by Carrie Adams
Gasping for breath, Ogden crossed the finish line for the sixth time in two days, held up by friends and spurned on by a crowd who greeted him with cheers as he nearly collapsed. Covered in mud, scraped, bruised, and battered, he was finally able to rest having fulfilled a commitment he’d made months before when he sent a simple email to my inbox.
When I began reading the message, I was intrigued by Ogden’s request. It was simple, Ogden was direct. He politely asked me if he would be able to run the Carolinas course as many times as he could. This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked this question by a Spartan athlete, but James had a special reason. He wanted to raise money for the charity Wounded Wear. Given limited heat sizes, we don’t allow multiple heats run on the same day at an event, but Ogden was ultimately granted special permission given the cause and his commitment.
He explained, “My challenge is to now focus these efforts to raise money for a non-profit organization; Wounded Wear. I have made it possible to pledge money ($$ amount per lap) or by simply a flat donation for my efforts via a wepay.com website that is set up here. As a former Marine Veteran I fully believe and support the organization and their mission. My entire reason for doing this is to draw attention to our wounded vets and, of course, the awesome (non-profit) organization; Wounded Wear.”
Wounded Wear was created by a severely wounded Navy SEAL who while undergoing his own reconstruction and recovery recognized two key issues that were not addressed by other organizations. He struggled with his massive injuries to find clothing he could wear around the medical devices necessary for healing and he noticed that most people never assumed that his injuries were incurred on the battlefield fighting for our Freedom.
Ogden ultimately took on the challenging course six times. Racers and athletes watched on with fascination and horror during the sixth lap as Ogden battled the course while donning an elevation mask and carrying a ruck and weighted vest adding and additional 50 pounds.
Beginning his six laps in the early Saturday morning Hurricane Heat and ending on Sunday he details his time on the course and the people and the cause that helped inspire him along the way.
On race day, I did six laps total. That includes the Hurricane heat on Saturday morning. It took us about 3.5 hours to finish it. We got done with that at 9:20 or so in the morning. I still needed to eat and replenish my fluids. I did that an washed all of the excess mud off of me. Lap two for me started at around 10AM. This was obviously my fasted lap. I think, total, it took me an hour and a half to finish it. After got back, I knew I needed to eat but had to just chug a bottle of Powerade and take off. My friend John Henry was fighting off some serious cramps but decided to do this heat with me. Three was bad. I basically forgot to eat and felt it after about half way through. My blood sugar dropped like a rock. John Henry kept me going but just making small-talk, pithy jokes and such. Once I got back I had realized that because I slowed due to my blood sugar dropping, I wasn’t going to be able to do five heats total in that day like I had wanted to. I took a “break” for about an hour.
I ate a whole bag of Simple Granola, drank a couple cans of Kill Cliff, changed clothes and I was a new man. I killed my fourth heat. I probably passed half of the field from the previous heat (@3:30). I coasted on in and Eric Ashley, one of my heroes, had been checking in on me and personally gave me my fourth medal. It’s pretty cool when a person that deeply inspires you, gives you a medal. And chatted with me for about an hour afterwards. Super cool guy and he gave me some awesome advice.
One of the biggest challenges laid before me and that was waking up the next day and essentially doing it all over again. My entire body was bruised, cut-up, rubbed raw — my hands had blisters and splinters. My feet and knees sounded like a bag of popcorn in the microwave. But my alarm clock that was set for 5:15 that morning didn’t even get a chance to go off. I was up at 4 just stretching, pacing and re-hydrating. I was amped. Ready to attack it all over again. The only thing that was stressing me was what I had planned for the final lap.
Another huge challenge was getting over the mentality of what qualified me as “a finisher.” That was huge. Usually, you show up, STFU, get your medal, pass around a few high-fives, drink some beer and go home. That wasn’t what was in store for me. As happy as it made me to see all of these new, and very elated, Spartans, I still had a mission to accomplish. And I sort of had to block all of that out.
