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Shoulder Surgery Recovery: Becoming ME Again

November 30th I went into out-patient surgery Downtown, Chicago. Under the care of Dr. Mark Bowen I was given a chance to fix my torn up and beat down shoulder. That shoulder endured a year of torment. Every few weeks there would be a series of races I showed up for, usually they came in spurts. The range of events included Spartan Race, GoRuck, S.E.R.E., Gladiator Assault Challenge and of course the Death Race. After all that racing in this vast variety of rigorous training, racing, and performing all with this one inch tear in my shoulder it was finally time to start over.

torn labrum shoulder surgery repairAfter shoulder surgery I was in an incredibly large amount of pain over the next 2-3 weeks. Numbing the pain was taken care of by my prescription which I avoided using as much as possible. Icing became my favorite activity of the day. It just felt so good every time I iced; I would ice up to 5 times a day. At first I worked from home. Eventually, I had to return to work and had to find a ride to and from. During this time period I was in a sling and was not allowed to move my elbow away from my side. My elbow was, as my doctor put it, “velcro’d to your side.” I was very protective of it the entire duration of my gimp-status.

torn labrum shoulder surgery rotator cuff recovery

My shoulder before the bandages came off.

Six weeks after surgery I started my road to recovery at Athletico in Bloomingdale, IL under the guidance of the best physical therapist I have ever worked with, Alysha. When I arrived at my first session I had not moved my shoulder much at all. The exception of course being all the arm circle pendulums I was doing every day per Dr. Bowen’s guidance. I could barley lift my arm, the muscle so tender and weak from having my labrum repaired and reattached to the bone. My range of motion was very limited, I felt weak and pathetic, barely able to put my own hoodie on and taking it off, even worse.

rotator cuff surgery recovery torn labrum

A selfie of my shoulder before the stitches were removed.

We went straight to work with a regimen of exercises and stretches that built on each other. Every week or two my therapy would evolve, more exercises, increased range of motion, isometrics, heavier weight, higher resistance, it was wonderful. Everyday activities became easier, eating, reaching something in the cabinet, brushing my teeth, all the activities we take for granted became so much more accomplishable. The chance to grow my strength and return to racing grows closer, and I’m hungry for it. After watching the Winter Death Race I felt revived and even more eager to get my shoulder back to normal.

My determination has helped lead me to being a few weeks ahead of schedule. The official day for me to begin adding in more strengthening exercises was Friday, February 22nd. I’m scheduled to conclude necessary therapy on March 14th. Unfortunately, due to the situation I am currently in with my insurance I had to stop seeing Alysha the last week of February. Starting March 1st I switched to at home therapy under the guidance of my mother. We have been utilizing an exercise plan developed by Alysha, she will also see me at least one more time for a consultation to evolve my program.

Every day I get a little bit closer to my goals and its always fun to celebrate small milestones, raising my arm above my head, lifting a 1lb weight straight armed out to my side, a couple weeks back I did a push-up and was ecstatic – there was a celebratory Facebook post even. This week I am up to 4lb weights for my straight arm exercises and I am even able to do 10 burpees now!

I have to say that this has been one of the more difficult life situations and lessons I’ve had to bare. Being hurt, injured, torn away from all that makes you happy, from your passion, your love, it’s painful. In so many ways these past few months have been very interesting. I went from basically not leaving the confines of my home often because I could not drive to earning my freedom to go anywhere again. Every time I reach a new milestone I know I am becoming me again, and that makes it all worth it.

66487_10151593964723132_1802583660_nMy race schedule is starting to be planned out now that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, I am signed up for the Gladiator Assault Challenge again in Geneva, WI on April 13th and hopefully I’ll be ready for that. After that its back to Indiana for a Spartan Race Sprint on April 27th and 28th. The Death Race is coming up fast and I’ll have far less time to train for it this year but like Todd Seldak always says, “training is a crutch.”

I cannot thank Dr. Bowen and Alysha enough for all they have done for me. THANK YOU!

Recovery Workout 12-21-12

Today I had a some energy I needed to expel. As soon as I walked in my door I changed and went straight to the gym (my awesome basement) and decided EFF IT! This is my life and I need to live it and enjoy it regardless of this damn sling.

