When last we spoke to West Unity’s Callie Britton in late October of last year, she had returned home after shooting an episode of Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge on the CMT network. According to the stipulations of her contract, she was not allowed to discuss any of the particulars of her competitions until after the airing of the program on January 15.
That which she was allowed to describe prior to the airing date, painted a picture of a competition befitting ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, a man for whom the term ‘politically correct’ is nothing short of cannon fodder. “I’m not allowed to discuss the challenges,” Callie said last fall, “…and I cannot tell you how far I went, but meeting Steve Austin…that was a trip. He’s always been depicted as rough and gruff, and he’s that way in person too. When the cameras weren’t rolling, that is the way that he talked. It’s not an act. He was really supportive though. He was very supportive of all of us, and wanted us to try our best. He was encouraging.”
Continuing, Callie said, “The place that we shot was a movie set, but it was like an actual ranch. They drove us way out of Los Angeles, and up through the mountains. It was hilly, sandy, and dusty with tumbleweeds. The producer said that every episode that they had shot, the temperature was about 103 degrees, sunny and hot. Our episode was 50 degrees, windy and with rain. It was that way all day, and we were out filming for twelve hours. In between filmings, they’re interviewing us. We’re acting tough and rough because we have to. In between sets they were throwing towels over us because we were shivering all day, but it was still oh so cool!”
Now that January 15 has come and gone, Callie is free discuss with us the details of the challenges she faced. To say that it was a wild ride would be an understatement.
The first event was called, ‘Snatch’. Picture a sand volleyball court, but smaller. At each end hangs a suspended bell, and in the middle is a 15 pound sandbag. A competitor is matched against another, and at the command of Austin, they run from opposite ends of the course, out to the sandbag. The object is to snatch up the sandbag, then carry it to the other end and ring the bell. It sounds easy enough, but reality proved to be a different story.
Callie was matched against Adriane, a competitor taller than Callie, and eight years younger. “She’s tall and lean,” Callie said. “I’m short and mean. I knew that going into the show as a participant, that the first event was going to involve physical contact. It’s always fighting. I knew that because I’ve watched the show since it began a couple years ago. I knew there wasn’t a whole lot that I could do to prepare, especially since I only had a couple days notice. I have no fighting background. I have no grappling background. I did contact a friend who had an MMA gym, and I took one lesson with him. He told me about staying low, and if you get picked up to sit down; try to bear all of your weight upon that person. Try to stay balanced, and maintain the center of gravity. The lesson was all about 40 minutes, that’s all that I had.” She made the most of those 40 minutes during the event.
Callie shared an insight about the program editing that most fail to realize. “What they show of the battles on TV is only about half of it,” she said. “We are out there fighting about twice as long. Luckily for both of my events, I got the commercial break. When we first ran out, I kind of skidded right past the bag, and we went straight to commercial break. That could have been a bad mistake, but luckily I was already on the ground so I could turn around and go back over the bag. I just did what I could do to protect the bag. I know that I have very strong legs, so I just kept using my leg strength to try to drive. It’s interesting to try to do a leg drive when you have another person on your back, but I was able to do it. For a while we were wrestling, and I didn’t realize that we were wrestling under my own bell. I heard it out in the crowd, and I looked up and saw I was under my own bell. It took me a couple of attempts to jump up with her on my back, but I was finally able to do it. Watching the show, it didn’t look like we were wrestling under my own bell. We wrestled under my bell for quite a while, before I realized where I was.” Viewers of the actual program never saw any of that portion of the competition.
It took a while, but eventually Callie prevailed. “I was really happy to come away with the win,” she said. “I was shocked. Like I said, I have no finding background, but none of the other girls had much of a fighting background either. I was most proud that I was able to think under the pressure, because I think that most people would just go blank. I was able to think and remember what my friend taught me. I used my legs, and it worked.”
