It all comes down to Vermont.

Spartan Racing reaches its pinnacle this weekend in Killington, Vermont. There are many opportunities to race, a Sprint or a Beast on Saturday and a charity Sprint, Beast and Ultra Beast on Sunday. Each course will present a challenge with the professional and Olympic level athletes expected to take about four hours to complete the Saturday Beast course. The weather in Killington on Saturday is expected to be cloudy with a high around 70 and a chance of rain. In other words, like in any Spartan Race, plan for anything. The majority of our racers will be out there most of the day and will need to be self-supported. Killington Mountain is no joke. Top elevation is 4,241ft with a vertical gain of 3,050ft. You can expect Spartan Race will make full use of this mountain.

All eyes will be on the World Championship Race Saturday morning. Top athletes from around the world will be present for what will be the most competitive race in Spartan history. In addition to the podium spots and cash purse available for the Saturday Beast, the US Spartan Elite racers will also be racing for their final placing in the 2013 Points Series.

So who will be racing in the Elite wave at the World Championship Beast on Saturday?
On the men’s side:
Australian Spartan Racers on their way include Matt Murphy, Will Lind and Shaun Phelps. The top 3 ranked racers from down under. From the USA you can count on seeing most if not all of the Spartan Pro Team and other Top 10 ranked racers including Hobie Call, Isaiah Vidal and Brian Hoover. Currently 7 of the Top 10 US Points Spots are occupied by Spartan Pro Team members, Elliott Megquier, David Magida, Brakken Kraker, Alec Blenis, Hunter McInytre, Cody Moat and Alexander Nicholas. Mexico will be represented by New York Marathon winner German Silva and Tavito Oliveros.

On the women’s side:
The Top 10 ranked US women are also dominated by Professionals. Olympic Cross-Country skier and professional mountain runner Morgan Arritola will be tough competition for returning champion Claude Godbout, a Canadian National Team biathlete and Olympic hopeful. Spartan Pro Team members. Top ranked April Luu will be racing to maintain her number one position and a number one spot on the podium. Battling it out on the course with her are expected to be Rose Marie Jarry, Hannah Orders, Leslie St. Louis, Jenny Tobin and TyAnn Clark. Beyond these Spartan Pro Team women other Top 10 to look for include Ameila Boone, Shaun Provost, Karlee Whipple, and Elise Fugowski. Mexico will be represented by Olympian Fabiola Corona.

New for 2013 are awards for the Master’s men and women in the Points Series. While some are also competing for a spot in the Top 20 overall, they will also be recognized for their performance as Master’s athletes. Brian Hoover, Christopher Rutz and Tadd Morris will be racing for the top 3 Spots for the men. Jenny Tobin, Andi Hardy, Jolene Wilkinson and Juliana Sproles will be battling on the women’s side.

Beyond these seasoned Spartan Racers look for some new faces and familiar faces from other sports to show us what they have to conquer Killington and the Spartan Race Sprint, Beast and Ultra Beast. There will be many high powered athletes looking to claim the title of Spartan Beast World Champion.

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by Khaled Allen

Picture credit: oddsock on Flickr

Are you fit enough to save your own life? What about those of your loved ones? Are you fit enough to survive a natural disaster?

If you workout just to get ‘in shape’, that isn’t good enough. It has no concrete value; what does ‘in shape’ even mean? It is a very vague goal, and vague goals never get you anywhere.

Here is a better set of goals, from Mark’s Daily Apple: be fit enough to survive a threat to your own life, to rescue your family if you must, and to endure any trauma you might experience.

Fitness is and always has been a means to an end. We train our bodies so that they might help us accomplish something. The Spartans trained from childhood not because they wanted to have higher levels of energy and look good in a loincloth. They had a city to defend and the honor of a culture to uphold. They put their bodies at the service of their city-state, and that is what gave them purpose in their training.

The most successful athletes have goals. Looking damn sexy is a fine goal, and it has motivated a lot of people in the past. Needing to be in shape to survive is a much better goal, and will let you push yourself to much greater heights of physical and mental prowess.

The greatest athletes in our civilization are the Olympians. They aren’t in it for the fitness. They are in it for the gold, literally. They don’t just want to be ‘in shape’. They want to be the best they can be, to perform whatever task is required of them as effectively as possible, and to leave a mark on the world. For them, it isn’t good enough to just go through their fitness routine; they need to see results.

If you want to become a truly accomplished athlete, you need something to train for, some objective to dedicate your body towards pursuing.

Fitness demands testing. That is why the truly fit – real athletes – are naturally drawn to challenge. They want to be tested. That is really the only way to know if you are fit, and to what extent.

CrossFit stakes its entire approach to fitness on measurable results. Fitness is meaningless if it cannot be measured and tested. The CrossFit definition of fitness is fairly straightforward. It is based on how efficiently you can complete a given task. Weightlifters are fit to move heavy loads. Runners are fit to cover a lot of distance quickly. How do we know? We measure it.

Being fit is important, make no mistake. The term fitness originally refers to the likelihood a given organism will reproduce and pass on its genes. You want to be fit, trust me. The desire to be fit is hardwired into your genes.

A great way to measure your real, applicable fitness is to consider whether your level of fitness is sufficient to save your life in the event it were ever threatened. The blog, The Art of Manliness, suggests 5 physical benchmarks that every man should be capable of performing should he need to save his own life. They include swimming half a mile, running at top speed for 200m, jumping over an obstacle at waist height, 15-20 pull ups, and at least 25 dips.

When fitness is necessary for survival, you have a much more useful measurement of ‘in shape’. Are  you fit enough to save your own life? Or are you just in shape to look pretty?

Most people are content to delude themselves into thinking they are fit based on cheesy infomercials and clever gym advertising. Nobody wants to admit that they’re not fit, because on a biological level, it is the equivalent of admitting you can’t survive and are not worthy to reproduce. And so our culture has come up with plenty of ways to let people avoid admitting that. You go to the gym for an hour a day and you pedal the elliptical like your overpaid personal trainer told you to, therefore you are fit. Never mind the fact that you still can’t climb your apartment building stairs without stopping to catch your breath.

Our definition of fitness has been divorced from actually demonstrating physical prowess.

Want to know for sure if you’re fit enough to save your own life? Run a Spartan Race.

The race doesn’t care if you look good in a muscle shirt. It doesn’t care if you have the latest running shoes. It doesn’t care if you can bench 300 lbs. All it cares about is whether or not you can survive and finish. Can you get the job done? That is fitness. If anyone tells you otherwise, they are trying to sell you something you probably don’t need.

That is why I love CrossFit so much. The CrossFit WODs don’t care how you get the job done, so long as you do it powerfully and efficiently. If the goal is to get weight overhead, you’ve got several different ways to do it. If the objective is to get yourself over a bar, by all means kick your legs and wriggle your way over the bar. If it gets you there faster than some muscle-head showing off his lats with strict pull ups, guess who will win the WOD? If you’re climbing for your life, guess who will survive and who will be found ‘unfit’?

Honestly, you don’t have to do either CrossFit or Spartan Races to test your fitness. You simply need to step up to a challenge that will push you out of your comfort zone. You need to put yourself in a place that is not easy and see if you can take it, and how well you can take it.

And you’re even allowed to fail. But if that happens, I expect you to train yourself to succeed next time. We have the luxury of simulating life threatening emergencies to test ourselves, and we should take advantage of that luxury so we’re ready for the real thing.

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