Spartan Race is proud to announce the latest addition to the Spartan Race Pro Team, Chad Trammell. Of 12 races, he has taken podium places 9 times. A highly enviable achievement.

Speaking of his signing onto the team, Chad said, “It feels great! I have so much respect for the athletes on the team, and am very proud to count them as teammates. I’ve always liked the team aspect of running, which many consider to be an individual sport, and it’s the same with OCR. Being part of the Spartan Pro Team gives that extra push, knowing that you’re representing The Spartan Pro Team, the organization, and most importantly everyone out there who races.”

Being on the Pro Team was something he has been working towards for some time. Noticing that he was sometimes finishing ahead of many recognized Elites since his first race in Arizona of 2013, he made the assumption that he’d be picked up immediately. When he wasn’t, his true character shone through and it only fueled him further to dig deeper, push harder and run faster. He understood he needed to prove himself over time. So that is what he did.

Now that he’s on board officially, he rubs his hands with glee, relishing the chance to pick up some friendly rivalries with members of the Pro Team.

“Absolutely!,” he beams, “one of my goals is to beat all the top racers in the sport at least once, and I have been able to best almost everyone at least once, including Hobie Call, Brakken Kraker, David Magida, Max King, James Appleton, Matt Murphy, Glenn Racz, John Yatzko, and Matt Novakovich. The two guys who are still on my list are Hunter McIntyre and Cody Moat, and I’ve come very close to both of them, so I’ll have a little extra motivation next time I’m in a race against them.”

Coming from a background where his strengths were running at pace with endurance, Chad quickly realized that he had weaknesses at some obstacles, especially around the heavy carries, such as the sandbag and bucket brigade. Such was his determination that he now considers them a strength, highlighted by wins in the heavy-obstacle driven race at Colorado and also in Monterey. His next target is to improve on his steep inclines so that he can compete with climbing specialists like Matt Novakovich.

Spartan welcomes Chad Trammell with open arms and looks forward to watching his growth as an athlete and member of the Spartan Pro Team. Congrats on your success so far Chad, we’ll see you at the finish line!

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Dear Joe,

My name is Nathaniel Fuentes and I’m a Santa Clara Pueblo Native (Tewa) from New Mexico. From 2003 until 2013 I was a massage therapist/bodyworker, when in 2013 I decided that I wanted to expand who I was and what I could become.

My career as a therapist is something that I could not complain about. It had provided, entertained, enlightened and inspired me, but when I went through being partially paralyzed as I’ll mention a little later – and the recovery – it made doing bodywork a very physically unpleasant occupation. Today, I no long practice in a clinic or from my home office but instead manufacture a pain salve that I created and later refined during the days of pain and discomfort in order to free myself from the pharmaceutical opiates that I had started to become addicted to for the management of the pain and discomfort that I was going through. Currently I’m in the continued process of repairing and evolving from where I was to where I now can be.

I finished my first Spartan Race, a Military Sprint in May 2014 at Ft. Carson, CO and I’m now training for the Spartan Trifecta that’s being held on the Island of Oahu in Hawaii this August. I started training in October 2013 for the Spartan Race, after losing 45lbs while being on a traditional Pueblo food diet.

My starting weight was 160lbs from 215lbs and a 35% BMI and running a mile took me over 15+ minutes. Now in June 2014 after gaining 45lbs I weigh 200-205 with a BMI of 23 and I average a mile in 6:30, while running up to 12 miles and hitting the gym almost daily.

Why I do this? Besides wanting to be a healthier individual? In 2011, I was diagnosed with an incurable disease known as Degenerative Disc Disease. This a disease that deteriorates the cartilage between the bones and leaves those who suffer from it in discomfort or pain. Because of the disease’s accelerated progress, it left me paralyzed for three months. With the inability to move from my bed, from my house, to walk, run, jump and even hold the ones I love, freedom and independence would no longer be the same. Battling through depression, self-doubt and the inability to move with wherever and whenever I liked, combined with the realism that in the near future the use of one or both my legs could be gone, I decided and made a change. This change would be to push myself to my limits and beyond, to enjoy the gifts that we all take for granted like the ability to walk, to jump, to run, and to not cower from my pain but to use it to pick myself up, to rebuild from the ground up who I am, and no matter what the outcome.

Thanks, Spartan Race

Here is a link of a teaser trailer for the Road to the Spartan Trifecta.

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Meet Brian Duncanson.

One of the very few that initially sat around Joe Desena’s kitchen table with a handful of others when the idea of Spartan Race was born. Adventurer, tennis player, sports fan, all-round good guy. At the beginning of this year, he took his first steps on a trip that he neither asked for, nor wanted.

“It was back in November when I was the Race Director for the Miller Park event, then went to Salt Lake City for a tourism trade show, then almost right after to Fenway for the race. I could tell something was off, but it seemed much like a typical cold.  It stuck around through Christmas time and I was starting to get concerned. I started visiting a clinic to get some medicine and to have my lungs x-rayed. Everything was coming up negative, but the cold was not going away.”

