Robert Mathews of Sahuarita, Arizona was serving his country when he suffered an injury that cut his career short. Happy, but missing that certain something, he discovered Spartan Race. We caught up with him recently and spoke to him about his story.

“Well it ain’t long, but ill share it. Without the gore! 2006 my squad got ambushed. Those who made it, were still hanging on but not by much. I was transported from Iraq to Germany in the process received transfusions and surgeries. They tried to repair the damage, but the bullet ripped out my bicep, tore my tricep, and cut all my nerves. “

In 2007, he was sitting at Walter Reed when a huge wave of doubt and depression hit him. He considered himself “washed up.” “A young one armed handicapped person”. He was resigned to the fact that his military career was over and a hard-to-get civilian job would be on the cards. It was then that he met a man that turned his attitude around. A Delta Force guy with one arm that was in an identical situation.

“This was badass he achieved my ultimate military goal!  He told me, “If your mind is weak, your body is” and we start doing one armed pushups against the wall. My mindset was transformed! Shortly after I did a soldier ride from Phoenix to Las Vegas. I got married, and had kids. I continued to serve until 2010, mostly teaching my craft to young soldiers, when I started to encounter a lot of flax and BS. It was a consent struggle, so I retired.”

From there, we fast-forward to last year. Robert realized his kids and wife deserved the best of him. They were his priority and everything thereafter was secondary.

“Deep down on the most primal level the best of me is an endurance beast, a fighter, someone who pushes the limitations and doesn’t quit. Not doing those things suppressed a lot of me. So I moved to Arizona, where being retired I do a lot of outdoor survival, biking, camping, running and my HOA has a pretty bad ass gym. I’ll admit, I miss having two arms, but in the gym adaptation is key. Keeps me thinking on my feet.”

It was then that the Arizona Sprint came barreling around the corner into view. The first test of his character and will power. All that time spent honing his fitness would now be tested.

“The Sprint was fun, but I’m going to have my revenge on some obstacles. The sand bag hoist for sure, because as adaptive as I am, I couldn’t figure out a one armed way! And for sure the rope climb and that damn spear throw! After knocking out the Sprint, I have wrapped my head around a few ways to accommodate, adapt and overcome, but a sure bet is to master the one armed burpee. I’ve also wrote a four phase beast training guide and it started today actually.”

Was the preparation for something alien to him enough? Where the physical side can be ready, did the idea of the course, covered by a cloak of sinister mystery, worry him or was it something that he thrived upon? Robert explains that the prospect pumped him up and it was something he thrived upon.

“Trust me I trained for the Arizona Sprint like a beast. I aimed for number one.  I stepped up to the starting line feeling hard as woodpecker lips. I could taste it, but you know, winners are everywhere, finishers to me means something different. We all train to win, but only one individuals gets number one spot. Few train to finish. There are billions of people in this world and how many medals have y’all handed out? Exactly! Quitting gets easier over time it’s a hard path to change. You want to witness intestinal fortitude? Watch a person who fight and never gives in. That’s hardcore, that’s the person I want to be. I’ll try and maybe I’ll make it, maybe I won’t, but I’ll try it again and again until I get it right.”

But then, out of his new experience, he found something that excited him even more than the Sprint. Hovering into view was something he could relate to on a military-style level. He had found what he believes could be his “happy place”.

“Then I received word on the Las Vegas Twelve Hour Hurricane Heat. I immediately told my wife to skip getting me anything for Christmas, because if I can get a chance I’ll save up and go to it. Which leads me to today! As soon as the sign up was released, Robert signed up. Actually they should run the course with one arm tied up, I’d kick some ass then!”

Robert is clearly a fighter. Someone who thrives on the challenge and the pressure of a battle and while he will always aim for the top spot, it’s not the winning that is important to him. It’s the fight and the effort that count as a higher value to him.

“In the most cheesiness line ever, I won’t quit. Y’all have to carry me on a shield haha! It’s a wonderful start in the world of endurance racing. This is the me I want to be for my kids and wife. It’s a long road, but my goals are easy. To be an endurance athlete that can show people in their darkest moments that you don’t let a wall stop you, you tuck your head, grit your teeth, speed up and blow through it. Win, lose or draw, there isn’t room for quit. My job in the military showed me time and time again the body can go so much further if your mind acceptance is there.

Pain is weakness leaving the body, and you’ll never be more alive than when you’re cold, wet, hungry, bloody and beaten, both mentally, physically. Once you have felt the worse, and been thru hell, nothing is that bad afterwards.”

Reflecting on the tag line of Spartan Race – “You’ll know at the finish line” – Robert sees a heavy parallel with what he experienced in the military. While perhaps not of the same punishing weight of responsibility, that undefinable “something” was something that he’d already experienced.

