[Editor’s Note: In December, Spartan Jason Jaksetic is off to compete in one of the world’s most elite races, the EpicMan Triple Ironman (http://www.active.com/triathlon/honolulu-hi/epicman-challenge-2011).  In this blog he writes about how Spartan Race is the ideal platform to take yourself from couch potato to bad-ass athlete.  Here is his story of going from utter newb to aspiring Triple Ironman.]

jjSpartan Race offers something to racers that no other obstacle race does:  a systemic approach to go from your couch to the world’s most extreme race.

Seven years ago, I started with a 5k St. Patty’s Day Run.  (Spartan Race wasn’t around.  If it was, I would have been there for sure.)  This 5k run was all about the free beer for me.  I didn’t even have athletic socks or shoes – I went out and covered the course in ratty Converse and plaid socks.

Tomorrow, I’m leaving for Hawaii to compete in the prestigious EpicMan Triple Ironman (http://www.active.com/triathlon/honolulu-hi/epicman-challenge-2011).  It’s invitation only.  7.2 mile swim, 336 mile bike, and 78.6 mile run – without stopping

Between the 5k and Triple Ironman I did my first marathon and then first Ironman.  Then I tacked on my first Ironman World Championship and Ironman 70.3 World Championship qualifications.

jj2Last month I took fifth overall in my first Double Ironman.

It’s all about progression.  You don’t just go from beer runs to triple Ironman without some bumps in the road.

Like DNF’ing my first 150 mile run (Peak Races) and dropping out of the Death Race.  Yes, I failed on the Death Race.  (I can attest to The Death Race being more difficult than a double Ironman, and will let you know about how it compares to EpicMan in January.)

You need to visualize realistic goals and put it on the line to get there.

Spartan Raceis probably the best race series in the planet because it has built into its structure a step by step goals to becoming a legitimate badass.

Working with Spartan Race and going to events I’m amazed at the people achieving things they never thought possible.  They get hooked by doing theirfirst Spartan Sprint.  It’s like a gateway drug.  From there they can build fitness and confidence as they tackle a Super Spartan and then Spartan Beast.  And, hell, maybe step up to the Death Race.  It’s all there for the taking.  Spartan Race is just asking for people to step up.

As an elite athlete I have the following to say:  there is nothing elite about me.  I’m just like you.  I’m the guy in Converse and plaid socks still.  I just took endurance racing for a ride.  I really wish I had Spartan Race to help me along the way – it would have helped!

I encourage everyone to push themselves by signing up for what might seem beyond their capabilities.  You will get there.  I invite you to join me in this.  Hell, I invite you to come on out and race the EpicMan with me.  If you think you are qualified to race there are still spots for eligible athletes.  Just contact them.  Sign up for a Spartan Sprint or sign up for the Death Race.  Either way, push yourself and rise up in the structure of bad-ass that Spartan Race embraces.

Jason Jaksetic is a professional endurance athlete, fitness coach, and consultant for Spartan Race.  He can be contacted at JasonJ@SpartanRace.com.  While in Hawaii he will be working with Hawaii Spartans to bring them a race.  Speak up if you want a race!  We are serious about bringing them to you.  Home grown efforts have already brought a race to Indiana!

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By Michelle Fielder

As a child I was always told to shoot for the Moon, because even if you miss, you’ll be among the stars. I never realized where those words could possibly take me until today.

Fast forward 30+ years……….

I’m an average person: no elite athlete by any means. Not even an athlete if you want to be exact. I was the one who needed the jar of peanut butter opened for her and the groceries carried in from the car.  Every morning, you’d find me walking or jogging 1- 2 miles. At least that was something, right? I always thought I was in “shape,” not knowing what those words actually meant. “In shape” meant being thin, something I have discovered is not true.

So one day, while watching an infomercial…..Yes an infomercial! (I hope your reading this Tony Horton!) I heard the words of a 50 year old: “I’m in the best shape of MY life, better shape then I was when I was in my 20′s” What??? Could that be true? Could I, at the age of 44 be in the best shape of my life?  Well, I was determined to find out, and so began my journey with p90x. After finishing round 1, I knew I was stronger, mentally and physically, but what to do with this new found strength and determination?

Enter…SPARTAN RACE.

I first heard of Spartan race back in April of 2011. I headed to their website to see what they were all about. At first, I was intimidated by pictures of all the athletes.  They looked hardcore, and I was no where near being hardcore. My first thought was, “Are these people nuts?” Watching these people jump over fire, climbing ropes and, my all time favorite, crawling under barbed wire through MUD! Yuck!  My first thought was, “there is no way I can do this!” My husband’s first words were, “You’ll get hurt,” but as I read more and more about the organization, I was more and more intrigued. As I read more about “Getting people off the couch” (the people on the video never looked like they were on the couch in the first place!), “the ability to laugh in the face of adversity”(I have lots of adversity in my life, I want to laugh!)  and “understanding at the finish line…”(What will I understand at the finish line?? PAIN??), I found that I had something to prove…not to anyone else, but to myself.  I KNEW this was the race I needed to conquer.

