Growing up as a boy in Germany, I was always fascinated by the endless pine forests that seemed to go on forever. I’d see men with forearms like Popeye and chests like barrels quaffing beers and throwing axes at logs in almost nonchalant disdain. The way the wood would explode into halves as the blade shot through it was almost hypnotic. The action, the smell and of course, that glorious sound made everything so delicious. It remained with me throughout my life and now, finally, not only do I have an excuse to chop, but it contains benefits that I embrace with the same arms that swing those axes.

Why would anyone want to chop wood, though? It’s actually very simple. It’s good for you.

Chopping wood is, simply put, one of the best workouts you can give your body. Let’s think about this. First of all, you need a good solid stance, right? Making sure the feet part at a comfortable distance, usually about shoulder width, in order to have a good solid base, you are prepping for action. Doing this means your hamstrings, calves, quadriceps and gluteal muscles are all in use and are tense and braced. Going on from there, you have the swing itself. This is generated in the latissimus dorsi, the lower and middle trapezius, the deltoids, obliques and the pectorals. Completing the swing, you will use smaller muscles in order to stabilize it. It’s one of the few motions, not unlike swimming, that uses a whole range of motions and muscles in order to complete one action.

Best of all for folks that hate doing floor exercises, but still want to try and work those abs, is that this action is basically like doing crunches, only you’re standing up and aren’t getting bored to tears. Crunches are boring. There, I said it.

But it doesn’t end there. Because wood chopping is considered a low-intensity workout, it can improve cardiovascular endurance when you perform is slowly and steadily for a protracted amount of time. With practice, the constant repetition of the swing of the axe will build precise form. This form will raise your heart rate, burn calories and improve your circulation.

Additionally, the motion of the swing – which should be smooth and fluid-like with practice – will not adversely affect your joints, because this exercise is effectively not a weight-bearing one. If you chop wood, say, twice or perhaps three times a week, it will help build aerobic fitness and as we all know, this is what you need in order to efficiently take in oxygen while you perform not just exercise, but any kind of physical activity.

As with any physical activity that requires certain amounts of exertion, you’ll be releasing both endorphins and adrenaline. These are both feel-good chemicals produced naturally within the body.

So chopping wood is in that bizarre situation of being both creative and destructive at the same time. Chopping wood is so rewarding and from personal experience, way more rewarding than any clinical workout in any gym or Crossfit box. You’ve achieved something and have actually something to show for it. You can feel all the muscles working and best of all, that satisfying ache of a job well done. Not to mention the fact that chopping is a confidence booster. Add that final element of problem solving when you come across that one particularly knotty and stubborn piece of wood that just doesn’t want to be split and you have what could be argued as the perfect workout.

As any Spartan Death Racer will tell you, log chopping is a staple part of the Death Race as it’s the perfect workout. Perhaps going back to basics is sometimes the best approach to go forward. So get chopping and sign up for your next race now.

See you at the finish line…

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When it comes to equipment for working out with, one often overlooked item is the humble splitting axe. There are huge physical benefits of chopping wood and the obvious end product also being useful fuel, but which axe specifically should you choose for the task in hand?

In recent times, Fiskars have become immensely popular. Having that balance of being a good, sturdy axe along with being a reasonable price for what it offers, it’s understandable why so many choose it.

So let’s look closely at it.

The Fiskars axe is designed to be as effective as possible in one-strike chopping. What they have tried to do is get that perfect balance of power-to-weight ratio in the same way a baseball bat has. It comes with an extremely sharp blade with a low-friction coating on the head, so it’s ready for use as soon as you get it. Along the blade it has a bevel convex coming out of the head so that it pushes the wood away when splitting. Hence the fact it’s a “splitter”. As silly as it may sound, many people confuse a chopper with a splitter. Two different tools for different purposes. Make sure you understand the difference before you commit to buying!

One claim they make is that it has a “stronger than steel” Fibercomp handle that won’t break through overstriking, ie, missing the head and hitting the log with the handle. They go on to point out that the Permahead insert-molded axe head will not loosen or fly off. If you’ve ever attended the Spartan Death Race in Vermont, you’ll see a graveyard of broken Fiskar axe heads and handles. Now, whether this is through poor striking, bad aim or shoddy quality merchandise is up for debate. The art of chopping wood is something learned over a little time. Not many souls take instantly to picking up an axe and getting right into the groove. Another good thing about Fiskars is their lifetime warranty.

Something else you’ll get with the axe is the head/blade locking case for when it’s stored away when not in use. A nice touch.

