“Spartan Races own Joe Desena will be a guest speaker at the The Body Black Belt Health & Wellness Summit. Elevate your health and take your body to the next level by joining Joe along with fellow guests Dr. Will Tuttle, Dr. Izabella Wentz, Dr. Ritamarie Loscalzo, Dr. Bernie Siegel, Dr. Carolyn Dean, Dr. Daniel Benor, Gillian Hood, host Travis Richardson and more – for a no-cost, online event, July 7 – July 31. #bodyblackbelt http://bodyblackbeltsummit.com/

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Dear Joe,

My name is Nathaniel Fuentes and I’m a Santa Clara Pueblo Native (Tewa) from New Mexico. From 2003 until 2013 I was a massage therapist/bodyworker, when in 2013 I decided that I wanted to expand who I was and what I could become.

My career as a therapist is something that I could not complain about. It had provided, entertained, enlightened and inspired me, but when I went through being partially paralyzed as I’ll mention a little later – and the recovery – it made doing bodywork a very physically unpleasant occupation. Today, I no long practice in a clinic or from my home office but instead manufacture a pain salve that I created and later refined during the days of pain and discomfort in order to free myself from the pharmaceutical opiates that I had started to become addicted to for the management of the pain and discomfort that I was going through. Currently I’m in the continued process of repairing and evolving from where I was to where I now can be.

I finished my first Spartan Race, a Military Sprint in May 2014 at Ft. Carson, CO and I’m now training for the Spartan Trifecta that’s being held on the Island of Oahu in Hawaii this August. I started training in October 2013 for the Spartan Race, after losing 45lbs while being on a traditional Pueblo food diet.

My starting weight was 160lbs from 215lbs and a 35% BMI and running a mile took me over 15+ minutes. Now in June 2014 after gaining 45lbs I weigh 200-205 with a BMI of 23 and I average a mile in 6:30, while running up to 12 miles and hitting the gym almost daily.

Why I do this? Besides wanting to be a healthier individual? In 2011, I was diagnosed with an incurable disease known as Degenerative Disc Disease. This a disease that deteriorates the cartilage between the bones and leaves those who suffer from it in discomfort or pain. Because of the disease’s accelerated progress, it left me paralyzed for three months. With the inability to move from my bed, from my house, to walk, run, jump and even hold the ones I love, freedom and independence would no longer be the same. Battling through depression, self-doubt and the inability to move with wherever and whenever I liked, combined with the realism that in the near future the use of one or both my legs could be gone, I decided and made a change. This change would be to push myself to my limits and beyond, to enjoy the gifts that we all take for granted like the ability to walk, to jump, to run, and to not cower from my pain but to use it to pick myself up, to rebuild from the ground up who I am, and no matter what the outcome.

Thanks, Spartan Race

Here is a link of a teaser trailer for the Road to the Spartan Trifecta.

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Meet Brian Duncanson.

One of the very few that initially sat around Joe Desena’s kitchen table with a handful of others when the idea of Spartan Race was born. Adventurer, tennis player, sports fan, all-round good guy. At the beginning of this year, he took his first steps on a trip that he neither asked for, nor wanted.

“It was back in November when I was the Race Director for the Miller Park event, then went to Salt Lake City for a tourism trade show, then almost right after to Fenway for the race. I could tell something was off, but it seemed much like a typical cold.  It stuck around through Christmas time and I was starting to get concerned. I started visiting a clinic to get some medicine and to have my lungs x-rayed. Everything was coming up negative, but the cold was not going away.”

It was towards the end of January that Brian Duncanson noticed things were a little off. Even his wife had commented that he had bags under his eyes and had bad breath. He was wearing a much paler complexion at times, too. A routine visit in the early afternoon of January 23rd to the dentist where both he and the tech noticed a lot of bleeding from the gums set alarm bells ringing.

“I happened to have a dentist appointment at the end of January where the illness boiled over and showed itself. This finally led to the blood test that showed that my white blood cell count was 10x the normal level and I needed to take immediate action or be at risk of a heart attack or stroke.”

