Teamwork. The word is drilled into our heads in a number of areas within our lives, from playing sports to working with others in either our professional or academic life. There are very few sports where the individual is more important than their team. Yet how often do we see organizations stack their team in order to win games (Lakers or Yankees anyone)? This isn’t always the answer though, and more often than not, it takes some of the fun out of being a spectator. It’s kind of like watching a movie that you already know the ending to. So how does a sport without any kind of team event start team racing without allowing stacked teams? In the words of Charlie Kelly from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia “WILD CARD…”.

In true Spartan fashion team racing was introduced at the Tememcula California race, with a twist. Instead of allowing Spartan Elites the opportunity to team up with the individual of their choice Tom McCormack, Spartan’s Director of Product Management, came to the line with a deck of playing cards.  When asked about it Tom provided an interesting explanation.

 “Everyone got a card which they wrote their name on and then gave back. The Elites were then matched up by their card, three people to a team. This way no one knew who was on their team and the teams were completely randomized making it way more competitive than say having Hunter team with Hobie and Amelia or April. This means a team with one of those guys on it could still be beaten by a team with three people that finish middle of the pack. It really makes the team aspect fun, interesting, and competitive in a whole new way.”

The idea had received a great deal of positive response from spectators as racers coming across the line in 15th place had a huge impact on the outcome of the team event. Changes to timing on the course coming up will help to make things even more interesting according to McCormack.

“We are updating our timing a little bit. There are some things in the works that will allow us to track people along the course and make updates in the festival area as to where people are. Spartan feels that it will really make the Wild Card team aspect even more entertaining to spectators as we continue to work on making the whole event more spectator friendly.”

Tom and the team have been working to make the Wild Card aspect a well oiled, and entertaining, machine within the race. Testing it in Temecula the organization didn’t do it again in subsequent races but Tom states that they are ready to roll it out again in Georgia and in Vegas with more to be announced soon.

What about the Open Heats you say? Tom has something there as well.

“The Open waves already see people showing up as part of teams. Groups such as NE Spahtens, CornFed Spartans, Weeple Army and others will be entered into the Open Team racing automatically. The four fastest racers will be what determines their teams time and ranking. We’ve seen some fast times from groups such as Camp Rhino and Gut Check Fitness out of Southern California. We expect to see even more of the same through out the rest of the year.”

2014 promises to be a year of new things from Spartan HQ. Each one designed to give racers, and spectators, even more of what they want. Sign up now, either as an individual or as a team, and as always…

We’ll see you at the finish line!

 

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The sun rose slowly over the hills of Southern California Saturday morning. Blue shirts swarmed the hills of Vail Lake in order to bring the Spartan Race to life. Saturday marked the first time that Spartan Race had done both a Super and a Sprint in the same day and the weekend promised to be epic.

Tony Matesi launched the days activities off with the morning Hurricane Heat. The HH is a different kind of event. Not so much a race as a challenge to be taken on. It forces people to work together as a team to overcome obstacles together. Tony took the participants that signed up through his various tortures starting at 6am for a full four hours. For a complete rundown on the HH look for Tony’s report coming later in the week.

Cars filled the parking lot as the Elites began warming up for what promised to be an epic battle. The men’s elite had high-octane racers in Spartan Pro Team members Hunter McIntyre, Matt Novakovich, Miguel Medina, and Chistopher Rutz. The women’s Pro Team showed up in the likes of April Luu, TyAnn Clark, Juliana Sproles, Jenny Tobin and Tiffany Novakovich. The rest of the field outside of the Pro Team was stacked. Rose Wetzel who stormed through Malibu was in attendance as was Laura Messner, and as was expected the legendary Hobie Call came to push the men to their limits and beyond.

The weather on Saturday was sunny, warm, and not a cloud in the sky. It promised to make the course fast, but dangerous as was seen through the day where people cramped up from a lack of sufficient hydration. The Amphib Medics crew, as well as Spartan Race Staff, was there to help those injured on course to safety or to help get them back into the fray.

