Finding Your True Self Through OCR

Background

Brittney Bagley grew up in a genetically blessed family on a ranch in Florida and had an active lifestyle running track, dancing, and playing soccer and volleyball. But when she was forced to quit the Air Force ROTC in her junior year of college due to health issues, her poster-worthy lifestyle started on a downward spiral of making poor decisions. She started embracing a college life of drinking heavily and eating poorly, which made her reassess where she wanted to be.

“I’m one of four children in my family, one of whom is a twin sister to me. Being so close in age and appearance to my sisters, I’ve always found it hard to find my own identity. That, combined with a string of very unfortunate losses, made me venture out to see what the rest of the world offered,” Brittney shared.

College-Brittney

Brittney’s Travels

At 22 years old, and in her last semester of college, she moved to Alaska for a summer job working at a rafting company. For the next few years, she focused all of her time on traveling and jumping from seasonal job to seasonal job. This lifestyle laid claim to residencies in Alaska, Utah, Colorado, Florida, and even Nicaragua for a short time.

“I remember the first time I ever heard of or saw an obstacle course race was while working a promotion at a Tough Mudder in Colorado. I fell in love instantly but never would have imagined I’d be participating myself one day,” she said.

Heading back to Florida in 2014, she realized that she still wasn’t in a place she wanted to be, and hit rock-bottom finding herself in a destructive relationship and a desk-job she didn’t enjoy.

Her Turning Point

Brittney said, “When I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the person looking back at me, I knew it was time to make a change. I had become this lazy person who made excuses, and I had always hated that person. I was known for seeking adventure and tackling seemingly impossible challenges, but I had somehow become this watered-down version of myself. All of my decisions were made based on someone else, and their happiness, and I knew it was time to seek my own happiness”.

She started out with a goal to complete a few 5km races and then was looking for something more to challenge herself. Tough Mudder was coming to her area for the first time so Brittney signed up and convinced a few of her friends to join her. She started running every day after work and even bought lights to put on her sneakers so she couldn’t use the dark as an excuse. In March of 2015, she ran and finished her first Tough Mudder, with her brother and dad watching on.

Brittney’s OCR Experience

“The race was hard on me and I just barely stumbled across that finish line, but it was a starting point for a whole new addiction. In 2016 I moved to Virginia and signed up for another Tough Mudder and shortly after was introduced to my first Spartan Race, and haven’t stopped running since.”

She now has a partner to train with, having met a man a year ago whom she quickly introduced to the OCR life and he found himself addicted alongside her. Together they set out and obtained a few sponsors. They have since signed up for 5 OCRs and 3 runs this season and will be celebrating their anniversary while crossing the finish line and earning their first Spartan Race trifecta in Fayetteville on September 23.

Brittney says some of her favorite things about OCR are watching weeks or months of preparation pay off and each race becoming slightly easier. But her biggest obstacle is without-a-doubt her grip strength in her left hand, having lost the use of her pinky finger 5 years ago playing on a recreation kickball league.

“The camaraderie and teamwork you find in OCRs are things that make the experience even more indescribable because everyone is there supporting one other while also working on their own obstacles.”

“I never want to be the person who wakes up and lives the same day repeatedly, hating every second of it. I always want to be better than I was the day before and I want to spend every second I’m given making memories I can be proud of,” she says.

Brittney-and-Clay

Photos: Brittney Bagley and Tough Mudder
Follow Brittney’s blog at https://thewatercolorwanderer.wordpress.com/

How Obstacle Course Racing Can Transform a Marriage

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A couple that races together stays together and this couldn’t be truer for Helmy (46 years old) and June (39 years old) who embarked on their Spartan journey to celebrate their 15 year wedding anniversary after looking for something new to add a spark back into their marriage.

Their Story

Helmy was a cross-country runner back in school but had not exercised regularly for years resulting in an unhealthy overweight BMI reading, while June suffered a hamstring injury which took almost a year to recover from. “The thought of me being unsexy to my wife and the image of growing older with a big fat belly, extreme obesity, and a bad health condition was enough to make me do something,” Helmy said.