A whirlwind of a visit to a clinic, a blood test and by 5pm the same day, Brian was reeling from the news that he had Leukemia.

A man with no history of cancer in the family, who ate well and was a veteran of endurance racing and love of sports, Brian wasn’t who you’d expect to be the target of such a horrific disease. But there he was, dealing with the news that would drastically alter his life.

“It was amazing how quickly a simple blood test popped up the result, it took us a while to process the shock. Even more to be told I had Leukemia as it’s something most people just don’t ever consider. With the results as high as they were, we drove immediately to the hospital to begin treatment. No one said it at the time, but I was likely within a few days of having a major health event.”

Before he knew what was happening, he was the newest resident at Florida Hospital, beginning his battle against cancer and taking his first tentative steps into chemotherapy. He quickly found, however, that his battles weren’t confined to just the disease. The crushing monotony of hospital life as a patient quickly began testing him. He even made comparisons to the film The Shawshank Redemption.

“Staying in a hospital is very much like a prison. Your room is your cell, plenty of time to be alone with your thoughts which are often dark. The nurses are like the guards, while they’re trying to help you, they’re constantly watching and interrupting you. Some are nice and others are more robotic. Time moves slowly here and frequently you don’t know when you will get out. Even the food reminds me of what it would be like in prison. Poor food served on trays. But perhaps the most direct parallel is the fact that you take on a new pattern of living, similar to what a soldier deployed overseas would experience. If it’s long enough, you become accustomed to that life and it becomes hard to reintegrate back into society, particularly if you carry over some disability back into your life.”

As the first round of chemotherapy started, Brian eventually began to understand and cope with the daily white blood cell count review, the sleep interruptions, and his bag stand. He not only had to learn to walk with it so it could continue to feed directly into his veins, but had become “friends” with it, even jokingly pointing out that he sometimes looked like Neo from The Matrix films.

On Tuesday February 4th, the first round was complete. While he could now look forward to cooked meals at home as opposed to relying on the generosity of his family to bring things in for him, going home after spending the previous 25 days in his “Shawshank” life, he knew it was bittersweet.

“I had to close my eyes a few times on my way home from the hospital. It felt great once I arrived home, but it was strange going out in public and seeing people for the first time after my diagnosis. It was easy to get into the groove of being home, but there was always the next treatment hanging over your head. Each trip back to the hospital was harder.”

What was also hard was the financial strain that was beginning to take it’s toll on him and his family. Friends organized a tennis day, with various fundraising elements added, but even with their huge support and help and including the insurance, Brian still had a $20,000 hole to plug.

Brian then went backwards and forwards many times throughout his 2nd and 3rd rounds of treatment. It was around now that his mental grit was tested. Waiting on results, tests to be taken, information from medical staff all took its toll. Waiting on tests, waiting on results and even waiting on individuals to get back to him with information that would allow him to get on with things, whether it was home visits or it was further procedures.

With his white blood cell counts high and favorable, it was around this time that Brian was dealt another unfavorable hand. Doctors began giving contradicting advice regarding how the treatment ball was to continue rolling. It was a choice – a gamble – that Brian finally took after seeking further advice. Would he continue with chemo, or take the bone marrow transplant that he was urged to.

“My decision came down to finishing the four rounds of chemo and going on with life, or tacking on another 6-months of treatment. Both feel somewhat like a gamble because there’s no clear path to a cure. I’m literally betting on which approach might work best”, he admits.

“I’m at the beginning of the marrow transplant. There is still risk with the graph not taking. With Graph vs. Host Disease and then there is still the possibility of a relapse. All of them are bad. In the best case, the next five to six weeks pass uneventfully and my new immune system will be ready to fight on its own. For me it’s three weeks in the hospital, 2-3 months of three times per week doctor visits to keep my blood levels proper. As time goes on, the visits will get further and further apart.”

