by Michael Mills

It seems like yesterday I started my journey to Sparta. Last August I made the decision to sign up and compete in my first ever Spartan Race in Conyers, GA on March 9th, 2013. I remember being scared to hit the payment button. I knew if I did it, there would be no turning back. The thought of doing something I have never done before terrified me, but at the same time I was excited to embark on a new adventure for disabled sports. For the last 20 years I have overcome so much and experienced some difficult times and I look at it as what has prepared me for this year.

Last year, I had a long conversation with Tiffany (my wife) about my goals and what I wanted to accomplish for 2013. As my biggest supporter she backed me up and said she would be there every step of the way. I knew right then I did not need any more encouragement.

Since I started training for the Spartan Race, I have found something deep inside of me that I really didn’t know I had. It was an even stronger willpower and determination. It has fueled me to get up and train before work, work an eight hour day, come home, be a husband and a father to my family, and then go back out to train again for another workout session.

I have had a goal in mind and resolve if firm. I will cross the finish line and become a Spartan. Through my training, I realize how much I’ve changed and grown. I started seeing obstacles in my way that before I would have avoided. NOT NOW! I hit every one of them head on. I see something that looks difficult and I want to do it. My fear is leaving me, anxiety is turning to excitement and I know that this is year for me to do amazing things for myself and for the disabled community.

On February 9th I set out to be the first ever paralyzed person to climb Stone Mountain, in Stone Mountain GA. I started the climb with some already amazing Spartan athletes but no one stood out more to me than my friend and Spartan Chris Davis. When I found out Chris was coming, I was ecstatic. I was going to get to finally meet him. The climb didn’t intimidate me but he did.

Chris Davis accomplished some major goals while living in Pittsfield, VT at Spartan HQ. He is known by everyone in the Spartan world for his weight loss success and now he was coming to climb Stone Mountain with me. Chris showed up with a 110lbs strapped to his back and he said he was not going to leave my side. Chris and I were side by side and we climbed the entire mountain together. Once I reached the top, Chris looked at me and told me how proud he was of me. The climb took four hours, me crawling on my hands and knees. I conquered Stone Mountain with some amazing people that day and I will never forget it.

That climb up Stone Mountain prepared me for my first Spartan Sprint on March 9. I am ready. I am ready to tackle the barbed wire, big heavy tractor tires, ropes, walls and even the fire at the end. I have no doubt that with the help from my team, we will be able to overcome every obstacle just like I have in my life for the last 20 years.

Bring it on, Georgia. I am ready for you. My team and I will reach our goal and by the end of that day I will be able to call myself a true Spartan.

[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 Carrie Adams

Our Top Ten Blog Posts of 2012 span a variety of topics.  Yesterday, we introduced you to #10, a blog by our own Chris Davis who left Atlanta and came to Spartan HQ in Pittsfield, VT to live, work, and train with our staff and founder Joe Desena.  He lost over 400 pounds and completed the Spartan Beast, and earned his Trifecta Tribe status.  No small feat!  In today’s recap of post #9 we revisit something that has made Spartan obstacles famous (errr, maybe infamous is a better word.)

In a word: Burpee.

Missing a Spartan Obstacle doesn’t mean that you just mosey on your merry way, it means that you owe 30 burpees before you are to continue.  Here, our very own Dr. Jeff goes over the Muscular Analysis of the burpee.   If you don’t know Dr. Jeff, you should.  He’s greatly responsible for the success of the Chris Davis Project and is also leading the charge on the Spartan Coaching program.  He also routinely participates in the Spartan Death Race, because, well, that’s what happens when you work for Spartan Race.

From the drop to the ground through each phase of the movement, the body positions are described in detail to ensure that from the elite athlete to the newcomer, everyone can see the proper form associated with the burpee.

Read more HERE.

Interested in coaching the Spartan Way?  Click HERE to learn more.  Finally ready to get signed up?  Click HERE. 

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by Carrie Adams

With an epic year of racing in the books, we are recounting some of the biggest stories of the year.  Let’s start with post #10!  How about a story about a guy who lost over 400 pounds and reclaimed his life, conquered a beast, and earned his membership into the Trifecta Tribe?   We are talking about the one and only Chris Davis.  His story inspired thousands.  To see his journey, watch this video. 

From the original post:

Every day Spartan Race HQ gets emails and phone calls with success stories of our athletes getting off their couches and getting healthy preparing for a Spartan Race.  Untold pounds have been lost, new levels of health and well-being found by those who embrace a healthy Spartan lifestyle.  Every so often one of those stories strikes a chord so deep, we are compelled to tell it completely.  One of those stories is in motion now, and we are going to keep sharing updates of a man who has turned to Spartan to change his life forever.

We met Chris Davis in Georgia where he finished the race in 3:04, and at 390 pounds.  Struggling across the finish line and exhausted, Spartan staffers helped him to his car and he headed home.  But that is not where this journey begins and it’s nowhere near over.

Chris started his Journey at 696 pounds. in 2010, he heard of the Spartan Race and started losing weight.   We got in touch with him and moved him to Spartan HQ. He is currently down 300 pounds from his starting weight with the help of the Spartan Race motivation.

Spartan Race staff, including founder Joe Desena are attempting to get him to 180 pounds by September a loss of an additional 200 pounds over the next 5 months.  In his own words, he’ll share his journey on the Spartan blog.  Here is his first entry.

To read the blog in it’s entirety, click HERE.  And stay tuned for another top blog post from 2012!

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by Carrie Adams

When he emerged at the Spartan finish line, he was exhausted.  The last official Spartan racer to finish the Georgia Spartan Sprint, he was hours behind the top of the field.  Spartan staff members had to help him get back to his car because they feared he wouldn’t be able to do so under his own power.   An incredible accomplishment for a man who was nearly 700 lbs just a couple years earlier. His weight loss journey was far from over, in fact, as he crossed the finish line; he was also crossing a line that intersected with his destiny and a decision that would change his life forever.  It was the first time Spartan Race would meet Chris Davis and from that moment, none of us would ever be the same.

The dramatic finish was the first step in a journey that would lead Davis to Pittsfield, Vermont, home of Spartan Race HQ and the place Davis would call home for 20 weeks as he continued his path towards a healthier future and many more Spartan finish lines – his last, the World Championship Beast where he would begin at 4 AM and finish just before night fell, earning his medal and celebrating a staggering weight loss of over 530 pounds.  His weight loss in Pittsfield alone was half that amount.  How he got to Pittsfield is an incredible story in it’s own right… When Spartan founder Joe Desena heard about Davis and how far he needed to go to finish what he’d set out to start, he offered up an incredible opportunity:  move to Vermont and Spartan Race HQ, lose the weight by following Joe and Spartan Coaching’s plan, and race the Beast in September.  Davis, with the support of his employer (Comcast), family and friends, accepted the offer and just like that, the Chris Davis Project was born.

Crossing the finish line it was hard to find a dry eye.  Davis’s family was in attendance to witness his nearly 15 mile race.  The pinnacle of several races he’d finish in preparation, the hours on the mountain with Spartan founder Joe Desena and other Spartan athletes and staffers getting ready.  Spartan staff joined him on the mountain, Joe Desena carrying a 100lb sandbag as well.  His weight loss and training program conducted under the watchful eye of Dr. Jeff Godin, Spartan Death Racer, physician, and Spartan Coaching founder.  As Chris received his medal and hugged friends, staffers, and family, it was clear that his achievement was one that was felt by everyone who was lucky enough to bear witness.

His journey to the finish line has been well-documented, in his athlete page and on YouTube with videos updating his weekly progress.  If there was ever a doubt that you could do something, let this story be your lesson.   See his final video summary HERE.

Spartan HQ hasn’t been the same since Davis’s return to his home down South.  Since his heroic finish, he has returned to his job at Comcast in Atlanta, Georgia, an employer who would give Davis the life-changing chance to relocate to Vermont for his transformation and allow his return months later.  We’d like to thank them for their vision and support.  Mad Motion provided the video footage of Chris’s journey and we’d like to thank them as well for giving his story a platform.

Congratulations to Chris, he will always be a part of our Spartan family and what he taught us about never giving up is something that has made us all better for knowing him.  That’s the reality of what these races are about – celebrating health, pushing limits, and finding out what you can accomplish when you dare to believe in all the things you CAN do and forget about what is deemed impossible.


