For the fourth time, Spartan Race brought the Spartans to the sunny, hot, ever scenic Oleta River State Park for the Miami Super Spartan.

It wasn’t just about surviving the heat in Miami. Competitors were thrown for a loop, encountering our newest iteration of the Monkey Bars obstacle, or should we say “Monkey Net”? That’s right – Miami introduced a version of the monkey bars obstacle which fashioned cargo webbing that began with an incline and ended with a decline traverse. The rule of the obstacle was no feet, just hands, and was meant to be performed in the same manner as you would the traditional Monkey Bars. All this, but over three feet of water. Fall off, and you know the drill. Burpees.

As per usual, the Hurricane Heat launched the weekend’s activities. Tony Matesi and John Ziegler took over 100 participants through demanding and sometimes seemingly impossible challenges that were developed to build camaraderie and teamwork. From team carries through the obstacles to being the first to test the new obstacle, this group of early morning Hurricane Heaters came together to figure out what it means to be a Spartan.

At first glance, the course may have appeared to be simple and flat given the nature of the Florida region. Assuming the lack of hills equated to an easier course would have been a massive faux pas. The course had unique terrain that acted as the ultimate obstacle in itself. Hard rocks, switchbacks and open waters delivered an exciting and exhilarating course which amplified the difficulty and created a course that was not to be taken for granted.

On Saturday the intense heat made for a very interesting day – never forget that hydration is key in these conditions. Drinking plenty of water the night before, the morning of and during a race with over eight miles and more than 20 obstacles, it is crucial to preventing yourself from cramping while out on the course.

Spartan SGX Coaches were on site leading warm-ups and cool downs. These highly educated coaches are there to assist racers in race prep and recovery of the taxing course. Joe Di Stefano, Co-Founder of the SGX lead the charge along with Coaches Sarah Pozdol and Casey Eischen. The Spartan SGX team will be traveling the Spartan Race circuit, so be on the lookout for the warm-up and cool down area near the start line.

In our elite heat, Spartan Pro Team members, April Dee, Isaiah Vidal, Brakken Kraker, also Founding Pro Team members Chris Rutz, Shawn Feiock and Hannah Orders were all in attendance. Other elite competitors included Arizona native and 2nd Male at the Vegas Super, John Yatsko, Chris McCorkle, Debbie Moreau, Valerie Smith, Sue Luck, Amanda Ricciardi and Sarah Pozdol.

Saturday’s men’s elite heat came down to the difference between making the Spearman Toss and having to complete a set of 30 burpees. Brakken Krakker successfully nailed the spear throw taking the top spot over John Yatsko. Coming in third for the men was recent Spartan Pro Team addition, Isaiah Vidal. April Dee of the Spartan Pro Team dominated the women’s division taking first place over Debbie Moreau and Founding Pro Team member, Hannah Orders.

On Sunday April Dee returned to once again take the top spot on the podium with a demanding lead over Debbie Moreau taking the number two spot and Geishel Valverde grasping a third place finish. In the men’s division, John Yatsko returned with determination after practicing his spear toss and captured a first place finish. An extremely friendly second and third place finish was taken by Isaiah Vidal who showed a tremendous amount of sportsmanship as he waited to cross the line with Joey Patriola after running a majority of the Sunday Super Spartan together.

Close to 10,000 Spartans came and conquered the course this weekend at the Super Spartan in Miami, but there was one very special set of finishing scenes that played out under the relentless Florida sun. Remembering that being a Spartan is about overcoming adversity, finishing what you start, and never giving up no matter the circumstance, it was a joy to behold the newest member of the Spartan family – a young man called Sean. His “Best Buddy”, Tripp Prevatt, has been running races for some time now, making sure to always do one lap for himself and one additional one so that he can give that medal to Sean. You see, Sean has Cerebral Palsy. After telling Sean countless stories about the races he conquered, he wanted to find a way to give Sean the opportunity to join him on the course so they could both earn Spartan Finisher medals, together.

Naturally, the Spartan Kids course again showed that same fighting resilience. Climbing over walls, crawling under neon green “barbed wire” and zig-zagging through a web of bungee cord providing a glimpse of the future Spartans of the world. Be on the lookout; one day these young ones will be standing atop the podium. Just you wait and see!

All of these incredible experiences are made possible with the support of our incredible sponsors, Reebok, ZICO Coconut Water, CorePower, Clif Bar Builders Bars, the U.S. Navy, Eco Vessel, Air Force Reserves, Nestle Water, and DeliverLean. With their support Spartan Race showed Miami once again what we mean by “you’ll know at the finish line.”

Congrats to everyone who Spartan’d UP in Miami. Next up, Spartan Race is headed to the Midwest for the Indiana Sprint. What started as a Founders Race has become a staple of the Spartan tour, it you’re not signed up yet, what are you waiting for?

