Posted Online: Oct. 09, 2012, 9:49 pm

Not forgetting vets: 'Toughest Mudder' team uses winnings to help troops

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By John Marx, jmarx@qconline.com

Photo: None
Team Not Forgotten is made up of Flynn Schulz, left, Nathan Tackett, center, and Michael Kinney, right.
It's 2 p.m. on a fall Monday, and I am fresh from the funniest hour I have spent in months.

"Team Not Forgotten'' will not be.

"TNF'' is three Quad-Citians (they are open to more) who are hilarious athletes with a fresh and unique approach to life.

Nathan Tackett, Mike Kinney and Flynn Schulz are three of the biggest-hearted, coolest dudes on the planet. They are ultra-athletes -- not the smoothie-drinking-matching-spandex types -- but free-wheeling, mind-over-matter competitors who know how to have fun.

Humor, though, is just part of the package that endears TNF.

They are generous veterans who understand the sacrifices made to protect a nation. Tackett (Marines), Kinney (Army) and Schulz (Army National Guard) pay their own way into competitions and give any prize winnings to veterans' causes.

Their next challenge is the "World's Toughest Mudder" from Nov. 17 to 18 in Englishtown, N.J.

It's a 24-hour obstacle race on a 12- to 13-mile loop. Last year's winner made seven laps. TNF is shooting for eight to 10. If they win, they plan to donate the $15,000 to the Wounded Warriors Project.

TNF is good enough to win and will have a good time before, during and especially after the "World's Toughest Mudder.''

"Our military backgrounds taught us that we defend and take care of our nation, and when we get home, our nation helps us,'' said Tackett, 39, who started the Quad Cities Hash House Harriers, a unique running-fitness troupe that fancies itself a drinking group with a running problem.

You know the QCHHH is on hand at a local race when you see a group of runners in red dresses or pirate costumes.

"This is just the beginning,'' Schulz, 32, said. "The goal is to get to a point where we designate a cause each time we compete. We know there are lots of steps to that, but you must start somewhere. That's where we are.''

TNF has competed in three events in preparation for the "World's Toughest Mudder.''

First was the "Run across Iowa Relay", a 337-mile relay (longest in the world) with a team of 10. They finished second.

They finished the "Tough Mudder Wisconsin,'' a 12-mile obstacle run, in the top 5 percent, and the "Dances with Dirt'' 50-mile ultra in Michigan in the 13-hour time frame to qualify for the New Jersey event.

"We are not professionals, we are not graced with natural talents or huge sponsors, but what we do have is respect, friendship, determination and knowledge to pursue what others might think impossible,'' Kinney, 28, said.

"And to do it while having fun. Nathan and Flynn are amazing in that they are mentally and physically strong. Me, I just try to keep things light. Maybe a horse joke or two.''

The key for the three is never to lose sight of the goal of competing and raising funds and awareness for veterans' causes.

"Sponsorship help is appreciated,'' Schulz said. "But it will not stop us from competing and trying to make a difference. And living the high life when we compete.''

To reach TNF for more information or to help it along its way, email teamnotforgotten@gmail.com.