Dear Joe,

My husband and I are going to do the Utah Beast and it has so much meaning to me for so many reasons. It’s going to be our first Beast, it’s going to earn us our first Trifecta, it’s will be our first race as part of the Weeple Army family, and my husband doesn’t even know about it yet! Let me explain….

It’s been an emotional journey for me. I was small before I got pregnant with my babies. We struggled for years to get pregnant and when I finally had a pregnancy that I didn’t lose, pregnancy was bloody awful to me. I hardly recognized myself any longer once I got pregnant and had my babies as I put on 100lbs each pregnancy. I remember an incident about 18 months ago when I went out for my first run and a truck pulled up alongside me on the road and the guys inside pointed and laughed at me because I was bouncing and jiggling every which way. I was mortified and walked home crying and bawled like a baby to my supportive husband. I didn’t give up. I’ve worked very hard to lose every single pound and gain every fibre of muscle. I lost 100lbs of baby weight. And my husband has always stood by me….through thick and thin so to speak.

I can’t say the same for most of the friends in my life who turned their backs on me and my family as we wholeheartedly embraced an active living family lifestyle. We get made fun of for our passion and enthusiasm for obstacle racing and our desire to travel long distances to participate in Spartan Races as we did for the Vegas Super and the Montana Sprint. As a Stay-at-Home mom to my two wonderful sons (ages 4 and 2) we make a lot of sacrifices to train and race including sleeping in our van on the side of the road with our children when we are driving such distances to get to the races from the island on which we live. When we first learned about Spartan Races everything changed for us and for the better. The people we have met in the OCR community have been so kind and supportive. Knowing I have such support from all my friends and family means so much to me and motivates me to keep at it!

Our participation in the Utah Beast is a culmination of all of our hard work and commitment to not only our training, but to our family’s decision to make this our passion. This is a surprise gift to my husband for Father’s Day for being an amazing role model to our boys and for always standing strong with me even when others continue to try to knock me down.

Here are some photos of my journey including before and after pics, my husband carrying me over the fire at the Vegas Super, my husband and I together jumping the fire at the Montana Sprint, and a photo of me in a race with my two sons who accompany me on most of my training as I am a stay-at-home mom. No excuses!!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it was the Canadian Mudd Queens (a Canadian women’s national obstacle racing team) that welcomed me on to their team for my first Spartan Race and have since helped to fuel my addiction to these fabulous races!!

There is no doubt that Spartan Races have a positive impact on our marriage. We want to put our best foot forward at the races. And as such we weight train together, run together, and obstacle train together. This commitment to our Spartan training has made our commitment to one another stronger; and ignited passion in other ways as well. We know if we can overcome the various obstacles on the course together then surely we can handles life’s obstacles that are thrown our way. This in turn has had a positive effect on our children’s lives as they too get involved in our training, travel to all the races with us, and participate in the Spartan Junior Races. We are indeed a Spartan Family! AROO!!

Thank you for listening to my story.

Cheers, Jessica

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Dear Joe,

Hello! As I’m sure you guys there are Spartan HQ receive a lot of these emails, I still wanted to share my story and how much of an impact your organization is. My name is Sean Fitzpatrick and a good portion of my life young life has been filled with struggles and setbacks, some out of my control and some not. In 1st grade I had my first kidney stone which had to be surgically removed, something doctors said was very very rare for a child of that age. I continued to get kidney stones every year and still do. I’m 21 years old and have had 25 stones thus far, some passing on their own and some having to be surgically removed. The frequency of having these stones made exercising very difficult as it would put my on bed rest for extended periods of time and I eventually stopped exercising all together, thus leading me to weighing 250lbs at the age of 18.

I discovered Spartan Race three years ago when I at my heaviest weight and the lowest point in my life. However, the idea of the Spartan Race resonated deeply within me – seeing many people of different struggles completing your races, and the strong motivation your company displays for it’s racers. It was then I decided to make a change and bring life back into my life. I was determined to run a race that coming summer. It started with running down the block and not being able to catch my breath, to running a 13 minute mile, to running multiple miles at a time. I kept track of everything I ate, weight lifted, 5 days a week, running 6 days a week. As my weight went down, my happiness sky rocketed. I told myself over and over how I was going to run that race for myself and accomplish something for me. Four weeks before the Sprint, I felt an all too familiar pain in my lower back and I knew what it meant. I drank a gallon of water a day in hopes of passing the stone, but it never came and the pain grew and grew. As the race crept closer I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do it, so I had to put it on the back burner and I was crushed. I eventually passed the stone, but my pride still took a hit, but I still have one thing: A new found confidence, a new found self, and a new found life. I wouldn’t put my physical fitness to the waste side any more.