It was towards the end of January that Brian Duncanson noticed things were a little off. Even his wife had commented that he had bags under his eyes and had bad breath. He was wearing a much paler complexion at times, too. A routine visit in the early afternoon of January 23rd to the dentist where both he and the tech noticed a lot of bleeding from the gums set alarm bells ringing.

“I happened to have a dentist appointment at the end of January where the illness boiled over and showed itself. This finally led to the blood test that showed that my white blood cell count was 10x the normal level and I needed to take immediate action or be at risk of a heart attack or stroke.”

A whirlwind of a visit to a clinic, a blood test and by 5pm the same day, Brian was reeling from the news that he had Leukemia.

A man with no history of cancer in the family, who ate well and was a veteran of endurance racing and love of sports, Brian wasn’t who you’d expect to be the target of such a horrific disease. But there he was, dealing with the news that would drastically alter his life.

“It was amazing how quickly a simple blood test popped up the result, it took us a while to process the shock. Even more to be told I had Leukemia as it’s something most people just don’t ever consider. With the results as high as they were, we drove immediately to the hospital to begin treatment. No one said it at the time, but I was likely within a few days of having a major health event.”

Before he knew what was happening, he was the newest resident at Florida Hospital, beginning his battle against cancer and taking his first tentative steps into chemotherapy. He quickly found, however, that his battles weren’t confined to just the disease. The crushing monotony of hospital life as a patient quickly began testing him. He even made comparisons to the film The Shawshank Redemption.

“Staying in a hospital is very much like a prison. Your room is your cell, plenty of time to be alone with your thoughts which are often dark. The nurses are like the guards, while they’re trying to help you, they’re constantly watching and interrupting you. Some are nice and others are more robotic. Time moves slowly here and frequently you don’t know when you will get out. Even the food reminds me of what it would be like in prison. Poor food served on trays. But perhaps the most direct parallel is the fact that you take on a new pattern of living, similar to what a soldier deployed overseas would experience. If it’s long enough, you become accustomed to that life and it becomes hard to reintegrate back into society, particularly if you carry over some disability back into your life.”

As the first round of chemotherapy started, Brian eventually began to understand and cope with the daily white blood cell count review, the sleep interruptions, and his bag stand. He not only had to learn to walk with it so it could continue to feed directly into his veins, but had become “friends” with it, even jokingly pointing out that he sometimes looked like Neo from The Matrix films.

On Tuesday February 4th, the first round was complete. While he could now look forward to cooked meals at home as opposed to relying on the generosity of his family to bring things in for him, going home after spending the previous 25 days in his “Shawshank” life, he knew it was bittersweet.

“I had to close my eyes a few times on my way home from the hospital. It felt great once I arrived home, but it was strange going out in public and seeing people for the first time after my diagnosis. It was easy to get into the groove of being home, but there was always the next treatment hanging over your head. Each trip back to the hospital was harder.”

What was also hard was the financial strain that was beginning to take it’s toll on him and his family. Friends organized a tennis day, with various fundraising elements added, but even with their huge support and help and including the insurance, Brian still had a $20,000 hole to plug.

Brian then went backwards and forwards many times throughout his 2nd and 3rd rounds of treatment. It was around now that his mental grit was tested. Waiting on results, tests to be taken, information from medical staff all took its toll. Waiting on tests, waiting on results and even waiting on individuals to get back to him with information that would allow him to get on with things, whether it was home visits or it was further procedures.

With his white blood cell counts high and favorable, it was around this time that Brian was dealt another unfavorable hand. Doctors began giving contradicting advice regarding how the treatment ball was to continue rolling. It was a choice – a gamble – that Brian finally took after seeking further advice. Would he continue with chemo, or take the bone marrow transplant that he was urged to.

“My decision came down to finishing the four rounds of chemo and going on with life, or tacking on another 6-months of treatment. Both feel somewhat like a gamble because there’s no clear path to a cure. I’m literally betting on which approach might work best”, he admits.

“I’m at the beginning of the marrow transplant. There is still risk with the graph not taking. With Graph vs. Host Disease and then there is still the possibility of a relapse. All of them are bad. In the best case, the next five to six weeks pass uneventfully and my new immune system will be ready to fight on its own. For me it’s three weeks in the hospital, 2-3 months of three times per week doctor visits to keep my blood levels proper. As time goes on, the visits will get further and further apart.”

Brian still has a fight on his hands, but with his family, friends and Spartan community behind him, this terrible disease is picking fights with the wrong person.

Click here to see how you can help Brian in his fight.

Brian has gone on to write about his decision in his own words and goes on to urge others to join a registry of possible bone marrow donors. All it requires is a cheek swab and takes minutes to do.

“Besides wanting to build a successful company, we stated early on in the company’s development that we wanted to change people’s lives.  This started as a pure fitness goal, but then evolved quickly into a set of principles known as the Spartan Code. It was a cool way to personify the ancient warriors and allow people to apply this code to their life’s obstacles.  It’s been amazing to see how many people identified with the brand and made profound changes in their lives. Those stories are always the most interesting for me.”