“Now that don’t kill me
Can only make me stronger”

“Work it harder, make it better,
do it faster, makes us stronger,
more than ever, never over,
Our work is never over.”

  • 30 Minutes Recumbent Bike
  • 3 sets of 5 – One Arm Burpees
  • 50 Sit-ups
  • 30 Leg Lifts
  • Right Arm Bicep Curls
  • Right Arm Military Press
  • Right Arm Rows

I’m lefty dominant so I figured who cares if I make my right arm a little stronger than the left during this period of recovery. There’s a first time for everything as the saying goes. I feel really good doing something active again, even if I only worked one side of my body.

Enjoy my ugly attempt at one arm burpees.

zucchini, chicken breast, broccoli, asparagus, veggiesAll followed by a healthy dinner consisting of chicken breast, asparagus, broccoli, and zucchini! Yum. Oh ya and guess what…the world didn’t end today. Cheers!



EPIC Racing Arena – Citizen’s Elect Video Submission

Citizen's Elect ChallengeEPIC Racing Arena, has requested that elite racers wanting to get a leg up in being selected to race in the Elite Races submit a video of themselves performing the following challenge: At a Football field perform 15 pull-ups (for men, 5 for women) then run to the opposite end of the field, go around the field goal post and sprint back.  Then, immediately drop down and perform 20 burpees when back in the end zone.  After being sick all last week and having terrible rain all weekend I finally made if over to my old high school football field, good ol Glendbard North High School, to attempt putting this video together.

epic racing arena obstacle raceWhen we arrived there was still football practice going on for the junior high school kids.  Thankfully they would be leaving soon.  Once 7:30pm rolled around it took them a little longer to depart than we were told so we tried to wait as patiently as possible for our opportunity to get the video done. As soon as the field was cleared I jumped up onto the soccer net post, yes a soccer net post, they decided to block the field field goal post with a soccer net, I had to make do. My first attempt I finished in 1:42.08.  My father convinced me to give it at least one more try to see if I could beat my time. I went for it.  As I rounded back from running across the field I could tell I was still feeling the effects of being sick. When I finished my burpees I knew I didn’t beat my first attempt. 1:48:10.  After that I was more than satisfied with my first attempt since I would need to go home and still edit and upload the video. You can’t a video without some tunes. So without further ado, I give you my video submission for EPIC Racing Arena.


UPDATE: Voting has begun!!! Please go to this page and click the like button to vote. 🙂

More Obstacle Race Training in the ATL

Obstacle Race Training for Death Race and Ultra Beast

Everyone got in on some wood chopping action!

When you are staying with other Obstacle Racers, the obstacle race training never ends.  Sunday morning we, Maureen, Andi and myself, headed over to Matt’s house to have breakfast together. After we all ate we were put to work. We helped Matt gather firewood from a neighbor’s house who was moving away.   Even his lil’ ones, Jackson and Emma, helped out.  I gave everyone a lesson in how to properly swing an axe and we all took turns chopping away at some very waterlogged stumps and such.  Matt also had some fun busting a couple old doors up with a sledgehammer.  They also played around with Andi’s homemade tractor pull, even Emma got in on the fun.

Push Up Challenge Obstacle Race Training

Got antsy waiting for our food.

After all that we began to get hungry again so we walked down the street to a local restaurant.  Though the options were limited, because it was brunch, we had some real good food.  I absolutely devoured my burger.  Before our food came out however, Andi and I decided why not knock out some of our pushups for the Push Up Challenge that is happening for the month of September.  We went outside the restaurant and both cranked out a hundred.  It’s funny how many people stop to ask why we’re doing what we do.  Always turns into a great opportunity to promote the Spartan Races, and other obstacle races that we are training for.

Obstacle Racers Train Anywhere

Our Training Pit Stop with Kerwin

Later in the day when Maureen, Andi and I were driving to Jason’s Deli for dinner, delicious by the way, I spotted a guy flipping a tire outside on the sidewalk at an apartment/townhouse type complex.  Of course we just had to stop.  It turned out he was training for a bodybuilding show in New York.  Andi asked Kerwin if we could flip his tire.  Only crazy obstacle racers would do such a thing. Ha.  So we all took turns flipping this big tire.  Then he brought out the sledgehammer and we all got our turn striking the big tire.  I think we convinced him to consider doing a Spartan Race, hopefully we’ll see him out on the course in the near future. He was a BEAST.