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The Chris Davis Project:  Week 14 – Race Day

by Chris Davis

Race Day

I woke up and the fear started to settle in.  I got another text message from Margaret (from Dirt in Your Skirt), “Ready to go today?”.

Trying to hide the fear I am feeling inside I reply with “Yeah, this is going to be great”!  While inside, all I can think is, ‘my God, what am I doing?’

All of the feelings I had from my first Spartan Sprint in Atlanta started to race through my head.  I remembered how hard that race was, and it was only 4 miles on relatively level ground, compared to this 5 mile, ski resort course I had ahead of me.  I decided that it was time for me to test and see where I was and what I needed to work on for the Ultra Beast.  Besides, I was going to be accompanied by one of Spartan Race’s best female racers, so I knew that I was going to be in good hands.  That helped to calm my nerves and helped me to focus on the task ahead.

Once we got to the race site I picked up my timing chip.  There was no turning back now.   I was in the race, but not only was I in the race, I was in the competitive heat.   As the 9am heat got closer I met up with Margaret and we headed up to the stage to fill the rest of the runners in on what were we doing.   It was incredible, the amount of support I got from the racers, which was just what I needed before the start.   After talking to everyone we got off the stage and headed down to the end of the coral getting ready for the race to start.

When the race started we were accompanied by Tom McCormick (the leader of the Spartan Hurricane Heats).  We started out kinda slow because we knew what was ahead of us.   When we got to the first set of walls I knew this was going to set the pace for the day, so I tried to stay positive as I approached the walls.  But it was what I had feared, I did not have the upper body strength or the coordination to get myself up the simple 4 foot walls without multiple attempts.  With some coaching and encouragement from Margaret and Tom, I made it over them.    I had the grace of a brick falling off a building, but I made it over.   I think this is when Tom and Margaret both realized what was in store for the rest of the day.

When I finished the first obstacle I was totally exhausted.  I had worked 12+ hours on the course the day before, and I had only eaten a couple of apples, bananas, and a salad the day before, and a couple of apples earlier that morning.   But I knew that if I just slowed down for a bit my body would start to recover and I would be ok.  And that is exactly what happened.  So we kept going up the mountain.   It was slow going, but Margaret kept having me set small goals. When we hit an obstacle I could not do or failed, Margaret split the burpees with me.  This helped me so much, not just physically but mentally as well.

Throughout the race there were a few other obstacles that really stick out in my memory.   The next one being the vertical cargo net.  This one killed me for a couple of reasons. First being that  since coming to Spartan Camp, we have really focused on only lower body workouts.  The vertical cargo net requires both lower body and upper body strength to complete.  I was able move up the net, but I could not keep my body close to the net, so I was in a constant fear of falling backwards due to my hands failing.   I made it to the top but I could not climb over it.

When we made it to the pancake challenge, I was surprised to see Hobbie Call from Conquer Any Course, and Chris Irving (Hurricane heat racer).  Norm Koch stopped by to help keep me motivated though the challenge.  Even though I knew what I was in for, I was still shocked at how badly my body started to fail me at this point.  It took everything I had to make it up the hill, and along the way, I started to get sick.

Looking back on it, it was funny.  You could almost see the joy on Margaret’s face when I started to loose the water I had in my stomach.   Especially when I told her that this was the first time I had pushed so hard since getting to Spartan Camp that I lost it.    The next thing I know Norm is it calling out over the radios that I was puking, and you could hear everyone celebrating on the radios, especially when they found out that this was the first time I had puked in a race/workout.  It was a surreal experience.

The Huckly pull completely caught me off guard.  This was one of the obstacles that I did with little problems in Atlanta, but when I got to it here, I had a lot of problems.

The rope climb was another one that sticks out in my memory because I wanted to at least make it high enough up the rope to completely get out of the water, but no matter how hard I tried I just could not get my feet onto the first knot.  I kept trying until my arms just gave out and I fell back into the water.  But the important thing is I tried my best, and that is what matters.

The obstacle that I feared the most was the log hop.  Out of all the obstacles you may be asking yourself why would this one scare me the most?   It comes from being so overweight for so long.  For several years, I had a hard time clearing any obstacle over about 6 inches.  Anything more than that meant I had a good chance of spraining an ankle or knee or something worse.   This is an obstacle where you have no choice but to jump at least 2 or 3 feet in the air, and you have no control of how you land at all.  I was so happy when Andi Jory and Chris offered to help me to get up and keep an eye on me as I went across.

There is no way I would have made this obstacle if I had not spend some time over at Dirt in Your Skirt HQ practicing on Margaret’s balance blocks.   But since I had, I knew once I got up I could make it across.  What scared me was getting off of them. The first time I attempted to get up I fell back down scraping my leg, but since I did not touch the second peg, I was allowed to try again.  On the second attempt I was able to get up, and that was huge for me.   I took a deep breath and started across.  I about half way thought I started to lose it but I was able to re-center myself and before I knew it I was on the last log.   Now the scary part, trying to get down. I took a deep breath and tried as low as I could and just jumped.   When I hit the ground my knees just bucked, and on to the ground I went.   Andi and Chris helped to make sure that I didn’t hit too hard but it still did shake me up a little.   I can not tell you how important it was to me to complete this obstacle.   I still have a long way to go before I am comfortable jumping, but I am sure it will come with practice and experience.

The barbed wire crawl is always one that sticks in your mind, but the once at this race was incredibly painful by the time we got to it because it was late in the afternoon, and they had been washing it down for 2 days, so all the dirt had washed away, and all that was left were rocks.   It is funny, when I was heavier the rocks did not hurt nearly as much as they do now, because the fat acted as a pad between my skin and muscle.  But this time it felt like every rock was splitting the muscle in half or were hitting bones.   It is so funny how you start to notice these things as you lose weight.

The best was as we neared the finish line you could hear the thunder in the background. I  was so happy that we made it across the finish line. It was great because it was like the skies were just waiting for me to finish before they ripped open and let the rain started to fall. This race was so much harder that the Atlanta Sprint Race in my opinion.   I know that even with all the training I have been doing, I would not have made it across without the support of Margaret, Hobbie, Chris, Tom  and Andi.  I will always be grateful for their help in completing my second Spartan Race.


The Chris Davis Project:  Week 13

This week – Chris came back from Atlanta and we find out if he gained weight as he hikes Killington Mountain, home of the Ultra Beast.

READ Chris’s other blogs:

Chris Davis started out at almost 700lbs. He’s lost over 300lbs so far. Follow his Spartan journey as he attempts to get below 200lbs and complete the Spartan Ultra Beast in September.


I arrived at Burlington Airport a little after 12:30 am on Saturday morning, where I was met by my good friend Tara.   It was so good to see her again as it has been several weeks since I had last seen her because she had been out of town before I left for Atlanta.  I cannot tell you how much it meant to me to have a good friend pick me up after leaving so many friends behind in Atlanta.   We headed out from the airport for our 1 ½ hour drive to Pittsfield and I had flashbacks to a few months ago when I arrived for the first time.  By the time we got home I was so exhausted I could no longer see straight.   So I went straight to bed and it did not take long for me to fall asleep.

The next thing I know I find myself waking up to Joe saying “Chris lets go…”   I grab my phone, and its 4am.  So I stagger out of bed and head out the door.   When I get to the car I ask where are we going and that is when Joe drops the second bomb of the morning on me.  We are climbing up Killington Mountain today.   All I can think is great, I have had less than two hours of sleep, and now we’re climbing Killington… Welcome Back Chris!  So down the road with Joe Desena, Jason Jaksetic, Steve Halstead, and I head!

We stop and pull over at the KMS school about 2 miles from the from the resort entrance.  So off we headed in the dark.    It is funny how you can walk down an the center of the road at this time of the morning and no one even cares.   By the time we got to the entrance to the mountain I was exhausted and slightly delirious from the lack of sleep- but I kept walking.  Around 6:30 am we arrived at Skye Peak and I was so happy because we had made it!   That is when Joe dropped bomb number 3 on me for the day!  We look at the map and tried to figure out how to get to Killington Peak.  So being the only one that could read a map in the group, we head off around the peak and head down a bike trail to Killington Peak.

By the time we started to head towards Killington Peak my brain had basically shutdown and I was nothing more than a walking zombie.   It took us another hour or so to reach the peak.  It was an incredible view,  Killington Peak is one of the tallest mountains in the area and you can see forever from there.   After I took a few minutes to regroup we headed back down.   We broke up into two group, Steve and I in one group everyone else in the other group.  We followed the access road down, because my legs were starting to give me a lot of problems.  My knees were buckling, and my hips were so sore I was having a problem standing.