The second round event was called, ‘High and Dry’. The sand pit was replaced by a similar shaped water pit, complete with two floating obstacles. Again paired off in one-on-one competition, each contestant has three sandbags…a 20, 30 and 40 pounder. Beginning with the 20, the contestant must carry the bag, jump into the water, and make their way to the end, going under the obstacles in the process. Once at the end, the contestant must leave the water pit with the bag, carry the bag to a wall, throw the bag over the wall, then go back through the water pit to repeat the feat with the next bigger bag. After the 40 pound bag is thrown over the wall, the contestant has to climb over the wall. The first to finish and ring the bell is the winner. This type of event, Spartan racing, is right up Callie’s alley, as it is something in which she frequently trains and competes. Unfortunately for Callie, she was matched up against Tiffany, who was not only adept in this type of extreme obstacle race, she is a professional Spartan racer who is ranked in the top ten nationally. “She went to the Obstacle Racing World Championships this last fall, and she placed fourth,” Callie said. The advantage of expertise quickly became obvious as Tiffany sent Callie packing with a convincing win.
“Tiffany and I are friends now,” Callie said, and with a laugh added, “…and I told her that I was honored to have my butt beaten by her. I think that if I would have had a different matchup in the event, I might have gone farther, but that’s just the way it is. It’s the luck of the draw…that’s just what you get. You have to deal with who you are pinned up against. That’s the show.”
Looking back to last October, Callie said, “The Callie that went out there was scared to death,” she said, “…and not just for the challenges. I’ve watched the show a lot. I know my athletic abilities. The thing that made me uncomfortable was just being on television, being in the spotlight and having to interact with producers and camera crews. It was a socially challenging situation, and having to work with Steve Austin all day, talk with him and not be a stuttering, blubbering mess, those were the things that I was scared of. But I am the type of person that likes to put myself in situations like that purposely in order to try to get over them. When I came back, I came back with more confidence. The small minor things that happen day to day didn’t seem like a big deal. I remember that I was on Broken Skull, and I was in the cold desert for twelve hours battling these women. That’s a harder day than I’m ever going to face back here! I came back with that confidence, and also the confidence of knowing that I was able to hold my own against these high-level athletes a little better than I thought I was going to.”
Now in 2017, Callie’s personal life has taken another twist. “I’ve gotten an insane amount of friend requests on Facebook, and more followers on Instagram. It’s a good thing, and a bad thing. Some of these people I don’t know, and I have no ties to them, so for safety reasons I don’t accept the friend requests. If they’re other obstacle racers, or from the area or have mutual friends, I go ahead and add them. The biggest thing is that I’ve found a new purpose for my social media. I used to just post my workouts. I still do that stuff, but now I try to tie a message to it. I try to provide information about how you should go about meeting goals…I don’t just post a picture. I’ve got somewhat of a platform now; I’ve got people listening to me. Instead of just bragging about yourself, I think that you should provide useful information for those who are working out, or those who don’t know where to start. I try to make sure that everything that I post now is inspiring, and that someone can learn from it.”
Since coming back from the Broken Skull Ranch, Callie has continued to work hard, but it’s not all physical. As a member of the management team at the Fountain City Veterinary Hospital in Bryan, Callie is working on moving up on the certification ladder. “I’m studying for some more initials behind my name,” she said with a smile. “I’m going for my CVPM…Certified Veterinary Practice Manager. It’s something that I’ve been working on for about three years, because you first have to establish that you have expertise in the area. You then take college courses, and follow those up with continuing education and the submission of a 50-page application, with references. Those get approved in sections…and I finally got approved. I put in a request to take my Boards in April. When I’m done, I’ll be Callie Britton RVT CVPM, and I’ll be the only one in Northwest Ohio…if I pass.”
If? Speaking with pure candor, when there’s a challenge to be faced and an obstacle to be overcome, I can’t imagine anybody being stupid enough to bet against Callie, and I’m not about to be the first. That certification is in the bag.
Timothy Kays can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org