I will admit, I was hit with some resistance about doing this race. People my age are so ready to except their ages.  I truly believe that, as we get older, society brainwashes us into thinking that we cannot test our strengths and limits, and that if we do, we must be going through a mid-life crisis. So Yes! I am going through a Mid-life crisis. A crisis to better health!

I won’t lie. As I am getting closer to the Texas Super Spartan, I am scared. I think, “You are too old for this!  What if I get hurt?  Did I train enough?  What if I have to take that dignified exit option at mile 3?!”

The thing that sets Spartan Race apart from other races is how they warmly invite you into the “Spartan Family.”  They have not only created a unique, warm, welcoming family atmosphere but have also created one of life long friendships.  The Spartan Chicked group has given me the enthusiasm and encouragement to know I CAN do this.  All of us have the same goal: finishing what we start.  Some people ask why I want to do this race, and my answer is, “Because I can!” T here is nothing stopping me but myself.  I may not finish in first place, and it may not be pretty, but at least I had the courage to sign up. And signing up is the first step in this daring adventure.

So how will this daring adventure end? An average person, doing a not so average Race. Will I finish strong, taking down a Gladiator or two, rr will I be carried across the finish line?  Will I chicken out at the start line or will I take the not-so-dignified exit? December 3rd, 2011, I will be shooting for the moon and hoping to land at the finish line.  To be continued……….

 

By Khaled Allen

The Spartans were warriors, and we like to believe that training for a Spartan Race will help you meet the challenges in your own life. Most of us don’t get to test that, but Logan Jackson, a 23 year-old police officer in Hampton Roads, VA, did have that opportunity. His Spartan Race training enabled him to chase down a suspect over terrain remarkably similar to one of our race courses. In case there was any doubt that those who run our races become real-life Spartan warriors, Logan’s story will convince you.

At 0300 hours, Logan got a call for a burglary in progress. When he arrived on the scene, two male suspects were running down a side street with the stolen items. When they saw Logan, they dropped what they were carrying a started running. He got out of his police car and immediately chased after them.

Logan estimated that they had a 400ft lead on him, but he was eager to test his fitness gained form doing the Spartan Race workouts of the day. “Honestly I’ve been hoping for something like this to test me, because I’ve been working out so hard. I wanted to see if it’s something that would improve my job performance,” he explained.

In full police outfit, which amounts to 25 lbs of gear, plus his gunbelt, he jumped a curb, sprinted across a muddy field (sounds familiar), and vaulted a fence, landing in a ditch. He ran out of the ditch at full speed and chased the suspects down a road and behind a house, where he found himself facing three pitbulls chained to the back of the house. Avoiding the dogs, he managed to catch one of the suspects, who was in disbelief. He couldn’t believe that Logan had managed to chase him down, not only closing the distance, but actually apprehending him, and he said so, telling Logan, “I didn’t think you were going to be able to catch me. I can always get away [from the police].”

During the chase, Logan was radioing his position to other police officers as well: “I had several units on foot behind me that had no clue where I went too because I was running so fast jumping fences after the suspects. By the time they were at me I had the suspect in handcuffs dragging him down the middle of the road towards the patrol cars that had arrived on scene.” That’s a true Spartan!

Logan put on such a strong performance that the other suspect turned himself in, and both gave full confessions. They had stolen $3300 worth of lottery tickets from a convenience store, all of which was recovered.

Logan attributes his success to his training for the Spartan Race. He’s been following the workouts of the day in preparation for two races in Charlotte, NC next March and two in Virginia next August. He made it clear that the Spartan workouts made all the difference, saying, “I would not have been able to catch him if I hadn’t been doing the workouts of the day, and hearing all the motivation on the web page….I can say without a doubt that it’s helped me improve tenfold, not only my physical fitness, but my mental alertness as well.” Spartan training seems like the perfect prescription for law enforcement. It’s basically superhero training, after all.

Logan lamented that after graduating from the academy, he felt that fitness requirements became more lax. He himself signed up for a Spartan Race not because of anything he does on his job, but rather because of a lifelong commitment to fitness. He said that he’d been training with P90X, but found that program didn’t prepare him very well for the real challenges of a heated police chase.

Training is made even harder by the difficult working environment. After working from 7am to 7pm on a good day, it takes a lot of motivation to do a hard workout. Logan has found another aspiring Spartan racer to help motivate him to train, and he now has several other people at the department doing the workouts as well.

Add to that the general lack of appreciation that police officers suffer from, and it’s easy to understand why many cops have trouble finding motivation to workout. Logan pointed out that a lot of people only appreciate police officers when they need them, but most see police as a nuisance or an outright threat. What a lot of people don’t realize is how hard a cop’s life is: “A police officer of two years has just as much combat trauma as a hardened veteran.” They deserve our support and appreciation, especially with the kind of effort displayed in Logan’s chase.

