Journey of The Rhode Runner (Part 2: The Races)

Here is the continuation of the introduction to The Rhode Runner. If you missed the first article, you can check it out. Now, the adventure continues…

Tuff Scramblers

Now that I had a 5k under my belt, Adriana wanted me to step up my game. She is incredible at obstacle course racing. She felt I would be ready for the 5k Tuff Scrambler obstacle course by May. She held a weekly training at 5:30 in the morning for 8 weeks in our local state park. There were a handful of us doing it. We would run a little, then do exercises, such as burpees, then run again. We would run over picnic tables, and crawl under them. I felt like a kid again, doing this stuff. We even used monkey bars, since they have monkey bars in the actual race. It was easy to do as a kid. About 35 years later, and many, many, many more pounds on me, makes this experience way more difficult.

The big day arrived on May 17, 2014. Much like the Downtown Jingle, the atmosphere was incredibly positive. We had extremely heavy downpours the night before, but that weather cleared out by the morning. There are several heats at the obstacle course race. The first race is for the elites. After that, I believe there were start times every half hour (or hour). When I arrived, the first race had finished up, and I found out, from the people on my team, that Adriana won first place for the females in her race. That pumped us all up. Then our race started. Right in front of the starting line, I was running in over-ankle deep in mud. If I thought I was going to stay clean through the race, well, that wasn’t going to happen! I’m not sure if the mud was there by design, or if it was from the downpours that we had. We were running through trails for a while before we got to our first obstacle. It reminded me of my cross country days, and I loved it. And there were about 7 or 8 of us, from our team, running together, helping each other out.

After a couple of obstacles (such as crawling under a net, burying yourself in mud in the process), we got to one where there were a dozens of barrels in water. We had to get on a barrel and jump across a row of barrels to get to the other side. I had seen pictures of this, and it looked like fun, and I figured I would run right across. But, it was a little more challenging than I thought. There was a decent distance between barrels. So, you had to really jump. But, you couldn’t jump too far, or your momentum would carry you right into the water. I made it all the way across. Then, I had to jump off the last barrel into the water, and run/climb up a big dirt hill. I jumped and landed in the water. Unfortunately, I could not see in the water, since it was so muddy. If I could see in the water, I would have seen the big rock that my right ankle slammed into. And since the rock was also slippery, my foot turned over way too far than it’s supposed to. I’ve had my bumps and bruises before, so I figured I would just shake it off. I knew my ankle was bad as soon as I tried running up the dirt hill. I was in a lot of pain, and I was only about halfway through the race. When I got to the top of the hill, Adriana was waiting for me so we could catch up with the rest of the team. She was all ready to take off, and I told her that I sprained my ankle pretty bad. She asked if I could go on. There was no way I was quitting! There was a lot more running. But, my ankle was so bad, I was doing more of a side-shuffle through the mud of the trail, and avoiding rocks. Sometimes my feet would sink in the mud, and pulling my bad foot out of the mud did not help my situation. Adriana, guided me

This doesn’t look like the net at the Tuff Scrambler I was in. But, it is pretty similar

through the obstacles. I did have to skip quite a few of them. One of the big obstacles, which I did do, was to climb up a giant rope net, then go back down the other side. When I got about 3/4 of the way up, I realized it was a bad idea. I was having a hard time lifting my foot up the next step. Then the next heat of runners were coming through. They were flying right by me, and the whole net was shaking, making my climb even more difficult. When I finally got to the top. which was a couple of stories, I was so tempted to just jump off. But, I probably would have gotten hurt even more, and I would have taken out a bunch of other people. So, I climbed down, which was just as bad as climbing up. After going through several more obstacles, and skipping some, I finally approached the end. You had to swim across a giant moat to get to the finish line. Luckily, I’m a good swimmer. I actually got to do something without stepping on my ankle, so I went really fast there, and got a lot of the mud washed off in the process.

