Ralph Layman Spartan 3
Ralph Layman competes in a Spartan event in Wintergreen in 2015.
Ralph Layman is always up for a challenge.
Some, he faces on the job, as you’d expect for the chief of surgery for Henrico Doctors' Hospital.
But most are self-inflicted, reflective of his passion to push himself mentally, and physically, in all aspects of life. It’s something he’s always done. He grew up playing sports, continued on through service and med school, and at age 41, he’s not slowing down; he’s upping his game.
He’s set to take part next week in the Agoge 60, a 60-hour test of endurance, strength, problem-solving and every inch of your being to be held in Vermont. Its name is drawn from the training regimen of the ancient Spartans, and the company that operates the program is named Spartan Race Inc. They say their events have attracted more than 1 million participants, and there’s a television series, “Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge,” that airs on Mondays on NBC.
Obstacles and activities are unknowns, but each competitor will have to haul 35 to 50 pounds over 50 to 75 miles and engage in various survival skill events during the weekend. “They don’t tell you exactly what you’ll be doing,” says Layman.
He just knows that it’s a physical, emotional and mentally tasking event that’s run on fairly rugged terrain, day and night, regardless of weather. You bring your own gear, including food, water and water purification and survival gear.
“Participants will need to have grit, perseverance, and a mental fortitude to endure the entire event,” Amanda Harkness, a spokeswoman for the Agoge 60, says by email. She said the Agoge format is to teach survival skills to the competitors, then train and test them. She described it as akin to “completing multiple Ironman’s in one weekend, except without all the luxuries you get at one of those races.”
Many of the Spartan events are in a festive atmosphere of well-wishers and an after-celebration, but this is done without supporters or watchers. You’re on your own. Teamwork is a focus here, though. You can’t just strike out on your own and expect to succeed.
It’s hard to train for something when you don’t know what exactly will be thrown at you, but Layman says it’s kind of like basic training. He works out about 10 to 12 hours a week in his home gym in the Fan, and at Byrd Park, engaging in long-distance runs or walks, off-road marches, weightlifting and endurance training activities. He also preps by doing some training during off hours so he can be ready for any middle of the night activities on little sleep.
Layman has been participating in adventure-type events regularly for four years, now. He started with a Spartan-sponsored race at the Wintergreen Resort in Wintergreen. He’s competed in marathons and triathlons, so adventure racing is a natural progression, he says.
Layman is a lieutenant colonel reservist in the U.S. Army Medical Corps and has served 15
years. He’s been deployed four times, including service as a trauma surgeon in Iraq in 2003. He comes from a military family, and says he always knew he would serve, too. He came to the Army late, though, after hearing an army surgeon lecture on forward surgical teams. He was sworn in on July 5, 2001.
He was the only Medical Corps student in his class at Airborne School. He also was one of the oldest and the highest-ranking student in the class. “The Airborne have a long tradition of being an elite body of soldiers,” he says. “Finishing Airborne School is the first step to entry into the more exciting aspects of the military.”
The push to excel is reflected in other aspects of his life as well. He was an Eagle Scout, was the first member of his family to finish college, and the first to become an officer in the military. “My personal drive has always pushed me to put out the maximal effort at whatever I was doing,” he says.
That includes his practice in vascular, transplant and hepatobiliary surgery, and as surgery chief at the Doctors' Hospital, where he’s also medical director for an in-the-works trauma surgery program. “I get to know my patients pretty well and they get to know me,” he says. “When they know who I am and how I work, they and their families are put at ease during difficult times.”
Coworkers have been encouraging of his pastimes, though some of his senior partners question his sanity.
“Every time I leave on deployment, they ask when I’m going to get out of the army, and ask why would I want to put my body through this,” he says.
As for his family, his 16-year-old daughter, Elsie, is concerned he’s going to hurt himself, while his wife, Elle, is concerned but supportive: “My cheerleader and personal manager,” he says.
