Tales from the Chicked: Carrie Adams, Chicked Founder

by Beth Shields, Spartan Chicked member

Two and-a-half years ago, no one would have expected Carrie Adams to spark a revolution for women in the sport of obstacle racing.  Working in the corporate grind and raising her family she couldn’t fathom how much her life would change and how many lives she’d change in the process.

In November 2010, Adams finalized her divorce and was unexpectedly laid off from her consulting job within a two-week time span.  Then 28, and suddenly a single, unemployed Mom of two young girls, “I was in a very dark place at the time,” she says.  Never one to be down long, she quickly secured another job as a medical consultant in Omaha, Nebraska, and settled in to her new position.

Around the same time, good friend, and ultra-endurance athlete, Spartan’s own Jason Jaksetic, convinced her to try a Spartan Race,

SoCal Super Spartan 2011

the Super in Temecula in February 2011.  An avid runner, Adams was an endurance athlete, but had never participated in an obstacle course race.  “Just come try this Spartan event in California,” Jaksetic told her.  “There’s fire, barbed wire and walls.  You’re going to love it.”  Adams was far from smitten. “The more he’s telling me, the more I’m like, ‘that sounds horrible.’”

Jaksetic’s urging prevailed, and Adams was convinced to come out and race on what turned out to be the coldest day in Southern California in 200 years.  She was also featured in a race video that was made that day about overcoming obstacles.  Notably, the video also features Hobie Call – it was the first Spartan Race (he won) of his career.  Adams ran the course next to Joe Desena, who carried an axe the entire distance.  Desena is one of the founding members of Spartan Race.

“It was one of the most beautiful and exhilarating races I’d ever done,” says Adams.  “I was looking around, and thinking that there should be more people there.  It blew my mind that more people weren’t doing it.  I said to Joe, ‘How are you going to get more people here?’”  His response was, “You tell me.” She laughs.

“That is how it all started.  I’ll always be grateful to Jason,” says Adams.  “He’s still one of my favorite people, we are co-editors of the SR blog, but more than that he’s a very good friend.”

The Spartan Race series was developed by eight “Founding Few” members, including endurance athletes, and mountaineers.  Inspired by the Spartan Death Race (the liability waiver consists of three words:  “You may die,” and only 10% of competitors finish), these obstacle courses are meant to be a more accessible version open to more than just elite athletes.  There are four race lengths: the sprint, 3+ miles with 15+ obstacles; the super, 8+ miles with 20+ obstacles; and the beast, 13+ miles with 25+ obstacles and now the Ultra Beast that is a marathonish distance with more than 50 obstacles.  Unlike traditional endurance events, it’s almost impossible to know what to train for.   It’s the only chipped, timed obstacle organization in the world with world rankings and a points system.

After that seminal race in California, Desena contracted Adams as a part-time blogger and marketer, while she continued her full-time job of medical consulting and raising her daughters.  The part-time work for Spartan quickly became unmanageable in tandem with her full time gig.   At the point when it seemed she was in an untenable position, Adams met with her medical consulting services boss and was told they had lost funding on her project.  She felt it was perfect timing and accepted a full-time contract with Spartan Race.

Passionate, upbeat, and charismatic, Adams set out to promote Spartan Races across the globe, and decided to focus on women, an as-yet unrealized demographic in the sport.  To that end, Spartan Chicked, the female-only offshoot of Spartan Races, her brainchild, began.  With very little fanfare, it was initiated at the first ever Spartan Beast with Adams and about a dozen other women.  It’s now a phenomenon promoted through a closed Facebook group that has grown to about 10,000 members in the last nine months.  Adams regularly joins in, recently posting a “WOD” – workout of the day – challenging the Chicks to do planks every hour on the hour, take pictures and post them to the group, and sharing her love of all things fitness, life with her two small girls, and her love of bacon, CrossFit and Pilates.  ”These women mean the world to me.” She says.  ”They are remarkable.”