Signup today for a Spartan Death Race or 12 hour Hurricane Heat at and don’t forget to bring your axe.

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Edgar at the Winter Death Race.

Death Race veteran and Spartan Race specialist Edgar Landa shares some top tips for all racers. 

So…you’re all geared up, pumped up and ready to attack the course this weekend at the Malibu Spartan Sprint. If you are veteran of multiple Spartan Races you know the routine, what to pack and how to prep your game face.  If you are a nervous first-timer you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed, nervous or apprehensive about what to expect.  Below are some helpful hints for both the experienced racer and the newbie that will make your day in Malibu just a bit more comfortable.

1. Bring a towel and a change of clothes (including socks, dry shoes, jacket and a beanie – you lose the most heat from your feet and head) to wear AFTER the race. I use quick-drying camp towels like the Packtowel Ultralite sold at REI.  They come in a variety of sizes and colors and even the XL (50″x27″) fits in the palm of your hand.  But if you want to bring your Superman towel then go nuts.  The water from the hoses in the shower area will be COLD but so what!!!  You just ran a cold, wet race…what’s a few more minutes of cold water?  Boo hoo! SUCK IT UP! AROO!  You will be thankful not being in cold, wet clothing while trying to enjoy the post-race festivities or waiting for the shuttles to the parking lot!  Last year I saw a lot of shivering, miserable looking people in the shuttle line.  Be dry, be warm, be happy!

2. Flip-Flops/Sandals (in addition to dry shoes): Keep your feet mud free in the shower area by putting on some flip-flops. You can also avoid the cold, muddy ground as you make your way to a changing area/tent by wearing flip-flops.

3. I also bring enough cash to pay for bag check, food, merchandise and leave my debit and credit cards locked in the car so I don’t lose them at the venue. You can also snap a photo of your ID on your smart phone and use that as ID.

4. Contractor-grade trash bag: You can place your wet, muddy clothes and shoes in the bag after you are done beasting the course. And, seriously, use contractor bags not Hefty or Glad kitchen bags.  Those will allow the moisture to eventually seep through and nothing sucks worse than getting home and finding a puddle of water in your trunk or back seat.  You can find them at any Home Depot or similar store.  Contractor bags: Those suckers will hold back the Red Sea.

5. In addition to my small back pack with change of clothes, towel, etc I also bring a Home Depot 5-Gallon bucket to deposit my wet clothes and shoes into before I drive home. Sometimes I check my bucket along with my backpack at bag check (place backpack in bucket or clip it to bag with carabiners). Convenient AND easier to carry than a trash bag. By the way, the “Let’s Do This” on the Home Depot buckets is new to me.  I wonder if Home Depot has been turned onto alternative workout uses for their bucket? Fireman bucket carries with 50lb sandbag, anyone?

6. If you use gloves cut the fingers off the work gloves. Otherwise, you trap mud and water inside the fingers AND your hands get colder.

7. My recommendation is not to bother with multiple layers or rain jacket if it is cold and/or rainy. You will get wet almost immediately from the rain coming down or the first water obstacle you hit. No need to run the course with extra wet clothing hanging off your body. Instead wear a long-sleeve tech shirt or compression shirt.  And, for the love of Pete, do NOT wear cotton! It’s like bringing a knife to a gun fight. Suffer for a few minutes while waiting for the start of your heat or hand off your jacket to a friend as the gun goes off…You are running a Spartan Race! Suck it up! Aroo! Aroo! 

8. On the serious side: You might have concern about getting across water obstacles. In Malibu, the water is not particularly deep and you can always stay to the edge. If you still feel apprehensive ask someone to be your buddy as you wade across so you can keep an eye on each other. Be safe. Period. If you are running with a group like the Weeple Army  or Team SISU you will have a bunch of friends looking out for you.  If you are going at it solo…you will have a bunch of friends looking out for you.  Just remember to ask.  Someone will hold your hand, carry you, push you over and do whatever you need if you ask. And, again, be safe.  If you don’t swim stay to the edge and ask someone to stay with you and be your safety buddy.

Above all else…have fun!  You paid to do this so you might as well enjoy it.  Laugh and smile through the cold, the mud, the barbed wire crawl and everything else that gets thrown at you in a Spartan Race.

Aroo! Aroo!

Ruck On. Stay Muddy.

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In light of the new 12 our Hurricane Heat that now stands as part of the qualifying for entry into the Death Race, Spartan Race are proud to announce the arrival of the new Hurricane Heat coordinator, Spartan Pro Team athlete and Death Race veteran, Anthony Matesi. 

