Houston, TX area
Currently Business Planning Analyst for Hewlett Packard Enterprise (big career change coming soon)
Favorite OCR series
BattleFrog was my favorite, but Spartan Race will always be top for me
Least favorite obstacle
Ideal race distance
2017 OCR goals
— Finish in the top-20 of my age group
— Qualify for OCRWC
— Master the rig
I was in the foster system moving from home to home until I was 7 years old. My mother was in prison until I was 15 years old. Luckily, I do not remember much from my childhood before I was adopted, but I know I was abused and neglected. I have 3 siblings, but only one was adopted with me. I pretty much had everything stacked against me from day one. My adoptive parents are amazing and were able to provide a good life for my sister and me.
I was a bit of a wild child, was always trying to find my way, I didn’t really fit in anywhere. I turned to sports early on and I was a gymnast when I was younger. As I got older I started running track, cross country, played volleyball, basketball and my absolute favorite soccer. Sports were the only thing that it didn’t matter if I was different or wasn’t part of a click or group.
Somewhere along the road, I started rebelling quite a bit, as I had a lot to deal with from my crazy childhood. I ended up having my oldest son, Holt, at 16. I thought my world was over, but in reality, having him changed my life in some of the best ways possible. I would not be the person I am today had I not become a mother so young.
Somehow, I managed to still graduate high school, at the top of my class no less. I also went straight to college and was in the Honors program at Sam Houston State University. I worked full-time at Walgreens as a pharmacy technician from the day I turned 18 until the beginning 2015. I managed to get a 4-year degree in 6 years. I also got married at 21 and found myself with a newborn, a 5-year old, working 44-plus hours a week, and a full workload of classes at Sam Houston.
I got married for all the wrong reasons, and to someone that did not know how to handle my emotional baggage. At the end of the marriage, it was like living with a roommate. There was no relationship, and I was miserable. I wasn’t eating, I was down to a mere 105 lbs. That is not a good look for an athlete of my stature. Something had to change.
I remember Holt looking at me and telling me I had to get up, I needed to eat and I needed to go outside and run. I will tell you, I was a terrible cross-country runner, but I learned so much from that sport and it will always be my first passion. The only thing out there on those courses are you and your thoughts. Getting back into running probably saved my life. I wasn’t fast, but I was finally not sitting on the couch crying every day.
Divorces ruin people, they ruin families, and they turn kids against parents. It has taken me about 3 years to finally get to a point where I love myself again. I do not remember exactly when, but there was a day I just looked in the mirror and I knew something had to change. This was in 2014. I lost my way a time or two since then, but May 2015 was a huge turning point. This is when I found OCRs. And I have yet to look back. OCRs have brought me even closer to my oldest son as well, so I love that. I have not taken the easy road by any means. But I am one of those people that like a challenge. Also, I do not ever want to be mediocre or have a life that has been settled for. I push myself daily and set goals that seem unattainable.
Instagram — @shugartmomma
Facebook — Karrie Shugart
Why do you compete in OCR?
For the friendships that are made and to challenge myself
Have you had any significant setbacks or personal trauma?
I have asthma pretty bad and it makes it hard on some of the courses that go up big hills. I almost quit at the Glen Rose Beast in 2015.
You were placed in foster care when you were 6 months old and stayed there until you were 7 years old. How were you able to overcome such a rough start in life?
I never let it affect how I view the world, but when I was younger, I very much kept to myself. I am a fairly shy person but I use my past as a way to push myself. Work harder than everyone else. It has made me to be a very understanding person also.
What would you change about the foster system?
They need to do better background checks on the parents, or do more visits. I would love for siblings to be kept together also. They also need to realize that older kids in the same home as younger kids is not always a good idea because the younger ones can be exposed to things that can scar them for life.
Do you have any advice for your fellow racers and single women in general about how they can have a successful future?
Do no put limits on yourself! Do not say, “I don’t deserve this.” Don’t use your situation as a crutch. A lot of people are good at making excuses instead of making changes. If you want to have a better life, you have to go after it. Don’t wait around for someone else to take action. Set goals that seem far-fetched. You will never be better if you settle for mediocrity. Set your priorities and stick to them. And for the single moms, push yourself but always take a day to take care of yourself.
Was there a moment when you thought to yourself, “That’s it, I need to change?”
Yup, it was back in May 2015. I was drinking myself into a deeper depression and was also smoking (gross). I was surround by negative people with no vision and who had no life goals. I was on the couch wallowing in my patheticness.
It sounds like you turned to exercise to turn your life around. What makes exercise such an effective coping mechanism for you?
