Dear Joe,

My story starts in spring of 2012.  At that time I was in great shape and led a very active life.  I was running, doing Crossfit, and any other endurance event I could.  I didn’t smoke or drink excessively. I ate healthy but did indulge in a burger and fries once in a while.  I developed a wisdom tooth infection and started to feel unmotivated. After a few weeks I had a hard time running even a mile or two. This should’ve been a warning sign but it never occurred to me that I was sick. I had my wisdom tooth removed and was given antibiotics. My infection started to get worse when the roof of my mouth started swelling. I was fatigued all of the time. I went back to the oral surgeon and he suggested a blood test after I told him I was feeling worse and getting fevers and night sweats.  I went for a blood test and the results came back abnormal.  They needed to do more tests.  The next call I received was to pack a bag and head to the Kaiser Permanente emergency room. Still not realizing what was to come, I threw three pairs of underwear in my backpack thinking I would be home in a few days.

Once admitted I heard those three words…”you have leukemia.”  Everything moved quickly after that moment.  A biopsy needed to be done to determine what type and the treatment protocol.  When the results came back, I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.  I knew very little about this disease but learned a lot about it really quick.  Luckily, my girlfriend and best friend, Dee, was there with me every step of the way. I could not have survived this without her.  The seriousness of the situation still didn’t register with me.  My biggest fear was the fear of the unknown. One of the first questions they asked me was if I had any siblings. In mind I was thinking “yes, I have a sister, we get along, I’m all set.”  Little did I know that a sibling being a perfect match as a marrow donor was less than 30%. My induction phase of chemotherapy started the next day and I was introduced to my new best friend my IV pole.

There are so many details I can’t remember but Dee helps fill in the blank spots of what occurred. So what I thought was going to be a short stay ended being an extended stay of almost 27 days.  Most of that time was waiting for my body to recover and achieve remission. I received confirmation that my sister was a perfect match and that the next step for long term survival would be a marrow transplant. This was the next chapter in my wild ride. After being discharged, I needed to complete numerous tests to prepare my body for the upcoming challenge.  Target date for the transplant was 10/11/12 so I had about a month to get my affairs in order.

One thing that helped me prepare for this was meeting survivors.  Hearing their stories about what was to come eased my fear of the unknown.  Looking on the internet didn’t help because there weren’t that many good endings to this story.  My whole attitude was I’m sick, let’s do whatever it takes to fix me.  I traveled to City of Hope on 9/30/12 for my transplant. I went through radiation 3 times a day for 4 days, and a round of VP16.  Transplant day came and my rebirthday was 10/10/12. The next step was waiting for my counts to rise so every morning when the nurses wrote on that whiteboard, it was like waiting for lottery numbers.  I was discharged on 10/29/12. The next 100 days were crucial.  Hopefully my body would accept my sister’s cells without too much rejection.  I remember a lot of sleeping and fatigue.  Eventually I started feeling better and returned back to physical activity in early March when I completed the Urban Warrior Dash in San Diego.  This was huge for me because it is what I missed most.

Being in isolation for almost two months was very humbling. I admit taking my good health for granted. 

I am now 19 months post diagnosis and this experience has opened new doors for me.  I realize I’m lucky to have come this far.  I’ve met amazing people and have learned to appreciate everything I have especially family and friends that have supported me.  I’ve started a nonprofit called b.strong to help promote awareness about marrow transplants and living an active lifestyle.  I’ve made a promise to pay it forward in any way I can.  I volunteer at local events.  I speak at events for City of Hope and the Leukemia Lymphoma Society to share my story and let them know that their fundraising efforts have helped save my life.  I am currently campaigning for the LLS Man of the Year.  I want to help find a cure so no one else has to endure what I have gone through.

My relationship with Spartan started with the first race in SoCal. I wanted a challenge and that was it. My active lifestyle continued with other events including various races, obstacle races and Crossfit. After completing the first Spartan military sprint in fort Carson, CO I started to feel fatigued. A few months later I was diagnosed with leukemia. Going through treatment has some similarities to training for Spartan races. A lot is mental fortitude and I was lucky to be in pretty good physical condition to endure the intense chemotherapy and radiation. I did everything in my power to help myself fight the disease. I made a promise to myself that when I was better, I would find a way to pay it forward. The b.strong foundation is a nonprofit organization that raises awareness for leukemia and the importance of joining the marrow registry. It is a passion of mine to help save lives by sharing my story.

