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Playing in the Mud – Take Care of Yourself

We were all saddened when we learned of the death of Heather Foggo last week. Heather was running in the United Kingdom’s Mighty Deerstalker Race, which is a 10-mile off-road race in Scotland. Foggo, a nurse, was seen struggling one mile into the course and collapsed. Medical assistance was on scene within three minutes, as per the Mighty Deerstalker and she later passed away.

Foggo was an experienced obstacle course and mud runner. She was a nurse and therefore knew the human body well and would have known if she was not able to race that day. By getting to the starting line and beginning her race, all have assumed that she felt fine until she showed signs of collapse.

Foggo’s untimely passing reminds us that we are all fragile, no matter what we think and feel. We all go out on these racecourses and attempt to complete insane things. World’s Toughest Mudder had multiple people complete over 100 miles in the Las Vegas desert. Spartan Ultra Beasts have been well over 35 miles, including some of the most insane changes of elevation. There are these types of races all over, and we attempt them. Sometimes we fail, most of the times we succeed and to overcome these events is borderline insane.

Before and after the events, are the hours upon hours of training, running, climbing and preparation that we all do. This all brings stress upon the body. Our participation in the events are the result of hundreds of hours of preparing our bodies and minds. When we stop and sit back and think about what we have accomplished, we are proud and we should be. What some of you do, and I am not including myself here, is truly remarkable.

I am going to remind you here, today to listen to your body. You are a fragile piece of machinery and there are so many things that can happen and go wrong inside of you. You, and only you, are the only person that controls that body. It is up to you to decide when the time is right and the time is wrong to get to that starting line and completing races.

A few years ago, I was in Killington on Mile 10. A friend of mine was sitting on the floor. She was resting, looking out at the majesty of the Vermont Mountains. When we talked for a few minutes, she told me that she made it this far and she knew she had some medical issues and had to stop. She knew that was her time to let the rest of the day go. She was listening to her body inside and felt that if she went on, irreparable damage may have taken place. She may have sat back and thought that it was the wrong decision at some point, but as I see her posting photos of her with her young child, I know it was the right decision to make.

I have talked about breaking ribs at a Rugged Maniac a few years ago and finishing the race. I was near the end, and I was still able to breathe. I am not a doctor and I do not have a degree, but I felt I was okay to finish and that I would have medical attention within minutes. I did as soon I crossed the finish line.

There is nothing like crossing a finish line, whether you are a newbie at an inflatable race or the most elite of elite at a championship. That finish line signifies all of the hard work that you put in to get you there. Make sure you get yourself checked periodically. Do you really know about that supplement or that new exercise? Do you know if that twinge in your knee is just from the changing air pressure or something much worse? Do you really know why you have been short of breath?

In this whole universe, there is only one of you. You are unique and you mean something to yourself, your family and your friends. Listen to yourself. Listen to your body and please make sure that you always come home from every race that you start, no matter how much you have sacrificed to get there.

Take a moment to take a breath because you are epic and as always, keep playing in the mud.



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Playing in the Mud – Making the World a Better Place

Remember when you were younger and you thought that you could change the world. Everyone at some point imagined themselves winning some award to make them famous, maybe hitting a home run in the world series or countless other fantasies that we were the star of. In these fantasies and dreams, you were the star right? You went and changed the world, right? What happened since?

Very few of us get that chance to change the world in one swift action. At some point along the way, we realize it and those dreams fade. We get older, we get busy and things change in our minds. We get jaded. We get cynical and then the thought creeps in that “I can’t make a difference” so we stop trying.

I am here to remind you that you do change the world with everything that you do. There are many different ways that we, as human beings, affect others. Some of things that we do have a negative effect upon the world, but those of you that are reading this have the exact opposite effect on the rest of us. You are a positive force. You are light and you make the world a better place.

You raise money for charities. You do Rucksgiving. You run special events with people not as fortunate. You donate your time, clothes and money. You are kind to other people and animals. You are a good friend. You call a friend out of nowhere to say hello. You are a good mother or father. You help someone when they least expect it. You help people learn how to overcome obstacles. You pick up garbage on a course. You reach out with your hand and say “let me help you”. You encourage. You say thank you. You say you are welcome. You smile. You laugh and every step you take, you leave a path of goodness behind you.