He thanked Spartan Race for all the work we do providing motivation, workouts, and races to work towards, and for such a supportive community. Well, thank you Logan for training so hard and being so passionate about protecting your community that you sprinted a mile through a muddy field, over a fence, down a road, and past vicious pitbulls to arrest a suspect for a burglary. We’ll keep making insane workouts. It’s the least we can do.

by Carrie Adams

Originally posted in Carrie’s blog: www.leavingapath.com

“We can only appreciate the miracle of a sunrise if we have waited in the darkness” –Unknown

SR_HURRICANE_BadgeAs I exited the hotel lobby at 4:30AM in the dark Southern California morning, I shuddered against the cold and watched my breath escape harshly into the air.  “So much for Malibu sunshine,” I remember thinking.  Hopping in the car with Tommy and Joe we drove over to the venue to kick off an early morning challenge with about 100 people in the earliest Spartan Race Heat – the Hurricane Heat.  Born in the belly of a hurricane it’s a heat that’s about everything BUT racing, it’s about making connections, completing tasks in extreme conditions and Malibu was the newest installment of an experience that was constantly evolving.  In the Hurricane Heat, I’m acting as facilitator not as the participant.  And it’s a new game when you’re on the other side of the ball. 

Read the rest of this entry »

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by Jonathan Nolan

My journey begins prior to the weekend of October 14-16, 2011.  It actually began in the middle of July when I started working out at the Parkview YMCA.  After a workout one day, I came home and checked Facebook while I finished my protein shake.  As always, the annoying little advertisements lined the right side of my page.  Except this time, I noticed something that instantly motivated me, the Spartan Race logo.  I clicked the link and my world opened up to a completely new meaning of living.  I made my way to spartanrace.com and could not watch the videos enough.  I signed up for the Midwest Spartan Sprint and impatiently awaited the time to come.  I scoured all the Facebook pages associated with Spartan Race and talked about it with everyone I worked with and went to school with at Ivy Tech.  I made several friends before I even met them and there was a family created out of the camaraderie that we each showed each other.  About a week and half before the race, Spartan Race unveiled the first Hurricane Heat at night, a chance to meet and run with the Spartan Race founders, Joe Desena and Andy Weinberg.  That night, there was no timing or competition, but unity and teammates to rely on.  It was all about team, sitting in cold, nasty water doing flutter kicks to doing “snow”angels in the sloppy, wet, and coldMidwestmud.  As I am writing this even now, a euphoric feeling comes over me, the kind I had never felt before Spartan Race.  Even though our Spartan clan was out there for over four hours that night, I am sure we would all still be out there if Spartan Race would let us.  All I remember was that the eggs that we had to take care of the whole night we were out there were the best cared for eggs on the planet.  I could go on and on about the Hurricane Heat and my awesome experience.

The 9AM time was the competitive heat, which starts the race.  Every half hour up to 250 runners lined up and took off.

With a force of 309 strong starting the day off in the first heat, we set out to conquer what we thought was a 3.2 mile, 10-12 obstacle, insane, and punishing course.  Climbing ropes, dragging bricks, monster monkey bars, deep, stinky water, spear throw, barbed wire crawl, and enough mud to make every pig in the USAhappy.  What Spartan Race did not think of, nature and its insane environment did.  I made it through while helping people along in 46th place out of 3800+.  The best part was after I was finished, I watched the Spartan gladiators at the finish line give the racers a hard time so that they EARNED their finishes.  Joe Desena, Spartan Race co-founder, asked me if I wanted to give one of the warriors a break and assume his place.  Before he finished asking, I hopped the fence and was there in a spot that I felt I was destined for.  My determination as a racer transformed into fierceness as one defender of OUR finish line.  I can tell you something: I would not have wanted to go up against me with the way I felt then.

These experiences that I’ve just shared give me the drive to keep Spartan Race alive in everyone’s mind.  Along with several other people I am attempting to bring a Spartan Race to Indiana.  Joe Desena has said himself that if our Facebook group CORN FED SPARTANS can get 1000+ people interested in a race in Indiana, the race will be on the 2012 schedule.  This is Indianaand the Midwest’s chance to show our power and who we really are, the heartland.  Please, join us at Corn Fed Spartans at http://www.facebook.com/groups/131852773585737/ and become a part of something that we can all call our own.  With your help, we can get our first Indiana Spartan Race and become Spartans.  I leave you with the code every Spartan knows:

  • A Spartan pushes their mind and body to their limits.
  • A Spartan masters their emotions.
  • A Spartan learns continuously.
  • A Spartan gives generously.
  • A Spartan leads.
  • A Spartan stands up for what they believe in, no matter the cost.
  • A Spartan knows their flaws as well as they know their strengths.
  • A Spartan proves themselves through actions, not words.
  • A Spartan lives every day as if it were their last

by Dan Camp

Most of the time, we are given advice on what to EAT but forget that there are many types of drinks out there (and I’m not talking about just alcohol) that can blow your daily calories out of the water!  It starts with soda…but ends up being a variety of other drinks that may not even cause our radar to go off, and some which may even seem “healthy.”  If you Google “worst drinks in America” you can probably find a million different countdowns that go blow-by-blow what the highest calorie, highest sugar drinks are, but instead of worrying about a specific brand of this and that, I’m going to just give you an overview of the “types” of drinks you want to avoid.

