By: Tony Matesi

Welcome to Atlanta where the Spartans play, and we hang on them traverse walls like every day. Big Heats, fit Elites, see Spartans roamin’ and the festival starts at eight in the mornin’.

Kicking off another extraordinary Spartan weekend for the 2014 season we saw another grueling Hurricane Heat that pushed participants beyond their limits. Wasting no time getting down to business the event started with a 100+ burpee penalty in response to a collection of late arrivals.

This weekend we saw some familiar faces from the Spartan Pro Team ready to tackle the Spartan Sprint. In attendance for the men we saw David Magida, Christopher Rutz, Elliot Megquier and Georgia Native Alec Blenis. Alexander Nicholas was also in attendance but did not race competitively this weekend. For the women we saw TyAnn Clark, Juliana Sproles, and the Barbwire Queen Andi Hardy. Other Spartan Elites who made their way out for this incredible event included Cody Wright, John Henderson, Tony Matesi, Margaret Schlachter, Amanda Ricciardi, Kristine Iotte, Amie Meyer, Valerie Smith, and Sarah Pozdol.

Johnny Colt of Black Crowes and Lynyrd Skynyrd takes a moment with race director Mike Morrris

The men’s Elite saw tough competition for the top three spots resulting in podium finishes for David Magida, Alec Blenis, and Elliot Megquier (finishing first, second, and third respectively). As if that wasn’t enough for the trio they suited up for battle again on Sunday crossing the finish line once again in the same order as the day before.

The women’s Elite however saw both familiar, and new faces, take the podiums. On Saturday Pro-Team member TyAnn Clark came in first with close to a seven minute lead over second place SGX Coach Sarah Pozdol while Emily Fowler took third. Unlike the men the women’s Sunday podium looked different than Saturday. New comer Kristine Iotte took the lead in the first minute of the race on Sunday and never looked back. Like TyAnn the day before, Kristine held nearly a seven minute lead over second place finisher Amanda Ricciardi. The third place women’s Elite finisher went to Valerie Smith who on Saturday participated in the grueling and mentally tough Hurricane Heat.

Alicia Keys evaluates the next obstacle

Taking care of our racers with post race fuel was the Core Power Team with their delicious Core Power Protein drinks awaiting finishers after they battled the Gladiators. Mellow Mushroom kept everyone fed with exceptional discounts for all Spartan Racers. Eco Vessel was on site with their eco-friendly water bottles. Our friends from Obstacle Racing Media were on site providing coverage of the day’s events and SpartanUp! Graphix offered up their impressive wall graphics made straight from your favorite race photos.

Not only did we see familiar faces but there was even a celebrity on site as well. Alicia Keys came with a group of friends and tackled the course. Crossing the finish line in true Spartan fashion covered in Georgia clay, Ms. Keys was all smiles over becoming a true Spartan. Another music guest included Johnny Colt of Black Crowes and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

After a long and exciting weekend of Spartan-filled, fun, mud, sweat and maybe a little blood, we’re signing off. We’ll see you at the next one. The Spartan Team will be invading Charlotte, North Carolina in a couple weeks. If you haven’t signed up yet, what the heck are you waiting for? Sign up, show up, and never, ever give up! We’ll see you at the finish line. AROO!!!!

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By Alec Blenis

This weekend, Spartan Race returns to the Georgia International Horse Park for its 4th year. Located 30 miles east of Atlanta in Conyers, GA, the horse park was host to the mountain biking and modern pentathlon events during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. With over 15 miles of single-track trails and hundreds of acres of undulating terrain, it is also the perfect venue for a Spartan Race. This 3+ mile Sprint distance race has historically been closer to 5 miles than 3, but with only moderate elevation gain, this is one of the fastest paced Sprint courses on the Spartan circuit.