Post dinner we decided to do some sightseeing in downtown Atlanta.  We made a stop by the Olympic park area and of course what did we do? More pushups.  We got the attention of some guys walking by. The one asked if we really just knocked out 100 pushups, which Andi and I had.  He claimed he could prolly only do twelve, we said well join us! He dropped down and him and I went head to head at first, and then Maureen and Andi joined in.  I think he did some 38 pushups or so and he said he was going to join in on the Push Up Challenge for the rest of the month because we inspired him to start doing them everyday.  I love it; being able to motivate people to start doing something as simple as some push-ups is so invigorating.  That’s what it’s all about for us, ripping one person off the couch at a time.

Fun in the Park Doing Pushups and Obstacle Race Stuff

We had so much fun exploring the city, OCR style.

Next we made our way over to the Olympic Gymnast statue near the convention center where I remember competing in a National Cheerleading Competition a few years back; we placed 3rd in the International Open Division that year.  When we got to the statue I was in awe.  It was so, so cool to see this massive gymnast doing flares on a ring.  I jumped in there and held the best V-hold I could. It’s been a long time but I’ve been starting to practice these more and more recently.  Andi ended up climbing up on to the statue and grabbed the guys butt. Too funny.  It was getting late so we started to head back. On the walk back we noticed all these concrete pillars.  The obstacle-racing mind right away thought, oh look it’s just like the log hop.  I got up there and right away started hopping from one to the next ALL the way down the street.  Maureen took a little bit to get over the fear of doing it but she got into a nice rhythm; Andi rocked it out as well.

Road Trip Obstacle Race Training

Knocking out some burpees at every state line

When we got back to Andi’s we realized it was probably best if we left right then and there instead of trying to just catch a couple hours of sleep and then drive.  If we had to stop along the way we would.  It was hard saying goodbye.  It was such an incredible weekend with some of the best people.  During our journey home Maureen and I decided to take a picture at every state boarder welcome sign.  We knocked out a few burpees at each as well.  All in all this spur of the moment trip was priceless.  I couldn’t have asked for a better training weekend. Thank you Matt and Andi for being such wonderful hosts and thank you Maureen for coming with! See you all in Vermont later this month.

Ultra Beast Obstacle Race Training

At the spur of the moment, less than a week to prepare, fellow racer, Maureen, and myself, committed to driving out to Matt B. Davis’s Ultra Beast/Mudder training weekend in Atlanta, GA. The event was co-hosted by Andi Hardy, who frequents the podium at Spartan Races. Why would we drive from the Midwest, Chicago and Fort Wayne, just for a training weekend you might ask?  Mountains.  One thing the Midwest is known for is its flat lands, unfortunately that means there is almost nowhere that can properly prepare us for what lies ahead at the Ultra Beast in Vermont this September 22nd.  We know Killington will be brutal; we’ll be doing two 13ish mile laps of the Beast obstacle race, which will amount to being the first ever marathon distance obstacle race.

Friday evening after work I hopped in my car and drove to Indianapolis to meet Maureen.  Some awful traffic caused by a vehicle fire delayed my arrival by almost two hours.  We wouldn’t arrive in Atlanta until 6 AM after driving for 14 hours and some 750 miles.  Our training was scheduled to start between 7:30 AM and 8:00 AM.  I was able to get about 45 minutes of “rest” during the last leg of the trip and another hour of “sleep” at the house.  Andi, was just waking up when we arrived.

Training on a Mountain for Spartan Ultra Beast and Tough Mudder

We started out as a large group for training.

After the short catnap we made our way over to the mountain.  To my surprise, almost 20 people showed up for the training fun.  Even more surprising was seeing fellow Death Race Finisher, Pete, here for the event.  Just before we started the first 4-5 mile trail loop, which included a quick dip in the lake, Pete asked me if I wanted to run with his weight vest.

Mountain Training with Sandbags made by Matt B Davis

Thanks for the awesome sandbags Matt!