Soda
sodaWe all know it’s not good for you, but why?  First of all – sugar.  A 20 oz. bottle of most sodas have over 60g of sugar, which is about 15 teaspoons of sugar!  And we usually drink the whole 20 oz. bottle let’s be honest.  Also, watch out for “black” sodas which have phosphoric acid in them.  Phosphoric acid can clean rust off of a car engine, can wash a 100 year old penny and make it look like new, and will therefore eat away at the enamel of your teeth not to mention what it does on the inside!

Diet Sodas aren’t much better, as they mostly use aspartame, and artificial sweetener.  Studies show people gain weight from diet soda, perhaps because the body is confused at the sweet taste but no true sugar delivery and therefore craves sugar more and possibly stores food differently.  Another problem with diet sodas in particular is that their pH is nearly identical to the pH of the stomach, so they can cause acid reflux.

Energy Drinks
Again, sugar is the biggest culprit here, but also effectiveness.  Anything with 50+g of sugar you have to wonder what kind of energy is this really providing?  A short burst, like a Roman candle, followed by a crash.  Your body can’t take in all that sugar and utilize it fast enough before it begins to be stored as fat.

Other ingredients in energy drinks tend to be caffeine and taurine.  Taurine is an organic acid, found in some meats, but realistically the amounts of taurine in any energy drink is not enough to actually impact biology in any way, and most studies show it doesn’t have much of an effect on energy levels.  Likewise, caffeine is fine in moderation, but you might as well get it from a cup of coffee as a natural stimulant.

beerBeer
“Beer is evidence that God loves us and wants us to be happy” – Ben Franklin.  Yes, I have to agree.  However, with beer you have a double whammy, because not only does alcohol carry empty calories, but beer is made with hops and barley and carries starchy carbs as well.  In some ways, knowing this you might as well go for a quality beer instead of drinking Bud Light all the time, even though the B Light obviously has fewer calories  – I’d rather have a beer with quality ingredients, it’s almost like thinking of it as the difference between white bread and a hearty whole grain bread with seeds on it.
Beer is about moderation, it’s easy to double your dinner’s calories by having several beers with it, so just be careful!

Milk Shakes
Milk Shakes are probably the highest calorie single entity among all pieces of food and cups of liquid in the world.  The reason they are so thick and sweet is that the sugar used is Maltose – which are two molecules of glucose bonded with one another.  Add high % milk fat, and you have one tasty treat – that can cost you an entire day of calories within 10 minutes.

For example, the PB&C shake, 24 oz. size, at Coldstone Creamery has 2010 (yes, I didn’t accidentally add a 0 there!), 68g of Saturated Fat and 153g of sugar in it.  That’s basically 10 tbsp. of butter mixed with 40 tsp. of sugar and for many Americans, a day’s worth of calories!  Just be wary, they taste delicious and you can gulp ‘em right down, but you are destroying your diet with one of these.  I don’t care about my “Don’t let a bad day turn into a bad habit” sentence, if your day includes one of these shakes, you don’t have to worry about it becoming a habit, you’ve already done the damage!

Now, it takes a certain kind of person to order a 24 oz. shake, but the fact that one exists is preposterous!  And a 16 oz. shake of the same flavor…well do that math, it’s still about 1350 calories.

Coffee Drinks
Starbucks drinks – they are a common luxury.  But not only will they rob yourWorst-Chocolaty-Coffee-Drink pocketbook, but they will destroy your diet.  However, you can be smart.  I personally love plain, black coffee, I guess I am just lucky, but that is what I always order at Starbucks.  Avoid the drinks that have multiple pumps of sugary syrup and whole milk.  Also, avoid the coffee drinks you can buy at the grocery store as they, too, are loaded with sugar.  There are healthy treats at Starbucks: for example a skim cappuccino is a delicious beverage!  And you know what, adding a tsp. of sugar to a coffee is not the end of the world, and in fact it is better than adding an artificial sweetener.

Sports Drinks
Sports drinks are basically all about the “when.”  For athletes, replenishing the body with a high carbohydrate beverage with some electrolytes like sodium and potassium has been studied and shows a better impact in performance and recovery.  But many sports drinks use high fructose corn syrup as their sweetener.  If you are looking for a recovery drink, having 10g of protein is a nice touch, and also look for a sugar source that is glucose and/or maltodextrin instead of fructose.  Fructose takes longer to absorb and be utilized and is primarily digested in the liver and can cause bloating during physical activity.  So a sports drink is ok at the end of a workout, but rarely, if ever, needed any other time of the day.