“As I sit here in my hospital room awaiting stem cells from someone I don’t even know, I think about what motivated them. My donor was identified through the bone marrow registry and all I know about this person is that he is a 22-year-old US citizen. A pretty youthful age to have such philanthropic ideals. Was someone he knew touched by Leukemia? He’s obviously a youthful, strong-spirited person, with great awareness of the world beyond himself. And there it is – the Code. Then I start to wonder if this person has ever been to a Spartan Race and how great it would be if Spartan had caused a change in him that lead to this selfless act.”

“No matter what changes you are striving to make in your life, please allow me to encourage all of you to SPARTAN UP and join the bone marrow database. The larger the number of donors, the better odds for everyone. It’s a simple cheek swap and little time.”

Bone Marrow Transplant

After much discussion with my medical team, I made the decision to proceed with a bone marrow transplant. As previously discussed, I have a type of Leukemia called AML. When the doctors run initial tests they run your cytogentics, which are indicators of abnormal cell behavior and thus predict if your cancer will relapse. The cytogenetics sort out three classes: Favorable – who do not receive transplants; unfavorable – who must receive transplants; and Intermediate risk who have been a point of controversy. Some Oncologists feel that people with intermediate risk AML can obtain long-term survival with chemo only treatments. Cellular doctors believe intermediate risk requires a transplant.

I should clear up at the front of a Bone Marrow Transplant and Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplant. Bone marrow is obtained by aspirating the marrow from the pelvis bone. This is the process the doctors use to verify remission in cancer patients as well. Local anesthesia is given, but it’s a slightly painful procedure and a few days of recovery time.

The good news is that Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplant (PBSCT) is much less invasive and it is the preferred method of donating for blood cancers. PBSCT is a method of collecting the stem cells from the bloodstream called apheresis. The donor is given medicine to increase the blood levels, then the blood is drawn out of a large vein, goes through a machine that removes the stem cells, then the blood is returned to the donor. The process takes 4 to 6 hours.

Finding a match for the transplant is typically one of the hardest parts of the process. Siblings are typically tested first, but each one of them has only a 25% of matching. There’s only about a 50% chance for causations to find a match through the world-wide registry. That number goes down to 7% if you’re African American. Your health care professional can scan the database once they develop your Human leukocyte-associated antigens (HLA) matching through some expensive blood testing. The better the match, the least likely complications will develop like graph-vs-host disease.

Once you’ve found your match, there are still several weeks of work to do. The donor gets to pick their donation date, and your schedule will be set once that date is defined. You still have to pass a battery of tests on your heart, lungs, and a final marrow biopsy to make sure you’re ready to begin the process.

Check in at the hospital to begin with a central line insertion that will serve to draw blood from your body and insert medicines. After being treated with high-dose anticancer drugs and anti-rejection drugs (one called the Rabbit), then the patient receives the stem cells through an intravenous (IV) line just like a blood transfusion. This part of the transplant takes 1 to 5 hours. All measurements are taken from this Day “0.” You can expect to be in the hospital for 2-3 weeks after Day 0 to ensure the engraftment has taken place and that the new cells are creating your new blood. You will continue to follow up closely with your doctor for up to 100 days after the transplant to verify and correct any blood levels.

If you can make it one year without a relapse your chances are 55% it will never come back. At two years, it’s 70%, and at three years, it’s 80+%. But suffering a relapse before those time markers typically spell a negative prognosis.

The entire process is only possible based on the large registries that are helping to match up potential donors to those in need. In the U.S., Bethematch.org has all the information for people looking to donate marrow. It’s only a cheek swab to get into the registry with only about a 1 in 500 chance that you’ll match with someone who needs your marrow. People 18-44 are most desirable.

Read Brian’s blog as he fights cancer right here.

 

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It was the Virginia Super of 2013. Hobie was in his prime and the Spartan Pro Team were a very recognizable who’s-who line up of OCR. From nowhere, an unknown racer named Matt Novakovich appeared on the scene by not just winning the race, but establishing a crushing margin of over six minutes.

A flash-in-the-pan, one-hit wonder? 14 podium finishes since that race would beg to differ. The man from Alaska runs up hills at the same speed most people run across a football field. His almost inhuman ability to ignore pain married with his incredible muscle memory means that not only should his appearance at a starting line be respected, but feared. Add to this the way he breezes through, over and under any obstacles put before him, he is the complete racer. There is nothing, it seems, that is capable of slowing him down.

A heavy hitter within the elite ranks he is someone to be taken seriously, and with the additional training he is doing courtesy of Joe Desena – in the same way Hunter McIntyre did before him – only time will tell if Matt’s experience will defeat the youthful exuberance of those a little younger than him. The Vermont World Championship weekend is shaping up to be even tighter than last year.

But for all his firepower and strength, his cheeky sense of humor and trademark grin are the first things you notice about him. Just don’t mistake his friendliness for weakness…after all they do call him, “The Bear.” 

