Guest Blogger Michael Mills celebrates life with Spartan Race

This year, 2013, marked 20 years that I have been paralyzed and I wanted to make it the best year of my life. When you hit the 20-year mark in anything, it is always important, as it marks a large passing of time. Twenty years is a long time, it’s celebrated in a marriage, in a career, and it is essentially a lifetime. That 20-year milestone is always honored. Well for me it was no different. I wanted to celebrate my life by doing things that were a challenge and doing something that no other paralyzed person has done.

It all started with the Spartan Sprint in Conyers, GA.  I decided I would do a Spartan Race. I was not sure how I was going to do it, but I was determined to compete in it. Not long after I made the decision publicly to do the Spartan Sprint several of my friends decided to do it with me.  The entire team was new to Spartan Race except for one athlete, John Hate Sales. John was our veteran and he knew all about the race and the rest of us knew nothing.

We didn’t care; we just wanted to do it so we jumped right in it. We took off and within the first mile I had a blowout. I had no way of repairing the wheelchair but I was not going to quit after just starting. I made the decision to carry on with a flat tire. In true Spartan Fashion I was going to carry on. I was to finish or be carried out on my shield. We started as a team and finished as a team and we were all proud. It’s because of the team and their help that I became the first-ever paralyzed person to earn a Spartan Sprint Medal.

Next was the Spartan Death Race in Pittsfield, VT. Someone on Facebook challenged me with the comment “He really did not do anything, he was simply carried by his team! He really did not earn that medal!” That really upset me because I know what I did and I know the work that we did as a team. This is where my next challenge came about.

Steve-Opie Reid contacted me and said, let’s do the Death Race. I told Steve-O, “YOU HAVE LOST YOUR MIND! There is no way I am going to do the Death Race!” Then I thought to myself, this would prove to everyone that doubted me in the beginning that I am a true Spartan Athlete. So, I agreed to enter the Spartan Death Race. From the start, I knew I was in for an adventure. From cutting grass and small limbs with scissors to building an amazing rock trail with a group of amazing people, the Spartan Death Race was an adventure.  I lasted a little over 24 hours before I was cut due to a time hack. I was the 20th person to go out of the Spartan Death Race but 19 before me quit and my goal was to go as long as I possibly could, and I did it. I never quit and I feel I beat many odds within that 24-hour period.

Last event of the year was my most recent, The South Carolina Spartan Beast. This event truly lived up to its name. “THE BEAST” was by far the hardest event of the year. I joined a new group of OCR crazy’s called “THE DIRTBAGS!” This group of men and women took me in and allowed me to be part of the team and I am sure glad they did. These guys and girls worked hard to help me the entire day. We all worked together as a unit. We had Zackary Paben, Steve-O and countless other volunteers along the way that helped and for those, I am forever thankful. Halfway through the day, my left contact came out and was put in a Ziploc bag so we could carry on. We knew we were on a time limit so we did not slow down. With three hours left in our day, my right contact rolled behind my right eye. I am completely blind by now. I am paralyzed and can’t see. I had to trust my team and the ones around me. We still had obstacles to get over and still finish the course.  As we come to the finish, I could see a blurry finish line and I could see a blurry figure holding the Beast medal. I leaned over and was given the hard-earned medal by Chris Davis. As Chris leaned over and hugged me, he said, “I told you I would wait on you!” To know that I had all the help I did on the course and to know that the rest of my fellow teammates earned their Trifecta that day, I was proud to have fought for 10 hours straight on what I would say, was one of the hardest things I have done to date.

 

For me this year was the year I wanted to prove to anyone who has ever doubted me and that has said that people with disabilities could not be athletes much less Spartans. I am here to tell you, that you are dead wrong. I am a Spartan. I am a Spartan three times over and to be the first to have done each of these in a wheelchair is a dream come true. I will tell anyone if you are disabled or just wanting to live a better and healthier life, DO A SPARTAN RACE. It changed how I see things and how I tackle life now. It will truly do the same for you!!!!!

See you in 2014 Trifecta!

 

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Somewhere between where the sun kisses the sea and land in the beautiful setting of Long Beach, California, there is a place of sheer tranquility. On Saturday October 19th, this would be the setting for the first ever Spartan Race California Workout 300.