As we walked down, I went from zombie more to survival mode, and everything just started to shutdown.  All I could do is focus on putting one foot in front of another.  That works on flat trails really well but anyone that has been on Killington Mountain knows those are few and far between.   I keep finding myself tripping over rocks and rolling my ankles time after time.  About half way down I hit a patch of loose rocks and down I went.  Unlike the last time I fell before the Death Race, I went down hard, using my elbow to take the impact of the fall.   I ended up with scrapes and cuts, and that was it.   I am so lucky that it was not any worse than that.

After my little fall I got a second boost of energy and we continued down the mountain.   As we got closer to the K1 lodge, I could not help but think “Are we there yet?” and every time I would think that a little voice in my head would say “NO”.  So we keep walking, and walking, and walking  finally we made it down.

I cannot tell you how happy I was to be off the mountain;  Now all I had to do was make it back to the car.  As it would turn out we were so slow coming down the mountain that Joe had send someone to pick us up instead of waiting for us.  By the time our ride arrived I had walked over 9.6 miles and had reached 2 peaks at the Killington Ski Resort.   Not too bad for having less than 2 hours of sleep.

On Sunday morning Joe wanted us to go back to the peak of Killington Mountain again, so once again at 4:30 am we headed out.  But this time instead of parking 2 miles out he had us park at Pizza Jerks, a little restaurant about a mile down the Access Road from where we parked the day before.

The plan was to skip Skye Peak and head straight up Killington Peak.   There was one big problem- my body had not recovered from yesterday.  I was only able to make it up about ⅓ of the way before my body started to completely shutdown, and this time I said enough.   I told Joe that I was done and headed back to the car.  He and the rest of the group continued up the mountain and I headed back alone.  This was a very long walk back to the car because I knew that I had failed to make it to the peak and that really bothered me.  But I knew it was the right decision at the time because I was only waiting at the car for about 15 minutes before Joe and Chris Zhu showed up.

But in true Joe style, he did not let me get in the car, but he wanted me to continue down the Access Road while Chris took the rest of the group back to the other car.  By the time Chris showed back up we had finished walking down the Access Road.  So I may not have made it up the mountain, but I did make it to the end of the Access Road, giving me over 9.6 miles for the second day in a row.

On Thursday, once again we got up at 4am and headed back to Killington Mountain.  This time with Jessica Pineault and Marion Abrams, “The film crew” from Mad Motion joined us for the hike.   This time it all went a lot better.  I was still fighting some hip and knee soreness from my other walks in the week, but I was able to work through it.   This time it took us about one hour and 45 minutes to reach the K1 lodge, and we did not stop at the ski lift either, we continued up all the way to the actual peak where the ranger station is located.

This was a really cool addition to the hike. After doing our interviews, we headed down the mountain.   I find that I tend to hurt myself more walking down more than walking up mountains, because once again, I took a tumble coming down the mountain.  I am just grateful that I did not end up hurting myself other than rolling my ankle a little.  I was so happy when we arrived back in the parking lot because I had completed my second trip to the top of Killington Mountain in under one week!    That is a truly wonder feeling!


The Chris Davis Project:  Week 12


After a week of walking up and down Joe’s mountain, I packed for my trip back home to Atlanta.  Joe had set a goal of getting down to 295 before I left, and had threatened to cancel the trip if I did not meet this goal, so I was relieved on Saturday when I weighed myself and I had made it to 294.4.  So I knew I was good.  It only took me walking 50+ miles in 6 days to get me there-  but I made it.

Knowing that I had made my weight allowed me to relax and enjoy my Sunday morning walk up and down the mountain.  I was so exhausted from the  previous days, but I knew this was the last time I would have to climb up this mountain for at least the next week.   After completing the 3rd lap I headed up the driveway and tossed Wilson on the patio and said, “Well buddy, take the next week off and relax.”  And I just started to laugh.  After realizing, that yes, I was talking to my sand bag.  I shook my head and headed inside.

It had taken me several hours to do my walking and it was already mid afternoon. I thought to myself that my fight was scheduled to leave at 5:45 am Monday morning, so that meant that I would need to be picked up around 2 am, because it takes over an hour and a half to get to the airport. So I confirmed with my ride that he would pick me up at 2am, and that meant I could take my time to pack, and once I was done packing I could take a nap. Well that was my plan and it sounded great.  Unfortunately life doesn’t always work that way.  By the time I was with everything and had my bags packed, it was a little after 10pm.  No problem, that still gave me 4 hours to nap.  As I started to lay down, I got a text message from my ride.  He wanted to pick me up at 12 midnight because he could not sleep. I laughed a little, and said no problem, that would just give us some extra time in case something went wrong on the trip.   So I got back up and put the finishing touches on my bags, and set them by the door, and then the waiting game started.   I could not believe how excited I was to get to go back home.   It was going to be great because only a couple of key people even knew I was going to be coming back home.  So it was going to be a surprise for everyone when I just showed up at events.   I could not wait to see their reactions.   But for now all I could do was pace around the basement waiting for my ride.  These were some of the longest hours I have experienced in awhile.

Just when I was about to lose my mind, I saw some headlights coming up the driveway.  It was my ride to the airport.   I grabbed my bags and almost ran to the car tripping down the stairs.  All that I could think was relax, do not hurt yourself this close go home, that is the last thing I need right now.  So I took a deep breath and continued to the car.  Around 2 am we arrived at the airport, and its funny arriving at the airport that time of morning.  It is like a ghost town outside, but the funny thing is there were still several taxi cab drivers waiting for people.   I don’t know why, but I felt that was a little creepy.  I mean, I could understand one or two, but there was over a dozen just waiting.  It’s not like there was any additional fights still waiting to arrive.

I headed inside, and everything was closed, and I mean everything, even the automated ticket booths, so I decided to walk around for a bit and found a really cool observation lounge that looked over the runways.  I just wished it had been daytime, so I could have sat back and watched the planes, but not tonight.  It was just me and the runway lights.  Well, that only lasted about 5 minutes, and then they turned off the lights too, so it was just me.  So I took this as a sign that I should try and fall asleep.  But there was no way I was going to fall asleep.  I tried but I was just too excited.  So I pulled my laptop out of my bag, and started up Netflix to watch a few episodes of Firefly. This is just what I need to relax, and started to fall asleep.

Before I knew it my alarm clock went off, and I woke up, grabbed my laptop, and headed back down to the ticket counter.   Still everything was shut down, but at least this time there were some people waiting and you could feel that the building was starting to come back alive.  It was only a few minutes that went by before a ticket agent walked in and turned on the automated ticket terminals.  After getting my ticket I headed up to go to the gate but the TSA had not yet arrived yet, so more waiting.  All I could think was all of the suggestions to get to the airport 2 hours before my flight, and here I was an hour and a half before my flight, and TSA was not open yet.  Isn’t that ironic.   Once they did open, they were already in a bad mood.  It was at that moment I realized it was a bad idea to wear the same pants that I had worn down here.  To me it made sense, the only problem is there about 14 sizes too big now.  I figured no big deal, I would just hold my pants up when I went through the metal detector.  Well, that is not the way this airport was set up.  They were using one of the newer scanners that you stand in put your arms above your head and it scans you.   So you can imagine how this went.  They felt bad for me so they gave me my belt back, and let me do the scan again.   But because it failed the test, I got a full pat down.  That is always fun.

Once it was time to board the plane, I started to get nervous.  Would I be able to get my seat belt to close without a seatbelt extender?  I had vowed that my flight up to Vermont was going to be the last time I ever have to ask for one, and I was determined to make it work.  And sure enough, I sat down grabbed the seat belt, and click, it fit!  It was tight but it didn’t matter.   I was in a small computer plane with small seats and I did not have to get an extender.   I was so happy I could not stop smiling.

After a layover at Newark International Airport, I arrived in Atlanta about 20 minutes early.   I was so relieved to get back to town, I could feel the energy of the city as soon as the door on the plane opened.  I jumped out of my seat and wanted to run down the aisle but since I was in the back of the plane I had to sit back and wait.  It seemed to take forever, but finally it was my turn to get off the plane, and I headed down the jetway and into the airport.   I had a long walk to get to the tram to take me to the main terminal. Once I got there I realized how fast I was walking and how easy that walk was.   I thought about how just a few years ago, this kind of walk would have left me gasping for air and hurting for days.   Not so much anymore.  I was not even breathing hard.   How cool is that!   Once I got off the tram, I got a message from my housemate Dra.  She was outside waiting for me in her car.   I found myself almost running to get outside, and once I saw her car, I knew I was home.   She pulled over and jumped out of her car and met me halfway to her car.  It was one of those perfect moments in your life.   After a minute or two we put my bags in the car and headed back home.