Matt “The Bear” Novakovich
DOB: 3/27/74
Weight: 148 height: 5’9”
Hometown:  Anchorage, AK

Current residence/location:  Anchorage, AK
Pro Team member since: August 2013
Podium finishes (up to end Dec 2013): 14
Best strength: Climbing and Heavy Grinding

 

1) What is your background?
I ran the steeple chase for Brigham Young University. I graduated with a degree in business and information systems. In 2000, I started Novakovich Roofing and have been carrying heavy roofing materials for 25 years of my life. From 2000 to 2009 I competed as a category 1 cyclist and then switched to sky running steep mountains from 2009 to 2013. In 2012, I set a record for climbing 24,000 vertical feet in 9 hours and then won Mt. Marathon in the same year. I switched to Spartan after beating Hobie by six minutes in the climbing focused Virginia Super.

2) What does Spartan mean to you personally?
Spartan racing is a new challenge to me. I’m enthralled by the premise that the skinniest of runners can be beat by the 200 pound juggernauts and vise versa. I also love how the Spartan experience challenges everyone in a very special way. Everyone has a weakness at the Spartan venues and we all have to try to overcome them without giving up what our original strengths are.

3) How do you prepare?
I believe that there is no substitute for volume. I train my aerobic system twice as much as the 20 year olds and I am willing to grind out 3 hour sessions on the treadmill unlike the younger athletes. I believe in the concept of experienced muscles getting better with age. I believe that years of endurance training and racing cannot be substituted with short cuts and I take pride in crushing younger, cocky athletes ☺

4) What is your favorite WOD?
My favorite WOD is to climb 3000 vertical feet. Then do active stretching, drills and strides and begin 5×5 intervals on the incline trainer at 40% at 3 plus miles per hour. I believe that this is my gold standard and the 40% is equivalent to sub 5 minute mile pace without the pounding.

5) What is your favorite single exercise and what is you least favorite exercise?
My favorite exercise is climbing mountains fast and light. I love the scenery, fresh air and being away from people. I love taking routes that typically get me lost or at least delayed by hours from my original “plan.”

My least favorite workout is running. I used to enjoy it obviously as that was my background, however as I’m older I find that the cons of running for me include, stomach distress, knee surgeries and repetitive boredom.

6) What is your favorite FOD?
My favorite food is anything I don’t have to cook. I never have followed a recipe and I don’t plan to start. My breakfast is typically 2 packets of instant oatmeal, yogurt and diet coke.  Lunch is a sandwich that includes lots of veggies and hopefully egg whites for the protein.  Dinner is whatever we are doing for dinner. My wife, Tiffanie, is a really good cook so this is my weakness:  Pushing the plate away before I’ve had 2nds, 3rds, and 4ths.

After 7PM is the curse of the athlete trying to lean up for major events. If I can avoid the gram-crackers and milk, Coke, cereal and yogurt in the late hours I can generally be lean and mean going into important events.

7) Advice for newbies going forward that have no idea where or how to start.
It is never too late to start.  If you have become overweight through years of poor eating be patient and realize time and consistency are your friends. It is okay to “feel hungry” when cutting calories and starting a new training plan. “Feeling hungry” is our bodies way of saying “it’s working.” If you are not overweight, but just a little out of shape, realize this:  Trained properly most of us are a mere six months away from our best fitness ever.  

8) What is your favorite Spartan Race to date?
Vermont World Championships.

I had a lot of pressure to win and I fell flat on my face. Google “Vermont World Championships” and watch the footage of me shivering and cramping and considering quitting. I did not quit. However, through pushing to my 16th place finish I learned a lot about my will power, my desire to succeed and what it takes to be a champion.

9) If someone was on the edge about doing a Spartan Race, what would you say to them?

I’ve never been to an athletic event in my life where 1st place looks like they are having as much fun as the person finishing last out of 20,000 people. The Spartan experience makes everyone feel like a champ because everyone is.  Until completing a Spartan Race one will never understand the fulfillment that comes from completing one. After finishing one your friends will unfriend you on Facebook because that will be all you ever talk about anymore.

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Showing “tough love” is perhaps hard on the eye, but arguably the most sincere form of love a father can give. Taken directly from the same principle applied to boys in Sparta when they were trained to become warriors, the nurturing arm around the shoulders wasn’t always there. The long term lessons the child learned would prove, ultimately, that the best interests were always at heart, despite being hidden behind a veil of something they didn’t like.

A familiar face of not just the east coast races, but of the Death Race, too, the man known to everyone as Steve-O Opie Bones. But behind the wild hair and unmistakable beard, lies something a little more serious. His number one priority has been and always will be his two boys.

