Since arriving in Pittsfield on in late July, Danny Rodriguez is undergoing a full body transformation! On August 7, Danny weighed in at 374 pounds, a 36 pound loss from his initial arrival. The 10 days prior, he lived in a stone hut only accessible by foot, without power or running water. He was living on apples and water for his initial food detox.

He’s now down in the village doing daily workouts and work and living on a raw diet managed by Spartan founder Joe De Sena and spartan staffers and professional athletes. As of this week, Danny is weighing in at 345 pounds and taking on challenges he never thought possible. On August 24, Rodriguez completed a 10+ mile hike and has been tackling his workouts, nutrition, and healthy way of living with a vengeance.

We first met Danny at the Midwest Spartan and he has already come a long way. Then, he weighed in just over 400 pounds. That makes his total weight loss 65 pounds. He has a long way to go, but we know he will continue to make progress and push through to find new heights in his training and full mind-body transformation.

What is your excuse?  It’s time to get off the couch and outside in the mud!  Find a race near you HERE. 

Go #TeamDanny

[Photos courtesy of Marion Abrams, and Mad Motion]

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Ah yes, it’s that time of year again, the infamous Spartan Death Race is almost here!  Athletes have been arriving in the sleepy town of Pittsfield already and congregating at the Pittsfield General Store to mingle, to speculate, and to prepare last minute items for the unknown trek ahead.  The Death Race begins today, June 21… or does it!?  Only Joe D and Andy know for sure.  The stories of past Death Races are infamous – diving for pennies, eating onions, extracting stumps from the ground, carrying kayaks and tires for an ultra-distance, lifting rocks for six hours, chopping wood for five hours, completing 3,000 burpees… the list goes on. No one can confirm what will be included in this year’s race but that doesn’t keep anyone from trying.

Each year has a theme.  Last year was betrayal, the year before was religion.  This year, we are being introduced to the Year of the Gambler, and that includes precious poker chips for the players, some of which are already being handed out.  No one knows what these chips will be used for or what the competitors could cash them in for.

Tasks for Chips

The gear list is also infamous, among other items, this year the competitors have been instructed to bring a tuxedo, 5 lbs of hay, a Life Jacket, $5.00 in quarters, and a pound of grass seed.  What will the gear be used for?  No one knows, though that doesn’t deter everyone from taking their best guess.

The field is really competitive but it is more of a tight knit community of friends than a community of rivals.  At Spartan HQ we expect a lot of heroics among the unimaginable that lies ahead in the coming days.  Joe D said, “We have to step it up each year!  It doesn’t matter what we throw at them, they keep coming back for more.  They step it up, and we step it up.  This year, we stepped it way up.”

Rumors are running rampant and tasks being leaked with the potential for claiming chips already.  There was even a secret meeting filmed at the General Store…

Who will be left standing when it all ends?  We’ll know soon…

How to stay informed

Follow the hashtag!  #PeakDR will keep you looped in on all things Death Race online – Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and OFFICIAL Spartan Death Race updates can be found HERE.  http://www.vermontsoriginalstore.com/pittsfieldrace.html and daily updates on stats will be provided on the Spartan FB page as well.

Other resources: 

Are you a spectator in Pittsfield?  Find a ton of Spectator Resources HERE.

Official Death Race t-shirts can be found HERE, you have to look the part, right?

Stay tuned for all things #PeakDR to see who can survive the Spartan Death Race!

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by Carrie Adams

Spartan staffers are often asked what life is like working at Spartan Race HQ and for the one and only Joe Desena.  Spartan staff is comprised of a dedicated crew that helps create, design, build, and execute Spartan Races all over the world.  They are men and women who athletes and professionals, Guinness Book World Record Holders, Double and Triple Ironman finishers, Olympians, Adventure Racers, Badwater finishers, Death Race winners, not to mention moms and dads, husbands, wives, and, of course, Spartan finishers.

Spartan Race HQ is located in the big little town of Pittsfield, VT.  With a population of 427, the town was nearly washed away in last year’s devastating Hurricane Irene landfall on the Eastern seaboard.   Never a town to shrink back, they’ve rebuilt much of what was lost, not surprising when you consider it’s also the home of the infamous Death Race, it’s become a Spartan haven and the perfect place for a Spartan Race staffer to live, train, and work.  Situated next door to a Bikram yoga studio, staffers can regularly be seen in the studio early in the morning or over lunch getting their sweat on or in the organic General Store having breakfast or lunch.

