I thought I could do this at least a few more years. In fact, I thought I might be able to handle the abuse another 10 years or more.
I trained long and hard to be in this position. I never could have imagined I would be saying this before my 41st birthday. But I have reached The Crossroads. I need to do what’s best for myself and my family.
I’ve enjoyed the journey, with all the mud, sweat, and beers, but it’s time to face reality. To quote Danny Glover’s Lethal Weapon character, Roger Murtaugh, “I’m getting too old for this $#!t.”
As of Saturday, July 16th, I am officially retired from obstacle course racing.
If you thought I was taking this in a different direction, I apologize. The alternating ibuprofen and acetaminophen have got my head in a different place. I will eventually announce my retirement from my full-time job, but that announcement is a few years away.
Since you likely clicked your way here expecting some talk about my actual retirement from clinical medicine, I’ll share some exciting ideas we have for our first few years after my eventual early retirement before delving into the muddy waters of obstacle course racing.
Having these potential plans makes the prospect of an early retirement that much more appealing. I can’t promise we’ll do them all, but I expect we’ll live at least one or two of these three swell adventures.
Awesome Idea Number 1
After leaving my full-time job, and taking at least a few weeks or months to decompress and prepare for what’s next, I take a locum tenens job where the toilets flush backwards.
Listening to Dr. Nii Darko chat with Dr. Carmen Brown on Docs Outside the Box about her life with her physician husband relocating to New Zealand was inspiring. I’ve also chatted quite a bit with an anesthesiologist I’ve worked with who has worked multiple stints in NZ.
The pay is not nearly as good as it is in the United States, and the disparity has only gotten worse with the stronger US dollar, but the working conditions sound excellent. I’m not too concerned about money; I would be doing it for the experience for myself and my family.
Australia would be considered as well. Ideally, I would prefer an outpatient or daytime position only, but I don’t know how available such a position might be. My boys will be 8 and 10 in three years, great ages for them to experience a different culture.
Awesome Idea Number 2
While the culture in New Zealand or Australia would indeed be different, we’re still talking about first-world English speaking nations. Our second idea, which could come after or take the place of the first idea, is to spend a year in a Spanish speaking country.
My wife, who has some teaching experience, has expressed an interest in teaching English in a nation where Spanish is the primary language. The rest of the family could tag along, and have a bona fide Spanish immersion experience. There are many places we could potentially do this, including Europe, Central America, and South America, where the toilet water also swirls backwards.
We are beginning to expose our children to the Spanish language, and have played around with a few teaching apps. If anyone has taught the language at home, please leave a recommendation in the comments.
Awesome Idea Number 3
Speaking of homeschooling, I’m not necessarily a huge fan. I’m supporting the public schools generously with my tax dollars, and I like to get my money’s worth.
That being said, being tied down to the school schedule in early retirement is kind of a drag. Middle school seems like a decent age to take a year off from the traditional school schedule. We wouldn’t exactly home school; we would road school.
We envision visiting national parks and learning about the local flora and fauna, and the geology and natural history of the place. We could study geysers in Yellowstone, redwoods in Yosemite, and the effects of glaciers in Glacier. A months-long road trip out east would feature history lessons on our nation’s founding. We could follow the Mississippi and focus on the literature of Mark Twain.
A year on the road would be quite an adventure, and would necessitate an RV purchase. I’ve always wanted an Airstream, but never had a good excuse to buy one. We’ve always been tent campers.
Why I’m Retiring. From obstacle course racing.
Back to the original premise, the decision to leave the mud pits and outsized obstacles behind was not easy for me. It was really easy for my wife, though. “You can’t do this to yourself anymore. You’re too important to me.”
I think she also read the post where I mention I’ve dropped my term life and disability insurance, although she didn’t bring that up in this discussion.
Does she have reasons to be concerned? In a word, yes.
After my most recent Tough Mudder, I called her up and told her it went well for the most part. It wasn’t as strenuous as the Spartan races, and the ice water in the aptly titled Arctic Enema 2.0 was actually pretty exhilarating, and the “therapy” from the live wires in the Electric Eel actually evoked laughter after the initial unpleasant jolt.
I did experience a little more unpleasantness though. On the second obstacle, the Berlin Walls, I felt a pop which I have since self-diagnosed as a likely dislocation at the costochondral junction of the right 8th rib, which still smarts 10 days later.
That, along with the first, second, and third right shoulder dislocation, were enough to make me realize I might be trying to do more than my body wants me to do.
I had never dislocated a joint before in my life. But at the Pyramid Scheme, after taking my turn at the bottom of the pyramid, I stood on the shoulders of someone who stood on someone else’s shoulders and I reached up to the outstretched hand waiting at the top. This isn’t me, but is an actual picture from our race at the offending obstacle.
The very strong man at the top pulled me right up to the top and my arm right out of socket. After a girly scream and a few gyrations, my humeral head found its rightful home and I was ready to get on with the mudding.
After a short run, I wiggled through Birth Canal, then my buddy and I approached the slanted wall known as Skidmarked. Being just too tall for me to grab the wall with both hands, I was going to need some help. A Mudder at the top was happy to oblige. I instinctually reached up my right arm, he grabbed it and OWWWWW! SON OF A…
Like Mel Gibson’s Martin Riggs after escaping the straight jacket in Lethal Weapon 2, I bumped my shoulder up against the wall a couple times, which I don’t think worked, but I did manage to finagle it back in place in short order.
I did an eight pace walk of shame around the wall and heard people feeling sorry for me to have made it so far only to have that happen. They didn’t realize I was standing next to them, and I told them, “It’s all good. That was me. I’m back in the game.” Looking for a high five, I started to raise my right arm and… SERIOUSLY YOUGOTTABEKIDDING ME!!!
I should have gone for a fist bump.
Getting good at this, I maneuvered the weakened joint back into place in less than ten seconds. At Quagmire, I used my left hand to hold people’s legs who were reaching down to help people out of the mud pit. I attempted King of the Swingers grabbing the trapeze with my left arm only.
At Bale Bonds, I twisted at the top and felt my right 8th rib pop back into place. Cage Crawl was downright peaceful, with everything but my face underwater, staring up at the partly cloudy sky, ears submerged to drown out the chaos around me, and the cool if not exactly clean water easing my accumulating pains.
I stealthily avoided the electroshock therapy at Electroshock Therapy, and earned, and I mean Earned, my tee shirt and head band.
En route to visit some new friends, I called up my wife and two orthopedic surgeons to talk about my experiences. I came to the unhappy conclusion that my Tough Mudding and Spartan warrior days were over. Is there such thing as a Delicate Mudder? A Spartan croquet tournament? That would be more my speed.
Since writing this, I have gone part-time and we’re starting our family adventures a few weeks at a time. When fully retired from medicine, we plan to extend our adventures to a few months at a time.
The idea of year-long adventures sounds enticing, but we’ve realized we do like to have roots somewhere, and it’s important to spend some time around family, especially with our kids growing up.
What will you do with your time when you retire? Have you been brazen enough to compete in these crazy obstacle courses? Tell me about your plans and injuries!