When talking to Misty Diaz, it’s always advisable to wear shades. It’s not just due to her radiant personality, but her smile is so bright it could blot out the sun.

The native of Long Beach, California is well known on the half marathon circuit, having already blasted through many races. Now turning her hand to Spartan Race, she’s been bitten by a new bug. The Malibu Sprint in 2013 was her first foray into the world of hills, ropes barbed wire and fire, but not content with that, she immediately decided that she was going to step it up. The Super in Temecula was quite the step up, but something she decided she was going to do. What makes this scenario just that little bit different is that that Misty has Spina Bifida.

How would her love of half marathons compare to the Super?

“I love half marathons,” beams Misty, “but it doesn’t compare. Spartan racing is a whole different game. It’s totally a mental game, you’re having to push fear aside and take the next jump, while not knowing what’s awaiting you next. I love Spartan races, it allows me to train in a different way than I would a half marathon.”

That training done with her trainer and Spartan SGX Coach Michael Ainis, amongst others, has taught Misty not just the skills she needs to attack a Spartan Race. It’s also taught her that the mental factor was one only actual experience can bring you.

“I wouldn’t say scared, as such, more like, ’Are you for real? You want me to climb up those hills?’. I did the Super on Saturday and let me tell you, Spartan …you did good with those hills! I was a little scared, I won’t lie. When it came to the rope climb, well, if you saw me last year in Malibu I wasn’t even one pull away from the bell, I just couldn’t do it. You’re cold, tired, and shaking you think that’s the end, then boom there’s a rope obstacle. Same thing with the fire, I can’t jump, so I literally walked over it, no joke! By Sunday, I had my team help me! It’s all a mental game. I’m very happy to say, I rang the bell twice this past weekend. Aroo!”

Completing both the Super and the Sprint the following day came as a huge triumph for Misty, especially given the battles she already faces every day. It’s those everyday battles that forge Misty’s will and fortitude that help make the unknown or unfamiliar not as much of a test as they otherwise could be. This ‘life training’ was something Misty brought into the weekend with her.

“The hills caught me a little off guard or a certain obstacle you knew would be bad, but not *that* bad? The incline of the hills caught me by surprise. I’m a different athlete than most, I use pink walking canes to walk and run, so when you give me a hill at such a steep incline, my only choice is to give my runner my canes and crawl up that hill. I had to stop at a certain point on those hills in Temecula and crawl on my hands and knees. I had an amazing runner name Kevin (Kierce, regular Spartan Slosh Pipe Champion) who helped me along the way on Saturday. At one point he carried for a short time. But let me tell you, the view was amazing from the top!”

Her victories in Temecula and Malibu have only stoked Misty’s fire and she plans to aim even bigger for the rest of 2014.  Having now tasted what Spartan offers, she’s hungry for more and already has sights set on a new target.
“Well, I also completed Arizona and I plan on being in Texas along with receiving my first trifecta in Monterey. My goal is a double Trifecta in 2014. I have it all mapped out! We will see how I do in Monterey for my first trifecta. I hope to be the first with Spina Bifida to accomplish receiving the Trifecta badge of honor.”

Taking that adage of “go big or go home”, Misty is proof that life is for living and drinking in every golden moment it offers. Something she is very quick to point out.

“Here’s the thing. When I first thought about Spartan racing, I knew I needed to build my endurance. Mind you, when I started running in early 2012, I could only run for 20mins. Little by little, thru not stopping, and creating a routine, things got easier. So running half marathons really helped me. Once I reached a point in my half marathons where I was comfortable, I knew I could accomplish a Spartan race.”

“My point is, if you train, ask questions, work really hard and find ways to make things work, you can do anything. The amount of love and support I get from Spartan athletes is amazing, everyone helps everyone. That’s what this is about. I do my obstacles sometimes a little differently and that’s okay. I don’t care what you have to do, just finish! Anything is possible. No matter what, never ever give up!”

Sign up for your next race at spartanrace.com. You may run into that beaming smile of Misty Diaz.

