In 2017 at a Spartan event, I saw a man on crutches jump the fire and complete what I thought was a fairly challenging Spartan race. Having followed his journey since then, I could not stop thinking about how small my own challenges looked when I watched Tim Frame navigate his life and continue to press on through obstacles on and off the race course.
When I was getting ready to do the Killington Vermont Beast for the first time, I had big issues with my knee two weeks before the race because of the very long training runs I was doing. I vividly remember turning to my wife and saying, “I have to stop complaining about this knee and just Spartan up. Remember Tim jumping the fire in Vegas?”
It wasn’t until 2018, when I was finishing my SGX coaching education and got an opportunity to write for Spartan Life, that I saw Tim again going across the multi-rig with a brand new shoulder sling on. I too have been battling a very big issue in my shoulder, and I said to my wife again, “I have to stop complaining about this shoulder and just Spartan up. Take a look at Tim going across the rings with a shoulder sling on.” What Tim should know and what may be valuable to any reader of this story is that many of us share this story. With that thought, let’s learn more from Tim about battling odds and smashing them with his motto for 2018: “Do it ANYWAY!”
Rob: Hi, Tim. Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview and sharing more of your story about overcoming obstacles on and off the obstacle course. You are a true inspiration and many more should hear your story . . . or should I say journey? I remember first meeting you at the Las Vegas Super in 2017. At the time you were on crutches and recovering from a hip replacement, and I watched you cross the finish line doing the fire jump while on crutches. What a sight! What I didn’t know was how much more there was to your story.
Tim: Yes, although I wish I could recall our meeting; that is one of the obstacles I currently face with my past issues overcoming a brain-eating virus. However, thank you for this opportunity to share more of my story. I had been interviewed years ago about this battle, but so much more has taken place since then that I would love to share. That original virus was only the start of many other issues I have had to overcome, and through it all I have had Spartan racing, the Spartan community, and my own will and determination to thank for helping build the motivation to conquer it all. I find myself saying often, “Do it ANYWAY!”
R: It seems that you are most remembered for being resilient; however, that has grown to pure will and determination. What have you learned about community, Spartan racing, and yourself in the years since your condition?
T: Wow, hard to even know where to start with this question, Rob. I had to unexpectedly learn how to be resilient, and then go out and find the will and determination that I didn’t even know existed in me until I truly needed it. A quote that has stuck with me over the years has become the core of my foundation: “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” Very few understand what I have been through, and I believe I have things to share that may help others along the way. That’s why I appreciate this opportunity to share it with you, Spartan Life, and our awesome community.
I’ve had to be strong through no choice of my own. Because of my memory loss, I’ve had to relearn everything in my life over the past four years. During that time, there’s truly been a tremendous amount of learning that has happened, and I’d love to share those lessons with you. So I’ll start here: the learning process started for me after I somehow miraculously survived a life-threatening viral encephalitis attack to my brain back in May 2014.
Statistically, that virus was expected to take my life, as it has an 80 percent fatality rate. At the very least, it was supposed to leave me as a complete vegetable. Well, clearly that didn’t happen, and I woke up that day in May from a three-day coma-like state, and that’s when all my learning began. The first thing I had to learn was my own name, and then all the names of my immediate family who were in that hospital room too. That’s hard to believe now, but although that brain-eating virus didn’t take my life, it did cause significant brain damage, and along with that brain loss, it stole all my long-term memories. So when I woke up that day, I didn’t know my family, or even who I was for that matter. And believe me, I for sure didn’t know what a Spartan race was at the time, or what a Spartan community was either, and I’ve had to relearn all of that now as well.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to learn all of that until after I almost died again three months later, in August 2014, from a massive pulmonary embolism, and a huge blood clot, that affected my entire heart and filled both lungs. This was unexpected, but it was the direct result of complications from that virus, the required bed-rest, and being attached to an IV that was pumping heavy steroids into me in hopes of some progress for nearly three months. The steroids actually worked and helped me recover some of my life. The downside is that they also caused major complications to my health, such as the embolism and now AVN (avascular necrosis) causing severe bone degeneration. Since then, I have had a hip replacement as well as a shoulder replacement.
The biggest lesson I have learned from this entire experience can be summed up as “You never stop learning.” I have had to learn how to function with new body parts. I have learned how to survive and never give up. I can attribute this will to learn, be better, and not be beaten to living a true Spartan lifestyle.
- I’ve learned how to get back up when I’ve been knocked down.
- I’ve learned that obstacles are an opportunity for growth.
- I’ve learned that doing what’s right, even when it’s difficult, is more rewarding.
- I’ve learned that I have to believe in myself, and trust in myself too.
- I’ve learned that “stillness is the enemy,” and that I have to keep moving.
- I’ve learned that it all starts upstairs and begins with mental toughness.
- I’ve learned that I have to be disciplined and diligent in all of my actions.
- I’ve learned to set high goals, make specific plans, and be committed to all of them.
- I’ve learned to set my expectations high and to be confident that I’ll reach them.
- I’ve learned to make NO EXCUSES, and to just DO IT ANYWAY.
