by Beth Connolly

Intense athlete, Spartan Chick, and up-for-any-adventure girl Shannon Roche is the only racer I’ve ever interviewed who talked herself down.

“Are you sure you want to interview me?  I’ve fallen off the wagon,” she wrote in an email before we spoke on the phone.

Then, at the end of our interview, she brought it up again.  “Am I intense enough?  I don’t feel like I measure up to the other athletes you’ve profiled on the blog.”

Chatty and modest, Shannon most certainly does measure up.  This 36-year-old real estate agent, who describes herself as 36 going on 26, just takes her challenges in stride to such an extent that they don’t seem like a big deal.  At least not to her.

She’s always been athletic, starting from her school days of track and volleyball.  But after college graduation, she moved to New York and realized that she needed goals to keep her motivated in her fitness.

So, back in 2006, she started training for a half-marathon.  Having successfully completed that, she moved on to a marathon in 2007 and a triathlon in 2008.  Then, in 2009, she really got serious and signed up for the Escape from Alcatraz, a unique event in San Francisco that she describes as the best racing experience she’s ever had.  To begin the race, a ferry drops off 2000 people in the frigid San Francisco bay  (she estimates temperatures were around 55 degrees F when she did it).  After a 1.5 mile swim to shore, racers face an 18-mile hilly bike, and an 8-mile run over hard and soft sand, including a timed 400-stair climb.

After her Alcatraz adventure, Shannon found herself “bored” once again.  So she decided to join Warrior Fitness Boot Camp in NYC midtown, where she met Kat Dunnigan, who told her about the Spartan Race.  That was all it took for Shannon to sign up for the 8-mile Super Spartan taking place in September 2011 in Staten Island.  “I feel like I’ve done everything else and I’m wanting to try something different,” she said of her decision to compete in a Spartan Race.

Shannon thinks that Warrior Fitness Boot Camp is the perfect way to train for a Spartan Race.  “It has all the elements,” she said.  “Nothing I’ve ever done has pushed my heart rate as much.”  The Boot Camp is an indoor obstacle course run by former Marines who “yell at you with a smile on their faces and push you.”  When she first started last fall, she couldn’t climb all the way up the six-foot tall wall and she couldn’t make it all the way across the monkey bars.  But after just one or two weeks, she noticed improvements in her performance at the course and felt herself getting a lot stronger every day.

Beyond the physical improvements, Shannon loves the camaraderie and encouraging atmosphere she has found at Warrior Fitness, and she’s even convinced her friends to join her as well.  I bet we’ll see them this September, too.

If Shannon’s past performances are any guide, I think that she’ll blow the Super Spartan out of the water.

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by Carrie Adams

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” -Oscar Wilde

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Ray Morvan

Recently, Spartan Race has been covering profiles of the awe-inspiring individuals taking part in the Spartan Death Race.  An endurance event like no other on the planet that has been taking place every year in Pittsfield since 2005.  It’s an event aimed at giving competitors the ultimate challenge in the Green Mountains of Vermont and an opportunity for those brave enough to sign up the chance to find themselves and redefine their lives in a backdrop of unforeseeable challenges.  It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to show that overcoming is worth the effort required to achieve it and being alive is a state of being where death is just a state of mind.

Ax in hand, Ray Morvan, now 48, hacked away at the stump in the ground for over an hour, using his hands at various points to dig and pry at the roots of the stubborn stump to extract it from the ground.  He’d removed his bib already that was previously pinned to it and now he worked at the stubborn, heavy stump expertly with his ax.  His reward for the task – to carry the heavy piece of wood for the rest of the day.  He would DNF that race at the 11 hour mark – his first attempt at the race in the summer of 2009.

In the winter race the following year, he was told to put together a wheel barrow and then cart 12 logs of firewood up the mountain in deep snow.  With no easy way to push the wheelbarrow in the drifts of snow, he had to improvise in order to navigate the trail with  the heavy logs and cumbersome wheelbarrow to reach the summit.  It was a daunting task.

This summer marks the fifth race for the veteran Death Racer, a mortgage banker from Springfield, VT.  His first attempt, he weighed in at just about 240 pounds and had recently left rehab for treatment of a drug and alcohol addiction.  He was admittedly not ready and when he left at the 11 hour mark, a spark had been ignited.  For a man who nearly died in 2002  from appendicitis and has endured more than a dozen abdominal surgeries since, he’s no stranger to death and he plans on competing in the race until they won’t let him anymore.

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by Carrie Adams

“Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.”  – Marilyn Monroe

Cassandra Randolph, Arizona

We’re pretty sure Marilyn was talking about muddy running shoes.  Our Spartan female champions and participants are showing up, taking on the Spartan Races, and showing the men how to make dirt look good.  Recently, we discussed the topic of getting chicked, a term that refers to a man getting passed on the course by a woman.  The post had our men shaking in their Nikes and our women standing up and cheering.

