Dear Joe,

I wanted to thank you and your team for the Spartan Races.

I have been in the Marine Corps for over 19 years and done a couple combat tours. After my last combat tour I came back with some heavy PTSD, amongst a myriad of other issues. It has been a daily struggle for 4 years to grind through migraines, daily cluster headaches and back pain, TBI, and the PTSD. I ran my first Spartan in Temecula this year. I got the whim to run it when I was researching 5k’s on Active.com. I have never been the same since. It really smoked me physically, but mentally I was alive! For the first time in 4 years I feel like I am in charge of my body and spirit. 

I have run one since with one of my sons in Phoenix and I signed up for the Vegas Super, Colorado Sprints (both days), Montana Sprint and Hurricane Heat, and the Monterey Beast to complete the trifecta. The annual pass is getting its use from me! I ran the Phoenix Sprint with my son and broke one of my toes about halfway through. I refused to quit or show any pain. It wasn’t till we were done that I told my son, because I was actually thinking about coming back the next day. After 4 years of grinding with the daily debilitating back pain and headaches I felt like a broken toe was not that big of a deal. I keep getting asked by my friends who know about my daily physical pain, why I run Spartans. I tell them proudly that I run them because they make me feel alive and show my body I am still in charge.

Thank you so much. Please share as much as you want. The races and the experiences have been therapeutic.

Semper Fidelis, Lonnie

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On January 10th 2013, Brian Tanzer received a phone call that no son or daughter ever want to hear. Two days shy of his 92nd birthday, Brian’s father passed away. Not quite sure how he was going to tell his mother, Brian knew this news was going to hit harder than anything his mother had heard before. She had been suffering with emphysema for years and was actually in hospital with pneumonia at the time. The news was indeed too much to bear and three weeks later, she passed on, too.

“I knew I had to be strong for my family.  As was my typical for me, even as a kid, I found God and exercise to be my salvation. I prayed every day for God to help me turn my sadness and despair into strength and fortitude. Helping to take care of my parents for the last 4 years of their life was a great honor and pleasure. As a father of two wonderful daughters, I know that being a great parent takes a lot of energy and sacrifice. I wanted to do something significant to honor my parent’s memory, and all the sacrifices they made that helped me become the man, husband and father that I am today.”

“Everyone has moments sometimes when they question stuff or perhaps lose a little faith. There were times when my faith wavered, but my amazing wife and two wonderful daughters helped keep my faith strong. I think a lot of people have moments in their life when they question their faith in God. They become angry, want to blame someone or something, or, simply feel “abandoned” by God. Having these feelings is all part of our “walk” with God. We are faced with challenges, and our faith is always being tested. This is how our relationship with God is strengthened. Our faith may waiver, and we may slip and fall, but we have to get back up, stay strong and understand that life is not intended to be easy. We can’t just have faith when everything in our life is going well. It is during times of adversity that our faith in God must be strong.”

Brian found the Spartan Race blog not long after and read some of the stories some past participants shared. Stories of courage, defeating cancer, losing a limb, memories of loved ones, all channeled into acts of heroism and courage to overcome. At around that time, his work sent out an email challenging their employees with the Spartan Race in Vernon, NJ. Could this have been a coincidence, or was He talking to Brian and offering him an opportunity to do something?

Brian was a healthy man, but an accident in the days of his youth would cast a shadow of doubt over just how far he could push through this idea that was forming in his mind.

“My friends and I loved playing football, especially in the snow with no equipment. I was 15 years old when I had a collision with my older brother which resulted in a severe injury to my lower back.  After a visit to the ER and having no broken bones, I went home and was told to stay off my feet for a couple of weeks and to avoid contact sports. Being 15 and thinking I was indestructible, I went back to playing football, martial arts, and all the other sports and activities I enjoyed.”

“After 4 years of chiropractors and physicians telling me to limit my physical activity, I sought the advice of a surgeon who told me “I could fix your back, and you’ll be as good as new.” I had a severely herniated disc in my lower spine which was compressing nerves causing shooting pains, numbness and weakness in my legs. Following surgery and 10 weeks of rehabilitation, I was back to limited activity, and then within 6 months back to playing sports again. Since I had no aspirations of being a professional football player, I limited myself to touch football, but went back to all my other activities. As the years progressed the pain in my back continued to get worse.

When he was 26, he received a diagnosis of failed back surgery syndrome. He noticed that the pain was much different to that before the surgery. A few years rolled by in which 20 epidural injections were administered to his spine. Not really providing any help or relief, his physician suggested a spinal cord stimulator. This would be a small device that delivered electrical impulses along his spine which were designed to “block” pain signals. Sadly, this didn’t work. He awoke the very next morning in such pain that he was rushed to hospital to have the wire removed from his spine at once.

