More than Mud - Walter "Sandy" Hendrick
More than Mud is an article and interview series dedicated to documenting the incredible characters and stories that we come across in the world of OCR and outdoor adventure and endurance racing events. They range from everyday heroes to extreme athletes but all have unique and engaging stories to tell.
About 13 years ago I suffered a major shoulder injury that forced me to retire from my law enforcement career. After the injury my weight ballooned to over 420 pounds. I remained overweight most of that time. I was very unhappy and in the fall of 2012 I decided to embrace hard work, and focused to change my life. At the start of my new lifestyle and exercising I weighed well over 350 pounds. Today I now weigh about 215 pounds and am addicted to obstacle course racing and mud events. My plan is to run as many events as my work schedule and body will allow me, and to help encourage others to embrace the same type of lifestyle change.
What is the favorite race experience you can remember?
This is a tough one to answer, I could easily pick Shale Hill Obstacle - Halloween Run as it was the hardest OCR course I did all of 2014 or I could pick running the Vermont Beast both Saturday and Sunday because Killington kicked my ass. But I have to go with racing at “BoldrDash In The Mud” at Exeter, RI. That race had so many amazing people and not because they were the best OCR Elite's in the country but rather they were a lot of special needs people and others that where not in great physical shape, yet I watched so many of them giving it their all on the course. I am not embarrassed to admit I was brought to tears several times and ran over to the finish line to hug several finishers and tell them how amazing they are and how proud and inspired I was by them. A few days after that event, I wrote Lynn Hall (BoldrDash's Race Director and owner) on Facebook and told her I decided to run the Vermont Beast both days in honor of her very special group OCR finishers.
Some people love to race, some love to train, some love competition, some love winning - where do you find the most personal enjoyment in all of this?
Between the schedule I raced last year (over thirty OCR events and multiple laps at several races) and the schedule I am planning to run this year, I am not concerned about winning or top ten finishes. For me it’s all about just finishing each race and completing (in my opinion) one of the hardest and most aggressive schedules in the sport and helping others along the way. Recently, a friend of mine referred to me as an OCR Elite athlete and I laughed at her and said I didn’t agree. She pointed out that being an Elite OCR athlete doesn’t only have to do with podium finishes.
I won’t BS, I do try at some events to put up a really good time and I am looking forward to qualifying for the OCR World Championships again.
You experienced so much over the last couple of years. Can you imagine your life not being an OCR athlete?
I really can’t! It’s funny; I did my first OCR (Spartan Sprint - Tri-State at Tuxedo Park, NY) and remember a few days later getting an email from Spartan suggesting I do a second Spartan race. At first I thought they were nuts, I had a few more races scheduled and at the time I was comfortable and cool with that. That all changed after I ran my second OCR (Savage Race – Pennsylvania at Albrightsville, PA), I was hooked like a drug addict and cannot get enough OCR and training for OCR’s!
Can you say that you already achieved your desired body and weight?
I am nowhere near where I want to be as far as my body and weight are at this point. I am a combination of an Endomorph and Mesomorph body type, which means I am never going to be a thin person and will always be on the larger size. I am blessed because my body has always rewarded me when I put in the hard work with both physical training and a good life style but I still cannot seem to get my weight under around 225 pounds which in OCR is a larger person. My goal is to eventually get down to 210 or lower. During my off-season, I am able to trim down to about 225 but once the OCR season starts I will probably be more around 230 pounds. I take pride in being a bigger body type in a sport that rewards the smaller athlete type.
Do you practice specific obstacles before an OCR event?
I do, I actually built wooden monkey bars in my apartment (I won’t be getting my deposit back when I leave) and as well attached monkey rings to them. So I can practice both monkey bars and rings. I also have gone to the local gym to climb the rope a few times and make sure my rope climbing technique stays solid. I wish I could practice more, but I just don’t have the space at this time to build other type of obstacles.
Your standing at the starting line moments before running, if you could play any song at that moment to pump you up, what would it be?
Good question, I actually own two water proof IPod's and have had a pocket sewn in to all my OCR shirts to hold them. I run just about all my races to my play-list. For me the key to a good song for both working out and OCR is something that is a little fast and has a lot of bass and makes me want to punch someone in the face (lol). Some of my play-list is rap and some is alternative. My favorite song changes often but the song that comes to mind and I love to rock just before the start of the race is 'Play Hard' by Krewella.
Role models…. who or what inspires you?
Any branch of the United States Military but most of all The US Navy SEAL’s. I have stolen/borrowed the Navy SEAL creed/motto “The only easy day was yesterday” and its fabric of how I live my life. I also am inspired by people that refuse to quit and embrace hard work.
What are your post-race recovery strategies?
I always take a Frog Performance protein shot and stay hydrated. I do multiple laps and race both Saturday and Sunday a lot so it’s important for me to try and keep my body from bonking. I also use my voodoo floss often after a Saturday race. I have to be honest this is an area I can improve with!
What kind of training do you think other OCR athletes often neglect.
Weight training, stretching, and I am firm believer every type of athlete should include some form of kick boxing in there training (heavy bag, shadow, or sparring).
Where do you see the sport of OCR in 5 years? and.... Are there any changes or developments you are hoping to see?
Another great question, I see the sport needing to evolve to be for everyone and every OCR Company needs to do this. At this point we have all these OCR’s that appeal to specific types of athletes and/or just those wanting to have a good time and do something that makes them feel good about themselves. I want to see all the OCR’s be for everyone and have multiple versions of each obstacle so the beginners, intermediate racers, and Elite's can all run the same course at the same time and be challenged to the level they require/want. I fear the sport will plateau if this doesn't happen. I also want to see a true World Championships event, but it has to be put on by all the major players so no race organizations bars its Elite's from participating.
What is your greatest tip for someone just getting into OCR?
First and foremost get good OCR sneakers and OCR sock! Always have a good time and make sure everyone else around you is as well. OCR will get easier the more you do it, so race as often as you can afford to. Lastly take advantage of the volunteering option many OCR's offer and get to run the event for free!
Proud to call this man a friend and team mate. Can’t wait to see you in May.
As a 44 yr old woman finally striving for goals I thought were beyond me, your story is inspiring and amazing. I recently ran my very first OCR and loved it as much as I would. I read your story shortly before deciding to do the race and am glad I did. Its amazing to see the heights that you have achieved with your history and how you push and strive for more. Seeing a role model such as yourself in the industry is awesome. I know my goals for my first year out are much less than yours, but you are setting an amazing example and that will keep me pushing myself beyond what I thought was possible… keep going strong!!!
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