The Record-Setting Life of Mike McCastle


McCastle’s mother, Gloria, an Air Power nurse initially from the Philippines, was demanding and protective during his childhood in Illinois and New Mexico. He was closer in personality to his father, an Air Power law enforcement officer from Louisiana: easygoing, gentle-spoken, intrigued in the metaphysical as a great deal as the corporeal.

Raymond McCastle Sr. struggled with a extensive assortment of health problems, such as Parkinson’s, most cancers, coronary heart attacks, and strokes. But he endured it all with astonishing toughness and grace. “My dad was a fighter,” McCastle says.

When McCastle and his more mature sister have been younger, Raymond study them philosophy: Plato, Nietzsche, and Viktor Frankl. He was especially fond of the Stoics—Seneca, Marcus Aurelius—and Epicurus, who all believed that self-command and fortitude have been the path to dwelling a virtuous and meaningful lifestyle. “It was way in excess of my head,” McCastle says. “It wasn’t until eventually I was more mature that I could recognize and essentially see what the classes have been and essentially utilize them.”

McCastle’s parents divided when he was seven. In substantial school, he moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, with his father. (His sister was already out of the household.) Raymond’s health was deteriorating promptly, and he needed assistance with fundamental responsibilities like shaving and bathing. It was a big accountability for the teenage McCastle.

During his junior yr, McCastle arrived household from basketball exercise 1 working day to locate his father collapsed on the kitchen flooring of their compact condominium. He couldn’t talk and his human body was convulsing. Battling off panic, McCastle gave his father an insulin injection and referred to as 911. The ambulance took an eternity.

McCastle give up the basketball team the next working day. “I felt like it was my fault,” he says. “I need to have been there.”

As Raymond’s health declined, he saw the toll it was having on his son. Raymond experienced two daughters and a son from a previous relationship, and 1 of McCastle’s 50 %-sisters, who lived in Chicago, provided to get in excess of his treatment. Raymond agreed to transfer in with her so his youngest son could transfer on with his lifestyle. McCastle wanted to join the Navy when he concluded substantial school. His father supported him, but it was however the most difficult selection he experienced at any time designed. “I felt like I deserted him—like I was operating away.”

In the Navy, McCastle worked as an air traffic controller, a substantial-anxiety task that put him in charge of the basic safety of 1000’s of persons each and every working day. He discovered how to complete beneath tension and compartmentalize his emotions. Meanwhile, fitness and toughness schooling turned an obsession. He worked out virtually every working day, operating, lifting weights, and performing calisthenics, with prolonged hikes and kayak paddles in among. In 2012, he handed a brutal take a look at consisting of drive-ups, pull-ups, operating, and swimming that allowed him to try out for the SEAL plan in San Diego. But a lot less than two months into the two-month schooling interval that followed, he took a bad leap during a seashore operate and blew out the two his knees. He was devastated.

“I missing my identity,” McCastle says. “I felt like no person.” He started ingesting, obtained 30 pounds. Despite the fact that he was under no circumstances identified with melancholy, he thinks he would have experienced if he experienced sought expert assistance. “There’s a stigma attached to psychological health problems in the armed forces where it is observed virtually as a weak point,” he says. “It was like, you just suck it up, you get the task performed.”

The even worse he felt, the extra McCastle isolated himself from friends and relatives. He was sinking. “I appeared in the mirror and assumed, this is not someone my dad would be proud of,” he says.

Pushing his human body to its limit was the 1 issue that designed him really feel the most alive. He started hunting for a thing challenging, a problem that may be just out of his arrive at. He experienced under no circumstances operate a marathon but felt positive he could total 1. So in late 2013, McCastle decided to operate 50 kilometers all-around Lake Union in Seattle. To make it about extra than just proving himself physically, he decided to dedicate the operate to increasing revenue for most cancers investigate at Seattle Children’s Hospital. It experienced been just in excess of a yr due to the fact his knee injuries. Still, he selected to operate with a forty-pound vest on, to symbolize the weight of a baby battling most cancers.

For McCastle, the actual physical soreness and psychological discomfort of the Labors are the two the position and beside the position.

His knees held out and he concluded in beneath five several hours. The good results pushed again the darkness and remaining him with a new experience of independence and goal. The operate didn’t flip him into a SEAL, and it didn’t assistance his ailing father. But it was a thing. It served someone. “The bring about was the key,” he says.

McCastle remembered his father studying him the Greek myth of the Twelve Labors of Hercules. As the tale goes, Hera, the queen of the gods, designed Hercules go quickly insane and get rid of his wife and kids. When he recovered his sanity, Hercules was tasked with completing a sequence of feats so complicated they appeared not possible. His reward for ending was absolution—and immortality.

McCastle experienced heard tales about true persons performing incredible points when the second demanded it— moms who raise vehicles off their younger kids trapped beneath, pet owners who battle off bears to preserve their animals. How a great deal could he suffer, he puzzled, in the assistance of other persons? He decided he would make 11 extra responsibilities of his very own, each and every 1 as near to not possible as he could conceive, and each and every tied to a charity. For range two, he established his sights on the entire world document for the most pull-ups in 24 several hours: four,030, established by Navy SEAL David Goggins. This 1 would be committed to the Wounded Warrior Venture, a charity and assistance firm for hurt veterans. He qualified for 6 months, developing his way up to one,five hundred pull-ups a working day.

His mother was in the crowd when he designed his attempt in a community park on Whidbey Island, Washington, in July 2014. The 1st thousand pull-ups went great. But soon after he handed two,000, the tendons and muscle mass in his arms began to fail. He stored likely. Some donations have been primarily based on his hitting sure benchmarks. But it wasn’t just that. “My pride and dread wouldn’t permit me give up,” he says. Day turned to dusk. During rest breaks, he viewed his urine flip as darkish as barrel-aged whiskey. His human body was breaking down his weakened muscle mass tissue and flushing it out by way of his circulatory process, a ailment referred to as rhabdomyolysis that can guide to kidney failure and dying.

Following seventeen several hours, McCastle experienced to cease. He experienced done 3,202 pull-ups, much a lot less than his aim. His human body was so wrecked he required four days in the medical center. His mother sat with him and they viewed the news on Tv set: Sailor hospitalized after pull-up challenge—after this crack.

Even however McCastle lifted in excess of $10,000, it felt like SEAL schooling all in excess of once more. All he could feel about was that he experienced unsuccessful. “It was about me and my moi,” he says. Now even the 50-kilometer operate appeared self-serving, extra about proving a thing to himself than serving to some others.

He assumed about the notion of amor fati, or “love of destiny,” 1 of the several Latin conditions he’d absorbed from his father’s readings. A pillar of Nietzsche’s philosophy, it suggests accepting, even embracing, failure and suffering as element of existence, and utilizing them as chances to find out and develop.

On McCastle’s second working day in the medical center, a teen in a wheelchair rolled into his area. He was waiting for an organ transplant, McCastle recalls. The child apologized for showing up unannounced, but he wanted to say how a great deal the pull-up attempt experienced impressed him.

“He didn’t treatment about the document,” McCastle says. “I saw that even in failure, I could however effects persons in a beneficial way. It was an epiphany.”

McCastle felt his considering change as his human body recovered. “I no longer experienced a thing to demonstrate by way of the true actual physical labor itself,” he says. “I could focus extra on the bring about and the goal behind it. Even if I unsuccessful, I was Ok with it.”