Along “the Bluffs” of Bixby Park overlooking the Pacific ocean, local SGX Trainer, Michael Ainis (SoCal OCR Fit) and local Spartan promoter and Team SISU co-founder, Matt Trinca introduced Don Devaney, a special guest from Spartan HQ. Without wasting time, the “burpeepalooza” began. 

Under the watchful eye of two Spartan Warriors in the form of Brad Murphee and Patrick Scully, the three-hour long workout started without ceremony or warning.

A melee of accepting “I’m Training For A Spartan Race” shirts added a frantic twist to the participants’ already worn bodies, each having to make sure they retreated back in phalanx formation under the threat of more “funishments.”

Spartan Pro Team athlete Miguel Medina then led a lesson in stretching and breathing techniques. Having come from a background of spinal surgery to regularly winning podium places at Spartan Race, the local fitness enthusiast words of not only advice, but encouragement were gratefully received.

The workout was action-packed with crawling and animal movement exercises, with the entire group moving as a single unit.  As the action continued, the sweat started dripping, and the grunting sounds became more prominent.  The silent concentration of the participants was only broken by the occasional yell from the coaches, “Spartans, what is your profession?!”, to which they would respond, “AROO! AROO! AROO!”

For the next 2 hours, the group alternated “intensity ramp-ups” (running in place), doing the fiendish “wrestler-burpee”, squats, lunges, and pushups, with the plank being the official resting position of the day.

Experienced Death Racer, and Team SISU co-founder, Daren de Heras led the 150+ participants down a steep, sandy hill to the ocean, and then continued to punish them on the sand.  Then, he instructed everyone to pair-up and take turns carrying each other over to a long set of cement stairs, which they had to bear crawl up. 

By way of gaining further insight into the Spartan philosophy, the crowd then gathered around the coaches for some inspirational speeches.  They learned more about the Spartan vision and how the training they were going through was relevant to prepare for upcoming races as well as tackling obstacles in their day-to-day life.  Daren De Heras spoke about how the Spartan Race community is a supportive family and how it has inspired him in his quest to set a record for most laps around a Spartan Sprint Race (which he currently holds at 7).  Michael Ainis also shared his story of going from 250-lbs to an Elite Spartan Racer by embracing the Spartan lifestyle.

The smiles belied the punishing exercises that everyone was going through. People were quickly learning that the power coming from within them simply needed tapping. Paula Vail Weerheim commenting, “At times I felt weak, at times I felt strong. At one point I truly questioned why I signed up for a Spartan race in January. I always said I would NEVER do one. Too hard for someone in their mid-fifties. Well, after today I am starting to look forward to the Temecula Sprint. Listening to Michael and Daren, well, what an inspiring bunch. Am I afraid? Yes. Am I doubting my abilities? Right NOW, yes. Will I do this? You bet I will.”

Never out of the spotlight wherever Spartan Race may be, an audience of locals, including fire service personnel and police officers, looked on in bemusement and wonder, trying to figure exactly how something so painful would causes so many smiles.  

As the workout end neared, Matt Trinca thanked everyone for their effort and participation, and announced upcoming events in the Southern California region.  The phalanx reformed once more as Matt led the participants through a series of cool-down stretches, and then everyone came together to celebrate completing the challenging workout.  Reflecting on the day, Matt pointed out, “This was my 2nd time co-leading a Spartan 300 WOD. Each one is a little different. They are a reflection of the WOD setting and the people in attendance. My first WOD was full of experienced racers, and they had a “never say die” attitude. This workout in Long Beach had a mix of beginners and veterans. People brought their friends along. The participants were all very brave and pushed themselves far beyond what they’d normally do in a workout. We taught them some exercises that they can practice at home, but what I most hope they take away from the experience is a new confidence in themselves and what they are capable of.”

Such was the success of the workout that a follow-up 300 WOD in Long Beach is tentatively planned for November 30th, 2013.