My plans for the rest of the day were pretty basic: meet up with my fellow runners from the Dunwood Running group at Murphy Candler Park.  It was funny  because this was the same location that I met the group for the first time.   I was saddened when I found out that the group organizer Keryl was not going to make it due to a personal emergency.   She was one of the people I was so looking forward to seeing because she walked with me the first day and never gave up on me.   It took me 44 minutes to complete the 1.6 mile flat course with 1 little hill. I had to stop several times, but I made it, only because she never gave up on me.

I got to the site a little early and waited for people to show up.  It was funny the looks on people’s faces.  When they would walk up, you could tell when it was that they realized it was me.  It was always a look of confusion followed by a look of excitement and then awe.  It was an incredible feeling.  Here were my friends that have not seen me in months and they could not believe what they were seeing.   We broke up into different groups based on speed, so I took lead of a group of new runners and we headed out.   It was incredible how much easier  it was this time compared to just a few short months ago.   After the walk we headed out to dinner and it was my first real test.  We met up at a Mexican restaurant.   I ordered vegetarian fajitas, with lettuce instead of tortilla shells.   It was at that moment that I knew I was going to be able to keep on my diet while I was here.   A few minutes later, I was shocked when I saw Keryl walk into the room.   She found out that I was in town and had to stop by.   She was shocked when I stood up to give her a hug.   We sat down and started to talk.  It was great to get the chance talk to Keryl, especially with everything that was going on in her life at that moment.

After we left dinner I decided to head to work and say hello to my co-workers that were working the night shift.   When I got to the office I walked in and went looking to see who was in.   The office is currently going through some construction, so no one was where I remembered, so I walked around for a bit.   I finally found my friend Ray’s desk and I sat down near it and waited for him to show up to work.  He walked in and started to walk to his desk.  It wasn’t until he was about 15 feet from me when he noticed that I was there.    The look on his face was priceless.   We talked about Spartan Camp and my diet, and then he filled me in on what had been going on with his life.   It really is scary how much you miss when away for this amount of time.   We had to break things up because he need to get ready for the night’s maintenance and I need to get some sleep.

Tuesday morning rolled around way too early.  When I got up I headed out to CrossFit Grinder in Sandy Springs for my morning workout. I worked with Tom, one of their Level 1 CrossFit trainers.   The goal for that morning’s workout was to evaluate my strengths and weaknesses, and to loosen me up for the Peachtree Road 10K Race on Wednesday.   The workout was completely different than anything I had experienced with Joe.  Tom was very encouraging and kept me focused on getting one step closer to my final goal.   By the time the workout was over I was pumped and ready to take on the rest of my day.

I headed out to meet back up with Ray for breakfast.  I was able to avoid almost everyone in the office but a couple managers saw me and I stepped into their offices to talk for a few.   They could not believe I was in town, and how much different I looked.  Once Ray was free we headed out and we finished catching after about an hour or so we headed back to the office and that is where the fun started.   I walked up to my fellow programmers and just said hello.  They looked up from their screens and almost fell out of their chairs backwards.  We talked for a bit, and we decided to head to lunch a little early.  We wanted to catch up on what has been going on and we wanted to keep the number of people that saw me down to a few at a time so that we did not disturb the main floor.  After lunch we headed back to the office and I continued to walk around the office, and it was crazy how everyone’s reaction was about the same, Surprised, shocked and awe.   It was great to see so many of my friends and co-workers.  It is funny how much you really do miss your co-workers.  They really do become an extended family.

After a while I had to head out because I still needed to go downtown and get my race packet for the race and they closed the doors at 7pm.   By the time I got to the location it was almost 6pm and I had to get back to town to see another one of my friend who as in the hospital.  I could not miss seeing her while I was in town.    So I parked my car, and as soon as I started to walk to the conference center the skies opened up and started to pour.   Everyone started to look for shelter or an umbrella.  I just kept walking – it’s only rain, I have gotten so used to walking in the rain in Vermont, it doesn’t even phase me anymore.   By the time I got to the convention center, I headed straight to the registration section and headed back out.  When I got back to the doors of the convention center there were several hundred people waiting just inside the doors for the rain to stop.  I could not stop smiling and walked out the door and back into the rain.   Really, are people that afraid of a little rain?  That is too funny.

By the time I got to the hospital it was almost 7pm and I was so worried that I was going to miss visiting hours, but it was in time.  I headed in and met up with my good friend.  She was having a rough time after surgery but she still kept smiling.   We talked for a while about how things were going for both of us.   I was so happy to get to see her and to see her in good spirits considering what she had been thought in the last few days.  After a few hours of talking she started to get tired, so I excused myself and let her get some sleep.

Wednesday morning was finally here.  I was in Wave P of the Peachtree Road Race and our scheduled start time was about 8:25am.  From the advice of my fellow runners, we wanted to get there at least an hour and a half before the start time.   So we left the house at 5:30 so we could get on MARTA and take the train to downtown.    The MARTA station was about a mile from the location where wave P was meeting.  I could not believe how many people were there.   There were almost 60,000 runners and about 300,000 spectators there.   It was something I was not prepared for.  I could not believe the energy in the air.   It was an incredible feeling.  Around 7:45 our wave started moving towards the start line.  We were almost a half mile away, and it took awhile for us to the start line.  Tt was incredible.  We started to walk because there was just too many people to really run, but that doesn’t matter to me.   I was just happy to be there.

The advantage of walking gave me a great chance to talk to people and this helped the time go by.  Before I knew it, we saw the skyscrapers of Buckhead on our way to Cardiac Hill – the big climb on the course just before Piedmont Hospital.  It has a history of actually causing at least one heart attack every year.    By the time I got to the hill I was just started to get warmed up.  My knees and hips were just loosen up by the time I arrived and Cardiac Hill.  I started talking to someone next to me and before I knew it I was at the top.  I just started laughing because the hill to my house here in Vermont is worse than Cardiac Hill. It was as easy from there.  We headed down towards downtown, over I85 and into the downtown area, and just before the entrance to Piedmont Park was the finish line!   I had made it.   My official time was 2:01:13, but that doesn’t matter.  The important thing is that I went from sitting on my couch and watching the race on TV to crossing the finish line in just 1 year.

After the race we walked around downtown for a bit before heading home on MARTA.  The only problem is the station we went to was about 1.5 half miles away.  So you can imagine how tired my housemates were, by the time we got back home, but we need to run some errand before heading out for the 4th of July firework show in Centennial Olympic Park.  Once again we decided the best way to get there was back on MARTA.   This time the station was only about a mile from the park, so off we went.   I was feeling fine, but both Dra and Mike were starting to wear down. It was kind offunny because once we got to the park we found a spot and we really didn’t move from there.   They were both just happy to be sitting in the grass relaxing.

The firework show was great.  We were in the perfect spot.  There were fireworks going off of building on 3 sides of us.   This was the closest I have ever been to a firework show, and no matter what they say, TV just does not do fireworks justice. The colors are brighter and the sounds are deeper.  It was a great experience and I will remember for a very long time. After the show was over we headed to midtown to continue enjoying the warm summer night.   After another 1.5 mile walk we found this cool little restaurant where we sat back and reflected on the night.   We chilled out and talked till after midnight before calling it a night.  I have forgotten how nice it is to just sit back and talk with friend late into the night.

Thursday morning came very early.  I headed back to CrossFit Grinder Gym for my morning workout. It was a very solid workout.  It was a circuit routine where each loop we decrease the number of reps.   The first part was to pickup to dumbbells and then stepping up on a box.   The next station was to lift a 20 lbs medicine ball and then rotated it to my shoulders, then lift it over my head.  After that they had me move over to the rowing machine, and finally some time on the air bike.   Once we completed the workout I felt great.   The workout had pulled out the kinks from all the walking last night.