See how simple it can be? That dream of a child is not gone. It is right here in all of us. We are not cynical and forgetting what we were thinking of. The thoughts may have changed and how we wanted to go about them may be different, but they are still there.

When I was younger, I thought I would change the world. That thought stopped young for a variety of reasons. I realized that I could make a small difference to certain people along the way. A smile changed people. A joke, a laugh and an encouraging word were all the difference to some people.

That is one of the reasons I started writing these postings. After one or two, people messaged me and commented that it meant something. Speaking from the heart to people and letting them know that their own concerns, neuroses, issues and problems were not unique to them. People think, at time, that they are alone in the world in dealing with anything. Just by writing a few hundred words every week, I have reminded anyone who reads these words that they are not alone, they have something in common with others and that there are always others that can help. So I add writing this weekly post to my list of how I am changing the world, one paragraph at a time.

Making the world a better place is easy and most of you do it already. This week, I want to challenge you all to find one small new way to make the world better. In the past, I have asked you to reach out to an old friend because old acquaintances should NOT be forgot. I have asked you to take down your “walls of problems” one brick at a time instead of running into it head on. Today, it is make the world a better place.

Call a friend. Make someone smile. Help someone across the street. Bring food to someone sick or who just gave birth. Check in on the elderly (especially during this upcoming “storm” in the northeast). Do a special walk, run, race, ruck for charity. Anything. Do something to make the world a better place and you will soon realize that by reaching out to help others, you are only improving your own self, soul and quality of life.

I will see you all soon. Keep reading. Keep being epic and keep playing in the mud. Lastly, thank you all for making me a better person and for helping make my world a better place.

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Playing in the Mud – Family

The other day, I was talking to a friend of mine that I have not seen since last September. We were having a talk about our lives and changes that are going on in hers. Changes are happening and I had no idea. While we are not the closest of friends, we had a pretty good heart-to-heart talk as I had gone through what she is going though now. As our conversation ended, she said to me “Family isn’t always those that share your blood.” My reply was, “I have the topic for my next column”.

Many of us are part of obstacle course teams. We train with them. We travel to races with them. We race with them and we eat everything in sight after races with them. They are teammates and the more you spend time with them you realize that they are much more than just friends, they are family.

One of the definitions of the word family is “a group of peoples regarded as deriving from a common stock” and there is also “a group of people united by a certain common affiliation”. That is perfect in terms of obstacle course racing.   The people I race with and the people that I go to battle with are my family, the New England Spahtens. Our common stock is the insanity that we put ourselves through on a race-course. Our common affiliation is more than the shirts on our back; it is our love for being on the course and the desire to keep playing in the mud.

I have been with the Spahtens and been racing with team members since 2013. Since I have started with OCR Buddy, I have gotten to know members of many teams/groups. The Crazy Mudder Muckers, Lone Star Spartans, Battle Races, Team Avery’s Army, Spartan 4-0, Colorado Obstacle Racers, UK Solo Mudders and the OCR Wrongens are a few that I have gotten to get to know and become affiliated with in one way or another. I see the family theme run through each group. I have seen posts asking for help within each group and the team member responses. If you do not believe how people in the OCR Community reach out to one another, just look at how many profile photos have changed to the logo of the Colorado Obstacle Racing team supporting them after their tragedy. People care about one another and they show it in so many ways. This whole sport is one big family.

Back to my Spahtens and being family. In my short few years, I have seen almost everything from his family.   I have seen family that has faced divorce, family separation, loss of jobs, relocations, illness, death and almost everything else we can face as human beings. The dozens, if not hundreds of people that have stepped up to offer their hand in support, gave their time, opened their wallet and sat and let people cry on their shoulders. I have also seen engagements, children being born, people being married, promotions and the fun positive things we enjoy in life. The people and responses are the same. In both cases, the responses are filled with love and you do not just get that from crawling through barbed wire with someone. You get it from being family. Personally, I couldn’t count the number of people reached out to me when my twins were born, when I had illness in my family and those who just message me and check in regularly. It is a family that we are part of.

2016 was not a year of many races for me. I had not traveled much last year in my races and I did not get to many events outside of Long Island. When I stepped foot in Killington last year, I received hundreds of hugs from my family and the amount of love that I felt was second to none. People running by me on the course (and believe me, everyone passes me) stopped to say hello and chat while losing a few seconds of their time for me. This family is second to none for me and every time I see someone in something Spahten, I feel at home.