While it’s impossible to say exactly what this year’s course will entail, previous courses have all had one thing in common: a very tough barbed wire crawl. Without a doubt, Spartan Race will take advantage of the Georgia red clay, so be prepared for a tough crawl, rolling mud, and heavy shoes! All Georgia races thus far have included an object carry around mile 3, which I suspect will remain the same for this year. However, Spartan Race loves to mix things up so I wouldn’t be surprised if they have something new in store for this weekend. I hope you are prepared for lots of obstacles back to back, because last year’s course was relentless!

On the men’s side, we have three of the top 5 runners from last year’s race competing: Alec Blenis, David Magida, and Elliott Megquier. Alec was the fastest of the three last year and has home court advantage, but David beat Alec the last time they went head to head. Elliott is always a force to be reckoned with, but a clumsy mistake on the monkey bars last year nearly cost him the podium. If all men have a clean race, it will be an exciting fight for the win.

For the women, we have TyAnn Clark of the Spartan Pro Team hoping to dominate the field, but she will be challenged by her teammates Andi Hardy and Juliana Sproles. It will be TyAnn’s first Georgia race, so Andi and Juliana’s knowledge of the terrain may play to their advantage. Good luck!

Spartan Pro Adaptive Athlete Michael Mills will be competing this Saturday was well. Paralyzed from the waist down, Michael competed in his first Spartan Race at the horse park last year. Since then, he has climbed Stone Mountain numerous times and has been training harder than ever. This year, he’ll be racing alongside his wife, Tiffany. Be sure to cheer them on if you see them! We will also have Amanda Sullivan and triple amputee Todd Love running for Operation Enduring Warrior. These are truly inspirational athletes that you don’t want to miss seeing in action.

Sign up for your next Spartan race and we will see you at the finish line!

 

*** Alec Blenis is a full-time student at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Spartan Pro Team athlete, plant-based ultra runner, and #6 ranked Spartan Racer for 2013. Beyond his extensive Spartan schedule, he is currently training for Six Days In the Dome in Anchorage, AK. For more, check out alecblenis.com.

 

 

 

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by Alec Blenis, Elite Spartan Athlete

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

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

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

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

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

But back to fun…

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

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

My adventure continues. See you at the races.

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by Chris Rutz, Spartan Elite Athlete

The Reebok Spartan Race Georgia Sprint continues a new program with some of the best Spartan Racers in the sport of obstacle racing. It is called the Reebok Spartan Race Invite Series. We have asked our top racers to invite someone to run a Spartan Race with them. The top Spartan Racer will host someone they have been trying to get into Spartan Racing. It may be their best friend, their wife, their son, their coach or anyone who can coerce and invitation out of them. It just has to be someone that has never done a Spartan Race.

For the Georgia Sprint, Alec Blenis has asked one of his family friends Jeff McCuen to join him in a Spartan Race. They will be running together in one of the Open heats on Saturday afternoon.

Alec competed in seven Spartan Races in 2012. He finished on the podium in 4 of the seven races. He is kicking off the 2013 race year with the Reebok Spartan Race Georgia Sprint.

We asked Jeff a few questions about Alec and Spartan Racing:

How do you know the Spartan Racer?

I am friends with his father. Alec, his dad, mother, grandfather and three other friends are regular participants. I also work with the cousin of Hobie Call. So I have heard a lot about Spartan Racing. Alec is definitely an elite runner in this competition and I have followed his success over the past few years.

What is your athletic background? 

I was a high school football player and wrestler. I also wrestled collegiately from 1979 to 1982. I was ranked as high as third in the country when a knee injury ended my career.

Why did you say yes when you were invited to race?

Honestly, If an elite participant as Alec thought enough of me to invite me, how could I say no.

What are you most excited about?

Just seeing if I can complete the course and hoping to build upon that and improve and run future races.

What are you most worried about?