Clearly very excited about his role at Spartan Race, Anthony said, “I bring with me the knowledge gained from hosting three 20-25 hour events that I built around the idea of Death Race preparation. Trying to break as many racers in less time to simulate the experience. That knowledge will be translated into a 12 hour event that will break you down and, if you don’t break, build you back up.”

Drawing on not only his experience as a Pro Team and Elite racer, but also from taking part in the Death Race, Anthony knows what the Hurricane Heat is about, what it needs and how those choosing to taking part expect to happen. (link)

“Those who want to complete a HH better know and possess the 7 pillars of Spartan; stamina, power, athleticism, readiness, tenacity, attitude, and nutrition,” he explains.

“Team work and individual challenges that will test you ability to adapt and react. The typical heavy lifting, off course exploration and camaraderie development will remain the staples of what an HH is.”

The Hurricane Heat is for experienced competitors and first timers alike. The same sense of camaraderie and togetherness is how people will get through. For those unfamiliar with the Hurricane Heat, Anthony explains, “there are no timing chips. Challenges will take place on and off the Spartan course and will often times require a team effort. You will do burpees. You will carry heavy objects, both individually and as a team. Mental toughness and quickness will be tested. You may have to memorize something individually or as a team. You can expect a HH to go up to 4 hours so you’ll need food and hydration and an HH12HR will obviously go up to 12 hours. 

For more information about the Hurricane Heat, click here.

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Guest Blogger Michael Mills celebrates life with Spartan Race

This year, 2013, marked 20 years that I have been paralyzed and I wanted to make it the best year of my life. When you hit the 20-year mark in anything, it is always important, as it marks a large passing of time. Twenty years is a long time, it’s celebrated in a marriage, in a career, and it is essentially a lifetime. That 20-year milestone is always honored. Well for me it was no different. I wanted to celebrate my life by doing things that were a challenge and doing something that no other paralyzed person has done.

It all started with the Spartan Sprint in Conyers, GA.  I decided I would do a Spartan Race. I was not sure how I was going to do it, but I was determined to compete in it. Not long after I made the decision publicly to do the Spartan Sprint several of my friends decided to do it with me.  The entire team was new to Spartan Race except for one athlete, John Hate Sales. John was our veteran and he knew all about the race and the rest of us knew nothing.

We didn’t care; we just wanted to do it so we jumped right in it. We took off and within the first mile I had a blowout. I had no way of repairing the wheelchair but I was not going to quit after just starting. I made the decision to carry on with a flat tire. In true Spartan Fashion I was going to carry on. I was to finish or be carried out on my shield. We started as a team and finished as a team and we were all proud. It’s because of the team and their help that I became the first-ever paralyzed person to earn a Spartan Sprint Medal.

Next was the Spartan Death Race in Pittsfield, VT. Someone on Facebook challenged me with the comment “He really did not do anything, he was simply carried by his team! He really did not earn that medal!” That really upset me because I know what I did and I know the work that we did as a team. This is where my next challenge came about.

Steve-Opie Reid contacted me and said, let’s do the Death Race. I told Steve-O, “YOU HAVE LOST YOUR MIND! There is no way I am going to do the Death Race!” Then I thought to myself, this would prove to everyone that doubted me in the beginning that I am a true Spartan Athlete. So, I agreed to enter the Spartan Death Race. From the start, I knew I was in for an adventure. From cutting grass and small limbs with scissors to building an amazing rock trail with a group of amazing people, the Spartan Death Race was an adventure.  I lasted a little over 24 hours before I was cut due to a time hack. I was the 20th person to go out of the Spartan Death Race but 19 before me quit and my goal was to go as long as I possibly could, and I did it. I never quit and I feel I beat many odds within that 24-hour period.

Last event of the year was my most recent, The South Carolina Spartan Beast. This event truly lived up to its name. “THE BEAST” was by far the hardest event of the year. I joined a new group of OCR crazy’s called “THE DIRTBAGS!” This group of men and women took me in and allowed me to be part of the team and I am sure glad they did. These guys and girls worked hard to help me the entire day. We all worked together as a unit. We had Zackary Paben, Steve-O and countless other volunteers along the way that helped and for those, I am forever thankful. Halfway through the day, my left contact came out and was put in a Ziploc bag so we could carry on. We knew we were on a time limit so we did not slow down. With three hours left in our day, my right contact rolled behind my right eye. I am completely blind by now. I am paralyzed and can’t see. I had to trust my team and the ones around me. We still had obstacles to get over and still finish the course.  As we come to the finish, I could see a blurry finish line and I could see a blurry figure holding the Beast medal. I leaned over and was given the hard-earned medal by Chris Davis. As Chris leaned over and hugged me, he said, “I told you I would wait on you!” To know that I had all the help I did on the course and to know that the rest of my fellow teammates earned their Trifecta that day, I was proud to have fought for 10 hours straight on what I would say, was one of the hardest things I have done to date.