While I am a Spahten at heart and I talk about them, I do it for a reason. I am hoping that each and every one of you that are reading this feel how I do about your group. I hope that you love your group. I hope that you feel that you could not race without your group. I hope that you see a teammate and feel that the person looking back at you is your brother or sister.   I am hoping that you feel the love that I do.

Back to my friend, I saw her up at Killington in 2016. When she saw me, she ran over to me and jumped in my arms as if she was best friend from college. She isn’t from college. She isn’t even from five years ago. I met her a couple of years ago and I heave learned that she is a good person, with a good heart and would do anything and everything for her friends. To me, that is family.

Look at whom you affiliate with. Do they smile when they see you? Are they jumping in your arms and hugging you any and every time they see you? Will they help you at the obstacles, high five you when you succeed and heckle you when you fail? Good. That is your family and I hope you appreciate what they are to you. You will learn, if you have not learned yet, that these friendships will take you to places that you have never imagined. They will go far past any finish line and take you through life. Family isn’t those that you share your blood with, they are those you share your life with.

Love your team. Love your friends. Love your family. Until next time I see you, be epic and keep playing in the mud.

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Playing in the Mud – Achieve Your Championship

This year, it was announced that there would be a United States OCR Championship to go along with a World Championship, two European Championships and countless other championships around the world. With these championships announced, people are starting to make plans. If you look around Facebook, particularly in the United States, people have started to post about plans. People are posting their OCRWC qualifying emails and all of their hotel and travel plans. What about the rest of us?

Most of us are not championship material.   Writers note: I know that a qualification for the US OCR Championships this year is a pulse and breathing, but you all understand what my point is overall. Most of us will never podium at a race or be in the first few that get the “Congratulations” email. So, what about the rest of us?

Goals. Let’s look at goals for a moment. Some people have the goal of winning, placing on the podium or qualifying for other races and championships. Others have the goal of time and beating past times. Then there are some like me and many others who have the goal of finishing. All are valid goals and from the people I know and talk to, more people have the goals that I have…finishing. So what are we to do?

We quit racing. No. That’s not serious. In fact, we push on and push forward and achieve our goals no matter what they are. As I have said repeatedly in the past, I am a sloth. I am not fast on any course, whether flat, mud, mountains, stadium. My goals are to finish any race I have started. I know what my limitations are and I know what I am capable of. Do you?

Goals are important to each and every one of us. We need something to look forward to and something to achieve. It is one of the reasons why we race. We go out there to test ourselves and see what we are capable of. We make ourselves uncomfortable to test our inner will. We want to overcome what we think cannot be done and we imagine the feeling we have when we have overcome the obstacles in front of us.

What is your goal? We all have them? Is it a 5k mud run? Is it a Tough Mudder? Savage Race? Endurance Run? Whatever it is, achieve it. My OCRWC is the Killington Beast in September. All along the way I have other races and even a tower climb mixed in. The Beast at Killington is my championship. That is my goal for the year. That is what I build to throughout the year. I start with a Beast in Jersey and race all along the way until I get to my championship. My goal is to get to that race, overcome it and collect a few medals and shirts along the way.

What are yours? Is your goal to finish a 5k, a 5-mile mud run, 10 mile race, a win, a podium or a championship. Go for them. Your goals start from within and they start with a statement. “I want to (fill in the blank)”. Once you announce your goal, it is out there for everyone to see and most importantly, for you to achieve.

After you announce it, live it. Spend your days and your time achieving your goal. Every time you set on a course, go into a gym, train on a trail, look toward your goal and achieve it. Believe in yourself and set a goal, overcome all obstacles and get to your championship. Whether your championship is finishing a race or the actual championship, achieve it.

Thanks for continuing to be the ones who want me to overcome, to achieve my goals and to wanting me to achieve my own championship. I hope I can help you push to achieve your goals and overcome any obstacles to achieve your championships. Until next time my friends, be epic and keep playing in the mud.

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Playing in the Mud – The Beast Within

Prior to getting this column online, every Saturday morning the New England Spahtens had a post from me on their page. The posts were driven by something that had happened during the week. Their point was to motivate, inspire and push people to be their absolute best. I have to get back to that and reach down deep inside once again and push once again. I hope I can continue to do that with Playing in the Mud.