“For some reason, the wire shifted during the night and left me unable to move my legs. When I left the hospital I vowed to never have another procedure on my back. The past few years I have discovered the incredible benefits of yoga. It has helped my pain and increased my flexibility. Although I still fight chronic pain, the more active I am the better I feel. I use my pain as motivation, and not an excuse to sit around.”

Utilizing this mechanical-free way of staying physically active gave Brian the motivation and the tools he needed in order to convince him to tackle his first Spartan Race.

“Several colleagues and I signed up, showed up and completed the TriState New Jersey Super Spartan. It was about 8 miles long and it took me about 3 ½ hours to complete. It was physically and mentally challenging, but when it was over, I felt a real sense of accomplishment. After the race, I noticed some people were walking around with a different medal than the one I was given. I asked one of my fellow racers what it was and he described to me the Spartan Trifecta, and what he did to earn this medal. As I walked away I thought to myself what a great “gift” to give my parents.”

Brian didn’t really know how this was going to come to fruition. At this point in the year, there were only 3 months left and opportunities to check off the list what he needed were scarce. The day following the NJ Super, he registered for the Sprint at Citizen’s Bank Park that was only 3 weeks later. After that, a trip to South Carolina proved to seal his promise to his parents.

“It was a long, cold 13 miles that took over 5 hours to complete. Given the cold temperatures and frigid water, there were a few moments during the race when my legs cramped up so bad it made it extremely difficult to keep running; I did have a secret “weapon”. All I had to do was look down and there was my wristband with an old photo of my mom and dad sealed inside. It was caked with mud and I could barely see the photo, but it was enough to keep me going. Someone was going to have to chop my legs off for me to stop. I was doing this for them, and I said to myself, I’m not going to stop because my parents sacrificed so much for me that it would be a disgrace to their memory if I just didn’t keep pushing forward. I have to admit, when that race was over, and I crossed the finish line I was cold, soaked and tired, but really didn’t care.  Sixty days prior I set out to complete all three Spartan races in 60 days as a gift for my mother and father and when the Beast was conquered, I had accomplished my goal. It was a great day!”

Reflecting on what he sees in his life and in his line of work, he knows that the physical, while easy to see on the outside, is also very important on this inside whether it be the body or the mind.

“Most people think fitness and health is about having a six-pack, big biceps and looking good in a swimsuit. Health and fitness is about much more than appearance. It’s about having energy and vitality, endurance, stamina, strength and flexibility –the complete package. As a nutritionist and fitness advocate I find it very disturbing to see the impact of physical inactivity, particularly on our youth. Playing outdoors and being physically active has taken a backseat to cell phones, video games and TV. There are so many kids who can’t pass a basic physical fitness test, and live in an environment where physical activity is not encouraged. I know I like to challenge myself by training with people that are half my age, rather than being complacent with being able to keep up with people my own age. I credit my fitness with helping me get through the many physical and emotional challenges I’ve faced.”

Brian now intends to honor the memory of his parents with a Trifecta every year. Not put off with the various horror stories, myths and legends about the venue of Mount Killington in Vermont, he embraces the idea that the event is there to try and break him.

“I’m planning on completing the Vermont Spartan Beast in 2014. I’ve heard about how incredibly difficult and challenging the course was last year for the World Championship, but I never let anything stop me from accomplishing my goals before, so I’m not going to start now. I’ll be 46 years old in July, so I’m not sure how many more “good” years I have left. I have no plans to slow down any time soon, so as long as my mind says yes, I’ll figure out how to get my body to follow!”

Thankful for what Spartan Race has done, Brian has become a new man. New in that he now has a channel, a conduit to which he can aim the gamut of emotions with him into a positive.

“Spartan Race has been a great way for me to turn my pain and sadness into strength and fortitude. Life is challenging, and there are so many obstacles along the way. We must meet those obstacles head on, as doing so makes you stronger and able to push forward. We’re all going to stumble and, on occasions even fall down. What matters is how quickly you get back up and push forward. We must surround ourselves with those we love most and treasure each and every day. At 45 years old, I’m not sure how long I can keep racing.”

“In memory of my loving mother and father.  Thank you Spartan Race!”

See you at the finish line…

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Dear Joe,

John Bruno Grimaldi’s Story: a true Spartan in my eyes!

