“This will not only be my first time competing in the Warrior Dash, but I will also be competing as a recent amputee. I am going to crawl through mud, climb, hop and roll through 12 obstacles along a 3.2-mile course. I will be doing all this on one leg and crutches, no prosthesis, proving that anything is possible in order to support St. Jude patients. Will you join the fight with us?”
This was the statement I made on my personal donation page back in February, just over four months post leg amputation surgery. At that time, I really didn’t know how I would pull off a feat of this magnitude. What I did know though was that I was determined to live my life without excuses or limitations. I would do whatever it took to accomplish anything I set out to do. I did not set a goal I knew I could accomplish. Instead, I set a goal for which I would need to grow into the person who could accomplish it.
Six weeks before the Warrior Dash the training began. Not that I wasn’t busting my butt in the gym each week before that, but I changed my focus to what I felt I needed to do to prepare. For those of you not familiar with the Warrior Dash, it is a 5k obstacle course. I was participating in the New York Warrior Dash which takes place on a Ski Mountain, so half the course is going up the mountain. 1 1/2 miles up the mountain and then 1 1/2 miles back down. So, after watching videos of each of the obstacles and knowing that I would need to be climbing a mountain, I went to work.
My greatest obstacle would be the mountain terrain, not the obstacles themselves. The first thing I knew was that the prosthetic leg would be left in the car. I am not your typical amputee. Many think I am crazy and don’t understand, but the biggest reason I have accomplished so much and have been able to live without limits in the past 10 months is because I refuse to limited myself to my prosthesis. I view my prosthesis and my crutches as tools and I use the tool that works best for the job. That is how I operate and I am living a full active independent life this way, so that is how I will continue to operate. My prosthesis would not make the grade in climbing up ski trails. The foot is too stiff and with no give at the ankle, so the force on my stump and knee would have me keeling over in pain two tenths of a mile in. Not only that, but the prosthesis certainly would not hold up wading through mud and water. For the Warrior Dash, the crutches (sidestix) were the best tool for the job. Therefore, building upper body strength and endurance to crutch 3.2 miles on hilly terrain was the focus of my training.
My six weeks of training consisted of the following.
- Going to the track and walking 3.2 miles one legged with crutches.
- Every Sunday morning I added 100 burpees into my workout.
- Hitting the weights hard, 3 days a week to build upper body strength.
- Using my lunch hour to walk up and down State Street one legged with crutches. State Street is a street near my office that is called Capitol Hill for good reason.
- Every evening did kettlebell swings and deadlifts. This was beyond workouts and walking.
- To build shoulder strength, every evening I worked on handstand push-ups until I mastered them.
- In addition to my daily workouts – one hour of training with a trainer – I added in exercise classes at the gym.
The Day of the Warrior Dash
My daughter, son and I arrived at the starting line at 11:45 AM. When the torches were lit we were off on the first stretch of the Dash, which followed a beginner’s trail to the mid-mountain lodge. On the way we encountered the first obstacle – Stocktop Unfiltered. This obstacle required climbing under and over a series of walls. Trenches were the second obstacle just before we approached the mid-mountain lodge. Here we crawled through covered trenches dug into the ground. We then proceeded behind the mid-mountain lodge and headed over to the main mountain of the ski area. By the way, if you’ve never climbed a beginner’s trail, it is a whole lot steeper to climb up than to ski down. On the path to the main mountain we conquered the Chaotic Cargo obstacle, which was a dome-framed structure covered with a cargo net in which you climbed up and over. Then we were off to the mid-mountain of the main ski area, climbing the ropes over the Deadman drop and then heading down an intermediate ski trail. Before we knew it we were cutting through the woods, where we slid down an embankment on our butts to swim through an ice-cold muddy snowmaking pond. Dirty and wet, but feeling refreshed, we climbed out and continued down the mountain to the fifth obstacle called Pipeline. This was a contraption of pipes to crawl through made of cargo netting. We were back to the bottom of the mountain but far from the finish line. The next leg (excuse the pun) of the dash was climbing back to the mid-mountain via an intermediate trail with some pretty steep pitches, and then the Nastar Race course to the Diesel Dome. The Diesel Dome was a two-story framed barn (studded horizontally) to climb over. We then proceeded to the High Tension, an obstacle where we hung from a cargo net suspended over water by our arms. To cross you had to use the basic monkey bar hand-over-hand method of gripping the cargo net instead of bars. The good news was that it was all downhill from there. We headed back down the mountain with some crawling under barbed wire on the way, and the last obstacles awaited us at the base. There was the Warrior Roast, where we jumped over fire to get to the Goliath, a climb up a wall, a drop off the back side, a climb across a cargo net, then back up a wall to make our descent down a slide, plunging into a pool of muddy water. After we climbed out it was onto the last obstacle, Muddy Mayhem, a commando crawl through mud under barbed wire to the finish line. My feeling of elation overrode my aching body at that finish line. I had the most incredible feeling of accomplishment.
After changing into dry clothing, I put my leg on to give my arms a rest, enjoyed a refreshing beer and drove my family home on cloud nine. Honestly, I still haven’t come off the cloud.
I signed up for this challenge for a few reasons. Accomplishing physical challenges has been incredible for my confidence and has made my daily functioning as an amputee so much easier. If I can manage the Warrior Dash, I can get through my daily routines in a snap. I also like to find ways to use my challenges to raise funds or for causes, such as St. Jude. Lastly, I wanted to prove that anything is possible if you have the correct attitude and determination to succeed. Anyone who saw me on the Warrior Dash course that day got the message loud and clear. No limits, No excuses! To realize as I was making my way over each of the obstacles that crowds of participants had stopped to cheer me over was like nothing I have ever experienced. They refueled me, making me more determined to get to the finish line.
For me there were two results of the day that were most amazing. The first was realizing that I truly can live an incredible life as an amputee, because I can accomplish anything I want. The second being that only a year ago I was sitting on the sidelines of active family events. Today I am able to successfully complete a grueling physical event like the Warrior Dash with my son and daughter by my side. It just doesn’t get any better than that!
Next I will attempt to run a flat-land 5K using my new leg!
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