April Luu pushes herself to excel at sports. From track and martial arts in high school to parachute rigging school with the U.S. Army to teaching fitness and running obstacle courses, Luu’s competitive spirit abounds.
Luu is a native of Illinois, where she spent most of her youth. In the late 90s, Luu joined the Army and signed up with the 82nd Airborne Division. “The idea of jumping out of airplanes just sounded cool,” she said.
The Army sent her to airborne school in Fort Benning, Ga., where she met her husband, Daniel. Their paths crossed again at parachute rigging school at Fort Lee, Va. After a seven-month long-distance relationship, Luu and her beau married at Lake Tahoe and settled in Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where Luu was stationed.
Luu worked as a parachute rigger for the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg – a male dominated assignment. “You’re in a company with like 360 some people, and there are only 10 to 12 females,” she said. “You had to hold your own.”
In 2000, Luu was reenlisting, hoping for orders to Hawaii to be closer to her husband’s family. It didn’t happen, so the two ended up in Colorado Springs at Fort Carson. She didn’t receive a warm welcome.
“There was a huge uproar because I’m a rigger and I’m a female,” Luu said. “And I was going to go to a Special Forces unit, and it was all men.” Her commanding officer from Fort Bragg called her new boss and reassured him of her capability to do the job.
In 2003, Luu was packed and ready to deploy when she discovered she was pregnant.
“Now comes the point when you have to make that major decision in life,” she said. “What is more important – your career or your kids?” Luu decided to focus on her family and received an honorable discharge from the military. She stayed home for the first year after her daughter was born and then began working at Gymboree.
In 2006, Luu and her family moved to Meridian Ranch in Falcon, where she became part of the Child Watch program at the Meridian Ranch Recreation Center. Later, she worked for Child Watch at the Woodmen Hills Recreation Center and became the supervisor of the program. And the family grew when Luu gave birth to a second child, a boy.
As much as she enjoyed working with children, the fitness world was calling, she said. “I really love fitness, and I’ve never gotten away from it because it is a part of me,” she said. “It’s who I am even when I was a kid.”
Luu earned a certification to teach fitness classes and introduced new classes to Woodmen Hills. A kettle ball class she started soared to popularity. “This went from just an idea to one of the most attended classes,” she said. “It just makes me smile.”
In August 2011, Luu and several friends signed up for the Warrior Dash, a nationwide 5-mile obstacle race that took place in Colorado at Copper Mountain. Luu was one of 5,000 participants and took first place in her age bracket; third place for females; and 44th place overall.
Luu entered another 5K obstacle race in Lyons, Colo., - the Devil Dash. She took first place for females and eighth place overall out of about 2,000 runners.
Through her husband, she landed two sponsorships: Aaron Knuston from Max Performance and Adam Way of Adam Way Racing. Way sponsored Luu in a Spartan circuit race at Fort Carson, Colo. The Spartan Circuit is a world-ranked military event that is held throughout the country. “It is a true test of strength and endurance,” she said. “It’s 5 miles, and you don’t know what your obstacles are.” She had to scale a wall, run through fire and crawl under barbed wire. If participants missed an obstacle, they had to do 30 burpees – squat thrusts. Luu said the obstacles were daunting at times, but she kept going. “The whole time I’m in this race, I haven’t seen any females pass me yet,” she said. Luu was the first female to cross the finish line and took 20th place overall.
Although many people might find the obstacle races intimidating, Luu welcomes the challenge. “It is testing who I am,” she said. “I’m one of those people who have to be the best at what I do. I don’t do anything half way.”
This past August, Luu returned to Copper Mountain to defend her title at Warrior Dash. She won first place for her age bracket, out of 1,300 women; took second place for females and 11th place overall, out of 5,755 men and women. “Just goes to show that you train for something so hard, and the day comes,” she said.
Returning to the Devil Dash for her last race of the season, Luu took first for females and fourth overall, out of about 2,000 racers. “It is not about beating anyone,” she said. “It is me against me. It’s about me pushing myself to the next level.”
Luu has picked up another sponsor, Eco Vessel, and is still training with Knutson from Max Performance for five races within the Spartan circuit. Her first race with circuit is in January in California. From there she plans to race in Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Utah. Luu said the person with the four best scores in the circuit wins $10,000.
Luu is still on the run to seek challenges. “You are not promised tomorrow,” she said. “If you want something, you have to go after it.”
(Click to enlarge)
Fort Carson's Col. McLaughlin presents the Spartan helmet to April Luu for being the first female to cross the finish line and set the fastest female time. She took 20th place overall. Luu's children, Koa, age 5, and Lelani, age 8, are part of her fan club. Photo submitted