Bruno is a loving husband to my oldest sister Kelly, and father to 2 year old Dean. He works as a Diesel Mechanic at Yard Trucks in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Not long after Dean was born, on October 30, 2011, Bruno was initially diagnosed with testicular cancer and underwent surgery and one round of chemotherapy. This treatment course took place at Cooper Medical Center in Voorhees, New Jersey, where the Grimaldi’s lived at the time. Bruno and Kelly were thrilled to learn that the cure rate was 90%.

After the diagnosis, Bruno’s determination to get into a healthy lifestyle took place. He was not much of a fitness junkie or an enthusiast on healthy eating, but he had to start somewhere. Bruno began to walk, which lead to a run, then took it further and signed up for Spartan Races, Warrior Dash obstacle run and a 5K army/community run. The Grimaldi’s changed their diet and physical routine to jump start their new challenges. Bruno and Kelly worked together to set new goals and accomplish them.

In the winter of 2012, Bruno and Kelly moved to their new home which is currently in Warrington, Pennsylvania. Bruno’s physical appearance and need for a good workout only grew over time. Kelly and Bruno continued to go for runs and work out at LA Fitness together. Thankfully, Bruno was continuing to follow up with Dr. Kennedy, a Medical Oncologist at Aria Health in Pennsylvania. On December 9th, 2013, the Grimaldi’s received the news that Bruno was that 10% and his cancer was back. This time, the cancer had traveled to the lymph nodes in his lower back. With no hesitation, Bruno was ready to start his journey once again, knowing it was not going to be easy. Bruno began his first of four rounds of intense chemotherapy on January 6th, 2014. Each round of chemotherapy consists of five consecutive days of treatment for roughly 6 hours each.

Unfortunately, because of the intense treatment Bruno was undergoing, the trip they had planned to visit family in San Diego and to complete the SoCal Spartan Race on January 25th was canceled. However, four days before the race, Bruno decided to try and climb their hanging rope in their home. He easily made it to the top and once his feet hit the ground he knew he had to attempt the race. This diagnosis was not going to stop him! Bruno and Kelly decided to take their trip to San Diego and they both completed the race. This Spartan Race was an absolute challenge for both. Bruno understands that time will wait for no one and he needs to be the force that drives himself forward! Everyone can learn from this one man that moments must be cherished and the only way to live life is like climbing rope, the only way to go is up!

Thanks,

Jackie Gribbin

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Spartan Race is pleased to announce the official signing of Isaiah Vidal to the Spartan Race Pro Team. After aiming for this goal for some time, the son of Marble Falls, Texas was clearly elated at having reached what he was aiming for.

“You can’t accomplish goals by doing them half ass. Look to the Lord and you will find the strength he gifted you with. When I first started my road into Spartan I never had the intention to become great at the sport, because I was merely doing it for fun. When I started to realize that I was beating my body from racing, riding across the country, becoming a 2 x Spartan Death Race finisher, I needed to flip the way I viewed OCR into what God wanted me to do it for. April was one of the major reasons why I began competing and started to use my athletic talent to the best of my own ability, together following our coach, Jim Warren, from Center 4 Champions training methodically to beat the best among the OCR community. It has taught me to represent the Lord and to be a model for young adults and children. 

“When I get scrapes, cuts: the answer I get from most people is that I’m crazy. In reality it doesn’t matter what anybody thinks, because I’m being the athlete I was risen to become. There’s a-lot of people that don’t have this view when hitting an obstacle in life, one starts to question the issue by saying ‘why did this happen?’, ‘why-why-why.’ Spartan Race has taught me to not complain about any issues, but to have the wisdom, the courage to overcome the obstacle themselves when presented. It has brought out a unique athlete in me that now I want to share with my family and fellow companions.”

Despite already having established a strong name for himself, Isaiah admits that he believes he hasn’t really got started yet. Training every day, he’s very much in agreement with his mentor Yancy Culp that he’s “barely scratching the surface” of his running ability. An ominous thought, given the powerhouse that he is!

“Being on the Spartan Pro Team is going to impact the way I compete against even the finest OCR athletes in the circuit. Training & living in Colorado, while still focusing on my studies will completely change me overall as an athlete.

Looking forward, Isaiah aims big, but remains humble in what he sees long term.

“Live each day as if it was your last is the mentality of greatness. I don’t plan to back down or become bitter against my competition. I plan to toe every start line and race like it was my last. This continues to be an epic journey and I want to say thank you to my family for all of their support. Thank you to all my sponsors, Spartan Race, Neogenis Sports, Pacific Healths Labs, LIFEAID, Training Mask, ATP Extreme, Leonidas OCR and, a big shout out to my coach, Jim Warren, from Center 4 Champions keeping me from plateauing! Thank you all for believing in me. I pray and thank God every day for giving me the opportunity to live up to my potential through him.”

