Data Solution Architect
Favorite OCR series
Multi-Rig (it’s my nemesis)
Least favorite obstacle
Multi-Rig (it’s my nemesis)
Ideal race distance
2016 OCR goals
To earn my first Spartan Trifecta
I am a 52-year-old leukemia survivor who is in the middle of a major life transformation. I just discovered obstacle course racing this year and it has become my new passion in life and a major factor in my losing over 40 pounds in the past year. I am married to my awesome wife, Sandy, and have three awesome sons, Grey, Seth, and Kade, who I am trying to share my newfound passion with. I am a Software Solution Architect with a focus and passion on the power of leveraging data and advanced analytics to better the world.
Why do you compete in obstacle course racing?
I compete in obstacle course racing to feel alive and to further test my mental and physical limits. For me, obstacle course racing is a lifestyle with many benefits that I can be proud to instill in and pass along to my three sons.
What happened in April of 2009 that changed your life forever?
In April of 2009, I was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) as a result of a routine blood test.
I can’t even imagine what it was like hearing the diagnosis since there is no known cure for CLL. What happened next?
What was worse than hearing the diagnosis was the standard protocol. As I was asymptomatic at that time, the standard protocol was “watch and wait,” or as it’s more accurately referred to, “watch and worry.” As CLL is a chronic leukemia, that typically advances more slowly, I spent the next four years “watching and worrying” until my white blood counts increased to over 100,000, my lymph nodes started enlarging, and my energy levels were next to nothing.
How were you able to stay mentally strong throughout the treatment process?
You really have no choice but to stay mentally strong. In my case, after a really long four years of constant anxiety and depression, I was ready to move forward with treatment. I was ready and hopeful for a complete remission. It gave me time to reflect on all of the things I wanted to accomplish in life, and that’s when I really started to miss an active lifestyle and pursuing my fitness goals.
You’re also a weight loss success story. What caused you to gain so much weight in the first place before being diagnosed with CLL?
I guess the typical “life happens” syndrome. I would still find the occasional event to “train for” and complete. But, getting married, having kids, and a career that required a lot of travel on planes, hotel stays, and business dinners led to a lifestyle of enjoying rich food and a fondness for high-gravity IPAs. That lifestyle carried over to the weekends at home and, before I knew it, I was 50+ pounds over my ideal weight, no fitness to speak of, and lazy.
Was there a turning point when you finally realized you needed to make a change?
It was a long road for me in recovering from the chemo for the leukemia. I had to stop treatments after five months because my white blood count bottomed out. I spent the next nine months trying to avoid any infection, not knowing if my white blood counts would recover. I received a shot of Neulasta every month to stimulate the production of white blood cells and get me out of the danger zone of having a low count. Any sniffle, any cut, and anyone around me who was sick posed a significant risk to my non-existent immune system.
During this time, my oldest sister was diagnosed with a different blood cancer, which progressed very rapidly. She passed away on the night of my 50th birthday, as I was beside her hospital bed in the palliative care unit, wearing a mask to avoid any infections. Mentally, that was a very low point for me. It was if I was witnessing the likely manner in which I would go out, some infection taking over my body and I would be unable to fight it off. The day that should have been a happy milestone for me, turning 50, was utterly depressing.
It would be another five months before the effects of the chemo treatment would subside and my body would begin to heal, allowing my white blood counts to hold above normal for the first time in nine months. I was elated to be in complete remission from the leukemia and for my white blood counts to finally return to normal, but something was missing. I appeared strong on the outside, but mentally, it had taken a toll.
It would take another three years for me to finally reach the point where I was tired of living like a victim. I was ready to take control of my life and actually live each day. December 27, 2015 was the day I committed to change my life, get serious about my fitness goals, and start living a paleo / primal lifestyle. I haven’t looked back since.
Do you struggle with self-image issues despite your CLL diagnosis and weight loss success story? If not, how were you able to overcome that mindset and stay positive?
I knew I was not in ideal physical shape, but I didn’t think I was all that bad. As I look back at pictures of myself now, I realize just how out of shape and overweight I had become. Now that I am 40+ pounds lighter and 3 pant sizes smaller, I have a much better view of myself, both physically and mentally. The key has been mindset. I worked hard studying the practice of mindfulness, gratitude, and a growth mindset. This has stemmed from works such as Sean Achor’s book, “The Happiness Advantage,” as well as “Mindset” by Carol Dweck. Another huge part of my success has been subscribing to the Primal Lifestyle and the work of Mark Sisson, as well as the Spartan Lifestyle and work of Joe De Sena. As I have moved towards a mindset of gratitude, living in the present, and understanding that I get to choose how I want to live my life, it has opened the opportunity for me to finally start realizing my personal goals and make it easier to stay positive most days.
How did your family’s view on fitness change once you decided to pursue a healthy lifestyle?
