#RozelleStrong: Some Stars Shine Brighter

by Juan Antonio

Smile. The world is just awesome! – Brian Rozelle

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I’m doing World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM) later this year on November 14-15th. This will be my 4th go at this god-forsaken race.

I retired from WTM last year after breaking my ankle during the course. Let’s just say, I broke it, powered through it for 20hrs or so, then entered Pizza-Beer Land for two months because of it.

After three less-than-stellar attempts, retiring from the race felt appropriate. I was looking forward to joining my pals and getting back into the game of MMA training. Having not hit a heavy bag in nearly three years, I wanted to pound away on it like I was Conor McGregor. And call me crazy, but I think MMA training (and rockclimbing too) has a longer longevity than training for 24hr races.

For the most part, I felt reasonably okay with my retirement. I didn’t get to go out my way, but at least I went out like Rocky going the distance against Apollo. And that’s despite two bad wheels – “your feet are not designed for running” – and having a knack for rolling ankles when it matters most. 

Three months went by and it felt good to just train for fun; to just research. Not having a regimented schedule to stay in superhero shape felt normal. I even had beers, pizza and sweets whenever the opportunities presented themselves! Life was good.

And then life happened.

Regrets Can Eat Away 

On April 6, 2015, my friend Brian Rozelle passed away to bile duct cancer.

His passing shook me to the core. The days following the news of his passing, all I could think about was how I didn’t make it to his epic 30th birthday party.

I got my weekends wrong and had to go to LA. The days leading up to my LA trip, a little voice kept telling me to cancel the trip and go to his party. But I silenced that voice. 

The reason I shut it down was because I assumed Brian would have another epic birthday party/other epic parties.

I was wrong.

His 30th birthday party was his last one on earth. And I didn’t make it. I could have made, but I didn’t. And I have to live with that decision for the rest of my days. That regret eats away at me.

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“It’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.”

The Nudge That Went Wrong

I intended to speak at Brian’s Celebration of Life event at AT&T Park. I wanted to share a little story that I felt Sue and Pa Rozelle would appreciate. But my good friend Neil “wrecked it” for me.

I was in the back, enjoying warm tears coming down my face as I was listening to Brian’s family talk about him and then Neil comes over, nudges me on the elbow, and whispers in my ear, “Broseff, you should say something.”

As soon as he said that, my mind went into a tailspin.

The story I intended to share, all of sudden didn’t make any sense; it wasn’t warm and fuzzy. And it didn’t sound like it would make anyone laugh. I could already feel all those 600+ eyes looking at me, judging me, asking, “Who is this guy?” and “What’s the point of this story?” 

Pa Rozelle made it easy for people, “Anyone, please feel free to come up and say something.”

Dude! Come on, you have to pull it the fuck together.

I didn’t know what to say now. I was feeling super self-conscious, all this sweat was getting into my eyes, my shirt was feeling too tight to breathe comfortably, my hands were shaking, I had to pee and I wanted a beer – three to be exact. It was all bad.

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

I just couldn’t get out of my head. I was stuck.

I should have taken Pa Rozelle’s lead and put my speech on paper. You’re killing me smallz!

I should have done a stellar visual poem like Brian’s mom.

How can I follow after Brian’s family? I’m not as funny as Sue or as 007-slick as Nick Weiss. 

The pseudo MC even asked twice, “Do we have any more people who’d like to say something? Going once, going twice…”

Dude. This is your cue. Move your ass. REALLY? You’re just going to stand there? Move! Tell the people how you feel about Brian before it’s too late. What did Taylor Swift once say, “I don’t think you should wait, I think you should speak now.” SAY SOMETHING.

Even Kelly’s two little kids Sawyer and Steel mustered up the courage to say something beautiful about Brian. But try with all my might, I just stood in the back – speechless. Frozen. Lost in my own head.

I intended to go after Kelly’s kids, but before I knew it, we we’re all exiting toward the jumbo screen.

I missed my chance to say something. I can’t believe I let my anxiety get the better of me. I felt like the scum of the earth.

“13 For Rozelle”

Part of the reason I was frozen was because I had too much to say about Brian. Where do I even begin? All those moments and memories, all at once, were too much for me to handle. I couldn’t process them, my emotions and all the people.

When I started to get light-headed, I knew I was in trouble.

As you may recall, I managed some type of redemption in a tribute to Brian entitled “How One Man Beat Cancer Through Happiness and Selfies.”

I’m pretty sure Brian would call it “epic.”

What I didn’t mention was that although I started a website called www.13forTaylor.com (As in Taylor Swift), it could have easily been called www.13forRozelle.com.

You see, Brian is the one who introduced me to WTM.

I was training him for a traditional Tough Mudder and I got involved in a bit of a car accident. Let’s just say, I was on an early morning run and had to jump to evade vital organ damage. Unfortunately, my left ankle met the front of the car hood and didn’t like it very much. I couldn’t walk uphill and had to forego that Tough Mudder in Tahoe with Brian.

When I walked into his office to let him know I was out, I think he could sense my disappointment.

I was extra disappointed because Brian laid down the challenge of, “Bro, if you can finish it in 90 minutes, I’ll buy you an epic steak dinner!”

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Brian paid no attention to my disappointment and said, “Dude. A regular Tough Mudder is too easy for you anyway. You should do THIS.” He then showed me a promo for WTM. “It’s in 3 months, so it’d be stupid to do it then. But you should totally do it next year,” he said.