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Robert Mathews of Sahuarita, Arizona was serving his country when he suffered an injury that cut his career short. Happy, but missing that certain something, he discovered Spartan Race. We caught up with him recently and spoke to him about his story.

“Well it ain’t long, but ill share it. Without the gore! 2006 my squad got ambushed. Those who made it, were still hanging on but not by much. I was transported from Iraq to Germany in the process received transfusions and surgeries. They tried to repair the damage, but the bullet ripped out my bicep, tore my tricep, and cut all my nerves. “

In 2007, he was sitting at Walter Reed when a huge wave of doubt and depression hit him. He considered himself “washed up.” “A young one armed handicapped person”. He was resigned to the fact that his military career was over and a hard-to-get civilian job would be on the cards. It was then that he met a man that turned his attitude around. A Delta Force guy with one arm that was in an identical situation.

“This was badass he achieved my ultimate military goal!  He told me, “If your mind is weak, your body is” and we start doing one armed pushups against the wall. My mindset was transformed! Shortly after I did a soldier ride from Phoenix to Las Vegas. I got married, and had kids. I continued to serve until 2010, mostly teaching my craft to young soldiers, when I started to encounter a lot of flax and BS. It was a consent struggle, so I retired.”

From there, we fast-forward to last year. Robert realized his kids and wife deserved the best of him. They were his priority and everything thereafter was secondary.

“Deep down on the most primal level the best of me is an endurance beast, a fighter, someone who pushes the limitations and doesn’t quit. Not doing those things suppressed a lot of me. So I moved to Arizona, where being retired I do a lot of outdoor survival, biking, camping, running and my HOA has a pretty bad ass gym. I’ll admit, I miss having two arms, but in the gym adaptation is key. Keeps me thinking on my feet.”

It was then that the Arizona Sprint came barreling around the corner into view. The first test of his character and will power. All that time spent honing his fitness would now be tested.

“The Sprint was fun, but I’m going to have my revenge on some obstacles. The sand bag hoist for sure, because as adaptive as I am, I couldn’t figure out a one armed way! And for sure the rope climb and that damn spear throw! After knocking out the Sprint, I have wrapped my head around a few ways to accommodate, adapt and overcome, but a sure bet is to master the one armed burpee. I’ve also wrote a four phase beast training guide and it started today actually.”

Was the preparation for something alien to him enough? Where the physical side can be ready, did the idea of the course, covered by a cloak of sinister mystery, worry him or was it something that he thrived upon? Robert explains that the prospect pumped him up and it was something he thrived upon.

“Trust me I trained for the Arizona Sprint like a beast. I aimed for number one.  I stepped up to the starting line feeling hard as woodpecker lips. I could taste it, but you know, winners are everywhere, finishers to me means something different. We all train to win, but only one individuals gets number one spot. Few train to finish. There are billions of people in this world and how many medals have y’all handed out? Exactly! Quitting gets easier over time it’s a hard path to change. You want to witness intestinal fortitude? Watch a person who fight and never gives in. That’s hardcore, that’s the person I want to be. I’ll try and maybe I’ll make it, maybe I won’t, but I’ll try it again and again until I get it right.”

But then, out of his new experience, he found something that excited him even more than the Sprint. Hovering into view was something he could relate to on a military-style level. He had found what he believes could be his “happy place”.

“Then I received word on the Las Vegas Twelve Hour Hurricane Heat. I immediately told my wife to skip getting me anything for Christmas, because if I can get a chance I’ll save up and go to it. Which leads me to today! As soon as the sign up was released, Robert signed up. Actually they should run the course with one arm tied up, I’d kick some ass then!”

Robert is clearly a fighter. Someone who thrives on the challenge and the pressure of a battle and while he will always aim for the top spot, it’s not the winning that is important to him. It’s the fight and the effort that count as a higher value to him.

“In the most cheesiness line ever, I won’t quit. Y’all have to carry me on a shield haha! It’s a wonderful start in the world of endurance racing. This is the me I want to be for my kids and wife. It’s a long road, but my goals are easy. To be an endurance athlete that can show people in their darkest moments that you don’t let a wall stop you, you tuck your head, grit your teeth, speed up and blow through it. Win, lose or draw, there isn’t room for quit. My job in the military showed me time and time again the body can go so much further if your mind acceptance is there.

Pain is weakness leaving the body, and you’ll never be more alive than when you’re cold, wet, hungry, bloody and beaten, both mentally, physically. Once you have felt the worse, and been thru hell, nothing is that bad afterwards.”

Reflecting on the tag line of Spartan Race – “You’ll know at the finish line” – Robert sees a heavy parallel with what he experienced in the military. While perhaps not of the same punishing weight of responsibility, that undefinable “something” was something that he’d already experienced.