John Henry decided to do the my fifth lap with me on day two. That was a HUGE morale booster for me. Anytime you have JHE next to you, it’s going to be a good day. While we were running, we chatted about how the last lap was going to go down. I preemptively bitched about every hill and every obstacle knowing full well that it was going to hurt and it was going to be super tough. JHE’s standard response: “Yea, that is going too suck.” My body was pretty shot at this point so it was indeed all mental. JHE and I coasted in at just over two hours.
For the final lap, I had about 40 minutes to get changed, feed myself, and gear up. Just to antiquate it, I had a 20 pound vest, a 30 pound ruck, and (the killer) the elevation mask. I got a lot of concerned looks on the way to the start line, to say the least. But I had my elite entourage covering my six: John Henry, Todd Sedlak, and a guy that I ran with at the HH – John Powers. I’m not going to lie, I walked at a 3.5 mph pace the whole time.
From previous training, I knew that the mask, when I had all kinds of weight and gear strapped to me, basically restricted my breathing down to barely acceptable levels. I had to really concentrate on my breathing. I felt so lightheaded just moving from one obstacle to the next. I honestly don’t know if I could have made it with out my guys– I have a strong feeling that I would’ve had to ditch the mask. Every hill was a battle. My muscles fatigued faster than they ever had – I felt kind of useless at points. There were a few points where I had to take the mask off and take a knee.
The guys were always patting me on the back: “You got this, man. This is all you.” There were some obstacles that there were was just no way that I was going to complete it with all of my gear. To avoid burpees, Todd, JHE, or Powers would do it for me and we would move on. The low-crawl through the mud under barbed wire was unequivocally the worst. Todd and John pushed me and Powers helped me drag my ruck. We moved pretty quickly considering the circumstances. A lot of the racers had stopped at the end to make sure we all made it out ok — or perhaps they just wanted to see the show that was unfolding before them. The biggest problem that I was having was trying to keep my mask opening from going in the mud and, thereby, cutting off what little air that I was taking in. So I had to look sideways and up; not comfy in the least. And at this point, the mud was at its worst consistency. Just slick as can be and full of rocks and roots. I am most confident that all of us walked away from that pit bleeding from at least three areas on our body.
When I put the ruck back on, it weighed at least fifteen pounds heavier. That’s something I did not train for. I just had to suck it up and drive on. The funny thing is all of the guys were telling stories and making jokes the whole time and I kept laughing in my mask. That screwed my breathing up but kept my spirits high the whole time. We kept pushing forward.
I stopped and took my mask off when I knew had less than quarter mile to go and still in the woods. I heard the announcer and music playing in the not-so-distant background. I caught my breath again and thanked those guys from the bottom of my heart. I could not have gotten this far without them. And there was indeed a small part of me that, even when I started, thought that I would end up failing. They, in turn, thanked me for letting them be apart of this. Are you fucking kidding me? “You’re thankful? No I’m thankful!” We could have argued all day and night but, at that point, it had been BEER:THIRTY about two hours ago so we shoved on.
The rest was history. We worked through the last few obstacles. And made it to the fire and the floating platform that led to about 75 meters of open water to cross. Todd and JHE had an epic battle with the pugil stick Spartans at the end. They pushed them completely off the raft. I had tripped on the rocks and fallen on my face, hitting my head as well. Exhausted and confused, I look over my right shoulder while seeing double (and trying to catch my breath yet again) and saw John Powers reaching for me with an out-stretched hand and calling my name. I grabbed it and the flag that I had dropped and jumped onto the platform and back off of it. My Marine Corps training kicked in once I was submerged; I immediately donned the mask and sank to the bottom with all +50 pounds strapped to me. I pushed up off the bottom but didn’t even reach the surface before JHE and Todd had snatched me up. They hoisted me up over their shoulders and I had the flag in my hands. It was pretty emotional.
The guys were still thanking me but with cracks in their voices. “For what? Having you babysit me for the past 4+ miles?” They set me down about ten feet from the water line and I was able to walk it in with fifty or so people gathered around and screaming. It was tough not to get emotional.
Six laps, almost a marathon’s distance for a cause. Ogden indicates that over $2500 was raised for Wounded Wear. If you’d like to help this worth cause, donate directly through WoundedWear.org or go to Ogden’s donation page HERE.