For me this year was the year I wanted to prove to anyone who has ever doubted me and that has said that people with disabilities could not be athletes much less Spartans. I am here to tell you, that you are dead wrong. I am a Spartan. I am a Spartan three times over and to be the first to have done each of these in a wheelchair is a dream come true. I will tell anyone if you are disabled or just wanting to live a better and healthier life, DO A SPARTAN RACE. It changed how I see things and how I tackle life now. It will truly do the same for you!!!!!

See you in 2014 Trifecta!


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Just before this beard craziness all began, I was playing B-ball with one of our athletic, 16 year old African-American kids.  He was trash talking me from the start, and about halfway through he called me an, “old, big, hairy, ugly, white dude.”  He predicted that he was going to, and I quote, “cross me up and break my ankles,” making some comment about it having something to do with his “swag.”

Now, my shooting percentage is terrible, but as the old proverb says, “Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.”  After defeating him, I informed my arrogant opponent, “you just got beat by old, big, hairy, ugly, white dude with bad knees and no fingertips.”  As it turns out, his swag was no match for my beard.

It’s all about the beard. For as long as OCR has existed, beards have held exulted office simply because of the fact that they are beards. As a beard wearer of many years, Zack Paben saw this as a niche that bizarrely hadn’t been tapped into yet.

The morning following the basketball incident, I saw a random post on Facebook about boys having swag and men having beards. Inspired by the quote, I posted a picture of myself coming out of a frozen mud bath with the caption ”Boys keep your swag and I will keep my beard” to the More Heart than Scars (MHTS) Facebook page.  Billy Findeiss (Now forever known as Mr. December) asked me if I was trying to start a beard contest.  Of course, I said, “yes,” then Michael Caudell joined in and started posting all kinds of pure self-loving beard pics.  Jimi Da Beard Hughes  was next to enter his mud-faced masterpiece and then came Steve-o Opie Bones‘ entry.

Zack clearly had people in mind already. While the idea was one of those, “hey, you know what would be cool….?” Moments, things started to take shape, albeit slowly.

“I had hoped for (Spartan Death Race veteran) Steve-o, having seen pictures of him and his beard doing heroic things.  I have heard other men giving praise to my mud beard while participating in various OCRs. I have seen lots of pics of my Facebook friends’ muddy faces.  When I saw a post with a hairy visage I would pester/encourage them to join the competition.”

And so the idea of a “Bearded Men of OCR” calendar, with the proceeds going to charity was born. With Zack having worked for 22 years with at risk youth, it was a natural progression to have an idea and then have charitable causes benefit from it.

“The response was overwhelming once Steve-o entered, I never expected to have the incredible support and involvement that came from the OCR community. As time went on, it was clear that some rather amazing men were entered into this fun contest.  During a conversation with Steffen Cook, (Mr. February), the subject of what the winner gets came up.  Obviously, the first prize for all participants is having a beard, but it was decided that the winner would be awarded the title of “Sir Mud Beard,” with each of the top 12 winning a spot in a calendar. Mr. February said the only thing a Brit could to such an idea, “Brilliant!”

He could tell I was making it all up on the spot but he was still all in, and we love him for it.  He has been instrumental in refining the MHTS calendar vision, as well as being a great person for me to chat with about MHTS projects. It has been great to get to know this amazing group of guys.  Some of our private messages got a little hairy being that we all have a zest for life, and great sense of humor.

It started with just one picture but after a week it was clear we needed an album so everyone could look at the pictures side by side and find them in one place.  The last week, we included a collage along with some more questions to learn about our hairy friends.”

Selecting the final 12 was easily done, as Zack explains, “Once it was clear that our goal was to have a Sir Mud Beard Calendar we decided to have the top 12 guys represent their corresponding month (e.g. January would be the person with the most votes, February would be the person with the second most votes, and so forth…).  You can talk about encouraging others to vote and the vote counting process and so on.”

This throwaway comical idea about beards and OCR quickly became something to take seriously. The final 12 were selected and were even interviewed, so that each page of the calendar has a bio of the person that adorns it.

With the charities of Combat Wounded Veterans Challenge and Spartan Race regulars Operation Enduring Warrior benefiting from the sales of the calendar, the causes are close to the hearts of all involved.