Go ahead, sign up. We’ll be waiting for you at the finish line.

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by Carrie Adams

IMAG0089Erica Green emailed me with her story and I felt compelled to tell it as it had a familiar ring to it.  How many women put others first time and time again until they find themselves at their lowest point and their highest weight.  Erica shares her story of triumph and her journey towards a Spartan finish line.  Here is her story in her own words.

A little over a year ago, I was close to my heaviest weight I had ever been. I couldn’t run a lap around a track or walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded. I had been a 3 sport All-County athlete in high school and received a full college volleyball scholarship to a Division 1 school. But, that was SEVERAL years ago.

You never hope you change your lifestyle when things are going well. I was in great shape when I was in college…I had to be; my scholarship was riding on it! And I loved the fact that I was “athletic looking” not some skin and bones size 0 model. So, why didn’t I keep up my workouts and trainings after I graduated from college? I have no idea. Hind sight is 20-20, and if I could redo it again…I would have. But, I didn’t.

Nope, instead of keeping up with running and lifting…and even eating right…I let it all go. I graduated from college and immediately went for my Masters degree in education. While in grad school, I was also going through a rough time at home, as my younger sister was battling Leukemia and my mother was suffering from MS. Between the pressures of school and watching my sister dwindle away from her heinous disease and my mother in constant agony, I never had the chance to think about what was best for ME; how I should be at the gym relieving my stress with weights instead of eating away at it with cheeseburgers. Gaining 5 pounds turned into gaining 15 pounds and then 25. But it only gets worse…

My sister ended up passing away from her long illness in 1998 and my mother’s condition ended up taking a turn for the worse. I hit rock bottom, literally. No drive, wouldn’t work, let alone work out. My soon-to-be husband had to force me to get out of bed some mornings. He finally convinced me to seek counseling, which I did. I was given some anti-depressants and ballooned up even more. Over the next few years, I had two children. They are truly a blessing, but of course, my weight continued to sky rocket. And, as a parent, I felt that I needed to put my kids and family first. My weight and unhealthy lifestyle became a backseat to their soccer practices, football practices, my husband travelling for work, school projects etc. I think I had truly lost my identity.

At my heaviest weight, I was probably a little under 300 pounds. I gained over 100 pounds in the time between college and raising my 2 kids. I was embarrassed not only at how I looked as a former college athlete, but how unmotivated I had turned out. I tried dieting on my own, but that didn’t work. I tried joining a gym, but all I did was keep paying monthly fees for a membership I never used. I knew I had to stop this rollercoaster ride I was on and realized there was still something missing – EXERCISE! The “athlete” that had been hidden inside of me for all those years was DYING to emerge! Next step…get a personal trainer.

I’ve worked with various personal trainers over the years…some male, some female; some older and some younger…but none of them made a lasting impression on me. I was their “client”. When I left, after the hour was done, and they received credit for my session, I was nothing to them until the next time I returned. That all changed after I met my most recent trainer, Brian.

As a scholar athlete, I have been pushed for most of my life. I have been taught to strive for goals which may seem out of reach. However, I have never been both mentally and physically transformed as I have since I started working with Brian early in 2011. He pushed me WAY beyond any limits I thought I had. His workouts were grueling, challenging and extremely mind-blowing. But, he believed in me…and more important, he made me believe in myself. Brian never allowed me not to finish something I started, never allowed me to EVER say the words “I CAN’T” never allowed me to take the easy way out without feeling guilty and most importantly, never allowed me to be satisfied with anything but the best.

Throughout my months of training, I found that I was able to actually make it around the track again – many more times than I had thought. In fact, I was doing so well with my training, that Brian had mentioned the “Warrior Dash” to me. He said it was a “short, 3 mile obstacle race.” My first thought…there is NOTHING short about 3 miles! I immediately told him he was crazy but he said he would actually run the race with me and help guide me through it. Hesitantly, I signed up for the Warrior Dash in South Florida in December 2011…had SUCH a great time that we even ran another one in Central Florida the following month, but this time, without him by my side.

And then…Brian popped the dreaded question – “How about running in a SPARTAN RACE now?” No clue what that was, I asked him if it was similar to the Warrior Dash. He explained that it was, except that instead of 3 miles, it was 9 miles…and instead of 12 obstacles, it actually turned out to be 30 obstacles! My first thought now – the guy has lost his marbles! I knew I had been improving, but 9 miles? 30 obstacles? Yeah, right! But besides the actual petrifying THOUGHT of competing in this race, I had been having some knee problems (which turned about to be arthritis) and had NEVER gotten above 7 miles total at a time…let alone, with added obstacles! My nerves were at their peak. The race was expensive and I didn’t know if I would be able to complete it. I had just ran the two Warrior Dashes and would find it difficult to justify to my husband to spend that much money on another race – but this time, one that I might not be able to finish because of my knees. I contemplated for weeks, all while I continued to train for it with Brian…until I came up with an idea. The idea was far-fetched, but I decided I wanted nothing more than to be able to complete that race!