“Being a Spartan Dad was an easy decision. My main focus in life is and will always be my kids. I never sugar coat anything with them and always tell them the way the world really operates. My goal is to make them better then me. I want them to experience all that life has to offer. They have a ‘never quit’ attitude. It is a code that they live by daily. Kieran and Colin both ran their first kids race in 2012 while I was running the Beast. Since then, they have raced at Fenway Park, Citifield, Philly, and will be doing Tuxedo this weekend. While they were at Citifield this year, they also had the life changing opportunity to assist with the Special Needs Race. They have been surrounded by many incredible people during these races and many have become role models to them. They have learned to respect our Nation’s Vets and Honor our Wounded Warriors.”

Play time with Steve is a little different to most fathers.

But his passion for the right thing doesn’t just stop at his children. He points his finger at the country and remarks how a father figure is missing across this great nation.

“I hate to say it, but there are so many other countries who look at us as being “fat, lazy Americans.”  Take a look around and give it some thought. They might just be right. If you are allowing your son or daughter to sit around, eat junk food, watch tv and play video games, you are doing them a disservice. You are doing the entire U.S. a disservice. There are so many preventable and controllable diseases that plague our society. Take responsibility for your actions and get your kids moving. Your kids will thank you.

“I recently read a story about a Father that had his son carry a 23 pound rock as punishment for watching too many videos and not doing his homework. It is difficult for me to form an opinion on this when I do not have all of the facts. I do, however feel that we are too soft with our children. The fact that everyone gets an award and that everyone passes does not sit well with me. Getting away with the bare minimum just doesn’t cut it. Everyone, adults and children alike have more to give than we do. Our culture proliferates this thought that it is okay to quit. To not try harder than the bare minimum.

If you are a Dad and you are not racing with your children, you are doing it wrong.”

Michael Mills, the first Spartan Pro Adaptive Athlete – and good friend of Steve-O – shares his sentiments entirely. Tough love is good love. Although maybe the child won’t appreciate it at first, when they are old enough to realize – when it matters – it’s then when those loving seeds that were planted all those years ago come to fruition.

Steve and Michael worked together at the Death Race.

“People look at me and tell me I look just like my dad and that we have a lot of the same ways. I take that as a compliment. I remember growing up and dad was always there. He always made time for us. He would play games with us and he never worried about getting dirty in the sandpile. He always took us through the toy isle and would sneak in a Hot Wheels or two in the grocery cart when mom was not looking.

When you are young you don’t realize at the time why your dad had you do choirs or made you work for rewards, but as an adult, you appreciate those small life lessons. In the fall dad would make us go to the woods, make us help and cut firewood for the winter. We would have us load and unload the truck full of firewood. We would even have to go out at night in the cold and collect firewood at the time, I felt like it was slave labor. But little did I know it would be something that I took into my adulthood and to this day, I thank my dad for making me do things like that.”

“Another thing I can remember is being taught to say ‘yes sir’ or ‘yes ma’am.’ We were taught to be respectful and that was instilled in us at a very young age. He instilled the values of how to treat others and that no matter what you always had to do your best.  Everything my dad taught me as I grew up, I use today. My dad taught me to be a dad and I did not even know it and for that I am thankful.”

“A few weeks before I was in the car crash that paralyzed me, I had told my dad that I wanted to be different and that I did not want to be like the others. Dad told me to be careful what I wished for, I just might get it. Fast forward a month, as I am laying in the hospital on life support, I was fighting for my life……. Shortly after coming out of my coma and where I was actually alert, Dad leaned over to me one night and reminded me of the conversation that we had about being different. He said to me, ‘remember you told me you want to be different than anyone else, well, you got your wish! Now go out and live.’ Dad did not allow me to feel sorry for myself. He did not allow the wheelchair to own my life. He taught me how to own my own life and not allow something like a wheelchair or being paralyzed consume me and take my life away! I remember him making me push on my own in the thick mud after a rain from our front door to our grandmothers across the road. It was to build strength and to show me that it could be done. He taught me to be independent. Dad made me strong!

“Now, here I am a dad and my oldest of three, Brandon and I have quite a bond. At first, we tried all sorts of things. We tried cub scouts that did not work. We tried baseball that did not work. Then, we found Spartan Race. I decided almost two years I would compete in my first Spartan Race. Brandon wanted to try the kid’s race as I competed in the GA Spartan Sprint last year.  After we finished each of our own races, Brandon told me he wanted to follow in my footsteps. He made his choice; he wanted to be a SPARTAN. Now as a dad, this is what I wanted to hear. He found what he wanted to do and it was something we both had in common. This year alone, we have completed 4 OCR events together, he and I have completed our Spartan Sprint and our Super and Beast are planned already. This year, I will earn my first TRIFECTA alongside Brandon. I have seen him grow and grow in the last 2 years. He went from shy, quiet and almost afraid of trying new things, to the adventurous, dare devil that he is today. I put down his growth to Spartan Race and us having this in common. We both look at life obstacles and we take them on. That is what a Spartan father and son do!

“I have learned a lot in my life and I have been taught so much. All these things I have learned, I am passing them down to my children just as my father did for me and his father did for him. Passing down values is more important than leaving someone a lump sum of money. The money spends and eventually goes away, the lessons and values we pass down, never go away. Watching your children grow and become stronger each day and watching them become their own person has been a blessing. Seeing your children succeed and knowing you had a part in that is the greatest reward. Being a Dad or a father, or whatever you want to call it, has been my greatest reward. No medal, no paycheck, nothing can match that.