The third and last portion of the proceeds will go to Zack’s own cause, More Heart Than Scars.

“The 3rd portion will go to us to More Heart Than Scars to become an official 501(c) (3) organization and to continue to assist and help individuals overcome both physical and or mental challenges. One of our primary goals is to sponsor John Powers, a full left hip-disarticulation amputee to hike the Appalachian Trail. We plan to list inside the calendar the dates of upcoming OCR events.  We also plan to have some OCR companies support by sponsoring our calendar and giving a one-time discount to a race with proof of purchase of one of our calendars.”

With Spartan Race being well represented within the pages by not only by staff members and even Death Racers, what’s your excuse for not owning one?

Contact Zack via the facebook page More Heart Than Scars Facebook page for more information.

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The Moment Life Changed
On October 23 2004, Joei Harrison’s life changed in one brief, horrific moment.

Her car was hit head-on by a drunk driver.  The collision that took the life of her six year old daughter Elisabeth cracked the skull and lacerated the liver of her son Ethan.  The accident knocked her unconscious and left her with a host of injuries including fractured vertebrae,  a shattered arm, and a concussion.

Harrison awoke five days later in the hospital with no memory of the accident but immediately saw her arm in apparatus, pins sticking out of her thumb. Looking around, she saw a room full of doctors who were at that moment deciding whether or not they would have to use a halo thoracic brace with a metal ring that is secured to the skull with screw pins.

That was a devastating day. Her emotional grief and physical rehabilitation would have to somehow begin and she also had to manage the impending legal battle with the person who caused it all.   She recalls, “On the way home to my mom’s house I remember trying to speak and what came out of my mouth sounded like a tape being eaten.  My words were all jumbled up and could not make sense of what I was saying.”

The Beginning of Recovery

Harrison was angry, “I was pissed off that I could not speak.  I remember just mentally thriving on the anger to overcome what was wrong with my speech, something clicked and I was focused and able to speak again.”  Life was busy and difficult, “I was going to rehab 3 days a week, dealing with funeral arrangements, being a mom and trying not to lose it for my son.”

The rehabilitation was a long road back grounded in excruciating pain.  “My right arm was about three times the size of my left one after the apparatus came off.  I remember the first time going to physical therapy where Jack, my therapist, massaged my arm to get all the fluid out.  It was so painful I passed out.”

The surgery on her arm left Harrison with limited range of motion, “My arm was missing bone in 6 different spots. When the doctors put my arm back together there were gaps in the bone where metal plates would connect one bone to the other.”  The reality of the damage was setting in, “I now had a permanent disability in my arm, loss of range of motion, could not extend my arm fully out and lost length in my arm since it was a permanent 90 degree angle and no longer could touch my face or drink with my right hand.  I had to learn how to use my left hand.”

She’s been getting surgeries ever since.  A constant state of rehabilitation and recovery but in 2011, Joei registered for the Super Spartan in Temecula.  She wasn’t sure on the day of the race if she was ready, “Saturday morning it was raining, cold wet, and miserable.  Out on the course the weather changed.  It started to hail on the way up the mountain until it turned to snow. I was already sick and I could not believe what I was getting myself into.  At that moment, along came the spear throw and I made it on my first try.”

Spartan Races

She finished the race, proud of the accomplishment and found a new challenge, the Spartan Death Race, “I learned about the Death Race here at one of the booths.  I looked at the information and said I suffered and went through Hell and back I think I could do this.  So I registered for 2012 Summer Death Race and finished top 5 female.”

Proving to herself that she’s a survivor in every sense of the word and that she’s somehow found a new normal, “My life is not normal but doing stuff like obstacle course racing gives me a sense of being normal again.”

Her son Ethan has also recovered from his injuries, “When I came home from the SoCal Super in Temcula, my son Ethan was waiting for me. His eyes popped out when he saw the medal that I got and he said, “mom I want to do this.”‘

And so she got him involved in the races.  ”At the 2012 NorCal Beast he did the Spartan Kids race.  He was having so much fun out there.  As he would approach an obstacle, he would already have what he was going to do planned out.  One obstacle after another, he dropped and rolled under the obstacle and popped up to his feet to continue the run. Spartan Race brought my whole family and friends together.”

Even in her darkest hours, a mother’s love, coupled with a will to survive, and the ability to push through any obstacle put in her way made Joei realize her own strength.  The gritty determination that carries her through every aspect of her life, whether it’s providing for her family, recovering from devastating injuries, doing her job, or attacking a Spartan Race course.  And Joei will be in Las Vegas to race the Reebok Spartan Race in Vegas.

