A litte more than a year ago, I decided to join the Claremore Super Recreation Center. A fan of group fitness in the past, I chose the membership that allowed me to attend aerobics classes. On my first day, a sunny Sunday in February, I checked the schedule and saw that there was a “Shredded Cardio with Carrie” class. That sounded pretty good, but I’m basically a shy person, so I texted a friend and asked for the scoop on the class and the instructor. She said, “Oh, Carrie is great! She’s really sweet.”
What she did NOT tell me was that Carrie O’Bryan is in a league of her own. A beast. A rock star. A truly gifted athlete.
I made it through the first class without embarrassing myself too badly, and have taken a few of Carrie’s classes since. My schedule doesn’t mesh that well with hers, except on Saturday mornings, when I attend her popular Core class, and take private swimming lessons after. But thanks to social media, I’ve gotten to know Carrie fairly well over recent months.
Born in Michigan, Carrie graduated from high school in Owasso, had a baby two weeks later, and went to work as a hair stylist two weeks after that. In the midst of it, she got married at 17. She became a Christian, and then took things to another level and became a Mennonite. Carrie and her growing family moved to Oregon and lived a “plain” lifestyle for the next 10 years. It’s hard to reconcile in my mind that the vibrant, outgoing Carrie, who lives in either tight workout gear or high heels is the same woman who sewed her own long dresses, complete with puffy sleeves. Carrie had always been a fan of exercise, but it was during the Oregon years that she took up running, and it didn’t sit well with the church elders. Although she was running in a long dress, it had to be hitched up, and her legs showed. And then her hair would fall loose from under her head covering. In the end, the O’Bryans were excommunicated from the church, and they returned to Oklahoma in 2011. Carrie now had eight children, and she had to get acclimated to the modern ways again. She joined the rec center, and could often be seen in the weight room still in her plain clothing. Carrie slowly began to shed the old ways, and began teaching group fitness classes in 2013. Shortly after that, she became a personal trainer.
She started running marathons, ultra runs, and Ironman competitions, often placing 1st or 2nd in her age bracket. An Ironman consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run. Carrie excelled in these contests of strength and agility, and she hungered for more. That’s when she discovered the USA Ultra group on Facebook. The race director invited her to come compete. For four years, he asked her to join. And for four years, Carrie said no. She had a husband and eight kids to raise.
Last summer, Carrie and her husband divorced after 20 years. Now she’s having the chance to realize her dreams. She signed up for the USA Ultra Double Anvil race in Clermont, Florida, and hired a trainer. She was a single mom, working full time and raising her children, traveling for speaking engagements, and consumed by a grueling training schedule.
She endured sleep deprivation runs, in which she would drive to the Ozarks in the middle of the night and run for 10 hours or more. She would ride her bike there for miles, taking advantage of the hilly terrain. She ran in the cold. She ran in the heat. She ran while vomiting. It all sounds terrible to me, but she didn’t quit. Newly single, Carrie’s trainer was adamant that she not date, to limit distraction. She was focused and committed and tougher than nails.
It all paid off on March 16 of this year, when Carrie competed in the Double Anvil. She kicked off the morning with the swim portion, which quickly turned disastrous, as she was pulled from the water with hypothermia symptoms. After sitting out a spell, she went back in, and ended the swim alone (except for the alligators). For 36 hours straight, Carrie and her competitors swam, biked, and ran. Continuously. And she finished. She did something only an elite few can cross off their to-do lists, and she did it in the midst of sickness and pain. To make this particular race even more special, Carrie finished it alongside Mary Dobbins, her good friend and another Claremore resident.
During her training, Carrie caught the eye of Tim Wofford, Tulsa entrepreneur, former college athlete, and owner of SmartBody. Tim has an interesting background; he spent years in corporate retail, living in countries all over the world. Always an “idea guy”, Tim has started and sold a variety of companies over the years. During a stint in Las Vegas, he opened a wellness and weight loss center in Sin City, catering to casino wives who wanted to look as thin and fit as possible. The idea is that clients can have their DNA tested to discover exactly which methods would work best for achieving their personal goals. It was a good plan, but in this society of Amazon Prime and instant gratification, folks got impatient waiting for doctors and labs to process results.
Now, after years in big business, Tim is back in Tulsa and has reformatted his company, SmartBody, to a more DIY approach for medical testing. Clients do not have to visit a doctor, wait weeks for answers, and sit in line at a lab. A DNA swab can be done at home, using saliva, blood, or urine. Results are back in mere days. The answer to the DNA question tells clients about their general make-up. It identifies issues like vitamin deficiency, and gives solutions to how the client can live and deal with stress and diet based on his or her individual needs. This is ideal for the person who is having trouble perfecting her diet and exercise plan. SmartBody can tell you exactly how unique you are.
What does Carrie, the ultra athlete, have to do with SmartBody? Well, clients also have the option to call and speak to a range of professionals for advice; again, skipping the wait at a doctor’s office. Some of the professionals on hand include doctors, registered nurses, athletes, and personal trainers. Carrie falls into this category, but on another level: she’s a gifted athlete and trainer, but she’s also a single mom to eight children. She identifies with moms and their particular set of problems. She may be capable of running 100 miles, but she also understands things like bedtime rituals, make-up woes, and cooking dinner for a hungry brood of kids. Remember, she has an unusual skill set from her Mennonite days; she may be able to can, grow, and sew, but she also had to relearn how to live in modern society just a few years ago.
SmartBody is partnering with Carrie to promote her as a motivational and inspirational figure, as well as a coach. She is available for speaking engagements, and has appeared at schools across the country to tell her unique and uplifting story. A video series is in the works, to allow men and women outside of the Claremore Recreation Center to benefit from her group fitness classes.