While promoting the Spartan brand, she continues to race approximately six Spartan events a year among other events – she just did a marathon on Saturday.  She ran the Beast in Vermont with three of her girlfriends, cartwheeling over the finish line.  “I was so proud of that medal,” she says.  “We didn’t run fast or anything, but we laughed and shared food and crawled through mud side-by-side, collectively suffering and coming out the other side.  That’s pretty rad.”  Two of the girls, Alyssa Tokorcheck and Monica Mondin, she had just met that morning, corresponding only on Facebook previously.  After finishing, Tokorcheck turned to her and said, “It seems kind of silly to tell you now, it was nice to meet you.”  That Spartan Race series has been an epiphany for Adams on many levels.  “I don’t know how to explain the magnitude of what I experience working for this company.  I am forever changed by the incredible people I get to work with, the athletes who I meet, and what I see on race day.”  That sentiment is encompassed by Spartan Race’s tagline which Adams coined, “You’ll know at the finish line.”

“It made complete sense,” says Adams of the tagline, “You can’t explain it to people who haven’t done it.  You just have to get out there and do one to understand.”  The recent Team X-T.R.E.M.E. Heroes Heat in Virginia is one example.  “That team blew my mind,” says Adams, who becomes serious for a moment, “I am so honored to have gotten to witness their race and I’ll never view the world the same again.  There is no such thing as impossible.  Life gets more beautiful every day.  Who gets to say that about their job?” she asks.  “I’m extraordinarily blessed.”

About the growth of Spartan Chicked, Adams says simply, “It’s a movement; it’s not a team, it’s a movement, a community, a network.  These women have changed their lives.  I am just thankful to have a front row seat to their accomplishments.”

The online Spartan Chicked Facebook group includes women of all ages, sizes, and ethnicities who share not only training and nutrition tips, but also swap stories of motherhood and overcoming personal adversity.  The group is also free to discuss other non-Spartan races, a decision that was made early on in order to promote the easy atmosphere that Spartan Chicked maintains.  When Adams started, Spartan Races had 20,000 facebook fans; she’s helped grow that to nearly two million.

Adams sees these races as serving to challenge women in a way that traditional endurance events don’t.  “If you’re a racer in any capacity, finish lines can become anticlimactic.  As much fun as [racing] is, [Spartan races] are a gift; because when you finish, you finish something that you couldn’t prepare for.  The level of challenge starts to escalate . . . .  You find out what you’re capable of achieving is far greater than what you thought because you were living in a very constructed space of your own making.”

Adams sees women as having an edge in ultra-endurance sports. To her, “That’s a very cool thing.  Many women can go farther, go more, and endure longer.  It’s fun to show women, who are predominantly caretakers by nature, that doing for yourself from time to time will make you a better sister, daughter, wife, friend, because you’re more complete and more self-actualized.”

The Spartan Race series is something Adams promotes with a passion, “We’ve come to this place that we’ve forgotten how to be human beings, and we’ve forgotten what it means to live.  We’ve lost that connection that we have with the most primal parts of ourselves.  That’s why these events are so strongly resonating now more than ever, because people long for it.  We miss being human beings.”

Seeing women transformed and how her own daughters are impacted by being around ultra-fit women are huge inspirations for her.  “My girls are active.  Always have been.  They’ve grown up around that kind of atmosphere.”  She’s excited about an upcoming opportunity for them as well, “My Cross Fit Gym, CrossFit Omaha is starting up a kids’ program.  What a gift to give my girls,” she explains, “how to be powerful and strong and to understand and appreciate what that means.  You can’t put a price on that.  That will infiltrate everything that they do as decision makers, even into adulthood.  It’s something that is born out of ‘I can run that far,’ and ‘I lift this barbell,’ and ‘I can climb this wall.” It’s all part of the equation.”

