There is an inherent comfort associated with the knowledge of when suffering, of any kind, will release its hold on you. It’s the water stations in life that provide the moments of reprieve needed for recovery which helps us choose to continue in and prayerfully through a struggle. It’s knowing that the day’s battering at work stops when you punch the clock. But how can you keep going when the Killington Beast finish line is never in sight?
Michael Tubiak of Connecticut and Blind Pete Cossaboon of Georgia took some time to answer a few questions to give us a bit of insight into their unseen world of suffering and victory.
Q. Can you give us some details on your visual challenges?
Michael: It started with Retinitis Pigmentosa which caused me to lose my night vision and then my peripheral. It’s like tunnel vision with blind spots where I may occasionally see the perimeter of something to the point where things appear out of nowhere…including tree branches in Killington.
Pete: I was born with partial sight and had to deal with macular degeneration. In 2005, at 33 years old, the capillaries in my right eye ruptured due to stress and on April 23, 2015, I noticed I couldn’t see any variations of light.
Q. Why do you race?
Michael: I’ve always been athletic even though I was diagnosed at 14 years old. I like showing people that a challenge shouldn’t keep you home. But my biggest reason is to be an example to my 5-year-old son Evan in case he ever experiences similar issues since visual challenges run in my family.
Pete: I found out about OCR by word of mouth and figured it would be fun proving others wrong. I signed up for Warrior Dash with no guide in 2012 needed the help of four guides that I met on the course. For my 2013 Warrior Dash, I had Thomas “Uncle Grumpy” Jones by my side helping me. Matt B. Davis opened the world of OCR for me in 2014 and I am 82 races deep as of the Killington Beast. I race for the challenge of it and for the great people I’ve met along the way.
Q. Which has been your toughest race so far?
Michael: Killington! The elevation plus nutritional issues.
Pete: 2017 Killington Beast!
Q. How do you prepare for your races?
Michael: Spartan type training with bucket, hill, hanging grip exercises in addition to strength training, and preparing for a triathlon the weekend before Killington.
Pete: I work out weekly with my guide Joey and by myself. 3-5 days a week I walk 2.5 miles roundtrip to a local store.
Q. What was the most fun moment at Killington?
Michael: Competing the beast with teammates, hearing my scout yelling “13 more miles to go,” and jumping the walls.
Pete: I really enjoy the Vertical Cargo Net and the A-Frame Cargo Net since I get to show off my 2-flip technique.
Q. Funniest moment at Killington?
Michael: Funniest moments were when my scout ate M&M’s and had to dump in the woods…twice! Also when my scout asked the cameraman at the Bucket Brigade for a pic but the photog refused because he didn’t know I was visually impaired and thought I was being made fun of by my scout. There was also this psycho on the mountain cursing the downhill pretty aggressively which had me laughing.
Pete: Funniest moment for me was when I was asked if I was doing the whole thing blindfolded.
Q. Most difficult moment at Killington?
Michael: Death march! Going up and down.
Pete: Death march! I was cursing every single incline. The 2nd most difficult was the downhill. My 1st show-stopping cramp showed up just after mile 5. I prefer not to be touched but had to come out of the shell for intimate contact from Joey who is a physical therapist and trainer.
Q. Did you experience any sadness on the course?
Michael: Well, I experienced disappointment not being able to complete the Rope Climb but was sad that we didn’t finish with enough time for my scout to continue in his Ultra Beast effort.
Pete: Hearing people having to DNF was sad as well as finishing 20 minutes slower than last year.
Q. Did you ever consider quitting or at least doubt that you’d finish?
Michael: No, but this was the closest I’ve ever come to quitting.
Pete: Once, just before the cramps at mile 5 but thoughts of Joey’s sacrifices to get us there got me through.
Q. What did you learn about yourself through this experience?
Michael: My tolerance for pain was tested and is more than I expected. My toenails will depart shortly.
Pete: This was the truest test of my training and I learned how to adapt to changes.
Q. What do you hope others gained from your experience?
Michael: Inspiration they can apply to their roadblocks.
Pete: Regardless of your situation, it can be done.
Q. What would you tell your guide at this moment?
Michael: I’m sorry that I did this to you, hope we can remain friends. Without people like you Laura, I wouldn’t be able to do these things. Thank you.
Pete: Thank you, Joey! I owe you a great deal for all your efforts, training, patience, sacrifices, and for listening to my complaints…I hate hills!
Q. Would you race Killington again?
Michael: Yes, I feel less visually impaired out there. I feel like a whole person, just like anyone else and out there my son sees that his dad IS like everyone else.
Pete: 2018 Killington is already on the schedule. It’s a staple race of mine. It’s a solitary experience being the only visually impaired guy on any course but I’m joyful now knowing that Michael is out there too.
Blind Pete Cossaboon was guided by Joey McGlamory who has helped navigate Pete through Worlds Toughest Mudder, Spartan Race Agoge, and every other torturous event they can travel to. Joey runs for Ibby, just ask him!
Michael Tubiak was guided by Laura Gail who is a volunteer for https://www.achillesct.org/ as well as a 1st time Spartan. While she does train for Marathons and other traditional endurance runs, she quickly learned that she needed help on the course as well. She writes, “Thank you, Michael, for asking me to be your guide, for putting your trust in me, and for helping me realize that I’m stronger than I thought. And of course, I need to know when we are running the next one! I hope others learn that we are all capable of more than we think. Sometimes we just need to help each other.”
I had the privilege of scouting and pushing the pace for Michael and Laura as well as watching them do every last burpee for every failed obstacle…well, at least when I wasn’t off in the woods rinsing in the creeks. Hey! Don’t judge me!
God Bless and Keep Running…
Photo Credit: Spartan Race and Nelson Diaz
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