If you have ever wondered if you can finish, you just have to decide to start.  We’ll see you at the finish line.  Sign up today. 

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Introduction and Closure by Carrie Adams

“It’s simple…If you don’t think you were born to run, you’re not only denying history.  You’re denying who you are.” – Dr. Bramble

When Hobie Call crossed the finish line of the 2011 SoCal Super Spartan he was unknown.  His accomplishments, however remarkable, remained largely undiscovered and he was just a man with a plan that would take nearly a year to see through.   Crossing the finish in SoCal in early 2011, he was ending one race a champion but beginning another, the race of a lifetime for a man who thought his time may have passed.  While we, Spartan Race were introducing a new sport, Obstacle Racing to the masses, we were also unknowingly meeting the man who would come to define excellence in the burgeoning sporting event and who’s valiant efforts would inspire a community of Spartans to find their own path to glory.  He was featured in our SoCal video about Overcoming Adversity where we first heard part of his story. 

Hobie’s first Spartan Video, SoCal 2011

Venue after venue, race after race Hobie’s winning streak continued and almost every race he touched he owned. After SoCal, came many more races for Call to take on, even the Death Race, and despite his DNF at the Death Race and his loss at the Beast, his fans never faltered and the interest in what this humble man from Utah was pursuing grew.  His journey that began in California led him all the way to Glen Rose, TX and a shot at $10,000.  The cash prize heat was on the minds of many of our Spartan community when the heat took off at 3:30 on December 3, 2011 at Rough Creek Lodge.  With Xterra racer Josiah Middaugh hot on his heels the entire course, Hobie still crossed the finish line first earning him a check for $10,000 and the right to call himself Spartan Race champion. 

In his own words, he remarks on a year of racing and on where he started, how he’s changed, how very thankful he is as an athlete, husband, and father. 

081016_hobiecallOh what a remarkable year!  I was 33 years old and my best athletic accomplishments were virtually unknown to the world.  I’ve logged a 4:40 mile on a treadmill with a 40 lb. vest on, a 17:36 5k on a relatively slow course with a 40 lb. vest on, and I had lunged a mile with a 40lb. vest on in 34:01. (and I don’t use my hands to help when lunging, lunging is a leg workout). Guinness world records wouldn’t recognize my lunge mile because apparently lunging a mile without any weight is hard enough.

I was disappointed enough about the lunge mile, that I never bothered to see if there were even records established for the runs with the 40 lbs. Anyway, in the midst of producing these records, I moved to the city where the smog is too thick, the winters are too cold, and my new job took too much time and energy to train properly to continue to improve. Of course, I’m not one to settle for mediocrity, so I tried anyway. This just caused me to get injured.

I attempted for 1-1/2 years to get back into shape, but to no avail. My job was just too demanding. For the first time in my life, I decided that my chance to be a great athlete had passed. I would attempt a few marathons next year, make a few thousand dollars, and retire. It was a disappointing end to a lifelong dream. As winter settled in, I switched up my training, because running outside, in the dark, on cold icy roads, in the smog just didn’t sound like a good idea. I shortened my runs and focused more on building extra strength, which I could quickly transfer to endurance as soon as spring came. And I did aerobically intense upper body workouts a few times a week in place of my easier runs, so I could stay indoors to workout. 

Early in February, my wife showed me this race that someone had FaceBooked to her and she thought I would like it, so she showed it to me. I saw a picture of a girl crawling through a mud pit under barbed wire. I said no thanks, I’m not a big fan of mud. I don’t even like walking through it to get to my job sites!  But later, for some unexplainable reason, I decided to take a closer look.

310567_10150297865671861_251061411860_8456162_348277038_nAs I was researching the race, I came across an article where the race founder was offering $100,000 to any of the winners of the survivor show who could win his Death Race. And then on a whim (and just for publicity reasons I’m sure) he threw in “if anyone can win all of my other 2011 USA Spartan races I will also give them $100,000”. Nothing on his website said anything about this, nor any other article I could find. But that was enough to get me excited. I could handle a little bit of mud for a prize like that. I figured that as good as I was at running, I would actually be even better suited for a race like this because I had a lot more upper body stamina than a typical runner, especially considering the way I had been training for the last few months.

