by Leslie St. Louis, Elite Spartan Athlete

The Colorado Military Sprint is coming to Fort Carson Army Base May 4th and 5th and expect a race like no other! It has a unique finisher medal and shirt, as well as its own rules and rankings. If last year’s nearly five-mile-length inaugural event is any indication, it will be longer than an average Sprint and obstacle-heavy, including Spartan favorites, such as the spear throw, rope climb, monkey bars and traverse wall, as well as military-themed obstacles, such as The Weaver, barbed wire crawl with training guns and heavy rock carry with backpacks. Of course, expect the unexpected too, as there are sure to be plenty of new surprises from a collaboration of efforts from Spartan organizers and 4th Infantry and Specials Forces units!

All the top three women from last year’s Saturday Military Sprint are coming back again, including:

* 1st place finisher and Spartan Athlete April Luu, who has been on a winning streak this season and is currently second in Spartan Points overall right now, only six points behind Hobie Call

* 2nd place finisher Taryn Haas, who just raced in the Las Vegas Super, coming in 15th, but completing the loop THREE times for “training.”

* 3rd place finisher and Spartan Athlete Leslie St. Louis (that’s me). I came in second for 2012 Spartan Points and in the 2013 SoCal Super and will be racing for the first time after recovering from a foot injury.

Not to mention, two of the top three women from last year’s Sunday race will be returning, including Spartan Athlete Corinne Kohlen, who took 1st last year and has already raced eight events this season, and Spartan veteran Sue Luck, who took 3rd last year and comes to Colorado having raced nine events this 2013 season.

Other women to watch are Spartan Athlete Andi Hardy, who made a strong showing in her first event post injury at the Indiana Sprint last weekend and Tonya Graham Stogsdill, who took 3rd in Indiana.

Look forward to an exciting match-up on the men’s side, too. Some of the Spartan veterans making a return appearance to Colorado include Joseph Kauder, Chris Obertlik, Chase Stewart and Spartan Athlete Shawn Feiock, who took 7th for 2012 points and has already made the podium twice in 2013.

Although these men will have familiarity of the location, each event is different and they will have tough competition from Spartan-sponsored racers Miguel Guillermo Medina and Elliott Megquier, who has made the podium eight out of 15 races this 2013 season, as well as Brian Hoover, LeEarl Rugland, Rob Michaud, Eric Hansen, Evan Williams, Joey Patrolia and Brad Fredricks.

Just like the obstacles though, there is always the possibility of a surprise. Ultra Racer Tyler Tomasello and Professional Xterra Triathlete Cody Waite are just two of the athletes racing Saturday who may fare well in their first ever obstacle event.

Finally, amid the army base setting there will be awesome stories of personal and group triumph, including the Project Sanctuary Team that will be racing at 10:30 on Saturday and include a combination of active military members and veterans as well.

There are more than 7000 participants expected at this unique and sure-to-be epic event. Are you one of them? If not, sign up or start planning now to head west next year!

Connect with Colorado racers and read more about what to expect at the Military Sprint as well profiles on many of these athletes on the website and facebook page, Colorado Obstacle Racers. https://www.facebook.com/ColoradoObstacleRacersPage#!/ColoradoObstacleRacersPage

Or http://www.coloradoobstacleracers.com/

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by Chris Rayne, guest blogger 

Chris Rayne, Fort Carson, CO 2012

Finding Spartan

I saw my first advertisement for the Spartan Race while I was at the gym at Fort Carson, CO.  It was in November 2011 and the poster was for a race in May.  I didn’t give it much thought and let it slip from my mind. I was in a transition from enlisted to officer in the Army, and was going through the rough ending of a divorce.  I didn’t think I had time to think about a Spartan Race.  A month later the I was asked if I would volunteer for the race.  Not thinking much of it, except that my weekend was free, I put my name on the list and then went about my business.