Reflecting on the workout, Spartan Race veteran Daren De Heras was quick to congratulate those who took part, “This was such an inspirational group. We had people who are preparing for their first Sprint soon, people who have trifectas, and veteran Death Racers. Everyone came together and supported each other, and that is what struck me the most! Having different trainers there with different Spartan Backgrounds really added a balanced attack to this 300 WOD. This is going to explode here in So. Cal and I can’t wait to be a part of the next one Nov…. The positive feedback, Personal Messages, and emails of how people were inspired to take their Spartan Training and Goals to the next level inspired the hell out of me.”  

Michael Ainis, who co-ran the event was shocked by the impressive attitude by all those who attended. “My vision of changing lives by tackling seemingly impossible and unheard of obstacles was materialized, due to the hard work and team work of an amazing group of people that I am proud to call my friends!”

Check here for future workouts: Click here. 

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Guest blogger Michael Ainis

The air was chilly, but the energy was electric as everyone gathered at the RoadRunner lot and signed in with Stacy, who was asking everyone if this was their first Spartan event. There were a few Spartan veterans, but for the most part it was first-timers who were signed up for the Malibu Sprint in December. There was a 63 year old lady, who was going to be volunteering Saturday in Temecula to earn a free race on Sunday. There was a Spartan Family getting ready for the Sacramento Beast where they would be earning their Trifectas together.

The participants were arranged in 6 columns; “The Phalanx” about double-arms width apart front and back. Instructions were also given that any time “Spartans Assemble” was yelled they would have 10 seconds to be back in their lines or 30 burpees would be due. Don Devaney took the lead in starting off the warm-up with jumping jacks as shirt sizes were called, with the warning given if they took longer than 20 seconds, the burpee penalty applied. As everyone got geared-up in their “Improved Spartan Training shirts that were specially designed to make the participants sweat more,” the jumping jacks continued, and then it happened, one participant didn’t meet the 20 seconds and 30 burpees followed. After that Don made some more introductions and thanked RoadRunner for hosting the WOD, and then lead into the importance of “Joe-ga” and that practicing Joe-ga/deep breathing was not about perfecting the skill but more about doing the practice consistently as a daily routine.
Then it was SGX Trainer, Michael Ainis, who jumped in with “SPAR-TANS” Participants “AROO!! AROO!! AROO!!” High knee ramp-ups were explained; participants were instructed to start about 50% and then increase their intensity by roughly 10% each time. “Ramp-it-up” was yelled then followed some dynamic stretches and then the fun began. For the next hour and a half participants learned about the Spartan Philosophy, bear crawled, crab walked forward and reverse. They learned the “Wrestler Burpee” which Don explained, was devised in the Secret Spartan Lab to ensure there is always a way to make a “Regular Burpee” even harder.

A few participants came from a strictly running background (marathons/halfs) and remarked that they had never done that many exercises for their upper body without setting foot in a gym. The Active Rest position of the day was The Plank – on concrete… Yet the participants held strong, encouraging each other, yelling words of encouragement that “We can DO this together!” One participant (Eric Douglas) realized in holding a plank for so long he had made a “Sweat Angel” (see pics). They did buddy carries with a mom even challenging her teenage son to carry her back across the parking lot after she carried him to the turnaround point. Sisters helped each other with wheelbarrow walk and friends pushed each other to complete burpee-broadjump challenge. “You’ve done over 200 burpees” Don yelled as the final round of burpees were completed and the cool-down began. Shirts were sweaty, but smiles were beaming bright in the San Diego Sun! Everyone wanted to have their picture taken with the Spartan Crew and we even met a group of friends that crossed the border from Tijuana, Mexico to attend the WOD.

Everyone finished of inside the RoadRunner store as they were raffling off 1 free entry to the Malibu Sprint and 1 for the Temecula Sprint, which were won by two friends who had never done a Spartan Race previously. RoadRunner also raffled off some recovery products: Bodystick and a foam roller, and participants were also given 10% off anything in the store.
This workout was definitely harder than a lot of participants were expecting, some had no idea what to expect but everyone experienced their digging deep moment and found a new level of strength inside themselves. Don constantly reminded everyone that once they climbed to that next rung to never go back to the old one, keep moving forward, a little bit every day.

At this time, Spartan is discussing Round 2 for San Diego WOD and hopefully will be 12/1, the week before Malibu?

