On Saturday, I learned that when a team of doctors, nurses, and paramedics are hovered around me demanding that I breathe and calm down, it is not the most calming of experiences whilst I am having a full-blown panic attack.
I had never had a panic attack like this before. I was discombobulated and mostly incoherent as I was forced to sit. Warmed blankets and space blankets were draped over me until they were so thick that my giant 240 lb. body disappeared within. The entire memory of that two hours or so is full of gaping holes and flashes of moments that I only think happened at the end of the London Tough Mudder. Hyperventilation, shock, dangerous electrolyte imbalance, and hypothermia.
This was not how I expected this race to end.
This was not how it was supposed to end.
My entire life, my little brother Eric was the athletic one. He was the one in the family who played the sports, and earned the multiple black belts, and trained for MMA, and stayed skinny while we all seemed to get fatter and more unhealthy. We were best of buds growing up, only 15 months apart, and our health difference never got in the way of that brotherly bond. I spent my life watching Eric achieve amazing things in health and fitness. He was always someone I looked up to.
And, for the last nine years of my life, since the day I tipped the scales at 350 lbs., he was someone I have been working to catch up to. A year ago, we completed the entire Insanity program together (he in England, and I in my home in Utah). He was still ahead of me in his athleticism, for sure, and for the past year I have worked, and trained, and exercised, and eaten right, and worked so hard to get stronger. And meaner. And more trained. And to somehow catch up. It was never a competition. It was a desire to finally, after decades of physical separation, be able to stay by my brother’s side in something athletic.
When I completed my first Tough Mudder just over one month ago in the hot Utah sun, I had no problems whatsoever getting to the end. Sure, we went at a slower pace, but we still went the full 12 miles and we still tackled all the obstacles. I felt strong, and powerful, and anxious to go again. One of the first things I did was get onto the Tough Mudder website and see when the next England event would be. It was only five weeks away. The day afterwards, I texted my brother, things got rolling, we registered for the event, a plane ticket was purchased, and I got to training harder than ever before.
Yes, this was to be that fantastic moment I had been working toward for so long. My brother and I would power through the course, have the fun of our lives, and cross that finish line together with our arms held high above us as they put our trophy headbands on us. Our photo, taken as we crossed the finish line, was to be the photo I enlarged and hung where I would see it for the rest of our lives.