Finding the Finish Line

April 2012, life was much different for me.  I had fallen in love and I was about to be an Officer in the Army.  I got a reminder about volunteering for the race and was told I could race for free.  I looked into what Spartan Race was and that’s when I first saw the Powerful Beyond Measure video and I was shocked at the emotions that welled up in me when I watched. I had to share feeling with my loved ones and anyone who would listen. I only got around 20 or so people to race day but it was a success in my mind. I finished the Military Sprint I had volunteered for months earlier and was off to start my life as a second lieutenant feeling a sense of accomplishment.

Rebuilding a Life

Life took another turn.  During training I got a call from my fiancé, the moving truck we had all of our possessions in had caught on fire.  We lost everything. The devastation was immense and after the dust had settled I reached out to the Spartan Team and asked for help retrieving a finisher medal to start rebuilding from the ashes. Even though there was no finisher medal available, I did receive a Spartan Helmet and some encouraging words. This community who knew nothing about me and only ran in one race reached out to me and helped me out. This is what sparked my obsession with the Spartan Brand of living and my journey to share this with everyone.  I wanted to pay it forward.

My wife and I started a new life in an empty house with a two year old and a baby on the way.  It was tough to stay focused on training but it was the Spartan Race that helped me and my family. In November of 2012, my daughter Zoey came into the world I dedicated myself to earning the Trifecta in 2013 and bringing my wife to the Spartan Family. We formed a little two person team for the Fort Carson Military Sprint and word got to her family. This lead to her sister (who also just had her third child a few months earlier) and brother joining us and forming team Powerful Beyond Measure in honor of that spark that started it all.

I would frequently check the Spartan webpage and this is when I stumbled upon the Spartan Fuel and decided to send Spartan Race founder Joe De Sena a message asking a few questions. I honestly never expected a response let alone a response within the hour and from Joe himself.

Paying it Forward

It always amazes me that still after all that Spartan HQ has gone through; the core values outlined by the Founding Few are still adhered to. And with the partnership with Reebok it remains their mission to rip each and every person off their couch, get moving  and help people find their hidden potential.  I can never repay the drive that the Spartan Race had given me and my family. My wife jokes with me and says I have a healthy obsession with Spartan…

Well it’s the healthiest and best obsession I think anyone can ever have.  We love it.

Are you ready for your first Spartan Race?  Register TODAY. 

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by Shane Phillips, Guest Blogger and founder of Paws 4 PTSD

Riley Stephens

Before the Texas Beast, I told you about my best friend, my brother Riley Stephens who was killed in action serving his country in Afghanistan with the 1/3 Special Forces Group (Airborne) as a senior Medic.  One of the last things he did before his deployment was run a Spartan Race.  As a tribute, friends and family took on the Spartan Beast in Glen Rose as “Team Riley” to honor him and to reconnect.   I’ve been spending lots of time on how to express my feelings from the Spartan Beast race in Glen Rose, TX.  I have finally decided to just share those feelings with you.  The story will be raw in places, silly in others, and probably a little boring and mundane in the rest of this swirl of emotions.

Team Riley: Ken Stephens (Riley’s brother), Cody Watson, Jamie Gray, Jerry Snyder, Austin Harris, Brooks Goodson with Author Shane Phillips and Paws4PTSD service dog Hope.

I was nervous going to support Team Riley as they ran a race to honor SFC Riley Stephens who was killed in Wardak, Afghanistan in September of 2012. I’m not exactly sure why I was nervous.  I had my wife and kids with me.  I had Hope, my service dog, with me.  I knew the people we were going to support and their family that would be there too. I think I also felt a little guilty because I wasn’t running with them.  I wasn’t going to sacrifice myself to the team to honor our brother.

Coming into the area where the start/finish line was located we were signing in and I was afraid we’d miss the start of the race.  An unnamed worker with Spartan overheard why we were there and who we were there to support and it was like I was a VIP all of the sudden.  Ushered in I quickly found the guys in the holding pen waiting on the pep talk and start.