Making a conscious decision to find something new to do together, they discovered Spartan Race by accident as June was looking for something to make her stronger for her yoga practice.

“When we both agreed to sign up for our very first OCR, we knew we needed to be very well prepared as it’s not a walk in the park event,” June confirmed.

They soon discovered the training was no walk in a park, struggling to get through the first community session they attended. But they came back the next week after being encouraged by the trainers and challenged by the workouts. Overtime, the OCR training taught them personal endurance, upper body strength, good balance, and most importantly mental fortitude. Now they both attend multiple sessions a week and have even picked up running together.

Knowing how tough Spartan Race is as a beginner, the most memorable moment for them both was running side by side overcoming the obstacles together in their first race in Singapore, likening it to the challenges that they both had in their marriage journey.

Transformation-Helmy-June-3

Transformation

Helmy credits June with being the biggest contributor to his transformation, from exercise down to the healthier eating approach they have both embraced. Even though the scales only show a 7lb loss, his BMI is now back in the healthy range having built muscle from all the training, and fitter now than he has ever been.

June attributes the amazing OCR community as helping her be successful. “Everyone comes from different backgrounds and shows such great passion and commitment. They have been supportive throughout our journey and we grew to be a fitness family and eventually great friends,” she says.

Both try and do a few HIIT training sessions a week, some yoga and run when they can. With more races now planned for the remainder of the year, they will increase their training closer to those dates, including traveling overseas to participate in the Spartan Beast in Sparta, Greece.

The best part of racing together? According to June, it’s the fact that they get to wear matching outfits!

Transformation-Helmy-June-2

Photo Credit: Spartan Race and Couple

OCR Transformation- Dawn Stowers

ORM presents the series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing.

 

 

 

 

Dawn Stowers is a 45 year old mother of two who enjoys Obstacle Course Racing, CrossFit and auto racing of all sorts. When she turned 40, she weighed 182.6 pounds and was miserable. Performing the basic tasks in life were difficult for her. She was like most other mom’s with tweens, always running around errands with her girls. She would eat the worst possible take out and generally putting her health and happiness on the back burner.

Before Dawn’s 40th birthday, her father passed away unexpectedly and meanwhile her and Dawn and husband were at odds over her increasing weight gain. Her husband lost some weight few out of spite, and she was determined to do the same. Dawn had half-heartedly tried so many things over the years, but eventually realized that the only thing that stood between her and her weight loss goal was self-control. That is when she finally decided to commit to changing her health for the better. Over the next few months, she found a program that worked work for her. Dawn significantly changed her diet and began to eat cleaner than ever before. She also found a support group of others looking to be a better version of themselves and together they persevered.

Dawn began to realize that she was capable of so much more than she ever thought possible. She eventually got all the way down to an unhealthy 112 pounds as she became obsessed with watching the scale go down further and further; to the point that she became sad on the days it didn’t move. At that point, Dawn decided getting stronger and healthier should be her goal. This quest soon became her focus and she found a Boot Camp that she enjoyed, it became her home away from home. She went religiously, rain or shine, sickness or in health and enjoyed the feeling of becoming better. Dawn feels that the gym is one of the few places on earth where everyone has only one focus; to be the best version of them possible.

Eventually, she heard about the Spartan Sprint in Charlotte and decided to sign up: ALONE. She knew that it would be the ultimate test of her physical and mental abilities but it was something she says, “I HAD to do it for ME.” Another one of her boot camp friends eventually signed up with her and together they set out on a quest to jump the fire. It was sleeting as they stood at the starting line shivering, wondering what was to come next and then AROO! AROO! AROO! They were off! It took a long time and Dawn failed many of the obstacles, but she exclaimed “who doesn’t love burpees!?!” Dawn believes that jumping the fire was one of the most satisfying things she has ever done.

