Mission Accomplished: Navy veteran who lost his leg takes on Pepi’s Face-Off
Retired Navy corpsman Doc Jacobs takes on the most grueling competition at the GoPro Mountain Games on a prosthetic
Of all the events at the GoPro Mountain Games, Pepi’s Face-Off has a well-earned reputation as the most grueling. The annual competition gives each participant 30 minutes to run as many 860-foot laps of the famous Vail ski run as they can, battling a steep incline at over 8,000 feet of elevation.
This classic event attracts a unique brand of competitor, and few represent the spirit of the challenge better than first-time participant Doc Jacobs.
“When I got up there all the locals were telling me how crazy I was,” Jacobs said with a laugh. “I was told many times what a beast Pepi’s Face-Off is, and I said I have no fears, I’ll do it.”
Jacobs is a medically retired Navy corpsman. After losing his left leg below the knee during his first deployment in Iraq in 2005, he never let the injury stop him from pushing the limits as a marine or as an athlete.
“I’ve done more as an amputee than I ever thought I would as a quote unquote ‘able-bodied’ person,” Jacobs said.
Following two years of intense physical rehabilitation and over 40 surgeries, Jacobs returned to the Fleet Marine Force and made history as the first amputee in naval history to serve with an infantry unit. He continued to serve in the navy for another six and a half years.
“Within a couple weeks of being injured I knew I wanted to go back,” Jacobs said. “I took the initiative and passed the Naval physical fitness test, and then challenged the board to prove that I could return to duty before they even offered it as an option.”
Passing the fitness test was not enough for Jacobs. He began applying the mission-driven approach that he used in the marines and in his physical recovery to his pursuit of athletic challenges around the world. To date, he has completed eight half marathons, 21 handcycle marathons, tried out for professional baseball five times, summited Mt. Kilimanjaro twice, played on the U.S. Paralympic volleyball team and captained the Purple Heart Baseball team.
Now he can add Pepi’s Face-Off to the ever-expanding list.
“What I really love is that it’s just a big team effort,” Jacobs said. “People run past me and say ‘this badass man is out here, I wouldn’t be able to do it if I was an amputee,’ and I get to bump knuckles with them and give them a high five and tell them that they can do anything they want.”
Jacobs set a goal to complete two laps on Pepi’s. Unsurprisingly, he hit his mark.
“Oh I’ll be back, I want to do Pepi’s again,” Jacobs said. “It’s definitely a battle against myself. Now that I have two, that’s my baseline. I know I can do two, so now the challenge is can I do three.”
Jacobs has seen how his participation in these athletic feats has inspired other amputees and athletes to stop doubting their own abilities. He’s hoping to create a TV show about his athletic endeavors titled “No Quit.”
“I want to create a show where people can see actual reality, and not what Hollywood portrays reality to be,” Jacobs said. “The Kardashians, Jersey Shore, that isn’t reality. You get injured in war, you get injured in a car accident, you get COVID and you come back, you learn that you can set your mind to anything and defeat it — that’s real.”
Jacobs will be back on the mountain next summer. His mission: to beat his lap number on Pepi’s Face-Off and continue to inspire those around him to overcome their own challenges.
To read more about Doc Jacobs’ story and to learn about his foundation, visit DocJacobsFoundation.org.