by Carrie Adams

[Editor's note: In just 12 hours, Jason Jaksetic, Spartan's legendary Barn Beast, begins the 150-mile McNaughton Ultra in Pittsfield, VT run by Spartan's sister company Peak Races.  Stay tuned to the blog, twitter, and facebook for live updates.]

Stumbling in the barn at 2:15 A.M. March 7, 2011 after 62 hours of effort, Jason Jaksetic had accomplished his mission: 100 miles on snow shoes in the books after 30 days of training.  Thus was born the Barn Beast.  Defying the naysayers and the experts, he accomplished the seemingly impossible–but that’s nothing new to this alternative athlete.  To Jason, there is no such thing as “normal.”

As a boy growing up in Stanhope, NJ, no one would have thought that the self-proclaimed “band dork” would become the athlete he is today.  As a traveling musician who both performed and taught, Jason didn’t enter his first long distance event until age 22.  With no training, he was immediately in over his head.  His first event was the esteemed Boston Marathon.  But there was a catch: he entered on a dare, he ran it bandit (and for you who always follow the rules, that means you crash the event and run the course), and still managed a 4:20 finish.  He’d previously never run more than four miles at one time.

Boston was the catalyst, and Jason wanted more.  Setting his sights on the Ironman, he got serious about training, and completed five Ironman events in two years.  At age 24, he qualified for Kona with a 10:23 finishing time in Lake Placid.  Jason seemed on the fast track and trained hard for a big showing in the Louisville Ironman in 2010.  Then, during a long training run, Jason felt a slight hitch in his hip.   Alarm bells went off in his head, but he dismissed them, not realizing that at that moment that he had suffered a stress fracture.

No injury could stop him.  He planned to destroy the Louisville swim and bike and then get through the marathon as best as possible given the hip injury.  The swim went well, but after pounding the bike for 70 miles, Jason bonked.  At mile 101, he woke up in an ambulance suffering from what appeared to be cardiac arrest due to exhaustion and dehydration.  This, his first DNF, weighed far heavier on his mind than on his body.  He escaped to Swaziland, Africa to reevaluate his training, his goals, and his expectations.  In the airport, he found a passport belonging to Joe Desena, owner of Spartan Race.  It was a turning point.

Not long after, Jason impulsively packed up and moved into the training facility, aka “the Barn,” in Pittsfield, VT, to work for Joe and to train for several ultra-distance races, including the infamous Death Race.  Abandoning his militant Ironman training style, he adopted a more non-traditional approach in the rugged mountains just outside his back door.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

by Johnny Waite, originally published on his blog, Living Myself to Death.

“I wonder how long before Joe realizes this is impossible, and changes the plan?”

That was my thought an hour into pushing a 200 pound tractor tire up the mountain. Sooner or later, I assumed, he would have to figure out that we had taken on a Sisyphean task. That just shows you how little I knew Joe Desena.  I had met Joe about 30 minutes earlier. I was in town for a training camp for this summer’s Spartan Death Race, having driven 10 hours with only these instructions: “Bring an axe, a maul, snowshoes, food and warm clothing to the General Store in Pittsfield for 8pm”.

A picture was snapped of the six of us setting out with the 200 pound tire, a 16 foot canoe, and a 38 pound brick. The only thing these three items had in common was that none of them served any purpose atop the mountain.  As we rolled the tire up the road, pulling the canoe and passing the brick around, a Supermoon rose overhead in the crisp Vermont night.

After leaving the road for a snowpacked trail, we were soon deep in the woods winding our way up a steep path. Two were pulling the canoe by rope, three were trying to roll the tire, and one was carrying the brick. If you have never carried a 38 pound brick up a slippery hill in the middle of the night, you may not fully appreciate the observation that it was the easiest job by an astonishing margin. The canoe was just straightforward hard work – lean in, plant your toes and climb while pulling the rope. The inevitable three steps forward one slide back was par for the course. The tire, though, was another matter altogether. Refusing to roll in the snow, it also constantly threatened to roll back down the hill – crushing us in its path. The only occasional break from the kneedeep snow was where the spring melt had washed sections of the trail out entirely, involving us slogging “upstream” through mud and numbing water. This was going to take all night.

I won’t attempt to get the chronology right for the next several hours but what I can say is that we did not stop. We ran down the mountain. We ran back up the mountain doing interval sprints carrying the brick overhead. We did 100 impromptu burpees on a wet section of ground (this was where I came very close to puking).  By now it was somewhere between 4am and 5am as we trudged back.  Closing my eyes back at the barn had never felt so good.  “Alright campers! Let’s get this day started!!  “What? DID I even get to sleep?? The answer was “NO”.  Putting our wet clothes back on seemed unnecessarily cruel. At least I had packed some dry socks.

Matt Sroka, our new guide for the day, struck out first, stopping every so often to make sure we would recognize the trail back should anyone get lost. Matt pointed out landmarks to remember as navigation points in June. And he didn’t stop smiling once. I believe this route took us about 4 miles to climb the 2000′ to the same peak. By the time we arrived it was full, glorious morning. Descending was a whole different experience – part running, part sliding.

We each grabbed one of the eight wheelbarrows and headed across the street to the gorgeous Amee Farm Lodge, to load up with wood to be split. Walk, load, walk, split, load, walk, stack, repeat, walk, load, walk, split, load, walk, stack, repeat…With the wood split and stacked (awesome practice for a novice like me), most of us headed up to the General Store for food.

As I drove home, sore and tired but very happy, I reflected on the most valuable lessons from my Death Race training camp. Here is the most important thing I learned…

Joe did NOT say: “Let’s see if we can get this tire to the top of the mountain”.

He said: “Let’s get this tire to the top of the mountain.”

There is all the difference in the world between those two statements.  He did not know if it would take two hours or two days. He just knew we were going to do it.

Take a look at where you can apply that in your own life. Where do you say “I am going to try to…” or “Let’s see if we can…”. Because that will be where you fail. You have already given yourself the “out”.

“Do or do not … there is no try.” –Yoda

-        John D. Waite