by Elliot Megquier, Spartan Pro Team

Cameron Robert Morris

It takes a village to keep Spartan HQ running and that village has grown! On June 20, Spartan Vice President of Production Mike Morris and Spartan Marketing Manager Shonda Morris welcomed their second child, a healthy baby boy!  Cameron Robert Morris was welcomed into the world this morning and he and the family are doing great!

How is that for a Spartan love story?

We’ll be profiling some of the Spartan HQ staffers and giving you some insight into the men and women behind the Spartan curtain. Who better to lead us off, than Mike Morris himself!

For those who haven’t met Morris, you’ve undoubtedly met one of his courses. He’s the reason why you’ve spent hours swearing about and toiling on the exceedingly difficult and punishing Spartan courses in the US circuit. He may be a diabolical course designer, but he’s actually one of the funniest and coolest guys around.

Morris has been with Spartan since the beginning.  He started out as a race director and course designer and now he has done so

Family Affair – Morris and his son, Logan

well he has been promoted to Vice President of Production. Often sporting a mohawk and a radio, Morris is at nearly every US event. I asked him a few questions to find about what makes him tick and how he comes up with the courses that lead many a Spartan to tears.

Where are you from?
I was born in Costa Rica, live in various places but spent most of my life growing up in Sudbury, MA. I now reside in a Suburb of Boston with my wife (who also works for Spartan) and now two sons.

What did you do before for work? What brought you to Spartan Race?
My degree is in Mechanical Engineering and I had a six year stint working for a consulting firm. Then I jumped into the fitness industry as a Fitness Together studio owner (two units). And now I work for Spartan. Never would have guessed this is where I would be working now!

Funny stories from the inside?
Most of my funny stories “from the inside” are fairly self-deprecating, are not suitable to be published, or both. Let’s just say (among many other things) we’ve gotten a few laughs messing around with digital street signs, not-so-appropriate radio etiquette, and creative use of cameras.

What is your favorite part of Spartan Race?
My favorite part of Spartan Race is watching the competition between the pro team and elite racers, witnessing the heart of the last few racers, and learning about the passion our customers have for our events.

When is Spartan Race coming to Sugarloaf, ME? (Megquier’s hometown)
ME? You mean Maine, the state? Isn’t that up near Alaska? That’s a long way for folks to drive for an event.

If you could pick one venue in the US that hasn’t happened, where would it be?
Lake Tahoe. Or anywhere you (meaning Elliot) won’t get lost at.

What has been your favorite venue/race so far?
We always talk about our favorite events internally. There are so many ways to compare them all including everything from how nice the hotel was to how crazy the course was. From a purely course design standpoint Killington has been epic the last two years. That’s about as crazy as you can get for 13 miles. But, that mountain has its share of operational challenges given how crazy big and technical it is, which adds loads of stress to the execution. If I look at the full experience I would say our Dallas Beast in Glen Rose, TX was a favorite.  A crazy beautiful venue, fairly straightforward operationally, a cool course, mild weather, and ridiculous accommodations and food.

And there you have it. The man behind the myth (and sometimes a mohawk.)

[Editor's Note: Spartan HQ would like to say CONGRATULATIONS to two of our staff on the healthy birth of Cameron Robert Morris!  It was an exciting day for us to welcome a new member to our Spartan family.  We expect him to be doing burpees in no time!]

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by Carrie Adams

The rain hadn’t let up in hours.  Mike Morris checked his watch again as darkness started to fall.  He and the three other members of his team were two days into a three day Adventure Race in Maine, had paddled nearly 75 miles that day, and they had a five mile portage to the next checkpoint looming ahead.  As if that weren’t enough, their canoe cart had broken so that meant their heavy canoes and gear would be carried the five miles to their next checkpoint (CP) .  It was a bad omen for Morris and his team, who was new to the sport at the time.  All he could think was, “Cold, raining, cold, raining.”

Team GearJunkie

When they finally got to the next checkpoint, Morris and his team threw their boats in the water, paddled to inlet to what they believed was the next CP, the rain still fell heavy and cold. Something was wrong.  They scanned the area but saw no checkpoint.  So, they began the “go in circles and cross your fingers” approach in hopes that they would stumble upon the CP.

Then they retraced their steps, attempting to confirm their position on the map they’d spent all night before the race plotting.  By midnight they were colder, wetter, frustrated, and a bit delirious for not sleeping for two nights prior.  Their only option was to lie down under their canoes, wrap up in tarps, and sleep.  When they awoke it was nearly 5 AM and they were all shivering uncontrollably they needed to move.  Lucky for them they had daylight on their side for the checkpoint search.  But they still had no luck.