I was messaging with someone the other night. In fact, that night was the first time we ever messaged. I saw something she posted and it got my attention. The post was questioning her ability and her self-worth all in one post. Two sentences seemed to minimize her worth. Two sentences got my attention.

My response was simple and to the point, “You can do it”. It took a few minutes and before we were done, she believed in herself. There was something inside of her that needed to be reminded about her beast. We all have a beast within and within moments, her beast was alive.

Let’s be blunt, unless you are a pro or elite, we all question ourselves on a racecourse.   It sucks. We get to an obstacle and wonder if we can get past it. We get to a climb on a mountain wonder if we can overcome it. We get to a starting line and wonder if we will ever finish. Why do we keep wondering of we are good enough? What causes us to doubt and how can we overcome that fear? It is, the beast within.

I am not an elite, a pro, fast, or even consider myself anything special in the OCR community. In fact, I just hope to finish each and every race I enter. So, you can imagine how often I question myself out there and how many times I think about DNFing. I remember my first Killington Beast. Through that whole race I doubted myself. I kept pushing forward and kept walking. The water was cold. The burpees sucked and the darkness was haunting. But as I was sitting there through the third barbed wire crawl and looked at the dunk wall in the darkness I had enough. I could hear the Festival Area but I knew I was nowhere close.

I looked at one of my friends and she could see it in my eye and she said to me, “You going to be the beast or let the beast be you”. This one sentence reminded me that there was something deep inside of me that I had not yet tapped into. I decided it was time to be the beast within me. I reached down to something that was within.

When I had to recover from open-heart surgery, every day and every minute was a battle. The battle from within came from my desire and my need to overcome my past. My past had defined me before my surgery and I had to reach down to change my future.

What do you have to do? You have to reach down and find what you believe in. What do you believe in? What are the things that make you who you are? These things bring out the beast. You have experienced those moments and what have you believed in to overcome yourself. What did you do to prove yourself wrong? What did you do in that moment of doubt? Did you quit or did you remember? Did you walk away or did you decide to fight another day?   Did you take the path or did you look for the easy way out?

A beast doesn’t give up. A beast fights for itself. A beast believes. A beast faces doubt and destroys it. A beast is you.

Going back to my new friend. She didn’t give up. She overcame herself. She learned that there is a beast inside of her. I do not know what caused her beast to be born, but I have seen it in her messages since.

Once the beast is revived, it is hard to keep down. Once we have success, we want more. Once we know we can complete our goals, we raise the bar for ourselves. We can never step back, we only move forward.

Every step you take moves yourself closer to your goals. Don’t give up on yourself. I believe in you and I always will. Be yourself, be your best, be your beast. I cannot wait to look you all in the eyes and see your fire. Your beast is now born.

Until next time, be epic and keep playing in the mud.

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Playing in the Mud – Monday Memory – Earn It

Today on Memory Monday, I go back to July 6.  The message is simple, Earn it.  I remind people that they are never alone on a race course.  They have all of their friends and teammates with them every step of the way.  People really do care about one another and when we can’t be at a race, the next best thing is our friend’s successes.

Back in July I reminded my friends to earn it and keep playing in the mud!


Earn it.

When you are on the course this weekend, earn it. Do not take it for granted. Enjoy each step, each obstacle, each climb, wall, mud pit and everything else you encounter. Look at the course in front of you and own it. Make it yours and attack it.

I tell you because there are people that are not out there. We are not out there because of timing, injury, finances, family and many other reasons. We are living through you, your race, your finish, your photos and your posts. We cannot wait to be proud of you, congratulate you for a job well done and to “like” your photos. We want to feel like we were part of your race, and while we may not be on the course physically, we ARE there. We are there in the back of your mind, never letting you fail.

We want you to kill it. We want to be proud of you. We want to hear of your triumphs and the stories. We want to know of the difficulties and of the failures. More importantly, we want to feel that a little part of us is there with you.

You may be saying to yourself, what are you talking about Russ. This is my point. There are many of us in my shoes. We want to be there, we are jealous that you are there and it kills us to not be able to race along side of you. So do this.

Do it for us. Attack the course with all of us with you. Every time you feel tired, remember that you have so many people giving you energy. Every time that you face a hill, we are pushing you up. When you are crawling through mud, we are pulling you through. If you want to quit, we are all yelling at you to DFQ. And when you realize that the finish line is right on front of you, we have all formed around that finish line to cheer your accomplishment.

You are never alone on a course. Even if you look round and do not see another soul, you are never alone. You have so many people along with you. We are there for you. We are your biggest fans and we cannot wait to see your finishing medal around your neck.

Thank you my friends for racing. You continue to inspire me to be a better person and you always remind me that I am never alone.

Earn it. Kill it. Have fun with it. Tell us all about it,we cannot wait.

Thank you for keep reading. I cannot wait to be inspired by you all!


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Playing in the Mud – DFQ

This is from two years ago today, on the 20th Anniversary of My open-heart surgery.

Sometimes you don’t need a large lead-in to a memory.  This needs none.  All the emotions I felt two years ago I still feel today.

February 8, 1995, a 24 year-old kid closed his eyes not knowing if they would ever open again.  Twenty-two years later, I have life’s eyes wide open.

Don’t Ever Quit

For those that have been following my installments know that today is the 20th anniversary of my open heart surgery and was always a target date in my mind.

Originally, I was told that the pulmonary valve that was installed in my heart would last twenty years. I was also told many things that I should be watching out for and paying attention to.

Well, 2015 is here and there are no issue. Yes, everyone is happy about that.

Twenty years ago, life changed on February 8th. It was the worst day of my life and also the best day. You see when you are dealt a garbage hand, you can do one of two things…quit or fight and go forward. I chose the second. It may have taken me some time to realize that I chose the second, but I did (I actually know the date I chose to fight…it was February 14, 1994). I chose to look my issue dead in the eyes and say that YOU WILL NOT BEAT ME. Those that knew me then know of the change that I had when I no longer quit on life. However, this is not about me. It is about all of you, the people reading this.

We are all at times dealt garbage. We have medical issues, family problems, alcohol problems, obstacles that we cannot overcome, injuries and the list can go on and on. How are you going to face it? Will you curl up in the fetal position and give up or will you look to your family, friends and internally and say, “This will not beat me” and when you do that, you define yourself.

You can look in the mirror and be proud of who you are and what you have and will accomplish. You can walk with your head held high and say that you believe that you will prevail over anything and there is nothing that you cannot overcome. When you believe it, there is nothing that can stop you.

I remember a phone call I received from a family member the day before my surgery. She was telling me that everything will be okay and I will beat it. I told her that I know I will. She asked me how I know and I told her that I know because I believe it.

The battle was not easy. The fight was the most difficult three months I ever had, but as I have told many of you over the past two decades, if I can get through that I can get through anything. I believe that all of you facing whatever you face can get through it and if you ever need a word of encouragement…find me and ask me. I will remind you how amazing you are and that you cannot be stopped.

Over the past two years, I have gotten involved in obstacle course racing and its environment. Each race to me is a battle and a battle that I always plan on overcoming no matter what. It was the same with my surgery. It will never matter how long a race will take me, I will finish. It has taken me twenty years to get to today and I plan on going many, many more. DFQ is a phrase from racing, meaning Don’t F*cking Quit. That is not about racing, it is about life.

Never quit life. Never quit on yourself. This isn’t about everyone else in your world, this is about you. Never, ever quit on yourself, your heart and your soul. If I had quit, I never would have met so many of you. I never would have seen so many of you get married and have families. I never would shared billions of laughs with you. I never would have crossed many finish lines and in particular, earned my first (of hopefully many) Spartan Trifectas and I never would have discovered the person that is standing in my kitchen, with a tear in my eye opening up to you encouraging you to never quit.

If I had quit all those years ago, I never would have lived and loved, found and lost many things in my life. I never would have found the Feline Four. I never would have tripped across this secret weapon in my life who is sitting upstairs watching the Grammys who somehow or another loves me for who I am with all my faults and loves even though I am impossible to live with and am the biggest pain in the ass. If I gave up and quit, I never would have be given the two angels sleeping upstairs that smile at me every day and give me unconditional love.

If I quit, I wouldn’t be here. DFQ.

840 million beats later, I still have so many more stories to tell.

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Playing in the Mud – Taking Control

When I am out on an obstacle course, I always feel in control. I attempt the obstacles my way. I choose the speed that I run and when I run. I decide if and when I am going to help other people. My race. My decisions. My control.

We have all seen those people during a race (typically guys) who seem out of control. They are running downhill and seem to be going too fast or when they get to obstacles they seem to have no regard. I am not talking about the person who passes you and you say, “Wow, look at that guy” in amazement. I am talking about the guy who passes you and you say “Wow, look at that guy” waiting for the train wreck. It is all about control.

What about in life? What about controlling life? I was recently talking to a friend and I wished the friend luck in a job interview. There were some back and forth and I finally said, “Just crush it like you do on the course”. The friend’s response was “You are right. I have to start taking control of my life”. How do you do that?   The answer is simple, you have to want to take control. Whether you ever actually get control or not can only start with the desire to control it.

There are many phrases that people will say to you. Take care of Number 1. Worry about yourself first. These phrases are all meant to have you focus on yourself first and put everything else behind you so that you can be the person in charge. However, I think these are wrong. When you want to take control, you can’t push yourself to the front and leave everything behind. You cannot ignore the rest of your life. You cannot ignore the parts of your life you are trying to control. No burying your head in the sand and hoping everything disappears. It is all about control.

We all are pulled in different ways. Family, spouses, kids, work, training, bills, house, apartment, car and so many other things are part of our life. These are also stressors and when we try to control our life, we are trying to minimize the stress we feel and trying to figure out how to get all these things in order.

First thing to realize is that stress comes from within. You and only you can decide how much stress that you feel and most of it is subconscious. Ever feel guilty? That comes from within. Ever feel like you are letting someone down? That comes from within. Ever feel like you best is not good enough? That also comes from within. There is nothing that anyone in the world can say or do to actually make you feel stress, it is one of those things that we do ourselves. So how does it stop? It is all about control.

I have said this before. I have a favorite saying. “You cannot run through a brick wall. But, if you take the wall apart one brick at a time you will be able to walk right past it.” If every stressor/problem/issue to control in your life is a brick, together they make a brick wall. If you try to attack all your problems at once, it is like running into a brick wall. It cannot be done successfully. You will only end up regretting it. However, if you attack one problem at a time and remove that brick, eventually there will no longer be a brick wall in front of you. It will be just a pile of bricks. You cannot solve all your issues and remove all your stressors at once. It takes time. You can control how you use your time and how you overcome stress. It is all about control.

Control your problems and control your stress. I know it isn’t easy. I know it seems impossible. One breath at a time, one step at a time and one problem at a time. Make a mental list of everything that you want to overcome and take them on one at a time. Take the easiest one first and remove that brick. Every brick removed will make you feel better and better. Repeat. Repeat and repeat. Soon you will see that your brick wall is just a pile that you can walk past. You have climbed walls. You have overcome all types of obstacles on a course and most of us have jumped fire. Imagine how easy it will be to walk through bricks.

Back to control. This is all in your hands and this is all up to you. Will you will allow these stressors to control you, or will you attack them head on and over come. When you are on a course, will you attack the obstacles or will you shy away. The choice is yours, but really…is it even a choice?

I never asked my friend how that interview went, but last time we talked my friend was happy, optimistic and excited. This friend will also be racing again real soon which we all know is the elixir to any stress or problem.   I know just from my friend’s tone of voice that things are getting under control.

Your problems are only as big as you allow them to be. Take control, over come them and be your own elixir. That will be the greatest obstacle course will ever conquer.

Until next time, be epic and keep playing in the mud!

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Playing in the Mud – Monday Memory – Make a Promise to Yourself…Live

The more things change, the more they stay the same. In this week Monday Memory, I look back at a post from August 20, 2016. It was about a month before the Killington Beast and I was at a crossroads in life. I needed to remember who I was and why I do what I do. I had many things happening in my life and I forgot to take care of me.

Funny thing is, like a circle, I am back right at the same point where I was when I wrote this. I remember where I was and how I felt. Re-reading this I can feel my emotions coming back and I actually had to stop a few times while reading the past article.

What I do, obstacle course racing is so important to my mind. It pushes me and after you read this memory, you will see why I will always continue to push you.

With that is mind, I give you today’s Monday Memory…Make a Promise to Yourself…Live.

Until the next time, be epic and Keep Playing in the Mud

August 20, 2016 – Make a Promise to Yourself, Live

Happy Weekend to everyone. Sorry, this may be long.

Believe it or not, most times I sit down to write I do not have an idea where I am going until I start typing and things just seem to flow. However, today is not one of those days. I knew all day what I wanted to tell you all about tonight and I hope…it sticks in your mind as some of it has stuck in mine.