My best advice to you – be label smart!  Note that 4g of sugar = 1 tsp. of sugar, so calculate, even just for the visualization of it, how many teaspoons of sugar you are ingesting with your drink!  While sugar is the main culprit, as you see above there are many other reasons these drinks are not good for you.  When in doubt, have your cup of coffee in the morning and drink water throughout the day, you can’t go wrong!

nuvision_action_image_storefront_3_461789[Editor’s Note:  Dan Camp is a certified STRIDE Instructor and a certified Sports Nutrition Consultant who has raced with Spartan in Staten Island.  Dan Camp’s posts from http://fitasylum.com/ will regularly be making an appearance on the Spartan Blog.]

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by Jessica Garvin

My name is Jessica and I’m a regular Joe… or Joan, or Jane… whatever, I’m just average. By the way, it’s all a part of Spartan’s plan, to turn the “average person” into a Spartan Hero. Well, they found me.

I’m a single mom of two, and I live in L.A.I drive a mini van. I don’t like boo boo’s. I don’t like scrapes, scars, blisters, splinters, bruises or paper cuts. I will cry if I stub my pinky toe. My nails are not long, but are manicured. I don’t like to be cold or too hot for that matter. I don’t want to put anything of mine into a bucket of ice. Ever. I like Chai tea lattes from Coffee Bean and fuzzy socks. I’m a little bit of a girlie girl.  But don’t judge me yet.

On the flip side, when my kids are not around, the F-bomb is a necessary part of my vernacular. I can drink almost anyone under the table. I can gross out the most perverted, dirty dudes, and I rock at bar basketball. I own one pair of heels and none of my purses cost over $50 bucks, not because I can’t afford it, but because $1000 bag is really stupid. People are starving. I live in flip-flops and converse, and hardly wear any makeup. BUT, I would grab my lip-gloss first if in a fire.

I like pink.

So what does any of this have to do with Spartan Race, you ask?  This year I re-connected with an old best friend. The kind of best friend you laugh with, hysterically, while going through a drive-thru. The Thelma and Louise kind of best friend. I don’t know what happened that made us lose touch.  I got married; she moved to NY, blah, blah.  It sounds cliché now, but we found each other on facebook and picked up immediately where we left off as if no time had passed at all. Except it had: a very important, life altering chunk of time for both of us in our own ways. I told her of my two kids; she told me of her two battles with cancer. I told her of my divorce; she told me of her third battle with the same cancer. I was trumped. Humbled. Suddenly, selfless. I wanted to cry for her, but I didn’t.  That would have been self-gratifying and in no universe should someone with an illness be made to comfort someone without one.

With a torturously brief “clear” period, she was here in Los Angeles with me. She was hoping to grab a stake in this life again. She looked for a job, made some new friends, got drunk with an old boyfriend, walked on the beach, met my daughter who said to me, “she’s your friend that’s in the picture on our fridge”. The picture I placed there after we re-connected with a word bubble over her head that reads, “Suck it cancer.” I told my children who were 3 and 5 at the time who she is and that she’s sick but fighting it. And that that’s what we do. We fight for things that we want. And she is very brave.

Periodically, when standing in the kitchen, they will ask about her and my son will say, “I hope your friend gets better mama.” So do I, little man. So do I.

But, her time in LA was short and a routine check proved that her fight was not over.

Today, she is in NY, fighting again. This is her fourth battle with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s. Fourth. And I miss her. And I need her. And I’m sad. I was supposed to be the friend that would hold her hand after chemo, read her the tabloids, mock the male nurses or sleep with the hot one. I was supposed to be the friend that would shave my head when she lost her hair and paint funky moles on our scalps. I was supposed to be there. But, I am here.

One morning I read an email from her. She had been looking at my facebook profile. Admiring my life, my kids, my various pictures of me doing stand-up, out with friends, random status updates that have no meaning. Her email simply read, “I’m so proud of you. I love your life.”  I was changed. I’ve always felt blessed. Not a day passes when I don’t feel grateful, but it suddenly became clear that I wasn’t giving my life the respect it deserved. I wasn’t giving my life the respect SHE deserved.  And so it began. Seek and she shall find… or something like that.  I sought.

Then, I found Spartanrace.com, or it found me, and I was mesmerized. Hooked. Stunned. I. Was. In. Love. Crazy Love. Mad Love.  Almost immediately my thoughts went to my friend. If she could fight cancer, I could climb a wall.  In the same instant, my goal for my 40th birthday went from rocking a bikini at burning man, to making Spartan my b… Okay, that’s a bit of an over statement.

But something happened to me that day. I wanted something for myself for the first time in a really long time. I wanted to feel my life running through me. And I wanted to show my friend that I feel it. Suddenly, I started finding myself doing pull-ups on the monkey bars while at the park with my 4 year old. I found myself not only taking the stairs instead of an elevator, but also taking two steps at a time. I found that when just sitting on the floor, I would lean back a bit and secretly, isometrically do a crunch. I bought a chin up bar for my room door and I don’t hang laundry on it.