I talked to Irene (my wife), and we decided to give it a try. So, 2 weeks before the race, I clip_image005 (1)signed up, went and got some contact lenses, and spent every last penny we had to pay for gas to get to California.  And for the first time in many years, I remembered just how fun racing was supposed to be. I felt like a kid all over again. No boring road race here. I was running up and down hills, sometimes on trails, sometimes not. Over walls, under walls, through walls, crawling under barbed wire and through tunnels. Running through freezing water, jumping over a fire, pulling a bucket full of concrete up a pulley. Solve a Rubik’s cube, throw a spear…The list goes on. I was having the time of my life.

SRFL_AB_0012Well, as you can imagine Joe DeSena (one of the race founders) was happy to see someone take on his challenge. As the races progressed, so did the excitement. Joe was happy to see me winning, but was also getting nervous that I would actually win the $100,000. They couldn’t find anyone to challenge me. But, as he was quick to keep reminding me, he still had his Death Race, and I had no chance of winning that. I did a total of three Death Race training workouts. I had never tried working out when sleep deprived, and had no idea what we would even be doing for the race. But, I was healthy and had been working a full time manual labor job while also training for the other Spartan Races, so I knew my endurance was good.

But, the theme of the Death Race is to “expect the unexpected.” We started out by lifting rocks for six hours. As monotonous as it was, I actually enjoyed it. Then we found my kryptonite. The cold. We hiked up a river in the middle of the night, in the rain, had to swim through a freezing pond seven times, and hike back down the river. The seven times through the pond were the seven hardest decisions I have ever made in my life. It’s amazing my body didn’t shut down on me. Anyway, I got held back with a small group of other people for going too slow, and had to wait until the very last person finished. By the time we finished doing group challenges, and arrived back at the farm, I was 1-1/2 hours behind the leaders.

262164_10150227079801861_251061411860_7837628_189769_nNo worries, the race was just getting started, and as long as I was warm, I was gaining on them. But it seemed that for every two steps forward, I took one step back. It was constantly raining, and my body was hypersensitive to the cold because of the night before. I had to wait out rainstorms, and change my clothes often to try and keep warm. Twenty-five hours into the race, I was approximately one hour behind the leader (Joe Decker, who would ultimately win the Death Race for the second year in a row), and gaining fast. Carrying a log up and down a mountain was my kind of fun. But just as things started to look up, a big storm hit as I was reaching the top of a mountain. I had to wait out the storm while my brother brought me a wetsuit. Then, while going down the mountain, I got lost. By the time I reached the bottom, I was over 2 hours behind. Now 29 hours into the race, I concluded that there was no way I could possibly win. So I stopped.

I still had a lot of races left this year, and there was no point in possibly injuring myself268274_10150227079701861_251061411860_7837627_4225439_n just to say I finished. I was not there to finish, I was there to win. So, the cold bested me before Joe ever got the chance to. I won’t be naïve and say that I would have won if the cold wouldn’t have been so severe. The endurance/strength, and sleep deprivation of the next 10 hours may very well have got the best of me. 

Leaving Pittsfield and the Death Race behind me, I had more racing to do before the year was done.  The agreement was, no Death Race win, no $100,000 but I wasn’t done.  People wonder why I continued to race after even when the $100,000 was gone, but if you understand me, it’s obvious. If my pursuit for excellence was driven by money, I would have quit 10 years ago. It’s always been my desire to inspire others to never give up, eat healthier, get out and exercise, take care of your body; it’s the only one you’ve got. These races were accomplishing that more than anything else I had ever done. Besides, I was having the time of my life. Well anyway, to keep this thank you letter from turning into a book, the rest as they say is history.

374691_10150389185026861_251061411860_8883400_172098013_nI would like to thank everyone for such a memorable year. I would try to mention names but would surely miss many of them. From everyone at Spartan Race (of which there are more than a few), the volunteers (many of which didn’t even race, but are just good people looking for an opportunity to help out), to those who donated money, those who put me up in their homes and drove me to the races and back and forth from the airports, and all of the fans with all of their encouragement and support.

I would also like to thank my wife and children, who for most of the year only lived on the386409_10150389197686861_251061411860_8883570_1579919594_n sacrificing end of things, but supported me anyway; my brother who took the time off of work to come to many of the races, and help make a workout video (that you can get at I would especially like to thank my Heavenly Father for blessing me with the knowledge, ability, and opportunity to be where I am today.

“I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks.”  – William Shakespeare

We at Spartan Race would like to extend our own thanks and congratulations to Hobie Call for an epic year.  His kindness, generosity, dedication, and work ethic has come to represent the Spartan spirit.  Whether it was voluntarily pitching in at a pre-race packet pick-up in Malibu when we were overwhelmed with racers wanting bibs and chips, to chopping wood for fellow Death Racer, or posing for pictures, signing autographs, giving tips on training and nutrition to eager racers, and making fun videos and commenting on FaceBook questions, he’s a class act.  Always with a smile and always with honor and  integrity leading him we’ve loved having him as part of our Spartan community and look forward to 2012.

