By Jason Rita

Talk about a Spartan Race power couple… Tommy and Bobbie Jo Hackenbruck are the owners of Ute CrossFit, whose Team Hacks Pack UTE won the 2012 Affiliate Cup Championship at the recent CrossFit Games.  Tommy is also Spartan Race’s Utah race manager where Bobbie Jo was 1st place female in 2011 and 2nd place female in 2012.  Bobbie Jo is coming to Vermont to challenge the top women for the championship at the Killington Beast on Saturday.  We’re putting the race favorites on notice: the Utes are coming…


If you are looking for answers, it is usually a good bet to start with the right questions. As an athlete, Tommy Hackenbruck asks those questions in the form of what he will endure in his training.  The answers have been on display throughout an impressive athletic career, from the highest level of college football to CrossFit Games championships.


I’d spent my whole life challenging myself with everything from doing back flips in my football pads, to climbing every tree in my backyard to jumping off 50 ft. cliffs.  Random athletic pursuits led me to being a multi-sport athlete through high school and eventually a starting middle linebacker on the University of Utah Fiesta Bowl team in 2004.”


Most athletes, he says, don’t know what all out is, and never truly redline, always keeping something in reserve in competition and in training, backing off when they start to feel they might be close to their maximum.  He recommends picking selected workouts in your training plan and attacking them 100%.  “If you want to be champion, you have to be prepared to give full effort.  To do that, requires you move beyond the fear of failure.    There is a difference between failure because you backed off a full effort, and your body “failing” because you try to push it to a level of performance you haven’t yet reached.  Training with this mindset resets the potential of what is possible, like waking to fresh morning dawn after an epic thunderstorm.  Things look different.


CrossFit Games Competition Record:

2009- 2nd Place in world

2010- 9th place in world

2010- Coached affiliate team to games

2011- 23rd place in world, coached Taylor Richards-Lindsay 24th place in world and coached affiliate team 9th place in world

2012- Affiliate Cup Champion, team member and coach


Rather than always do workouts that he knows he can do, he designs selected workouts where he doesn’t know if he will be able to finish them.  The interesting part is not whether or not he crosses the threshold of the specific workout, but how he reacts, certainly physically, but more importantly, mentally, not shying away from how much it will hurt, or that he might not be able to complete it, but whether he is strong enough mentally to give the challenge everything in his being without fear of falling short.


“I have re-defined my perception of fitness, completely changed my eating habits, and passionately pursued a well-rounded, more inclusive kind of fitness. At 29 years old I am stronger than when I was playing college football, yet my endurance is the best it’s ever been and my overall fitness is the best it’s ever been.”


Tommy warns not to do this type of effort every day, he thinks of it as something special, something you do once in a while to seek out the suffering.   “People don’t know what they are truly capable of, and the fear you must get past in a workout of this kind carries over into your life, your relationships, your work.  It is about breaking through the ceiling of your current level, smashing the picture you have of yourself, and seeing a new athlete in the mirror, one that is fearless, powerful, PROVEN.”


“Results are earned.  Spartan Race and obstacle racing are a fitness revolution. People are finally realizing what true fitness is.  My whole team ran Spartan Race together.  It was perfect training, unknown obstacles, taking us out of our element a little bit.”  Interview “Box Built, Field Tested, Spartan Proven”


Tommy will be competing in the Killington Beast, but it’s Bobbie Jo Hackenbruck who is threatening to upset the favorites we previewed yesterday.  Bobbie Jo also was a high level collegiate student-athlete, a 4 year starter and captain of Utah Utes women’s soccer team.


“My athletic career began when I was born; I have always been wild and full of energy.  Not the talking kind but the moving kind.  I grew up wishing to be the first “girl” in the NFL.


Channeling that energy into action, Bobbie Jo today focuses a lot of her training and coaching on fundamentals of movement and posture, informed by Paul Chek’s “Primal Movement patterns” of gait, squatting, bending, lunging, pushing, pulling and twisting, as well Nicholas Romanov’s Pose Method of Running.

According to Bobbie Jo, the initial movement should always be corrective.  The goal of movement is achieved by transition from ideal position, i.e., posture, to next ideal position to achieve a specific goal or satisfy a desire.

This philosophy helped Bobbie Jo go from an often injured athlete to one who is never injured.  During her college soccer career, she was sidelined by a range of injuries such as pulled quadriceps, strained hamstring muscles and multiple disc herniations.   Her training now is built on this postural approach where the progression is not just to do harder and harder WODs, rather doing workouts that are more corrective to the body, and consider the functionality behind the workout, asking what will create a well-balanced body. She credits this for saving her back and comes to Vermont as agile as she is strong, a perfect recipe for success in the Killington Beast race.


Like husband Tommy, Bobbie Jo emphasizes the mental side of elite performance:  “Many athletes are not training their mind to fully find their potential, and are not asked to do that.  In competition, there are many contests that that could be won with a stronger mental game.  Success doesn’t happen because you are lucky, it comes when you train to that level, where you are willing to sacrifice body and soul.” 


Commenting on the amazing comebacks of the US Women’s National Soccer Team at past World Cups and at the Olympics, Bobbie Jo recognizes that the seemingly impossible comebacks were predicted by and predicated upon the mental discipline and energy of the players, channeling their preparedness and intense will to win.  The “lucky” comebacks were not luck at all.  Expect to see this sort of intensity from a driven competitor.

And so if Bobbie Jo upends the status quo in Vermont and leaps up the Spartan Points rankings with a win in Killington, it won’t be “luck” when Team Hackenbruck attack on the Beast.  Game is officially ON.

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