For women who have never attempted this before, Adams has some advice:  “You have to just decide.  You can literally be a different person right now than you were 10 seconds ago.  You just have to choose it.  Tomorrow’s coming, whether you live healthy or not.  Imagine what one day on top of one day on top of one day starts to look like when you are living a healthier life.  Just embrace, whatever it is, registering for a race, joining a new gym, making healthier food choices . . . don’t wonder what your life could be, go out and make it what you know it can be.”

Let the revolution begin.

[Editor's Note: Carrie has been a full time Spartan employee since March 2011 and started the Spartan Chicked movement in August 2011.  To join the closed network (women only) go HERE and request to join.  You can find Adams' personal blog at www.leavingapath.com.]

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by Michael Mills

Do you remember when you were a child how you would stop at nothing to get what you wanted. If you saw something on the top shelf that you just had to have, you would do whatever it took to get there. Climbing chairs, stacking books, anything you had to do, just so you could reach it. What drives us to do what it takes to finish the job? DETRMINATION! Determination fueled us children. We were so determined growing up, it almost seemed effortless, just a part of our DNA. No matter how small or how large the objective was, if we wanted it then we had the same mentality. We were determined!

Mills’ car from the 1993 accident

In my last blog, I talked about having a purpose and why that purpose is so important. If you don’t have a reason to start something, you typically don’t follow through with the initial intent. In order for your purpose to mean something, you have to carry on through with it what you started to completion. So how do you keep that purpose alive? How do you keep that purpose hot in your heart and soul? You have to have HEART and DETERMINATION. Without these two go right alongside of your purpose. When times get tough and the training gets harder it becomes more difficult to keep that motivation and to keep that purpose moving!

Determination has been a recurring theme for me. I had the opportunity to the other day to talk to a friend name Rene Rodriguez. Rene and I talked about what our purpose was and what we felt kept us going day in and day out to achieve our goals. One thing that Rene said to me that stuck in my mind was he saw a lot of DETERMINATION in me. Then just yesterday, I was told the same thing by another person, that she “saw a lot of determination in me.” So, this got me to thinking, what is it that people see as determination? Is it that self-worth? Is it that I am determined to prove people wrong? Or is it both?

When I had my car accident that left me paralyzed in 1993, I was told I would never walk again and that I would have to learn to live all over again with my new found life being paralyzed from the waist down. I was told that I would have to learn every single thing all over again and that it would be a hard road to travel. While in the hospital, I really felt as if I was not doing enough to better myself and I felt like I needed more time with my therapist. I felt like I was not getting well as quickly as I wanted to or should. I became frustrated.

One night, while I was in the hospital it hit me. I wanted to go home. I did not want to be in the hospital anymore. I had to figure out a way to go home. So, I got up out of my hospital bed and snuck into the rehab room that was filled with rehabilitation equipment. I started to exercise while no one was looking. I wanted to get stronger and faster so I could get out and home. This became a nightly routine and the nurses started noticing my disappearing act. Luckily, they let me continue. The nurses would watch as I would sneak out of my room and sneak into the weight room. They would watch me work 2 to 4 hours a night in the dark with just the emergency lights on. I did not want any help and I did not want any handouts, I just wanted to be better so I could get in the best shape as I could so that I could go back to a normal life of being a teenager. Without the determination I had, it would have taken me longer to get out of the hospital and I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Same goes for my training with the Spartan Race. I have a purpose and that purpose is to complete a Spartan Race and cross that finish line with my team on March 9, 2013, but without the determination and heart of a champion there’s no way I could do it. I would give up quickly after the first sign of an obstacle that would cause trouble. I am asked every single day how I am going to complete the obstacles. Even I don’t know the answer to some of them, I just know I’ll continue.

I study too. I have also learned by watching every single Spartan clip on YouTube or Spartan Race TV to learn the obstacles and see what they’re about. I study them look at them hard and see what I can do and prepare for the things that will be difficult or extremely hard. I know that I will have my teammates to help me through. No matter what happens, you will never hear me say I didn’t try. I have the heart and determination of a warrior and I will not go down without a fight.