Flash forward three years, and I’m now, as of June 5th, 2014, weighing in at a healthy 175lbs, running 25+ miles a week, weight lifting/training 6 days a week, hiking frequently, and experiencing all the joys that come with being able to have control over your own body. I still get kidney stones (to my doctor’s dismay), but I push trough the pain when I can, and it actually helps pass the stones with no complications.

On 6/01/14 I ran my first Sprint at Tuxedo Ridge, I put my all into it. At the starting line I wasn’t as confident as I thought I was going to be, looking at fellow Spartans and seeing how confident they looked. But as I began I pushed past many in my heat and blew through each obstacle, not failing any of them. Once I reached the finish line I was overcome by my personal accomplishment – I ran 95% of the race, uphill and down, completed every obstacle without any problem, and helped individuals who needed it. My girlfriend and friend were literally shocked how well I did ! I placed in the top 7% overall, something I never thought would be possible. I’m now on my way to earning my first (of many) trifecta’s!!!

I know this was a long-winded story, but I just had to share with you guys at HQ because it’s because of you guys that I was given the tools to turn my life around. Everything the Spartan Race stands for is something I wish to bring to my life, and the lives of those around me.

Overall, I just want to say thank you.

Sean Fitzpatrick 

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Whenever you get yourself off the couch and start training it can be a difficult experience. We’ve all been there, whether you’ve never really done activity ever or you are an athlete who took a few months off. Maybe you are just getting back into it after overcoming an injury. Whatever the case may be there is going to be some soreness as you begin training your body and muscles to be active.

It’s important to be able to identify the difference between the good hurt and the bad hurt. Good hurt means you’ve pushed yourself just enough to begin the muscle building process, bad hurt means you’ve overdone it and are at risk of injury or possibly, already injured. Knowing the difference between the two kinds of hurt can make all the difference in your training program.

Good Hurt

The good kind of hurt is that achy soreness you feel after a good workout. Perhaps you just had an awesome leg day. The next day you wake up feeling weaker than you were the day before. This is usually the good kind of hurt. It means, “Hell ya, I just killed that WOD and now I’m going to hobble up these stairs today.” If the soreness ever lasts more than two days, you know you went too hard and that’s when you have to worry.

Good hurt can come in many forms but usually it’s just muscle soreness or stiffness. I have great news for you, there is a way to overcome the good hurt and it all comes down to stretching, foam rolling, and even massage. Yes, the massage, one of the best recovery systems there is, self-massage or professional massage. No matter which you choose both can help aid in recovery from this “good hurt” you are experiencing. Foam rolling is a very effective way to massage your muscles yourself. Always take a proactive role in drinking lots of water. This helps to flush all the lactic acid out and keeps your muscles hydrated. Remember the adult body is made up of 50-65% water.

When your muscles are sore from a workout it’s because you have torn the little fibers, when these fibers rebuild you develop scar tissue which forms a stronger bond building a bigger muscle. That’s the most unscientific way to put it. When the muscles are growing you need to constantly stretch them and help them to recover, if you don’t you’ll become even stiffer and lose flexibility. You should stretch before and after your workouts, as dynamic stretching has been touted as being safer than static stretching, but both serve their purposes.

Bad Hurt

One thing you want to avoid more than anything is the “bad hurt.” This is the kind of hurt that doesn’t go away after a day or two. This is the pain that lingers; it could be a tear in your muscles, tendons, or a broken bone. You’ll know when you’ve gone too far because the pain will be excruciating. If the pain only kind-of sucks and fades, it’s probably the aforementioned, “good hurt,” if the pain is sharp and doesn’t dissipate in a short manner of time, it’s most likely a “bad hurt.”

Unless you can tell immediately that something is seriously broken or torn, you’ll want to give it a day or two before going in to see a doctor. Remember doctors have a lot on their plate and deal with hundreds of patients. You don’t want to be the person that goes in, wastes their time, your money, just to find out your have a little muscle soreness. Some good ways to identify if what you are experiencing is “bad hurt” are to stop and take a breath. Can you still move around without shooting, sharp, targeted pain? If the pain is very centralized it could be the “bad hurt.”