She wore her medal most of the day and had to figure out how to get that feeling again and again! She joined several Spartan Facebook Groups and realized that her Boot Camp wasn’t going to get her the training she would need to be more successful in her Spartan Trifecta quest. As a result, she searched for a new gym and found CrossFit 77 where she works out 4-5 times a week. OCR has become a big part of Dawn’s life and helps defines who she is as a person. Her running partner is her youngest daughter, Ashley, who is a sophomore in college. For Dawn and Ashley, OCR is the perfect Mommy/Daughter Weekend getaway activity. They try to run at least one OCR a month together which gives them an excuse to see each other and to keep training hard.

Dawn is now beginning her 4th year of completing double Spartan Trifecta’s. She doesn’t limit her runs to strictly Spartan’s, as she has enjoyed many other OCR’s: ie BattleFrog, BoneFrog, Warrior Dash, Dirty Girl, etc. Dawn and her daughter Ashley just recently completed 8 hours at Toughest Mudder Atlanta. However, Spartan is by far her favorite race. The Spartan Festival Area is our Narnia! She says, “everyone there is happy, working to be the best version of them, encouraging, helpful and generally pumped up!” The OCR Community is all about the build-up and never the tear-down; it truly is a FAMILY. Dawn wants everyone to know that it doesn’t matter how old you are or where you start; ONLY where you want to go. Age is only a number. Find your passion! Leave your comfort zone and find the new best version of you! NEVER SETTLE! AROO!

OCR Transformation- Wes Blake

ORM presents the series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing.
 

As a kid growing up Wes was always overweight. It had a tremendous impact on his life and made things hard for him. Making friends was difficult and the friends that he did have would still pick on him because he was the “fat” kid. For many years after high school Wes tried all the different diets out there. Atkins, weight watchers, nutrisystem, you name it he tried it in an effort to lose weight. He never really had a friend that would take him under their wing and show him the way to be healthy.

Wes was bullied alot because of his weight and the fact that he would not fight back. He would just shut down and take the bullying. Wes was always told that he wasn’t good enough, he was too fat, or too slow to do anything. This caused him to not want to tryout for anything, even if he was really good at it. Shopping for clothes was even worse because he always had to shop in the big mens store and he couldn’t wear the trendy fashions that his friends were all wearing because of his size.

Wes says that, “people would laugh at me and it was extremely hard to approach any girls because I wasn’t part of the cool crowd.” In turn he kept to himself and found other ways to spend his time. Wes can’t really limit this to one specific event. There were multiple events leading back to childhood that forced him to make the change and to start his journey to a new and improved, and healthier Wes.

One day about 4 years ago he woke up in the middle of the night by what he thought was gas. Turned out that Wes had Gallstones and his blood pressure was through the roof. They removed his gall bladder and he made a promise to himself that he was going to get healthier. Not only for himself, but for his family as well.

Back in 2014 after having multiple health issues and just not leading an overall healthy lifestyle, he decided to make a change. He had constant high blood pressure even with medications, which were being increased every appointment because he couldn’t get it under control. He was smoking at least a pack of cigarettes a day, drinking and eating completely unhealthy. It was at this time that he looked at his 4 grandchildren and decided to make a change to be around for them and his family.

He started hanging out with friends that had a like mindset and were working towards their own weight loss goals. They taught him how and what to eat and how to exercise properly. He used to laugh because he was never known as a runner and he turned to them to help him with any advice they may have since they had worked hard and were attaining their goals.

In 2014, he had just started running and began getting serious about his health. His friends in turn challenged him to do a Rugged Maniac that August. He had heard about the OCR community from them and had already met alot of great people who welcomed him with open arms. They showed Wes that getting in shape didn’t have to be work and that it could be alot of fun. They accepted him for who he was and they liked him as Wes. Not one time did they pass judgement because he was overweight, or because he couldn’t do what they could do.

In August of 2014, Wes ran his first race a Rugged Maniac. His friends David Yates and Richard Estep challenged him to sign up and race with them. He knew he would never be able to keep up with them, but he decided to do it anyway. He signed up and they helped him train. David and Richard helped him prepare for the toughest challenge of his life.