While doing some research on the Spartan Race, I decided to contact them and explain to “Sparta” my situation. My email was forwarded to a helpful gentleman by the name of Tom McCormack who said, “I want to see you out there…if you are serious about participating in the race, I will get you in!”

Looking back, I think there was actually a small part of me that was hoping Tom would say that there was nothing he could do to help me. That would have been my easy ticket out. But, nonetheless, on February 25th, thanks to Tom’s help with registering me…I rode down to Miami, with Brian, to combat Spartan. I don’t think that I can recall anything I talked about or did on the way down as my nerves had eaten away at me. But the next thing I knew, there I was, race bib pinned on, standing at the starting line with hundreds of runners, fire blazing, counting down…listening to Brian say “HAVE FUN” as he smiled, high-fived me…and took off!

FUN?? I thought I was going to be sick – literally! I knew Brian wasn’t going to run this race with me as he did the first Warrior Dash, as he had his own personal goals to attend to, so it was going to be a lot of intrinsic motivation on my part to keep me going. But what if I couldn’t finish? What if I couldn’t’ walk half way through because of knees? I knew financially that I had lost nothing…but what about pride? What about my self-esteem and sense of accomplishment? Not only would I be letting myself down, but I would also be letting my trainer down…one who believed in me and devoted so much time to help me conquer this race. My only goal I had – FINISH THE RACE!

It was a few miles into the course that I had come to my first obstacle that I was not able to defeat…the monkey bars. I was soaked from the trudge through a lake that my grasp just slipped out from the bars. In Spartan land – that was 30 Burpees heading my way. So far, I had been feeling fine. The swims and crawls through the water was a nice break from the run, but how would I handle the burpees?

About 2.5 hours into the race, I finally was in sight of the finish line. I was also in sight of IMAG0090the approximate 7 obstacles in a row I had to overcome before I crossed that finish line. By now, my knees were killing me. I was wet, exhausted and completely covered with mud. After emerging from the mud crawl, I had failed at the next three obstacles in a row…that’s right, 90 consecutive burpees.  I did the burpees – all 90 of them – and with tears of both joy and pain streaming down my face, I finished the Spartan Race. It was just over 3 hours, but I accomplished my goal!  As I kept staring at the blue Spartan Medal I EARNED that hung around my neck while I inhaled the water…

I finally located Brian. At first, no words were needed. We smiled at each other knowing it had been a long morning…longer for me, but just as exhausting for him. He congratulated me on finishing the race and although he is not the type to say it, I think he was thinking that he was actually proud of me for completing it. But as we walked toward the car and we compared “war stories” of the different obstacles and parts of the race, I actually was thinking how proud I was of HIM. I mean, I knew HE would finish the race…but the fact that he was able to take a person – SO overweight and out of shape…and transform her into a Spartan…is simply amazing! I think that was equally as impressive for him that day as was his race.

I have lost most of the weight I had gained since college and, as I get ready to turn 40 this year, I am in the best shape of my life. My physical transformation is incredible! I actually look forward to exercising and get upset if I have to miss a work out. I still train with Brian and, in fact, I decided to have him train my volleyball players I coach in high school, so they can benefit from him as well. Not surprising, their progression is also incredible.

Although my knees still aren’t doing too well, I do have aspirations of running in another Spartan Race next year and would love to complete a half marathon before then. When I contacted Tom to thank him and tell him about my amazing experience at the race, I had told him that if there was anything I could do to show my appreciation for his help, to let me know. He said to me…”In fact there is, tell your story for our blog.” So here it is. Hopefully it motivates someone else who is questioning their ability to GET UP…and GET MOVING.

People hope that they have the ability to manage their problems on their own, especially when it comes to weight. But sometimes it takes an outside source, or person, to get you moving in the right direction. I lucked out. I finally came across someone who not only understood where I wanted to be, but knew exactly how to get me there. And it just wasn’t by giving me a weight to lift. It was changing my mentality. It was by proving that he actually was interested in my progress and not just my payment. It was by displaying confidence in my potential and it was by making me believe in myself…and pushing me, even when I felt as if I could not go on. Whatever or whoever it takes to get you moving in the right direction – take advantage of it.

A little over a year ago, I was close to my heaviest weight I had ever been. I couldn’t run a lap around a track or walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded. Today, I am a SPARTAN FINISHER. I stare at my medal hanging around my rear view mirror every time I get in my car and still feel that same sense of pride I did crossing that finish line in February. I hope you are able to conquer that “Spartan Race” of your own someday…whatever that may be.

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