The “bad hurt” is something you’ll usually feel more immediately, it’ll be distinct and something you don’t want to push through. The “good hurt” usually comes the day following your workout. All pain is different and sometimes it can be hard to diagnose so of course when in doubt go see a doctor but give it a day or two, if you can bare it, and make sure it’s not just something minor that will go away with some proper rest, stretching, foam rolling, massage, or some good ol’ ice.

Take good care of yourself before and after your workouts and hopefully you’ll never have to experience the “bad hurt.” Be smart, stretch often, foam roll, drink lots of water and Spartan on!

We’ll see you at the finish line…

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Dear Joe,

I’m a pretty normal citizen; a 25 year old female, former collegiate athlete, and now in a career which I absolutely love – teaching. A couple of years ago I began to get involved with running, and truly found my niche. It was something I could do, a way to clear my mind and spend time with myself. It was simply “me time”, and I enjoyed it. I eventually ran a few half marathons and figured “Hey, that was great, good job!” Then that was it, I casually kept up with it, ran a little here and there, but nothing much. Until recently when I found the Spartan Race. Now I have never done a Spartan Race, I have only heard about it and began seriously considering it just a few weeks ago. I saw that the book ‘Spartan Up’ had been released and decided to get myself a copy. Since it’s arrived in the mail, I’ve really had my head in it, and was able to read the majority of it while traveling back to California yesterday, bookmarking  it just after the chapter about the “Cookie Test”.

I was pretty intrigued by the test and immediately thought to myself, “Hey that’s me!” For the last few months I have been taking the cookie, the easy way out, not even giving myself the chance to hold off. For example, I was choosing to sleep in rather than run. Each night I would tell myself, “Ok Alex, you’re going to run in the morning”, but when morning would arrive I’d get up, move around in my nice warm bed, and just tell myself, “Nah, I’ll run later”. But did I ever run later? Nope.  This cycle continued for a while, the pounds packed on again, and I was back to square one.

Alex Lopez was inspired by “Spartan Up!”

But then I read about the ‘Cookie Test’, and it made me think about it a lot. After being exhausted from my trip back home (3 hour drive in the morning, flight to LA, bus ride to Union Station, train ride to Corona, and a car ride to my final destination in Lake Elsinore), I had originally figured the next day I would sleep in. That is what my plan was, and I was sure I wasn’t going to wake up till noon, but somehow now my intentions seemed to be different.

The next morning I woke randomly at 6:30am, slowly rising while I lay in bed. I kept telling myself, “30 minutes more”, but I couldn’t seem to fall back asleep. Then all of a sudden the ‘Cookie Test’ came to mind. I told myself that I wouldn’t take the cookie this early, that I’m going to get up and go run. So running I went. I was pretty shocked at myself, thrilled with the realization that I could talk myself out of sleeping in another 30 minutes, and there I was, outside in the fresh air in my running gear. I wanted to make the run count so I set out for a distance of 5 miles. No big deal, I’ve been running here and there, trying to be consistent, so hey, “I’ve got this” I told myself. The route I took began with a loop, a mile to the left with direct route back which would result in two miles right before I hit the straight away stretch on the other side of the street to achieve three miles.

My run was going great, it felt good to breathe in the fresh air, to take in the scenery, and to enjoy the fact that I was home. I had reached a mile and made the turn to head back to the point where I began, which is the entrance to the street where my house is.  As I’m running, I reach the two mile mark and begin the three mile stretch when I encounter an older woman walking on the sidewalk.  I made the decision to jog off of the sidewalk to pass her, and when jumping back on the sidewalk I felt a painful poke right below the base of my big toe. I had to do  a ‘hippity hop’ and stopped to figure out what was wrong. I immediately took off my shoe, looked inside, and what I saw was a thorn coming through my shoe. Not just your typical thorn, but a 2 inch thorn; where it came from I had no idea. My foot began to throb in the most painful way ever. I tried to take out the thorn but it just wasn’t happening. I finally removed the insole, bent my shoe backwards, and with my teeth pulled it out.