“My military started as a grunt and I was told that when you’re standing on Victory Hill and they give you that blue cord, you’ll know. They were right and as cheesy as it sounds, after they hand you that medal you know. I can’t tell you to this day what it is, but you’ll know, when you burst through that finish line, people can be inspired and it’s easy to say, “that’s great the gimp did it, I can do.” I’m glad, but do it. Hell yeah I say do a Spartan, but start today. Lace your shoes up, sling a kettlebell, do a burpee and then tomorrow do two. It isn’t hard, it’s that easy! No excuses.”

Looking forward, Robert now has his battle plans drawn up and knows what he needs to do in order to get to where he wants to be. A personal battle with not just fitness and physical strength, but honing and sharpening his willpower and inner strength. Nothing, it would appear, will stand in his way.

“So in short I’ll attend the Twelve Hour Hurricane Heat. If not that, then maybe a Beast, collect some shiny medals and eventually search out a sponsorship once my race profile fills up. Locally I attend 5k’s and 10k’s. Hopefully adding marathons and century rides in this year! I will get there. It takes time and at 30 I’ve just begun! Long term is to become a hardcore endurance athlete, to continue to push the limits of mind and body! I refuse to let a non-functioning limb keep me from attempting my dreams, or have anyone tell me I don’t belong, or hold me back. I’m going to dominate my life, nothing or no one else. Me!”

Focussing that rage and harnessing the positive aggression he has into what comes next is now second nature for Robert. He knows what is allowed and what he will accept, but one thing is definitely off the menu.

“Quitting. Quitting is the one thing you can’t take back! You don’t get a redo, plain and simple you quit! I’d rather carry you and shoulder some pain and help, then let you quit. My wife and kids deserve the best of me and I have to tell her thanks for letting me pursue my dreams. There’s also the small matter of her putting up with me and these wild, ‘hey I’m going to do a Sprint, a Beast, a whatever’ moments I have. All I can do is my best and never give in.”

“It isn’t in me, it’s not for me. I’ve been shot, blown up, beaten, bloody, and left for death! There isn’t much that can hold me back, and after all that, quitting isn’t an option and it shouldn’t be for anyone. You’ve been through worse, so what’s a little mud? Get out there and STFU!”

Sign up now and we’ll see you at the finish line…

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Spartan Race would like to officially announce the newest member of our Spartan Elite Pro Team, Rose Wetzel-Sinnett. Crashing in from Seattle to take the Spartan Race world by storm, Rose has impressed everyone with her fiery tenacity and her impossibly strong running skills. 

Of the announcement, Rose couldn’t hide her delight, saying, “I feel honored to be welcomed onto the Spartan Pro Team, an amazing group of talented athletes and fierce competitors. Spartan offers the support and community environment I desire in order to thrive and excel. The passion for excellence amongst the Spartan Pro Team is contagious and I’m confident it will propel me to reach my full athletic potential.”

Despite being a relative newcomer to the sport – August 2013 was her first race, one she came fourth in – she has taken the sport by the scruff of the neck and announced her arrival in no uncertain terms. Three wins and twice coming second sends out a clear indication that she is to be taken seriously.

Describing what Spartan Race means to her, she smiles, “Spartan means taking on challenges, breaking out of our comfort zones, and overcoming our obstacles. It means digging deep to find out how physically strong and mentally tough we can be. It’s not about being macho; it’s about being brave. I once saw a quote that said something like, “the world needs fewer people that are tough, and more people that are tender.” I say the world needs more of both, and many of us could use more of both in our lives.”

Feeling most at home when she is moving, it’s no surprise that Rose has already done some pretty major events already. Triathlons, marathons, 200-mile bike rides, and team-oriented overnight running relays have all been done, but lately, her focus has switched back to running tracks, road races and now, as she puts it, “the fun, crazy world of obstacle racing.”

But Rose isn’t going to rest on her laurels and hope that what she can do will be enough to keep her place on the podium. Competition is fierce in Spartan Race and Rose knows this. As such, she is already working through a plan that she hopes will keep her duking it out – metaphorically, of course – with the other Pro Team members on the circuit.

“I plan to increase the speed component of Spartan Races so that races cannot be won based on strength and obstacle efficiency alone. The beauty of Spartan Races is that for one to prevail, they must have the best combination of both strength and cardiovascular ability. Amelia and April, for instance, have impressive strength, and knowing that, I feel inspired and motivated to work incredibly hard to get stronger. If they work at getting faster, knowing I’m now in the arena and coming from a speedy background, hopefully it will cause all of us to push each other to become the best, most well-rounded obstacle racers we can be. Our collective competitive drive will make this year’s Spartan World Championship the most intense and entertaining one yet.”