My wife is very active and my sons play sports, but I think what is starting to change is the general attitude that fitness, reaching for goals, and striving to be your best is truly a lifestyle and you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.
So many people lose a bunch of weight quickly then gain most of it back once the motivation wears off. What steps are you taking to make sure this doesn’t happen to you?
I have fully embraced the Paleo/Primal lifestyle and training for OCRs. My weight continues to slowly come down towards my ultimate goal weight with no gimmicks or fad diets, just eating real food when my body needs it.
Was there ever a time during your first race that you thought you couldn’t finish? Once you did finally cross that finish line, what thoughts were going on in your head?
In the past, I have struggled through many races, such as off-road triathlons, because I hadn’t put in the proper training or fueling, but I have never DNF’d a race. Going into my first Spartan race I was a bit anxious, but the support of my team, and the camaraderie and support of everyone on the course gave me the confidence I needed to get to the finish. Plus, I was much more physically and mentally prepared. Spartan Race has a slogan, “You’ll know at the finish line…” I absolutely knew. I knew I was hooked on this sport and this was the key to fill what I was missing in my life.
How do you train for obstacle course races? Do you have a coach, training group, online workout plan, etc.?
I started down this path doing CrossFit. But, due to a partial tear in my rotator cuff, I gave that up. I then started following the Spartan Daily WODs and working with SGX Certified Coaches at the Harris YMCA. I now primarily focus on my daily beat downs with my F3 brothers supplemented with trail running three days a week.
Were you an athlete growing up? What sports did you play?
I grew up primarily playing football from elementary school through high school. I also dabbled in swimming, wrestling, and track, as well as rec league softball and volleyball. After college, I discovered mountain biking and that became my passion for a number of years, leading me to do a number of off-road triathlons.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
Ten years from now, I see myself even better than I am today, in all aspects of my life. As I’m now in my 50s, I want to continue to set bigger goals and continue getting better at obstacle course racing. I also look forward to watching my three sons grow into this sport and to do more destination races with them.
What advice do you have for people who make the “I’ll get to it next week” excuse instead of actually accomplishing a goal?
I was that person for a number of years. I will quit drinking the beers and focus on the diet…on Monday. I will start the new training plan that I researched for quite some time…on Monday. None of us are guaranteed Monday. We only have today. We should live it and embrace it as if it’s our last.
Do you have a favorite race memory that you’d like to share with the readers?
Helping my 14-year old son understand what it truly means to dig deep and overcome suffering, while getting through the 2016 Asheville Spartan Super course.
What is your opinion of OCR TV coverage?
I wish there was a lot more coverage of the sport, inclusive of all the major race series. I’m not a huge fan of the new team formats that are being televised, as I don’t think they are a true reflection of the OCR experience, yet they are the only impression a lot of my non-OCR friends and family have of the sport.
Do you follow any of the top elite racers? If so, who are your favorite OCR athletes?
I follow Matt “The Bear” Novakovich, Robert Killian, Cody Moat, and Rose Wetzel. Of course, you have to admire and respect all of the top OCR athletes.
Are you pursuing any achievement this year, like a Spartan Trifecta or running one race from each of the major series?
This year I am focused on completing my first Spartan Trifecta. I am already thinking about a double Trifecta for next year, as well as exploring a race from each of the other major series. I also ran my first Blue Ridge Relay this year. That was a really cool event, so I hope to explore some of the other running relay races going into next year as well, such as the Smoky Mountain Relay.
How many medals do you own and what do you do with them after the race?
I currently own a Spartan Sprint, a Spartan Super, and a BattleFrog medal, in addition to a couple of triathlons and one marathon medal. I hang them all in my office. I think it’s time to invest in a proper display rack though. I’m envious of some of the examples I’ve seen on the Southern Spartans Facebook group.
Outside of OCR, what is your biggest passion?
Outside of OCR, and excluding my family and my job, I would have to say my biggest passion is F3 (www.F3nation.com). F3 has had a tremendous impact on my life and my ability to keep showing up to train every day with my brothers. I am also passionate about inspiring others to change their lives.
Pretend you’re a race director for a day. Describe the course you would design (including pre- and post-race festivals, if you’d like).
I would design a course much like the 2016 Asheville Spartan Super, a very tough and challenging mountain course that was spectator-friendly. I would try to incorporate the natural terrain and features into the obstacles, instead of relying on the standard man-made obstacles. I would also like to see more camping options at the race venue, and maybe post-race live music.
Is there anything else you’d like to share (OCR-related or even about life in general)?
We all have our struggles in life. We all have our own stories. I wish everyone could experience the struggle and fulfillment in completing a challenging OCR course, the joy of sharing the camaraderie on the course, the compassion for and from your fellow man and woman on the course, and the tremendous inspiration that is received from those with personal challenges much greater than your own on the course. If we could carry that experience in our day to day lives, this world would be a much better place.