Brian still has a fight on his hands, but with his family, friends and Spartan community behind him, this terrible disease is picking fights with the wrong person.

Click here to see how you can help Brian in his fight.

Brian has gone on to write about his decision in his own words and goes on to urge others to join a registry of possible bone marrow donors. All it requires is a cheek swab and takes minutes to do.

“Besides wanting to build a successful company, we stated early on in the company’s development that we wanted to change people’s lives.  This started as a pure fitness goal, but then evolved quickly into a set of principles known as the Spartan Code. It was a cool way to personify the ancient warriors and allow people to apply this code to their life’s obstacles.  It’s been amazing to see how many people identified with the brand and made profound changes in their lives. Those stories are always the most interesting for me.”

“As I sit here in my hospital room awaiting stem cells from someone I don’t even know, I think about what motivated them. My donor was identified through the bone marrow registry and all I know about this person is that he is a 22-year-old US citizen. A pretty youthful age to have such philanthropic ideals. Was someone he knew touched by Leukemia? He’s obviously a youthful, strong-spirited person, with great awareness of the world beyond himself. And there it is – the Code. Then I start to wonder if this person has ever been to a Spartan Race and how great it would be if Spartan had caused a change in him that lead to this selfless act.”

“No matter what changes you are striving to make in your life, please allow me to encourage all of you to SPARTAN UP and join the bone marrow database. The larger the number of donors, the better odds for everyone. It’s a simple cheek swap and little time.”

Bone Marrow Transplant

After much discussion with my medical team, I made the decision to proceed with a bone marrow transplant. As previously discussed, I have a type of Leukemia called AML. When the doctors run initial tests they run your cytogentics, which are indicators of abnormal cell behavior and thus predict if your cancer will relapse. The cytogenetics sort out three classes: Favorable – who do not receive transplants; unfavorable – who must receive transplants; and Intermediate risk who have been a point of controversy. Some Oncologists feel that people with intermediate risk AML can obtain long-term survival with chemo only treatments. Cellular doctors believe intermediate risk requires a transplant.

I should clear up at the front of a Bone Marrow Transplant and Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplant. Bone marrow is obtained by aspirating the marrow from the pelvis bone. This is the process the doctors use to verify remission in cancer patients as well. Local anesthesia is given, but it’s a slightly painful procedure and a few days of recovery time.

The good news is that Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplant (PBSCT) is much less invasive and it is the preferred method of donating for blood cancers. PBSCT is a method of collecting the stem cells from the bloodstream called apheresis. The donor is given medicine to increase the blood levels, then the blood is drawn out of a large vein, goes through a machine that removes the stem cells, then the blood is returned to the donor. The process takes 4 to 6 hours.

Finding a match for the transplant is typically one of the hardest parts of the process. Siblings are typically tested first, but each one of them has only a 25% of matching. There’s only about a 50% chance for causations to find a match through the world-wide registry. That number goes down to 7% if you’re African American. Your health care professional can scan the database once they develop your Human leukocyte-associated antigens (HLA) matching through some expensive blood testing. The better the match, the least likely complications will develop like graph-vs-host disease.

Once you’ve found your match, there are still several weeks of work to do. The donor gets to pick their donation date, and your schedule will be set once that date is defined. You still have to pass a battery of tests on your heart, lungs, and a final marrow biopsy to make sure you’re ready to begin the process.

Check in at the hospital to begin with a central line insertion that will serve to draw blood from your body and insert medicines. After being treated with high-dose anticancer drugs and anti-rejection drugs (one called the Rabbit), then the patient receives the stem cells through an intravenous (IV) line just like a blood transfusion. This part of the transplant takes 1 to 5 hours. All measurements are taken from this Day “0.” You can expect to be in the hospital for 2-3 weeks after Day 0 to ensure the engraftment has taken place and that the new cells are creating your new blood. You will continue to follow up closely with your doctor for up to 100 days after the transplant to verify and correct any blood levels.

