Wednesday, September 7, 2011

This Will Be the Day That I Die

I am pretty sure that I will die on September 18th, 2011, either during the day, or in my sleep that night. That’s a little disheartening, since it’s only about a week and a half from now. How do I know the exact day I will die? Because my toe hurts. Allow me to explain.

I woke up this morning, and out of nowhere my big toe on my left foot hurt so bad, I almost couldn’t walk. It was fine when I went to sleep, and I’m quite sure that I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary to injure it. So why does it hurt? I have no idea, other than the simple fact that I was born almost 40 years ago and now my body doesn’t work right anymore.

Well, alright, you say, but that still doesn’t explain why you know the day you’re going to die. Just be patient, I’m getting to that. I know the exact day, because I lost some weight a few months ago. Allow me to explain.

In March of this year, I decided that I needed to lighten my load a little, since I seem to be getting on in years, and I was having trouble seeing my toes for the first time in my life. I devised a simple weight loss plan and went to it. I lost about 20 pounds in a little over a month. Apparently, having great success with weight loss either sends one into a euphoric state of stupidity, or I am just naturally an idiot. I’m really not sure which. (That might be a clue right there!)

You see, I didn’t lose weight by exercising. I did it by eating half of what I normally eat, and going from 7000 fluid-ounces of Coke per day down to only 24. It was simple, and it worked great. The problem was, at some point when I was getting close to my weight loss goal, I must have thought to myself, “If I have enough will power to eat only half of that Chipotle burrito, then I should obviously enter an 11-mile obstacle course event billed as the ‘toughest event on the planet.’” I must have thought that, because that’s what I did. I am a fool.

I signed up for a race called the Tough Mudder. The fact that it is an 11-mile run with 20 military-style obstacles designed by a couple of ex-British Special Forces guys isn’t even the worst part. It’s the location. Since I live in Northern California, I stupidly signed up for the Northern California event. Probably sounded like a good idea at the time. They even told me where it would be held. They said “Squaw Valley” very plainly on the website. I know where Squaw Valley is, but the only thing that went through my head was, “Oh, that will be nice scenery!” I am a fool.

For those of you not current on your Northern California geography, or your history of run-down, overpriced ex-Olympic ski resorts, allow me to explain. Squaw Valley is a very large hillside in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Lake Tahoe, with a base elevation of 6200 feet above sea level. I said BASE ELEVATION. It has a summit elevation of 9050 feet. The map of the Tough Mudder obstacle course boasts an elevation gain of 2300 feet. That means that the lowest elevation that the top of the course can possibly be is 8500 feet.

I was vacationing with my family at another breathtaking spot in Northern California this past weekend; this one being on the coast. Most of the coast here in California is at sea level. In preparation for my idiotic event, I went running one morning on an old logging road in the forest. It had some pretty impressive elevation gains, also. I would venture a guess that I saw elevation changes of nearly 100 to 200 feet on my 20-minute run. Unfortunately, I got pretty winded.

Now, if there is one place in the world with a lot of oxygen, it’s a redwood forest at sea level. If there is one place in the world where there isn’t a lot of oxygen, it’s at 8000 feet in the air, anywhere in the world. Which is apparently where I’ll be running on September 18th, 2011. Up hill. I am a fool.

I have no idea why losing a few pounds by not drinking my body weight in Coca-Cola every day translated into me thinking I was a cross between Lance Armstrong, Rambo and Chuck Norris, but apparently it did. Now, as the cold reality sets in, and I feel my nearly 40-year-old body getting winded while jogging in what amounts to nature’s oxygen tent, and I can apparently hurt myself while sleeping, I must face the facts. This race will kill me.

If you will excuse me, I need to get started putting my affairs in order. Honey, please promise me you’ll remarry, for the sake of the boys. They’ll need a strong father figure in their lives. Hopefully one a little smarter than me.

I’m hoping to die on the course, instead of in my own bed later that night. My bed is close to sea level, so if I die on the hill at Squaw Valley, and I do make it into Heaven, it will be a shorter trip.

At least my demise will be for a good cause. The crazy Tough Mudder events ( and the crazy people who enter them have raised almost $2 million for The Wounded Warrior Project (, which is a fabulous organization that helps injured service members through their challenges back at home. I can’t think of a better reason to do this! If you would like to help this most worthy cause with a few dollars instead of dying on a hillside like I’m going to do, you can donate to my race at, or directly at the Wounded Warrior site above. Thanks!

See you soon,

Copyright © 2011 Marc Schmatjen

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  1. Would you prefer flowers at your memorial or a donation 'in memory of' to the Wounded Warrior organization? Either way, it's been nice knowing you my friend! Good luck!

  2. Whatever feels right to you. I am partial to both cash and Stargazer lilies.