“My military started as a grunt and I was told that when you’re standing on Victory Hill and they give you that blue cord, you’ll know. They were right and as cheesy as it sounds, after they hand you that medal you know. I can’t tell you to this day what it is, but you’ll know, when you burst through that finish line, people can be inspired and it’s easy to say, “that’s great the gimp did it, I can do.” I’m glad, but do it. Hell yeah I say do a Spartan, but start today. Lace your shoes up, sling a kettlebell, do a burpee and then tomorrow do two. It isn’t hard, it’s that easy! No excuses.”

Looking forward, Robert now has his battle plans drawn up and knows what he needs to do in order to get to where he wants to be. A personal battle with not just fitness and physical strength, but honing and sharpening his willpower and inner strength. Nothing, it would appear, will stand in his way.

“So in short I’ll attend the Twelve Hour Hurricane Heat. If not that, then maybe a Beast, collect some shiny medals and eventually search out a sponsorship once my race profile fills up. Locally I attend 5k’s and 10k’s. Hopefully adding marathons and century rides in this year! I will get there. It takes time and at 30 I’ve just begun! Long term is to become a hardcore endurance athlete, to continue to push the limits of mind and body! I refuse to let a non-functioning limb keep me from attempting my dreams, or have anyone tell me I don’t belong, or hold me back. I’m going to dominate my life, nothing or no one else. Me!”

Focussing that rage and harnessing the positive aggression he has into what comes next is now second nature for Robert. He knows what is allowed and what he will accept, but one thing is definitely off the menu.

“Quitting. Quitting is the one thing you can’t take back! You don’t get a redo, plain and simple you quit! I’d rather carry you and shoulder some pain and help, then let you quit. My wife and kids deserve the best of me and I have to tell her thanks for letting me pursue my dreams. There’s also the small matter of her putting up with me and these wild, ‘hey I’m going to do a Sprint, a Beast, a whatever’ moments I have. All I can do is my best and never give in.”

“It isn’t in me, it’s not for me. I’ve been shot, blown up, beaten, bloody, and left for death! There isn’t much that can hold me back, and after all that, quitting isn’t an option and it shouldn’t be for anyone. You’ve been through worse, so what’s a little mud? Get out there and STFU!”

Sign up now and we’ll see you at the finish line…

Tags: , ,

Bryce Amdur served the Army for almost 5 years. Sadly, in February 2013, he was medically discharged at 30% disability. A year before he was released, he was battling pain and, in his own words, “inabilities to be a soldier”. A depression hit him hard because he thought he wasn’t a worthy soldier any more.

“I loved being a soldier and I loved serving my country”, explains Bryce. “I went to Iraq in 2010 where I was a 15 Romeo which is an Apache attack helicopter mechanic. I was also the DART – downed aircraft mechanic – team leader while detached from my unit in southern Iraq. After Iraq I had started dealing with back, neck and left shoulder pain. I had come to find out that my spine had deteriorated disks in C2-C5, which was causing my left trapezes to not sit right. I also was dealing with PTSD. I did pain therapy, PT, while also receiving 2 spinal taps and steroids put directly into my spine. Some days it would get as bad as not being able to walk.”

As he was preparing to become medically discharged from the military his wife was having difficulty dealing with the depression and the PTSD that Bryce was suffering from. She had just started working for the police department as a dispatcher.

One fateful night, Bryce reached arguably the darkest moment in his life. “I had my pistol against my head with the safety off and ready to go. The only thing that kept me from my own death was my son Ryan. I knew I couldn’t let him live without a father. I called my wife at work.”

Bryce’s wife came home with a police escort and took their son. Next day he was served with restraining order as well as an order to exit his house he had bought only 3 months earlier within 24 hours.

“I served the last months of my Army carrier homeless. As soon as I was released, I had nowhere to go but back to California. I drove like a bat out of hell from Kansas to California. I arrived at my parent’s house 27 hours after I was released in Kansas. We finalized the divorce where she would receive everything, including the custody of my son and our home with me having visitation, as well as receiving all the debt from the marriage. Needless to say I filed for bankruptcy at the early age of 25. As I am still considered homeless by the VA, I am back living at my parents.”

Bryce continued along the path of taking care of himself because of the burning passion in his veins for his son Ryan. He pulled himself out of depression by surfing for 4 straight months.

“Every week I have to see a chiropractor in order to function somewhat normal. After 2 years had passed of pain and depression, I am finally able to prove to myself…that I won’t allow the war or any other life altering event effect my emotions and my outlook on life.”

Now free of the depression that haunted him, he has set a goal in coming back from injury and defeating the demons that plagued him.

“My goal of the Trifecta this year is my finish line in coming back from my injury. Crossing that finish line at Temecula meant more to me than anyone could believe. The tears I shed are for all the soldiers who have been injured or killed. It was all I could think about that after all the hell I’ve been through. I beat all the odds stacked up against me and crossed that finish line. I dropped to the ground in tears not just from the pain in my neck and back, but from the feeling that I would live again.  I completed the Spartan Sprint this January and am signed up for the beast in Monterey.”