Before that, whoever is heading to Runzilla tomorrow or hitting the course somewhere else, have a great time, be safe and crush it. You guys continue to inspire me and push me to be better, try harder and be on a path to success in anything I attempt. When I was younger, I didn’t always and I am lucky I changed.

People ask me all the time why I do obstacle course racing and why I subject myself to the walls, barbed wire, mud, mountains and all the other obstacles that we attack. I never really had a public answer except for that it is fun, it keeps me active and pushes me to do thing and overcome things I never thought I’d be able to do. When I was younger, I never thought I would be doing things like this. Before I go to the past, let me stay in the present.

Over the past few weeks, I have referred to some things going on in my personal life. Basically, my dad is ill. For a while, we didn’t know if there was a tomorrow. I am comfortable talking about this because there is only one person who I know in this groups and that person already found out by walking in on a conversation I was having with my mom. He has heart issues, circulation and breathing issues. He also has an infection and to try to get him back to health they started him on dialysis. Over the past three days, there has been a really good improvement and the corner has been turned. The thoughts of figuring out a eulogy has changed to getting him his own iPad to keep him busy while in the hospital and rehab over the next few weeks.

This is a guy who worked for so many years, countless hours so my family’s life can be as good as it can be. I will always be forever grateful. But in that time, he also neglected his health, his diabetes and basically taking care of himself. He went from a man who at 69 years old STILL played softball with me every weekend to a man that needs help standing up. This makes me angry. It makes me angry because it was selfish of him to not take care of himself and to ignore obvious signs. But, it also inspires me. It inspires me to take care of myself. It inspires me to make sure I go to the doctor’s when I am supposed to and it inspires me to workout, exercise, eat well and be as good of a person as I can be. Every year, our cardiologist (yes, we share one) gives me certain tests to see if I am starting to exhibit any of the symptoms my dad had. I tell him that I don’t have the symptoms and I never will. While I have no idea because you cannot predict your body’s future, I am doing everything in my power to be sure that I take care of this body I live in. I realize that there is only one me and I have to do everything I can to make sure that I am as good as can be for my family, my kids, my friends and for me.

For a while, I was not training or exercising. I spent too much time with my dad or working on my app. But last week, I realized that to be the man I want to be, I had to get back up off my ass and get back into the world. I am not training for CMC or the Beast. I am training for me. I am training for my future and I am training for my life.

Your life will give you every opportunity to succeed. Your life will allow you to overcome anything that you put your mind to. Your life will let you take control. Your life will show you signs along the path and show you where to go. It is up to you to take it. My fraternity had a saying, “You can take the path or look for the ride”. Stop taking the ride. Take the path. Take your life back and succeed.

Now, going back to the past. In 1995, I had heart surgery. I was 24. I had to realize I had an issue drinking. I ate anything and everything and before my surgery I was 300 pounds. I had to lose about 50 before the surgery and I did. Here I am a 24-year-old kid in a hospital room with this old guy who I had never met.

That old guy, I think about every day of my life. His name was Victor Sintiago. I was recovering from my surgery and out of nowhere he said to me, “Kid, I gotta tell you something. I have been watching you all day, people coming in and out to see you and that’s great. Don’t forget it. Here I am, about to have a quadruple bypass and I am alone. No one is here.” I asked him why.

“I have had a good life. I am a jazz musician. I have lived my entire life in bars and clubs. I’ve been eating, drinking and womanizing my entire life and except for my time down in the Big Easy, I never really had somewhere that I called home until now because I’m sick.”

He said all that to me and I remember it like it was this afternoon in my dad’s hospital room.

“Son, live your life. Don’t let things get so out of control that you forget to live. Friends, family, love…(he paused) that is what is important. Take all that with you so that you never, ever have to end up like me…in a hospital bed, dying, all alone”. He asked me to promise him that I would follow his words and I promised. We said our goodbyes that night as we fell asleep as he was scheduled first in the morning. I was awake when he left and he never came back. I never knew what happened to Victor Sintiago…but he made a lifetime of an impression on me in five minutes.

I have never written that down and I have rarely shared that with anyone. I remember his words clearly and while I realized long ago how important they were, sometimes I forget how powerful they are.

I train and I race because I can. I go into my garage at 30 degrees or 90 degrees because I made promise to a guy on a hospital bed in 1995 and continue that promise to my wife, my kids and myself today.

