by Shane Phillips, Guest Blogger and founder of Paws 4 PTSD

Riley Stephens

Before the Texas Beast, I told you about my best friend, my brother Riley Stephens who was killed in action serving his country in Afghanistan with the 1/3 Special Forces Group (Airborne) as a senior Medic.  One of the last things he did before his deployment was run a Spartan Race.  As a tribute, friends and family took on the Spartan Beast in Glen Rose as “Team Riley” to honor him and to reconnect.   I’ve been spending lots of time on how to express my feelings from the Spartan Beast race in Glen Rose, TX.  I have finally decided to just share those feelings with you.  The story will be raw in places, silly in others, and probably a little boring and mundane in the rest of this swirl of emotions.

Team Riley: Ken Stephens (Riley’s brother), Cody Watson, Jamie Gray, Jerry Snyder, Austin Harris, Brooks Goodson with Author Shane Phillips and Paws4PTSD service dog Hope.

I was nervous going to support Team Riley as they ran a race to honor SFC Riley Stephens who was killed in Wardak, Afghanistan in September of 2012. I’m not exactly sure why I was nervous.  I had my wife and kids with me.  I had Hope, my service dog, with me.  I knew the people we were going to support and their family that would be there too. I think I also felt a little guilty because I wasn’t running with them.  I wasn’t going to sacrifice myself to the team to honor our brother.

Coming into the area where the start/finish line was located we were signing in and I was afraid we’d miss the start of the race.  An unnamed worker with Spartan overheard why we were there and who we were there to support and it was like I was a VIP all of the sudden.  Ushered in I quickly found the guys in the holding pen waiting on the pep talk and start.

Hugs to my brothers and words of sarcasm and advice to cover what we were all thinking.  Or at least I was.  We’d rather be talking trash and hanging out with our brother, Riley. I was handed a Team Riley shirt and immediately put it on.  Just as the serious looks are exchanged as we all acknowledge the why of being here together the race announcer starts his talk.  I am unable to recall the exact words, but I do recall he made a point of letting everyone know exactly who Team Riley was and it was an honor to have them race.  I think that’s when the feelings started to change a little for me.  Here we all were, Team Riley, Mic (Riley’s father), my wife and kids, all the family members, and probably a couple of hundred strangers trying to stay warm in the blustering North wind.  I felt this collective respect given by everyone.

It’s a feeling you can relate to if you’ve ever truly had that physical struggle where you don’t think you can do it anymore and someone stronger gives you that look that says, “well done.”  It’s never a spoken thing and I think that’s why is so much more powerful than words could ever convey.  It’s almost magical in the sense of brotherhood and respect felt.

The next few hours for me consisted of Hope and I running cross-country observing the race and trying to catch Team Riley at obstacles to cheer them on.  Hope and I must have run 6 miles cross country that day.  She loved it! She ran beside me like it was the most natural thing on Earth to be doing.  At one point of trying to get back to the start/finish to help my wife this calmness came over me.  Here I was running through the Hill country in the middle of a huge race course with my service dog Hope happily running beside me.  I was breathing the cold fresh air.  I would occasionally cross paths with a racer or two and they would all give me a smile when they saw my Team Riley shirt.  While I observed the racers at obstacles I felt the same sense of respect and honor hung in the air even while they did burpees as punishment for a failed attempt. This familiar feeling of comfort and safety came over me.  That exact feeling I’d felt with Riley while we shot the bull.  The feeling I’d shared with my brothers down range between missions back in the day.  That feeling of… “Yes, this is hard, but we are here together.  And together we will overcome this. Not because it is easy, but because it is hard and worth doing.  If not worth it for the thing done, for the kindred spirits of my brothers and sisters who have suffered too.  It is worthy simply because of the men and women with whom we conquer it with.”