EVERYTYHING. I was fairly sedentary until age 45 (6 years ago). My only physical activity was 30 minutes on an exercise bike and weightlifting. I took up tennis 6 years ago and have been an avid participant ever since, playing two to three times a week. I also began CrossFit 9 months ago. What worries me most is I have been a smoker for 30 years. Hi intensity puts me in an anaerobic state and I have to slow down. So, while I believe I can complete the sprint, it will have to be slow going.

Ready for your shot at Spartan glory?  Sign up today!

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by Carrie Adams

At last year’s Texas World Championships, elite racer Elliott Megquier was ahead of fellow elite Alec Blenis by about 100 yards.  Reaching the traverse wall towards the end of the race ahead of Blenis, Megquier fell almost halfway across and began his pentalty burpees as the crowd looked on.  Blenis reached the wall seconds later and also fell halfway through.  Even though Megquier was halfway through his set of the mandatory 30 Blenis finished his first and edged out ahead of Megquier, snagging a top five finish.  Burpees have meant the difference between a cash purse and a lonely car ride home, but for most of us, they’ve just mean a lot more pain on race day (and the several days following.)  Despite the burpee hangover, our runners keep coming back for more despite the harsh Spartan penalty that are also often featured in our Spartan WOD’s.  Let’s explore the Spartan burpee…

Meet your maker, Spartans.  The burpee is a  feared, abhorred, and often bringer of tears and pain at Spartan Races.  Sometimes the difference between a non-podium finish or a giant cardboard check.  At Spartan Races, we operate with a different set of rules than most races.  You don’t get to opt out of obstacles, oh no.  Don’t want to climb that 8 foot wall?  30 burpees.  Failed the monkey bars you say? 30 burpees.  Want to bypass the low crawl, drop and give me 30 (burpees, of course).  Didn’t quite make it across the traverse wall?  Yeah, that’ll be 30 burpees.  They’ve been a part of Sparta for a while, our Winter Death Race crew got real good at them last year, they did over 3,000 for their over 24 hours of effort.  We even had a founders Buck Furpees day!  Read about that HERE. 

The spear throw, a prime location for those relegated to doing burpees.  A fan favorite, it’s usually near the end of the course and the finish line.  Spectators swarm the fences to watch as Spartans advance cautiously, knowing how high the fail rate is on this intrepid obstacle.  Weighing the spear in their hands, the techniques vary but it often ends the same way… the thrower watching in horror as their mis-thrown spears bounce off the straw targets, fly recklessly off to one side, or the worst, when they almost land but fall dejectedly to the ground.  It’s always the same reaction.  The Spartan’s face falls and their head drops, knowing that the burpees are now imminent, and off they go to begin their, what else?  30 burpees.

What’s proper burpee protocol?  Not all burpees are made alike, but for starters, watch this video that demonstrates proper burpee form.  As Hobie Call has often pointed out, burpee form tends to degrade over the course of a race as athletes fatigue but a few landmarks hold true to executing a proper burpee and we’re going to give them to you so that you can perfect yours in time for your next Spartan Race.

Obstacle fail! 30 burpees on deck!

1. Chest to deck.  When you drop to the ground, you must execute a full push up with your chest touching the ground.

2. Press out of the push-up jumping your legs underneath your body so that you are in a squatted position.

3. Stand up, extending the hips, and jump off the ground with hands overhead.

Repeat 29 more times.

This 30 burpee penalty is often repeated several times over a Spartan course with finishers often comparing burpee statistics at the end.

“I did 150 burpees!”  says one, “Oh really?  I only did 90.”  Yes, in Spartan we say things like, “I only did 90 burpees today.”  Regardless of number, burpees numbering more than about seven are just a suckfest.  That might be why we love them oh so much.  So, don’t expect them to go away anytime soon from Spartan Race courses.

Want to get registered?  What’s stopping you?  Go HERE for details.

 

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by Jason Rita

There are no favorites in the Vermont Beast except maybe Mike Morris and Russell Cohen.  Whatever the result, those two are guaranteed to be laughing at the start of the race and the end.  No, they are not members of the Spartan300, they are not obstacle racers, they are the Race Director and Course Designer for the Vermont Spartan Beast and Ultra Beast, and they are promising that this race will be unlike any other Spartan Race in the past.