After the workout I headed back to my house to meet up with Dra.  Our plans were to spend the day together, but when I arrived she was still asleep.   She has been running non-stop for the last couple of day, only getting a couple of hours of sleep.   She has been running her own Personal Death Race and had finally hit the wall.   So I used these couple of hours to start to unpack some of the boxes from my quick move to the house before heading to Vermont.  She finally woke up around 2pm.  Shortly after that we headed out to have some fun.   As we drove around town I could not help but think how much I missed chilling out talk with her- talking about work, life, family, and even the songs on the radio.  After several hours of running around town we met up with my other housemate Mike and headed over to Cafe Istanbul for dinner and to meet up with a few of our other friends.   It was great to be back.  Our friends had beat us there, so we joined the at the table and started talking about what has been going on in the last few months.  When the owner stopped by it took him a few seconds to recognize me, and once he did he could not believe it..   It was shocked because he was not expecting to see me until October and wondered what had happened.   Once I explained that I was there for the Peachtree Road Race, he was relieved. After a couple of hours we decided to call it a night and head back home.

It was finally here, the day I had been dreading all week.  Time to head back to Vermont.  So I got up and headed off to my last workout at CrossFit Grinder.  When I arrived I found another circuit workout set up for me again.   But this time there was an interesting sled with a 15 lbs weight on it waiting for me.  As we talked about the circuit everything was good expect the weight on the sled.   It was too light, so we swapped it out with a 35 lbs weight, and that was still too light.  So we put the additional 15 back on and that felt good.  This circuit workout was more focused on my legs.  It included the rowing machine, climbing stairs with a 20 lbs and bag wrapped it in duct tape, the wind bike, and the sled pull.    It was a great workout and once it was over I was feeling great, but I had just one nagging question.   Just how much weight could I pull on the sled.  So I ask if we could add another 35 lbs to the sled, and he was happy to add the weight.  It was thought to do the pull, but I made it through it.  After getting back to the start line I asked if they had another 35 lbs.  This brought the weight up to 120 bs.   This was a real challenge, but I got it moving once I did I just powered through it and completed the loop.  I was incredibly sore at the point but I had made it.

After the workout I headed back home and met up with Dra.  We headed out for lunch and this is where I broke.  We headed up to a local sushi house, and yes for the first time since coming to Vermont, I ate meat.  I got a sushi and sashimi lunch platter.   But to be honest, I am ok with this.  It was one meal.   I knew that I will be back to raw fruits and vegetables in less than 24 hours.  So there, I’m not perfect.  I will fall off the wagon from time to time.  The important thing is that when you do fall off you get back on!

After lunch we headed back to the house, and just watched TV.  For the first time since coming back to Atlanta, I just relaxed and just enjoyed chilling out with my good friend.   After a bit, I packed my bags, and go ready to go. I gave my keys back to Dra and we headed out.   The ride to the airport as very quiet and you could feel the sadness of knowing I was leaving again.  When we arrived at the airport it was so hard to get out the car.  I knew that I all I had to do was tell Dra to take me back home and she would have, but I knew I need to come back to Vermont.   So I got out and got my bags, I said good bye, and gave her one more hug as I headed to the door.   I made it about half when some guy said. “It is really hard to say goodbye isn’t it.”   I replied you have no idea, but looking back on it, I’m sure he did or else he would not have said anything.  It was much harder to say goodbye this time compared to the first time, because this time I knew what I have to look forward to.  I looked back towards Dra, and I could see she was feeling the same thing as well.  For a second I thought its not too late, I still can go home.   I took a deep breath and headed on in.

Once I arrived back in Vermont there was a strange feeling.  It felt like coming home from a great vacation.   I was so happy to see my good friend and housemate Tara at the airport.   It was just wanted.  I needed to this after this very emotional day.   We talked most of the way back to the house,  We finally arrived around 2:30 am.   It was a very long day, and I was glad to be home and I headed off to sleep.   Or so I thought.   Joe had other plans for me…   I will tell you more about though plans in the next blog!


Photo by Forest Call

The Chris Davis Project:  Week 11

Watch as Chris participates in a Bikram Yoga retreat where he is forced to face a new level of intensity in his training.  The heat takes its toll as Chris struggles to keep the room from spinning.

Also, below, be sure to read Chris’s writings where he goes into in detail about his week at the Bikram Yoga Retreat in Pittsfield and his time training with Margaret Schlachter of Dirt in Your Skirt.

Need to catch up on The Chris Davis Project?  Here’s Week 10.


This weekend was a little different than most.  My weekend started out Wednesday night, as I was invited to attend the Vermont Bikram Yoga retreat with Lynn Whitlow.  We started the retreat with a 90 minute yoga session in the Bikram Yoga studio that is in front of Spartan HQ.  Before going to the retreat I have only had two previous sessions.  I can admit that I was nervous about how well I would do in a room of pros, but I did take some comfort in knowing that Jason Jaksetic (fellow Spartan) and Liz Cotter (the instructor at the yoga studio) were also attending the retreat.

That first class was rough, the room felt so hot compared to the previous classes that I had been in.  I think it was mainly due to the fact that we so many people in packed inside the studio. It was so hot that about half of the way through the class, I had to step out for about 5 minutes to catch my breath.   Once I got my body back under control, I headed back in and finished the class.  After the class ended Liz had green juices waiting for us.  There is nothing better than that after a Yoga session.   The green juice is basically a cucumber, green apple, and a lemon that is run through a juicer.

After class we headed to the Amee Farm Lodge for dinner.   They had set up one long table on the balcony for everyone to sit at and look out to the mountains.  For dinner Liz and Anthony Cotter had made up an incredible selection of vegetarian and raw foods for everyone to enjoy.  I can admit that this was one of the first times since getting here where my eyes were bigger than my stomach.   Everything looked so good, I could not believe it, and after filling my plate I headed out to talk with rest of the retreat attendees.  I can not tell you how nice it was to talk to new people in a social situation.  That is something that I have been missing since arriving here in Pittsfield.

On Thursday morning I got to sleep in because our first yoga session did not start till 8:30am.  Normally I am up by 5am so that I can be to Spartan Camp by 5:30am.  But not this morning, I got to sleep in till 7am.  It was such a nice change.  After waking up, I walked the mile down to the Yoga studio and meet up with everyone.  We talked for a bit as everyone showed up.  During the session, I started to feel better with my 26 postures, and this time I was able to make it through the entire class without having to leave.   Even though I did not leave I did have to sit for a bit and just focus on my breathing because the room started to spin – but not to the point where I had to get out.

After the session we stayed in the yoga session and had a posture clinic.  Basically we went though several of the postures, and people asked Lynn to help them understand the proper ways to do the postures.  I can not tell you how helpful this was for me as someone who is new to Bikram Yoga.   Everything happens so fast in a session, and you are only focused on the instructor’s voice and yourself – and not passing out.

After lunch Jason Jaksetic took us for a quick hike through the woods behind Riverside Farm as an introduction to the attendees on how to really enjoy being in nature, and how hiking is different depending on what the goal is.   Some people hike to get to a destination – for example, hiking to go to a waterfall or a rock formation.   This hike was different, for his goal was to help everyone just soak up the energy and natural beauty that is all around us in the woods – to take the time and look and notice the type of trees that Vermont has. I have walked on several of the trails around here and I had not paid a lot of attention.  For me, walking on trails has always been about making sure I had my foot in a good place, and my eyes fixed what’s coming up next.

After our hike, we headed back to town for our second Bikram Yoga session of the day.   This was the first time I had ever tried two sessions in one day.  It was brutal and great at the same time.  I found that I was able go through postures easier than in the morning session, but as the class when on, I found that I started to lose focus, and by the end of the session I felt like I had been hit by a mack truck and THEN run over by a freight train.  But I made it through my first double session in one day.   That is no small feat, especially for someone as inexperienced as myself.

We headed back to the Amee Farm Lodge where someone played a guitar and harmonica outside for us.  This has been the closest thing to a concert I have had since being here, and it was great.  I am a big fan of live music and have great respect for those who perform in front of others.   It is something I could never do because I have no rhythm – but I can live with that.

Friday morning  I started out by waking up early and going for a 1.3 mile walk before heading down to Bikram Yoga.  This morning session had me a little nervous because we were going to be doing a 2 hour master session instead of the normal 1 and a half hour sessions.  As it turns out a master session is no difference than a normal session other than that you are just encouraged to ask questions as you are going through the postures and we stop and answer the questions when they happen.  If you are new to Bikram Yoga, I highly recommend taking a few master classes. I learned a lot from this session about myself, I started to get into trouble with the room spinning again, but I worked through it and was able to hang in there.