See here for more information on our workouts: Click here

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If you missed the Vegas race, you missed one of the most exciting podium finishes is the history of Spartan Race. Cody Moat, the 2012 Points Series winner, and Hunter McIntyre were neck in neck almost the entire race. It came down to a photo finish, with Cody edging out Hunter for second place.

Hunter recalls, “I approached the rope climb thinking that I had lost all hope of my third place ranking I earned in Temecula. As I climbed the rope to the top I had a feeling come over me that it was go time! So I took a leap of faith, literally, and started my way towards the wall and spear throw. I reached the top of the wall and I saw Cody chest down in the dirt repping out burpees.”

He thought that he might have a shot, “I worked my way over the first spear and told myself there isn’t any room to miss, cocking back my arm I chucked a killer throw thinking I had just taken the third place metal and wrapped it tightly round his neck. When I turned to make the run in he popped up and made a move at the same time, I thought it this was an impossible series of events but there was no time for thinking it was time to move!”

Mike Morris, who oversees race production for Spartan, was in the middle of all of this when it went down. Mike was the one counting Cody’s burpees after he missed his spear throw, making sure his form was up to par.

He recounts the action, “I was crouched over next to Cody counting out loud as he did his burpees. At around rep number 20 I look up and see Hunter crest the slip wall. The crowd cheered so Cody looked up and saw him, too. Cody was literally at burpee number 28 when Hunter takes his toss and sticks it.”

By the time Hunter had turned around and closed the 40 foot gap, Cody had bounced up and the two of them were pretty much touching shoulders as they jumped the fire jump and plowed through the gladiators.

McIntyre says, “We met midair while jumping over the fire, my foot landed before his as I took a stride towards the finish line there stood one last obstacle between me and second place. 4 gladiators rose to the occasion of making sure it wasn’t going to be my lucky day, as I took on the first wave of them Cody and I were side by side. Pushing through the my first hit I thought I had it won between us as I took the second hit hard to the chest, at that point I couldn’t tell where Cody was and fear set in quickly. Looking down from the hit I saw him ahead of me by a full body length.”

2nd place finisher, Cody Moat

Mike Morris and the crowd were looking on, Morris says, “The crowd, who knew how tight of a race it was seeing hunter clear the slip wall, had gradually started cheering louder and louder with an tangible step change in celebration when Hunter stuck the spear. By the time the two of them were sprinting down the home stretch, the crowd was the loudest I’d ever heard it at one of our events, underlying how cool of a finish it really was. I’ve been to close to 30 Spartan Races and this was one of the coolest moments yet.”

McIntyre is proud of what he considers the best race of his career. He promises, “I do not hate Cody for winning, I thank him for the challenge and reason to train harder because next time we meet things won’t be the same.”

Well it looks likes Hunter has his sights set on Cody. This should make for an interesting year.

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by David Chandler
I ran my first Reebok Spartan Race in March last year. I was at a low point in my life and was having trouble dealing with things and trying to find myself again. I was lifting weights like crazy and thought that the little bit of biking I did would get me through a race. I thought that I would be competitive in my first Spartan Race, but that race broke me. I am extremely competitive and from that breaking point, I decided I would turn myself into a Spartan. I started running and working more specifically on obstacle course race training instead of just lifting weights.

From March until July I trained like crazy between going to school and work. Training started to become my meditation and the place that I could go to escape everything else in my life. No matter what was going on in life I could get away from it and make myself a better person with each training session. My life consisted of two-a-day trainings; I’d train before and after school or work.

When I learned about the Spartan Ultra Beast, I knew I had to do it. I had to take on the biggest challenge of my life and conquer a race that scared me. Crossing the finish line of the Ultra Beast (and all the other Spartan Races I’ve finished) was the biggest feeling of accomplishment I have ever experienced.
I have become friends with many of the elite Spartan racers that I am in competition with, but I love each and every person that is putting his or her body and heart on the line each and every race. Even though I only see these people during race weekends, the camaraderie that we have makes all of them my good friends. Since I started training for Reebok Spartan Races my life has been more of an adventure than I ever could have imagined. I travel the country to compete with my friends. Each race and every race is a new adventure with all the new things Reebok Spartan Race throws at us each event. Spartan has helped me find myself and helped me to be happier than I have ever been in my life.