Thanks to Joe Desena and the whole Spartan Race family for supporting those that have to fight a little harder and inspiring people to come out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves. Aroo!

Bernard Llave

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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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All those stories you hear about the course at Vermont are true. There’s a reason Spartan Race’s home is in the mountains of Killington. There are runs and there are trails and that’s all very cute, but when it comes to the absolute premier place to really test your mettle, the Beast – and of course, the Ultra Beast – in Joe De Sena’s back yard is where you need to come.

As such, this is why the World Championship race is such a special event. The course, when running it, feels like it makes absolutely no sense. Why are you constantly going upwards? The laws of physics state that surely at some point, you have to go down? But it never feels that way. Almost the entire course is on either an incline or a minimal decline, which further begs the question, how the heck is there a lake in the middle of it? Yes, you’ll get wet. Why are you surprised? This is not a jolly 5K. Look out for one of the hardest obstacles on the circuit there. You’ll know it when you see it. Don’t worry, there’s a burpee station not far away. Get comfortable, you’ll be there a while.

Also be prepared for everything to be scaled up just a notch or two. Everything will seem longer, heavier or colder. There’s a reason for that. But is it actually that way, or are the mountains playing with you? Remember that mental resilience is every bit as important as physical strength.

The World Championship Race will naturally attract the finest trail runners, speed hikers and even Olympic athletes to the event. With people from England, Australia, Germany, Russia, Slovakia, Italy and numerous other countries all vying for the enormous prize pool, it’s easy to understand why this event is the carrot dangling on the end of a very long, painful and punishing stick. No pain, no gain, right?

With the biggest, BADDEST Beast of the year comes the biggest cash prize purse in all of Obstacle Racing! The Vermont hosted World Championship Beast will award over $300,000 in cash prizes. Top Male and Female Finishers, Top Points in the Series, and Age Group awards will be dispersed to those who earn the spotlight for their accomplishments.

Get out there and claim your stake! The awards will be grand and that feeling when you cross the finish line even grander.

You won’t want to miss this! See you at the World Championship finish line.

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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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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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Dear Joe,

My oldest brother Bill Speeg died of a massive heart attack while at the gym training for his first Half Ironman that he was gonna do in March in San Diego.

He was in the navy for 10 years and retired out in San Diego after meeting his wife Kelly of 23 yrs. He worked at the family business where he was the VP. Bill and Kelly feel into a cycle of constant work and let their weight go by eating what ever was easy.

In late 2011, they sold the business and found themselves retired at 44 years old. Bill and Kelly made a pact with each other to get their lives back by eating healthy and working out together. In 2012 Bill discovered Spartan Race and took on the challenge full steam ahead. He completed 6 or 7 Spartan Races in 2012 and attempted the Ultra Beast in VT Sept. 2012. That was when I was finally able to reconnect with my big brother that I had lost touch with, living so far apart as I live in Connecticut. After the Ultra Beast, Bill came down to Connecticut to visit us and if not for Spartan Race, I maybe would have not reconnected with my brother and been able to share the past year and a half with him.

His love for Spartan racing swallowed me whole and we did our first race together in April of 2013 at Citi Field, NY. I was hooked and we signed up for the Beast in Vermont together in 2013. That will be my most cherished memory with my brother as we embarked on our journey and completed the Beast side by side after 12 hrs and 38 mins of pure awesomeness. The Beast was Bill’s Trifecta, as he also completed 2 back to back Supers and a Sprint in, I believe January of 2013 in CA. I was hoping for my Trifecta as well but was unable to pull of a Super in time for the Beast.

My brother was a true example of a Spartan and embodied everything that Spartan stands for. We were going back and forth about doing the Beast again this year, but I wanted him to focus on his Ironman training and he had bought 2 lottery tickets for the Kona Ironman, which is 2 weeks after the beast and wouldn’t have been able to do with me if he get picked. I decided I would train for a Full Marathon this year and we would re-visit the Beast again next year.