Hugs to my brothers and words of sarcasm and advice to cover what we were all thinking.  Or at least I was.  We’d rather be talking trash and hanging out with our brother, Riley. I was handed a Team Riley shirt and immediately put it on.  Just as the serious looks are exchanged as we all acknowledge the why of being here together the race announcer starts his talk.  I am unable to recall the exact words, but I do recall he made a point of letting everyone know exactly who Team Riley was and it was an honor to have them race.  I think that’s when the feelings started to change a little for me.  Here we all were, Team Riley, Mic (Riley’s father), my wife and kids, all the family members, and probably a couple of hundred strangers trying to stay warm in the blustering North wind.  I felt this collective respect given by everyone.

It’s a feeling you can relate to if you’ve ever truly had that physical struggle where you don’t think you can do it anymore and someone stronger gives you that look that says, “well done.”  It’s never a spoken thing and I think that’s why is so much more powerful than words could ever convey.  It’s almost magical in the sense of brotherhood and respect felt.

The next few hours for me consisted of Hope and I running cross-country observing the race and trying to catch Team Riley at obstacles to cheer them on.  Hope and I must have run 6 miles cross country that day.  She loved it! She ran beside me like it was the most natural thing on Earth to be doing.  At one point of trying to get back to the start/finish to help my wife this calmness came over me.  Here I was running through the Hill country in the middle of a huge race course with my service dog Hope happily running beside me.  I was breathing the cold fresh air.  I would occasionally cross paths with a racer or two and they would all give me a smile when they saw my Team Riley shirt.  While I observed the racers at obstacles I felt the same sense of respect and honor hung in the air even while they did burpees as punishment for a failed attempt. This familiar feeling of comfort and safety came over me.  That exact feeling I’d felt with Riley while we shot the bull.  The feeling I’d shared with my brothers down range between missions back in the day.  That feeling of… “Yes, this is hard, but we are here together.  And together we will overcome this. Not because it is easy, but because it is hard and worth doing.  If not worth it for the thing done, for the kindred spirits of my brothers and sisters who have suffered too.  It is worthy simply because of the men and women with whom we conquer it with.”

Team Riley did awesome.  Together they conquered the course.  The conquered their inner voices.  They conquered a little bit of a hurt known only to them.  How do I know this? Well, because some of that hurt was conquered during my cross country run with Hope.  You see, that sense, that feeling I’ve tried so hard to convey I believe was the spirit of Riley.  Not his soul, but that warrior spirit that has inhabited so many of us and is so very close to the ones who choose a warrior lifestyle and path to follow.

Team Riley, and even Hope and I, in a sense got to run with Riley.  Holding tight to that spirit of the warrior will keep our brother alive in each of us in our own way.  This spirit gives me the courage to be open about the inner turmoil that is me.  It gives peace in a way to his family and brothers and sisters of a little town in Texas.  We ran together again and I just can’t help but think how our friendship and path together started the same way.  We ran together around that football field so many years ago.  Only this time everyone ran with him, with us, sharing that warrior spirit no matter who you are or where you’re from.  It was simply amazing.

At the end of the race for Team Riley we were there to cheer them on.  They collected their breath and what was left of their strength.  Proudly and with smiles they charged the Spartans after leaping the fire, taking the pugal sticks away and capturing the moment in a way that Riley would be so proud of. They took what belonged to them.  There was no quarter given by either Team Riley or the Spartans as they claimed that true warrior spirit while seizing what was theirs.  A message to Riley that they too respect and revere the gift he left us.  The gift of knowing him in a way that few did; a man, a warrior, a brother.

Soon after the race the brothers and Mic and family gathered behind Mic’s truck.  Shots of Crown Royal were passed out and Mic held one for him and one for Riley.  Mic put me on the spot and asked me to do the honor of a toast.  We raised our shots and I toasted, “To the brothers who ran a race to honor the one who is no longer able.” Down the hatch our shots went, with a few teary eyes, and Riley’s shot poured out.  Not wasted, but given to the Earth, given to the field of battle in his honor.

 [Editor's Note: Team Riley took on our Glen Rose, TX Beast race on December 8, 2012.  They finished in honor of their brother, son, friend.  A big thank you for their gracious willingness to share their story and to Shane for his words that poignantly capture such an emotional journey.  Find Shane's non-profit organization Paws 4 PTSD on Facebook and online.]