Team Riley did awesome.  Together they conquered the course.  The conquered their inner voices.  They conquered a little bit of a hurt known only to them.  How do I know this? Well, because some of that hurt was conquered during my cross country run with Hope.  You see, that sense, that feeling I’ve tried so hard to convey I believe was the spirit of Riley.  Not his soul, but that warrior spirit that has inhabited so many of us and is so very close to the ones who choose a warrior lifestyle and path to follow.

Team Riley, and even Hope and I, in a sense got to run with Riley.  Holding tight to that spirit of the warrior will keep our brother alive in each of us in our own way.  This spirit gives me the courage to be open about the inner turmoil that is me.  It gives peace in a way to his family and brothers and sisters of a little town in Texas.  We ran together again and I just can’t help but think how our friendship and path together started the same way.  We ran together around that football field so many years ago.  Only this time everyone ran with him, with us, sharing that warrior spirit no matter who you are or where you’re from.  It was simply amazing.

At the end of the race for Team Riley we were there to cheer them on.  They collected their breath and what was left of their strength.  Proudly and with smiles they charged the Spartans after leaping the fire, taking the pugal sticks away and capturing the moment in a way that Riley would be so proud of. They took what belonged to them.  There was no quarter given by either Team Riley or the Spartans as they claimed that true warrior spirit while seizing what was theirs.  A message to Riley that they too respect and revere the gift he left us.  The gift of knowing him in a way that few did; a man, a warrior, a brother.

Soon after the race the brothers and Mic and family gathered behind Mic’s truck.  Shots of Crown Royal were passed out and Mic held one for him and one for Riley.  Mic put me on the spot and asked me to do the honor of a toast.  We raised our shots and I toasted, “To the brothers who ran a race to honor the one who is no longer able.” Down the hatch our shots went, with a few teary eyes, and Riley’s shot poured out.  Not wasted, but given to the Earth, given to the field of battle in his honor.

 [Editor's Note: Team Riley took on our Glen Rose, TX Beast race on December 8, 2012.  They finished in honor of their brother, son, friend.  A big thank you for their gracious willingness to share their story and to Shane for his words that poignantly capture such an emotional journey.  Find Shane's non-profit organization Paws 4 PTSD on Facebook and online.]

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by Joe Desena, Spartan Race CEO

Todd Love, Leesburg, VA Super Spartan

A New Year is the chance for a New YOU.  It’s never been easier, and we can tell you why.  Spartan Race has been able to keep 82% of those committing to a new years resolution on track with their health goals. It is a simple technique that has been proven effective over the last three years at Spartan.

What is it?

It’s simple.  Don’t go it alone.  Committing to a race with friends will keep you on track each day training and eating healthy the same way the Spartans did knowing they WOULD go to battle.  We can help.  Get daily workouts – we can send them directly to your inbox www.spartanrace.com/wod, and your daily workout will be waiting for you each day.  No excuse not to train.  Getting daily food tips, www.spartanrace.com/fod and you’ll get healthy, delicious food ideas sent to you as well so you can fill your table and your stomach with the fuel you’ll need to stay on track, lose the weight, get stronger, faster, and better in 2013.

Sign up for a Spartan Race, even if it terrifies you.  Especially if it terrifies you!  Your fight or flight mechanisms kick into gear, and you’ll be sure to get moving. Once signed up, you and your friends will have a goal and a reason to start taking your health seriously and it works 82% of the time which is an amazing statistic.  We call it the Resolution Solution.

With the support of your community of friends and family, healthy recipes and food ideas, and workouts that will get your body in shape, you can accomplish more than you thought possible.  And you’ll never have to be alone in the process.  When you feel down, have a bad day, don’t want to eat healthy, you’ll have the reasons you need to stay on track, to get outside and run, to get to the store and buy something green instead of something fried.  It’s time for a change.

Once friends are involved they act like a vice grip, should you start to go back to your old ways. Not only are you training to get through the event you signed up for…but you are training for them and they are training for you.  In signing up, they aren’t just holding you accountable, they are depending on you for the same support.

Not enough?  How about some proof?