I was recently asked why I would want to do this.  I couldn’t explain it. You either get it or you don’t. But, the real answer is, because I can.  My best friend sits in a hospital room today, waiting for chemo so that she can be strong enough to have a bone marrow transplant. Again. I don’t want to have to get cancer or have a near death experience for me to find out who I really am or appreciate all that I have been blessed with or what I’m really made of.  I won’t finish first, but I will finish and I will show my friend that I may not be able to fight FOR her, but I can fight WITH her. I will wear her name on my sleeve so when I want to exit the race, I won’t. Because she can’t exit hers.

My name is Jessica. I’m just a regular person. Just a mom. Just a friend. And this race terrifies me, which is exactly why I am doing it.

A Spartan Race White Paper

By Joe Desena, co-founder, Spartan Race, Inc.

Nov. 9, 2011

thebeast-61As the Spartan Race hits the 110,000 competitor mark in 2011, with over 625,000 Facebook likes, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the difference between an obstacle race and its forerunner, adventure racing. The two are often used interchangeably to the detriment of race organizers and competitors alike. And we should know: our founders are former adventure racers themselves. We’ve paddled with gators, walked through swamps in the jungle for hours, and have been lost at night with just tree bark for food.

Technically, when it comes right down to it, the only similarities that obstacle racing has with adventure racing is the running component and the use of obstacles. What might not be as apparent is that both events force you to overcome unpredictable and non-traditional challenges that you would not find in many types of “traditional” endurance events, yielding a greater sense of satisfaction, reward, and much better stories to share for months, if not years after.

For example, in adventure racing you might have to paddle a three-person kayak on thethebeast-20 third day of a race on six hours of total sleep in the pitch dark across a 15-mile lake, battling nausea, literally going in circles (and not knowing it), experiencing poor nutrition and hydration, and challenged team dynamics. In an obstacle race you might have to overcome crawling on your belly uphill under 100 yards of razor-sharp barbed wire in the mud. Both are completely different experiences but the outcome is the same: reward for getting through a challenging moment.

desena_lgHowever, let’s be honest here: certain adventure races involve a lot more hardship and deprivation than a two-hour obstacle race. Adventure races are tough and only feasible for the top 5% of obstacle racers. The requirement to be proficient at navigating, mountain biking, kayaking, running, and operating on very little sleep makes adventure racing not for everyone.

That’s where obstacle racing comes in. Like a steeplechase for humans, obstacle racing, often compared to “mud runs,” forces runners to race a course that mixes road racing, trail running, and cross country running with a variety of obstacles throughout the course to test endurance, strength, speed, and dexterity. Obstacle races vary in distance and challenge level from three mile races to near half marathon distances with race organizers generally traveling the country setting up race venues in large cities and encouraging athletes of all types to participate. 

Runners are often unprepared for impending obstacles that may include going over, under or through various challenges that add additional physical and mental effort. The obstacles run from the traditional – crawling through mud, scaling walls, crawling under walls, and traversing balance beams to the non-traditional: carrying buckets of water, jumping fire, solving puzzles, walking tight ropes, and swimming under wooden planks. 

Obstacle racing is popular among runners and non-runners alike as competitors must adapt to new and differing elements in the race itself and the training regime for preparing for such events. 

Nothing against adventure racing mind you, but a well-designed obstacle race is designed to challenge, to push, to intimidate, to test and even to break those brave enough to try. “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.

Spartan Race, based in Pittsfield, Vermont, plans 35 obstacle races in 2012 in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. For more information: spartanrace.com, spartanrace.tv, Facebook.com/spartanrace.

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by Khaled Allen

If you suddenly lost your hearing, would you excuse yourself from competing in extreme sports? If you were suddenly wheelchair-bound, would you stop an intense training program?

For a lot of people, it doesn’t take that much to get them to trade the gym for the living room couch.

But if you take a close look at those conditions, you would see that it needn’t keep you from training or competing. In fact, for a lot of people, these things are just part of life. They work around them and get on with their athletic goals and aspirations.

A lot of our Spartan athletes compete with what some people refer to as disabilities. Judging from their performances, this might be a misnomer, but it does put into perspective what a lot of us consider a viable excuse not to race.

Crossfitter Lisa Nunley

The CrossFit.com WOD for October 25th featured the picture of CrossFitter Lisa Nunley doing an overhead press in a wheel chair. The rack was adjusted for her position. One of the athletes at my gym had arthritis in his hips and knees that prevented him from squatting more than a few inches. We worked technique tirelessly, slowly improving his range of motion. I myself have had injuries that prevented me from using my right arm for anything short of opening and closing doors. I spent a few weeks doing all my WODs with my left arm only (since I’m sure there is a lot of question out there, I’ll lay your fears to rest: I did scale the weights).

We have had several Spartan racers who are deaf, including David Krueger and Peter St. John. They are used to it, but would you be out there trudging up the mountains if you suddenly lost your hearing?