If you haven’t already done so, speak to your father today if you can. Pick up the phone, go to his house, whatever the case may be. Then thank him.


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If you ever see a couple of guys at a Spartan Race that looked so similar that you have to do a double take, chances are it’s The Unbreakable Joneses. With their unmistakable headbands and Thing 1 and Thing 2 daubed across their chests, if you don’t see them doing something bizarre (liked doing the course blindfolded or tethered together, or perhaps carrying huge sledgehammers), it means they’re on only on their first lap. “Only”. What some might not know is that this is an awesome father and son team that have dazzled Spartan racers and spectators for quite some time with their unfathomable spirit and resilience. Eston, the son in the team, puts this all down to one man – his father.

“My Dad has always been the one pushing me to try my best at anything I attempted and guiding me to reach for those goals I may not think are possible. But he doesn’t do this just by talking to me, he does this through example. My Dad has always been right there with me in all the things I try, pushing me to try harder because I know that he is doing his best to beat me. He always set the bar to where he knows I can’t resist giving it my all to pass him. This motivation has meant the world to me in not only physical challenges and endeavors but in life in general.

“My Dad isn’t like normal dads. He doesn’t sit on the sidelines cheering me on. He doesn’t ‘leave it to the young buck’ to go out and do something challenging and worth while. He is always right there with me, participating in any and all of the crazy ideas that I may have. I get the bright idea that I want to run a 100 mile race……. he’s in. I want to go all the way to Vermont to run a race….. he says ‘I’ll do it’. Then when he announces that he wants to run 4 laps of a race and then get up the next day and run even more……. well… how can I say no to that?

Eston considers this his favorite picture of him and his dad. Note the training equipment in close proximity.

 

“They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and when it comes to this competitive spirit I have in me, that is perfectly spot on. My dad is always trying to beat me. We are always pitted against each other in an epic battle for who can win. Whether its lifting a weight, running the trails, swimming a few laps, I always know in the back of my mind that he is gunning for me. This friendly rivalry pushes me to be the best that I can be every day. Because my dad is no joke. He’s not some fragile old man to be taken lightly. There is every chance that he can beat me if I don’t push myself. If I don’t train hard every time. This motivation has been one of the most important things to me in my athletic training. It has made me be better than I ever would have been without him.

“Even though my Dad is my biggest rival, I know that he always has my best interests at heart. I know that he has always got my back and that he would do what is best for me. He is always making sure that I have everything I need to be the best I can be and to succeed in whatever I do. He doesn’t hand it to me on a silver platter, but he makes sure that, with hard work and dedication on my part, that whatever I am trying to do is possible.

“Thank you Dad, for everything that you do for me.”

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Zackery Paben, the bearded warrior behind the More Hearts Than Scars charity, knows the joy of parenthood all too well.  After suffering a horrifying injury that saw him break his radius, ulna and losing the ends of seven of his fingers, his father taught him the principle of caring by showing tough love, something Zackery is very grateful for.

“Michael Mills, one of the Spartan Adaptive Athletes, often kids me about being ‘Dad’ when we race together with the Dirtbags. He fusses at me sometimes for being over protective. However during the cargo net mountain climb from hell at this year’s Sprint in Georgia, he was happy to be on my rope. Before he does the stupid and seemingly impossible; he always checks in with me with a ‘You got me?’. After my ‘I got ya’, he goes on to do things that only the word awesome can convey.

“After I finally returned home from the hospital after my accident, my dad had me do my chores like taking out the trash. My ten year old self made excuses, citing my broken arms and amputated fingertips. He let me know that I was creative and capable enough to figure out how to do it. The first time it took me an hour, after a week it took me 5 minutes.”

Zack with his daughter Snowlilly and Spartan MC Dustin Dorough take a moment to pose.

“My 25 years of being in the father role for at risk youth has been shaped by this simple concept.  Just because you got hurt does not mean you are no longer responsibly to take out the literal and metaphorical trash.

“When our little girl was diagnosed with her heart condition, her mother and I formed More Heart Than Scars to be sure to keep her and us in the right frame of mind. Every day she sees her parents training for upcoming races or making plans to empower others to adapt to their own challenges. When she is old enough to comprehend the challenges of her heart she will have many of Spartan races to reflect upon. Most importantly she has Michael Mills, Todd Love, Amanda Sullivan and Justin Falls as up and personal examples of what it means to have more heart than scars. She also has her dad to tell her that she is creative and capable enough to figure it out… also to take out the trash”, he laughs.

“For me as a dad, I try to train my children to face a hard world with their wits and guts. It is not my job to scurry about trying to make their lives easy. Even in the midst of their challenges I remind them that, “I got you”. I am the father of two daughters, Snowlilly, 4 years old, biological and already a two-time Spartan racer. June, 19 years old, adopted and determined figure things out for herself. I am very fortunate to have had many kids over the years to claim me as their dad.”