Throw out the stats, the results, the preconceptions, and the betting lines.   Anything can happen and probably will.   There will be carnage, devastation, tears, swearing, prayers to deities, and bargains with demons.  At the end, someone will emerge victorious; someone will earn the crown as Spartan Champion and be called the World’s Best Obstacle Racer.  The question is “Who?”

Marco Bedard

Last year’s victor was Marc-Andre Bedard, the Canadian Olympian biathlete.  Being a biathlete coming to race Killington is actually a handy skill because you might encounter both snow and wolves on race day.  Marco recently represented Spartan Race in the first Spartan event in mainland Europe, where he showed his class and dominated in the Slovakia Spartan Race.   But Marco’s Canadian national team coaches have Marco on a tight training schedule as he prepares for the 2014 Winter Olympics, and as of press time, he is not entered and not expected to race.  A cryptic Facebook post on Sunday night hinted that a Canadian storm might be blowing in from the north, so don’t be surprised if a man on skis with a rifle emerges from the Green Mountain forest on Saturday morning, grabs a bib number and toes the line.  It could be Marco.

2011 proved that Hobie Call could not master the Killington course.  The pre-race favorite was shocked by the length and toughness and finished a disappointing 9th.  But last year’s race was barely a month after the Death Race, which saw Call put in a 40 hour ultra-effort as he chased Joe Desena’s $100,000 Holy Grail

Hobie Call

for anyone who could win 15 Spartan Races andthe Death Race in one calendar year, and recovery might have been an issue.  Call severely bonked about 2 hours in to the Killington challenge.  He still ended up winning 15 races last year, including the year-end championship held in Texas.  But so far the scoreboard reads:  Vermont 2, Hobie 0.  Call has continued to dominate the Spartan Race series this year, racking up an amazing ten wins.  Call has been winning easily, winning in style, winning even while wearing a 10-lb weight vest.  The only event where he participated but didn’t take top spot was the Super Spartan in Arizona, that one he ran tethered to his wife, Irene.   She was last year’s third place female in our World Championships in Texas. Call

has focused his training over the last month specifically to redeem his performance from last year.  But the Beast doesn’t care about resumes.  If Hobie is to be this year’s champion, he will have to do something he hasn’t done to date, and that is win in Vermont.

Junyong Pak

With the defending Killington winner uncertain of racing and Vermont being Hobie’s Kryptonite, the race does shape up as an open question.  In 2011, Junyong Pak finished 2nd to Marco in Vermont, and 3rd in the Texas Championship Race, and since then has not rested in his quest to become a Spartan Champion.  Winner of the Spartan Sprint in New England, JYP has also proved his long course pedigree by finishing 2nd at the 2012 Spartan Death Race, an amazing result considering he was moving as fast at hour 60 as many were at hour one.  Junyong is one of the most passionate and dedicated competitors in the field, as well as one of the most honorable, and must be counted as one to watch.

Alec Blenis

One of the youngest competitors in the Spartan universe, Alec Blenis, has quickly become a star endurance athlete.   Already sponsored by Amazing Grass, the organic green superfood company, this 17 year old vegan has racked up some impressive road racing and triathlon wins at:  the Callaway Gardens Marathon – 1st place, Chattahoochee Challenge 10k – 1st place, Historic Roswell 10k – 1st place, Lake Lanier Sprint Triathlon, 1st place, and Red Top Roaster 15k, 1st place.

Often racing with 67 year old dad Robert, Team Blenis, usually takes home the Spartan age-group prizes.  Alec’s passion for the sport of Spartan obstacle racing is legend through his extreme workout videos on the Spartan Race Facebook page showing his commitment and athleticism.  A former pole vaulter in high school, Alec is second in the Spartan Point Series, showing amazing consistency, trailing only Hobie Call himself in the Points Competition, which runs through to the end of the year.  Is it possible that Alec could pull an upset and vault over Hobie?