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by Shane Phillips, Guest Blogger and founder of Paws 4 PTSD

It was hot.  The kind of Texas hot only felt during the hell that is known as two-a-days for Texas High School Football.  I have no idea how many laps Coach Bradford had already made us run.  All I know was I was bent over, vomiting, in a grassy area near the front of my high school in Tolar, TX.  I felt a pat on my back, or more accurately a heavy slap, and turned to look into the red face of a guy who resembled the human version of a tank.  He was as wide as he was tall and I seriously doubted he had more than 4% body fat.  He gave me this grin and said, “Don’t be a p***y”, then off he went gleefully running more laps.  I didn’t know it then, but I had just met Riley Stephens who would become one of my closest and dearest friends.  Who, throughout our friendship, became the one constant I could depend on no matter what I needed.  Guidance as a warrior, guidance on dealing with the demons we shared, a good laugh, and that particular sense of humor that anyone who ever had the chance to be around him had the privilege to know.

In 2010 I experienced my first Spartan race in Houston, TX with a team of people I had never met before.  If you’ve run a Spartan Sprint race you know just how much fun I had.  As time passed this experience was something I talked to Riley about and we’d planned on running a race together in Texas after his retirement from the military.  Among other plans we shared based on the timing of his retirement and deployments with the 1/3 Special Forces Group (Airborne) as a senior Medic.

In July 2011 one of those rare once or twice a decade events took place.  We were all in the same place at the same time.  To celebrate the 4th of July, Riley’s dad Mic hosted a party and we were all able to be there and celebrate our independence.  None knew it then, but that would be the last time we were all together to celebrate.  This picture is a toast in their honor during the party and the last picture I have of  Riley and I together. 

Time passes and most of us carried on with our jobs and deployments.  In the summer of 2012 Riley volunteered to go to Afghanistan with a team who needed a medic.  Just before he left Riley and his team he’d served several combat deployments with decided they’d give a Special Forces send off to their medic, their friend, their brother.  Riley and his team ran a Spartan Beast in South Carolina the week or so before his deployment.  Knowing Riley and the boys from his team I know they caused as much havoc as they could.  They even took the pugil sticks away from the Spartan warriors and made them fight to get them back.  That is definitely Riley!

After the race Riley told me just how much fun he’d had and how this type of race was perfect for guys like us.  He even enjoyed the hot girls giving medals and beer tickets! Riley was never one to not enjoy something like that!

On September 28th 2012 I received a phone call from Ken, Riley’s brother who also serves in the U.S. Army, that I’d prayed I’d never get.  Ken spoke directly, as is our custom, and relayed to me that our brother, my best friend, my hero, had been killed in Wardak, Afghanistan.

During the next days of learning his death was real and coming together as a huge family we laid our brother to rest on October 7th 2012 as close to a brother and best friend he’d lost in 2006, also in combat, as the National Cemetery in Dallas, TX would allow.

A group from high school got together and decided to run the Spartan Beast in Glen Rose, TX this December 8, 2012.  They all belong to the inner circle of “brothers” of our small town.  We all call Riley’s dad, Mic, “Dad.”  And for some of us blood makes no difference on the closeness of our bond.  “For he today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.” (William Shakespeare)

Team Riley will consist of: Jamie Gray, Cody Watson, Brooks Goodson, Austin Harris, Jerry Snyder, and Ken Stephens (Riley’s brother).

In closing, I want to remind you of this.  Those people sweating and cursing and bleeding with you on the course running under the name Team Riley aren’t running for themselves.  They aren’t even running for those like me who lost a brother too.  No, they will run for Riley.  They’ll suck it up and I know that each time they hesitate or grow tired they’ll hear in his sarcastic Texas drawl “Don’t be a p****y” and then smile and carry on.

[Editor's Note: We are proud and humbled to have Riley's story featured on our Spartan Race blog and for Shane's willingness to share the story.  To Riley's family and friends, we extend our sincerest condolences and deepest gratitude and look forward to their participation in our Glen Rose, TX Beast race on December 8, 2012.  Find Shane's non-profit organization Paws 4 PTSD on Facebook and online.]

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