On Becoming a “Dirty Old Man” – submitted by Paul Lachance
“In 2014, an idea of what I wanted to do when I grow up started percolating and it finally broke through…I wanted to be a ‘Dirty Old Man’. Yup, I wanted to be the nastiest, dirtiest, foulest smelling ‘Dirty Old Man’!
A little background may be in order. In April of 2006, at the age of 65, I had a major heart event that resulted in a quintuple by-pass. For most people that would be enough to end an active lifestyle. However, I refused to give in and was determined to actively live my life and not sit on the couch and vegetate. I started at a local gym (with the blessings of both my personal physician and cardiologist) and watched and mimicked what the younger people were doing. I was also searching the internet for various methods of improving myself when I came upon something called a “Spartan Race”. I watched people going over various obstacles and slithering under barbed wire completely covered in mud and said to myself, “I can do that!”
On Saturday, May 3, 2014 I competed in my first Spartan / OCR event at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, CO. Now I had no allusions of coming out on top…I just wanted to cross the finish line…and if I did then I will have achieved my goal of becoming a “dirty old man”.
The race is not a race in the truest sense…although it is a timed adventure from the very beginning to the very end; it is what goes on from start to finish that test every bone and muscle in my body….but most of all test my mental capacity to endure. It is a 3 to 5-mile course of mud, ropes, walls, barbed wire crawl, and whatever other physical challenges the event organizers have in mind. The Spartan website states their goal is simple, get you off the couch, throw you in the mud and trails and the result will be the adrenaline rush of a lifetime.
My Spartan partner (and oldest son) decided that in 2015 we would try to complete a Spartan Trifecta: 1 Sprint (3-5 miles); 1 Super (8-10 miles); and one Beast (12+ miles) …all in one calendar year. Back to Ft Carson we went to complete the Super on Saturday and then the Sprint on Sunday. Not bad for this old man…but I still needed the Beast. In August we traveled to Breckenridge, CO to take on the mighty mountain. Starting point is just at 9500’ elevation and simply goes uphill from there (and hills are my nemesis!). After a grueling 8 hours on the mountain, a 220# tired and dirty old man finally emerged from the brush and crossed the finish line…I DID IT! Trifecta #1 was in the books.
In late 2015 my first real battle with skin cancer emerged…I had developed a very large tumor in my lower lip so the dermatologist decided to remove the lip. Yes, it was that simple…a sharp scalpel and a few cuts and the lip was totally gone. The next day I met with a plastic surgeon and walked out of his office with a brand-new lip (formed by using tissue from inside the mouth). The wonders of modern medicine!
2016 came and saw us completing three Trifecta’s. Along the way we went to Atlanta to complete a Sprint and Super with family members. I was a proud daddy when we crossed the finish line as three generations were there: one daughter, one son, one son-in-law, 2 grand-children, and myself.
The year 2017 was full of high hopes as my son and I decided to go for four Trifecta’s. With a little planning we mapped out our year and it included a trip to Hawaii to do three events in one weekend. Being the nice guys that we are, we even brought the wives with us and made a mini vacation. The State of Hawaii is beautiful and the venue was beyond belief…and it also proved more than I could handle. I grew up in a home where both my mom and dad chain smoked and the house was always full of smoke. That contributed to poor lungs and the island air was do dense once we got into the forest that I had trouble breathing so I took myself out of the race. There went my Trifecta weekend. By the way, we did get our four Trifecta’s in 2017.
The fall of 2017 was again marked by the return of skin cancer on the left side of my lower lip/jaw. This time it was serious. The tumor had wrapped itself around a nerve that ran from the jaw all the way to the base of the skull. Though the pathology showed that the tumor was completely excised, the medical team took no chances of an errant cell traveling along that nerves so both radiation and chemo treatments were ordered to start in January, 2018. The first couple of weeks went easy…no problems.
Towards the end of January and the beginning of February all hell broke loose…lost all taste buds, could not eat or drink normally, and started losing weight. Actual treatments stopped in late February but the side effects continue to this date. As of this writing I have dropped approximately 35 pounds and 6 inches around the waist. My wardrobe is slowly being replaced to fit my new body.
My Spartan goals had evolved to where I was hoping to add one Trifecta per year until I completed 8 in one year…which coincidentally would be the year I turn 80. This radiation/chemo thing was putting a cramp in my plans for earning five Trifecta’s in 2018. After many discussions with my medical team, it was determined that I could start back on the trail in April (if I felt up to it physically). Challenge accepted! In April I traveled to Jacksonville, FL and completed a Super and Sprint; in May I was back at Ft Carson for another Super and Sprint; also, in May I was in Austin, TX for another set of Super/Sprint events but the Sprint was cancelled due to heavy lightning in the area. I know that I am not at 100% of what I can do but I also know that sitting around and whining is not what I want to do. I may be the slowest guy out there but I am giving 100% of what I have and with each step forward I am getting a little bit stronger.
Currently taking several weeks off from Spartan to gain strength and stamina for the second half of the year…and it’s a busy five months that I have planned: turning 77, 2 Supers, 3 Sprints, and 5 Beasts are scheduled…I will get my 5X Trifecta this year!
Along this journey I have been blessed with many supporting friends and family. I won’t specifically name any, except one, as I know that I would forget several and then I would feel bad. Let me group my support groups: Spartan participants – always encouraging and living up to the motto of “you never race alone”; Facebook friends who are so positive; gym goers for being there at 5AM and pushing me to be better; my oldest son for pushing me up the hills (literally); American Warrior Initiative for believing in me; Boost Oxygen for all they have done to keep me breathing; and most of all, my # 1 support – my wonderful wife, Davida, for encouraging me along every step of this ‘Dirty Old Man’ journey.
See you on the trail…”
Boost Oxygen was recommended to Paul by an aviator pilot friend; we are very proud to have heard his story and to know that we support his intensely active and physical goals; even during this current and most epic battle. Everyone here at Boost Oxygen has had the opportunity to meet Paul and his wife Davida in-person – and they are both amazing and inspirational people. We are honored to know them. You can follow Paul on his journey and his adventures at his Facebook page: Paul Lachance.