Chris Rutz

As captain of Team Juwi, Chris Rutz can also be counted on to provide a tough challenge.  One of the world leaders in large-scale solar photovoltaic projects, juwi solar Inc. is the first company to sponsor team of Spartan athletes and has provided a great model for far-sighted corporations to engage with the fast-growing sport in the world.  Along with Chris, fellow Team Juwi athletes Nick Maynard, Mark Husted and Elliott Megquier have all featured on the Spartan podium in 2012.  Elliott is one of the top Spartan racers and would be expected to challenge in Killington, but this 1st Lieutenant in the US Army is on a training exercise that prevents him from being at the Killington Beast – unless he goes AWOL.  His teammates are sure to represent him well.  Chris is on pace to earn an amazing seven Spartan Trifecta medals in 2012 and plans to complete seven Supers (five done) and seven Beasts (one done) to go with ten Sprints (eight done).  (Rest assured Chris, Spartan will honor you with a medal for each Trifecta you earn.)  As Chris writes on his blog, Live the Tough Life:  “Some think I am a little crazy for doing all of these races, but hey it is what I love to do and like the saying goes “Do more of what makes you happy”, and Spartan Racing makes me happy.”  An avid CrossFit athlete, Rutz has been training and racing for over 20 years, including triathlons, bike racing, yoga, surfing, canyoneering, rock climbing, and backpacking.  According to Scottsdale Health magazine:  “I could see the progress I was making with CrossFit, but I was still missing something. I didn’t know what I was missing.”  Rutz discovered his missing link when he signed up for the Spartan Race in February 2011.”

Sebastian Monette

While Canadian Olympic coaches might keep Marco north of the border, another threat from the land of the midnight sun, Mounties, moose and poutine (look it up) is Sébastien Monette.   Sponsored by women’s race favorite Rose-Marie Jarry’s Kronobar company, Sebastian has proven he can win at home – Ottawa Sprint, Montreal Super, Toronto Sprint – and away, recently crushing the Americans at the tough Tri-State NJ Super Spartan.  Don’t lose track of this fierce competitor.

Cody Moat

Who else can challenge?  Cody Moat who finished 2nd to Hobie in the Utah Beast is a dark horse.  Don’t underestimate this high school teacher despite him only having only one Spartan event in his resume: Cody comes to Spartan as winner of the Mid Mountain Marathon, an incredibly torturous high altitude race that will give him great confidence in the Killington mountains.  Did we mention that Killinton is a ski resort?  That means lots of vertical…  A great mountain runner like Cody is sure to be there at the finish to upset the Spartan regulars.

Team Inov-8 sponsored athlete Ben Nephew might also have something to say about who walks away with

Ben Nephew

the top prize of $5,000 at the Killington Beast.  Notable results for Ben include 6th at the IAU World Trail Championship and 11th at the IAU World Road 50k Trophy in 2011.  He holds the course record at the Escarpment Trail Race, FKT’s for the Great Range Traverse in the Adirondacks, Devil’s Path in the Catskills, and the Pemi Loop in the White Mountains.

What is amazing about the Spartan Race series is that so many great athletes are competing.    As last year’s race showed, the winner might come from anywhere so stay tuned.  In tomorrow’s update, we will preview the women’s race where the field is deep and talented.

Less than one week until it all goes down.

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by Alec Blenis

393595_10150389196771861_251061411860_8883561_1155940080_nAt times running over 100 miles per week in freezing temperatures, he takes endurance to a whole new extreme. Placing third in the Spartan Race World Championship, he won the World’s Toughest Mudder competition just two weeks later. Mechanical engineer by day, hardcore endurance athlete by night, he often doesn’t finish his grueling workouts until after midnight. This extraordinary gentlemen is known by some as Pak-man.