How is losing 430 pounds?  Spartan Chris Davis did just that and finished the Spartan Beast (and several other Spartan Races) in Vermont after five grueling months in Pittsfield, living, eating, and exercising with our team at HQ.  You should see him carry a sandbag now!  He sure couldn’t when he arrived.  Chris resolved to lose the weight and finish the race and he got it done.  It’s amazing that he began his journey at 696 pounds.

Spartan Chick Andi Hardy started following the Spartan WODs and is in the best shape of her life.  One of the Spartan elite athletes in our 300 group, with 21 races completed she had an incredible eight first place finishes in the 40 – 44 division in 2012, three of those first OVERALL female.  Not too shabby!

Todd Love, triple amputee from Georgia alongside his teammates from Team X-T.R.E.M.E. took on a Super Spartan and a Spartan Beast all while donning a blacked out gas mask.  Despite his injuries from an IED attack in Afghanistan while serving as a Recon Marine, he completed the races.  How is that for inspiration?

So, now what’s your excuse?

It’s all here waiting for you, you just have to decide it’s finally time to do it.   Get signed up for a race, get signed up for our FREE workouts and FREE food tips and you’ll join the 82%.

Sign up, show up, don’t give up!

[Editor's Note: Need extra motivation?  Spartan founders include Guinness World Record Holders, Triple Iron Man finishers, former professional Adventure Racers (AR).  Check out our Founding Few Bio Page to learn more of their incredible stories.]

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by Aja Varney, guest blogger

Aja Varney

Last year, on a whim, I posed an idea to a smallish group of Spartan Chicks: let’s do a Secret Santa, Holiday Gift Swap. Many of the ladies had been my inspiration through that inaugural, formative  year of my Spartan Shape-Up, and it seemed like a great way to spread out the love and camaraderie that we’d all found in the Facebook group, on the muddy courses, and frequent email exchanges.

Our Holiday Gift Swap that year had just about 100 participants. This year, with the uprising of women into obstacle racing, subsequently finding the Spartan Chicked group at a staggering 9000+ women strong, our gift exchange garnered roughly 250 eager participants. While I can claim to be the facilitator, the Chicks involved brought the event to life, creating searchable posts introducing themselves to each other, brainstorming useful and creative gift ideas and making sure there was no chick left behind (“Yes! We’ll figure out how to get a Chick gift to a woman stationed in Korea in military training! Aroo!”).

From the Pacific Northwest to the tip of Florida, the United Kingdom to Australia, Mexico to Canada and beyond, the Chicks embraced their giftee like long-lost family. Some mailed gift baskets of practical use: their favorite fueling bar or gel, training gloves to prevent blisters, anti-chafing sticks for those long runs, or technical socks to keep our feet running the treacherous mountains. Others decided to pamper the inner goddess that makes the Chicks special, shipping out relaxing bath salts, salves for sore muscles, nail polish in feisty Chicked Pink shades, or shiny delicate baubles (ironically) shaped like kettle bells or barbells, to keep our head in the game when not clad head to toe in spandex.

Finally, there were the socks… oh the socks!  While all sorts of t-shirts and gear were mailed around the globe, the Chicked movement has embraced socks as a personal, feminine, yet practical, statement. Bright colored tall socks, striped knee highs to protect your shins during mud crawls, dramatic thigh-highs to pair with your shorts and every incarnation in between, were gifted from chick to chick. My personal favorite, all the tall socks that proclaimed loud and proud, statements of Spartan Strong Women: “Bad Ass,” “Burpees Suck,” “Lift Strong” and “Girl Power.” 

While the gifts were a wonderful surprise (almost all the Chicks will tell you that they were waiting anxiously by their mailbox for their Spartan Santa gift to arrive!), the thing that differentiated our Chicked Holiday Gift Swap from any other Secret Santa I’ve ever participated in, was the expressions of community. Every package reached its recipient with hand-drawn cards, lengthy letters sharing holiday well-wishes, motivational notes for the year ahead and a lot of support from one Chick to another, regardless of age or distance. One package even included a small token addressed to the Chick’s child, from one mother to another, because the time had been taken to learn something about the recipient and acknowledge her as a person – not “just” an obstacle racer.

