View from the Top: Noel Hanna

by Carrie Adams

On a Thursday morning, most people are settling into work behind a desk, looking forward to weekend plans and just trying to make it through the day. Noel Hanna, 44, isn’t most people. I received this email from him this morning:

“At present I am sitting at Everest Base camp in Tibet with 4 clients who are hoping to reach the summit. I have already been to the summit 3 times from both sides of the mountain.”

He then politely offered me a phone number where I could reach him between “2000hrs until 2300hrs my time if I needed anything. Noel’s days often begin this way, and that’s nothing new to the Northern Ireland native.

Recently, Noel Hanna had an ambitious goal. He set out to climb the highest peak on all seven continents. On December 22, 2009, at the summit of Mt. Vinson in Antarctica, he reached his goal and earned himself a World Record for the effort. In addition to his Mt. Vinson assent, Noel scaled Everest, Denali, Elbrus, Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro and the Carstensz Pyramid. He’s seen the world from the highest peaks on all seven continents, but he never stayed to admire the view. Instead, he raced down to sea level by running, skiing, biking, or kayaking over hostile terrain at top speeds. In the process of completing his goal, these peaks, he and his wife Lynne Hanna, an accomplished mountaineer in her own right, raised over 130,000 euro for UCF, the Ulster Cancer Foundation – Northern Ireland’s leading local cancer charity. You can read about his amazing, record-breaking journey on his website 7Summits2Sea Level.

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By Carrie Adams

The role of Spartan women was unusually prominent for the times.  They had legal rights to property, marriage and divorce, and they had the opportunity to participate in sporting events alongside Spartan men.  Spartan women represented, and this weekend in Georgia, twenty-four year old Olympic hopeful Lindsey Scherf is looking to breathe new life into that tradition.


An accomplished track and road racer, Scherf is heading from her home in San Francisco to Georgia to try obstacle racing on for size and to give Hobie Call a new challenge.  She’s no stranger to competition.  While at the University of Oregon she set a new indoor track school record at 5,000 meters.  In 2009 she made the USA World Cross Country team that finished in 5th place at the World Championships in Amman, Jordan.  She broke the American Junior 10,000m track record with a time of 32:51:20.  That record had held for 26 years and was the second longest-standing women’s track and field record in world, American, collegiate, world junior and American junior records until Scherf came along.

The Spartan race, fiercely challenging and competitive in its own right, appealed to the accomplished runner.  “I am looking forward to coming down and trying this race for the first time.  It looks like quite the challenge! “says Scherf.  “The running and obstacles are things we have always wanted to do but never had a place to do it.  That’s where the Spartan Race comes into play.”  Her strategy for the race is to focus on her core competencies: “The running part is my greatest strength and a lot of the skills come down to having an attack mentality.  So that’s what I like about it.  The event suits my personality and it looked like fun.”

She’s doing this one for all the ladies out there, but she’s also looking forward to facing off against Hobie Call at the starting line.  Hobie is the undefeated Spartan champion chasing down a $100,000 prize.   “He’s a fierce competitor,” observes Scherf, “but I think it takes a few to be the pioneers, to be the ones to set the bar and raise the bar.  Women need to take some of that back.  Women can dominate it, and set the marks, and lay out really solid performances. “

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Reaching New Peaks: Andy Weinberg

by Carrie Adams

Growing up in Peoria, IL, Andy Weinberg, 41, always loved the water.  He swam competitively in high school and college, and when he did his first triathlon in high school, he fell in love.  At the time there weren’t many people doing them, and after college Andy spent a couple years really hitting the triathlon circuit.  He burnt out with swimming after a few years and decided to focus on running instead.  Admittedly never “super-fast,” he trained consistently and did 11 marathons in one year alone.

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by Carrie Adams

Twenty-five-year-old Jon Wheson watched the movie 300 the night before the Super Spartan in Miami (April 23, 2011) to get pumped up about the race.  A conversation with a friend in England about obstacle races had gotten him interested and after some research online, he had signed up for the Warrior Dash and the Spartan Race.   The 5k Warrior Dash came first, just a few months ago in Miami.  He recalls, “It was challenging at the time, but not as challenging as I thought it would be.”  Enter the Super Spartan.  In the video Wheson filmed on race day, he admits before the start, “I checked out the course already and am a little nervous because it looks a lot harder than the last one, but here we go.”

Wheson recounts his experience at the Miami Super Spartan in the video below.  It shows his struggles as he gets lost, traverses land obstacles, crosses water obstacles, climbs cargo nets and walls, agonizes over the distance and ultimately emerges a Spartan after eight tough miles.  “Around mile five I was thinking I hate this and I can’t possibly do this again, but when I crossed the finish line I couldn’t wait to do it again.  I’ll see you guys next year.”

