LOCAL Houston | The City Guide JUNE 2016 - Page 68

WOO-HOO, WOOCH! By Adam Bergen | Photography by Cody Bess WOOCH GRAFF seems to be a busy man. Between his wife, kids and fitness career, it’s easy to see why he’s constantly running around taking care of clients and family. But beyond his accomplishments helping others, the 41-year-old co-owner of Timberline Fitness in Montrose has completed some of the world’s most grueling and physically demanding races, ultimately leading him to a head coaching spot on NBC’s latest competition show, Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge, which premieres in June. From the producers behind America Ninja Warrior, Spartan focuses on teams of four people, with varying backgrounds, being led through a series of physically demanding obstacles with the help of an experienced “Spartan,” all with $250,000 on the line. If you ask the man himself how he got onto the show as an experienced Spartan, you’ll find that everything in his life, from his background to his growing up, led to this moment. Wooch began competing at the age of six in track & field, where he credits his grandfather, a man with a passion for helping people improve both physically and spiritually, with having a huge impact in his life. Alongside his mother, a decorated track & field star, he’d go from playing Friday night football for his high school to running track & field Saturday morning. After graduating from Texas A&M, Wooch joined REI and began participating in adventure racing, a multidisciplinary event, winning two national championships in the process. This ultimately led to other experimentation, including a 50-mile, non-stop run Wooch attempted, resulting in three days of bedrest and rhabdomyolysis – “I learned I wasn’t invincible,” he says with a laugh. At 30, he committed to the annual Leadville Race Series for 10 years, a 104-mile, high altitude bike ride through the Colorado Rockies. 68 L O C A L | june 16 In 2009, searching for his next accomplishment, Wooch was drawn to cross-training, where he completed Tough Mudder, Gladiator Games and other events. In particular, he became involved in Spartan Race, a hugely popular obstacle course with races throughout the world. At the Austin Spartan Race, Wooch placed 11th overall and 2nd in Masters. It was these impressive numbers that made him stand out to NBC, and in October of last year, he received a casting call to try out for team lead. Making the cut, Wooch was paired with a family of farmers from Massachusetts, where fitness wasn’t exactly on the forefront of their daily lives. The always energetic Wooch didn’t seem too fazed: “I think you can say we ended up exceeding expectations, but you’ll have to tune in to find out.” From the beginning, Wooch’s goal has been simple: to help people lead a playful and adventurous life, inspire and motivate others, and try to continue helping people accomplish the things they never thought they could. “Kids especially. They are nothing from what you say, but everything from what you do,” he says, driving the point home that you have to lead by example. And what about the inevitable fall, or failure, that scares so many? Wooch’s take: “There’s a lot more to learn in losing and being vulnerable than in winning all the time.” His appreciation for the community, who has helped build who he is, is remarkable. And with that, he hopes he can return the favor – one race, one person and one lesson at a time.