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 Chris Davis, re-printed from Project Chris Davis

With the Georgia Sprint fast approaching March 9, T-12 paraplegic Michael Mills is putting in a lot of work to get prepared to take on the course on his hands and knees.  This past weekend, he took on Stone Mountain to prove he was Spartan Tough for his upcoming challenge.


Saturday I watched Michael Mills from Chasing Spartan Michael Mills fight though the pain and climb Stone Mountain on his hands and knees.  He asked each of us that joined him to challenge our self in our own way.  So I chose to carry 100lbs of 1 inch think steel plates.The plan was to start our adventure at 7:30 am, in the parking lot at the head of the walk up trail.  It was very cold almost freezing, and I started to have flashbacks to my experience during the Vermont Beast.  I had the same scared but excited feeling in my stomach as I had on that cold morning in Vermont.  It got so bad that I started to second guess my ability to complete this challenge, and that is when I saw on Facebook that Michael had like my comment about bringing the 100lbs and I knew, that there was no way for me to lower the weight to something more do able like 60lbs.  So I took in a deep breath and decided at that moment, no mater what I was going find a way to get to the top with all 100lbs.

When Michael arrived, I knew that I had made the right choice in not going to the Arizona  for the Spartan Race.  It was a strange feeling, but I just knew I was at the right place at the right time.  I knew that today was going to be one of though days that changes the way you look at the world.   Everyone gathered in the parking lot and we headed out a little before 8 am.  Michael, started out the adventure in his wheel chair, but it was notStart long when he decided to get out of it and continued the long journey on his hands and knees.  I have climbed Stone Mountain and have seen what it can do to people that are in relative good shape, but I could not imagine trying to climb the hole thing in your hands and knees.  It was a slow, but steady climb, Michael, was like the energizer bunny, he just keep going and going. By 11:30 we had made it over half way up and we were facing the most difficult part of the climb.  This part of the climb is so steep that they have to put in two hand rails to help people climb up this part of the trail.   For me this is a very scary part of the trail.   The first time I climbed Stone Mountain, back in 2011, I fell twice trying to climb up this part of the trail.   I know a lot has changed since then, but I keep having visions of me falling, and getting crushed by my backpack.  Let be honest, steel plates to not have a lot of give in them.  Half_Way_Up_The_RailsBut the sight of this part did phase him, he just took it in stride, and keep on going. Before I knew it were we half way up.  You could tell that his arms were killing him, but he never gave up and a few minutes later we were at the top of the steepest segment of the climb.  But the climb is not over in fact this is where you have to dig deep, because you are not at the top, not even closeTop_of_the_Rails.  We took a few minutes to recover and take in the incredible of Downtown Atlanta before counting up to the top.  We arrived at the top around 12:40 pm,  four hours after we started, to put this in perspective, the first time I climbed stone mountain, it took me three an half hours, and I was The_Finish_Linewalking.  The fact that Michael made it up in just four hours to me is incredible!   You could tell that he was exhausted, but it did not stop him from celebrating and taking some time to reflect on what he had just done.   He was on the top of Stone Mountain, and he had climbed up there on his hands and knees.  I think that is when he relied that if he could do this, there is nothing that he couldn’t do!   After taking photo with everyone we sat around and relaxed for a few.  After everyone relaxed, and started to regroup, we all realized that we were only half way done.   Chasing_Michae_Mills_vs_Stone MountainSo we started are way back down.  This went a lot faster, especially once we got past the steep part, and Michael, climbed back into his wheelchair.  I can not tell you how cool it was to see him doing jumps over rocks, and having a great time taking his new wheelchair though it’s paces. We were about 3/4 of the way down, and I was taking a break, when I saw a father reach over to his young daughter.

He then keeled down and said, look over there as he pointed to Michael, and said “Never say you can’t do anything, there is proof that anything is possible!”   When I heard that, it made me think, we came to the mountain to challenge ourselves and in doing this we may have inspired others on the mountain to do something they thought was impossible. I know that I will remember this day for the rest of my life.  Thank you Michael Mills for sharing this great adventure with me!

Michel’s next adventure will be at our Reebok Spartan Georgia Sprint Match 9, 2013.  To join him, register HERE.

[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.