Yes, we will, Jon, and we’ll be bigger and badder than ever.  Bring your camera.


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by Carrie Adams

Stepping Up

We’ve heard a lot of trash talk on the Facebook page and at races about Hobie Call being beatable.  There have been idle threats filled with over-the-top bravado and little else from wanna-be competitors, but we have yet to see someone officially step up and challenge Hobie… until today.  We launch our official Challenger Series with a former Dartmouth College and University of Texas track star from New Jersey, Michael Carmody.

The Challenger: Michael Carmody

Age: 25

Occupation: Advertising

Current Home: Austin, Texas

Profile: Michael Carmody has never shied away from a challenge and he’s always pursued excellence on the track.  Running middle distance at Dartmouth and U Texas Austin was an opportunity for Carmody to race and train alongside the best.  “Even getting beat up at practice every day was part of the reward of running with the best,” says Carmody.

He’s out to dethrone current Spartan phenom Hobie Call and his amazing pursuit of $100K in the Spartan race series.  Regarding Call, Carmody says, “I’ll give him a run for his money.  I’ll push him.”  His credentials are pretty solid – in 2008 he set an indoor school record at Dartmouth for the 800.  He qualified for the US Nationals in his fifth year in Texas and had a PR of 1:47 in the 800m.

On sizing up his competition, Carmody says, “Hobie seems like he’s fit and he’s doing a good job, but I think I’ll perform well in the 5K distance.”  A recent Tough Mudder finish where he crushed the other runners in his wave has given him some additional confidence.

“I’ve always tried to push myself and run against the best and not hiding away from the best athletes out there.”  Well, Michael, here’s your chance.

Watch more video of Mike Carmody on

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by Carrie Adams

We’ve told you before that the Spartan Race isn’t for the average man or woman off the street.  Our race is tough, and it’s supposed to be.  It’s not about “just finishing.”  It’s about competing and getting it done.  The only fun that you’ll have is when you cross the finish line and realize that you’re not dead.  Two racers from Miami showed us what it means to be a Spartan on Saturday.  Way to represent, Miami.

Rosa Luzardo #5679

Rosa was almost hospitalized after the race.  On the 5th mile her legs began to cramp but she would not give up.  “I had to die first,” she said.  She ran the whole race, including the obstacles.  Those aren’t designed to be breaks.  They are designed to further test you as your lungs are busting and your heart is racing.  While crossing a water obstacle, she went under and two men had to grab her and pull her towards shore.  At one point after burpees, with two and a half miles left of rugged forest trails, Rosa admitted, “I thought I would NEVER see civilization again.”

There was still a massive cargo net to climb, and a balance beam to traverse, and rock dragging with a rope.  Her calves were tightening up and she knew she needed fuel, but a bow and arrow obstacle was all that she’d find ahead of her.  After missing her shot and paying the penalty with 30 more burpees she began to drag her body through the mud obstacle suddenly aware that her limbs weren’t functioning right.  Terrified, she realized, she couldn’t feel her legs anymore.  An immense wall was her final challenge and she barely remembered crossing the finish line.  That’s when the pain struck.  Rosa fell to the ground “screaming in excruciating pain.”

A medic immediately realized she was dehydrated and her blood pressure was low. Unable to get an IV started, the medics gave Rosa massive amounts of Gatorade and any carbs that they could find.  Rosa refused a ride to the hospital, despite being so weak she couldn’t walk.  She lay on the ground covered in mud, until she was able to get up and have family take her home.  She reflected on her experience, grateful for the help from other racers, the paramedics, and her family during the scary moments after the race.  True to Spartan form, all she could say was: “Best race ever and looking forward to doing it again!”

Tony Gallo

Tony Gallo crossed the finish line at the Miami Super
Spartan with a dislocated shoulder.  He waved off the medics that urged him to seek treatment.  He had gotten injured at the second-to-last obstacle on the course: the horizontal wall that the racer has to cross with small pieces of wood. He lost his balance, and in
trying to prevent himself from falling, he reached back for one of the blocks, hyper-extended his arm, andheard it pop.  As he was approaching the finish line, the gladiators gathered, ready to take him out.  Tony calmly walked forward toward them and showed them his shoulder with the bone sticking out at a horrifying angle.  The Spartans, disgusted by what they saw, let Tony pass.  Tony’s feedback from his hospital bed was, “Great race by the way.  My bones will heal and will be ready for February 2012!!!!”

Nice job, Miami!  Way to get after it and get it DONE!

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by Khaled Allen

image via WSJ

If you think acupuncture is just for hippies and new age health nuts, you might want to reassess your view of the marines. The Navy has lately been experimenting with acupuncture to treat symptoms of PTSD, concussion, and other ailments associated with extreme physical stress.

