About 7 months ago I was sent a personal message on Facebook, that started like this,
“I do not normally send friend requests to people I do not know, however…”
The message continued with this stranger explaining to me that she was born with a genetic bone disease called Osteogenesis Imperfecta which causes her bones to fracture easily. This person has endured over 50 fractures to her legs as well as fractures to almost all of the major bones in her body. She spent 16 years in a wheel chair before she decided to start working out at a gym. Through incredible strength and commitment she was able to transition into using crutches. Today, she spends 5 days a week at the gym and thus far has hiked in places like: the Badlands, Virginia, Wyoming, Vermont and New Hampshire. She only weighs about 105 pounds, yet is able to bench press with 40 pound dumbbells and do dips and pull-ups with her own body weight with ease.
The more I read of her message, the more impressed I was by this woman. Here she was reaching out to me because she saw my picture (on a friend’s Facebook page) from a Tough Mudder race I did. Ilene told me that I was an inspiration, but truthfully, she had it all backwards, her story motivated me with every line that I read. She said a lot of people ask her what is on her “bucket list,” in which she replies, “To be able to run.” With her condition, running is virtually impossible, so Ilene knew she would never be able to compete in a Tough Mudder event. However, she ended her message with a, “what do you think?” My response was short, “I would be honored to do a Tough Mudder with you. We could start at the earliest wave and take as long as we like to finish. You don’t have to run. How does that sound to you? I have thought about this all day. of course, it would be your call if you are interested.” At first, she seemed surprised by my answer but was eager to make it her new goal. That was how Ilene from Connecticut became a very dear friend of mine.
The next step (besides incredible training for Ilene) was for both of us to find the best event for us to compete in and for me to figure out a way to fund the race . I brought the idea to one of my incredible sponsor’s and good friend Eric Eisenberg, the owner of Biotech Limb and Brace in Birmingham AL. Eric agreed without any hesitation to sponsor my trip to race with Ilene. With that, I picked a date, the Mid-Atlantic Tough Mudder in Fredericks MD on September 9th; I got our whole team, Biotech T-shirts to represent an incredible company that has done so much for me over the years and was now allowing Ilene and myself to tackle another one of life’s obstacles and do it in style.
I have no doubt in Ilene’s ability; over the months I have used her ambition to make this dream a reality, an ambition of my own. With her commitment, I have allowed nothing to stand in the way of our race. Tomorrow is finally race day and I must say how proud I am to be part of Ilene’s first Tough Mudder. I chose only the closest of friends to do my first race with, and I was as nervous as she is right now. I know that by Sunday night, she will be ready for another race, and then another, and another. I don’t know why she chose me of all the incredible people that race every day, but I am truly honored that she did. It motivates me to train harder and harder knowing that I may be able to push someone else, even just a little, to eventually conquer a goal.
Update– Upon landing in Baltimore, I was quickly informed that traffic getting to the Tough Mudder event was horrendous. As I traveled out of Baltimore and closer to Frederick, MD the sky grew darker with each mile. The rain began to pour and all I could think was “How cool would it be to race today?” Our race wasn’t to take place until the next day and the forecast called for a 0% chance of rain. The high was going to be 80 degrees, which I thought would be the perfect condition all around for Ilene’s first race. Unfortunately, the weather caused extensive flooding, the field that was used as a parking lot became a large pit of mud. Following the previous day’s traffic problem, it had become obvious that the amount of racers/spectators was more than the local police force had expected. Great weather or not, the decision was made to cancel Sunday’s race. This was supposed to be an exciting race for Ilene and myself but just like that it was gone.
Ilene, her husband Brent and myself realized that although we were upset with the news, we needed to take a step back and reevaluate the situation.Tough Mudder announced that anyone that wasn’t able to participate in Sunday’s race or couldn’t make it Saturday due to traffic would be able to transfer to a race of their choice. So, over a delicious lunch at Cracker Barrel we decided that we were indeed going to return to another Tough Mudder event at a later date. Of course, here we were in Frederick MD with perfect weather finishing up our lunch that included a desert large enough to feed 6 people. Since it was given to us on the house we figured we had to finish it ( it would’ve been rude not to eat it). At that point, our stomachs were full and we decided that a long hike at a nearby state park would be a great way to spend the afternoon. It was no Tough Mudder but it was a great training hike in preparation for our next race. I was able to spend more time with Ilene and her husband and it turned out to be an incredible weekend even without a Tough Mudder race.
I am a firm believer that working out, eating healthy and living a healthy lifestyle is a way of life. If, you are doing any of the above only for a certain race, event or even person other than yourself you are likely setting yourself up for failure. Both Ilene and myself were ultimately ok with the race being canceled because, we weren’t working out and living healthy just for that specific race. In reality, that race was just one goal, one challange, just like the next and the one after that one one will be. This is why today and everyday I choose to Train Like A Machine!