Bill (left) with his brother Adam

Ironically, Bill had passed away on Tuesday and on Thursday of that same week I received my email that the VIP reg for the Beast was closing at midnight that night. After a good cry I registered and will be running it with hopes of beating our time from last year and maybe even be able to pull off my Trifecta while finishing.

Bill and his wife Kelly also had a goal in 2013 of completing 13 half marathons, which they did side by side. Bill usually wearing his Spartan shirt and carrying and American Flag the whole way or spare tire.

I am still in shock and disbelief that my brother is gone and will forever be grateful to Spartan Race for not only changing both of our lives but also bringing Bill and I back together. The service was in San Diego and I was excited at the chance of him being recognized as the Spartan he was.

Sorry for being so long and drawn out, but this was a challenge for me as he has done so much and I wanted to tell his story. My sister in law made arrangement for Bill to be driven on the Ironman race course that he would have competed on and will be laid to rest with his IM finishers jersey and bib number that he would have worn on race day. I will be wearing my Spartan Beast shirt while being a pall bearer for him.

Thank you again DJ and I hope to meet you one day soon and be able to thank you face to face!

AROO AROO AROO!!!

Adam J. Speeg

Sign up for a  Spartan Race now and make memories that you will cherish.

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Bryce Amdur served the Army for almost 5 years. Sadly, in February 2013, he was medically discharged at 30% disability. A year before he was released, he was battling pain and, in his own words, “inabilities to be a soldier”. A depression hit him hard because he thought he wasn’t a worthy soldier any more.

“I loved being a soldier and I loved serving my country”, explains Bryce. “I went to Iraq in 2010 where I was a 15 Romeo which is an Apache attack helicopter mechanic. I was also the DART – downed aircraft mechanic – team leader while detached from my unit in southern Iraq. After Iraq I had started dealing with back, neck and left shoulder pain. I had come to find out that my spine had deteriorated disks in C2-C5, which was causing my left trapezes to not sit right. I also was dealing with PTSD. I did pain therapy, PT, while also receiving 2 spinal taps and steroids put directly into my spine. Some days it would get as bad as not being able to walk.”

As he was preparing to become medically discharged from the military his wife was having difficulty dealing with the depression and the PTSD that Bryce was suffering from. She had just started working for the police department as a dispatcher.

One fateful night, Bryce reached arguably the darkest moment in his life. “I had my pistol against my head with the safety off and ready to go. The only thing that kept me from my own death was my son Ryan. I knew I couldn’t let him live without a father. I called my wife at work.”

Bryce’s wife came home with a police escort and took their son. Next day he was served with restraining order as well as an order to exit his house he had bought only 3 months earlier within 24 hours.

“I served the last months of my Army carrier homeless. As soon as I was released, I had nowhere to go but back to California. I drove like a bat out of hell from Kansas to California. I arrived at my parent’s house 27 hours after I was released in Kansas. We finalized the divorce where she would receive everything, including the custody of my son and our home with me having visitation, as well as receiving all the debt from the marriage. Needless to say I filed for bankruptcy at the early age of 25. As I am still considered homeless by the VA, I am back living at my parents.”

Bryce continued along the path of taking care of himself because of the burning passion in his veins for his son Ryan. He pulled himself out of depression by surfing for 4 straight months.

“Every week I have to see a chiropractor in order to function somewhat normal. After 2 years had passed of pain and depression, I am finally able to prove to myself…that I won’t allow the war or any other life altering event effect my emotions and my outlook on life.”

Now free of the depression that haunted him, he has set a goal in coming back from injury and defeating the demons that plagued him.

“My goal of the Trifecta this year is my finish line in coming back from my injury. Crossing that finish line at Temecula meant more to me than anyone could believe. The tears I shed are for all the soldiers who have been injured or killed. It was all I could think about that after all the hell I’ve been through. I beat all the odds stacked up against me and crossed that finish line. I dropped to the ground in tears not just from the pain in my neck and back, but from the feeling that I would live again.  I completed the Spartan Sprint this January and am signed up for the beast in Monterey.”