Later in the day we headed out for our afternoon activity.  We headed up to one of the man made lakes and then broke up into two groups.   The first group was going to go for a  hike on the Appalachian trail to the Thunder Brook Waterfalls, and the second group was going to go out on a 1 hour kayak ride with Mark the Kayak King.   Then when we all got back we were going to swap.  As luck would have it I was in the group that went on the hike first.  It is incredible the how well the trail was marked, considering the trail goes from Georgia to Maine. It was a moderately difficult trail to navigate with a few water crossings and some steep sections, but we made it to the falls with only one problem- time.  We only had about 5 minutes till we needed to turn around, so since I knew I was the slowest one in the group, I took about 90 seconds to look around and eat a quick orange.  Then I let Jason know that I was going to start back early and not to wait for me because I knew that I was slowing the group down and I did not want to make them miss their kayak time.  About half of the way back people started to pass me, and by the halfway point I was at the back of the pack.   It took a while but I made it back to find that the second group was just getting ready to head out.  I checked my GPS and we had hiked 2.5 miles in 1 hour and 30 minutes.  Not too bad, at least for me.

Now it was time for me to try something that I have been wanting to do for a long time – go kayaking.  Mark the Kayak King’s shop is right next to the general store in town and we have talked several times about going out.  He knew that the boats would hold my weight but he was concerned about my center of gravity, and how that would affect the stability of kayak. The other concern is that I have a very weak upper body, for it is a part of my body that we have not spent much time with yet other than chopping wood.  So Mark asked me to wait to be the last one so we he could take some extra time with me.  So I sat back and watched one by one as everyone headed out.  No one had any problems at all.   Then it came to be my turn – was I going to be the one to flip over right away?

Well there is only one way to find out, so I got in and got ready.  Mark pushed me off and away I went.   It took about 60 seconds for me to remember all the time I spent in our flat bottom boat in Minnesota, and it was like coming back home.  I was completely comfortable in the kayak and I headed off for a great adventure around the lake.  It was so peaceful on the water, feeling the waves hit the side of the boat, it was like sitting in a familiar rocking chair.  It has been a long time since I was at peace with the world.  It is sad how fast time flies when you’re that relaxed.  Before I knew it, it was time to go.

We headed back to the Amee Farm Lodge, and that is when everything started to fall apart for me.  Everything started to spin, and I started to get sick to my stomach.  I had no idea what was going on.  I had been doing a real good job of making sure I kept hydrated, because of all the yoga, and other activity so I knew it wasn’t that.   Then it hit me, yes I had been drinking water, but I had not been replenishing my electrolytes.   It was at this point I knew I needed to do something fast.  Normally I would eat a pickle or two, so I tried one of the Emergenc drink packets that everyone else had been using to help them get through the session, and within a few minutes things started to return to normal, but I was completely exhausted.  So I sat in the Lodge and took a nap, instead of going to the second yoga session of the day.

After I woke up things were still a little off so I had another one and I felt even better almost normal again.   It took me a good 6 hours to shake that feeling,  but by the time I headed home I was feeling a lot better.   It is a little scary how something like the lack of electrolytes can mess your whole day up.  I am still new to all of this and I am learning the hard way, but at least I am learning!

Saturday morning I decided to skip my pre yoga walk and sleep in a bit to try and give my body a chance to recover.   When I arrived at the yoga studio, I could tell that my body was still not right from the day before.   But that is one of the things that Bikram Yoga teaches you that your body will be different every time you enter the studio, and to do the best that you can do.  So that is what I did.  I made it though about half of the session, and things just started to go bad, so I got out.   I was bummed that I did not make it through the whole session, but it just was not my day.

After class we had a second posture clinic, and like the first one I learned so much about what I was doing right, and what I need to work towards.   I now can see why it can take years to really understand how to do some of these moves correctly, and why it is so important that you really listen to the instructions and just follow them.  One example is when they tell you to look somewhere just use your eyes, do not turn your head.

Sunday was the last day of the retreat, and I was looking forward to the session because Liz Cotter was going to be our instructor today.  She was the first one to teach me Bikram Yoga, and I was interested to see how much more aware of my body I was compared to my first session with her.   I was surprised throughout the session because instead of getting more tired as things when on, I actually started to feel better, and stronger than when I arrived.  When class ended I had made it and I only had to rest on the second set of 3 postures, a new record for me.   To top it off I felt better at the end of the session than the beginning.

Photo by Forest Call

After I left the Yoga session I headed up to the General Store where I was kidnapped by Margaret Schlachter and Forest Call.   Ok ‘kidnapped’ may be the wrong word since we had been planning to meet up since the Death Race and play a round of disc golf.   For those who are new to disc golf, it is like normal golf, but the holes are these baskets with chains on them.   It is a great way to spend some time hiking through the woods, -especially if you bring a newb like me along.   When we started out I could not throw the disk in a straight line to save my life.  We spent a lot of time talking and laughing as we were trailblazing through the woods and swamps looking for the discs that we had tossed. By the time we made it to the last tee, my arms were killing me.  I really think that this is something I could see myself doing a lot more of over the next few years.  All I need is some discs of my own, and a lot of time on the course and I will be all set.

Next we headed to the world famous Dirt in your Skirt HQ, where I was introduced to Margaret’s secret weapon in training for Spartan Races -  her very own obstacle wall.   It is the Swiss Army knife of training walls.  That is where my real training session started.  We started out with the spear toss.  It is funny how bad I suck at this.   After trying for a while we took a break from the spears and we headed out for a hike. This is the first time since arriving here that I have gone on a hiking trip where there was no trail to follow.   It takes you a lot longer to get to your destination because you have to think about where you place every foot, instead of just following the trail.  We ended up at this little pond.  It was one of those ponds that, unless you’re a Death Racer, you would never think about jumping into. Then we headed back right though some blackberry bushes, and you know how much fun that can be.

Photo by Forest Call

Once we got back to HQ we looked at some of the photos we had taken and that is when Margaret notice that I was releasing the spear upwards instead of straight on, so we headed back to the training wall.  That is when things changed for me.  The spears started sticking into her target.   Slowly we started moving further and further back, but by that time my arms were exhausted, so we start doing some training for the log jump.  Margaret set out some blocks and we took turns jumping from block to block as if they were logs.  I am going to have to spend a lot of time on this if there is any chance of me getting through this obstacle on race day.   Part of the problem is my body is in a constant state of change because of the weight loss, so it really screws with my balance.

Now that we had that done, we headed over to the wall and she had me do one of Hobie Call’s exercises.   She had me toss a 25 lb sandbag over the wall then climb under it.  It sounds easy but it’s not, at least for me.  Think about trying to put 300 lbs of weight on your hands and knees and then crawl around.  It makes your knees very sore, very fast.  Next Margaret showed the best way to get over the wall and I gave it a try.   The key word here was ‘try’…  It was an epic failure.  But I kept trying a few times and I finally got to the point where I would grab the top of the wall.   But that was as far as I could go.   I’m sure as I keep coming over this too will change.   This is where my trip to Dirt in your Skirt came to an end.   Looking back on this workout, this was first time where I did a full workout that was actually fun, and something I am looking forward to doing again.    Sure I have fun splitting logs, but that is one activity, it is not a full workout like I experienced with Margaret and Forest.

If you ever get the chance to do a workout with Margaret DO IT!


The Chris Davis Project:  Week 10

This week Chris helps out with the Spartan Death Race.

If you are new to the story, Chris Davis started out at almost 700lbs. He’s lost over 300lbs so far. Follow his Spartan journey as he attempts to get below 200lbs and complete the Spartan Ultra Beast in September.

To catch up on the story, read last week’s blog:


The 2012 Summer Death Race was an incredible experience for me for several reasons.  First, it let me see Joe and Andy do what they do best, manage chaos on a grand scale.  Second, it gave me a chance to interact with some of the world’s best athletes.   The last and most important thing, it taught me to realize that only you know when you need to stop.

For me the race really got real on Thursday when I saw the list of people that had signed up, and I got my list of responsibilities.  I knew that if I was going to survive the race, I was going to have to push myself both mentally and physically – but looking back I had totally underestimated just how far I was going to push myself.  I was scheduled to work about 10 hours a day for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.   I was relieved to see that they were planning on rotating people out to get some sleep throughout the race.    So I got home early and tried to get some extra sleep, which I found hard because I was so excited about what was to come.