To them, lack of hearing has little bearing on their ability to run a race. It’s very easy to look at a problem and blow it out of proportion, but these athletes show us that, oftentimes, what’s holding us back isn’t the limitation itself. Instead, we use that limitation to justify our own lack of effort or belief that we aren’t good enough anyway.

My favorite example of an athlete defying the stereotypes of handicaps is Aimee Mullins. Many of us have seen the picture of her, poised at the starting blocks just before a sprint, on two prosthetic, carbon fiber legs. That’s right; she doesn’t have real legs below the knee. How’s that for an excuse not to compete in a race?

Judging from her life, it’s clear she doesn’t really consider that an excuse to opt out. In fact, she prefers to see adversity as a reason, rather than an obstacle, to excel.

The story of Oscar Pistoriusadds an interesting element to the view that adversity can be an advantage. Oscar, ofSouth

Photograph of Oscar Pistorius by Elvar Pálsson

Africa, decided to go to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and was part of the South African 400m relay team which took home the silver medal. But before he could compete, he faced huge opposition from the Olympic Committee, which was concerned that his prosthetic legs gave him an unfair advantage. Some speculated that the Olympic Committee didn’t want to entertain the possibility that human ‘perfection’ might be challenged.

So adversity can take many forms, not all of them physical. You can face opposition from friends and family, who might think it’s dangerous, or even arrogant, to run an extreme obstacle race. How quickly will you give up when you face social stigma for avoiding late parties to put in a good performance? How long will your diet last when you have to turn down every pumpkin pie this season? Or will you see those sacrifices in a different light? The cost of success is embracing adversity, rather than resenting it.

My point: there is always a way to get the job done. For everyone out there who says, “I could never do that because of X,” there is someone out there doing exactly that, despite X, and you know what, they only rise higher because of it.

***

Keep in mind that there is a big difference between a handicap and an injury. Injuries need to be rested. Period. I can’t overemphasize the importance of taking care of your body, a concept many extreme athletes tend to neglect. Adversity can take the form of an injury, but the best way to deal with that is to let it heal and then train back up. If you absolutely cannot let it heal, then you’ve got to make the best decision in the situation and try to compete without making it worse.

[Editor’s note: Spartan Race is often sent emails by finishers of our races giving us their reasons to run.  They are vast, they are varied, and they are inspire as much as they are themselves inspired.  This is Lizzy’s story in her own words.] 

309436_2421859426076_1239166312_2872540_1892459505_nI’ll be running my first marathon on November 6th to raise money for the Meg Berte Owen Survivorship Fund which supports cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. While training in the past four months, I’ve learned that running for a cause brings about a new-found sense of purpose, humility, and some serious self-analysis. I’ve come to realize that it’s really in no way about me. Yes, I’m going to use my legs to actually cover 26 miles, but my story itself is nothing out of the ordinary. This being said, the part of my story worth telling is the way in which the athletes I’ve encountered along the way, both through Spartan and MSKCC, have affected my athletic mindset and helped me establish my own answer to the question, why run?

Like countless other athletes, I thrive on the combination of physical pain and euphoria involved in pushing my body past what I think I’m capable of. It’s a mind game that forces you to reach your breaking point and then tap into reserves that you never knew you had. I’m also passionate about the idea of using what I’m capable of to try and make some sort of positive difference, however small it may be. Though not every act in life is a valiant one, we must all occasionally use our particular passions and strengths to do just that much more – whether it be through philanthropy, medicine, social justice, athletic endeavors, or something else. With this in mind, I’ve come to the realization that though I’m not some highly-gifted athlete, I must use use my ability to embrace the pain of pushing myself and do something with it. As Robert Browning said, “When the fight begins within himself, a man’s worth something”. If I am able-bodied and healthy, why wouldn’t I partake in a Spartan Race, a marathon, or more? Upon deciding to get involved with Team Meg in June, it hit me almost immediately that the very least I can do for Meg and for others is to run. Simply stated – if the tools are there, then action is necessary.

photo (65)Now with all of this being said, let’s back up a little…
After completing the Spartan Sprint in Tuxedo this past June, I was immediately hooked and my first thought was “when can I do this again?”. I’d just started training for the marathon and changing my routine broke up the monotony of  logging miles and miles on pavement. Between work, training, and life, the summer got away from me and I neglected to make any concrete plans for my next Spartan. On August 5th, the day before the inaugural Spartan Beast in Killington, I found myself serendipitously bumming a ride up north with a group of friends for a last minute weekend getaway. When we were roughly half-way between NYC and Dorset, Vermont I had a mini-revelation…wasn’t the Beast tomorrow? I frantically emailed Joe Desena to see if he could get me and my partner in crime, Elise, into the earliest heat at 9AM. Moments later I got the one-word response I was hoping for – “Yes.” Before passing out that night, I realized it was probably a good idea to figure out the logistics of actually getting to Killington from Dorset, check the weather, find our misplaced car keys, etc. I opened up my computer at 11:12PM to find an email from Joe  – “Want to run a special 7:30AM wave?”. No details. But that was all I needed and I told Joe we were in.