So please welcome Rose “Wonder Woman” Wetzel to the Pro Team and be sure not to blink when she runs past. Chance are you’ll miss her.

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Joe Cordovax followed the Spartan WODs every day from November through January in order to prepare for the race in Temecula. Between 4am and 6am, 5 days a week, you’ll find him there. It’s here that he met Michelle Clark, who would be his team captain for the event in Temecula. Citing Michelle as his driving force, Joe successfully completed the race. What sets Joe apart is that he is 78 years young.

Wanting to share what he experienced, Joe wrote to his namesake.

Dear Joe,

Well it is over and I ended as Age Group Champion. I was part of a team Michelle’s Minions. I will admit I was assisted in a few of the obstacles. What a great way to challenge yourself, so after all the mud, scrapes I was none the worse for wear for a 78 year old. I look forward to doing another when I hit 80.

My friends and family were not aware of me doing the run. I sent an e-mail to all my friends to let them know that I was going to attempt something I had never done before. So they were unaware until I finished.

It was a hard won battle for me but I was not about to give up. Ending as Age Group Champion is a highlight for me.

This is a quote from Ali and it fit me perfectly; “I hated every minute of training but I said ‘Don’t quit suffer now and live the rest of your life as a Champion.’”

There are no secrest to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.

Thanks very much

Joe from Temecula

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Jo Pearson doesn’t recall very much of her life before she turned 27. It’s not that she suffered a terrible accident or violent traumatic experience, it’s simply her coping mechanism.

“All the days I spent before that life-changing year are cloudy memories that I have stored in the recesses of my mind.  I’ve locked them away from others and myself because they are just too painful to remember and they do not bring any light or love to the life that I lead now”, she explains.

Deciding to change her life has not just made Jo a new person on the outside, the one within shines a thousand time brighter, illuminating her outlook and focus.

“The life I have now is one worth fighting for – it is one filled with joy, success, love, energy, zeal, and passion.  However, it also one that forces to me to suffer at times, to feel the pain of defeat and the frustration of setbacks, and to feel the weight of the world on my shoulders.  The old me would have cowered at these type of tribulations and hid among the darkness.”

That new found radiance has permeated her attitude and zest for life, but also her mentality of how she approaches life.

“That woman that cowered is gone.  I have evolved into a warrior – a woman who will fight for what is right, just, healthy, and good in this world and who believes in her ability to make a difference in her own life and the lives of others.  I am proud of my journey for the small steps I have taken along the way are the ones that help me stand strong at the foot of mountains and keep me poised to carry on with strength, courage, grace, and honor.”

There was a point in her life when Jo weighed around 415lbs and wore a size 28. Despite being a young woman in her prime, she felt that she hadn’t even begun to live and experience life. Travelling anywhere by flight wasn’t an option because she couldn’t fit into an airplane seat. Amusement rides provided the same difficulty. This meant she rarely went out to enjoy happy times with her family or friends. This led to a vicious circle of staying indoors. Accusatory and mocking looks, pointed fingers and stares led her to feel isolated, with only family and a tight, small circle of friends being around her.

“Physically, I can remember not being able to walk up the 16 stairs at my parents’ house without feeling like I had just ran a marathon.  And, I never ever contemplated setting foot into a gym because it would have been too embarrassing.  I had become a person that wasn’t truly alive and that was sad and depressed.  I knew that I ate poorly and that I didn’t get any exercise, but for years I wasn’t ready to make any changes. I chose instead to eat huge amounts of fast food, sodas, sweets, and processed foods and then not exert any type of physical activity.  I had fallen into a black hole lifestyle that kept me shackled underneath hundreds of pounds of weight – taking a toll on my body and my soul.”

Her epiphany came one day as she looked back at the woman that greeted her in her mirror. Tired of feeling so sad all the time and craving something better, the blanket of doubt that had stifled her for so long was beginning to lift. Jo began to move. Slowly at first, but it was a start.

“I began walking late at night around my parents’ neighborhood so that no one would see me walking.  I was too afraid of being made fun of to actually do my exercise in the light of day.  I was still hiding in the shadows, but I was making my way out – slowly, but surely.  I cut out sodas and fast food entirely and began researching ways to eat healthy.  There wasn’t one magical diet or workout plan that I followed in the beginning.  I was just taking baby steps to becoming healthier.  But, changing the way I ate and incorporating moderate physical exercise, helped me shed pounds over the first couple of months.  I kept up my walking and healthy eating for about 6 months and I ended up losing about 60 pounds.  Once that initial weight came off and I could begin to see a different face and body in the mirror, my whole attitude changed. I knew I could do it. I knew I could make even more progress.”