Before putting my shoe back on, I took off my sock to see the damage. I saw blood on the outside of my sock, then saw a puncture wound where the thorn had pierced through my foot. I couldn’t shake the pain, but tried to put my shoe on anyway. So there I was, at was the entrance of the street where my house is, and my first thought was “I could stop my run now, go home, and rest.”  At that point I was really talking myself out of continuing my run. I was about to throw in the towel and just say “F it”, but the next thought that consumed me was “Don’t take the cookie”. I began repeating that phrase over and over in my head, “Don’t take the cookie”. I put my shoe back on, laced it up, and went for the rest of my run.  The throbbing in my foot was immense, it freaking hurt like hell, but I had already decided that I wasn’t going to take the cookie; so I kept going, further, harder. One mile passed, then another, until I reached my goal . After reaching five miles, I decided to continue on and went for a hill workout. I figured the pain that I would feel from my workout would take over the throbbing pain in my foot, and soon enough I had forgotten all about it.
After I completed my five plus mile run and hill workout, I returned home. I immediately took off my shoe the pain returned. But it had drastically diminished because I felt incredibly accomplished; I had pushed through the pain, I fought it, I SPARTAN’D UP! And although walking is a hassle because my foot is still in pain, it’s all good! You know why? Because I didn’t take the cookie.

Alex Lopez

To buy your copy of “Spartan Up!”, click here.

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Dear Joe,

It’s taken a little guts to admit this to you guys, and I’m not looking for any kinda spotlight, but just so you know you guys are awesome.

I’m a Firefighter/Paramedic as a civilian and a Combat Medic in the Florida National Guard. You’d think that we would be in the best of shape, but I’m here to tell you that most of us aren’t, and sadly I was one of the ones in better shape.

I was miserable, lost in the rat race that is the gym, no real direction and to be honest, failing miserably. Home, family, school, and personal life continued to fall apart around me and I was searching for something to hold me above water, to focus on the good. My friend Andrew Fuentes, a buddy of mine, told me about the Spartan Race they ran in Miami last year with other medics from my unit. I so badly wanted to be involved, so I looked up the race itself.

Zach (right) and his buddies complete the Super.

I didn’t realize there was such a following, deeper than any other mud or obstacle race, that it was a lifestyle. I quickly jumped into the WODs, albeit slow (and miserably at times), and the diets. I missed the Tampa Spartan, but I sucked it up and signed up for the Spartan Super in Miami. I’ve been busting my ass and I’m ready to become a Spartan.

Thanks for all you do, and keep up the awesome work!

Zach Parrish

Sign up for your next Spartan Race here and we’ll see you at the finish line…

 


 

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On Tuesday, September 11th, 2001, the world stopped and watched in open-mouthed horror at the images shown on TV. For Montana residents Rob and Sassy Giles, that day will be etched in their minds forever, as despite being nowhere near the east coast, that was the day Rob was diagnosed with Squamish Cell Carcinoma on his tonsils. He had cancer.

Advised immediately to find a doctor that specialized in this field, they happily stumbled across Dr. Jeffrey Haller MD, an otolaryngologist who had been working precisely in the field for the past ten years that Rob needed help with. What made everything click that little bit more easily was that he had recently moved from Salt Lake City to Missoula, Montana – practically on the doorstep of Rob and Sassy. The surgery was done at St. Pat’s hospital – a procedure that took 14 hours.

The operation went well and Rob spent the following 4 days heavily sedated in order to recuperate. Another 6 days passed before the decision was reached that he was well enough to go home. The medical team advised him that they wanted to keep him there until he could swallow.

Their remarkable cheerfulness they attribute to their unwavering faith. Even while Rob was having therapy in Arizona, Sassy flew home to have her own fight against melanoma cancer removed from her leg. This impossibly strong couple fighting hard against obstacles put in their way knowing that He was with them the whole time.

Although he was now in familiar surroundings, he noticed that his ability to swallow was diminishing. It turned out that his treatment of chemotherapy and the radiation had destroyed his epiglottis. Sadly, tumors continued to grow in Rob’s mouth, so he was unable to open his mouth. Halfway through his treatment, spots were found on Rob’s lungs. Since then, Rob has now been fed entirely by way of a tube fitted to his stomach.

Reflecting on his nutrition, his wife Sassy explained, “I make all of his food.  Rob eats very healthy food.  I am a fitness instructor as well as a figure competitor and Rob uses the same food as me. So for example for his breakfast he will put in the blender – yes all together- oatmeal, eggs, peanut butter, kale, bananas, strawberries, quinoa.  Puree the whole batch and seal-a-meal it to freeze.  So I made 11 seal-a-meal bags for breakfast lunch and dinner.  Dinner will be fish, beef, chicken or salmon, lots of veggies (broccoli, kale, spinach, etc.), brown rice or quinoa and fruit.  I add avocado or hummus too!  He doesn’t eat sugar at all, no reason too, can’t taste any of the food since it goes directly to the stomach. We put it all in the cooler, frozen and he just thaws them out under hot water and uses a syringe to push the food into his stomach.  Interesting way to eat huh!?”

