Rusty Hanafin

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My Success Story

Sometimes you just have to take charge.

Five years ago I was hunting Brown Bears in Southern Alaska. I was 45 years old at the time. 242 pounds on a wide six foot frame. After following my hunting guide Robert Berry, for only twenty minutes, I was feeling terrible and embarrassed for myself. I realized that I was a physical basket case. No endurance on a Brown Bear hunt—what a fool I was!

Some guys my age like to follow sports. They golf. Not me, I am not a watcher, and golf is … Yawn… I must do something, and rugged big game hunting is for me what a ten karat diamond ring is to a lady—It’s something that you dream about. And so, with the cold realization that the hunts would be no fun if I could not keep up with my guide I became resolved to change.

Not a month later, I was hunting White Tail in Alberta Canada. The young guide, Troy Lorenz, was telling everyone about a very special Mountain Goat hunt. The hunt was called ‘Iron Man’ and was notoriously brutal. The mountain is in the Kiwa glacial drainage in the Caribou Mountains of British Columbia. I heard from Troy about past hunters that had broken down and cried because of the physical beating the mountain hands you. But when I saw the photographs I knew I had to do it. Call me crazy, but I will (and have) slept in mud puddles to get an edge on big game.

With Iron Man coming up, I knew I needed some real help. Following a 22-year-old guide up a 9,000-foot peak with a 40-pound pack and rifle was not going to be a walk in the park. Only 16 men had climbed Iron Man, and I so wanted to be a part of that exclusive club and sign my name on the wall next to the others. My wonderful wife Lisa had met Kelsey Searles and had been training with her for about three months and she flat out said that Kelsey was the best trainer there was. She said, “Just give her a try.” So I did.

I met Kelsey at her studio and the first thing she asked me was, “What are your goals?” I told her “I want to climb Iron Man peak to hunt Mountain Goats.” She listened and then asked questions like what were the conditions and would I be carrying anything. We talked the “mission” through the physical requirements. She then made a plan.

My workout would include a 40-pound back pack and a single 15-pound dumb bell to replicate my rifle and create an imbalance. The training was lunges with yokes and balance training. Thousands of stairs with dumbbells… More lunges. Kelsey made my goal her goal. What a great friend she has become.

I am pleased to report that on September 18, 2010, at the ripe old age of 50, I added my name along with my hunting partner Matt Wicker (25 yrs. old) to the very exclusive list of men who had climbed Iron Man.

Thanks Kelsey, I could not have done it without your inspiration and the support of my wonderful bride Lisa.

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