Patrick Cryer was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 1994 at the age of 29.  He’s struggled physically every day since then.

“In April of 2008 I had a flare up so severe that it put me in the hospital. They talked me into an operation that did not go very well.  I ended up spending 116 days in the hospital in 2008. After about 100 days I developed a staph infection and was placed in ICU. After a few days there, I really have no memory of this time, two different nurses working different shifts came up to my wife and told her that I was going to die in that hospital,” he explains.

Sadly for the resident of Lancaster, Texas the doctors had given up as they didn’t know what else to do.  They were, in effect, waiting for him to die. Luckily for Patrick one of his doctors had spoken with a faculty member at UT Southwestern – Patrick’s local medical school.

“After ten days in ICU I was finally well was enough to be transferred to a regular room,” recalls Patrick. “Within a few days after that I was actually well enough to go home. My new doctor told me that I needed a second operation to correct the first, but I was not strong enough to survive it.”

“At the end of 2008, I had my wife take a picture of me. I weighed around 118 pounds and could barely walk across a room. My wife was reluctant to take the picture as it was hard for her to see me like that. I needed that picture taken. I wasn’t sure why at the time, I just knew.”

2009 Patrick spent at home with constant doctor visits trying to find a treatment that would get him closer to where he needed to be. It was during this period that Patrick had a lot of trouble sleeping and would spend many nights walking up and down his driveway, sometimes even just sitting on the porch swing contemplating everything that was unfolding.

“A lot of that time was spent complaining to God about the situation I was in. Eventually the bitterness subsided and I began to think about the future.  I knew when I got past the current situation I was going to make my life a life truly worth living. I was finally well enough to have the second operation in January of 2010.”

Patrick has thankfully been in remission since February 2010. At that time his weight was about 125 pounds. Eventually, he was strong enough to go back to work by the end of the summer.

“I was introduced to obstacle racing in 2011 and ran a few 5ks that year. In 2012, I formed a racing team called ‘I Almost Died’. My son challenged me to take it up a notch and run what we thought was a Super Spartan. It turns out that we had signed up for the Texas Spartan Beast in December 2012. Four of us signed up for The Beast.”

Training helped considerably during these times. Not just in preparation for the Beast they had signed up for, but also to combat what he was going through physically and mentally.

“When I first went back to work in 2010 I started doing pushups. At the beginning it was only 5 at a time and took awhile to build up. When I would come in to my office in the morning the first thing I would do would drop and do some pushups. I would prepare to go down to court and then on my way out of the office I would drop and do some more. Any time I came into my office I would try to do at least a few. In 2012 I had managed to do around 5,000 pushups. By 2013, I had built up to being able to 40 to 50 at time and finished the year with 40,050. My goal for 2014 is 50,000.”

But the Beast rose on the horizon like an ever more oppressive shadow, one that he realized could be beaten by raising his game. September was approaching fast and he had only three months to get ready. It was the first time since his college tennis days were over that he took getting in shape seriously.

“I joined a group of guys doing CrossFit and did my best to get ready. There were a lot of failed obstacles and a lot of burpees that day, but we made it to the end.  It was definitely the hardest thing I had ever done, next to not dying. In 2013 team “I Almost Died” had eighteen different racers participate.  Nine of us participated in the 2013 Texas Spartan Beast. 2014 will not be complete for me without at least one trifecta medal.”

Aiming big is something Patrick does with almost nonchalant ease. Realizing that many would shake their heads, point at the videos they see of past races and nervously laugh at the prospect of doing a Spartan, he’s quick to pour cold water on the heat of any fear.

“You can do anything you put your mind to. I would encourage everyone to sign up today for a Spartan Race three to six months down the road. Circle that day on your calendar and do something every day towards that goal. If you can only do one pushup or one burpee, then do one and then after a while do another, then repeat throughout the day. You will be surprised how quickly you will see benefits. To me the Spartan Races are more mental than physical. You have to have the mindset that you can do it. I went from someone who couldn’t walk across a room to someone who just ran 15 miles and 30+ obstacles. I told people that unless a bone was sticking out of my body, I will finish the race. If I can do it, anyone who wants to can do it.”

Now at 48 Patrick tells us that he’s in the best shape of his life. He knows that his disease could come back tomorrow with the same ferocity it hit him back in 2008, but it doesn’t worry or bother him. Smiling, he calmly points out that he’s just grateful for today and that he’s training for a Spartan Race.

“People often ask me why I run these races. I tell them I run them for that 118-pound guy who should have died. I run for him because he could not.”

See you at the finish line…


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