Elise and I rolled out of bed at 5AM the next morning and hit the road with no idea what to expect. This was pre-Irene/Hurricane Heat and there was no reason to arrive that early to run a Spartan on our own other than that we were intrigued and quite honestly, had no reason not to. Why not do it? We managed to make it to the start line in ample time where we found Joe, a few other race coordinators, and two hilarious, welcoming, and seriously ripped men with a striking resemblance who were standing next to a massive tire. We were introduced and soon learned that these were the Foster brothers, Jeff and Bruce. Both had completed the famed Death Race in Pittsfield just a month earlier (they were 2 of the 35 who finished out of a field of 135 athletes, and not to mention 2 of only 6 finishers who completed the race under the 45 hour time limit).  Post-Death Race, they took on an absurd bet that they wouldn’t be able to complete the 13 mile Beast before sunset while lugging a 200-pound tire along for the entirety of the race. It didn’t make sense and there was no real reason but in typical Spartan spirit and as they so aptly put it, “Why not?”

After some great laughs and pictures, words of encouragement, and an offer to carry myself and Elise instead of the tire (no dice), it was 7:30AM and the four of us crossed the start line with no idea what was in store. Less than five minutes in, we were kindly encouraged by our new friends to push on forward, as they would be taking a bit longer with the added 200 pounds they had willingly taken on. With a high five and a “see you at the finish line”, we were off. Met by uneven terrain, insanely steep hills, relentless obstacles, and trails that were barely discernible at times since we were the first ones out there, it was literally just the two of us and the mountain. Anyone who ran the Beast can attest to the fact that it was truly a once in a lifetime experience and we LOVED it. Thirty pound sand bags, buckets of gravel, mud crawls, barbed wire, lake swims, and fire pits were just some of the fun we encountered along the way and around 11:15AM (just under four hours after we had embarked on this insane adventure) Elise and I found ourselves nearing the end. Bleeding, bruised, dehydrated (of course we hadn’t planned on bringing water), and on a massive adrenaline rush after floundering across a lake for one of the final obstacles, we made our way to the finish.

Post-race, we had to bolt immediately and hit the road in order to make it back to Dorset in time to meet family friends. So instead of doing the logical thing and rinsing ourselves off, we stripped down in the parking lot and tried to put on whatever clean clothes we had haphazardly thrown in the car that morning. The real icing on the cake was when our car broke down just over a mile from our final destination. Barefoot, covered in mud and blood, and without cell phone service, we took to the dirt road and hiked the final mile to the house. Though perhaps not adequately conveyed in writing, the comedy of the entire situation at the time was absurd. It was the perfect way to finish our Beast experience and as we finally wandered into the driveway nearly nine hours after leaving and resembling two homeless vagabonds, we were doubled over in fits of laughter.

After the Beast and still three months away from the marathon, I actually did a bit of planning for my next race and was set on the September 24th Super in Staten Island. After hearing of my previous Spartan experiences, a friend and fellow Team Meg runner, Wes Owen, was thrilled by the prospect of competing in Staten Island. The week before the race, Joe asked if Wes and I had any interest in showing up at 5:15AM with a headlamp and extra batteries to compete in the Hurricane Heat. Again, Wes and I had the same reaction – why not? Of course we would. Wes’s excitement for his first Spartan was contagious and knowing that I’d be running with a fellow marathoner who I had spent the last four months training and raising money with was invigorating. On the morning of the 24th, along with 100 other Spartan enthusiasts, we found ourselves in Staten Island well before sunrise embarking on an 8-mile trek. My palms were already bleeding as we set out from pre-race burpees and pushups in the parking lot led by Joe himself and within moments of starting, we were filthy from head to toe thanks to a great barbed wire mud crawl and the previous nights’ deluge. All of the Hurricane Heaters were split into random groups who started and finished the race as a team. Wes and I were part of “Team OD”, along with fellow Spartan and good friend Tom McCormack who had been helping us raise awareness for Team Meg and MSKCC in the previous months. Crossing the finish line and completing the Super Spartan together roughly three hours after setting out was an awesome feeling and my third Spartan race proved to be yet another incredibly inspiring, painfully enjoyable, and meaningful experience.

As I look forward to the coming marathon this Sunday, I know two things for certain. Both that what I have learned through my involvement with Spartan in the past five months is what has led me to the starting line and that most importantly, keeping in mind these lessons and experiences is what will get me to the finish line. Remaining mindful of my ability to push past physical pain for the good of others is something I know that I must do and as Tony Loden so eloquently stated, “What the mind can perceive, the body can achieve”. Embrace the pain, count my blessings, and put one foot in front of the other. And finally, why do I run? Because I can and if I can, I must. All of my thanks to everyone who has made me better and encouraged me along the way.

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