Morris and his team got in the water and paddled to all the inlets in the area for the next five hours double checking their location.  They took breaks only to eat, pee in their wetsuits, and finally call the Race Director (RD) on the satellite phone to make sure that the race organizers didn’t get worried and send out the rescue team.

But when it was noon and they had made no progress, they had no option but to go back to the map to confirm the checkpoint they had plotted earlier (in most Adventure Races, or AR’s you have to plot the checkpoints yourself on your map).  Stunned and frustrated, they realized they were one grid off and had been searching for the CP in the wrong spot.  After plotting it correctly, they were on their way, hours wasted being lost.

Morris and his team, were “short coursed”, meaning they were allowed to continue racing despite having missed mandatory cut-off times.  They ultimately finished on a shorter length course earning a finish time but were ineligible for prizes and they earned no ranking for all their trouble.  They did learn a valuable lesson about course plotting.  As Morris puts it, “We spent the entire winter/spring training for this race and had wasted it (and hundreds of dollars) because we were morons.”

Getting lost is something that all racers fear but is always a risk, even on the well-marked Spartan courses.  How can you minimize your risk of getting lost?

Pay Attention to Course Markings

Spartan Courses are marked well, but you can still miss arrows and tape if you aren’t vigilant or if you become distracted during the longer running segments. Our recent Vermont Beast (and Ultra Beast) course was marked with over 10,000 feet of marking tape and there were over 400 course arrows placed by our crew, but folks still got lost, most notably when they took an existing mountain bike trail up the mountain that wasn’t part of the course instead of following the arrow down the mountain.

“It was  a well-worn path so my brain told me to follow it,” said one Ultra Beast racer who ended up doing an extra six miles.  “I saw the marker on the second loop after I figured out where I’d gone off track.  Whoops.”

Morris, Race Director for Spartan Race and experienced Adventure Racer is no stranger to being lost. “I’ve been lost too many times.  Not including the races where I had to navigate with a map and compass.  Most of the times I got off course though were my fault,” says Morris.  “Once I was trying to adjust my music player and blew right by a turn.  I was pretty green at racing and just kept running thinking the course markings would resume.  Well… they didn’t.  I went a few extra miles during that race.”

Don’t Just Follow the Herd

 

Never assume that the person in front of you knows where they are going – “herd mentality” or a momentary distraction can lead a racer off track easily.  Just because a whole group is moving one direction it doesn’t mean it is the right direction.

“I’ve been lost and just followed the people in front of me,” explains Morris.  “I figured if the entire pack was running this way then I was OK.  All of a sudden the entire group was turning around. “I quickly learned that during off-road races it’s my responsibility to watch out for my own well-being on the course… nobody else. “

What if you DO get lost?

Don’t Panic.  If you’ve gone a ways and are not seeing any trail markings, you could be lost, but the reality is that you may not be as far off or out as you think you are.  Stop moving and use your senses to get oriented.  Look for trail markings in all directions, listen for familiar sounds, and if that doesn’t give you a direction to follow then attempt to backtrack to your original location where you may have gone off-course.  With 350,000 racers and counting, we haven’t lost a racer yet!   We have course sweepers, full medical, and rescue crews on site for every race as well.  We won’t leave a Spartan behind.

So don’t sweat it or try to over plan on our courses on race day.  Have fun, pay attention and you’ll finish as you intended without any extra FREE miles.

 

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by Carrie Adams

The plane in the sky was hardly visible in the clouds, but circling overhead was 30 year old double amputee Sgt. Noah Galloway and he was less than 60 seconds away from a tandem parachute landing in the Spartan Festival grounds to kick off the first ever Spartan Heroes Heat.

The jumpers came in hot, just past a small tree line in an open field, a dramatic beginning to what would be an inspired day of racing.  Galloway immediately left an impression on the eager crowd.  Galloway was introduced to the Spartan community in a prior blog post , you can read more about his story HERE.

The 30 year old Alabama native is missing two limbs, his left arm above the elbow and his leg above the knee.  He would be the first ever Spartan Racer to parachute his way into the race but when he landed, in the open field in Leesburg, VA he wasn’t alone.  A team was waiting, Team X-T.R.E.M.E., a group of incredible individuals that includes Sgt. Jonathan Mozingo, amputee of the left leg below the knee and United States Marine, Cpl. Todd Love, trimembral amputee of both legs above the knee and left arm below the elbow.  In addition to the three wounded warrior athletes, the team had an additional five members including Team X-T.R.E.M.E. founder, Jeremy Soles who had a bagpiper usher them over to the start line for their heat.