My first task for the race was to report to registration and help get everyone checked in.   I was so happy to see that Margaret Schlachter from Dirt in your Skirt was one of the first people to get to the pool house and wait for the registration to start.  I have the privilege to know her since arriving here, and I consider her one of my close friends.  I could tell that she was ready for the race, but there was something not quite right.  She told me that she was not going to finish the race, and I knew that her heart was not in it today.  In a race like this you do not have a chance in hell of completing it if your heart is not 100% in it.

As registration opened, I took my position in the pool house, and I had a chance to talk with every racer that went through the registration process.   It was funny to see the different reactions you would get when you would ask people do you want to quit.  It was also great when I would switch it up to ‘do you want to race’ and some people would just say no, because they had already stopped listening to the questions we were asking, because the 5 people before me had asked in they wanted to quit.   It would take about 5 seconds, then it would hit them to what I had asked.   It was great, we had already started to get into some of their heads.

Photo by Matt Davis

Once things calmed down, I headed to Amee Farm to see the official start of the race.  But it looked like Joe had other plans for me.  Once I arrived he had me front and center walking up and down the farm telling people that the race was starting and they had 60 seconds to get checked in.   The next thing I knew I was walking along with everyone over to the Amee Farm Lodge, where everyone had to get into the pond.  Now to honest with you, I would not want to get into this pond if I had a space suit because of the duck droppings and the run-off from the farm fields above the lodge.  But that did not stop most of the Death Racers.  There were a few that tried to sit on the shore and tried to talk them into getting in but they refused, and it was at that point I knew that they were not going to last long.   After Joe split them up into teams, I headed off to get a head start on their hike up the national forest because I knew that I would  not be able to keep up with the pace Joe was going to have them moving.  I met up with the groups a few miles away from the national forest entrance.   A couple of the racers peeled off from their groups to help me keep up, but I knew I was slowing them down so I let them go after a few minutes so they could get back with their group.  Things were going great until I came down one of the hills to find one of the racers having problems.   There were already two volunteers helping him, but I stopped to help as well.  We helped him to sit down and relax.  We got him some water and food, but it keep getting worse, so we had to call in support.   We were able to get him back to the farm but his condition got worse and he ended up heading to the hospital.  After we cleaned up a little we continued down the road until we meet up with everyone.

The racers were doing burpees at the entrance of the national forest.  Joe told them as I arrived that I was the reason they were doing burpees and I just shook my head.   Once I got there Joe made me do at least one burpee with every group.  Some groups talked me into doing 5 or 10 with them.   As I was getting ready to head back I bumped back into Margret and she told me that she was going to finish the race – I was shocked by the change.   I know that she is an experienced racer and that something had convinced her that she was good to go.   So I headed back to my house to try and get some sleep because I knew I had a big day ahead of me tomorrow. I had not realized how far down the road I had walked because it took hours for me to get back to town and then to my house.   I finally made it home around 11:30pm and I had to be up by 5am because I had to be on the top of Joe’s mountain by 7am.

* * *

There is almost nothing worse than hearing your alarm go off after only a few hours of sleep.   I got up and stumbled out the door.   I made it up to the first cabin by 6 am and then headed up to the top cabin.  I made it there by 6:50 am and I called to home-base to let them know that I had arrived.  Only I found out that the racers were over 12 hours behind schedule.  The only thing going though my mind at that point was why did I not check in before I got to the top cabin.   So after a few hours they had me head back down the mountain to the lower cabin and wait for a ride back to Amee Farm.  While waiting for my ride I started talking to Nick (he was there as Elisa Thrasher support crew). He had spend the night in a tent at the lower cabin. After hearing their story I knew that she was going to be one of people that would find a way to make it to the end.

When I arrived back at Amee Farm, I was told that Margaret had quit.   The first thing that I asked is she hurt?  No one had an answer, so the worst started to go through my mind.  But then I realized that if she had been hurt severely they would know.  So like everyone else I waited for the shuttle to arrive with the people that had quit.  When I heard that the shuttle had arrived I started heading towards it when I saw her, she was having some problems walking so I gave her a hand and we got her sitting down.   She took off her shoes and her feet were destroyed.   One of the medics from another team stopped by and checked her out.   We talked for a while, and she did not quit because of her feet,  she quit because she realized she was racing for the wrong reason.  She had been racing because everyone else wanted her to, and not because she wanted to.  I cannot tell you how much I respect her for making that decision.   I do not know if I have the inner strength to make that decision if I had been in her place.

Later in the day I was sent back up the mountain to the lower cabin, where we set up for the pebble challenge.   This was also the first time that the racers were going to be able to get support from their support crews.  So when I saw Nick still here I continued to talk to him while we waited for the racers to show up.   When Elisa showed up I got a chance to talk to her for a bit, and I knew my early assumption was right, she would make it as long as she did not get hurt.

The challenge was basic in design, but almost impossible to complete.   As the racers came to the challenge they were split up into teams of 2 to 5 people and were given a number.   Somewhere on the trails there was a stake and flag with their number on it.  Once they found  their stake they needed to fill a pot hole in the trail with buckets of pebble from in front of the cabin.   Simple right?  We expected each team to take 4 to 5 hours to find their stake, but teams were coming back in less than 30 minutes.  So we knew something was up, but things were happening so fast we had no idea on what to do.  So we sent them to the next challenge.

While they were at the next challenge people started to confess that they had cheated.   And as they did they were send back to Amee Farm to receive their punishment.  A little while later Elisa walked up to me and told me that she had found out that her team had cheated, but she did not know about it until she arrived at the next challenge.   She was very upset that she had not questioned her teammates and accepted it without questioning it.   I told her to go back to Amee Farm and explain to Joe and Andy what had happened.   She was the only one to come to me and tell me what had happened.  Looking back on this I screwed up, what I should have done was take one of the remain flags and sent her out to look for it.  By the time it was all over all but one or two teams had cheated.  Because of this fact, I was asked to stay at the cabin overnight and assist in their community service for their crime.   After that was complete I stayed there till after 6 AM manning the checkpoint to make sure we did not lose anyone over night.

I was so cold when I got home, I didn’t shower or anything – I just hit my bed and passed out.  But the crazy thing is I was only able to sleep for a couple of hours before I woke up to my legs on fire, itching and bloody.   When I looked at them they were covered in bug bites.  Overnight I had only been wearing shorts, and I did not have any bug spray with me so the only protection I had was the fire and smoke from the fire.  I started to count them and gave up when I reached 300.   Since I could not fall back to sleep I headed back to Amee Farm.  I was half out of it and I really don’t remember the next few hours.

The next thing I really remember is helping with the last of the cement distribution.  We were giving each racer a 60 lbs of cement to take to the top of the mountain,  So think about this, each racer is wearing a 30 lbs to 70 lbs backpack, and now we just added an additional 60 lbs to their load.  Oh yeah, and don’t forget they have been up for over 48 hours.  Then out of the corner of my eye, I see Elisa hopping on one leg as Nick is helping her walk.   I stopped everything I and ran over to find out what had happened.  I found out that she had sprained her ankle and she was out.  I was crushed,  I was so sure that she was going to make it, but it was not to be.   I helped her get into her car, and talked to her for a few minutes. I went back to helping with the cement, and after the last bag was gone I was asked to help move the registration computers from Amee Farm back to the pool house.

After getting things set up I got to relax and talk to Margaret, Forest, and Tara for a while while the race started to wind down.  Around 11pm Joe told us to get ready because the race was over and they would be sending people to us.    It was so cool being there as the race came to an end and the remaining racers started to file in.

Around 2 am they need some help running the last obstacle “The Death Roll” .  You literally roll on your side for 0.2 miles then have to answer a question if you get it wrong, the loop doesn’t count.  After 6 loops you are done.   When I got to there I noticed that number 486 was on the obstacle and I thought to myself I miss my old 486 computer…  Yes I am really that big of a computer nerd.

As the morning went on I kept waiting for racer 486 to check in but he never did.  A little while later his teammate started to ask when was the last time he had checked in.  All we could tell him was that he started the obstacle, but he had not made it back.   A little while later I called over to the pool house to see if he had quit and they replied back saying he is still in the race.  So we figured he was just taking his time on his first loop.   When his team asked again if he had check in yet, and we had not seen him, we sent several people to walk the course to see if we could find him, but since it was still dark we did not have any luck.  It was at this point we started to get more people involved.   His name was Marc DiBo.  We started to call out for him as we walked up and down the course.   When the sun started to rise we went into full search and rescue mode.   We started calling in any staff member we could wake up and even reached out to the State Police.   After a few more hours we found him.  He had walked off the course and went into one of the barns on the site.   Marc had found a shirt, and fell asleep on the stairs that lead to the attic.