Cmdr. Keith Stuessi, the man in charge of acupuncture at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan, has used the ancient Chinese technique to treat more than 20 patients, with a shockingly high success rate.

Acupuncture is normally used to treat muscle aches and minor sprains. Its use as a treatment for brain injury and the mental and emotional problems of PTSD is relatively new in the military.

Considering the low cost and the great potential for providing relief to soldiers, however, the Navy is apparently pretty enthusiastic about it and has already committed itself to providing acupuncture as a standard method of treatment. The Department of Veterans Affairs is conducting studies on its effectiveness in treating symptoms like sleeplessness, memory problems, headaches, and anxiety.

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by Carrie Adams

Limitless Living: Joe DeSena

All too often we spend our waking hours trying to find and stay comfortable in our own lives.  We look for short cuts, gadgets, and processes to make things easier, seeking what we consider personal fulfillment.   We believe that there are things we can do and things that we can’t, and we become conditioned to that distinction.  It creates our everyday reality and it makes us feel secure, because we think we know what to expect of the world and what to expect of ourselves.  Enter Joe DeSena, the man who will turn that world upside down.

Growing up in Queens, Joe’s mother valued healthy eating and living and passed on that value system to Joe.   It’s been well-documented that he worked hard growing up and ultimately got to Wall Street, where he made his mark and made himself a small fortune.  He moved his family to Pittsfield, Vermont and quickly entrenched himself and his family in the local landscape.  Joe moved to Vermont in an attempt to get back to the way things used to be.

It’s also well-documented that Joe turned an interest in endurance racing into a passion.  His racing resume is the stuff of legends – over 50 ultra-events overall and 12 Ironman Events in one year alone.  Most of his races are 100 miles or more with a few traditional marathons in the mix.  (He once told me that my running a 26.2 marathon distance was “adorable.”)

To put it in perspective, he did the Vermont 100, the Lake Placid Ironman and the Badwater Ultra… in one week.  For those that don’t know or just don’t want to hear the gory details, the elevation climb for Badwater is over 8,500 feet up to Mt. Whitney and temperatures soar into the 120’s.   Joe also rode cross-country to the Furnace Creek 508 which has been coined “The Toughest 48 hours in sport.”  It’s no wonder his favorite quote is, “Death is the price we pay for life, so make it worth it.”

In 2005, Joe decided that the world needed a new race, something that had never beendone. And so, together with Peak Races, he created The Death Race, a 24-hour mental and physical test filled with unknown obstacles.  Racers couldn’t and wouldn’t know what to expect.  The fear of the unknown would either break or motivate, and all they could do was try to survive.  The race waiver consists of three words: “I may die.” It doesn’t get any more real than that.  No way to train, no way to prepare, just show up and make it to the end.  And don’t expect any love from Joe or the volunteers.  They want to break these people, make them quit.  Joe’s been quoted as saying, “There’s no light at the end of the tunnel. We’re basically holding your hand to help you quit. The same way life does, right?”

The winner of the fourth installment of the Death Race was Richard Lee.  Richard, Joe, and the other members of the “Founding Few” wanted to create another event, something that captured the extreme spirit of the legendary Death Race, but was modified and accessible to a much wider racing audience.  And so the Spartan Race was born.  Spartan intends to wake up the world up and save humanity, one racer at a time if need be.  It’s a race meant to challenge, to push, to intimidate, to test and even to break those brave enough to try, and it was designed by seven people who know what that feels like.  “Fun run” doesn’t apply here.  It’s about being uncomfortable, overcoming obstacles and finding out what’s possible when what you expect of yourself is everything.   In the words of Joe himself: “The phrase ‘I can’t’ doesn’t mean anything to me anymore, not because of my ego but because I know anything is possible.”

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by Carrie Adams

Ah, yes… it’s that time again… Spartan Race time!  You know that that means!?   I have a healthy, nutritious Spartan Race smoothie recipe in honor of our upcoming venue – the one and only Miami, Florida.  I gotta admit Florida’s pretty hot as a training ground.  Greater Miami is the only metropolitan area in the United States whose borders encompass two national parks. You can hike through pristine Everglades National Park or ride on glass-bottom boats across Biscayne National Park.

663 miles of beaches along 1,800 miles of coastline make for some pretty rad runs in the sand.  (Don’t worry, Floridians, I won’t tell anyone that your highest elevation point is… wait for it…a HILL that boasts an elevation point of a whopping 345 feet.) That doesn’t deter the over 1,000 people that move to Florida every day.  Not too shabby…with all the citrus rocking in Florida, that became the focus for this sparkling citrusy concoction.  Get after it on race day, Spartan Nation.  Let’s see your tan lines!