Sparta, meet Junyong Pak.

Junyong, 34, was born to a loving family in Korea. To survive the harsh winters in his homeland, extra body fat was sometimes a necessity. Always slender however, Junyong was actually considered unhealthy by his family. Now living in Boston, perhaps it is this background which helped him win the World’s Toughest Mudder, a 24 hour test of endurance in which icy waters and harsh weather kept all but ten of the initial competitors from even finishing the event. With a 2:33 Boston Marathon finish previously this year, it’s no surprise that he did well. Second place was more than four hours behind. “I could have run farther,” he says, “but I didn’t want to get hurt.” Junyong has other big races coming up…

Junyong started racing in middle school when a friend convinced him to join the cross14641_590787849279_2811400_34885900_7814527_n country team. Never one to disappoint, Junyong ran hard for his high school coach but, regrettably, he didn’t run in college. He had always wanted to run an obstacle course competitively, but “there was nothing like [Spartan Race] when I was growing up,” he says. When he saw an ad for Spartan Race a few years ago, he jumped on the opportunity. An inspiring athlete, Junyong always places well at Spartan Races. With another successful racing season behind him, Junyong has big plans for 2012. He’ll be running in multiple Spartan Races: the infamous Spartan Death Race and the Spartan Race Championship to be held in Killington, Vermont.

So how does he balance a full time job and personal life with his rigorous training? Admittedly, he is not a morning person. He does all of his workouts when he gets home from work around 10:00pm, tired and hungry. It’s not always easy though. “Not working out is simply not an option. The rest of life starts when you’re done training. I just make it happen.” Junyong has no secrets. In fact, his training log is available for all to see online. What separates him for his competition is his grit, work ethic, and passion to succeed. He envisions each workout as the one that will make him a better and stronger athlete than the rest.

This year at the Spartan Race World Championships in Glen Rose, Texas, Junyong briefly overtook Hobie Call at the spear throw, only to be passed again at the herculean hoist. Never too far behind Hobie, the reigning champion, many wonder if Junyong has what it takes to claim the title next year. “Hobie’s on top,” says Junyong. “I don’t think anyone can beat him right now. I’ve gotten to be such good friends [with Hobie], I don’t think I would want to beat him even if I could.”

190201_194462037254114_126442634056055_566080_1122835_nI asked Junyong what new obstacle he would like to see in an upcoming Spartan Race. “A peg-wall… It would only be feasible for the top athletes, but it would be great to see at a championship level event.” This obstacle would be a wooden wall filled with holes. Athletes would climb the wall by hanging from two pegs which would would be moved from hole to hole.

Along with his World’s Toughest Mudder victory, Junyong took home a $10,000 prize.
“I’m giving it all to my dad,” he says. “The sacrifices he has made for our family are so great. He really needs to retire, and I want to help make that happen.”

It’s easy to see why everyone loves Junyong Pak.  We’ll be seeing a lot of Pak Man in 2012. 

Editor’s Note: Alec Blenis is an accomplished endurance athlete and Spartan competitor.  Finishing in the top three at several Spartan events and top five in the Spartan World Championships he was the youngest competitor in the field at 17 years of age. 

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by Brian Ansley

SRSC_VA_0011The Spartan Challenger Series has highlighted a few powerful athletes that seem equipped to take on Hobie Call in the Spartan obstacle races. I recently met another elite Spartan willing to accept the challenge to take on Hobie. There is one huge difference….he is only 16 years old!

Alec Blenis is a rising young endurance athlete from Roswell, Georgia. He is definitely not what comes to mind when I think of the modern day 16 year old kid. For example, he is a vegan and eats only organic foods. He also tries to buy fair trade products only to support fair wages, and equality for the workers that make his organic lifestyle possible. His weekends consist of a variety of different races, including triathlons and a 50 mile run in October in Pine Mountain, Georgia.

Read the rest of this entry »

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