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by Jeffrey Bent

Life Changes
Sometimes our lives take abrupt turns. In 2011 I was living in Orlando Florida, a husband of 15 years and a father to two wonderful children. I owned a broadband engineering company and traveled the United States extensively for work. Life was good. The tides can change all too quickly. By the end of that year, I found myself separated from my wife and lacking a purpose in my life.

I began 2012 with a life-changing seminar that motivated me to begin a physical transformation. I set some lofty goals to make 2012 a year not to be forgotten. I had thought about maybe my first marathon or two, maybe even a triathlon? After a June 2nd Warrior Dash in Oklahoma City was cancelled, I knew this was my opportunity to try a Spartan Race. I had heard about Spartan but the opportunity to race had never presented itself. So after a Friday with friends in Charlotte North Carolina, I decided to take the ten plus hour drive to Tuxedo, NY for my first one.

A New Beginning
I arrived late Saturday evening at a college friend’s home. On just a few hours of rest, I headed over to the venue to register for the “elite heat”. I remember before I had even attached my bib a stranger was offering me a pre-race fuel mix; that stranger is now Spartan friend Walter Lyon. I remember wandering to the front of the starting line & hearing the MC talk about the previous day’s women’s winner. That woman, Andi Hardy, is now one of my best friends. She was at the starting line as well and I remember looking over at her and her battered and bruised legs. Thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?”

The adrenaline was unlike any I had ever experienced before; the mountain and obstacles were unlike any challenge I had previously undertaken. An hour into the race I was tangled up in the barbed wire and several racers immediately came to my aide. 1:02 was my official time. I was the 7th man to cross the finish, 8th overall, and 2nd in my age group. The sense of accomplishment from this race was amazing. I knew this was the race that had changed my life forever. An epic achievement!

Keeping the Peace
As fun as this race was, I knew that at 40 years old it would be a challenge for me to remain healthy and also injury free. I decided my best chance to remain in good health would be to take up Yoga. When I first began my Yoga practice, I had no idea of the benefits that it would have, both mentally and physically. After almost a year of yoga, I am in the best physical condition of my life. The calm and peace that I have in my everyday life is beyond comparison. As an elite racer, I have many opportunities to share my yoga with the world. Many people have started a Yoga regiment because I passionately share it everywhere I go. The sense I get from sharing has given me a purpose. I found this purpose because of Spartan Race.

I have always been an adrenaline junkie but the competition and camaraderie that exists within Spartan is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I have completed 5 Sprints, 3 Supers, and 2 Beasts. The friends I’ve meet though Spartan share a passion for wellness and a desire to improve, just as I do. These people have become my Spartan family. I look forward to each race weekend as much as anything I have ever anticipated. Each race brings a new challenge, but the only one that I have to compete with is myself.

Namaste.

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by Chris Rutz

The 2013 Points Season consists of races following the 2012 World Championship, beginning with the Carolinas Race October 13th, 2012 and culminating in the 2013 World Championship to be held in Vermont on September 21st, 2013. Over the course of the 2013 Spartan Race Season, we’re going to take your top 5 best races and use them to calculate your points ranking.

What are the rewards? Well in 2012 the top 20 male and female athletes split a $40,000 prize purse. The first place man and woman each received a check for $4,250. This weekend in Las Vegas we will be having an awards ceremony for the top 20 men and women to recognize their performance in 2012. Come and see some of the top Obstacle Racers pick up their prize at 11:00am in the festival area.

For the men:
1st Cody Moat
2nd Hobie Call
3rd Brakken Kraker
4th Christopher Rutz
5th Elliott Megquier
6th Walter Schmidt
7th Shawn Feiock
8th David Chandler
9th David Magida
10th Dallas Bessette
11th Joe Kauder
12th Rick Kraics
13th Shane McKay
14th John Hayter
15th Christopher Obertlik
16th Robert Coble
17th Kevin Donoghue
18th Isaiah Vidal
19th David Mick
20th Marko Vennerholm

For the women:
1st Jenny Tobin
2nd Leslie St Louis
3rd Rose Marie Jarry
4th Melinda Branch
5th Margaret Schlachter
6th Irene Call
7th Corinne Kohlen
8th Andi Hardy
9th Juliana Sproles
10th Lelya Di Cori
11th Angela Reynolds
12th Sue Luck
13th Ella Kociuba
14th Gretchen Krueger
15th Shaun Provost
16th Amanda Czapla
17th Ekaterina Solovieva
18th Raegan Chambers
19th Lauel Arnold
20th Angela Kalal

Note: Not all of the above athletes are scheduled to race in Las Vegas. Those not appearing will either get their “podium” check at their next scheduled race.