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by Carrie Adams

Some dramatic images are emerging from the XXX Olympiad being held in London, England.  The incredible athleticism being displayed by men and women worldwide is inspiring and motivating.  Once every four years, we gather collectively and watch some of the most finely tuned athletes on the planet compete in their relative sports on the World stage in the quest for Olympic gold. Unfortunately, Obstacle Racing is not YET one of those sports, but we are hopeful that by 2016 some Spartans will represent on the Rio podium with gold medals earned in our sport of Obstacle Racing.  It’s only a matter of time.

As we’ve been glued to our television screens in the past several days, we have noticed a familiar face in several events…

When Chris Davis missed a few staff meetings we thought very little of it, he’s been spending a lot of time in the mountains, but when we started to see these images emerge, we knew something else was happening.  It appears his training with Joe and Dr. G in Vermont is paying off.  With all he can do, the Ultra Beast should be a walk in the park.  I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising, seeing as obstacle racers are so well-rounded… but it seems there is nothing this guy can’t do!

From gymnastics to swimming, Chris is putting his Spartan training into practice!  Look at that hardware!  Do you see Chris Davis?  Stay tuned… who knows where he’ll pop up next!

About Chris Davis:  Spartan resident staffer Chris Davis moved to Pittsfield to complete his journey of going from 696 lbs to 200 lbs and complete the Ultra Beast.  He’s made incredible strides while in the small Vermont town that is home to Spartan HQ.  He’s lost over 300 pounds so far and we’ve been following his progress in weekly videos and in his own words on our blog.

 

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Of all the questions that we get at Spartan Race HQ, many of them revolve around gear, specifically shoes.  Having the right footwear for a Spartan Race is a big part of the equation for race day success and Spartan was excited to announce our partnership with inov-8 shoes earlier this year as the official shoes of Spartan Race.  In fact, Spartan HQ rocks the shoes on and off the course ourselves!

inov-8 staffers in Chris's old pants

Recently, our own Chris Davis headed into the inov-8 offices to get fitted for a new pair of shoes.  We’ve been following his weight loss journey and road to the Spartan Ultra Beast September 22nd that began with him at 696 pounds and has him currently weighing in under 300.  With only a hundred pounds to go, some new shoes would help him meet his goal and assist in his training.  Chris is a Spartan Race veteran, so he knows what kind of courses we throw at athletes and what he’ll need to be successful in training and on the course.

Helping in the effort was the amazing team at inov-8 who invited Chris

Getting Fitted

and Spartan staff onsite to get him laced in for his upcoming Amesbury race and his training towards the Ultra Beast!  The inov-8 team of Caitlin,  Nicole, and Lizzie will also be joining Chris to run their first and his third Spartan Race in Amesbury on August 11th.  

From a recent blog post by inov-8,  Caitlin Fenn explained how they chose a shoe for Davis and what he can expect from his new kicks:

Chris used to have trouble with fitting into his shoe size, and now we are helping him choose a shoe that will help him scale walls and climb mountains. Chris was a little worried that he wouldn’t be able to fit into a size 13, because he has a wide foot and had heard that our shoes were narrow. He also used to have to wear a size up because of the width of his feet. But since he’s lost so much weight, he was back to his normal shoe size, and they fit great!

 Chris had never worn minimalist shoes before, so we are transitioning him slowly. We gave him a pair of Road-X 255, our 3 arrow, 9mm drop road running shoe for his road and hard trail training, and a pair of Terrafly 313 GTX (also a 3 arrow 9mm drop) for his hiking on the mountain. He said he could feel the difference between his motion control shoes that were prescribed to him for over pronating. He liked the lightweight feel of the minimalist shoes and we talked to him about natural running and pose running, that with training, could help strengthen his feet and ankles. He was also excited because his last shoes held water and mud and had no grip during the Spartan Race in PA he did last weekend.”

We’ll be tracking Chris’s progress and finding out about his new shoes!  And stay tuned to hear about some other inspirational inov-8 Athlete’s we’ll be introducing you to and check out the inov-8 website for more information on how you can get into your own pair!

Inspired and want to get in on the Spartan action?  Get registered today!

About inov-8: inov-8 designs products to be lightweight, minimal and functional. Inov-8 shoes give runners the confidence and freedom to run hard through any environment and over any obstacle. The aim of our footwear is to keep the foot close to the ground so that runners can feel and adapt to the terrain beneath them. We offer a range of soles and cushioning. Each shoe provides the optimum grip and comfort for the terrain — from road to rocks, mud to sand, the mountains to the box.

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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: http://blog.spartanrace.com/tag/chris-davis-project/

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.

7/12/2012

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!

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The Chris Davis Project:  Week 12

7/7/2012

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!

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