Karl Koelle – Chief Web Shark
Born at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma, the son of an Army officer, I was traveling the world before I was a year old. My father earned a Bronze Star in Vietnam, got his paratrooper wings at Fort Benning and earned his Ranger badge at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. While serving in Europe he got hooked on 5K and 10K runs, as well as cycling. When I was 3, he was struck by a car and killed while cycling from our house to the base.
My mother remarried to a good man who raised my sister and I as his own, plus two more new sisters. I never wanted growing up, it was a good life. We were dairy and hog farmers, and I worked the farm – but not as much as I should have. I was lazy and uninterested in the farm life, and did what I had to until it was time to go to college.
Never terribly athletic, I played some basketball and football, and wrestled one year. Again, I was disinterested and uncommitted. I never worked hard at it, and it showed. School was easy for me; I graduated in a class of 40, the last at the school before merging with the next town over. I knew from freshman year on that I was going to the University of Iowa, then on to UC Davis for some sort of biochemistry/genetics degree.
Then 403 Chemistry happened. I showed up for first lecture, my first week of freshman year, in a room with almost as many people as lived in my hometown. He covered everything I knew in the first half of the first lecture. Uh oh… except I just figured I would catch up. Probably could have, if I had gone to lecture and class sessions, done homework… Instead I had a lot of fun, did what I wanted, watched TV and drank.
I grew late in high school, going from 5’6″ to 6’4″ my junior year. Was I picked on in school? Well, let’s see – I was a tubby, unathletic kid with thick glasses, played D&D, got straight A’s, thought and acted like I was smarter than anyone else (including the teachers)… what’s your guess? To be fair, I did my share of picking on some other people too. I’m not proud of it, and the stuff I took was not as bad as it could have been. Being in a small town, small school, we all had to live together.
Never skinny or fit in the first place, in college the beers and pizza piled up. After a possession ticket, I took a job at a restaurant to pay my fine. Access to food at work added more pounds, but I was good at the job. I wound up as an assistant manager, then a store manager over the next few years. I met my beautiful wife, Heather, and we moved to Kansas City.
After burning out, I wound up with a new job in printing and was making much better money, which meant better (and more) food and beer. The pounds piled on, until April 2016 when I weighed in at 323 at my annual appointment. My son, 10 at the time, was skinny, active, and athletic. Playing lacrosse, hockey, soccer, baseball, basketball, tennis.. he was always on the move and I couldn’t keep up with him. Mowing the lawn exhausted me. It was time for a change.
Amy Summers, who I hung out with at Iowa and who married my fraternity brother, was posting about her weight loss journey, and it inspired me to talk to my doctor. He put me on Contrave, an appetite suppressant. Changing my appetite yielded immediate results and helped me change my habits. That’s the trick; people will say “oh you took a pill.” Yes, I did, but I wasn’t eating because I was hungry. I ate because I was tired, bored, out of habit, because I was watching a game, having a beer, etc. The habit still had to change, and I was able to do that.
After 2 or 3 months, I dropped the Contrave to see if I could continue to progress, and I did. I began walking, then running, then other exercise. The pounds were peeling off, and people were noticing. At one point my wife asked me if it ever gets old hearing, “You look great!” I told her I’d tell her if it ever does; that hasn’t happened yet. 🙂
In school, even when I was playing sports, I didn’t lift weights with any purpose, I jogged as far as I had to, I had no passion for it. Somewhere along the way, that passion was found. My father’s running and exercising traits popped up, and it felt great.
Amy and her son decided they wanted to go back to her hometown of Chicago and do a Spartan run; they asked who would join them. I immediately responded that I would do it… then spent the next week asking myself what the hell I was thinking?!! I was in, though. At the time I was exercising but I had no real aim in mind. Spartan gave me that target to work for, that goal I needed in front of me.
As Amy, Liz, Brenda and I all came together online we were helping each other and becoming better versions of ourselves. People notice that, and others started asking in. We added more and more to the group, and suddenly we were a thing. 57 members in 14 states, and we were realizing that we had found something that resonated with people. Well, Brenda always knew – she’s got that visionary mind. We followed what seemed like the logical steps, and Team 1DOS became an LLC. Each of us had skills that meshed with the other, and the team was energizing us even as we were helping them.
So here we are; I’m writing this on the plane to Chicago for my first Spartan run. I’m down 95 pounds, I’m faster, fitter, and stronger (mentally and physically) at age 46 than I’ve ever been. People ask “why would you do a Spartan?” The Spartan folks say, when you reach the finish line you will know why. I am sure I will realize even more, but I can tell you right now that I know why.
Helping myself and others be their best, bringing out the good traits and leaving the bad habits by the roadside, challenging myself and others while helping them meet those challenges – that’s who I am. My father was an OG shark. I’m following in his footsteps in my own way, and that’s the best way I can honor him – and myself.
Addendum – we rocked Chicago. Started and finished as a team, had a great time. Was I flawless and burpee-free? No, but I finished and I had a blast. On to the next challenge!!!