Wes worked for 7 months to get ready for the race. When the race started his friends got well ahead of him. He did a majority of the race by himself. As he approached about a mile to the finish, he look up and there was David and Richard. They were coming back out to the course to finish the race with him. After that race Wes had a fire lit under him that he never had before. He was already looking forward to doing his next race, which was the “Down and Dirty” that October. He wasn’t as prepared as he wanted to be, but he went out and gave 100% and completed the race. That was the end of his first race season, but he was determined to make the 2015 season even better and he trained to do so. He started going to more events to learn different techiques and ways to make himself better. There were alot of people that were willing to help him attain his goals and they are still in his life today.

March of 2015, Wes ran his first ever Spartan race in Conyers, Ga. He didn’t know anyone there and ran with a stranger that later became a friend, Marcus Conyers. Marcus offered to go with him and help him along the course. They started the Sprint and along the way he severely sprained his ankle. It hurt him to walk, but Marcus would not let him quit. They stayed together the entire time with Marcus helping him through the obstacles. It was at this time he knew that he had to get serious about training, he didn’t want to have to rely on others to get through a course again. He wanted to be able to do it himself. When Wes crossed the finish line that day, he was met by lots of cheers and hugs from everyone. They told him how proud they were that he didn’t give up and kept fighting through the course with an injury.

Wes contributes his success to his friends David Yates and Richard Estep. They believed in him and cheered him on to complete his first OCR. They helped him to succeed by pushing him to his limits and beyond. He appreciates his GORMR (Georgia Obstacle Racers and Mud Runners) teammates for always giving encouragement and letting him know how strong he can be. He is also successful due to his family’s love and support. He says, they “have been ther since day one, with the traveling and putting up with a hectic race schedule.” Most of all his parents, they have always believed in him since he was a child. They always taught him to go out and prove to himself and not others that he can do accomplish what he sets his mind to. There is a host of people Wes would like to thank and the list could go on and on but he had to keep it short.

Currently, you can find Wes spending 3 to 4 days in the gym working on everything from cardio to strength. Two times a week he tries to get out to a local trail working on building distance and cardio in order to be prepared for the next event.

At the time Wes started his journey he weighed close to 440lbs. He smoked cigarettes and ate very unhealthy. He was on blood pressure medication and was also a chronic sufferer of gout.Currently, he is down to 275 lbs! He has not smoked since he began his journey in 2014. He has now adopted a cleaner and healthier eating lifestyle that he incorporates everyday. He admits the temptaions are there, but that is where his new found will power comes in.

OCR Transformations-Bill Pollackov

ORM presents the series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing.

When Bill was young, really for as long as he can remember, he was always a competitive athlete. From swimming to football and wrestling, Bill seemed to always be either practicing or competing. When he got to college, he joined the fire service and served as a firefighter/EMT for 9 years. Food was his escape. Anytime something was stressful, going wrong, or even good, eating helped him get through it. Sweets and ice cream were his go to. For many years this didn’t manifest as he was burning many of those calories.

Bill and his wife Tracy 2013

When Bill got married to his wife in 1995 they moved to Syracuse, NY. They moved so his wife could go through graduate school. It was there that his activity levels began to decrease, and his food intake didn’t change. By the time they moved to North Carolina in 1998, Bill had added about 50 lbs to his frame. “I was never a small guy, so even 50 lbs was manageable”. When he left the fire service is when the weight really began to hit him.

By 2013, Bill’s weight was over 450 lbs and it consumed his life. At that time he says fast food was about, 45-50 percent of his diet he was drinking between 2 and 2 ½ gallons of diet coke a day. One of the biggest shockers for Bill was when he went clothes shopping.  He was trying on shorts and surpassed the size 60 mark.

When Bills’ father passed away at age 59 in 2001 of a weight related disease, he was wearing a size 64 pants. “I remember cleaning out his closet and promising myself, I would never get to that size.” Bill describes that the feeling that came over him walking out of that store with a size 60 pair of shorts was overwhelming. He knew something had to change but was paralyzed with fear. He had tried with family to work out and exercise, but was constantly getting injured. He could not run or jog, and all movements caused him pain.