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As the year rolls around to a day of the year that is often overlooked, we wanted to give a shout out to those guys that you see on the course that, while striving to reach the finish line, have a greater goal in their lives. This, of course, is continuing to be the best Spartan dad they can possibly be.

Daren De Heras of Monrovia, California might be more familiar to many as the man who continues to set multiple lap records or as the face of Team SISU. Many will see him as the guy that has now visited the Death Race 5 times, but to his little girl Maddy, he’s just daddy.

“I’ve always wanted her to know that she is always front and center in everything I do”, he explains. 

“When she was born, I was a very passionate wrestling coach, business owner and marathoner.  I wanted her to see my passion for fitness and hoped she caught on for a love of sport, but it was important that she find her way, not what my way was.  All I ever want is for her to always finish what she started, to always challenge herself, and to know that it’s all about the journey, not the finish.  As she grew up she fell in love with Soccer and Gymnastics.  I spent the next 6 years learning soccer and coaching her teams.   During that time, Spartan Race popped up and I fell in love with it right from the start.  In 2011 I participated in my first Spartan Death Race, and suffered my first DNF.  After I quit the race, I was fortunate to spend some time with Joe De Sena the founder of Spartan Race.  I listened to his story, passion, and drive he had for the sport of obstacle racing and the positive impact it could have on so many.  I went home that weekend, inspired, motivated, but most of all it made me think if I can teach my daughter how to live this Spartan lifestyle and apply it to her everyday life, there will be no limits to what she can achieve.

“Spartan has given us a place that we feel is our special place.  We both have our own goals, and share some, but most important it’s not a race to us, it’s a journey, a way of life.  I have been to five Spartan Death Races competing in all of them with bracelets she made me, her name written on me with a sharpie and her picture in my pocket.  She has completed 5 Spartan Races, finishing 4th overall and 1st for the girls in her previous Spartan Race.  We inspire one another, push one another, and never let the other one think we have anything less than more to give. She is my heart and soul and the best thing I will ever be is her daddy.”

Sign up for your next Spartan Race here and sign up your child for Spartan Kids right here.

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With only four months to go before the championship decider rolls around to the glorious and never-ending mountains of Killington, Vermont, Spartan Race looked at the elite standings and what met our eyes made for very interesting reading.

Although leading the pack by 40 points, April Dee is well aware of who is behind her and whilst not throwing nervous glances over her shoulder, she’s certainly not resting on her laurels.

Hailing out of Chicago, Illinois but now residing in Peyton, Colorado, April is best known for her aggressive attitude on the courses and her background in the military has enabled her to focus and harness that aggression into a formidable tool for crushing courses, regardless if they are a Sprint, Super or Beast. With numerous podium finishes – many of which being wins – we ask who can match her ferocity. With names like Amelia Boone, Tyann Clark, KK Paul, Laura Messner, Rose Wetzell-Sinnett, Karlee Whipple and numerous others all having the ability to not just take advantage of a slip or mistake, but to take a lead and hold on to it, the competition is fierce.

But who is April Dee? In a short question and answer session, April Dee gave us the insight into what makes her tick.

Name: April Dee

DOB: 04/24/1979

Pro Team member since: 2013 season

Height: 5’3” Weight: 128 lbs

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Current: Peyton, CO

College: Troy State University

Points placing finish- #3 Overall & #2 Female in 2013 .

Best strength: Hills, Strengths Obstacles in Sandbag, Atlas Carry, Tire flips

1)    What is your background?  Cross country, Track & Field, Military. I just started racing in local races and I was hooked.

2)    What does Spartan mean to you personally? Psychologically it reminds of the friendship & camaraderie that I had in the military and the feeling of competition that I had in the military really transitioned into OCR. Spartan Race really provided me with the competition to push past my limits physically like I did in the military.

3)    How do you prepare? It depends on the distance and the field of the race as I periodize my strengths and weaknesses around a specific event. So if it was a hilly race I would do my majority of my time training on hills.

4)    What is your favorite WOD? I live in Peyton, Colorado and my biggest advantage is being able to go run in Colorado Springs at Pikes Peak. So my favorite workout consists of me doing hill repeats up and down the Incline. Using the elevation training mask is also a plus when it comes to interval workouts.

5) What is your favorite FOD? Anything Italian, I do an equal amount of my macronutrients a day that balances my Protein, Carb, and Fat ratio. The body needs these to be equal so the body can perform at its absolute best. Spartan also offers the FOD so I definitely pick and choose from there.

6) Advice for newbies going forward that have no idea where or how to start. Always start out slow & look for your comfort level. In Spartan Race the first race you want to start out with is a Sprint. So train your body to be able to run at least 3-10 miles a week and then work on your weaknesses and work on your strengths when it comes to lifting, so you can be well prepared for the obstacles in a Spartan Sprint.  Once you have been able to feel comfortable, start working on running 6-10 miles once a week to prepare for a Spartan Super and or a Beast. It’s not about logging miles it is more about getting the proper time/speed on your feet that will help you get further/better.