The treatment hit Rob so hard that he was, for all intents and purposes out of commission in regards to work. This didn’t, however, ever stop him from going to church, even if it meant leaning on a friend or family member so that he could attend. His remarkable humor was evident throughout, especially when he would refer to the outpatient clinic as, “The Recliner Club”. Despite being understandably frustrated, he would never complain to the nurses and would crack jokes and always maintained his jovial sense of humor.

To this day, Rob hasn’t swallowed for seven and a half years and continues to fight battles on all fronts. Anemia, Shingles, foot and hand damage from the treatment he went through have all made life difficult for Rob, but throughout it all, he’s driven on, fought back and continued to smile the entire time. In March of 2007, Rob and Sassy visited Israel where they were baptized in the Jordan river and even renewed their wedding vows in Cana.

It was around November of 2008 when Rob noticed that he wasn’t getting enough air to breathe. He was concerned another tumor was growing. After being rushed to the hospital, a doctor saw that scar tissue had been growing and was effectively closing his windpipe. The treatment for this was to fit a tract tube. Yet another blow to the man already fighting immeasurably high odds.

While what he gained with the tract made breathing easier, his sodium and iron levels in his blood left him feeling weak. After 4 transfusions with iron and salt put into his system he was right back on track. Not long after this, he was presented with a new mountain bike on Father’s Day. Although understandably hesitant given what his body had gone through, he sat on the bike and went for it. His iron counts were good and after a while, finding he had gained 25 lbs. and was feeling a little stronger, his rides now measure between 20-30 miles at a time.

“Suffering comes. It’s bound to happen”, says Sassy, “but it’s how we respond to it that makes all the difference in the world. Rob chooses to remain faithful to God, committing himself to his faithful creator and continuing to do good with as many days as he has.”

Rob’s strength and will of steel will be tested this weekend when he tackles the Montana Sprint. Never one to shy away from something put in his way, he’s ready for a fight. Sassy smiles when she hears people shrug off a Spartan Race as, too difficult. Having already brawled with whatever demon that came across his path, he’s rolling up his sleeves and clenching his fists for another round. He’s already learned what it is to persevere, as Sassy knows.

“He did say to me that the one thing he would like to see from this, is that when people hear the most horrible words you could ever hear, which is “You have cancer”. Rob wants them to know there is always hope, but you have to fight for it and you have to believe.  His motto during his treatment was, “I just have to beat it by one breath and I win! And he did win!”

See you at the finish line…

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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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Dear Joe,

My name is Kevin Donoghue and I wanted to personally thank you for including me in the special needs race last Saturday.

Inclusion, of the pro & elite athletes, sounds a little strange.  But it was your reaching out to us that gave us the opportunity to truly shine.

Many of us have been blessed with athletic ability. Fewer of us have been blessed with the ability to participate in our sport at the highest level.

Savanah celebrates her medal father Eddie on the left with Spartan Ambassador Athlete, Kevin Donoghue on the right

It’s so important for us to use these gifts as tools to help others.  Our trophies and medals are great, but spending time with those kids was an experience I will never forget and always treasure.  To see the joy on Savanah’s face, & the pride in her father’s eyes brought true joy to my heart.  I believe all the athletes felt just the same.

I hope in the future we can all collaborate again!

Gratefully,
Kevin Donoghue

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Written By Holly Joy Berkey

It seems that one of the biggest concerns facing many women training for an obstacle race is that of a lack of upper body strength.  We fear that our perceived inadequacy may hinder our overall performance come race day, and our confidence is shaken as we dread that we may not be able to complete many of the obstacles we will encounter.

While our male counterparts seem to effortlessly tackle monkey bars, 8 foot walls, and rope climbs, many women feel as though we were given the short end of the stick with regards to upper body strength.  We struggle through these obstacles, and some of us just never quite find a way to conquer them, grimacing with defeat as we complete a penalty or end up bypassing the cursed obstruction. Granted, our physical makeup is quite different, and each sex has strengths and weaknesses the other does not, but just because we may not be blessed with a propensity for upper body aptitude does not mean that we cannot achieve it.  I truly feel that a large part of the issue is due to the face that, from a young age, most girls are made to feel as though we aren’t supposed to focus on building strength in our upper-bodies.  Almost as though it’s unladylike to be strong.  We’re convinced that pull-ups are impossible, push-ups should be completed with knees resting on the ground, and don’t even think about lifting weights, because you’ll bulk up and look much too manly.