The motivation to change came from two really good friends that asked to meet with him one day. That morning was the day that reshaped his outlook on a lot of things. These men spoke to some of the areas that he was neglecting in his life including his; ministry, work, and family. It was not until then he realized that he was in a complete depression and was in the process of eating himself to death. He stepped on the scale that day and weighed right at 460 lbs. Something finally clicked for Bill. He had no idea what to do or how to do it, but something had to change.

Bill decided to meet with a surgeon to speak about bariatric surgery as an aid. This is what he now determines to be a turning point in his life. The doctor told Bill that this surgery, if he had it, was only a tool. Surgery would not solve his problems unless he dedicated himself to changing his diet and started exercising more. He was sold on this idea.

Bill’s surgery was on April 27, 2015. By surgery date he had already lost 55 lbs. He had completely abandoned fast food and his last diet coke was on January 3, 2015. There were some complications with his surgery as they had to remove his gallbladder as well, because it was basically one huge stone. In his follow up appointment is where the OCR seed was planted. Dr. Rao told him … “Here is your plan. In 2017 I want you to run the Gate River Run (15k) and in 2018 I want you to do a Tough Mudder or Spartan Race, deal?” He said he was definitely up for the challenge!

About 2 months after Bill’s surgery, he stepped back into the Gym. He walked in that morning very hesitant, not sure what to expect. In December 2015, he went to another gym to welcome a friend who was trying it out. He was very excited till he saw the workout….There in the middle of it was running….a full mile.

“I remember feeling my heart sink and I immediately accepted failure as my Goliath stood looming over me”. But he did his best, completed a full mile and was able to complete the rest of the workout as well. He shared that day with the group this was the first mile he had run since 1997.

The next morning, he went for a run on his own and completed a whole 5k. Over the next few weeks he pushed himself as far as 5 miles and felt good about it. He realized that something had really changed in himself. He was over 150 lbs down, and he felt great. Bill decided that he wanted to finish every distance of a running race that year. 5k, 10k, 15k and half marathon. Done, done, and done. On Thanksgiving day, with his friend Jim running by his side and his family cheering like crazy, he completed a half marathon. Bill ran the entire 13.1 miles with an 11 min pace….but his focus was 2 weeks away….SPARTAN.

When Bill decided to do the Spartan Race, he had about 5 months to train. Completing the Spartan however, has really kept him going! That was his first and only OCR. (That will drastically change this year) He says, “I can remember approaching the inverted wall and being terrified. I almost just went around and did the burpees. But my team was there, I jumped on, and zipped straight over. I was on top of the world…..I truly felt like a Spartan”.

Bill killing the obstacles at his first Spartan

Bill gives thanks first and foremost to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for guiding him through this gauntlet. Without his salvation, he says he would not have been able to endure this test.

Family 5k

His amazing wife, Tracey of 21 years and his kids Luke (16) and Chloe (13) are his greatest fans and partners.  They completed a 5k as a family this year, and he can see his influence in all of their training as Luke aspires to play college football one day and Chloe cheerleads and enjoys basketball and volleyball.

First Spartan finish with friends Anthony and Denea

Anthony and Denea Widener will always be credited with being the largest catalyst in showing Bill his true value and assisting him in achieving his goals and dreams. Jason Palmisano and his family for bravely following their dream of Trinity Fitness and spreading the gospel and wellness to all.

Bill trains 3 times a week in the morning at TF. Those workouts are all metabolic conditioning so they change up daily. No matter what the workout at the very end he adds in an extra ½ mile run. He also adds other runs usually once or twice a week. Sometimes it will be 3-5 miles running, other times it will be about 3 miles with breaks every ¼ mile for some type of bodyweight exercise (burpees, push ups, sit ups, ect…).

December 2014 – resting heart rate 97. BP 135/90. Weight 460 lbs
January 2017 – resting heart rate 61. BP 118/78. Weight 225 lbs.

OCR Transformations- Frannie Steele

ORM presents the series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing.
“I have grown so much not only physically and athletically, but mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.”