It was along the way that Bryce found an outlet. A channel through which he could direct the pain and misery away that was hanging over him like a malevolent blanket of misery. Comedy turned out to be his savior.

“I ended up picking up comedy as a release and now I’m an up and coming comedian. I feel that laughter is the last true happiness left on earth.”

“For my entire life, everyone said I should be a comedian because I was funny and had good characteristics to do so. After I had lost everything I began writing comedy to kind of cheer myself up. It wasn’t till this year that I took off with my comedy and began performing at open mike nights. It’s all still new to me, but I have been writing for over a year and now it’s time to put it all out there for the world. It just makes me feel so good to bring so much joy to the audience.”

Even under impossible odds, Bryce knew what it meant to fight back and truly understand what it means when we say that you’ll know at the finish line.

Will you? Sign up today at spartanrace.com for your next Spartan race.

If you feel like you could use some help in your life when it comes to the issues that Bryce experienced, here are some links that may be of some help to you.

http://www.adaa.org/
http://www.samaritansusa.org/
http://www.afsp.org/local-chapters

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When talking to Misty Diaz, it’s always advisable to wear shades. It’s not just due to her radiant personality, but her smile is so bright it could blot out the sun.

The native of Long Beach, California is well known on the half marathon circuit, having already blasted through many races. Now turning her hand to Spartan Race, she’s been bitten by a new bug. The Malibu Sprint in 2013 was her first foray into the world of hills, ropes barbed wire and fire, but not content with that, she immediately decided that she was going to step it up. The Super in Temecula was quite the step up, but something she decided she was going to do. What makes this scenario just that little bit different is that that Misty has Spina Bifida.

How would her love of half marathons compare to the Super?

“I love half marathons,” beams Misty, “but it doesn’t compare. Spartan racing is a whole different game. It’s totally a mental game, you’re having to push fear aside and take the next jump, while not knowing what’s awaiting you next. I love Spartan races, it allows me to train in a different way than I would a half marathon.”

That training done with her trainer and Spartan SGX Coach Michael Ainis, amongst others, has taught Misty not just the skills she needs to attack a Spartan Race. It’s also taught her that the mental factor was one only actual experience can bring you.

“I wouldn’t say scared, as such, more like, ’Are you for real? You want me to climb up those hills?’. I did the Super on Saturday and let me tell you, Spartan …you did good with those hills! I was a little scared, I won’t lie. When it came to the rope climb, well, if you saw me last year in Malibu I wasn’t even one pull away from the bell, I just couldn’t do it. You’re cold, tired, and shaking you think that’s the end, then boom there’s a rope obstacle. Same thing with the fire, I can’t jump, so I literally walked over it, no joke! By Sunday, I had my team help me! It’s all a mental game. I’m very happy to say, I rang the bell twice this past weekend. Aroo!”

Completing both the Super and the Sprint the following day came as a huge triumph for Misty, especially given the battles she already faces every day. It’s those everyday battles that forge Misty’s will and fortitude that help make the unknown or unfamiliar not as much of a test as they otherwise could be. This ‘life training’ was something Misty brought into the weekend with her.

“The hills caught me a little off guard or a certain obstacle you knew would be bad, but not *that* bad? The incline of the hills caught me by surprise. I’m a different athlete than most, I use pink walking canes to walk and run, so when you give me a hill at such a steep incline, my only choice is to give my runner my canes and crawl up that hill. I had to stop at a certain point on those hills in Temecula and crawl on my hands and knees. I had an amazing runner name Kevin (Kierce, regular Spartan Slosh Pipe Champion) who helped me along the way on Saturday. At one point he carried for a short time. But let me tell you, the view was amazing from the top!”

Her victories in Temecula and Malibu have only stoked Misty’s fire and she plans to aim even bigger for the rest of 2014.  Having now tasted what Spartan offers, she’s hungry for more and already has sights set on a new target.
“Well, I also completed Arizona and I plan on being in Texas along with receiving my first trifecta in Monterey. My goal is a double Trifecta in 2014. I have it all mapped out! We will see how I do in Monterey for my first trifecta. I hope to be the first with Spina Bifida to accomplish receiving the Trifecta badge of honor.”