The Elites took off early for the Super where money was on the line for that event. With the men first out of the gate it was a tight bunch until coming to the first gamble where racers could choose to either take the shorter harder route or the longer faster half of the course. Hobie and Matt “The Bear” Novakovich veered to the right while Hunter took the left shorter route. As Hobie and The Bear came out of their gamble they caught sight of Hunter and the group that went left far up ahead.

Ever the fierce competitor Hobie caught Hunter making it another epic showdown between the two friends. Newcomer John Yatsko form Arizona was right on the heels of the two titans for the men. At the end of the day it was Hobie first, Hunter tacking second, and John in third.

It was universally considered to be one of the toughest women’s fields people had seen in awhile. It seemed to be that only reigning World Champion Amelia Boone, still recovering from a hamstring injury, wasn’t on course. Rose Wetzel and April Luu promised to make this women’s race one to remember trading back and forth on the course until April missed the spear thrown and Rose stuck hers resulting in just the break she needed to take the win. April cruised into the finish line in second place with TyAnn Clark placing third. 

The Saturday Sprint was not a money heat but still saw Laura Messner dominate as she warmed up for the Sunday Elite Sprint. Saturday also introduced the first time Spartan Race recognized the top age group finishers from the open heats. 14 year old Josh Novakovich dominated the Under 20 open taking first place overall while placing fourth overall on Saturday in the open.

Sunday the money heats for the Sprint were run and the podiums didn’t look too different. Hunter took first for the men with newcomer John Yatsko in second and Glen Racz in third. For the women it was a tight race. Kk Paul came through the finish line ahead of Rose Wetzel to take first place. A battle between April Luu and TyAnn Clark decided third place. The epic finish came down to the wire as April barely edged out TyAnn for the last podium spot.

The weekend wasn’t just about the Elite’s however. Families spread out on Saturday to cheer on their loved ones as well as soak up some of the beautiful weather that graced the event. New sponsors Core Power Protein delivered much needed post-race beverages to racers at the finish line. 

Spartan Race began the year trying some new things with team results and rankings. Each team that signed up were ranked according to the average time of the top 4 finishers on their team. P4L Fitness took top in the team standings with an average time of 53:05 with the mighty Weeple Army (who had 269 racers in attendance) in second and Warrior Showdown placing third. Looks like it’s time to get serious about team racing.

Lastly the great medal question of 2014 came to an end with Spartans receiving the new medal and being told they would need to perform an additional round of burpees for their second medal. The second medal being of course the one everyone had come to expect from previous events. No one walked away disappointed, and the beach by the lake was a swarming mass of muddy bodies flying through burpees in order to collect not one, but two medals. Some even wandered around with four.

As mentioned earlier the 2014 SoCal Spartan was the first time racers could take part in not just one race but had the option to run two distances in one weekend. There were those brave souls taking up the gauntlet thrown down by Spartan Race and running both courses in the same day while others chose to run the Super on Saturday and the Sprint on Sunday. Either way these brave Spartans are two thirds to their Trifecta with only one weekend of racing under their belt in 2014. As we talked to some that had done both they made it abundantly clear that they would be finishing out their Trifecta before the year is out.

The kids races were amazing to behold, especially the Special Needs kids race. Seeing the families going around the course together made it hard to not feel that pull on your heartstrings. Spectators dried their eyes as these amazing families came rolling through the mud together with smiles a mile wide.

All in all the weekend was a huge success with tons of muddy smiling faces, a few cuts, some bruises, but a huge sense of accomplishment and satisfaction by those who raced. Next sop on the Spartan Race calendar, Arizona. Will we see John Yatsko make another appearance and if so will Hunter and Hobie be there to take him to the limit? The best way to find out is to be there. Sign up for the Arizona Sprint and we will see you at the finish line.

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Look around any Spartan Race and you’ll often see groups that run together, wearing the same shirts and smiling for any nearby camera. They are there to not only beat the course, but to have a good time with their friends. Ranging in size from anything as little as 2 people to colossal numbers of into the hundreds, teams are now every bit a part of Spartan Race as the rope climbs and barbed wire crawls.