Are you ready to try to make the top 20 for the 2013 season? Here are the details.

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by Chris Rutz, Elite Spartan Athlete

The Reebok Spartan Race is off to Nevada this weekend. Lake Las Vegas will be the site of the first Spartan Race in Nevada. This Super Spartan is attracting the best racers in the sport. Prize money from Navy Federal Credit Union is a huge draw. In addition to the cash, Las Vegas is easy to get to and, well, it is Las Vegas. This will be a one day, Saturday-only event. This will undoubtedly be one of the deepest fields of talent this side of a Championship Race. Who will we be seeing at the start line?

On the women’s side look for these ladies in the Elite Heat:

Amelia Boone – 2012 Midwest Super winner Saturday
TyAnn Clark – 2013 SoCal Super winner Saturday
Andi Hardy
Ella Kociuba – 2013 Carolinas and Arizona Sprint winner Saturday
Corinne Kohlen
April Luu – 2013 Arizona Sprint winner Sunday
Ang Reynolds
Leslie St Louis
Juliana Sproles
Jenny Tobin – 2012 Points Series winner – 2013 SoCal Super winner Sunday

On the men’s side the field is equally as strong in the Elite Heat:

Brakken Kraker – 2013 Carolina’s Sprint winner Saturday
Cody Moat – 2012 Points Series winner
Hunter McIntyre – 2013 Mexico City Sprint winner
Elliott Megquier – 2013 Carolinas and Arizona Sprint winner Sunday
David Magida
Junyong Pak
Miguel Medina
Alexander Nicholas
Christopher Rutz

This will be an interesting race as many of these racers are either Sprint racers or Beast racers. The Super will challenge the racers to alter their game plan in order to make it to the podium. Also challenging them for the podium is Hobie Call. We expect to see him at the race on Saturday!

Joining the fray is former WEC champion, MMA UFC lightweight Jamie Varner, who we announced was participating last week.  The seasoned fighter is trying his hand at a new style of competition as he seeks his next fight.  Also on hand is the inspiring Joei Harrison who suffered the devastating loss of a child and alongside her son was severely injured in an accident only to battle back.  Harrison has not only raced Spartan Races, but finished the infamous Spartan Death Race in June of 2012.

When is your next Spartan Race?  Register today.

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by Alec Blenis, Elite Spartan Athlete

My life is Spartan. Every day, I am dedicated to pushing myself both mentally and physically, seeing what I can achieve.

I cycle and run. I do yoga. I also train unconventionally; I flip tires, climb ropes, jump trenches, and throw spears. I eat healthy – no processed foods, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, or gluten. I am a vegan.

I am a college student, working hard to maintain a high GPA to keep my scholarship. I am pursuing an engineering degree at Georgia Tech, a highly competitive university. I am a musician. I play both the piano and drums. Pursuing the highest level of personal growth and learning is the essence of who I am. I live every day to the fullest. I love life.

I believe the only limits are the limits we put on ourselves. I know that the discipline of ‘doing the work’ enables me to achieve all the goals I have set for myself. For Spartan Races, this means that working on my strengths and weaknesses permits me to go into a race fully prepared. Being ready for race day allows to run free, fully present in the experience. Some people may call this being in the zone. For me, it is sheer fun. It is the fun that keeps me going. I love it.

Reebok Spartan Race brings together so many things that matter to me: hard work, discipline, challenge, physical endurance, mental toughness, and most importantly, fun. To excel in this arena, many aspects of commitment are necessary. I enjoy the process. I cannot conceive of my life being any less active or challenging than I have made mine to be.