I then drove home, which took about 45 minutes. Before I walked in the door, I took off my soaking wet sneakers and socks. I watched my ankle, and it looked exactly like somebody blowing up a balloon. I walked in the door, and told Danielle’ that I messed up my ankle. I was debating whether or not to go to the emergency room. I figured that I should get it checked out, just in case there was something broken.
The first doctor said that it looked like there was a little fracture, so he sent me to another doctor. The second doctor didn’t see any fracture, and said it was a bad sprain. So, I had to use crutches, and had my foot in a boot for a few weeks. I had never had crutches before. I’m the type of person who can’t sit still for very long. The crutches made it difficult to move around, and I needed to lay down for at least a week, with my foot elevated. While I was going through this living hell, Danielle’ did an incredible job taking care of me. I also have a problem asking for help, so it was killing me that she had to do so much. But, we got through it.

Member of the month photo with Adriana
Member of the month photo with Adriana

In July, I was finally well enough to go back to the gym. Even though I couldn’t exercise, I still managed to lose weight. As I was making my comeback, I was given the news that I was the Bristol Total Fitness Member of the Month for August.

Let the Races Begin

By September, I felt like I was well enough to start racing again. My ankle would act up once in a while, but it was just an annoyance to me. I ran in the Finish for a Guinness race in Warren, RI. I did pretty well. I even got below 10 minutes for the first mile.

Then I ran in the CVS Downtown Run in Providence with my sister, Tracy. I figured it would be like the Jingle Run, which I liked. I was wrong. It was a little different route, and a ton of more people. We were all packed in, and had to basically walk for the first 1/4 mile. I didn’t like that race at all.

I would post about my races on Facebook. I found out that a number of my friends were also into running. One of my high school friends, Leslie, told me about a race near my old neighborhood, which would take place in October. It was Wild Bill’s 5k, which was created by a couple of girls I went to school with, in honor of their father, who died of ALS. So, I did that race where I caught up with some friends who I hadn’t seen in well over 25 years. Leslie was there, as well as my friend Tracy. While I was captain of the boys cross country team, Tracy was the captain of the girls cross country team. She has a similar story as me in that she hadn’t run in years, and at the suggestion of her trainer, had just gotten back into it. I also got to see my friend Jerry, who I not only went to school with, but we played little league baseball together. It was so nice seeing old friends, and running around an old neighborhood that I hadn’t been to in years.

As we neared November, I was getting ready to run some Thanksgiving themed races, and the Downtown Jingle again. But, as the weather got colder, my ankle was getting worse and worse. My friend Jenn, who broke her ankle in the Tuff Scrambler race that I got hurt in, told me that I should go to a physical therapist, as it did wonders for her. So, I went to Specht Physical Therapy for several months. Mike helped me out big time, teaching me exercises to help strengthen my ankle. I finally “graduated” from physical therapy, so I started running again. About a week after I was back to running, I was just walking to my car, and my ankle gave out, and it turned over pretty bad. It was sprained again!  I kept doing my exercises, and my ankle was better in about 2 months. I’ve been able to run ever since. and my ankle feels stronger than ever!

During one of my runs, I got an idea of running a 5k in every state. I enjoy traveling, and I would love to go to all 50 states in my lifetime. So, it’s time to make it happen! I also love to write, so now I can write about my journey and experiences. I would be honored if you would follow me on this journey. You can subscribe, and get emails whenever I publish an article.

I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

I also have another blog that has been growing steadily over the past 5 1/2 years – Return to the ’80s. So, feel free to check me out there as well.


Next up…Finish for a Guinness 5k Road Race in Warren, Rhode Island.


I’ll see you on the Rhode road. Also, please feel free to give me suggestions of any 5k’s going on in your area if you are outside of Rhode Island and Massachusetts.


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  1. Janice
    September 3, 2015

    Great article. Best of luck for a successful journey!

    1. Paul Stroessner
      September 4, 2015

      Thanks Mom!

  2. Pat
    September 3, 2015



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