While I love the medals and I love the shirts. I love the good times that I have and I love all of the battle buddies I have ever shared a race with or my Spahten friends I have seen before, during or after a race…I love crossing that finish line. It is not just a race that I am finishing. It is a life I am winning. It is a promise that I am keeping. It is proving to myself that while life may be fragile, the human spirit is not and I can overcome anything.

Make that promise to yourself. Take the words of a dying man and really take to heart what they mean. Those words have shaped the person you all know.

Now…you know why this is so important to me, now you know why I race and now you know why I will continue to push all of you every day I can.

Killington is soon. Let’s live that mountain.



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Playing in the Mud – Be a Champion

Let’s be blunt here. I am not a great obstacle course racer. I know what my many limitations are and they are numerous. I cannot do a rig, or rings, or get over walls 9 feet or more, I have hit a spear throw once in my life and I believe I have completed two monkey bars ever. I had to put a rope in my backyard to learn to climb it and have completed it on a wet course once.

What does this mean? This means that my jealous side hates most of you that can all of those things. Also, because of some restrictions in my life’s schedule I know I can never go to the US OCR Championships or the OCR World Championships. I can barely get to most races in the New York area where I live. I guess that makes it good that I will never qualify for the “World’s,” so I don’t feel too bad about myself. Oh, don’t tell me that I can go as a Journeyman. I know that, but I am talking getting that email that all of you post on Facebook saying “QUALIFIER”. (The following statement is mine only and should apply to anyone else) In my head, going to the World’s as a Journeyman instead of qualifying is like saying that you “ended” up at Denny’s as opposed to “going” to Denny’s. (For those not in the United States, do a Google search for Denny’s and you’ll understand). It is also like being that guy who gets into the Baseball Hall of Fame because you had a long career and not because he did deserve it. Maybe because I am sloth-like and I cannot complete obstacles, I feel this way. I want to go. I wish I could go. Even if I could just feel the camaraderie and atmosphere, I know it would be worth it. I could tell everyone about OCR Buddy. I could hang out. I can make new friends. I heard how amazing it is and although I wish I could go and I continue to hate all of you for going,

So, I have this defense mechanism so it never truly bothers me. It slides away and falls into the back of my brain like those dreams of winning the lottery.

It doesn’t really bother me because I know my limits and abilities. Races such as a Tough Mudder or a Spartan Beast are my World’s. Everyone needs to your own goals and aim for them. Just because you are not on a pro team, on television, at the World’s or on a podium you are no less of a person or a racer. I think it takes someone special to do the things that are hard as opposed to easy. What is hard to you? Finishing on the podium? Qualifying? Finishing at all? Whatever is hard to you will make each and every event worth it to YOU!

I see people post photos of their medals and I look at the few that I get every year and realize that I did accomplish a lot for my abilities. I am a 46-year-old, former 300 pounder, twenty-two years removed form heart surgery, with a bad back (multiple herniated discs) and a shoulder that I pray survives every workout. Awesome, huh? I get out there and I treat each and every race like my World’s, whether it is an inflatable race, a 5k, a 10 mile or a 17-mile race on a mountain in Vermont.

So tomorrow I will train in my way, alone with my iPod playing my KISS songs and other rock that has inspired me. I know that no matter what I do, I will see my friends in Killington and I will attack the Spartan Beast and know after I finish that race, that I am a champion.

I hope my thoughts haven’t offended anyone. Just know that my hate for you is just jealousy because I wish I could accomplish what you can. I wish I could run the races that you run. I wish I could have the physical abilities that you have. Instead, I am a Ginger, I can steal your soul if I please and I am damn proud of the person I am.

My hope for all of you reading this is that you realize that you are a champion no matter what course you attempt because you are a champion of life. You have accomplished amazing things. Your life and your story is epic and no matter what you do from here through eternity…you ARE A CHAMPION to me.

Ask yourself, am I a champion? If the answer is not yes, make a plan, attack it and train for it. Life will give you it’s own version of monkey bars, walls, spear throws and rigs and you will face these obstacles like you do the ones on a race course. The only difference is that once you succeed in life, there is no obstacle that can ever stop you or slow you down. Be a champion. Stay a champion. Qualify for your “World’s” and do not ever let anyone push you down, keep you down or get in your way.


Until we meet again, be epic and as always, keep playing in the mud.