Our Competitive Wave One Women winners each brought a physical and mental toughness to the race.  Their victories have been great achievements and highlight what’s possible for women in the Spartan racing circuit.  Undoubtedly there was epic “chicking” involved.

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by Carrie Adams

Kat Dunnigan isn’t the kind of woman you would have assumed was the “Death Race Type.”  Physically, she’s hardly imposing.  Barely 5′ 1”, she’s small, and her soft voiceon the phone, along with her contagious, bubbly laughter, hide her strength and toughness.

Raised in Portland, Maine, Dunnigan had an athletic family but didn’t really get into sports as a child or teenager.  She graduated with an Electrical Engineering degree from SUNY Maritime and headed to NYU for law school.  At 28 she found herself wanting to do something more than just work, so she took up Karate, and after four years she earned herself a black belt.  It was a wakeup call for Kat that she wasn’t just working out and she had transformed into something bigger.

“When I saw myself as an athlete that changed my whole world,” she said in a recent interview.  Karate brought with it full contact tournaments, but it also brought burnout and she needed inspiration.  A ten month break found her in front of her TV watching an Ironman.  She felt the unmistakable feeling of fear in the pit of her stomach and in that moment she committed to doing an Ironman… but not some far off day in the future.  She wanted to do one in a year in France.  Her training started that day and hasn’t stopped.  Since 2006, she’s competed in an Ironman every year from France to Australia, Lake Placid to New Zealand and in four weeks she goes to St. George.

So, why the Death Race?  She’s proven herself an athlete and a consistent and formidable one but a year ago while strength training at Warrior Fitness Boot Camp Kat saw the webpage for the Spartan race and saw the link for The Death Race… you maydie.com.  She clicked on it. A familiar feeling rose in the pit of her stomach – the same feeling she got when she first watched the Ironman, fear that quickly turned into a rush of adrenaline and then resolve.  “I have to do this insane thing.”

She goes into the race with no pretentions.  She is doing the race for herself and her way. This event isn’t about her being the strongest physically.  She is admittedly not a natural athlete but she has no illusions about herself and she has a quick wit and self-deprecating sense of humor that she believes will help her survive the long hours.  Mentally, doing the Ironman has taught her how to find inner peace.  The race brings everyone to a place where they want to give up and they have to make the decision to move on.

Recently, she participated in Death Race camp and commented, “The one thing that is amazing is that your ego is put away and you are no longer worried about anything but that task at hand… it’s painful but it’s a peaceful place to be.  There is nothing left to do but put one foot in front of the other.  I can put one foot in front of the other.”

When she thinks about Death Race day she has only two fears – one of just being that tired and sleep deprived.  Two, she fears that she will miss time cut-offs and be pulled from the course.  “I’m okay with feeling like I’m behind, but I’d hate to be pulled in the middle.  I want to make it to the end.  I want to get the skull they hand out.” She laughs.  She wants to get herself through it.  “I want to feel like I have just come through the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”  They promised me that.

Kat doesn’t think of herself as a woman competing, she thinks of herself as an athlete competing.  She’s read about at least three women who have done it and finished at least once.  It opens the door for more women to give it a shot, women like her, and she’s grateful for the trails they have blazed.

This new chapter is a new challenge for a professional, working woman who found her inner athlete in her late 20’s.  The Karate gave her confidence, the Ironman gave her endurance, now she trains for strength and she brings her own brand to the table.  To stay motivated, to do it in the first place, she said it just clicked.  “The death race is just ‘find your inner crazy.’  It resonates with me.  I got a lot of inner crazy.”  She laughs and then pauses.  “ It brings things back to a place that’s very raw.”

Her training has combined endurance and strength – her Ironman mere weeks away, she views it as a training day, focusing more on the Death Race in June.  Her friends at Warrior Fitness Boot Camp are helping her get strong – weighted vest runs, stairs, intense cardio sessions and even a few words of wisdom for the journey.  Alex Fell, one of the Warrior Fitness owners told her – “Get amnesia…”  It’s about living in the moment completely.  If you have a bad race or you have a bad day, just forget it and move on.  If you have a good day, same thing, get amnesia and move on.  It’s just a day.  She laments with a laugh, “Most of my amnesia is about bad days.”  You can’t help but love her story, her drive, and her reasons.  She’s an inspiration for athletes, men and women, everywhere and we don’t think the Death Race will even slow her down.  By the way, did we mention Kat turns 40 next week?  Happy birthday, Kat… we’ll see you in June.

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