As the year draws to a close, I count myself extremely lucky to be grouped in among the Spartan Chicks. Although I know they are a spectacularly determined, driven group of women, sweating their butts off to show their stuff on the race course, every year this gift swap reminds me that they are so much more than that; the women of Sparta are group of ladies, ready to welcome you with open arms and support you through whatever life throws at you. Come tall, muddy walls, a difficult personal situation, a training plateau or a bad day at work, Spartan Chicks are there – worldwide – to keep your head up and your feet moving forward.

A big Thank You! To all the Chicks who continue to inspire one another and were willing to share some Holiday cheer with their fellow ladies. Our gift swap went off without a hitch, and I cannot wait to see how much Spartan love we can flood the Postal Service within 2013! AROO!

[Editor's Note: Aja Varney is a Spartan Chick many times over.  You can follow her adventures on her blog, What a Beautiful Wreck.  Varney was recently featured as a writer in the new Obstacle Racing magazine.  Her story about how Spartan Races changed her life begins on page 38.]

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[Editor's Note] Ang Reynolds is a regular on the Spartan Race scene.  An active member of the Spartan 300 group, she’s a to points leader and she’s spent the year traveling the country racing Spartan events and making a name for herself as a competitor in the growing OCR sport.  The single mother of three is also a contributing writer for the blog Barb Wire 4 Breakfast.  Here she shares her year in review.  A year of racing, competing, and finding the family she never knew she had.

Saying Goodbye to 2012

by Ang Reynolds

It is tough to summarize the end of my racing season. With three races in four weeks, my weekends have been packed with the air of Sparta. The Sac Beast was cold and rainy with relentless wind, pitted mud, and straw thick under foot. My hometown race, the Malibu Sprint, was rainy as well. When a typically dry Southern California is drenched with rain for days prior to the race, a muddy course is easily delivered. The tough hills in Calamigos Ranch were slick and unforgiving as I trudged through two more cold wet days of racing. Four days later I boarded a flight to Texas to be reunited with many friends I had not seen since my wayward weekend in Killington, Vermont.

As we stood at the starting line on Saturday morning, facing a course that Mike promised would deliver Spartan’s best; I looked at the faces that surrounded me. A little over a year ago I ran my first Spartan race. A little over a year ago all of these people were strangers to me. Now, as I looked to the Spartans on my left, and the Spartans on my right, we ran into our battle united as a team.

I remembered the first time I spoke with Andi Hardy on the phone, inviting her to spend the weekend with my family in Utah for the Beast. I remembered the first time I met Corinne Kohlen, volunteering at the Spartan Super in Arizona.

I looked further to each side and saw more familiar faces. These were the people that were my greatest competitors. The people that I wanted to beat to the finish line at the end of the day, but also the people that I shared my days and nights with. We had stayed out many a night, and slept late into the morning. We had jumped in lakes, stood around fires, and huddled together in the pouring rain to warm our bodies. We had helped each other limp across the finish and wipe the blood off our broken and bruised bodies. We shared some of the roughest times in our lives and but also in each other’s greatest joys.  

After less than a year I was innately connected to each and every one of these individuals in some way, having shared so much more than just a race. We had not only raced together, but to also encouraged each other along the way, through our strong moments, and at our worst. The racers that stood beside me were my family, and for the last time racing in 2012, I was reminded how lucky I was to be a part of the Spartan community. I have gained not only everlasting friendships, but also a family that runs thicker than blood; a family that will continue to love and support me through so much more than just racing.

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by Carrie Adams

With 2013 looming large on the horizon, and much of the holidays behind us, we look forward to our Times Square demonstration on January 17th and the more than 60 events we have planned for Spartan venues around the globe in 2013.  Before we set foot on a race course in 2013, we want to give back to those hit hard by October’s super storm Sandy.  After all, Spartans give generously.  So we gave our friends at NYCares a call so we could find a way to roll up our sleeves and do what we do best – get dirty.