Lastly, I have learned to rely on the Spartan community for support and to share with them as they share with me. We offer each other support, encouragement, and help to motivate each other. This helps build camaraderie that keeps me coming back for more.
R: What are the biggest challenges you have faced and overcome with your training, racing, and growth in the sport?
T: I think that the biggest challenge I faced and overcame with my training was learning how to adapt after my condition almost took my life.
I am still adapting. From the time I came back after I was devastated by my condition, I made it my mission to regain what I lost. I was out of shape, not eating correctly, and I just wanted my life back before the condition so I did what any Spartan would: I Spartaned up. After struggling in the 2015 Las Vegas Spartan Super, I decided to ramp up my training. I decided that I would not be beaten by my condition. I found it inside me to really dig deep and even when things got hard, I would do it ANYWAY. This led to some failures while racing, but I kept at it until I felt more physically capable.
This awakening led me to fall in love with Spartan racing all over again. That failure still pushes me today and has made me work much harder to prepare for all my races now and to be both physically and mentally ready for them. Trust me, I never want to feel that level of failure again. Ever since that day, I’ve kept track of all that hard work. It’s all down in my daily workout journal: there’s hundreds of hours of training in there along with all of my physical therapy. My training journal tracks the thousands of miles that I’ve covered in the gym and out on the race course, all 34 races that I’ve run in over the last 34 months, and how I’ve spent most of the last 1,000+ days in the gym. It shows how I’m getting it done ANYWAY.
Along with these changes, I also made major changes to my diet and nutrition that coincide with my physical training, which has also made a big difference. The way I overcame my challenges and advanced my ability to race is through active recovery. I work out in a way where I push myself and then I continue to work out but drop the intensity so that I can in fact recover. Using this method, I have been able to train and race through all of 2016 to include finishing the Tahoe World Championship on a soon-to-be-replaced right hip. And then after getting that right hip replaced, in February of 2017, I still ran four races on crutches, just weeks after that on that new hip. Then I continued to do race as my left shoulder fell apart as well. But even with that, I still ran eight mores races until the end of last year, six of those races with a sling, right before getting that left shoulder replaced in November of 2017. Through these two years I used active recovery to keep myself physically fit and be able to navigate my challenges on and off the course.
R: Active recovery is something I believe in and practice as well. I think it really works. How about mentally? Do you think that there is a mental component to it as well?
T: I’ve had way more than my fair share of challenges, both in the gym and out on the race course too. That doesn’t even include all the challenges in my personal life. It’s not just been my health, and my hip, and my shoulder: my life challenges include losing my home, my wife, my family, my career, my education, and my whole past. You name it, I’ve lost it. So yeah, talk about challenges, trust me, I’ve had plenty. But none of those have stopped me either. I’ve continued to be strong, both physically and mentally, with plenty of will and plenty of determination, and have made plenty of adjustments and adaptations along the way as well, both out on the race course and in the gym. Even in my life now too, I have continued to DO IT ANYWAY through all of those challenges, and through all of those obstacles too. I believe you just have to find it within yourself to really focus all of your energy on the positive aspects that Spartan racing and the Spartan community bring with it and really embrace it, believe it, practice it, and also preach it. When you preach it, you can motivate others, who in turn may be able to motivate you. Positive builds positive.
R: What is some advice you would give to first-time racers who are new to OCR and Spartan racing? What can you share from your own experience that would benefit them the most?
T: This one’s an easy one for me, and I’ll try and keep it short. So many newbies have so many questions and come in with so much doubt, fear, and anxiety. I get all that, because everything’s new to me now too. But that’s where my motto really comes into play, and all of my experiences too. So that’s when I share my best advice and tell them to do it ANYWAY. I know—for sure—that’s how you face your fears, and how you overcome your doubts and unknowns as well. And if I’m lucky enough to meet those newbies and get a chance to chat with them too, that’s when I get to share my journey with them as well.
R: Is there anything I missed that you feel strongly about and want to talk about?
T: I wouldn’t say that you missed anything, but I will take this opportunity, to expand on a couple ideas and concepts that have worked well for me, in the hope that they will work for others as well. Here you go:
Embrace active recovery. I believe whole-heartedly in this now that I have seen how it’s worked for me. Many doctors, friends, and family may not always understand it at times, or even approve of it. But people with illness, serious injuries, or disabilities still have goals and desires, and they want to stay active. I believe that stillness is the enemy, and that there’s always a right way to stay active. Sure, listening to doctors is important, and so is getting rest and allowing the body to heal in appropriate ways. But I also believe that pure inactivity is not the answer, that it actually increases the damage done and can hold you back even more.
Embrace the Spartan lifestyle. I also believe in this whole-heartedly now, and honestly, it’s all I know in this new life of mine. Live a true Spartan lifestyle. Be committed to reaching a finish line and doing what’s necessary on a daily basis to get there, and then overcoming whatever obstacles get in the way. So that means living a much more disciplined and diligent life, and having the mental toughness that it takes to do that every single day. And I guess that’s why living the Spartan lifestyle worked for me. Aroo!
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