7) Single most favorite exercise. Burpees of course!!!

8) Favorite race to date? That would be Fort Carson Military Sprint!! Where it all started and where I use to be stationed in 10th SFG (Special Forces Group).

9) If someone was on the edge about doing a Spartan Race, what would you say to them? I would tell them to stop thinking about it and go do it. If something excites you and scares you at the same time it means you should probably do it!! It will change your life and make you realize you are much more capable then you thought you were!!!

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

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As he took his place in the semi-final for the 400 meters at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, many eyes rested on Derek Redmond. He was at his peak and was widely anticipated to podium, if not win outright.

Many months – years, even – of training were behind him, all serving to sculpt and shape him, leading him to the path which would have Olympic gold at the end of it. He was only 400 meters from the end of this path.

Despite having a career that was riddled with injuries, he was no stranger to the podium and the clinking of medals around his neck. He was already a champion of the Commonwealth games, taking gold in the 4×400 meters, gold at the European Championships and both silver and gold in the World Championships. All that was missing was the Olympic medal.

The gun sounded and after a quick, clean start, he was cruising. He recalls;

“For once I had no injuries, despite eight operations in four years, and I’d won the first two rounds without breaking a sweat – including posting the fastest time in the first round of heats. I was confident and when the gun went off I got off to a good start. I got into my stride running round the first turn and I was feeling comfortable. Then I heard a popping sound. I kept on running for another two or three strides then I felt the pain. I thought I’d been shot, but then I recognized the agony.” 

“I’d pulled my hamstring before and the pain is excruciating: like someone shoving a hot knife into the back of your knee and twisting it. I grabbed the back of my leg, uttered a few expletives and hit the deck.”

Going down, clutching his leg and trying to collect his thoughts, he glanced up and saw that all the other competitors were out of sight. His chance of winning or even getting to the podium, were over. His Olympic dream ended after around 17 seconds.

“I couldn’t believe this was happening after all the training I’d put in. I looked around to see where the rest of the field were, and they had only 100 meters to go. I remember thinking if I got up I could still catch them and qualify. The pain was intense. I hobbled about 50 meters until I was at the 200 meters mark. Then I realized it was all over. I looked round and saw that everyone else had crossed the finishing line. But I don’t like to give up at anything – not even an argument, as my wife will tell you – and I decided I was going to finish that race if it was the last race I ever did.”

Doctors, other medics and even officials were on the track, waving at him to stop, but he simply refused to quit, despite already knowing it was over. With roughly 100 meters to go, a man ran on the track, barging past an official that tried to stop him. He ran up behind Derek and threw an arm around him, holding him up. It was his father, Jim.

“I just said, ‘Dad, I want to finish, get me back in the semi-final.’ He said, ‘OK. We started this thing together and now we’ll finish it together.’ He managed to get me to stop trying to run and just walk and he kept repeating, ‘You’re a champion, you’ve got nothing to prove.’ ”

He didn’t know it at the time, as the pain in his leg was screaming louder than the entire Olympic stadium, but everyone watching was cheering, a standing ovation to the man that had so cruelly had his chance at his dream snatched away from him.

“We hobbled over the finishing line with our arms round each other, just me and my dad, the man I’m really close to, who’s supported my athletics career since I was seven years old. I’ve since been told there was a standing ovation by the 65,000 person crowd, but nothing registered at the time. I was in tears and went off to the medical room to be looked at, then I took the bus back to the Olympic village.”

Four years earlier, an Achilles injury prevented him from running at the Olympics in Seoul. His name bore the letters ‘DNS’ – Did Not Start – next to it. In Barcelona, he was adamant that DNF would not appear next to his name.

‘When I saw my doctor he told me I’d never represent my country again. I felt like there’d been a death. I never raced again and I was angry for two years.  Then one day I just thought: there are worse things than pulling a muscle in a race, and I just decided to get on with my life.”

From there, Derek’s passion for sport meant he would try a new avenue. His love of basketball proved to be an outlet and such was his skill that after trials with various teams, he went on to play for the Great Britain basketball team. Not forgetting what his doctor told him about never representing his country again, Derek sent him a signed photo of the Great Britain team. His impish sense of humor rushing to the surface.

“Today I don’t feel anger, just frustration. The footage has since been used in adverts by Visa, Nike and the International Olympic Committee – I don’t go out of my way to watch it, but it isn’t painful anymore and I have the Visa ad on my iPad.

“If I hadn’t pulled a hamstring that day I could have been an Olympic medalist, but I love the life I have now. I might not have been a motivational speaker or competed for my country at basketball, as I went on to do. And my dad wouldn’t have been asked to carry the Olympic torch in 2012, which was a huge honor for him.”

Derek Redmond is truly an honorary Spartan in our eyes. An unflinching, unquestioning belief of never quitting, epitomized in one man.

Do you have this mentality? Prove it and we’ll see you at the finish line.

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