Miami Spartan Smoothie

Splash of lemon juice

½ cup coconut milk

Juice of 1/2 a grapefruit (share the other half with a friend)

1/2 cup fresh orange or tangerine juice

2 tablespoons Agave nectar

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

Small handful of almonds

1 frozen banana (they blend better when frozen)

1/2 cup ice cubes

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse, until desired consistency.  Enjoy!

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by Carrie Adams

Since the dawn of time, there has been disparity between the sexes.  Women, perceived as the weaker sex, have waited patiently.  We wait no more.

A Brief History of Time

K. Switzer

776 B.C. – The first Olympics are held in ancient Greece. Women are excluded.

(Lots of stuff happens here)

1967 -K. (Katherine) Switzer registers to run the Boston Marathon. Race officials try to tear her number from her back during the race.

1972 – Congress passes Title IXBOOM.

1973Billie Jean King wins the “battle-of-the-sexes” tennis match against Bobby Riggs on Sept. 20 in Houston in front of more than 30,000 people and a world-wide TV audience of more than 50 million people.

2000 -Fabiola Da Silva’s scorching athleticism leads to the introduction of the “Fabiola Rule,” which allows women to qualify into the men’s vert finals of competitions of the X-Games. Since then, Fabiola has placed several times in the men’s Top 10 and she was the only girl competing against a field of male inline skaters at the 2004 X Games.

2004Michelle Wie becomes the youngest person and the fourth-ever female to play in a PGA tour event when she tees off at the Sony Open.

Michaela Hutchison

2006 – In Anchorage, Alaska Michaela Hutchison becomes the first girl in the nation to win a state high school wrestling title while competing against boys.

2011 – This morning– I passed four dudes on the trail during my little training run.

Okay, so the last one isn’t compelling, but it made me smile when it happened (four times, actually, and they were the only other people on the trail.)

The point is, women are making advances in all sports and we are gaining ground on our male counterparts.  “Getting chicked” is what happens when a man is passed, beaten, bested, or out-done by a woman.  And though it’s becoming a more frequent phenomenon every day,  men almost universally are not entirely okay with it.

Most of my male friends acknowledge their aversion to being bested by women.  I’m no Paula Radcliffe, but in my circle of running buddies, I’m no slouch either.  I can throw down some good times and on a pretty consistent basis.  I’ve been challenged to races more times than I can count by those who didn’t know better, those who thought they knew better, and those who had been drinking heavily.  In the sake of transparency, I haven’t always won those bets (yes, I generally take them), but on the trail and on the road, I can hold my own.

Chrissie Wellington

Regardless, whenever I roll up on a guy in an event or even on a gym track, I get the same reaction: deer-in-the-headlights eyes, the sudden onset of panic/embarrassment/fear, and an overly exaggerated effort to not let me pass them.  When I do, when they forfeit, it’s a small victory for me and a huge shot to the ego for them.

But let’s get real for a hot second.  I’m just a blip on the radar screen.  Take Chrissie Wellington for example, the phenom Ironman athlete.  She has rarely been outside the top 10 overall in her races – 7th in Roth, 7th in Korea, 8th in Arizona.  Her marathon times in some of her wins have been beaten by only a few men in those races.  Only at Kona does she find herself outside the top 10 (22nd in 2009, for example.)

Pam Reed

Or what about  Pam Reed, the ultra-distance runner who in 2002 was the first woman to become the overall winner of the Badwater Ultramarathon?  That’s a nasty little 135-mile ultra that has crazy elevation and heat indexes well above 120 degrees.  She subsequently repeated her feat as overall winner of the race in 2003. In 2002, her win also set the women’s course record.  In 2005, Reed became the first person (not woman, but PERSON) to complete a 300-mile run without sleep.  It took less than 80 hours.  And NO, that’s not a typo.  300 miles… in 80 hours… without sleep.

The moral of the story is simple.  Guys, the ladies are showing up.  Day in and day out, in all sports, niches, and events, we’re here.   Ask anyone who’s squared off against Sonya Thomas, the 98-pound professional eater who goes by the moniker “Black Widow” and is currently ranked as the fifth-best competitive eater in the United States and sixth in the world, with 29 world titles.

The ladies are kicking ass, and we aren’t going anywhere.  So when you hear the tell-tale sound of approaching footsteps behind you, it could very well be a woman about to smoke you.  Don’t fight it.  As she leaves you in her wake with what you’ll tell your friends later was superhuman steroid-fueled ease, give her respect (even if it’s only in your head.)  You and I both know that getting “chicked” may be the best thing to happen to you all day.

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