See you at the finish line…

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By Anthony Matesi

Just outside of Phoenix, AZ there was a disturbance in the normally desolate lands near Fort McDowell. The Spartans had arrived. Marking the second Spartan Race of 2014 the obstacles were erected all throughout the week to bring to this cactus filled paradise an event that would challenge all walks of life.

To kick things off, Hurricane Heat leaders devised a relatively creative plan for the brave souls looking to participate in the event which began in the early hours of the morning before the sun had a chance to rise up over the mountains off in the distance. Teamwork is essential in finishing one of Spartan’s challenging HH events. New Hurricane Heaters were put through everything from learning animal movements and body weight exercises that are the foundation of the Spartan SGX training program to having them dig up a treasure chest filled with zip ties only to be zipped together right arm to the next person’s left ankle and forced to inchworm as a one unit through a tunnel that went under the highway. The suffering these participants endure together takes a group of strangers and creates a bond like no other.

While those crazy Hurricane Heaters were suffering together in the festival area the Elite racers began to storm the grounds. Some of the top racers from the Spartan Pro Team were in attendance. For the men, Matt Novakovich from Alaska, mountain man Miguel Medina left his cabin in Vermont, with Christopher Rutz, Shawn Feiock and Elliot Meguier also in attendance. On the women’s side there was TyAnn Clark, Juliana Sproles, Jenny Tobin, and Ang Reynolds. Outside of the pro team there was an impressive showing from Sarah Pozdol, Laura Messner, and Rose Wetzel as well as the local newcomer to Spartan Race, John Yatsko. The early hours of the morning were a bit brisk but things heated up very quickly as the race day began. The course was fast and hilly with all the usual obstacles to test the strength, endurance and agility of the racers. As the temperatures rose the cramps began to set into racers who didn’t take the time to properly hydrate. The Amphibious Medics team led by, David Gonzalez, was on site helping the Spartan Staff to help those who were injured on course back to safety or fixed them up to continue their journey.

The Elite wave took off early Saturday morning fighting for the prize money offered by Navy Federal Credit Union with a total of $7500 up for grabs. The competition was incredibly fierce. In the men’s division there was a grueling battle that brought had the top 3 finishers all finishing within a minute and 30 seconds of each other. At the end of the day it was John Yatsko, Glenn Racz, and Chad Trammel taking the first three spots and Matt Novakovich coming in fourth.  The elite women’s field was equally grueling with Kk Paul, Rose Wetzel and TyAnn Clark battling it out for the top 3 spots coming into the finish in that order with Rose and TyAnn finishing within seventeen seconds of each other. The Sunday Elite crowd was stacked once again with some of the top elites and Spartan Pro Team members. It was another tight battle with Matt Novakovich taking the first place on the podium followed by fellow Spartan Pros Miguel Medina in second and Elliot Meguier in third. For the women we saw the importance of counting your burpees out loud when Sarah Pozdol was bumped from what could have been a second place finish to fifth place. Kk Paul took first again on Sunday, Jenny Tobin came in second and Sue Luck saw her way back to the podium taking third. Spartan Pro Team member Shawn Feiock saw a top ten finish taking 7th and Christopher Rutz in 9th.

Spartan Weekends are about more than just the elites of course. There were a lot of families, Spartan Singles, and couples alike mingling, racing, and enjoying the warm touch of the Arizona sun. In the festival area the Spartan SGX tent was providing warm-ups and cool down exercises as well as stretching by the crew from Power in Motion CrossFit. Our sponsors Core Power Protein delivered some excellent post race recovery drinks, E-Boost kept everyone energized, Clif Bars took care of feeding the taxed muscles of everyone who crossed that finish line, and Zico covered the much needed hydration to keep up with the desert sun.

In addition to all the first timers and those looking to begin their quest for the coveted Trifecta there were some inspiring people out on course defining what it means to push beyond your limits. We saw the ever glowing smile from Misty Diaz, who conquers her Spina Bifida by traveling the country running half marathons and Spartan Races chasing after that double trifecta. On Sunday a racer by the name of Joel Brown was spotted on course making it happen. At only 54 years young Joel is a former Para-Rescue and has been a Krav Maga instructor since 1978 receiving all his training in Israel. In 1981, he lost his right leg in a motor vehicle accident. Regardless of this accident Joel has continued to train, instruct, and push himself. His journey to the Trifecta began here in Arizona will continue at the Super in Vegas and conclude with the Beast in Monterey.