But back to fun…

The running; the obstacles! The traverse wall, the rope climb, and the monkey bars (all the gymnastic obstacles) are my favorite. But it is the sandbag carry, tractor pull, and the other obstacles requiring
brute force that make me sweat. I will not accept my current performance on these tough obstacles and am working tirelessly to improve.

Part of the fun also comes from the amazing people that I now call friends. The Spartan community continues to grow. These people understand me. They understand the rigors of living a Spartan life. It is notable that the people that identify with Spartan uphold high standards in other areas of their lives. You won’t find a better group of people anywhere. It is true that: “you will know at the finish line.”

My adventure continues. See you at the races.

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by David Magida, Elite Spartan Athlete

“You’re too competitive.”

I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve heard that in my life. Growing up I had to win everything I did no matter how obnoxious my desire to be victorious appeared to others. When I discovered running I found an appropriate outlet for that competitive fire.

I won my first cash prize race in fourth grade and never looked back. A conference champion in high school, I abandoned the sport I loved after a brief stint running collegiately. Years of mileage, repeated injuries, poor performances, and numerous clashes with the head coach left me burnt out and with no desire to run. And so I didn’t run for over five years.

I stayed in decent shape, lifting weights and playing pickup basketball and flag football daily, but something in my life was missing. My competitive fire faded. More importantly, running had been my way of clearing my mind, my period of reflection, and I no longer had it. Then I encountered Reebok Spartan Race and everything changed.

It was March 2011 when I heard the race was coming to Florida. After reading the description, I knew I had to run this race and I had to win. I trained for a few weeks, peaking at a run of four miles, and registered. The race was a Super Spartan, 8 miles of brutal intensity. I raced the noon heat, with temperatures peaking at 97 degrees.

At the starting line, I started to get that feeling I had missed the previous five years. That nervous anticipation, the intensity you can pick up off the other athletes, and that competitive fire within myself. As the race began, I nestled myself in with the leaders. About a mile in I saw it: The eight-foot wall. The race leader, a pure runner, had reached the wall about six seconds before me and was just standing, staring up at it, trying to figure out how to conquer that beast.

I didn’t hesitate, I leapt up and over putting myself into the lead. It was at that moment I realized, “I was made for this.” I never relinquished the lead that day, running as if my life depended on it. Upon crossing the finish line I could barely stand and the only thing I could say was, “That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

That day I was reinvigorated. I immediately doubled my training and began an intense running regimen that led me to two marathons and countless road races over the following eight months. Since then my free time has centered on two-a-days, unconventional workouts, nutrition, and recovery.

My time with Spartan has taught me a great deal. These races test my limits in a way other races haven’t been able to. I learned a lot about myself when I was pushed to the max. I learned how much I really care about winning, not only while I race but while I train as well. And I found out that I can tolerate pain.

I also learned that there are a lot of awesome people with the same mentality as me. I’ve immersed myself in a community of athletes who compete like champions but genuinely care about one another. Once we cross that finish line, we’re a family again. The camaraderie is incredible. We share advice on nutrition, training, injury prevention, and recovery. We often travel together and room together. I have a whole circle of Spartan friends from around the country that I never would have known otherwise, and I’m proud to say they’re just as crazy as I am.

Spartan Race has given me a new training goal. After the Ultra Beast, I realized the need to apply myself specifically to Spartan Race. While last year I focused on endurance, this year will be about speed and power. My training has shifted from pure distance running to a combination of high intensity intervals, hill repeats and unconventional strength work. Passersby may see me carrying a large rock or my bucket full of cement down the sidewalk, running with a weight vest or doing lunges with a large log on my back. I know they think I’m insane. Many of them tell me, as do my friends.

I train like this because I want to be the best. There’s nothing I want more than to raise a Spartan Helmet over my head in victory. I’m chasing some pretty amazing athletes and it’s going to take countless hours of dedication to catch them. I can’t get back the years I didn’t run. But I can devote myself to getting the most out of the rest of my life. Nobody tells me I’m too competitive anymore. They just tell me I’m crazy. I don’t mind it though, because I’m a Spartan. Spartan Race reunited me with running and in doing so it brought me peace.

Where will your Spartan finish line be? Sign up today.

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