No loud music blasted for the start, and the normal speech to pump up the athletes was a replaced by a simple quote about service, dedication, and gratitude and an acknowledgement of what was about to take place.  Over the course of the next 10.5 miles and nearly 5 and a half hours, Galloway, Love, Mozingo, Soles and the others would battle the course alongside  warrior athletes, community members, volunteers, and other Spartans who took part in the historic heat.

USMC Cpl. Todd Love

Team X-T.R.E.M.E. is not stranger to endurance challenges.  The team is actually a non-profit organization with an ongoing mission to Honor, Empower and Motivate our nation’s wounded heroes and it was started by Jeremy Soles, a United States Marine Corps and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran.  Known for donning blacked out gas masks for endurance events that restrict 25 – 30% of oxygen intake, Team X-T.R.E.M.E. completed the brutalizing 10.5 mile course and all the obstacles on Saturday.  With over 75 obstacles to speak of, it was no small task.  The gas masks are worn as a symbol of encouragement and inspiration for their fellow wounded brethren and to honor the sacrifice of our nation’s wounded veterans.  The venue in Leesburg, VA is a unique location, normally reserved for horse racing, but it wasn’t horses that were unleashed on the landscape this weekend, it was people who would ultimately hurdle, climb, crawl and run their way to the finish line.

The course was rugged and muddy, each obstacle posing a unique challenge to the team who took turns carrying Team X-T.R.E.M.E. member, USMC Cpl. Todd Love who weighs in around 100 pounds.  Love was carried throughout the course but regularly completed obstacles solo including a heroic hill climb near the halfway point of the race, the cargo nets and rope climbs.  Love is a 22 year old Marine who in August of 2010 nearly lost his life and all but one of his limbs in a devastating explosion in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.  He would not only battle back from his injuries on the battlefield, but set out to push himself in all things physical, proving that overcoming obstacles isn’t just something you attempt, it’s something that you embrace.

From hoisting cinder blocks, to wall climbs, cargo nets, spear throwing and taking on the infamous finish line gladiators wielding pugil sticks, the team ensured that each member of the team completed the obstacle before moving forward, always together.  Another notable addition to the group was Junior Marine, Luke Slowinsky.  Soft spoken and polite at his eleven years of age, Slowinsky will one day join the Marine Corps, but currently raises money and awareness for wounded warriors as a sign of respect and admiration.  He also completed the 10.5 miles alongside his heroes and earned his Super Spartan finisher medal.

Spectators, racers, staff, and volunteers gathered to watch the team work their way through the course and the images of the athletes completing the obstacles was inspired, humbling, and a reminder of all the reasons why so many of us run; for reasons that are bigger than ourselves.  When the team was nearly finished, a crowd had gathered and more would come and congregate near the finish line where they would ultimately cross the same way they began, as a team.  As the team rushed the finish line and medals were placed around their necks, there was a roar of cheers and clapping from the festival grounds.  Many faces were lined with tears.

Leading the final charge at the finish was Galloway, Love, and Mozingo, now soaked and dirty, their gas masks speckled with mud earned on the course.  After rinsing off and demasking, the team entered the festival grounds and thanked the crowd who had remained to shake their hands, offer encouragement, and thank them for their service.   In an unexpected twist, Jeremy Soles, alongside Team X-T.R.E.M.E. presented Spartan HQ with a hand carved log with the names or their wounded warrior athletes in the side, a physical reminder that will reside in Spartan HQ in Vermont, and will undoubtedly make rounds up and down the training mountain with our founders and staff.  Our way of honoring the such a gift.

Mike Morris graciously accepted the gift saying, “You have all honored us with your presence here today.  There isn’t much we can say that you guys didn’t show out there on the course.  There wasn’t a dry eye out there when you guys went by.  Thank you for all you do.”

Masks removed, the men (and one woman) are revealed to be mortal, not the superheroes that seems far more likely.  Humble and gracious, they spent the remainder of the day with the people who were so touched by what they accomplished.  And at the end of the race we all were moved and inspired by what we saw, and what they accomplished.  And the words that were uttered just before they began seemed even more true now, “This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, not matter the odds or consequences.  When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself lie a tree besides the river of truth, and tell the whole world – no, you move.”

What are you waiting for?  Find an event and get signed up TODAY.  If you want to learn more about Team X-T.R.E.M.E., their mission, and support their cause, visit their FB page or websitehttp://www.team-x-treme.org/.  For information about Warrior Athlete Noah Galloway, visit his FB page or his website, www.noahgalloway.com.  To learn more about Todd Love, visit his FB page.  Find more photos of the Heroes Heat HERE on the Spartan Race Facebook page.