Taking that adage of “go big or go home”, Misty is proof that life is for living and drinking in every golden moment it offers. Something she is very quick to point out.

“Here’s the thing. When I first thought about Spartan racing, I knew I needed to build my endurance. Mind you, when I started running in early 2012, I could only run for 20mins. Little by little, thru not stopping, and creating a routine, things got easier. So running half marathons really helped me. Once I reached a point in my half marathons where I was comfortable, I knew I could accomplish a Spartan race.”

“My point is, if you train, ask questions, work really hard and find ways to make things work, you can do anything. The amount of love and support I get from Spartan athletes is amazing, everyone helps everyone. That’s what this is about. I do my obstacles sometimes a little differently and that’s okay. I don’t care what you have to do, just finish! Anything is possible. No matter what, never ever give up!”

Sign up for your next race at spartanrace.com. You may run into that beaming smile of Misty Diaz.

See you at the finish line…

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The spear throw is one of the obstacles at Spartan Race that is generally considered a burpee factory. Along with the rope climb, more people fail this one staple obstacle of the Spartan Race than any other.

But to what many may consider a bizarre circumstance given the threat of those 30 burpees, there are some that rub their hands with childish and cartoonish glee when they see this obstacle on the horizon.

It started out all innocently enough. Steffen Cook, “Cookie” to everyone that knows him, is well known for not taking races and obstacles altogether seriously. Despite being a veteran of 6 Trifectas plus change, he prefers to “mess about” on the course and make light of hills, obstacles and not worrying a great deal in what his recorded time is. His favourite obstacle is the spear throw. As such, one afternoon while trying new throwing methods, he decided to spear an orange from a distance similar to that of at a race.

“There was nothing in it. No challenge, nothing malicious, just me messing around and having a bit of fun. I knew that my aim was fairly precise and just wondered if I could prove it.”

He did. Nailing the orange dead centre, he cheekily walked off camera and thought nothing more of it. His good friend Kevin Kierce, reigning Spartan Race Slosh Pipe challenge champion and also a veteran of Spartan Race saw the video and together they hatched a plan.

“I saw Cookie at a workout he, Michael Ainis and Matt Trinca organised in Lakewood, California and suggested that I spear a peach. During the workout, I though, ‘hey, this is for Cookie, I may as well spear a cookie’”. Kevin went home and couple of weeks later he found the time to set up a camera and sacrificing a girl scout Thin Mint, he completed his video with an even cheekier shrug of the shoulders, titling the video on Facebook, “Your turn, Mr. Cook”.

Knowing what was coming, but not sure how to top it, Cookie decided that the simplest way to put an end to something that had, frankly, got way out of hand, was to land the spear on a penny. For the sake of the video, he stuck the penny to some painter’s tape and then attached that tape to a sheet of paper on the bale. That way, the dark color penny would show against the white of the paper. In inevitable fashion, he again bullseyed the target.

“Kevin is an immense Spartan. He throws accurately, runs like the wind and frankly, should have a license for those guns under his sleeves”, he explains. “We decided to leave it there and call it a tie as, what’s next? A peanut? A raisin? It would prove nothing as the spear end is wider than those targets and it would be like hitting something of the same size.”

“People talk of a rivalry and how we should be outdoing each other and that’s just nonsense. Spartan doesn’t teach that. It teaches how we encourage, support and help, not talk down, belittle or point fingers with cries of “cheat” or “fake”. If somebody does something awesome, congratulate them on it. Whether it’s a PR for a 5K, their first 30 burpees, their first whatever or even a very silly showboating video of throwing spears. There’s always going to be haters, but they can be drowned out with positivity.”

Kevin and Cookie are toying with the idea of doing one last video to end them all and put the matter to bed when it comes to “messing around with the spear throw”. Look out for them at the LA Marathon on March 9th, as they will be running together, each doing one half blindfolded, while he guides the other in aid of Blind Start Of America charity.

How precise is your throw? Find out at your next Spartan Race.

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