After checking him out, he asked to complete his remaining loops so he could complete the race.  So I walked by his side until he finished all six of his loops.  After he was down we walked back to the pool house together as he was the last one on the course. As

we were walking out of the pool house, I was surprised to see Joei Harrison show up.   She had been asked to stop because of medical concerns a few hours ago.   But she did not want to quit, so we headed back out the obstacle and she did her last remaining loop.  By the time she was done it was sometime near 11am.  I had been up for over 24 strait and I had only had about 10 or 12 hours of sleep since Friday.

So to say I was exhausted is an understatement.  I was so happy to have survived my first death race.


The Chris Davis Project:  Week 9

This week – Chris makes it to the peak of “Joe’s Mountain” for the first time since arriving in Vermont.

Chris Davis started out at almost 700lbs. He’s lost over 300lbs so far. Follow his Spartan journey as he attempts to get below 200lbs and complete the Spartan Ultra Beast in September.



6/9/2012:  Mountain Climbing, Bears, and The Breaking Point

Saturday morning started early.  I hate waking up at 3 am to be at Joe’s house by 3:30am – but there is usually a reason for this, and today this would be no exception.  When I got to Joe’s house I was surprised to see Jeff Godin, Tammy Godin, Jason Jaksetic and Joe.

The 5 of us head up the mountain at 3:45 am.  I was caring Wilson (my 25 lbs Spartan Pancake) , and everyone else took turns carrying Moab (Mother of all Bag’s – Joe’s 100lb Pancake).     It is funny how everything feels like a dream at 4 in the morning; nothing seams real.   We made real good time up the road, and as we dug into the steep trail I kept thinking about how this was going to be the furthest I have been up the mountain to date.   I keep thinking about all time times I had attempted to climb this mountain and failed.   As we passed the location where I had turned around last time, I started to get a sense of accomplishment because last time I did not even have Wilson with me and I was exhausted.  But this time was different.   I was a little tired, but overall I felt good.

As we made the next turn up the hill, I saw a bunch of logs sitting on the side of the road and I knew that these were going to be used for the upcoming Death Race.   So I was nervous when Joe had me put Wilson down.   He walked up and down the logs, and said “Let’s take this one to the cabin”.    So we all went to that log and picked it up.   To say it was heavy was an understatement – it was 25 feet long and over 18 inches in diameter at places.  It took all of us working together to get it up in the air and then hold it over our heads.   At this point I got very nervous because I have no upper body strength.   After a few minutes we started to rest the log on our shoulders as we walked.  For me this was a double edged sword because I have lost a lot of the padding in my shoulders, so every time I would take a step I would hurt as my shoulder slammed against the log.

As we were walking, I had a bit of a reality check… Here I am in the middle of Vermont, carrying a log on my shoulder with 4 other people.   Is this a dream, because this is not something I could ever imagine myself doing a few short months ago?  After what seemed to take forever we made it to the cabin; my shoulder was throbbing.  I was a little heart broken when I found out that this was the lower of the 2 cabins.   After a few minutes of doing some burpees, and some other exercises we picked the log back up and went back down the hill.

Everything was going great until I lost my footing and down I went.   It all happened in slow motion.  I remember my foot starting to slip on a rock, then I knew I was in trouble so I let go of the log so that I would not pull everyone over.  Then for some reason, instead of trying to brace for the impact like I would normally do, I decided to tuck and roll.  I wonder if this because of the kung-fu or what, but it worked great.   I hit my knee on a rock, but for the most part I was good.  I did not break anything and I was able to get back up and continue on.  Joe joked, saying it looked like I was faking it, because of how well I rolled and took the impact.   It was that moment I realized that, yes, he is pushing me, but he is doing it because he really cares.   I know that I do not always agree with him (ok most of the time I do not agree with him) but that is OK.   Sometime we need that person to push us beyond our limits, and if there is one thing Joe is good at, it is pushing people past their personal boundaries.

As we got back to the logs, we met up with the film crew and continued up the mountain to the top cabin.  The path was wet and slippery, and as we went up my knee got worse and worse.  But we pressed on, and after a while we made it to the top.   Talk about an indescribable view.   It made me feel like we were the only people left on the planet – there was fog in the valleys, and incredible calm around as the sun was just peaking over the mountains.   I was grateful that the film crew was with us, because it gave me some time to sit back and enjoy the beauty of the site as they interviewed Joe and Jeff.

After the interviews were over we headed back down the mountain.   Once on the valley floor we headed Jason’s driveway when, out of nowhere, a black bear ran across our path about 50 feet ahead of us.   So once again I had to ask myself if this was real or a dream, and yea it was real…  The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, but by the time the day was over I had walked 13.2 miles.    A great day in my book considering we had summited the mountain, and I had Wilson with me the whole day.

Sunday, also started out early – I was on the road by 4 am.   The plan was to walk to the Trailside Lodge and back.  But overnight my knee and hip started to really act up, so I grabbed Wilson and headed up the mountain instead.   I made it up to the end of the road and headed back down.   Once I got to the main road I headed towards the lodge and I had made it about 2 of the 5 miles there when my hip popped out and then back in.   When it happened I decided to turn back towards town because the closer you get to the lodge, the worse the cellphone reception gets.   And I was alone, so my phone was my only backup in case things went really bad.

So I headed back towards town and continued on.     Everything started to really hurt, but I was determined to get my mileage in.  It was shortly after this that Joe showed up.    I explained what was going on and we decided to adjust the route to keep it a little closer to town in case we ran into additional problems.  Also Joe had Courtney, his wife, and the kids join us to keep me from giving up, and calling it a day early.  Every mile that passed, I stated to have more and more pain until we got to the end of the walk at the General Store.   I was bummed that I had not made my goal of 13 miles for the day, I had only been able to walk 10.67 miles, and I was done.   The problem was I still had to walk back to the house.   So I took some time and ate a couple of oranges for breakfast and got some water.   I started to feel a little better so when I left, I headed towards the farm, instead of back to my house, but within a half mile, my body started to give me problems again, so I turned back around and headed home.

While passing through town I bumped back into Joe, Courtney and the kids, and we decided to take the trails back to Joe’s house, this way we could keep the kids off of route 100.   There was only one problem, there was a gate blocking the bridge that crosses the river.   Joe had headed back to get the car so it was just us.  We got everyone else over the gate, and I was the last to go…  Because of the way the gate was attached it was not stable enough for me to climb over directly so, I had to climb over the rail of the bridge, slide past the gate, and climb back over the rail.   Not that big of a deal, for most people,  but remember, I am not a graceful person.   My body had gone through a lot of changes in the last few months, and I do not trust myself yet.   Add to this the fact that my hip and knee are destroyed from over 20+ miles in the last two days.  But for some reason that did not stop me…  I got up and climbed over and away I went…

I had a couple of moments where I was sure I was screwed, but I found a way to do it.  I was so upset that Joe had sent us this way because I was sure he knew there was a gate on the bridge, and that was why he chose to go and get the car, but looking back on it I am glad he did.   I would have never tried climbing over the rails on a bridge if he had not send me that way.   It is something I will always remember, and I am so glad that I did it.   I still don’t trust my body yet, but it is things like this that will help me get to that point.

By the time I made it home that night I had completed 12.42 miles.  Close to the 13 mile mark but not quite there.  When I got home I just collapsed, I was sure my day was over until the phone rang.  It was Joe; he wanted me back on the road…  So at 5:51 pm I was back on the road with Joe, Courtney, and Wilson.   We headed back up the mountain, and we made it all the way back up to the T in the road and I headed back down.   When we got back to my house, I told Joe and Courtney good night I was done.   They wanted me to continue down Joe’s house but I couldn’t go any further.    But they would not take no for an answer and for the first time since getting here I completely held my ground.  I finally got to the point where I said, ”I do not want to be rude, but No, I am done, have a good night.”  I walked back up my driveway took a shower and fell asleep.   My total, millage for Sunday was 14.06 miles.

So this weekend I walked over 27 miles, and climbed over 6,600 feet of elevation.  I made it to the top of Joe’s mountain, saw a black bear, and climbed over the side of a bridge.   It took me almost 15 hours, but I survived!

READ last week’s blog