[Editor’s Note: Rarely does a story resonate so deeply and touch so many as the story of Team X-T.R.E.M.E.’s involvement in Saturday’s Leesburg, VA Super Spartan Race.  Personally, I was so thankful to bear witness to such a heroic feat by such remarkable men and women.  Weeks of preparation came together in an open field in a non-descript part of our racing venue in front of thousands of waiting spectators.  From start to finish, the feats of heroism demonstrated by the team and their community were monumental.  Spartan Race was honored to host Team X-T.R.E.M.E. and their warrior athletes and community for the first ever Heroes Heat where warrior athletes ran alongside Spartan runners.  Spartan Race has long been dedicated to the armed forces and the men and women who serve and protect.  We look forward to the inclusion of more Heroes Heats in upcoming Spartan Races and we wish to thank Team X-T.R.E.M.E. for gracing our event with their presence, for their positive message of support, inspiration, and courage and for joining our community of athletes and our Spartan Race family.  We will never be the same for what we witnessed on the course in Leesburg, and we will also never forget.]

 

 

 

 

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by Mike Morris, Spartan Race Director

283422_10150251576106861_251061411860_8082902_6099537_nEarlier this year we announced the inclusion of the Ultra Beast.  A 26.2ish distance event to coincide with the Beast in Vermont in September.  IN addition to the new distance race, we announced that the race (both Ultra and regular Beast) would be mostly unsupported.  That means the athlete’s will have to provide for themselves their own nutrition, hydration, and fuel for the race.  To help athlete’s prepare, we have begun a series of posts designed to educate those taking part.

As a Race Director, I’m always trying to find new and creative ways to safely challenge our competitors.  Given the nature (and history?) of our Killington event its important this race continues to set the bar high.  Most of the Spartan Founders come from an Adventure Racing background; races lasting anywhere from 4 hours to 9 days with multiple disciplines, intensive navigation, and little to no support.  You could go days without seeing another person.  Proper planning of nutritional needs could mean a top ten finish versus needing to call in for an evacuation.  Even a “sprint” race required forethought on what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat.  Thus we thought it fitting to add an unsupported element to the event.  As you prepare for the Killington Beast, I want you to start thinking about those three things:

1. What

2. When

3. How much

If you can’t answer them as you face the start columns then you are going to have a hell of a time.  Consider these tips as you start to create your plan.

Water/Hydration.  You need it.  If you don’t carry any on the course you risk cramping,216632_10150251576831861_251061411860_8082923_6114783_n nausea, heat stroke, and a 99% of not finishing the race.  Start with 20 oz per hour and adjust as needed.   If it’s a hot day as you climb a double black diamond with a sandbag then you will wish you had more.  Since everyone will be on course for more than three hours, you should consider adding an electrolyte supplement (especially if you don’t get enough through your calorie supplements) to help prevent muscle cramps and keep your body working most efficiently at many levels. 

Calories.  The longer your race, the more you need per hour.  The more intense the activity, the more you need per hour.  Stay away from high fat and protein dense items, your GI tract will thank you later.  Stick with relatively high glycemic index foods, and shoot for around 100 calories per hour.  Big Spartans will need more, little Spartans could work with less. 

My next blog will include some specific examples of what to eat/drink.  In the meantime, do some homework of your own (some Google searching can be very effective), you’ll learn 10x more than my few blog entries can accomplish which will empower you to have more effective training and successful racing moving forward.

Aroo!

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by Carrie Adams

thebeast-60The 2011 Vermont Beast was a game changer in the sport of Obstacle Racing.  The climbs, the insanity of the obstacles, and the technicality of the course left racers breathless and broken.  It became the crowning jewel in a calendar of events that just keep getting more challenging in 2012.  So true to Spartan form, the game is changing again.  We’re kicking it up a notch in two very dramatic ways.

UB_SM_FB_IMAGESpartan Race HQ is announcing the inclusion of a new event that will be added to the  Vermont Beast weekend in 2012, the Ultra Beast.  The first of its kind, the Ultra Beast will be the world’s first marathon distance Obstacle Race.  That’s right, roughly 26.2 muddy, hilly, and obstacle-filled miles of mayhem.  Intrigued yet?

There’s more.

The Ultra Beast will be ONE heat on Saturday, September 22nd.  Racers will be designated with Ultra Beast armbands and announced by our Emcee.  (The time of the heat will be announced at a later date.)  The Ultra Beast will feature two loops of the main course resulting in an approximate marathon distance.  Racers will face the toughest course Spartan can bring TWICE before finding the finish line.  No skipping obstacles and only serious athletes and hardened competitor’s apply.  The Ultra Beast is not for the faint of heart.  For your own safety and for the competitive nature of the event, you will have to apply for acceptance into the Ultra Beast.