Even though we were going to be doing mountain climbs with our awesome sandbags that Matt made, with zero hesitation I obliged.  With our little crew together we set out for the first run.  The weight vest was a bit big but whatever, no time for comfort.  The trails were root infested, and ended up giving Maureen a nice split knee for a souvenir.  We didn’t find out until after we finished the loop as we were leading the pack.  I quickly dropped the weight vest and took off to see where her and the others stopped.  I met up with Andi and found out that a ranger had already picked Maureen up.  When we got back to the car site it turned out that Maureen wasn’t letting a little (deep) cut be the end of her fun.

Sandbag Carry Up Mountain

Check out that group of Sandbaggers

Andi handed out sandbags to all who wanted one, and we set out to climb Stone Mountain.  What a climb that was.  My custom made sandbag, complete with Legend of the Death Race logo, was somewhere around 35 lbs.  Matt decided I needed the heavier one, and they all had approx. 25 lb. sandbags. Andi’s green “watermelon” one was also about 35 lbs.  Along the way we were encouraged by many of the other people on the mountain and of course many were curious why we would do this to ourselves.  Spartan Race got a lot of free advertising from us today.  One guy even asked if he could carry my sandbag for a little to see what it was like and ended up meeting us back at Andi’s car to get one of his own.

Obstacle Race Sand Bag Mountain Training

The first climb to the top of Stone Mountain with sandbags

Once back at Andi’s car we all refueled, rehydrated and prepared for the next run.  With each return to the car more and more of our crew peeled off and said their farewells.  We set off on another run and made a stop at the bridge where the lake was.  We had some fun jumping from the bridge into the water; Andi checked the depth for us.  Maureen had fell back quite a bit because of her knee so Andi went back and the two of them went up the mountain while four of us guys set out on a longer trail run.   Other than some groin cramping this was another great run.  By the end of it we had completed a solid half marathon in total running.

We arrived back at the car and said farewell to two more.  Then there were four, Matt, Maureen, Andi, and myself.  We set out for another mountain climb.  This time I could really feel the sleep deprivation setting in.  The sun was beaming down on us; sweat just pouring out of my body.  Matt and I switched sandbags, and within a few minutes he understood how much that extra ten pounds affected you.  Toward the top we took a breather and I began to struggle even with the smaller sandbag.  My body was just exhausted; fuel was running low, and all I wanted was sleep.

Ultra Beast Obstacle Race Training

And then there were four.

The last stretch of the climb is extremely steep and though beyond exhausted, I did my best to push for a sprint up.  I made it about 3/4ths up this part before having to grab on the handrails. Making it to the top this second time felt like a true accomplishment.  We gathered ourselves, had a few more photos taken and set back down for the descent.

It was an amazing day of training with some incredible people.  The entire time it was all smiles.  That’s what it’s all about. If you have a smile on your face, no matter how hard the task, it becomes that much easier with a smile.  It’s all in the mind, after all. I am beyond satisfied with the turn out of the training event.  Now it’s time to enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend. Happy Labor Day and happy training to all!

Obstacle Race Mountain Training

Now THAT is a mountain 🙂

Workout of the Day 8-23-12

Run just under 9 miles of trails today. Climbed a rope I’ve been eyeing on my walks in the Forest Preserve near my work. Carried a log for a mile and a half starting around mile 6 of my run. Keeping it short and sweet tonight. With the Ultra Beast approaching trying to crank up the mileage. I’ll be heading down to Georgia next week for a training session with Maureen. We’re meeting up with our fellow racing friends, Matt, who runs an Obstacle Racing podcast. Andi, an absolute beast of a Spartan woman, will also be there. She has placed in the top spots at a few Spartan Races.  It’s going to make for a very exciting training weekend.

If you’re in there area and want to join us here is a link to the event page on Facebook.

Workout of the Day 8-16-12

Wow…it’s been a while since we’ve had one of these workout of the day posts. Today was one of those days where I had to push through my lactate threshold. I was feeling pretty tight when I hit the trail by my house today. I knocked out a 3.64 mile run. Half way through I saw a picnic table. I took this opportunity to do decline push-ups, box jumps (bench and table level), and reverse dips. Using the park bench nearby, I used a combination of my arms and legs to hurdle and turn my way over the bench going in a constant circle in both directions. Then I went straight back to running.

