Vision Impairments & The Warrior Dash Don’t Slow Me Down

This Saturday will be my second time competing in the Warrior Dash at Lewis Morris Memorial Park in Morristown, NJ.  Races like this appeal to me mainly for the obstacle course they put together.  If majority of the race was an obstacle course without all the running, I would enjoy it even more.  The Warrior Dash is 3.2 miles and about 15 obstacles over all kinds of terrain.  You run through open fields, up steep hills, through small rivers, a lake, over walls, in mud, and everything else the people at Red Frog Events can throw at their warriors.  A lot of fun actually.

Warrior-Dash-1Last year I finished the race in 47 minutes plus change.  All I am looking to do on Saturday is beat my own time.  It does not matter if it is by 10 seconds or five minutes. I just want to show improvement.  Even when I was a wrestler I showed the same intensity.  Regardless of the challenge put in front of me, I am always determined to prove I can overcome.  If I can not, then I know I gave it my best.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when anyone tells me I can not do something.  People will use words like “No” or “You can’t”.  I answer with “Yes, I can” and “watch me”.  Obstacles are always being put in front of me.  Once I was diagnosed with central vision loss in 1991, many areas of enjoyment became off-limits.  I was informed I could no longer wrestle in high school.  Told to not exert myself in to strenuous a fashion.  That sat with me for many years.

Did I listen?

No.

After high school I wrestled professionally on the independent circuit for a while.  I told no doctors or my parents.  It took a picture being left out by my brother for my mother to know I was wrestling.  Did I stop at that point?  Nope.  It didn’t even slow me down.  I was proving that even though I had suffered this vision damage and told not to exert myself physically, that I was able to do it with no new damage happening.

406257_3724698788475_628888476_nMy eye doctor at the time was amazed.  My current specialist in NYC was shocked to know what I did and nothing happened further with my vision.  My mother eventually said “If I can not stop you, I may as well support you”.  Now THAT was a big win for me.  My determination in completing what I start gives me focus.  I did not have closure wrestling in high school because someone else ended it for me.  I guess that is why even today I do not like others halting me from what I know is right for myself.  If I know something is beyond me or too dangerous, I am intelligent enough to know when to stop.  My wife tends to think otherwise.  In her case, I listen.

I became aware of the Warrior Dash a few years ago.  I subscribe to Men’s Health magazine and they were taking out ads in every issue.  Even before Red Frog started running events in NJ last year, I knew I wanted to attempt it.  Red Frog Events has been putting on the Warrior Dash longer than a majority of the other mud runs out there.  I kept pushing off racing as I was not in the best shape.  But as life and situations improved for my wife and myself, I knew the Warrior Dash was in my future.  I worked out at L.A. Fitness last year, about 4 days a week.  I put together a weight routine and ran on the elliptical every time I worked out.

I had myself in decent shape.  Decent enough to get through the race without needed oxygen afterwards.  I just hate doing cardio.  Long distance running is not my forte.  I understand stamina is needed for any physical event and sports so hence doing a necessary evil.  One has to run in order to have enough stamina.  One also needs to shed unwanted pounds in make cardio easier.  I am at the same weight now that I was last year.  I know if I lose another 10-15 pounds, the cardio will be a lot easier.  Something to focus on before next year’s race.  I am a nighttime snacker, sue me.

Completing last year’s race as a sole racer, no teammates, had me smiling from ear to ear for days.  My elation in running a race filled with obstacles and being able to physically put myself out there for enjoyment makes me hold my head a little bit higher.  I am a physical person by nature, it makes me happy.  I gain confidence knowing that even with my limitations, I can still enjoy the physical activities others said I would not be able to do.  If I could have played football as a kid, I would have.

389089_3724662267562_1262596730_nA few weeks after the Warrior Dash last year I noticed a change in my right eye.  I decided to make a doctor’s appointment to see what the change was.  After the usual tests the doctor informed me I had some leakage on the blood vessels behind my eye.  No blood or anything yet. just the start of something.  They caught it in time to halt its progression and even minimize the effects.  All it took was a shot to my eye.  Apparently, a cancer medication has become useful for those with glaucoma in slowing it’s advancement.  My mother currently gets them every few weeks.

