note: Here’s another installment in the “Spahten Stories” series. I’ve met Mike a few times now and am super impressed by him. He’s a kind soul who works hard, raises his family right and doesn’t seem to let anything put a damper on his spirit. I hope you enjoy the story he shared. – Nate (ps. have a story you want to share? e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org)
I work in the field of information security. My current role is that of Technical Account Manager at a start-up DLP (Data Loss Protection) company in Waltham, MA. Marketing lingo currently labels us as, ‘Advanced Data Security’. I’ve been in this field for 14 years since joining Symantec in 2000. In my job, I atrophy my large muscle groups by sitting at a desk in a cubicle for 8 hours a day. But, I do like what I do.
I also enjoy coaching my son’s soccer teams, music, reading and playing video games with my son and, sometimes, even wife!
I’m currently reading Strong by Jeff Bauman, it is intense, riveting and brings tears to my eyes every other page. Music-wise we are listening to Broken Bells, Empire of the Sun and Capital Cities – but my go-to bands are Radiohead, Muse and U2. Up until recently I played indoor soccer on a weekly basis, but have taken extended breaks recently to train and focus on other events that serve to build my confidence instead of sapping it. I will explain.
The race is a metaphor for life and my challenges with suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. As in life, you have no choice but to continue forward in a race. In OCR you can’t rely on any single strength to get you to the end, at some point you will need it all – and then some. The same applies to living with MS. As a result of it, I have strengths and weaknesses. In order to complete a race, I need to nurture my strengths and improve on my weaknesses.
This means, continue to run. Continue to build upper body strength. Continue to stretch and mold my body into the fittest machine possible. I believe this gives me the best possible outcome. If I lose 5% of my fitness/athletic ability during a relapse, but have added 5% or more through training, then I have the motivation, right there, to continue to train and race for the rest of my life!
There will still be challenges, but I am confident I can overcome then. And if not, I have the greatest team on the planet to pull me through.
When the National MS Society expanded into Obstacle Course Racing with MuckFest MS 2013, I joined them. Previously I was interested in road races and completed my first half marathon at the end of 2012.
This race hooked me. Looking back the first MuckFest had perfect weather and a really amazing atmosphere. I felt invigorated by all the people turning out to an event that very quickly became the closest of all races to my heart. My family showed up and I ran with my wife and seven close friends and cousins. The obstacles were challenging enough to keep me interested and easy enough that we could all cheer each other through each person’s unique challenges. Some, afraid of heights, had challenges on the cargo net or fireman’s pole, others, like myself, overcame claustrophobia in the darn tunnels. We all got dirty and loved it. Finished as a team and enjoyed that buoy of spirits you can only get by completing something challenging as a team and coming together for something bigger than yourself.
That was my first race.
After the MuckFest I wanted to choose a real challenging course, then train for it all year. My choice, for some reason, was the Spartan Beast at Killington, 2013. To say I didn’t know what I was getting into is an understatement. After completing this race I wrote the most meaningful and heartfelt blog post that I have ever written.
Simply completing this course was such a challenge. I was prepared for some things, and perhaps in the greatest shape of my life after high school. But the mountain didn’t care. It didn’t care that my legs suffered from spasticity, my body suffered from disability, it just stood there – in the way – of me and my self-ascribed objective.
At sections of the mountain I felt puny and insignificant. At other sections I felt like the King of the World. When I completed the rope climb, out of chest-high muddy water in front of my wife and son, and hundreds of screaming spectators… it was the greatest feeling in the world. I’m grateful for that, because the next 6 miles or so tested my mental toughness and commitment like they have never been tested before.
With spasticity, which is an unintended stretch or pull on a muscle, in both my legs, continuing to trudge up the mountain became an obstacle in itself. In fact, it was an obstacle for the average participant! I had to take frequent rest breaks, sometimes every 20 feet as my legs just refused to lift. But, I was persistent, I needed to finish that race.
So, in the dark, maybe an hour after sunset I finally finished – in 9 hours.
Please, by all means, relive my story by looking at my blog post – http://mstile.blogspot.com/2013/09/spartan-beast-2013-killington.html
I love to run, and love to overcome challenges. As a soccer player I am geared for endurance and the ability to play through pain when necessary. Obstacle racing adds a new attraction. Full body fitness. Through OCR I have been able to increase my upper body strength – since I want to be able to complete things like rope climbs, hercules hoists, and monkey bars. The motivation to reach an obstacle and defeat it is deeply ingrained. OCR has forced me to identify my weaknesses and given me the motivation to address them.
I will race as long as I am able to.
From what I’ve learned last year. I need to add more mountain hiking, with weight, more running, more burpees and more of everything!
I am on a soccer hiatus. I love to play, but recently soccer is a demotivating factor in my life. There is a level of skill and athleticism that I have achieved in the past in soccer. And my body just cannot perform at the same level. Which is OK. The problem is that my most recent soccer form is similar to when I was first diagnosed. I fatigue quicker, I have balance and coordination problems. I can’t kick a rolling ball. In my mind, I visualize the perfect shot, I can feel the form in my muscles before I start the action. But now, it is broken. My foot will whiff past the ball. I may fall over, just from looking up at a cross, or making a tight turn.
I will be OK, I have another athletic pursuit. Depending on the ebb and flow of the disease, or whether I receive a rescue steroid infusion at some point, I will be able to play again.
I have been playing soccer since I was 6 years old. My peak was during high school when I was part of the state championship team and played for the regional team as part of the Olympic Development Program. I chose not to play in college and sometimes regret the choice. Continuing to do what worked for me in high school would have been a smarter choice – tell your kids.
My obstacle race lifestyle motivates me to incorporate a broad range of strength and conditioning routines. Running, weightlifting, body-weight exercises, and tons and tons of pull-ups.
The future is full of races. I have a Spartan Season Pass and have yet to run a Spartan Race! I will be trying to do as many races as I possibly can this year and will even try to coordinate business trips with Spartan Race weekends! With help from a friend and coworker we have a team of 25 employees signed up for Rugged Maniac this year!
Lastly, a couple of fun facts about me… I’d like to run through an obstacle course with Jack Bauer. I would follow behind as the obstacles were left in ruins and cruise to an easy finish as he was distracted by the boss at the end of the race and be the winner!
I have a new puppy that is 9 months old. He is a mix of a blue heeler (Australian Cattle Dog) and something – we think a rat terrier. He is smart and loyal and such a great companion. This is the first dog we have owned as a family since I was a child.