After my run I returned to my house, grabbed the slosh pipe and went to town with it. I did a lap around my block holding the pipe above my head, military pressing, curling, holding it out in front of me and curled. This made for a nice addition to the workout, I moved at a nice shuffle pace. The sloshing adds such a dynamic element to your workout. When I finished the lap I dropped and did pushups with my hands holding onto the slosh pipe. From there I moved onto a sprint workout.

Starting at my house I practiced sprinting at 100% force to the end of the block. It was approx .07 miles. I did this for a half mile worth. I pushed my limits a few times, and found myself sitting on the side of the curb a in between a couple of the sprints. All in all my speed is improving. Did you get out and work it out today? Don’t miss a workout, do whatever it takes to get it in. Missing a workout is like missing a class in college, at the time it seems to be a great idea, but in the end you’ll wish you didn’t.

ANNOUNCEMENT: You may have noticed a new button on the right side panel of this site. It’s the shiny green Register Now button.  That’s right we’re hard at work over here putting together an amazing training camp to prepare you for the 2013 Death Race and all other endurance challenges. Registration opens soon, just working out some legal mumbo jumbo.

Training Camps for Death Race Prep Workouts


Utilizing a Business Trip for Ultra Beast Training

Tuesday, August 14th 2012, it’s almost 4 o’clock and I’ve just checked into my hotel in Hickory, NC after driving 45 minutes from Charlotte Douglas International Airport .  It’s another short in and out trip for work. As soon as I got to my room I connected the iPad to the wifi and looked up the nearest trail.  There was nothing worthwhile showing up within a reasonable distance.  With this realization I decided to change what I was searching for. Where’s the nearest mountain?  It turned out that the nearest mountain was about the same distance as the only good looking trails I was finding previously.  That’ll have to do.

Single Track Trails

An hour later I found myself pulling up to this amazing looking mountainous area, South Mountains State Park.  Upon arrival I saw a couple coming back to their car, they both had small hiking packs so I figured I’d ask them about the trails.  They said they weren’t too bad, but I soon realized we weren’t on the same page.  They only took the nature trails, I was curious about the mountain trails.  Since it was fairly late, and I had not ate yet I knew I was taking some risks.  My hopes of finding a gas station to grab water from shattered when I realized how far out from civilization I really was.  Awesome, this was perfect timing.  At the time I didn’t realize it, but I was actually doing something very important for my training.  It’s always better to workout having fuel in you, but sometimes it helps to know how far you can go on an empty stomach. Sometimes, it helps to know your limits after you’ve already depleted your energy reserves.

Root infested trails.

The mountain itself was ruthless.  Now it wasn’t as large or demanding as the mountains I had climbed in Vermont at the Death Race but it still had some extremely gnarly terrain.  Single track trails, infested by roots, stairs, and many other natural obstacles that would assist in making this a memorable run.  I was going for speed so I tried not to stop.  During the ascent I stopped off at a few different lookouts.  Typically the lookout spots were dead-ends so I would stop snap some photos, and continue moving as quick as possible.  After realizing the sun was setting I decided I should make my way back down. I had already gone two miles, awesome just over four miles total. The descent was interesting.  The only way to build the muscles needed for going downhill is to run down…hill.  Period.  I’ve naturally been able to develop in this area rather quickly.  It’s exhilarating how fast you can get yourself moving on the descent of a mountain.  Most important is knowing when to turn your body control on and off.  I tend to let myself relax, I let the decline and momentum guide me down.  Swiftly engaging full control when I realize I’m just about to lose control.  During one of the sets of make shift stairs that were built into the mountain I didn’t engage control soon enough.  Shit! I lost my footing, fell forward and just barely caught myself.  With my iPhone in my hand, I was only slightly worried about the screen.  It was fine.  I sat for a brief second, dusted my self off and picked my ass back up off the ground.  I finished getting back to the parking lot.  Clocking my RunKeeper in at 46 minutes and 36 seconds, only 4.02 miles.  Damn, I really need to train more mountains.