About 125 to 140 competitors are expected for the Agoge, out of 160 who signed up. Who are these people that want to push themselves to the limits? Layman says they’re like him: “They’re in the real world, but want to find some kind of fun outlet for their extra energy,” he says.
So why does Layman keep upping the ante?
“Just to see how far you can push it, to see what I can still do as I get older and older,” he says.
Special Olympics Virginia is in Richmond this weekend, with 1,300 athletes from across the state competing in events in various venues.
The games open with a ceremony at 7:45 p.m. Friday at the E. Claiborne Robins Stadium at the University of Richmond. The event will include fireworks and a mini-concert featuring Rayvon Owen, the Richmond native and 2015 “American Idol” finalist.
The competitions are Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m. Events include a fun run for ages 2 to 12 at 9:15 a.m. at the University of Richmond track; softball at 9 a.m. at the Glen Allen Softball Complex on Mountain Road; track and field events, tennis and other events at the University of Richmond; bowling at Bowl America in Short Pump; and swimming at the Collegiate School Aquatics Center.
Learn more at www.volunteer2cheer.com.
If you can’t be there in person, you can watch a live stream of the opening ceremony.
High school graduation is especially sweet for the families of 18 members of the class of 2016 in Virginia who earned their diplomas after battling childhood cancers.
The teens at various times had to keep up with their academics even as they were subjected to surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy treatments for their illnesses at the ASK Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Clinic at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University. But they survived and thrived, and were honored and celebrated on June 3 in a ceremony at VCU.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe delivered the keynote address for the event, which was staged by the clinic, the ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation and VCU Health, according to a release. It was the 19th year for the event. Each student received at least $500 in scholarship money from the ASK Foundation, the Sickle Cell Association of Richmond-OSCAR, from Gregg and Lori Kalata (in memory of their son, Alex), and from Debbie Robertson (in memory of her daughter, Melissa).
Graduates honored at the event include: Gasthon Amador, Denise Mallory and Rayshaun Mason from Chesterfield County; Caleb Guerrero and Conrad "Jake" Wash III from Hanover County; Taylor Anderson-Murray, DaVida Fitzgerald, Justin Hayes, Joshua Kern, JaQuan Morris, Keven Page, Jr. and Albertik "Tiki" Williams of Henrico County; Johnny Bass, Jr. of Louisa County; Katherine "Katie" Blake of Middlesex County; Hahkim Green of New Kent County; Jimesha Gray of Nottoway County; Anthony Winston of Richmond; and Tyler Graves of Stafford County.
About 400 children are treated each year at the ASK clinic.
Pharmacists in training at Virginia Commonwealth University are getting state-of-the-art training in an old-fashioned skill.
The School of Pharmacy on Friday will hold a grand opening for its Center for Compounding Practice and Research, a compounding pharmacy in the Robert Blackwell Smith Building. The facility began operations earlier this year, according to a release.
Compound pharmacy was what most all pharmacists did until the mid 20th century when mass-produced drug production became the norm. In compound pharmacy, your prescription is personally prepared by the pharmacist, who mixes individual ingredients to the proper dosage and strength.
The university on Wednesday announced a director for the facility, Barbara Exum.
“VCU is on the cutting edge as we open our state-of-the-art sterile medication compounding facility,” Exum said in a release. “Now that we have an operationally compliant cleanroom environment, we can better provide to our students hands-on training as well as education concerning the required equipment and regulatory standards governing sterile and nonsterile compounding.”
Exum earned her undergraduate and doctorate in pharmacy at VCU. She most recently worked with BioScrip, a home infusion therapy company, where she was senior vice president of clinical services. She previously served as assistant director of pharmacy services at VCU Health and as an assistant professor in the pharmacy school.
VCU Health hire
Nkanta “Nick” Hines has been named chief of staff for VCU Health’s chief executive officer, Marsha Rappley.
Hines joins VCU on July 3. He served as lead operational officer for the American Board of Internal Medicine since 2014, according to a release.
His duties at VCU will include “implementation of strategic initiatives while leading large-scale organizational change.”