BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Tony Mestaz has seen and experienced many ups and downs — the highs of thousands of feet in the Kern County mountains in training for an endurance race, to the lows of multiple health setbacks — cancer and diabetes to name just two.

But at 60, Mestaz, from Shafter, is the healthiest he’s ever been and is possibly one of the most elite athletes for his age. All it took was a trip to watch one of his children taking part in a Spartan race to invigorate his road to health.

And now Mestaz is training for the Sparta Trifecta World Championships where he hopes his ongoing journey to health takes him to Sparta, Greece in November.

Mestaz said his attempts to health started when he was diagnosed with diabetes.

“Tony, you’re a diabetic and morbidly obese,” he recalls being told by his doctor.

Tony Mestaz before his life changed by participating in Spartan races. (Courtesy: Tony Mestaz)

He tried all sorts of activities to get exercises and stay active: walking, running and even golf. But as he admits he’d end up back on a couch taking it easy.

Once he was told he was vulnerable to suffering a stroke.

“[My doctor] told me ‘Tony, you’re prime to have a stroke and I don’t think you’re going to survive this.’ And it scared me,” he recalled.

Mestaz then took up trail bike riding. He says after a few weeks of training he had a bad accident breaking his leg and ankle in multiple areas.

On the mend, he was looking for things to do and he and his wife made a trip to Castaic, Calif., to watch his kids compete in a Spartan obstacle course race.

“Dad’s, you know, on crutches and the cast and stuff but we’ll go and watch and support them,” he said.

When he arrived, he was astonished at what he saw. Hundreds of people — of all sizes, ages and abilities — competing in grueling activity.

“I remember thinking, ‘What excuse, could I come up with to not do this? If these people are doing that?'” Mestaz recalls. “I told my wife, ‘I just got to try this.'”

After months of recovery for his broken leg and ankle he finally tried a Spartan Sprint race at age 54 in 2017.

“I did my first race and I swear, I’d never do another one. I thought it was the craziest thing in the world.”

It wasn’t easy — Mestaz had a diabetic “crash,” he said. But Mestaz recovered, finished the race and was hooked.

He trained at a local gym to get into shape for the next race.

“It just became part of our lives,” he said.

The next goal he set for himself was to complete a Trifecta — three different Spartan obstacle course races in a year.

A “sprint” is a 5 kilometer race, a “super” is 10 kilometers and a “beast” is 21 kilometers. They all come with varying amounts of obstacles to go through — be it ropes, climbing walls, even crawling under barb wire.

In his first year of competing he completed that Trifecta, all while dealing with previous obstacles of a heart attack, the diabetes, and plates in his broken leg.

The desire to complete the Trifecta got and kept Mestaz healthy.

His body was changing.

“My physique changed, my energy levels changed. It wasn’t it wasn’t as fun to hang out on the sofa all day,” Mestaz said.

Then it was time to check in with his doctor. Mestaz’s doctor checked the charts, looked at the numbers, and saw the results on Mestaz. She was shocked.

“What happened?” Mestaz’s doctor said.

“I started doing Spartan races,” Mestaz said. “She says, ‘Don’t stop, it’s saving your life.”

And he hasn’t. Since then, he’s completed 20 Trifecta races. All grueling but worth it.

“I always tell people, you don’t come out free, you’re going to bleed, you’re going to get cut at some point. You’ll definitely be bruised but at the end it’s so rewarding,” Mestaz said.

And on the course, he’s monitoring his diabetes, making sure his sugar levels allow him to complete a race.

Mestaz’s next challenge is the Trifecta World Championships in Greece beginning Nov. 4. He hopes to fund part of this challenge with a GoFundMe.

You can donate to the GoFundMe to raise money for Mestaz’s trip here.

Mestaz is able to train by throwing spears, climbing rope on a tree at home. He’ll do stretches, and burpees “in the hottest places just to practice.” You may have seen him in groups at Hart Park in the hills or hike Mount Pinos to test his lungs — which were hit by COVID-19 three times, he said.

Mestaz said too that being healthy can start small — just about any kind of movement. You don’t have to climb eight-foot walls or cargo nets for exercise like he does.

“There’s a saying that I like to quote and it’s: ‘A body in motion stays in motion, a body at rest rots,'” Mestaz said.

“Start with just walking; get up and walk, and then add to it a little bit each time until you get to that place where you’re being challenged,” Mestaz said.

But the key, he said, is to get started. Your own goal may not be to become a Spartan finisher, but to change your life.

“Just get up off the couch and go have fun,” he said. “Start off by just going to have fun.”