I will be honest and say I have a lot of anger, or did. I couldn’t figure out why bad stuff kept happening to me. The child hood stuff was still painful, the divorce ruined me, and then I tried to date and it just got worse. I finally realized I needed to work on myself before I was ever going to be able to love someone else. I hated myself. So, I turned to lifting. The heavy lifting helps displace a lot of emotions, but the way you can sculpt your body is amazing. Being in the gym, that’s the only place where it is just me against me. No one can tell me I’m not good enough. There are all kinds of emotions that go through my head when I’m in the gym. I’ve cried in the middle of a work out, more than once. But every day when I leave, I know I have given my all and I am better than I was when I walked in.
So many people run away from their fears rather than running towards their fears. What advice do you have for people who struggle to face their fears and change their life for the better?
That is a hard one. I am literally quite the opposite. I have stage freight, so what did I do? I signed up to do a body building competition where I would be judged in a tiny bikini where everyone could see all of my flaws. My theory is how can you overcome your fears if you are always running from them? And this is in all aspects of life. I am a little leery of relationships because I have been in so many failed ones. But I have slowly begun to try and date, but also am more picky now and I don’t settle for someone that doesn’t have a healthy lifestyle. I know that is a silly example, but still applies.
One of the biggest reasons I face my “fears” head on is my kids. How can I tell them to face their fears if I do not do the same? My parenting style is “live by example.” I don’t have to tell my kids to have healthy lifestyles. They do because I do. So, if you have a fear, face it head on. You may not success the first time, but how in the world are you going to overcome it by not trying? Now if you are ok with being a person that is full of fear and never wants to try anything new and just want a boring little life, don’t take my advice. Right now, my biggest fear is public speaking, so I intend to take my story and start sharing at schools. Make a plan to overcome your fears.
What made you sign up for your first obstacle course race in the first place?
Mike McKenzie. I have known that punk since 2005. He’s one of the few friends I have from high school and somehow he finally talked me into it. Just don’t ask me how the camping went…
Describe what went through your head once you crossed the finish line for the first time.
I am pretty certain I cried. I was banged up pretty good and had some massive cramps. I was so thankful I had my new friends to cross the finish line with. Matt Gambino had already finished but saw I was struggling, so he actually came back and helped us finish together. It’s one of my favorite memories.
How do you find the time to train and raise a family? What advice do you have for new mothers who struggle to find the time to exercise?
We don’t find time, we make time. And a lot of time, we do things together. You have to make it a priority, get up early, stay up late, even if it’s just 30 minutes. It can be done. But it has to be a priority not an option. You have the learn to put yourself first, which is hard as a mom. If you are healthier you are going to be a better mom, plain and simple. Do crunches at home, do push-ups, do air squats. I am maybe a little tough for some people but that is just how I am. It’s a coach’s mentality. You should always want to be better than you were yesterday.
Have your kids signed up for the kid’s course at an OCR event yet? How can race organizers do a better job at making races more of a fulfilling activity for the family?
Yes, both or my boys have done the kids races and they love them. I would say the hardest thing about being a single parent, is figuring out what to do with the kids while the adult races. I am lucky enough to have quite a few friends that usually help me, but that includes one of us watching each other’s kids then we cannot race together. There is always a trade off, but I am not sure if there is an easy answer for this one.
How many medals do you own and what do you do with them after the race?
Mine and Holt’s have sort of merged together. I know we have at least 25. My good friend Kolton made me a sweet medal holder that lights up and has my name on it.
Outside of obstacle course racing, what is your biggest passion?
Lifting. If I could quit my job and lift weights for a living I would. Oddly enough, my passion before lifting was baking. I miss brownies…
Give me a fact about yourself that would impress most people?
I got nothing? I am very much a tomboy so I’ll just give you a fun fact: I can burp the ABCs! I also played 3 different types of clarinets in high school.
What is your proudest non-running accomplishment?
Walking across that stage to receive my degree.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention (about OCR or life in general)?
Push yourself passed your limits. Never settle, never give up and never change who you are for others. Also, one of the biggest things I have learned in the most recent years is to not let your situation or current problems affect your future. It is one day, use it as fuel to light that fire inside. FIND YOUR PASSION. You can ask my best friend, I ask him this all the time. What makes you tick? What makes your heart race? What is the one thing you never shut up about? It doesn’t matter if you aren’t super great at it. Do not let life pass you by because you are afraid of change. I turned my life upside down to take my current job, but it was better for my family so I did it. I am in the process of doing the same thing again this year, much bigger change. And this one is SCARY. I will be putting my life on the line to protect others, and I could not be more excited. So, don’t sit at a job you hate, and don’t surround yourself with negative people.