Spartans keep irregular hours, but don’t tell them that.  Spartan staffer Jason Jaksetic is often seen climbing the mountain with Joe before the sun rises, toting 100 pound sand bags, Joe calls them “business outings.”  A lot of work has been done in the dark green mountains of Pittsfield.

What is a typical day at Spartan HQ?  How about burpees on the hour, green juices for lunch, mandatory bikram yoga sessions, and occasionally being woken up at 4AM by your co-worker to go on a 5 mile run.  Oh, and do you wanna leave town for the weekend?  Joe and Andy might take the tires off your car.  (True story- Stevie has details)

Led by Spartan’s fearless leader, and one of the SR founders, Joe Desena, who is well-known for his humor and his hard-working style and it’s not out of the ordinary for employees to work 16 hour days, especially on race weeks and then run a 16 hour day from the course running bag check or registration.  Yes, Spartan Race HQ is a small but mighty contingent of people who love their jobs and who look forward to meeting our racers in person. Joe keeps the troops motivated with his random and often slightly odd style of encouragement.  Here are a few examples of how Joe D gets Spartan Staff motivated on the job:

When an employee needed to go to a funeral of a family acquaintance Joe was overheard saying… “Stevie, that’s why you want to work, you don’t want to die when you still have work to do.”

“Don’t just be the early bird who gets the worm, be that bird who RIPS THAT WORM outta the dirt, before anyone else can get the chance!” - Joe D

“Whaddya workin’ a half-day?!” - Joe D (after seeing you pack up your desk at 8 o’clock at night)

That’s why some Spartan staffers have taken to hiding to get away!  So, be sure to thank the Spartan Staff and volunteers you see on site!  They work hard to make sure you can play hard on race day!

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by Carrie Adams

27966_1127450282571_1716617129_247377_4881280_nOne of Spartan’s founders and accomplished endurance athlete Joe Desena lives and works in the small town of Pittsfield, VT.  Pittsfield is well known for  playing host to the Death Race each summer as well as the Winter Death Race and a variety of other endurance challenges held by Peak Races.  The Winter Death Race is set to kick-off this weekend but racing isn’t the only thing you’ll find in this small town of Vermont.  Among all the talk of Death Racing, Pittsfield is also a unique, and somewhat unlikely place for love2720303334_edf765f0b8

Up the street from Amee Farm, which serves as basecamp for the Death Races sits Riverside Farm, a quaint spread of land accessible by covered bridge and serves as a home for Joe and his growing family.  Joe has three children with his wife Courtney and a fourth is on the way, due this summer.  Courtney helps run a wedding business out of their property Riverside Farm Weddings. 

The wedding venue accommodates all sizes of weddings and boasts a rustic, inviting, and personable wedding experience for couple’s seeking a unique venue and location.  Joe and Courtney should know, they got engaged in a very Spartan-like way, in the summer of 2001 and Courtney 390674223_2e200772e3Desena was kind enough to share their story. 

Joe and Courtney went to do a 24 hour adventure race in Santa Monica, CA in the summer of 2001 and spent a grueling night of kayaking, mountain biking, and trail running (they heard coyotes all night long howling in the woods).  Courtney, not admittedly a hardcore adventure racer (She was Captain of the Penn State women’s soccer team and avid runner) was enthralled and challengd by Joe’s idea of “fun” in extreme sports and distance running so she got used to dating in spandex and camelbacks instead of dresses and heel. 

Thinking it was just another one of their normal dates of eating Protein Bars, kayaking, biking and running to all these crazy races, she didn’t realize he had something special planned.

After the duo had finished a tough section over the night and as the sun was coming up, they arrived to the ocean and Courtney was dead tired. She stopped to look over the water- the waves were crashing against the rocks and they sat down to enjoy the view and have a have a drink and a breather before continuing the race. 

Suddenly Joe asked, “Are you having fun?” and Courtney responded, “Yes, this is incredible!  Exhausting, but great.”

Joe replied, “I have another question- will you marry me?”

Dazed, Courtney responded, “Of course! Are you going to finish the rest of that Protein Bar… and wow, those coyotes were loud last night, this is…”  

Realizing what he had said, tired but giddy, Courtney said, “YES!” ! 

They made great time the rest of the way… suddenly not tired, or thirsty, or hungry…they raced to the finish and have been running ever since. 

Courtney says, “Now 3.5 kids later we are having a blast and I appreciate Joe for being passionate about life and his family. He’s a great dad. He’s a great role model for the kids. Life with Joe is never dull and he has a wicked sense of humor… so that makes for an interesting life together.”