If you can make it one year without a relapse your chances are 55% it will never come back. At two years, it’s 70%, and at three years, it’s 80+%. But suffering a relapse before those time markers typically spell a negative prognosis.

The entire process is only possible based on the large registries that are helping to match up potential donors to those in need. In the U.S., Bethematch.org has all the information for people looking to donate marrow. It’s only a cheek swab to get into the registry with only about a 1 in 500 chance that you’ll match with someone who needs your marrow. People 18-44 are most desirable.

Read Brian’s blog as he fights cancer right here.

 

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Dear Joe,

My husband and I are going to do the Utah Beast and it has so much meaning to me for so many reasons. It’s going to be our first Beast, it’s going to earn us our first Trifecta, it’s will be our first race as part of the Weeple Army family, and my husband doesn’t even know about it yet! Let me explain….

It’s been an emotional journey for me. I was small before I got pregnant with my babies. We struggled for years to get pregnant and when I finally had a pregnancy that I didn’t lose, pregnancy was bloody awful to me. I hardly recognized myself any longer once I got pregnant and had my babies as I put on 100lbs each pregnancy. I remember an incident about 18 months ago when I went out for my first run and a truck pulled up alongside me on the road and the guys inside pointed and laughed at me because I was bouncing and jiggling every which way. I was mortified and walked home crying and bawled like a baby to my supportive husband. I didn’t give up. I’ve worked very hard to lose every single pound and gain every fibre of muscle. I lost 100lbs of baby weight. And my husband has always stood by me….through thick and thin so to speak.

I can’t say the same for most of the friends in my life who turned their backs on me and my family as we wholeheartedly embraced an active living family lifestyle. We get made fun of for our passion and enthusiasm for obstacle racing and our desire to travel long distances to participate in Spartan Races as we did for the Vegas Super and the Montana Sprint. As a Stay-at-Home mom to my two wonderful sons (ages 4 and 2) we make a lot of sacrifices to train and race including sleeping in our van on the side of the road with our children when we are driving such distances to get to the races from the island on which we live. When we first learned about Spartan Races everything changed for us and for the better. The people we have met in the OCR community have been so kind and supportive. Knowing I have such support from all my friends and family means so much to me and motivates me to keep at it!

Our participation in the Utah Beast is a culmination of all of our hard work and commitment to not only our training, but to our family’s decision to make this our passion. This is a surprise gift to my husband for Father’s Day for being an amazing role model to our boys and for always standing strong with me even when others continue to try to knock me down.

Here are some photos of my journey including before and after pics, my husband carrying me over the fire at the Vegas Super, my husband and I together jumping the fire at the Montana Sprint, and a photo of me in a race with my two sons who accompany me on most of my training as I am a stay-at-home mom. No excuses!!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it was the Canadian Mudd Queens (a Canadian women’s national obstacle racing team) that welcomed me on to their team for my first Spartan Race and have since helped to fuel my addiction to these fabulous races!!

There is no doubt that Spartan Races have a positive impact on our marriage. We want to put our best foot forward at the races. And as such we weight train together, run together, and obstacle train together. This commitment to our Spartan training has made our commitment to one another stronger; and ignited passion in other ways as well. We know if we can overcome the various obstacles on the course together then surely we can handles life’s obstacles that are thrown our way. This in turn has had a positive effect on our children’s lives as they too get involved in our training, travel to all the races with us, and participate in the Spartan Junior Races. We are indeed a Spartan Family! AROO!!

Thank you for listening to my story.

Cheers, Jessica

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Dear Joe,

Hello! As I’m sure you guys there are Spartan HQ receive a lot of these emails, I still wanted to share my story and how much of an impact your organization is. My name is Sean Fitzpatrick and a good portion of my life young life has been filled with struggles and setbacks, some out of my control and some not. In 1st grade I had my first kidney stone which had to be surgically removed, something doctors said was very very rare for a child of that age. I continued to get kidney stones every year and still do. I’m 21 years old and have had 25 stones thus far, some passing on their own and some having to be surgically removed. The frequency of having these stones made exercising very difficult as it would put my on bed rest for extended periods of time and I eventually stopped exercising all together, thus leading me to weighing 250lbs at the age of 18.

