I signed up for a race, it would give me something to motivate me to be at the gym at 5:00 in the morning.

Describe what went through your head once you crossed the finish line for the first time.

I had a huge rush of emotions. At that point, I had only lost the first 30 pounds of the total 70. Prior to losing the beginning weight, I never would have thought that I could accomplish something like that. Yes, I probably could have done that when I was younger, but as I put on the weight, I was ready to sell my road bike, thinking I would never get on it again.

There was even a time during the race that I noticed that I was walking with the crowd and asked myself why I was walking when I knew I could be jogging. So, I pushed. My friends finished way ahead of me, but I knew I could do so much more physically. I knew that with a newfound desire and hope, I could continue to train and accomplish so much more than I ever thought. I knew that I would be able to become fit again.

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What is the best part of attending obstacle course races? Is it the challenge of racing, meeting new people, helping others, or something else that drives you?

One of my greatest pleasures is seeing the desire growing within my kids to become more active. They have seen the change in me. They will tell you that they love their new dad better than their old dad. They have a desire to work out. They have a desire to push harder. They have the desire to run with me when they are old enough. The other part I love about racing is looking for weaknesses that can be improved on, but also seeing improvement in general.

Each race I learn something new. I love being out there. I love the social aspect of everything from meeting new people and finding out what they struggle with and helping them overcome their weaknesses whether they be physical or mental obstacles. I look for an opportunity to give people hope. I think we go to some of these races and look at some of the racers and say to ourselves, “I can never get that level,” but we can!

brandon-nielson-16How has your family’s view on fitness changed ever since you decided to pursue a healthy lifestyle?

Not only have my kids mentioned that they love their new dad and have even joined the movement and began racing obstacle course races, but the love of a healthier lifestyle has grown beyond. I have a brother that is working hard on improving and has been training himself. He ran his first OCR with Spartan in Asheville, NC. This was by far not an easy race to begin with, but he loved it and trains hard now, too! Right now, my wife and I are working hard at getting our entire family, brothers, sisters, parent all committed to run a Spartan Race in 2018.

Our children have started making better choices when we go out to eat. Sometimes they will elect to have water rather than a soda. This Thanksgiving my mother, my wife, brother and his wife all ran a 5K. Some may see it not as that big of a distance, but this was my mom’s first race! I was so proud of her being out there with us.

How has changing your lifestyle and being active helped you overcome some of the day-to-day stress of not only practicing dentistry but owning your own business?

Definitely! Having the challenge of waking up early in the morning gives me motivation for the rest of the day. There is no question about it, spending time in the gym gives me that strength to get through any day. I have staff that will ask what I have been drinking that morning that gives me such energy. I explain that I had a great workout and it changes something deep within to help you have a more positive outlook on things.

Your job as dentist sounds pretty interesting. Walk me through a typical day at work for you.

When I started the journey of working out, losing weight and running Spartan Races, I had a patient that noticed that I had lost a bunch of weight. I see most of the people every six months, so I had changed a bunch. I told her what I was doing and she was excited for me. She was big into CrossFit. When we started talking about doing burpees, her face lit up and had to jump out of the dental chair and start doing burpees right there! It was the funniest thing, as I am gloved up, mask on, and ready to look at her teeth.

A typical day is seeing close to 20-25 people a day. Some are there to get their teeth checked after having them cleaned and some are there to get work done such as fillings, crowns, or root canals. I am usually jumping from chair to chair. Days seem to go so much smoother when you have the energy and positive outlook on things. It allows me to have better conversations with people and connect on a different level. People can tell when you are down or struggling and I think having a change in life has helped me to have a successful practice.

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How are you able to find time to train while balancing a family life and being a small business owner? What advice do you have for others in a similar situation?

For me, working out in the early morning is the best. I want to be able to spend as much time with them as possible. With being a small business owner, that alone can take you away from family time. I’m not going to lie, it is so hard to get out of bed in the morning. However, you have to take it a step at a time. Get out of bed. If you do that, you work on the next step, getting dressed for the gym and so forth. Having someone there for accountability is huge! This was a big part for my success at the beginning. I could not have done it without friends there to motivate and push!

What does a typical week of training look like for you? Do you have a training partner or a coach?

For the past couple of years, I have been training with friends at our local gym. However, recently I have become a member of Yancy Camp with intentions of becoming a better obstacle course racer. My typical week will usually include either being at the gym or my home gym six days a week. I recently have been focusing more on the running aspect. This has included spending more time on the treadmill with incline training and carrying heavy items, such as my bucket of rocks and sandbag pancake. I have been gradually incorporating more of the Yancy Camp workouts that focus on running and grip strength.

What sports did you play growing up? What were some of your accomplishments?

Baseball and Rollerblading. Yup, I wore the big baggie pants and did all those half pipe and handrail crazy stuff.

brandon-nielson-6Do you think OCR companies do a good job advertising their events? If not, what would you improve?

I think they have played their card correctly. We live in a time of social media. I think they have been smart in giving you the photos and allowing you to post them all over every social media forum.

What was your opinion of OCR TV coverage?

I was able to watch a little bit of the BattleFrog ESPN series and really enjoyed how that was on TV. I struggled with Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge. It was ok but needed some help. I feel that there is much more effort put into the Spartan Series on NBCSN.

Do you follow any of the top elite racers? If so, who are your favorite OCR athletes?

I have become a Spartan junkie and follow most of the top pro racers on Facebook and Instagram.  A lot of the training methods that are posted from Matt “The Bear” Novakovich I tend to watch. You could say that I follow him the most. I was also able to spend some time after the Breckenridge race with Austin Azar and Ryan Atkins. Both are great guys and I love their attitude, love for the race, and how they interact with others.

Are you pursuing any OCR achievement next year?

I just purchased my Spartan Race Elite Annual Pass. I am planning on running all of the major series races this year with Spartan. My goal is to break into the top 25% this year.

Do your friends still consider you crazy for “doing all of those mud runs?” How many people have you been able to convince to join you at a race?

There are some that still think that I spend too much time racing/training. However, many more people understand why I do it once they take a little time to get to know me. There are a handful of people that are looking into running races now. I have a brother that has completed his first Spartan. We are trying to plan a family Spartan Race. I have cousins that are wanting me to fly and visit them so they can run, too. Friends are looking to sign up, too.

How many medals do you own and what do you do with them after the race?

I have three 2015 Spartan medals, 9 from 2016, and two 5k races from 2016. No matter the type of medal, it gets hung on my squat rack as motivation! My first three, along with the map from Breckinridge Beast Spartan, are framed by my wife and hanging in my office.

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Outside of obstacle course racing, what is your biggest passion?

Family. During the week, my wife and I become professionally taxi drivers, taking the kids to different dance, cheer, karate, football, and many more things. Our kids are our priority. We love being outside with each other, including going snowboarding in the winter and wakeboarding in the summer.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Hopefully running races with my kids. Right now, they have a desire to run with me. I hope they continue to have that dream so we can make that happen.

How far have your traveled to race?

2016 was Asheville, NC. I plan on returning there. I haven't planned out the entire year, but with the goal of racing all of the NBCSN races and having a Spartan Annual Pass, I plan on being all over the states. My goal would be to hit Hawaii one of these years! Maybe work that into our 15-year anniversary. Ok, maybe not! I want to stay longer than that!

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