When I set out with the goal to compete in my first ever Spartan Race I knew that it would not be easy and I knew it would test my manhood. I knew if I did not set out with a purpose and keep the drive and the determination, I knew that I would never be able to complete my task. I keep the motivation going by constantly surrounding myself with positive reinforcements and to keep the fire hot. I am always working hard and trying to better myself in hopes of beating the goals I have set out for myself…with determination

[Editor's Note: Michael Mills  is a T12 paraplegic, the victim of a head on collision with a drunk driver in 1993 and though he’s been tackling wheelchair racing since 1996, competing in over 160 road and track races in the twelve years since, even representing the United States three separate times, he saw the Spartan Race series and realized it was the next challenge he wanted.  He'll be doing the Georgia Spartan Sprint on 3/9/13.  Want to stay tuned in to Michael’s journey? He’ll be regularly posting his story and training on our blog in a series we’ll be calling “Chasing Michael Mills.” Follow his Facebook page. Want to support his cause? Check out Spartan Sprint for Berts Big Adventure | Michael Mills’ Fundraiser on CrowdRise. ]

 

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It Started With a Purpose

Have you ever wanted to know what makes someone tick? Have you ever wanted to know what is the reason why one puts their body through so much torture day in and day out? Well, I do. I see people every day that inspire me to push my limits and I see people that do extraordinary things. I often wonder what motivates them and what are their reasons. So, I thought for this week I would reach out to some of the coolest people I know and ask.

When I was looking over Facebook the other day, I came across Hobie Calls Facebook status and started to read over the post about his results for 2012. I was blown away by all the 1st places he achieved for this year and I started to wonder “WHAT’S HIS PURPOSE?” I wondered what pushed a man to  achieve 15 1st places and only 1 2nd place for this year? I wondered what drives him and I really wanted to pick Hobie’s brain on this.. So, I reached out to him and simply asked “Hobie, What’s Your Purpose?” Hobie replied with this:

My driving force is to encourage others to live healthier and never give up. Where that comes from, I don’t know.. LOL.. 

Coming from a man, who just had 15 1st place finishes out of 16 this year, I think his actions speak louder than words.. He truly has the drive to be number 1. Congrats to Hobie for his great 2012 season.

I also looked at one of the crowd favorites and my favorite, Ella Anne Kociuba.  I started following Ella shortly after my journey began with  Sparta. After reading her story I quickly realized that she and I had a lot in common when it came to tragedies in life. If you don’t know Ella’s Story here is the link, it is worth the read (http://blog.spartanrace.com/tales-from-the-chicked-ella-anne-kociuba/)  This girl does not let anything stop her and that made me want to know more about Ella Anne Kociuba. So, I did the exact same thing. I reached out to Ella and asked “What’s Your Purpose?”  Ella replied with this:

I’ll compare my drive as if it were fire. My surroundings give me the strength to grow but I tell you what, if you get in my way of my goals, I will burn you down. I guess you could say that I got tired of suffering, tired of wishing, dreaming, and crying for my dreamsThe journey to where I am today, was by no means easy and it still isn’t. I have faced failure countless of times, I have tasted disappointment like it was my only resource for food before, but I never ever given up myself. I knew what I wanted and I knew it would take lots of hard work and time to get there. I proved to myself that you can do anything if you give it your everything. And that is what I believe should be everyone’s goal in life, to define your odds day in and day out and no matter what it is that you’re after, just know that it will happen if you make it happen.