Still interested in participating?

  • Send an email with your race resume and three sentences about why you want to take on the Ultra Beast to ultrabeast@spartanrace.com.  Upon acceptance, selected participants will be notified and given registration instructions by Spartan Race.

In addition to standard Spartan finisher amenities, Ultra Beast finishers will earn their thebeast-72own distinct medal and a one-of-a-kind T-shirt that will not ever be available for purchase.  Athletes will also earn DOUBLE points for their efforts when they take on the Ultra Beast on race day!

What else does Spartan Race have lined up for the VT event?

In addition to creation of the Ultra Best, Spartan Race HQ is making the entire Vermont Beast weekend of heats the first (almost) unsupported race in the Spartan Race line-up.  “Unsupported”, a concept in Adventure Racing and other endurance challenges, means racers will have to prepare and ultimately take on the course with everything they’ll need to finish.  This means they’ll carry their own food and water for the duration of their time on the course increasing both the challenge and the accomplishment when finished.  Spartan Race will provide ONE aid station at one point on the course for the Ultra and the Beast participants with water only, but it’s location will not be released prior to race day.  Come prepared.

thebeast-18In preparation for this unprecedented standard of challenge, Spartan Race will be providing information on how to self-support successfully straight from Spartan Race Director and seasoned Adventure Racer, Mike Morris.   Says Morris, “One aid station will up the intensity of this already difficult course.  A mostly unsupported race adds a new level of challenge to the game that no other event has.”

For the ultimate badass wondering how to compete in the Beast’s competitivewave AND take on the Ultra since they are happening on the same day,  there are two simple steps:

1. Register for the Beast’s competitive heat to confirm your spot as spaces are limited.thebeast-20

2. Submit your race resume and three sentences why you want to take on this historic challenge to ultrabeast@spartanrace.com.  If accepted, Spartan Racewill contact you with details.

For those participants wanting to take on a regular, non-competitive Beast heat and the Ultra Beast in the same weekend, we recommend applying for the Ultra Beast heat on Saturday according to the directions and registering now for a heat on Sunday, September 23rd.

Already registered for the Beast and want to try your hand at the Ultra?  Submit your application and instructions to transfer registration will be provided if accepted.

To find out more about the Ultra Beast click HERE.

Questions?  Check out our ContactPage.

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by Carrie Adams

mike-morris“Anyone can get off the couch tomorrow and do a Spartan race,” says Spartan Race Director Mike Morris. “Sure, you might suffer, but the feeling you get when you cross the finish line is going to bring you back again and again.”

Morris, who selects venues and designs Spartan Race’s unique courses, knows what it feels like to cross the finish line after an arduous race. He’s a competitive adventure racer who has competed in multi-day races around the world. Adventure racing, for those who don’t know, is a sport in which teams of two to four people hike, run, mountain bike, and paddle for upwards of nine days across hundreds of miles. They navigate their own way through forest and wilderness, from checkpoint to checkpoint, eating and sleeping when necessary.

Since 2003, Morris has competed in Adventure Races in Vermont, Florida, Missouri, California, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Canada, Georgia, and Costa Rica, and has raced in the yearly United States Adventure Racing Championships three times. He’s no stranger to adversity on the trail. In one memorable instance, he developed knee tendonitis eight hours into a three-day race through the mountainous terrain of Vermont and New Hampshire. Every time he bent his leg, pain shot through his body.

Did he consider quitting?

“Of course,” he says. “The pain was really bad. But I knew I couldn’t let my team down, even though we had to go a lot slower because of my injury.”

Adventure racing can involve getting soaked in 40-degree pouring rainstorms, meeting up with alligators while paddling through Florida swamps, and at times even falling asleep while hiking or biking due to sheer exhaustion. You rely utterly on your teammates for support and guidance, which is why it’s important to compete with people you know well, according to Morris.

Morris knows that not everyone can afford the commitment of thousands of dollars it takes to buy a mountain bike and travel to compete in adventure races. He sees Spartan Race as an alternative that is accessible to everyone. “Spartan Races are an opportunity for people to experience something different that might intimidate them, but ultimately will be that much more rewarding if they finish,” he says.

Morris believes that absolutely everyone can benefit from racing. “I enjoy the challenges of endurance racing,” he says. “It all comes down to mindset, which in more challenging and longer races is equally, if not more important than physical abilities. I always say, ‘If I can do it, anyone can do it.’”

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