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by John McEvoy, Owner CrossFit Craic34800_10150118451226488_737781487_8229477_6008529_n

How do you train for an event that could potentially involve anything like a Spartan Race? The answer is simple. You have to do everything.

The goal of a Spartan race is to truly test your fitness. You need to be able to run, jump, climb, lift and carry heavy objects, crawl and continue to move forward after each task has been completed.

If you are exclusively a runner then chances are you will struggle with the climbing and165241_10150116337771488_737781487_8189726_8123613_n lifting aspects and if you are predominantly a weightlifter you will likely struggle with the running aspects of the race. Equally, if you are one of those people who love running around the track and doing sit-ups every lap you will no doubt struggle when the time comes for you to pick something heavy up of the ground and move it.

To truly perform in a Spartan Race your goal should be to become a hybrid version of all the above – part runner, part lifter, part climber.

315974_10150389170636488_737781487_10570256_910949538_nIn CrossFit this is our goal. To us ‘being fit’ is being able to perform responsibly well at any physical task. I cannot tell you how many people I have had come into my gym saying “I’m really fit! I’ve run 4 marathons” and they cannot do 1 pullup!. I also get big dudes who come in bragging about their 400lb Deadlift then they cannot run 400m without throwing up. The world of fitness is changing. It’s not good enough anymore to simply be a specialist, at least not in this game.

In CrossFit some days we run, some days we lift, some days we do just bodyweight164054_10150116337411488_737781487_8189708_6855384_n movements and some days we do all 3 in the same workout.  Every day is different and that is what keeps it exciting and what keeps the fire alive inside each of us.

When we arrive at the starting line for a Spartan Race it is no different. We stand at the starting line staring up the hill with no worries about what lies ahead of us because even though we have no idea what obstacles we will encounter, we know that we will be able to navigate them. We have lifted weight heavy for low reps, light weight for lots of reps and vice versa. We have run short, middle and long distances. We have jumped, crawled, carried and pulled ourselves over objects.

We are ready.

309629_10150389170881488_737781487_10570260_989958427_nWe train for the unknown and the unknowable. CrossFit competitions are the same. Sometimes we do not know what the events will be until game day which is the same as a Spartan Race.

Training for a marathon is different.   You know the distance, you might even know the course or you can find it, and you just follow a program you found on Google to prepare.

Spartan training is far different.  Run, jump, climb, crawl, lift, sprint, throw. If you have 163894_10150116337461488_737781487_8189710_5226270_nweaknesses they will be exposed. The only way to ‘play it safe’ is to expose your weaknesses in your training and eventually they will become strengths.

When it’s your turn to step up to the starting line and it’s time to test yourself you should have confidence knowing that you are ready for whatever comes your way because you trained to be ready.

Get signed up. 


John McEvoy is the owner of CrossFit Craic, a Cross Fit gym located at  355-359 Washington Street, Dedham, MA, right opposite the Kikuyama Japanese Steakhouse.  John is also a Death Race participant in 2011 and an Amesbury Spartan Sprint finisher! 

If you have any problems finding the location, call 617-817-7447!


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by Maurya Scanlon

I would like to preface this article by saying that this weekend was my birthday weekend. (shameless plug)  I turned 23 on Friday, June 24th, the official start of the Death Race I’m not sure what that means, but I’ll just go with it.  I received, for my special day, a special gift: a crush. You read correctly, Spartans. I have a crush. In the way that actors form actor crushes on talent (not actually the people who possess that talent), athletes form athlete crushes (I have this on good authority—Carrie Adams. Carrie, if I’m wrong, please omit this paragraph lest I sound ass-like). I am, in fact, an actress so I can pretend to have an athlete crush on her and hopefully it’ll be convincing. Tony-award winning perhaps… but really it’s just a crush-crush.  Her name is Keira Henninger, and I hope to God that she understands my sense of humor.

IMG_0745I had the opportunity to speak with her this past weekend, while the Death Race was destroying knees. See what I did there? Synecdoche. The knees represent the whole person, or racer, if you will.  Moving on.  I am incredibly impressed by people who make it a point to push themselves, to do what most consider super human. So in the spirit of the Death Race, I interviewed Keira.  She may not have run it, but this remarkable woman, athlete and mother still inspires those of us (me) who think they could only dream of accomplishing what she has in her fantastic life.

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