5379137658_2c8825d06bSo, if you’re heading to Pittsfield, it may not be in search of Death Racing… it might just be for love. 

To find out more how you can have a unique Spartan Wedding of your own, check out photos of the grounds and amenities of the Riverside Farm Weddings by clicking on the links below.  Go to www.riversidefarmweddings.com for more information.

The Grounds at Riverside Farm

The Groom’s Cabin at Riverside Farm

The Stables @Riverside Farm

The Red Barn @ Riverside Farm

The Bridal Suite @ Riverside Farm

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by Carrie Adams

amelia faceThe alarm goes off shortly after 4:00 AM and Amelia Boone, 28 is off to the gym before an undetermined number of hours at the law firm where she works as an attorney in downtown Chicago.  “It’s important to make time.” she explains.  “And I don’t know when else I will get the chance with my working hours.” 

A native of Oregon, Boone grew up active playing soccer and softball.  When it came time for college, she followed the path of academics in lieu of sports but stayed active always looking for something to challenge her.   She will be participating in both the Winter and the Summer Death Races in 2012.  Athletes like Amelia are redefining females in sport and giving women new heroes of the non-traditional variety.  Successful, strong, smart, and beautiful, she’s going to be one to watch this season.  She’s adding to an already strong field of female athletes. 

A self-proclaimed desk jockey, she needs an outlet from the long hours and obstacle racing and non-traditional endurance challenges have been the perfect fit.  Training for the hilly terrain she will face in Vermont while living and working downtown Chicago is a challenge but Boone has taken to getting creative.  Lugging 40lbs up stairs in her work clothes 39 stories is how she begins her work day and takes to planning while reviewing cases in her 407024_3096079054217_1631326229_2748093_1634709090_noffice.  She’s also recently started blogging about her racing and her unique approach to training,  http://raceipsa.blogspot.com/.

“It doesn’t hurt when partners think you’re a little crazy,” she jokes.

She’s also honing new skills.  Recently gifted an axe, she’s been working on her wood chopping skills, another challenging skill to train for while living in the downtown Chicago urban jungle.  She knows learning how to wield the axe will be an important part of the upcoming Death Race experiences so she’s getting prepared as best she can.

“There aren’t many trees to speak of.  And I think lugging an axe around town would be frowned upon.”

lowcrawl_ameliaHer accomplishments are notable.  In addition to marathons, traditional road races, and countless obstacle races she recently completed an overnight challenge in D.C. and was also part of a well known 24 hour challenge in December 2011.  Only ten participants total would finish out of a field of 800 and only two women, Boone included. 

The mysticism and the community of the Death Race is what appealed to Boone.  “I haven’t met a community of people like it.  There is nothing like it.”  She also looks forward to her Death Race experiences, however unknown they are right now.  “I have no idea what to expect.  I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing.”  

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by Carrie Adams

Limitless Living: Joe DeSena

All too often we spend our waking hours trying to find and stay comfortable in our own lives.  We look for short cuts, gadgets, and processes to make things easier, seeking what we consider personal fulfillment.   We believe that there are things we can do and things that we can’t, and we become conditioned to that distinction.  It creates our everyday reality and it makes us feel secure, because we think we know what to expect of the world and what to expect of ourselves.  Enter Joe DeSena, the man who will turn that world upside down.

Growing up in Queens, Joe’s mother valued healthy eating and living and passed on that value system to Joe.   It’s been well-documented that he worked hard growing up and ultimately got to Wall Street, where he made his mark and made himself a small fortune.  He moved his family to Pittsfield, Vermont and quickly entrenched himself and his family in the local landscape.  Joe moved to Vermont in an attempt to get back to the way things used to be.

It’s also well-documented that Joe turned an interest in endurance racing into a passion.  His racing resume is the stuff of legends – over 50 ultra-events overall and 12 Ironman Events in one year alone.  Most of his races are 100 miles or more with a few traditional marathons in the mix.  (He once told me that my running a 26.2 marathon distance was “adorable.”)

To put it in perspective, he did the Vermont 100, the Lake Placid Ironman and the Badwater Ultra… in one week.  For those that don’t know or just don’t want to hear the gory details, the elevation climb for Badwater is over 8,500 feet up to Mt. Whitney and temperatures soar into the 120’s.   Joe also rode cross-country to the Furnace Creek 508 which has been coined “The Toughest 48 hours in sport.”  It’s no wonder his favorite quote is, “Death is the price we pay for life, so make it worth it.”