His words combined with that WTM promo, just made sense. I dedicated the next year to seriously training for WTM 2012.

Friends Support Each Other

Can I tell you something?

Brian was the only person who called me after finishing the race my second time around.

This was during those really tough months of Brian’s cancer battle and he was calling me from 3,000 miles away.

Who does that?

He’s maybe the only person who didn’t think it was “stupid.” Crazy, yes, but stupid, no.

It was Sunday night about 11PM EST. I was alone in some beatdown motel in New Jersey and I was trying to go to sleep. You’d think that after being awake for 40+ hours, it would be easy to sleep. Nope.

As soon as I picked up the phone, you could hear Brian practically yelling, “Dude! How’d you do!?”

I was so disappointed in my performance my second time at bat, that I wanted to talk about anything but the race. Those feelings combined with being in a broken down, dazed and semi-irritable state, meant Brian pretty much had to speak for both of us.

“Bro, so what if you didn’t get 13 laps. That’s not even possible. YOU FINISHED. That’s what matters. You covered 45 miles, didn’t break anything and are one of the few people on the fucking planet that could finish that race! That’s pretty badass.”

He got me. Those few lines made me feel so proud and put a smile on my face. My disappointment melted away. Brian then took it to the next level and said, “Bro. If I’m around next year, I’ll go to support you.”

That sonuvabitch.

That one line made my eyes all sort of watery. The fact that my friend would even consider flying to the east coast from California to support me while he’s battling life-threatening cancer is truly badass.

In that moment however, all I could think was, “Fuck Brian. This means I have to do all this bullshit again for another year! You’re killing me smallz!” 

Team #RozelleStrong Lives

I did the race again in 2014. Brian couldn’t make it. He had so much on his plate with friends, family, travel and leading the fundraising for Cycle for Survival as part of Team #RozelleStrong that come the week before Thanksgiving, he was exhausted.

How he managed to even do half of all that is still mind-bottling to me.

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I still wonder today if I would have done better last year if Brian was there. He would fit right in with all the WTM crazies and their friends and family supporting them through pit crews. Trust me, he’d somehow find a way to tower over their exuberant energy.

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See what I mean – don’t you think Brian can top this?

I’m doing WTM again this year.

Is this my last time? I want to say, “Yes”, but who knows?

All I know is that at Brian’s Celebration of Life, his good friend Brauson said, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking? You should do WTM again this year.”

“But I retired,” I said.

“Yeah, Brian doesn’t believe in retirement. I think he’d want you to do it. Chris agrees. And if you ask Sue or anyone else, I think you’ll get the same response.”

I didn’t get a chance to ask anyone else, but Brauson might be onto something. For the first time, in a long time, it feels right to do WTM this year. I’m actually more excited than nervous. I’m reminded of how I felt when Brian first showed me the WTM promo.

13 for Taylor

All this time, I thought it was about Taylor Swift and maybe, just maybe, it was about having fun. It’s taking me long enough, but I think I’m coming full circle in doing the race again.

Maybe running this race is a way to erase that regret. Maybe it’s a way to honor Brian for as long as I can run it. Maybe it’s another way to keep Team #RozelleStrong alive.

Brian’s temperament and how he faced his cancer guns blazing is a constant reminder that some stars shine brighter than others.

Maybe one last go around, with Brian in my heart and mind, will allow me to go out in style.

I don’t know. But I can try and find out.

The New Face of Cancer

Long Live #RozelleStrong

Doing Brian Proud 

It just occured on me it’s August.

Yikes – I seriously need to start training like a superhero if I want to do Brian proud.

As such, I’m going all out, guns blazing by doing a Relay For Life event tomorrow, August 8th, in Menlo Park, CA. My friend Yuhui and her company SBM Fitness asked me to join their team and I shall deliver.

I commit to moving along that track for all 24hrs. It’s supposed to be a walk, but I may end up jogging, bear crawling, army crawling just to keep some sanity. I don’t know. We’ll see.

I’m not currently in superhero shape, but I have veteran experience on my side. I shall rely on my mental strength and Brian’s story to power me through the day.

If you’re in the area, swing by Burgess Park on 701 Laurel Street anytime between 11AM-8AM to show some support to those rallying to fight cancer. Maybe you’ll do a few laps to honor a friend that passed away or to honor a friend fighting cancer now.

I don’t know how the course is laid out, but doing at least 50 miles sounds about right. If want to buy Brian one Starbucks cup of coffee and donate $5 to jumpstart the Team #RozelleStrong fundraising efforts for next year’s Cycle for Survival, you’d only make Brian’s star shine brighter. Contact Vickie at vickiebrez@gmail.com for how to do so.

And if you feel inclined to drop off pizza, sweets, peanut butter & jelly or caffeine, I’ll be happy to take it all off your hands.

There is only trained and untrained.

JASignature2Blue.bringbackfit.com

 

Saul Juan Antonio Cuautle
Founder & CEO

ps. yes, www.13fortaylor.com is currently down. I took it down after last year’s race. It will resurface shortly…in some capacity…

 

Friends don’t let friends mindlessly “workout.” Friends help and support each other. Help your friends as they try to make positive changes in their life. If you know of anyone who may benefit from this content, please share it with them.

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