The next person was actually the first person who came to mind when it came to “What’s your Purpose?” It was none other than Rob Baily founder and creator of www.flagnorfail.com . For those of you that don’t know what Flag Nor Fail is, it is a clothing line that  is based on the definition of “FLAG NOR FAIL is a mindset. No surrender and no failure. Flag represents surrender, much like one would wave a white flag to admit defeat. No surrender, no failure.”  I love the Purpose of what Flag Nor Fail stands for and there are countless times when I am out training the words “FLAG NOR FAIL” comes to mind. Never to give up and Never to Surrender. I don’t know of any company that like this.  So, I wondered what Pushes Rob Baily. So, I reached out to Rob as I did with Ella and Hobie and asked “What’s your Purpose? Rob replied with this:

My  purpose is to take steps forward from yesterday. To improve daily. Show the World who I am and what I am capable of …. And hopefully inspire people to be a better version of their self… or at least chase that version.”\

Not only is this man so far ahead of his time, He has so many talents under his belt. He is a photographer, video editing specialist, and has built Flag Nor Fail from the GROUND UP!! This man, is one in a million and This guy “KNOWS HIS PURPOSE!”

Almost everyone knows my story and what happened to me on 05/02/1993. But do you really know my purpose? Several years ago, I was severely overweight and I was on the fast track to death. Now, this was after my car accident and had a second chance at life.. I had let myself go, I had gained well over 120lbs. and was at a weight right at 270lbs and a size 40 jeans. My wheelchair was so big that I had trouble getting through the average doors. I was way out of shape and well on my way to a fast death if I did not change. I was eating fast food morning, noon and night for my meals. I was wasting money and my life away and while doing so, I developed a huge internal infection. The infection landed me in the hospital for over two weeks and the one thing that the Doctor said to me was “ if you don’t change your lifestyle, I will see you in here in about 6 months again but this time it will be wearing a “TOE TAG!” I knew then I had to change, My purpose became my life. My purpose became so important and that I knew I had to change. So, after being released from the hospital I went home, I took the garbage can to the fridge, Started dumping all the junk foods and then went to the pantry and did the same thing. I knew I had to make a lifestyle change if I wanted to live. I started caring for myself again, I started caring about what went into my body because I knew if I didn’t, my life was over. One year later, I had lost over 100lbs and started competing again in wheelchair sports. My Everyday wheelchair now fit inside my old wheelchair. My racing chair could not fit inside my old racing chair. I was in better shape than ever. I had control over my life and IT FELT GREAT. So my purse is simple, I want to be around for many years to come for myself, my wife and kids.  So, I used athletics and sport to reach my goals and to stay healthy and that is what allowed me to be here today. When I found out what a Spartan Race was for the first time, I saw a challenge that could be accomplished if I simply put my mind to it, took what I have learned from my life, from what I have learned from others such as the mentality that “anything is possible as long as you put your mind to it!”

While I train for my Spartan Race I am reminded daily, that Life is about Struggle, Life is about Challenges, Life is about obstacles and Life is about achievement and without a purpose and without a will to fight, Life can be the hardest challenge but if you have the No Retreat, No surrender attitude, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.  With that being said, What is your purpose for getting out of bed every day and doing what you do? What is your Purpose for Achieving Glory? Once you find out what it truly is, then you will be able to achieve all that you have set out to do for yourself.

Lastly, I want to Thank Rob Baily personally for believing in me and giving me the courage to start on my journey as I chase for Spartan Glory.. THANK YOU Rob!!!!!!

 

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by Michael Mills

The Power of Change.

I was introduced to Sparta and my quest to take on the Conyer’s Georgia Race on March 9, 2013. Notably, I’ll be taking on the majority of the course on my hands and knees. As a T-12 paraplegic, that is my best option for completing what I have been told is a grueling course. It all started with seeing a picture of Todd Love and Team X-T.R.E.M.E.’s efforts in Lessburg that made me want to take on this epic challenge. That means I have to get prepared.  I write a weekly blog recounting my training as I get ready to become a Spartan!

I wanted to first of all thank my lovely wife Tiffany Mills for the birth of our son, Michael Elijah Mills. Elijah was born on November 28th, 2012 at 9:26 A.M. He weighed in at 8lbs and 19 ½ inches long. Next, I would like to thank everyone who sent encouraging messages and posts on my Chasing Spartan Facebook page last week as well. We read every single one of them.