Frannie Steele grew up in Holland, Michigan up until her college years moving to the east side of the state in metro Detroit and Ann Arbor. She spent her childhood running around on a farm and taking care of horses up until her parents divorced. She believes that was the turning point for her unhealthy lifestyle. Between puberty, peer pressure, bullies, and depression she had gained enough weight to launch her over 200lbs by the age of 15. It wasn’t until she got a puppy that really started her long journey to health. That puppy needed to be walked, and walking turned into running, and she hasn’t stopped accomplishing the goals she set for herself.

Frannie’s first OCR was the 2013 Indianapolis Sprint. At that race she slipped on the Slip Wall (ironically, she admits) and upon impact her knee hit one of the knots in the rope. She limped across the finish and after letting medical do what they could. She rode 4.5 hours back home straight to the hospital. After medical staff found no cartilage to be in her knee with the IT Band under the patella, they told her she would “probably never be able to run again.” But giving up running wasn’t really a choice for Frannie. After about a year in physical therapy she had started to train and condition the IT Band. So re-injury to her knee would be less likely to happen again. It was a hard time for her and there was plenty of pain. But, she says that first mile back running “never felt so good.” Every day she has to deal with her knee injury and some pain but the stronger she has gotten the easier it’s gotten.

Then in late 2015, Frannie saw an ad for Spartan Race again and thought, “you know what, I’m going to do this again and finish the way I should have finished.” Only this time she ran a Spartan Super instead of the Spartan Sprint. It was very difficult for her, but Frannie ended up doing much better than she expected. A few weeks after completing the Spartan Super she thought, “you know what, I’m going to go for the trifecta.” And that’s exactly what she did, which fueled the start of her 2016 racing.

There’s one event that Frannie states has greatly impacted her OCR and running lifestyle, which  was the overnight 2016 Chicago HH12HR. She doesn’t believe her mindset really changed until after completing her first endurance event.  Frannie didn’t even know what it was that she signed up for, she was just participating because a friend talked her into it. There she was introduced to something she didn’t even know what to expect. What they say about the hurricane heats, and the endurance events that Spartan puts on is that you can’t train for them. You can never know what to expect and she admits that it is 100% true.

Frannie believes she was better off not knowing a single thing about it starting out for her first one. She was forced to pull things from nowhere, from deep inside herself, and use knowledge she didn’t know she had. She pushed herself past the physical limits she had previously known that she was capable of and found something within herself that sparked a fire. From that day on it she says “it has been a nonstop grind to see what I’m capable of and the dedication and passion to push myself to accomplish my goals. I have grown so much not only physically and athletically, but mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.”

These are the things that pushed her to participate in the China Agoge. Frannie was medically removed from this race resulting in DNF. Even though she didn’t finish the race…she still left the Great Wall with things no material possession can replace. The things she learned and experienced she says she will have for a lifetime. The people she was with are people she will forever share a bond with. She believes by testing her mental fortitude with endurance events, she is able to physically push herself to the limits.

Endurance events teach you most importantly that you must work together as well as individually in order to complete a task, or reach a goal. The same is true for all things in life.”

Those who contribute to success are her family. Her family shows a huge support for her and her active lifestyle, knowing how much she has struggled with her weight. She is also thankful to Team Warrior State of Mind and Mark Petersen who supported her and had faith in her. Without Team WSOM she wouldn’t have been able to attend the AGOGE 003 in China. But more importantly she wouldn’t have met Mark, whom she says is a role model to her in every possible way.

Currently, Frannie Steele is training for a few things. For 2017, she has decided to switch gears from mainly running OCR to mainly running Ultras and endurance events. She is also gearing up to accomplish the Spartan AGOGE 006 UK at the Isle of Skye. Not far behind that goal is a 100 mile race, a handful of HH12HR, Ironman 70.3, and the Killington Ultrabeast.

For training she currently bikes 3 times a week, runs 5-7 times a week, and swims 1-2 times a week. Weight training is 2-3 times a week following a run usually to build endurance in strength. She also recently started yoga and meditation to satisfy the mind as well in a different way studying doesn’t quite cover.

From 219lbs at her heaviest to 141lbs now, Frannie Steele has changed herself not only physically, but mentally and hopes to inspire others to challenge themselves and to change their lives by being active. You can follow her on Instagram www.instagram.com/fmsteele1