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Tom’s Fitness and Paris Martial Arts

Warrior Dash and Me

Posted: September 18, 2014

I love challenges, especially physical ones. Like this year’s Warrior Dash, held recently in Crawfordsville, Indiana. I think it’s because as a child, I had asthma so severe, the doctors wouldn’t let me participate in any physical activity at all.

They were pretty worried I’d have an asthma attack at school, and there wouldn’t be any help for me. This was back before they’d developed the rescue inhalers that are so commonplace now.

For many patients, asthma gets better as the child grows up, or goes away altogether. In my case, it got worse. So they kept me away from physical exercise and steered me towards music lessons. Years of piano, violin, and drum lessons, and it worked, too. I kind of had a gift for it, and I’ve never, ever had an asthma attack while playing the piano!

As I got older, they developed some drugs to try and prevent the attacks from happening, but they weren’t very effective, especially in my case. The years after high school graduation were the worst.

When I was 19 and 20, I had several hospitalizations and even a couple life-threatening episodes. Part of this was due to the seriousness of the attacks, but part was due to me just having had enough.

I wanted to move. I needed to be move. Back then, I didn’t understand it, but I had what experts call a “felt need” to get moving. So I did. I started martial arts and working out in the gym, despite the asthma.

I trained a lot and made some progress, but every now and then, I’d have an exercise induced asthma attack. Sometimes they were so serious that rescue inhalers couldn’t help.

So I’d have to go to the hospital for breathing treatments in the ER. The respiratory therapists wheeled in this machine that looked like C3PO from Star Wars, and I’d get a 20 minute treatment. Often, I’d also get a shot of epinephrine from the nurse.

Usually, near the end of the treatment, I’d feel my airways start to open back up, and I could finally relax a little bit. But sometimes, the treatments wouldn’t work, and they’d have to admit me for a day or two.

By this time, they’d developed home nebulizers so you could give yourself breathing treatments. One time, I happened to inhale some smoke while putting wood in a stove. It took two full treatments before I finally felt I wasn’t going to die. Literally.

The medicine kept getting better, but it wasn’t fool proof, especially if I went above a certain intensity. I remember driving to the ER after one of my earlier black belt testings. That was just the way it was. I carried inhalers everywhere, and used them all the time, but they didn’t always help.

Then, about 10 years ago, they came out with a new class of preventative drugs. These actually kept the adverse chemical reactions from happening at the molecular level. It was life changing, for me and many others.

Finally, I could go as hard as I wanted, without fear of an asthma attack. I no longer had to worry about allergic reactions (most of the time). After 30 years of making sure I always had an inhaler with me, now I no longer needed one.

Suddenly, the sky was the limit. I could spar at 100% without worry. I was able to run far and even run fast. I could grapple much larger guys, and not only not gas out, but not choke out either (unless they actually choked me out)!

So I did sparring tournaments, 5K’s, and then full and half marathons. Then CrossFit training, grappling tournaments, and finally, mud runs like the one last weekend.

Warrior Dash is a 5K (3.1 mi) obstacle run with a bunch of obstacles to challenge you along the way. It was also particularly muddy this year. From start to finish, the trail was covered in mud, often several inches deep. This requires extra leg effort, especially when you’re going uphill. It also requires extra focus to keep your footing.

There were hundreds of participants all day long, running up and down muddy hills, crawling through trenches, climbing over walls, traversing narrow beams, jumping over fire, and slogging through the obligatory mud pit. Of course, the harder you push the pace, the more difficult it is.

This wasn’t the first time I’d participated in Warrior Dash, but for some reason, it was my best one. The training leading up to the event went really well, and right from the start I felt great. So I ran right on the edge, all the way through. I can’t tell you how nice it is to not have to worry about breathing. I was able to just focus on the run and having fun!

It’s not the toughest mud run out there. Spartan Sprints typically have more difficult obstacles, and Tough Mudder and full Spartan Races are quite a bit longer, around 10-12 miles. I even have a friend that does 50K wilderness runs for fun. That’s more than 30 miles, without trails. They simply take a compass, some snacks, and off they go.

But this Warrior Dash was very empowering for me, as it was for everyone else I talked to. There’s just something about just getting dirty and sweaty. Especially with most of our time spent inside these days, sitting at computers.

For many, the goal was to come and just have a good time, while completing the course. This time for me, it was a chance to try and blast through as fast as possible (without getting injured).

I figure I’m making up for all those early days. Dad says if I could have been in athletics back then, I’d probably be a professional musician with those years of lessons. Instead, I train people in fitness and martial arts, and do Warrior Dash.