Just before his 16th birthday, Luis Santana was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in his left leg. His dreams of getting a wrestling scholarship to Ohio State were put on hold as he spent the next seven years wrestling cancer instead.
It came back three times, advancing further and further up his leg each time. At 19 years old he was told that amputation was the only option to save his life. But his doctor didn’t give up and they tried a new form of radiation therapy. At 23, his prayers were answered and he was completely cancer free.
“I fought depression, anger, and spent many months alone not wanting to be close to anyone fearing I could die at any moment,” remembers Luis. “Without my faith in God and my family to support me, I wouldn’t be alive today.”
Luis began racing in OCR events in 2013 when his friend offered to buy his ticket to Savage Race. “I didn’t know then,” he says, “but once I started training, I fell in love with the community, the competition side of racing and how good it feels to cross the finish line.”
We first met Luis at our TrainSavage event held in Orlando in 2015. “I loved the opportunity to train with the Orlando community last year at TrainSavage. The training was on-point for the types of obstacles you can expect to see at the race. I loved the coaches pushing me and encouraging me to keep going.”
Luis has now completed three Savage Races and is looking forward to the 2016 season. After we released our official Savage Race Training Guide, he immediately put it to work and focused on the SavagePRO difficulty level. Prior to his last race, he trained five days a week for four weeks leading up to the event, and incorporated extra running into his training plan.
“I liked how each exercise transitioned quickly, just as the race does from obstacle to obstacle, and I like how the guide showed you which obstacle each workout was designed to prepare you for,” he says.
Here’s a sneak peek at Luis’ favorite workout from the Training Guide:
10 min AMRAP
50 Air Squats
50 Jumping Jacks
50 Jump Rope
If you’re new to obstacle course racing, he says, “Start with the Training Guide. Start slow, using the difficulty level that works best for you. Focus on proper form and begin running. As you use the training guide, notice your areas of growth and get excited about dominating those obstacles. Give yourself enough time to gain confidence and strength, building on your level of difficulty each time.”
Luis has inspired us with his determination to beat cancer and be a Savage athlete. He’s endured seven surgeries to remove the cancer and repair the damage left behind. His left latissimus muscle was used to repair all the muscle lost in his lower left leg, and his left knee, ankle, and foot have severe mobility restrictions. But that hasn’t stopped him from training hard and staying positive.
“Competing in OCR is something so special to me. It’s more than the medal and t-shirt. It’s proving the doctors wrong that I’d never walk again. It’s beating cancer again and again with every finish line I cross. It’s a reminder of where I was, and all that God is doing in my life. See you at the next Savage Race in Central Florida!”