When we had to cancel our NYC Times Square event in the wake of Super Storm Sandy, we had no idea how much damage the storm would bring to the East Coast.  As we prepare to return on Thursday, January 17for our demonstration at Broadway Plaza between 42-43rd streets from 11AM – 2PM we want to show New York that Spartans also give generously with a two-day volunteer opportunity Saturday, January 12th and Sunday, January 13th to help those still rebuilding in the wake of the devastation.

Spartan Race is pleased to announce a two-day volunteer opportunity in conjunction with NYCares to help Muck Out some homes in Far Rockaway, Queens!  Nothing like doing some good and getting dirty in the process!  With nearly a dozen of our Street Team already on board, we can’t wait to get started!

The Spartan Muck Out will involve clearing debris and damaged items from homes, and removing drywall and other damaged parts of the buildings and will be led by experienced NYCares staff members or trained, experienced volunteers.

New York Cares was founded in the late 1980’s by a group of friends who wanted to take action against serious social issues facing the city and is now the city’s largest volunteer organization, running volunteer programs for 1,300 nonprofits, city agencies, and public schools.

There are different tasks at each location and volunteers should come prepared and flexible to participate in the entire process.

Date: Saturday, January 12 and Sunday, January 13th:

Volunteering Spartans will board a bus to Far Rockaway, Queens at 8AM where you will work to clear and clean out homes for residents. Once on site, all volunteers sign waivers, are given an overview, safety briefing, and provided supplies including tools, tyvek suits, and n100 dust masks (if necessary).  Volunteers are then divided into groups of between 8 and 12 and are directed to a home to work with.  Each volunteer work crew is led by an experienced staff member or a trained, experienced volunteer.

Time: Bus departure time: 8:00am
Bus return time: 6pm (depending on traffic)
Bus meet-up: 47 Trinity Place at the corner of Trinity Place and Rector Street in Downtown Manhattan. http://goo.gl/maps/oSl7B

To join in the clean-up process, Step 1 – Create an account here: http://www.newyorkcares.org/users/create_account.php
Step 2 – Go to this link and click sign up for Saturday, Sunday, or both.  (Link:http://www.newyorkcares.org/volunteer/volunteer_opportunities/search_projects/projcodesearch.php?projcode=Spartan+Race&location=&neighborhood=&dow=&x=0&y=0&pass=1&page=1)
Step 3 – Show up and muck out!
Once you sign up you will receive an auto email with more details and my contact info.

Give back and get dirty!

There is no better way to begin the New Year than with a chance to do good and then a Spartan Race experience in Times Square that’s never been done before!  We look forward to returning to New York in the New Year!

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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 Carrie Adams

Mark your calendars, Spartans!  Spartan Race is headed back to Times Square Jan. 17, 2013 for our Invitational Obstacle Race Demonstration but FIRST we’re making a pit stop in Far Rockaway, Queens to help out the victims of Super Storm in a joint effort with the non-profit organization,  New York Cares, to help those still recovering from the devastation.

For the first time, Spartan Race will be hitting up the urban jungle in a Times Square demo like you’ve never seen!  This invitational demo will feature some of our most beloved and feared obstacles and will have participants show the viewing public what a Spartan Race (well, short one) looks like!  We may even do a burpee or two as well, we’re known for those!   The Spartan Race Times Square Challenge is set for Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., at Broadway Plaza between 42nd and 43rd Streets, in Manhattan. (updated location)

Before the demo in Times Square goes down, Spartans will get a chance to get out into the community and help out those in need.  We’re announcing the Spartan Muck Out, a two-day volunteer project to help clean-up efforts in Far Rockaway, Queens, that will take place Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 12 and 13.  Both days, busloads of Spartan volunteers will depart 47 Trinity Place (corner of Rector Street) in downtown Manhattan at 8:00 a.m., returning at approximately 6:00 p.m.  The Muck Out will involve clearing debris and damaged items from homes and removing drywall and other damaged parts of buildings. Experienced New York Cares staff members or trained, experienced volunteers will oversee each work crew.