Finishing that climb made be feel a little better about my training as my next trip to Vermont approaches.  This time I’ll be tackling the first ever marathon distance obstacle race.  The Spartan Race Ultra Beast.  It came together thanks to a group of us crazies suggesting it multiple times in various Spartan Race Facebook groups.  Knowing that I only had tonight to enjoy this rare opportunity I decided I wanted to practice some photography.  I went back out onto the trails with my fancy DSLR camera strapped around my neck.  This time I took the Hemlock Nature Trail which would lead to High Shoals Falls.  I’ve always wanted to photograph a waterfall.  It was another mile out, it took a little longer than I anticipated.  Once I got there though it was completely worth it.  With just enough light still available I went to work taking shots. I climbed off the designated walking areas and started hoping from boulder to boulder. Slowly descending down the ravine.  Memories of climbing up and down the ravine with Morgan at the Death Race came back in an instant.  This was much different but in so many ways it brought back great memories. During the descent I snapped off a few more shots and then I took off trying to get back before the park closed.  Jumping from rock to rock, being as careful as possible not to do anything that may result in damaging my expensive camera.  I made it back to my rental Jeep Liberty by 8:24pm.  The park closes at 9:00pm. Perfect.

My favorite shot I took of the falls.

After another hour drive home and an olympic speed shower, I finally was able to go eat.  I was the last person and only person in the restaurant.  Now, that is how you make a workout happen when you are traveling on business.  Small sacrifices lead to greater gains. I trained on a depleted reserves, learning that this is actually a beneficial occasional training technique.  I discovered this fact while reading through the recently released book You’ll Know at the Finish Line: A Spartan Guide to the Sport of Obstacle Racing.  I highly recommend this book.  If you’re on the fence about doing a race, this is for you, if you want to race better, this if for you. On top of it all I got to practice my photography and clocked another two miles while doing so.  My first ever trip to North Carolina was an incredible success. I hope to return for a longer visit to tackle more of that mountain.  It was beautiful.


Early Morning and Lunchtime Workout Combo

Due to my injured foot from the Indiana Sprint and the shoulder that won’t heal (since New Years) I’ve had to scale back my workouts the past two weeks more than I’d have liked to. Hell I don’t like that I’ve had to scale them back at all but I have to try to let these injuries get better otherwise its just going to be additional suck to suffer through during the Death Race. I’ve been doing a lot more legs, arms, and core workouts as a result. Friday morning I woke up extra early because I wanted to get into the office an hour early, as well as squeeze in a nice morning workout. FYI I rolled right out of bed did some light stretching to warm my body up and continued my workout right there next to my bed.

  • 100 Air Squats
  • 50 crunchies
  • 50 air squats
  • 50 bicycles
  • 100 calf raises
  • 50  in-place lunges
  • 50 v-ups
  • 100 toe raises

Then later in the afternoon, just before my lunch at work I did some additional leg and ab work.

  • 50 Deep Air Squats
  • 100 crunchies
  • 50 Left Leg Up Sit-Ups
  • 50 Right Leg Up Sit-Ups
  • 50 each side, side crunchies
  • 25 each side, single leg squats. While balancing on one leg and holding the other perpendicular to your body out in front of you, perform a squat. This requires balance, I suggest being next to something you can grab for balance as you go down, but do not rely on it only use as needed to get your balance in check.
  • 25 V-Ups

Let’s just say my calves have been on fire the past two days, it was a fantastic workout that together took less than 45 minutes total.


Yesterday’s WOD

Yesterday I spread my workout out over the entire course of the day. I had a lot to do so I was basically squeezing in my workout how/where ever I could.

Over the course of the day I did

  • 30 Burpess
  • 100 Calf Raises
  • 100 Toe Raises
  • 150 Sit-Ups
  • 200 Penquins – Lay on your back on the floor with your arms at your side then “waddle” back and fourth like a penguin
  • 100 Left/Right Side Sit-Ups

I also dug out a nice 4ft deep hole about 2ft in diameter to install a new mailbox post at my parents house. During which my ol man and I switched off on some of the digging. In between I did a few sets of lunges while carrying the 50lb Quikcrete bag on my shoulder. Prolly knocked out a good 50 lunges on each leg going up and down my driveway.

I did most of my ab work while watching TV…all in all it was a very productive day.