As a child of the 80s, I grew up in the realm of step aerobics, jazzercise, and Jane Fonda workouts.  Women bounced happily around in leotards and leg warmers, and seemed more interested in keeping a “feminine” shape than truly being strong and fit.  The misconception seemed to be that if a women completed any manner of strength training, she would become “butch” and much too masculine.

I think that our generation is still battling this mistaken belief, and I regularly hear women lament over their inability to complete upper-body focused obstacles.  I also used to feel this way, and was content with the belief that I could not attain certain physical strengths simply because I’m a woman.  I was convinced that pull-ups were a workout only men were able to complete, so I didn’t even bother trying to find a workout that would hone this skill.   At obstacle races, walls of any size required a boost from anyone around willing to lend a shoulder or knee, and monkey bars and rope climbs were just plain scary.  I had the mentality of “I can’t do this”, when instead I should have been thinking, “I can’t do this yet”.  I’d love to see women change their expectation of their limitations, and realize that there are so many things that they can do, even if they cannot do it just yet.

In my case I was able to ever so slowly change not only my own perception of how strong I was capable of being, but I was also able to learn to identify myself with being feminine, fit, and tenacious.  As I have become a more experienced obstacle racer, I also learned how to properly train my body for the tasks I will be asked to complete at each race.  Monkey bars have become much more manageable to traverse, I have learned proper techniques to climb ropes with ease, and each wall I am now able to climb unassisted gives me a jolt of excited adrenaline.  I can do the things that I was made to believe that I couldn’t.  I can complete tasks that I believed were too difficult.  And that is a truly amazing feeling, as it provides me with the confidence to know that I can continue to train, improve, and excel at future races.

The reason I’m sharing this is because I know that many of you reading this may share the same lament.  You may doubt that you can ever achieve the upper body prowess to conquer certain obstacles, and this lack of faith in your abilities may be hindering you from accomplishing incredible personal results.  But I’m here to tell you that with hard work and dedication, you too can achieve results that will astound you.  You may just surprise yourself!

Now I know I can tell you that you can build your upper body strength till I’m blue in the face, but that doesn’t mean anything unless you commit to working on building that strength.  And before you think that you’ll bulk up, don’t worry!  It actually takes a lot for a woman to develop large muscle mass (you won’t look like a body builder unless you purposely strive for that particular look.  And if you are a body builder, you go girl! Rock it!), so any upper body strength training you do will simply aid you in building lean, beautiful muscles in your arms, shoulders and back.

Ready to get started? I recommend incorporating push-ups, planks, and dips regularly into your workouts as a great way to begin building your strength.  I also try to work in a fair amount of heavy lifting as well.  As a mother, I’m blessed with a 50 pound child to lift, carry, and wrestle with, and I’m convinced he’s a huge factor in my increased power and grip strength.  Don’t have a child to incorporate into your training?  No worries!  Sand bags are a great alternative, and are easily found at any local hardware store.  Hand weights are also fantastic, and are awesome for an all-around workout if combined with squats and lunges.  If you have access to a gym, one or two sessions of weight training a week will make a huge difference as well, but a gym membership isn’t required to gain results.

Over time, you’ll begin seeing improvements in your ability to lift heavy items (if you’ve ever completed a Spartan Race and encountered the dreaded bucket carry, you’ll greatly appreciate a stronger upper body at this obstacle!), and maneuver obstacles like a champ.  So don’t give in to the myth that women are unable to do certain things due to a lack of ability.  We can do it, and we can do it well!  With time, dedication, and focus, you too can conquer the course!

~Holly Joy Berkey

www.muddymommy.com

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How many times have you stared longingly at those people at Spartan Races that effortlessly scamper up those climbing ropes and ring the cowbell with effortless ease?

There you are, hugging that rope with your hands clenched around that knot, hoping that if you can get just above the one in front of you, you’re part of the way there. Then what happens? You slide back into that muddy water and curse the whole thing to Hades.

How do they do it? It looks so easy when they do it!

Never fear – the Spartan Race Pro Team are here!

In this episode of “How to…” the Barbed Wire Queen of Green, Andi Hardy, is going to show you how to employ the “J-Hook” technique when climbing a rope. Gone are those frustrating times of shaking an angry fist at that cowbell you can’t reach.

Just watch this tutorial video made on course at a Spartan Race and all will be revealed!

Learn the technique and sign up without fear of failing it again!

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