In 2005, Joe decided that the world needed a new race, something that had never beendone. And so, together with Peak Races, he created The Death Race, a 24-hour mental and physical test filled with unknown obstacles.  Racers couldn’t and wouldn’t know what to expect.  The fear of the unknown would either break or motivate, and all they could do was try to survive.  The race waiver consists of three words: “I may die.” It doesn’t get any more real than that.  No way to train, no way to prepare, just show up and make it to the end.  And don’t expect any love from Joe or the volunteers.  They want to break these people, make them quit.  Joe’s been quoted as saying, “There’s no light at the end of the tunnel. We’re basically holding your hand to help you quit. The same way life does, right?”

The winner of the fourth installment of the Death Race was Richard Lee.  Richard, Joe, and the other members of the “Founding Few” wanted to create another event, something that captured the extreme spirit of the legendary Death Race, but was modified and accessible to a much wider racing audience.  And so the Spartan Race was born.  Spartan intends to wake up the world up and save humanity, one racer at a time if need be.  It’s a race meant to challenge, to push, to intimidate, to test and even to break those brave enough to try, and it was designed by seven people who know what that feels like.  “Fun run” doesn’t apply here.  It’s about being uncomfortable, overcoming obstacles and finding out what’s possible when what you expect of yourself is everything.   In the words of Joe himself: “The phrase ‘I can’t’ doesn’t mean anything to me anymore, not because of my ego but because I know anything is possible.”

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by Beth Connolly

[Selica is director of Quebec and Ontario Spartan Race Markets. Richard is the director of the UK Markets.]
If you want to know how exactly Spartan Races came into existence, you have to look to the story of Selica Sevigny and Richard Lee, the British-Canadian couple that literally stumbled into Pittsfield, VT in spring 2009.

Montreal native Sevigny, 26, was working for Global television in Montreal in 2008 when she met Iron Man finisher, and endurance athlete Richard Lee, 29.  He was on vacation and it was love at first sight.

In spring 2009, the pair was hiking south on the Appalachian trail to help Richard recover from a broken leg.  After 2000 miles, they hit Pittsfield, VT only a few days before the start of the Death Race, Joe De Sena’s brutal 48+ hour test of mental and physical endurance.  Richard was confident he was up to the challenge of the Death Race, and he dared Selica to do it with him.  She agreed, although she had never competed in an endurance race before.  But, she said in a recent interview, “I’m just a very determined individual.  When I set a goal, I try to stick with it and get through.”


Remarkably, despite his lack of preparation, Richard finished first in the race.  He said though he found the Death Race psychologically more difficult than the training he received before sustaining military career-ending injuries. Selica, who said the race was “by far the hardest challenge I’ve ever experienced in my life,” developed hypothermia during the race and was unable to finish.  She said, “Many times during the race, I could only put one foot in front of the other, but I thought, as long as I’m moving, I’m still in the game.”  Her determination and persistence led her to return for the winter Death Race  in December 2009, where she placed third.

Needless to say, the race made an impression on both.  “It’s so unpredictable that you can’t really train for it, and we really liked the idea of not knowing what’s coming,” Selica said.  “In a marathon or triathlon, you know exactly what’s coming.  In the Death Race, you don’t know the obstacles and you don’t know how to react.”

The day after the Death Race in 2009, Richard broke his foot, effectively stranding the couple in Pittsfield for a month.  In that month, they spent some time hanging out with Joe, and the idea for Spartan Races was born.  Selica and Richard, both inspired by the sense of accomplishment and confidence they felt after competing in the Death Race, wanted to offer that feeling to a much wider audience.  Due to its extreme nature, the Death Race is open only to the most elite athletes—those who have the time to train extensively.  “We wanted to invite just anybody, regardless of fitness level, to give it a try,” said Selica.

Why Spartan?  “We brainstormed to come up with iconic images of strength, bravery, and ingenuity.  Spartans were a small group, but they overcame so much adversity.”  Plus, the fact that the Spartans were an ancient people offers an appealing alternative to the questionable values of our modern society.  “The essence of what we’re doing is encouraging people to return to their ancient roots,” said Selica.  “Our ancestors lived in the woods, hunting and gathering as a daily lifestyle.  Now we depend so much on technology that people use a GPS system just to go for a walk.  Not only are we living a pampered life—we live a life where people get stressed by little things like having to wait for an elevator or being stuck in traffic.  We want to encourage people to return to the days of running in the woods, getting lost, challenging themselves, getting dirty.  Even just getting in contact with that for a day is fantastic.

“If the race inspires people to just get out of their comfort zone for a day, or if it inspires lasting change, then we’ve done our job.”

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