Change is a part of life. Whether that change is good or bad, we all experience it, we all live it, and we all have to deal with it in one way or another. Some of us deal with change better than others, but at the end, it is how we react toward change is what makes us who we are.

When I was paralyzed on May 2nd 1993, it changed my life in a way I never thought I could handle. I lost the use of my legs. I lost everything that I knew in an instant. I lost the ability to ride a skateboard, walk down a sidewalk, run a mile, and everything else that a typical 16 year old did. Well, at least I thought I did. I took that change and made it a positive. I looked at what most others saw as a tragedy and decided to see it as a blessing. I have been paralyzed now for 20 years and I will say that change on May 2nd 1993 changed my life for the better. I do more than the average person without any limits.

My most recent change was on November 28th, 2012 when my son was born. Now for those of you who are parents, you know what sleepless nights and staring at the crib to make sure your child is still breathing feels like. The schedule you had prior to the birth has gone out the door. You are now on your child’s schedule. You eat when you can and you sleep when your child is asleep. Everything revolves around your newborn baby. Needless to say, your training will take a back seat to what is most important, your family. Your family should always be the highest number on the priority list

When change happens in life, we tend to move around it and hide from it. Sometimes, we have no choice but to face it. For me it has been my diet and my training. I knew when Tiffany I found out that we were going to be parents again that our training schedules would change. For her, she has been used to going to the gym, walking and even teaching a class or two during the week. Now she is restricted for weeks as she just gave birth to our son. For me, I am restricted because I work fulltime and I have the cutest little responsibility ever to take care of now back at home.

Tiffany and I talked about my training the other day and she knows the importance of my training for several reasons. My health is the most important and she knows that. Being paralyzed, if you don’t take care of yourself, you could get sick easily and then well, it could all go downhill from there. Many people with disabilities die at a young age and the most common factor is their health and not taking care of themselves. Me, I want to be around for a long time and see my children grow up. I want to be healthy and I want to live that life I have always dreamed of. So, Tiffany pushed me Saturday afternoon to go and train. I started thinking about ways to train as a Spartan when times got tough. I tried to figure out a little WOD during the SEC Championship game where Alabama and Georgia would play their hearts out. I decided I would WOD out this game. I decided that every time Alabama would score I would do pushups. Georgia scored, I would do dips. For every field goal, I would do abs for Alabama and for Georgia, I would do plank for one minute. Now for my pushups, dips, and abs, I did 100 each time someone scored. It was a workout in itself. The final score was 32 Alabama, 28 Georgia. I was beat. Not only did I get to watch a great football game, I got to work out at the same time. I was able to spend time with my wife and my son and get it all in at the same time. This goes back to last week’s blog “I CAN’T!” You CAN if you just find a way. There should be never a reason why you can’t do something.

Sunday was my first day back of training after Elijah was born and I have to say, it felt great to get back and chase those goals I have set. I feel my most recent change has motivated me to the next level. Instead of finding an excuse to skip training, I am coming up with new ways to train when the opportunity strikes. I think Change can be a good thing if used properly. Change can be bad or change can be good, it is all how you see it and learn from it.

What will Change do for you?

[Editor's Note: Michael Mills is a T12 paraplegic, the victim of a head on collision with a drunk driver in 1993 and though he’s been tackling wheelchair racing since 1996, competing in over 160 road and track races in the twelve years since, even representing the United States three separate times, he saw the Spartan Race series and realized it was the next challenge he wanted. He'll be doing the Georgia Spartan Sprint on 3/9/13. Want to stay tuned in to Michael’s journey? He’ll be regularly posting his story and training on our blog in a series we’ll be calling “Chasing Michael Mills.” Follow his Facebook page. Want to support his cause? Check out Spartan Sprint for Bert’s Big Adventure | Michael Mills’ Fundraiser on CrowdRise. ]

 

 

 

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