Home workouts were the next phase. Scheduling set exercises to work out to gave her something to work with. Still fearing what she believed to be the glare and audience that was a gym, she avoided the gym. This was one fear she wasn’t ready to face – yet. Not before long, she’d shed 100lbs. She took this as the signal to employ a trainer to help her push further.

“I found a local trainer, Jonathan Smith, to help me continue on my journey.  He incorporated muscle confusion, strength training, cardio, boxing, and outdoor exercise.  I lost nearly 115 pounds by combining training like this, along with another BeachBody program, P90X, in about a year.”

By the end of her turnaround, Jo had lost around 215lbs and dropped from a size 28 to a 10. The confidence this journey gave her then shifted to another aspect of her life. The classroom. Harnessing the willpower she’d shown throughout her weight loss journey, obstacles were no longer things to fear, but opportunities to conquer. While she attended law school, she knew that the stresses and strains she experienced in an academic sense could be alleviated with a good diet and continued physical exercise.

“So, in my last year of law school, back in 2013, I decided to get another trainer.  I was able to find Jason Johnson, through Independence Gym in Scottsdale.  Jason has helped keep me in shape and believe that I am more than just a woman who has lost weight.  I am an athlete that has been hidden for so many years.  He incorporates high intensity interval training with both boxing and heavy strength training.  I have defined muscles now that I never knew even existed! Through his training I felt poised to take on a challenge that I never thought I would ever have a chance to even think about. The Spartan Race.  I decided that my law school graduation present and the best way to celebrate passing the Arizona bar exam and becoming an attorney was to finally compete in the Spartan Race!”

Training for it with the same precision and determination she had shown throughout her weight loss victory and graduating from law school, she prepared herself for what lay ahead. She was ready.

“On February 8, 2014 I approached the starting line of the Arizona Spartan Sprint ready to face my biggest physical challenge ever.  My fiancé, Jules Demetrius, who is battling Stage 3 colon and liver cancer, had hoped to be in those spectator bleachers cheering me on, but due to his diminished physical capacities, he was unable to do so.  But, he voiced his support all over social media, touting his love and admiration for what I have accomplished.  Every day he endures horrible pain as he fights against cancer and his strength and courage only spur me to continue to face my fears and give 100% to everything in my life.”

“As I crossed the finish line I began to cry.  It had been the biggest physical challenge I had ever faced and subsequently conquered.  Years of hard work, determination, and struggles had culminated in the completion of this 4.5 mile race.  And as Arisotle penned, ‘We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.’ I have truly embraced the Spartan code of never quitting and never accepting defeat.  I will carry those virtues with me for the rest of my days, for I am, and always have been a fighter.  AROO!”

Jo knows now what it means to know at the finish line. Do you?

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The impact that Spartan Race is having on so many lives goes beyond that of the actual race. The lifestyle and mentality in forging people to become a healthier version of themselves is touching so many people. Seeing a stranger wearing the Spartan logo on their clothing instantly becomes a talking point and immediately you know they are family. Shane Small saw a Spartan Race staff member at Houston airport recently and felt compelled to write in with his story.

Dear Joe,

I wanted to share insight into my experiences with the Spartan Race. I have attached some pictures.

Just to share some background information about my adventure to becoming a Spartan at my biggest weight I was 320lbs I currently weigh around 240 and have goals of cutting around 15 or 20 more. I began training with a group of guys from church for my first Spartan Race which was the Dallas Beast near Glen Rose about three months prior to the 2012 race.

I ran my first Beast at around 290lbs, which was at the time the most difficult test of physical fitness and endurance that I had ever experienced. Surprisingly, the 2013 was as much a physical test at 245lbs. The Spartan Race changed my life in many ways.

I am excited to continue my pursuit of fitness and participating in Spartan Races. Please share this with the Spartan Race group.

Thank you,

Shane Small

Want Spartan to change your life, too? Find out more here.

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Those butterflies, that gentle “bubbling” right down there in the pit of the stomach. That nervous energy that consumes you leading up to your first Spartan Race. The electric tingle that buzzes over you the night before and despite your best efforts, your mind won’t shut off.  You’re trying to imagine what the course will be like, but naturally, you have no idea – no one does. Your clothes are already laid out, your bag is packed, the alarm set (both of them) and even though you checked and re-checked (and then checked again just to make sure), you’re worried you are missing ID, dry shoes, the waiver, whatever the case may be. Sleep isn’t coming, it’s just too exciting. It’s every single Christmas and birthday rolled into one ball of glorious, happy energy. We’ve all been there and right now you’re smiling, nodding your head as you read along. It’s ok. We all are.