I discovered Spartan Race three years ago when I at my heaviest weight and the lowest point in my life. However, the idea of the Spartan Race resonated deeply within me – seeing many people of different struggles completing your races, and the strong motivation your company displays for it’s racers. It was then I decided to make a change and bring life back into my life. I was determined to run a race that coming summer. It started with running down the block and not being able to catch my breath, to running a 13 minute mile, to running multiple miles at a time. I kept track of everything I ate, weight lifted, 5 days a week, running 6 days a week. As my weight went down, my happiness sky rocketed. I told myself over and over how I was going to run that race for myself and accomplish something for me. Four weeks before the Sprint, I felt an all too familiar pain in my lower back and I knew what it meant. I drank a gallon of water a day in hopes of passing the stone, but it never came and the pain grew and grew. As the race crept closer I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do it, so I had to put it on the back burner and I was crushed. I eventually passed the stone, but my pride still took a hit, but I still have one thing: A new found confidence, a new found self, and a new found life. I wouldn’t put my physical fitness to the waste side any more.

Flash forward three years, and I’m now, as of June 5th, 2014, weighing in at a healthy 175lbs, running 25+ miles a week, weight lifting/training 6 days a week, hiking frequently, and experiencing all the joys that come with being able to have control over your own body. I still get kidney stones (to my doctor’s dismay), but I push trough the pain when I can, and it actually helps pass the stones with no complications.

On 6/01/14 I ran my first Sprint at Tuxedo Ridge, I put my all into it. At the starting line I wasn’t as confident as I thought I was going to be, looking at fellow Spartans and seeing how confident they looked. But as I began I pushed past many in my heat and blew through each obstacle, not failing any of them. Once I reached the finish line I was overcome by my personal accomplishment – I ran 95% of the race, uphill and down, completed every obstacle without any problem, and helped individuals who needed it. My girlfriend and friend were literally shocked how well I did ! I placed in the top 7% overall, something I never thought would be possible. I’m now on my way to earning my first (of many) trifecta’s!!!

I know this was a long-winded story, but I just had to share with you guys at HQ because it’s because of you guys that I was given the tools to turn my life around. Everything the Spartan Race stands for is something I wish to bring to my life, and the lives of those around me.

Overall, I just want to say thank you.

Sean Fitzpatrick 

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Dear Joe,

The shirt reads “Chemo gave me superpowers”

Thank you so much for all that you do.  Not only for regular athletes, but also for people like me. I was diagnosed with bone cancer of the right femur when I was 11-years-old. I underwent 18 months of intensive adult dose chemotherapy and 15+ surgical procedures, but I came out on top. Due to numerous complications, I will spend my life on crutches. It may slow me down (and boy am I slow!), but it won’t stop me. I like to think of it as taking life in “swing.”

I did my first obstacle race in 2012 because a friend decided she didn’t want to go. A random dude next to me at the start line told me there was no way I would be able to do it. But I did. Since then, I have done two mud/obstacle races (local races), one half marathon, and about ten 5Ks, including the Boston Marathon 5K. My husband and I were supposed to do an obstacle race in Massachusetts, but unfortunately the event changed the date and location. Since this change conflicts with another race, we cannot go. I am so bummed! I was really looking forward to tackling a real obstacle race!

I am hoping to do the Spartan Sprint at Fenway someday, where I know my husband will walk along side me as my support crew. It looks awesome! Even though I live in upstate New York, all of my treatments and surgeries were in Boston, so it truly is my second home.

Looking forward to the day I can yell, “AROO!”

Thanks again for all you do! You are definitely making the world a better place.

Devann Murphy

Sign up here for your next Spartan Race and we’ll see you at the finish line!

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