It was along the way that Bryce found an outlet. A channel through which he could direct the pain and misery away that was hanging over him like a malevolent blanket of misery. Comedy turned out to be his savior.

“I ended up picking up comedy as a release and now I’m an up and coming comedian. I feel that laughter is the last true happiness left on earth.”

“For my entire life, everyone said I should be a comedian because I was funny and had good characteristics to do so. After I had lost everything I began writing comedy to kind of cheer myself up. It wasn’t till this year that I took off with my comedy and began performing at open mike nights. It’s all still new to me, but I have been writing for over a year and now it’s time to put it all out there for the world. It just makes me feel so good to bring so much joy to the audience.”

Even under impossible odds, Bryce knew what it meant to fight back and truly understand what it means when we say that you’ll know at the finish line.

Will you? Sign up today at spartanrace.com for your next Spartan race.

If you feel like you could use some help in your life when it comes to the issues that Bryce experienced, here are some links that may be of some help to you.

http://www.adaa.org/
http://www.samaritansusa.org/
http://www.afsp.org/local-chapters

Tags: , ,

SPARTAN RACE PARTNERS WITH GOVX TO OFFER DISCOUNTED RACE REGISTRATION FOR MILITARY AND FIRST RESPONDERS

Reebok Spartan Race and GovX are proud to announce the formation of one of the largest race registration discount programs for U.S. Military service members and government first responders through the GovX.com network. Proud of our military and first responder community, Spartan and GovX wanted to bring something special to those groups as a way to say thank you and provide support and acknowledgement.

GovX is the leading website devoted exclusively to serving verified U.S. Military personnel and federal, state and local first responders by offering secured access to exclusive pricing on events, tickets and premium products. Through GovX, Spartan Race will offer a special $30 discount off all U.S. race registrations to verified active, reserve and veteran U.S. Military service members along with active first responders. This is the first time Spartan Race will be offering this level of discount, as well as including first responders in such a special offer!

Photo courtesy of Kevin High Photography

“Our events, some of which are designed by various branches of the U.S. Military and top Special Operations units, are extremely popular with servicemen and women,” said Spartan Race Founder Joe DeSena. “Through its qualified and verified network, GovX provides a simple solution to meet our desire to provide discounted ticketing to those who serve and protect.”

This another first that Spartan Race is bringing to the table with the Govx partnership. Spartan Race is the only race of its kind to have ever held a competition on a military base. And as a company, is dedicated to providing unique experiences and opportunities to those who serve, including a recent satellite race that connected troops in Afghanistan via live stream with their families who concurrently ran the race. Spartan Race is able to offer this discount by using GovX’s proprietary online verification technology that ensures controlled access to GovX.com exclusively for military personnel or first responders. This authorization process ensures accurate and quick registrations to only those who protect and serve. To date, more than three million users have access to the GovX e-commerce network.

To access discounts for Spartan Race and the entire GovX network, eligible members can register for free at www.GovX.com.

About GovX

GovX is the largest e-commerce destination dedicated to providing those who protect and serve our country and communities with exclusive, significant savings on hundreds of premium brands. Verified U.S. Military service members, first responders and related government personnel receive exclusive access and discounts of 20% to 50% off retail on offerings at GovX.com. Through its partnerships with MLB Advanced Media, select NFL, NBA and NHL teams, among many others, GovX offers everything from discounted sporting and event tickets to race registrations in addition to 20,000+ fitness, sporting, electronics, tactical and lifestyle products, all available only to this very deserving group. Eligible members register for free on GovX.com and are confirmed through GovX’s proprietary online verification system. GovX members include active, reserve, veteran, dependent and retired U.S. Armed Forces personnel, along with federal, state and local government first responders, including police, fire, EMS, FBI, DEA, Secret Service, Border Patrol and related government agency employees and their families. Founded with the mission to thank and honor those who serve, GovX also donates a portion of its proceeds in further support of those in uniform. For more information, visit www.GovX.com.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

by Beth Connolly

[Editor's note: This piece is part of our Spartan Military Profile series, in which we tell the stories of Spartans who serve their country.  Check out the first post in the series here.]

Nick and friends on race day (Nick is 2nd from left)

If any first-time racer could run an eight mile Super Spartan course, break his ankle twenty feet from the finish line, and still cross it in relatively good humor, it would have to be Nick Nakamura, 31.  Whether it’s the L.A. County native’s laid back California mentality or his military training after nine and a half years in the Navy is anyone’s guess.  All I know is that during our phone interview, when I asked him to tell me how he broke his ankle, he cracked up and said, “It was pretty funny…I think it was funny, anyways.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , ,