By Anthony Matesi

Just outside of Phoenix, AZ there was a disturbance in the normally desolate lands near Fort McDowell. The Spartans had arrived. Marking the second Spartan Race of 2014 the obstacles were erected all throughout the week to bring to this cactus filled paradise an event that would challenge all walks of life.

To kick things off, Hurricane Heat leaders devised a relatively creative plan for the brave souls looking to participate in the event which began in the early hours of the morning before the sun had a chance to rise up over the mountains off in the distance. Teamwork is essential in finishing one of Spartan’s challenging HH events. New Hurricane Heaters were put through everything from learning animal movements and body weight exercises that are the foundation of the Spartan SGX training program to having them dig up a treasure chest filled with zip ties only to be zipped together right arm to the next person’s left ankle and forced to inchworm as a one unit through a tunnel that went under the highway. The suffering these participants endure together takes a group of strangers and creates a bond like no other.

While those crazy Hurricane Heaters were suffering together in the festival area the Elite racers began to storm the grounds. Some of the top racers from the Spartan Pro Team were in attendance. For the men, Matt Novakovich from Alaska, mountain man Miguel Medina left his cabin in Vermont, with Christopher Rutz, Shawn Feiock and Elliot Meguier also in attendance. On the women’s side there was TyAnn Clark, Juliana Sproles, Jenny Tobin, and Ang Reynolds. Outside of the pro team there was an impressive showing from Sarah Pozdol, Laura Messner, and Rose Wetzel as well as the local newcomer to Spartan Race, John Yatsko. The early hours of the morning were a bit brisk but things heated up very quickly as the race day began. The course was fast and hilly with all the usual obstacles to test the strength, endurance and agility of the racers. As the temperatures rose the cramps began to set into racers who didn’t take the time to properly hydrate. The Amphibious Medics team led by, David Gonzalez, was on site helping the Spartan Staff to help those who were injured on course back to safety or fixed them up to continue their journey.

The Elite wave took off early Saturday morning fighting for the prize money offered by Navy Federal Credit Union with a total of $7500 up for grabs. The competition was incredibly fierce. In the men’s division there was a grueling battle that brought had the top 3 finishers all finishing within a minute and 30 seconds of each other. At the end of the day it was John Yatsko, Glenn Racz, and Chad Trammel taking the first three spots and Matt Novakovich coming in fourth.  The elite women’s field was equally grueling with Kk Paul, Rose Wetzel and TyAnn Clark battling it out for the top 3 spots coming into the finish in that order with Rose and TyAnn finishing within seventeen seconds of each other. The Sunday Elite crowd was stacked once again with some of the top elites and Spartan Pro Team members. It was another tight battle with Matt Novakovich taking the first place on the podium followed by fellow Spartan Pros Miguel Medina in second and Elliot Meguier in third. For the women we saw the importance of counting your burpees out loud when Sarah Pozdol was bumped from what could have been a second place finish to fifth place. Kk Paul took first again on Sunday, Jenny Tobin came in second and Sue Luck saw her way back to the podium taking third. Spartan Pro Team member Shawn Feiock saw a top ten finish taking 7th and Christopher Rutz in 9th.

Spartan Weekends are about more than just the elites of course. There were a lot of families, Spartan Singles, and couples alike mingling, racing, and enjoying the warm touch of the Arizona sun. In the festival area the Spartan SGX tent was providing warm-ups and cool down exercises as well as stretching by the crew from Power in Motion CrossFit. Our sponsors Core Power Protein delivered some excellent post race recovery drinks, E-Boost kept everyone energized, Clif Bars took care of feeding the taxed muscles of everyone who crossed that finish line, and Zico covered the much needed hydration to keep up with the desert sun.

In addition to all the first timers and those looking to begin their quest for the coveted Trifecta there were some inspiring people out on course defining what it means to push beyond your limits. We saw the ever glowing smile from Misty Diaz, who conquers her Spina Bifida by traveling the country running half marathons and Spartan Races chasing after that double trifecta. On Sunday a racer by the name of Joel Brown was spotted on course making it happen. At only 54 years young Joel is a former Para-Rescue and has been a Krav Maga instructor since 1978 receiving all his training in Israel. In 1981, he lost his right leg in a motor vehicle accident. Regardless of this accident Joel has continued to train, instruct, and push himself. His journey to the Trifecta began here in Arizona will continue at the Super in Vegas and conclude with the Beast in Monterey.

As always the Spartan Kids were out in force to light up everyone’s day with their beaming smiles and mud covered bodies. Many of the elites including Miguel Medina, Matt Novakovich, Sarah Pozdol and Rose Wetzel came out and helped play the role of the rabbit that the kids try to catch on the course.

Another incredibly successful Spartan weekend filled with fun, smiles, mud, and even a little blood has come to an end. Next up Spartan Race will be invading Tampa with the first Special Ops event of the year taking place at Raymond James Stadium. This Special Ops Race will offer a combination of the traditional outdoor obstacles alongside some of the signature Spartan Stadium obstacles.  Sign up to earn your very own unique Special Ops Spartan Sprint medal andwe’ll see you at the finish line!

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By guest writer and Spartan Pro Team member Elliott Megquier 

Arizona is a unique state, you can experience all four seasons in one day depending on where you are traveling throughout the state. Reebok Spartan Race comes back to the Phoenix area for the four year and each year they have out down themselves. This year Fort McDowell Rodeo Grounds will host a Sprint distance of 3+ miles on Saturday February 8th and Sunday February 9th.  For more info on the venue check out this link.

For the course expect a rocky dessert terrain, running up and down steep ridges and hills. Cacti will be out in full force and for those not careful, they will get a sharp, prickly surprise. The weather Saturday calls for a high of 65 degrees with 0% of rain. While Sunday warms up to a high of 73 degrees, again with no rain in sight. Locals might complain that is cold, but for people like me that live in upstate New York that is marvelous weather.

Matt Novakovich a hot favorite to podium again

For the men the hyped up Matt “The Bear” Novakovich headlines the Spartan’s aiming for victory. In his first Spartan Race ever Matt took down the Champion Hobie Call, but ever since he has been unable to find the top honor with just a third place at the Fenway Stadium Sprint. Elliott Megquier will be back to Arizona for the third year in a row and he will look to slay the bear. Miguel Medina is taking a break from building his cabin in Vermont and he will also try to use his new found Mountain Man training to secure his first victory. Other racers expected to challenge will be Shawn Feiock, Chris “Tough Training Guy” Rutz, possibly the Arizona native John Yatsko who burst onto the Spartan scene with two podium finishes in Temecula. If present, John becomes the top contender.

On the women’s side, look for K.K. Paul to be the favorite. Paul is coming off podium finishes in Temecula (1st Place Sunday Sprint) and Glen Rose where she beat the likes of Rose Wetzel, April Luu, and TyAnn Clark. Clark will look to revenge her defeat and looks to be the top challenger. Laura Messner is another name to watch, as she is coming off a Saturday Temecula Sprint victory. Another name you can’t count out is former Spartan Champion Jenny Tobin. Jenny is known to always challenge for victory wherever she races and whatever the distance, in Temecula she had her first burpee free race so watch out she is on her game. Other racers planning on toeing the line are Ang Reynolds, Juliana Sproles and Sue Luck.

Tyann Clark is gunning for victory in Arizona

Other cool things to look for are the Painted Warrior Team of Stephen Sinek and Aeni Domme who always create amazing body paint that Sinek races in for racers/spectators to admire. The kid’s race is always a highlight as it is so amazing to see kids active and excited to become the next great Spartan as they grow older. Lastly I’m calling out my cousin Erik Carlson to race with me. Last year he became a Spartan, but since he has fallen off the wagon exercise wise, I’m using peer pressure to get him to race with me again.

Click here for more information on forthcoming events.

Elliott Megquier is a member of the Spartan Team and a veteran of 69 Spartan Races. He has many podiums to his name, but is still looking for his first Saturday victory. Last season Megquier finish 4th in the points series, after finishing 5th the year before.

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It has been a week since the Vermont Championship Beast. Arguably the hardest Spartan Race this side of the Ultra Beast. We had a chance to catch up with some of the Pro Team to get their feedback on the race. Despite their toughness, training and experience, they suffer the same mental and physical challenges along the course. Here is some of what they shared with us.

Elliott Megquier, who has completed more Spartan Races this year than any other Pro Team athlete, shared his thoughts.

“It was about of mental and physical toughness. It was not about who was the fastest runner (a two time NYC Marathon Champion quit), not about hype. It was about determination and plugging away. I was discourage after doing 30 burpees for the spear and then for the Tarzan swing. But I brushed it aside and ran through cramping.”

Jenny Tobin, finished in 4th place and was the ProTeam’s top placing women.

“I had three goals: goal C was to finish, goal B be in the top 10 and goal A be in the top 5. I felt like I could at least accomplish my C goal but I had thought that in Vegas too and did not finish…Anyway, I lined up a few rows back and started very slowly not knowing how I would feel and knew it would be a long day so no sense in going anaerobic from the get go.” She went on to say, “The obstacles were tough but the mountain seemed like the biggest obstacle. I also felt like there were as not as many obstacles as the year before other than the mountain this year, however, the killer obstacle was the 60 lb sand bag carry straight up hill and down that seemed to go on forever!!! I would have liked to have seen Morgan Arritola carry that thing being that she probably doesn’t even weigh a 100 lbs.”

Ang Reynolds, one of the most experienced Spartan Pro Team women on the course had her own finishing doubts along the way.

“Coming back down that mountain I rolled my ankle on a rock under some grass. I went down, picked myself back up, and made the decision to walk off the course. At this point, I realized my will to finish could not supersede my lack of training. I was completely spent. I limped down the mountain and finally caught sight of my fiancé. I told him I
was going to quit. I told him that it was the smartest thing I could do at that time to avoid further injury. He looked at me and said, “Well, let’s make sure. Why don’t you pick up that sandbag and start climbing while you think?” I grabbed the sandbag and headed back up the mountain. I have since heard that those sandbags were between 65-75 pounds, more than my 7-year-old son, and well over half of my body weight. That wasn’t very fun.

Miguel Medina, who has seen the podium many times this year, most recently at the NorCal Beast had his own personal triumph on the race course.

“Dealing with an injury less than halfway through the race hampered my efforts and shattered any hopes of achieving a top finish, at this point the race was completely mental; finish…adapt or die. I refused to be beaten by this beast, regardless of my placement I was going to finish this race, and I reject the idea of quitting so almost 6 hours later, it was all over…beat up, tired, weak and weary…but not defeated.” and “Adversity tests our will and asks us to do more, so I’m answering the call…next year The Beast won’t know what hit it.

Cody Moat, last years winner and this years 4th place man almost DNF’d. Here is what went through his head at that point and how he came back to finish strong. After a failed attempt at the Tarzan swim

“Half way through my burpees my legs began to cramp. Instead of the burpees taking 2 minutes they took around 3 minutes. I knew at this point that it would be hard to regain the lead but I thought perhaps there was still a chance. So I took off again and only made it 200 meters and my leg really cramped. I sat there on the ground while Matt Murphy ran by. I didn’t know what to do, I’d never had a cramp that bad. So I began hobbling back to a DNF when I decided that I was going to find a way to make my cramped quad bend. So I pushed down on the ground as hard as I could to make my knee bend and it finally bent and released the cramp. By this time Matt had probably gained 5 minutes on me so I knew that it would be tough to catch up with anyone ahead of me. So off I went through the woods but I couldn’t really get going again because I knew any minute my cramp may return. After about 2 more miles of running I had worked out my cramped muscles but there was no catching anyone up ahead so I finished the race in 4th place.”

Christopher Rutz, the Tough Training guy and the oldest man on the Pro Team hit a huge obstacle at the Tyrolean Traverse.

“Coming into the Tyrolean Traverse I was in a good position in the course. So I aggressively decided to traverse under the rope. In hindsight, this was a big mistake for me at this point in the race. I should have been more conservative and used the ‘on the top’ approach. I attempt the traverse 3 times, and each time I failed. Once trying on the top, but without a shirt the impact of rope burn on my chest was unpalatable. Pumping out thirty burpees after each attempt really zapped my strength, but not my spirit. I was determined to finish the race despite the impact this would have on my time and placement. You can be sure I will have revenge on the Traverse and The Beast next year.”

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by Ang Reynolds, Spartan Elite Athlete

I hate standing at the starting line of a Reebok Spartan Race. I feel the same nerves each and every time. They felt no different at my last race as they did at my very first. I have come to realize that the sickness I feel in my stomach is as much a part of me as the race itself. My friends and I hug, wish each other luck, and take pictures, but we’re largely silent. This fear might be the fear of competition, the fear of adventure, or more likely, the fear of the unknown. Each and every one of us deals with our fears, our demons, my fear just happens to be a large part of something that I love.

Five years ago my husband walked away from our marriage. In the weeks that followed his departure, I ran more cumulative miles than I had logged in many years. I ran away from the pain. I ran to stay strong for my three children. I ran for my life. These “therapy runs” continued for hours and I began to heal. My life came back together piece by piece and I looked for my next challenge. I enjoy competition, and set my sights on The Boston Marathon. After qualifying and running Boston, I realized something was still missing. I began to forget why I once fell in love with running and started to slip away from the sport that I loved.
 

 
In December 2011, a friend asked me to join her for a Spartan Race. The Malibu Sprint changed my life. For the first time in a long time, I felt alive and I remembered why I love to compete. A Spartan Race is so much more than a race; it is an adventure, and I was thrilled to be a part of it. Each turn brings a new obstacle and a new experience. Each race is not only a unique accomplishment but also something different to be proud of. I learn as much at the races that I lose as the races that I win, and continually meet amazing people along the way.

Over the last year I have met some of my best friends through theSpartan Race Series. These are the people that I wanted to beat to the finish line at the end of the day, but also the people that I share my days and nights with. We stay out late, and sleep late into the morning. We jump in lakes, stand around fires, and huddle together in the pouring rain to warm our bodies. We help each other limp across the finish line and wipe the blood off our broken and bruised bodies. We share some of the roughest times in our lives and but also in each other’s greatest joys. Our camaraderie is unparalleled. It is unlike anything that I have ever experienced.

My friends and I often talk about our Spartan tattoos. Our tattoos are not comprised of ink and a needle; our tattoos are made of rope burns, barbed wire, and rocks. These tattoos do not solely lie on the surface of our skin. Each of us has a special imprint on our soul for Spartan Race. This imprint will remain long after we are done racing, because this is an adventure we will never forget. My fears will never get the best of me. I will stand at the start line with my demons and when the smoke begins to fill the air, I will run into the battle because this adventure is too good to pass by.

Now it’s your turn.  Get registered.  Find an event near you and join me in a Reebok Spartan Race in 2013.

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