As always the Spartan Kids were out in force to light up everyone’s day with their beaming smiles and mud covered bodies. Many of the elites including Miguel Medina, Matt Novakovich, Sarah Pozdol and Rose Wetzel came out and helped play the role of the rabbit that the kids try to catch on the course.

Another incredibly successful Spartan weekend filled with fun, smiles, mud, and even a little blood has come to an end. Next up Spartan Race will be invading Tampa with the first Special Ops event of the year taking place at Raymond James Stadium. This Special Ops Race will offer a combination of the traditional outdoor obstacles alongside some of the signature Spartan Stadium obstacles.  Sign up to earn your very own unique Special Ops Spartan Sprint medal andwe’ll see you at the finish line!

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One competitor laughs of the cold and takes time to tell the photographers that it really isn’t that bad under the water.

You’d have been forgiven for thinking you were not actually in sunny California, but perhaps Chicago, Detroit or somewhere not altogether unfamiliar with ice and below freezing temperatures.
With the typical Spartan Race rain on the Saturday and the malevolent grin of glinting frost and ice beckoning the competitors to the start line on Sunday, the elements had already conspired to make the competitors suffer.

Spartan Race elite male and female podium finishers

With many regular faces descending on Malibu from all corners of the country, the all-too familiar feeling of a reunion in was in full force. However, once stepping over that start line, all friendships were put temporarily on hold. Tellingly, a water obstacle again proved to be the undoing of Hobie Call as he only briefly misjudged a plan of attack. This merest hint of a chance was something Hunter McIntyre exploited and punished by pushing past and snatching first place by only 33 seconds. Brakken Krakker took third place by crossing the line only just over a minute after Hobie, proving just how tight the men’s elite class is now. It seems as though every race is now a guarantee for a nervous and exciting fight for 1st place.

The female elites didn’t fail to add to the tension, either. Rose Wetzel (1st), Lauren Ho (2nd) and Tiffanie Novakovich were separated by only just over 3 minutes. The female elites are crashing through into 2014 with higher rates of training and motivation than ever before, so it was unsurprising that numbers into double figures were finishing faster than some male elite runners. Competition has never been fiercer!

Despite having no legs, Mathew Webb failed only one obstacle – the spear throw.

Away from the professionals the Spartan Race inspiration machine was in full force. Travelling over 7 hours to make the event to represent the ever-present and all-conquering Weeple Army (taking their 8th biggest team win), Mathew Webb crushed the course despite having the “minor inconvenience” of having had no legs since being only 18 months old. Making jokes that the water in the lake was so cold that he couldn’t feel anything below the knee, he powered through failing only the spear throw.“Overcoming Obstacles” was led by Slosh Pipe champion Kevin Kierce. Containing competitors  Michael Aygin, Brian Tom, Michael Yu, Durrell Johnson, James Mogana, Joel Senteno, (who are all hard of hearing or blind) and previous Spartan Race blog subject Misty Diaz who battles Spina Bifida, they all went through the course in a flurry of high-fives from well-wishers and a  volley of “AROO!” chants. Accompanying Kevin was his 74 year old mother, Linda Barber. Together, this one group alone pushing the fact that there are simply no valid excuses.

Linda Barber, 74, has completed every Malibu Spartan Race to date.

Team SISU,led by Daren De Heras made multiple loops of the course over the weekend, choosing to continue their Death Race ethic by carrying logs, tires and wearing elevation masks in order to make “things more interesting”.

From Hollywood, actors Tony Besson – making his third Spartan Race appearance – and Josh Peck ran in a wave shortly before Eric Colley fromTMZ made his debut at the start line.

As 2014 winds down to a close, Texas will see thousands of Spartan descend on Glen Rose where host the last race of year. Spartan Race will see out 2013 with a Beast and the last chance to qualify for a Trifecta before the new season starts in January. Will you be one of them?


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