Dominating the West coast is The Weeple Army. Originating in Southern California, but now having “chapters” not only across the states, but worldwide as well, the familiar sight of swathes of green and black can be seen at many races. Boasting members that include Death Racers, Marathon runners and even Spartan Race staff, it’s a false assumption that they are an elite group of runners. All abilities – and indeed disabilities – are welcomed.

Also based in California are Team SISU, headed by Daren De Heras, regular Spartan Death racer and co-organizer of endurance events. Due to the appeal of the intense ferocity of the boot camps and events they put on, SISU has also expanded to the east coast, Midwest and now Texas. Team SISU teaches and coaches the team ethic whilst beasting trails and training hard.

“Team SISU was born a few years ago after my first Spartan Death Race. A few people searched me out to help them train for their first Death Race. When we started this it was long all day events meant to take people to their limits and beyond. It quickly grew as Spartan Races grew and we changed what SISU is. We have now merged with the Weeple Army and are the largest OCR team in the Nation. We have chapters on the West Coast, East Coast, Texas, and Midwest. We host Spartan Training events year long and modify every event so that all athletes of all levels can participate.”

Hailing out of Indiana, the might of the Cornfed Spartans, led by Jonathan Nolan, are instantly recognizable by virtue of their “wrap”-style shirts with the Spartan chewing on a corncob. Boasting over 1500 members, Cornfed members are rarely alone, something very useful as founder Jonathan Nolan explains, “Corn Fed uses the term “family” to describe our team. We use that because when one of us is down, the others pick him/her up, when one of us needs help, others are there, and that is what family does. No matter what, despite anything going on around us, we are there to help each other, whether they are teammates or not, and that is what makes us the Corn Fed Spartans. Next time you’re at a Spartan Race, yell out Corn Fed and see what happens!”

Out of Texas, the Lone Star Spartans follow a similar vein, as member Christopher Rayne explains, “Lone Star Spartans is a Texas based racing team dedicated to helping its members and others live an active lifestyle through the sports OCR, road racing, triathlons, and cycling. We strive to be team for people of all fitness levels that wish to challenge their mental fortitude and shatter their physical limitations. Currently we are at just over 400 strong and growing each day. One of the ways that we help new and current members get to know each other is that Paul Almanza (founder) is constantly looking for local races to join.”

In Canada, The Canadian Mudd Queens – with their team almost 300 strong – are an all-female group dedicated to staying together and helping one another. Pamela Kirk of the CMQ explains, “We just celebrated our first birthday in August. We came together as a group of about 4 online and later met in person. We’ve grown by word of mouth and indoctrinating our friends. We meet like-minded women at races and invite them to drink the kool aid. I believe my daughter is the youngest member [15] that runs adult Spartans and other OCRs. Our oldest member is in her 50s. We come from all walks and stations. No other joining criteria other than female.”

Hailing from Florida, self-confessed “goofy Asian dude”, JayTea Tran, a familiar face with the Spartan Race Street Team community, is a co-founder of Azn Armour which now has close to 500 members. “With our team being represented at most, if not all Spartan Races, it really brings home the close-knit community that we have formed. Our team runs together and we don’t leave any team member behind”, he explains. He continues, “with Azn Armour having teamed up with another east coast team, MudRunFun, it now means that the family is so large that no one person will ever have to run alone. We have a team page where we discuss training, diet, sport clothing among other things. We motivate each other by posting our daily workouts and training strategies.”

But these are just a few examples and barely scratch the surface of the multitude of teams out there. New England Spahtens, Team Braveheart, Chicago Spartans, WVVA Spartans, Team Ugly Fitness, Team Red White and Blue, Boot Camp Rhino, Warrior State Of Mind, Team Burgh all are familiar names across the country and are often seen destroying courses as a unit.

One team that stands out arguable more than any other is Operation Enduring Warrior. Made up of military veterans offering support to the nations wounded heroes, their trademark masks worn by each member signifies the struggles each military member goes through and are worn in a show of solidarity. Their member Todd Love’s picture now being an iconic shot of everything that not only they, but what all teams and Spartan Race stands for; pushing through adversity.

So, get yourself a group of friends, start a website or group page and see where it leads you! Spartan teams stick together!

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