This nervous energy isn’t exclusive to Spartan racers however. Don’t forget that there are legions of kids that are watching what mommy, daddy and Auntie Sue are doing. They want to be like Uncle Steve rolling around in the mud. They saw Grandma Lilly climbing over wooden walls and they want to do it too. Spartan, forever leading by example.

Meet Faith Ensminger. Faith’s world changed when she saw Spartan Race for the first time. She knew that was what she wanted to do. Such was her determination and enthusiasm for the images she saw, when she went to Arizona race she made the event her own. This started with capturing the hearts of everyone she met.

Quickly coming under the wing of festival manager Laura Ploude, she found herself volunteering at the merchandise tent all day Saturday, rapidly outselling all other staff and volunteers with her high-octane enthusiasm. This continued well into the following day, but the whole time, her eyes would shoot a glance over to the Kids Race area, knowing that her time was soon approaching. The 12 year old was ready, amped and was pacing the merchandise tent like a caged animal, ready to be released.

At her scheduled run time however, as she and her father Andy went to the staging area, they were dismayed to find that the course was already dismantled and being packed away. A breakdown in communication meant the Kids Race was closed. Faith was crushed.

“Faith immediately was in tears and this was quickly becoming a disaster,” Andy recalls. “One of which I had no control over and felt helpless. We were able to speak with some staff members to see what they could do. The staff got onto their radios, that’s when Dylan Plante and Alexandra Avellino showed up.”

It was decided that Dylan and Alexandra would chaperone Faith not over the course that kids had conquered, but the full adult course. “Then just like that, it went from a catastrophic event to an unforgettable memory that both Faith and I will cherish forever. Faith got onto the course and climbed walls, low crawled through mud and water, and took on the gladiators. None of this could have been possible without the support of the Spartan staff”, recalls Andy.

Alexandra remembers how Faith’s smile shone brighter than the Arizona sun that day, “She is one of the strongest 12 year old girls I have met. Her ability to run up a hill she wasn’t prepared for, climb over a cargo net that was twists to a height taller than most prefer and then do the barb wire crawl/dunk pit section 6 times, all with a smile, was beyond words and truly inspiring. I felt so unbelievably lucky and privileged to get to run the race with her and I want to say thank you so much for the memories and the conversation.”

A sentiment echoed by Dylan, who also came to her aid, as he had already been working with her at the merchandise tent and had seen how much it meant to her.

“She handled at least 3 miles – 2 miles further than the Kids Race – plus did all the final five obstacles of the barbed wire, crawl up a muddy hill, under the muddy wall dunk, then up the slippery wall, over the firepit, which she actually decided to do 5 times, and through the gladiators, which she actually did twice.  It was an honor and a pleasure to help make some first time memories for Faith. I enjoy helping people thru the courses and its part of who I am, The Weeple Army (my running team), and Spartan Way!”

Angela Overstreet, another staff member that was heavily involved with Faith’s weekend also recalls the impact one little girl’s enthusiasm made on not just her, but the event as a whole.

“Strength. Beauty. Inspiration. Perseverance. These words are powerful.  As adults we shoulder the responsibility to inspire future generations. However in this case as much as I have hoped to inspire and impact this young lady….truth is, it is she…it is YOU Faith who has managed to appear as a beautiful light shining upon us all. The passion within you bursts out of you with your every movement, your smile is infectious, your handwork is unparalleled, your drive and determination is difficult to put into words. YOU Faith are a force that one day I truly hope and pray you understand the greatness of. Sometimes it is difficult to see ourselves as others do. YOU Faith have the universe at your fingertips. Know that regardless of what you are going through today, it is YOU that has the choice and the power to infuse every part of your beautiful being into making it your mesmerizing reality. Not only for you but for others. YOU are an amazing young woman that has every quality to be a great leader and fulfill every dream you have. Know what you possess is a gift. Know that you are loved. Keep shining your light on those around you, be an inspiration to those around you. BE YOU. Run with it. Embrace It. Own It. Because although you are small in stature your spirit is larger than life itself. THANK YOU for coming into our lives. Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for being YOU. YOU are Strong, YOU are beautiful, YOU are an inspiration and YOU will always persevere Faith.”

When it comes to drive and enthusiasm, or perhaps just the sheer joy of loving what she does, the bar has been set higher than it ever has at any Spartan Race before and it came from a little 12 year old girl. She already had a good idea way before the finish line and when she did get there, it only reinforced what she already knew.

Will you? Sign up now and change your life forever.

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