He explained it as a small brush fire that sparks or a lightning strike.  Prediction of what may happen is uncertain for someone my age with this condition.  All they can do is watch it, they do not want me to limit myself in what I do in life.  That was a sigh of relief.  Since that point I have not had another shot.  I have been back for follow-up visits with everything being fine.  By this point, I started to work out harder in the gym.  I knew my limits and I was determined to straddle the line in pushing that limit.

warrior-dashI switched health clubs from L.A. Fitness to New York Sports Clubs.  NYSC offered kettlebells, TRX, UXF, and a fraction of the membership.  Parking is easy to find, the equipment I want is always available, they provide towels, and the management goes out of their way to make it enjoyable.  L.A. Fitness was always busy, other members were rude, plus when one has to wait to use every piece of equipment, it can be annoying.   There is a story there in itself.  It was a change for the better.

Over the next several months I really bulked up.  My shirts we getting tighter up top.  My wife has been extremely happy about it.  I am in the second best shape of my life.  When I was 30, I was in great shape and a little leaner too.  I added more muscle this time.  Plus my abs are starting to see definition for the first time in like, history.  I enjoy going to the gym.  It feels good.  I am no gym rat or a “I lift things up and put them down” type of guy.  I only want to stay in shape and enjoy myself in the process.

I knew for this years Warrior Dash I added extra strength.  I have no run as much as I did to prepare last year.  I used to run 4 days a week.  Now I am lucky if I get to the gym for two days a week.  I always run a fast mile before any work out as a warm up.  The distance running is what I lack time in.  I can keep a steady pace and run five and a half miles in an hour.  More than enough to help me finish the race.  I just hate the anticipation of all that running.  Once again, it is that necessary evil.

486777_10151577216754394_1610444792_nEven as I know my vision got a little worse it did not deter me from wanting to race again.  I will be doing events and activities like this until I physically can not do so.  I also run the Warrior Dash for those more visually impaired than I am.  For those blind and visually impaired who would like to participate in physical and challenging events.  Many have other causes and purposes for running other events, this is mine.

I ran the race for the same reason last year.  It was a great experience I wish other could have shared with me.  This year, everyone will be able to.  I will be running the race with a GoPro Hero 3 Silver Edition.  This way everyone can see what the Warrior Dash is like and share in the ride.  The video should be up a week or so after the race.  Maybe if some people I know see how the Warrior Dash is, they might reconsider and want to race next year.

I wrote a piece last year before my first race (shar.es/kNfFB , best link I can do).  I gave more detail about my wrestling background, being bullied, and more where the Warrior Dash just became one more obstacle to overcome.  Every time I defeat a course like the Dash, I feel a little prouder of myself each time.  I rarely ask for help, even when I know I am having troubles.  I am getting better in asking for assistance in some ares.  Men hate to look vulnerable or weak, it is hard to ask for help at times.  The bigger men are the one;s who know when to ask & understand it will not affect their pride.  I am learning the latter.

It is hard to ignore my vision issues every time I open my eyes.  At least my dreams are in perfect 20/20.  I have to constantly think a few moves ahead to compensate for the loss.  I am sure many others who have had their setbacks have a certain method they use to overcome and lead a normal life.  I hate using the word disability.  Many are inflicted with one but it never slows them down.  Those people run a Warrior Dash every day of their life.  The daily obstacle course, filled with challenges, that are overcome everyday.  For some, making it to tomorrow is the biggest victory.

531371_3724686948179_1563518323_nSeriously though, click the link above and read the article.  I can tug a few more heart-strings and give you more to laugh at by clicking the link above.  Go ahead.  This piece is not going anywhere.  It will be here for you to finish when you are done reading it.  Fin.  Keep reading here.  At least share it.  I had to try a little shameless self plug.  It provides insight as to why a race like this is important to me.  The article provides a better understanding of who I am  & why it is important to never give up on what truly matters in life.

Next year I will not just be running in the Warrior Dash,m but the Tough Mudder as well.  I need to be in better physical shape for the Mudder.  Dedication to training and a better diet over the next year is key to have the stamina and energy to last 10-12 miles.  As I prepare for the Tough Mudder, I will also prepare for American Ninja Warrior.  That is my ultimate goal.  To at least make it through the first round of qualifying for American Ninja Warrior.  I have the right frame of mind for both events, now my body needs to be just as ready.

I love a great challenge.  Nothing makes me smile more than facing life obstacles and overcoming them.  Making people rethink their comments to me, after they see what I am able to overcome.  I love to prove others wrong when it comes to my physical limitations.  No one leads my life or knows what I am capable of.  The only way to find out is to stand back and watch.  Or head to my YouRube channel to watch my videos.

Either way, I will give everyone a reason to stand up and take notice.  Not everyone is perfect.  We all have our imperfections.  Mine just happens to be my vision.  Tat never slowed me down.

And it never will.

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