Joe D., Spartan founder and resident burpee dictator, Joe Desena is excited about bringing the world of Spartan Racing together with the world of Spartan charity.  As you know, Spartans give generously.  ”We are doing all we can to change lives all over the world with these events.  There is no better time to change your life than in the New Year.  That doesn’t just mean your body.  As Spartans, we want to give back and of course, we’re doing it in the best way we know how – by getting dirty!”

We’ll be joined by some familiar faces.  Team X.T.R.E.M.E. (www.team-x-treme.org) is heading out and bringing retired U.S. Army Sgt. Noah Galloway, (amputee of the left leg above the knee and left arm above the elbow), Eduard Lychik (single leg hip disarticulation), and Marine Corporal Todd Love (trimembral amputee of both legs above the knee and left arm below the elbow.)  We’ll have some of our elite racers and everyday competitors on hand as well, showing off the Spartan demonstration course!

Want to get involved in the Muck Out?

To join in the clean-up process, Step 1 – Create an account here: http://www.newyorkcares.org/users/create_account.php
Step 2 – Go to this link and click sign up for Saturday, Sunday, or both.  (Link:http://www.newyorkcares.org/volunteer/volunteer_opportunities/search_projects/projcodesearch.php?projcode=Spartan+Race&location=&neighborhood=&dow=&x=0&y=0&pass=1&page=1)
Step 3 – Show up and muck out!
Once you sign up you will receive an auto email with more details and my contact info!

See you in the Big Apple!

About New York Cares

New York Cares is New York City’s largest volunteer organization. New York Cares runs volunteer programs for 1,200 nonprofits, public schools and city agencies to help people in need throughout the five boroughs. Since 1987, New York Cares has made it easy for all New Yorkers to work together to strengthen the city, and last year helped 400,000 New Yorkers in need. For more information, visit newyorkcares.org

 

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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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by Tom McCormack

2012 has been an amazing year for the staff of SpartanRace.  Spanning 11 months and 23 events, and traveling from California to Vermont to Mississippi to Texas and everywhere in between, I know I speak for all of us when I say, “that was one hell of a season!  I need a nap!”

But as most of you already know, Spartan staffers don’t sleep.  Joe D won’t let us!

With that in mind, we’re all back in the office and focused taking the 2013 SR season up a notch, or more realistically, 3 or 4 notches.

We’ve got a lot of exciting projects in the pipeline and we wanted to take the time to touch base on one of them here.  “Project Shoehorn”, as it has been affectionately dubbed by our new President Lee Goss, was developed out of necessity in order to accommodate the overwhelming demand from some of the larger teams that are building for 2013.  With HUGE teams like the Weeple Army and Azn Armour rolling into our events with over 150-200 team members, we’ve been forced to re-think the way we handle the team registration process.

 *Sidenote:  Shout-out to Dave Huckle and the Weeple Army for accomplishing the Biggest Team Trifecta by showing up in SoCal, Sacramento, and Malibu with the biggest team at all three events!  More news on the Biggest Team Contest to come shortly, stay tuned!

Recently, you may have noticed that our first 6-10 events in 2013 are either Sold Out or very close to being Sold Out on Saturday.  Once those events began reaching capacity, we started to receive hundreds of emails from team captains demanding that we find a way to ensure that all team members can run together.  Trust me when I say, “we heard you loud and clear.”  You can stop emailing us.  No seriously, please stop, we’re begging you.  We need sleep!

Obviously, this is a pretty good problem to have, so after a number of lengthy conference calls, Project Shoehorn was born.  Starting this week, we’re going to put Project Shoehorn into motion, and you’ll immediately start to see some changes in our registration system.

What the heck is Project Shoehorn, you ask?

It’s simple.  We’re getting as creative as possible in an effort to “shoehorn” more racers, specifically, more of your procrastinating teammates, into our already SOLD OUT events.  Got that?  Google “shoehorn” if you need to.

So here’s how we’re going to do it:

1.  Adding more Capacity to our Events – For 2013, we’ll be focused on building bigger and better courses that can handle more racers at the same time.  That’s not to say we’re just going to put more racers on course by increasing the size of heats.  Quite the contrary. We’re going add more race capacity by building bigger, wider obstacles that will allow racers to flow through the course as quickly as possible, and minimize the chances for bottlenecks.  We’ll also be developing fast and slow lanes, which will allow faster racers to pass on the left, while still allowing plenty of room for others to move at their own pace on the right.  Fast Lane, Slow Lane.  Sound familiar?  This new flexibility will ensure that we can get your teammates out on course with you.

2.  Staggered Heats – We’ll be staggering our heats for Sold Out events, so we can send smaller waves off at more frequent intervals.  For those of you that were at our Fenway event, you know this works like a charm when you need to get a lot people onto a tight course.  Smaller groups tend to move faster than bigger groups, so this common sense solution will still allow us to get the bigger teams out on course, while minimizing the chances of being stuck waiting at an obstacle.  We want you to see you hustling, not standing around twiddling your thumbs.

3.  “Day Parts” Registration Format – In order to streamline our team registration process and cut down on some of the confusion that comes with trying to organize your friends and team members so they can all run together, we’re rolling out our new “Day Parts” Registration format.

Effective immediately, you’ll have 5 options when registering for a Spartan Race event.

1.  You can choose “Elite”, which will cost you an extra $30, but will provide you with an opportunity to run against the best of the best and compete for prize money.

2.  You can register for a “Confirmed Start Time” heat, which will cost you an extra $25, but will ensure that you can run at a specified time.  If you absolutely must run first thing in the morning because the kids are waiting at home, this one is for you.

3. Morning Start Times – These heats will range from 9am-12pm.  Once you choose a morning heat, tell your team members to get signed up, and make sure they’ve selected your team.

4.  Afternoon Start Times – These will typically be from 12-2:30pm.  If you can’t get out of bed, this start time is for you.

5.  Late Afternoon Start Times – Got a long drive?  No problem.  Sign up for a late afternoon heat.  Nothing compares to finishing a Spartan Race event while the sun is setting behind the hills.  In 2013, we’ll be ramping up our post-race parties, so you’ll be finishing just in time for the festivities.

So what does this mean to you?

If you’re already registered for a preferred start time like 10am, you’ll still be able to race at or near the start time you selected.  Now you’ll be able to get more of your friends signed up to run with you.  Have no fear, we might adjust your start time slightly to get you out together, but you won’t be moved by much.  Make sense?

As long as your friends have selected your team during the registration process, our Registration Team will find a way to make sure all of your teammates are set to run as a team.

That means no more worrying about friends that signed up too late.  No more emailing Customer Service like some crazed lunatic.  No more showing up on Race Day only to find out that two of your friends signed up for the 4pm heat instead of the 10am.  Trust us, we got your back.  Your team will be able to run together.

What should you do now?

Keep an eye on our registration pages!  We’ll be adding more spots to our sold out events very soon.  Tell your friends to get their act together and be ready.  If they want to be able to race with you in 2013, they better pay attention and get signed up as soon as possible.

With this new registration format, we will no longer be able to squeeze more friends into your heat at the last minute.  Once our event is SOLD OUT, that’s it.  No exceptions.

So if you’re coming to SoCal, Miami, North Carolina, or any of our events in the Northeast, now is the time to get signed up.  Quit procrastinating.

We hope you understand why we’re making these changes.  It’s all in an effort to make sure Spartan Race continues to offer the best team racing experience in the obstacle racing biz!  We look forward to seeing you in 2013.

And while we’re at it, get yourself signed up for a Hurricane Heat!  You won’t regret it!

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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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