Just the words “Virginia Super Spartan Race” sends shivers down the spines of many who witnessed what course designer Norm Koch prepared for them last year. One of the most brutal courses in the history of Spartan Race left many competitors really experiencing what it meant to “know at the finish line”. Those Blue Ridge Mountains just seem to go on and on, don’t they?

Virginia 2013 was also notable for the emergence of Matt Novakovich, who exploded from nowhere to not only win, but dared to beat the legend, Hobie Call, by around two minutes. The Alaskan has since gone on from strength to strength and is now a regular podium finisher and a staple of the Spartan Pro Team.

So, what’s in store this year? Well, let’s just say that while, as per usual, we’re not giving anything away, we’ll just tell you that having good leg muscle memory will be useful to you. With the race being a Super, there will be at least 8 miles of obstacles and trails. We’re going to put down 3 water stations for you, but if you don’t think that will suffice, by all means bring your own means of carrying fluids. Cramping and dehydration aren’t fun things to experience and bear in mind that Nellysford experiences average temperatures in the mid 80’s in August, as with most things Spartan related, if you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.

For those making a road trip to the beautiful surroundings of the Wintergreen Resort in Nellysford, the first priority is somewhere to stay. By clicking here, you can have a browse through which hotels tick your relevant boxes. If you’d prefer something a little cheaper, there is a hostel close by that might be able to help you. With the accommodation in the area all boasting good reviews, you can be safe in the knowledge that you’ll be well looked after.

There’s also the option of the good old-fashioned bed and breakfast, should you choose to go down that route. With all the establishments with reviews scoring either 4 out of 5 or higher, it’s clear that making travelers and strangers welcome is something that Charlottesville excels at.

The same goes for when you want to either carb up or replace all those calories you’ll have burned off on the course – because trust us, you will!

There are almost 450 restaurants and places to eat that are featured on Tripadvisor’s site and thanks to their site, you can select the style you are looking for, if you have those pangs for something particular. Whether it be your typical American steakhouse, or if it’s something a little more exotic, such as Greek, Indian or Thai cuisine. With so much on offer and such a broad range available, there will almost certainly be something that will fill whichever hunger hole you have.

Some of the best terrain is waiting for you.

But if having a drink and possibly shaking your stuff is something that is high on your list of priorities, that’s well covered in the reviews section on Yelp for the area. Additionally, you have a selection of wine bars, nightclubs and even “dive” bars, if you prefer that kind of thing. Again, with many scoring very high and positive reviews, having a good time is an almost certainty.

Naturally, the responsible Spartan makes sure there’s a designated driver if alcohol passes the lips, but if not there are some local taxi companies that will be able to make sure you get back to your accommodation safe and sound.

For more information about the area, there is a very useful website that is all about Charlottesville. Have a look here and you’ll find out about things to see and do, just in case you choose to make a long weekend of it after celebrating your Super finish.

See you at the finish line!

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by Steffan “Cookie” Cook

On December 1st, 2011, Kristen was told she had breast cancer and just 14 days later, was told that it had spread to her lymph nodes under her left arm. And like any Spartan would, she knew it was time to fight.  

She explains, “My work made adjustments to my work schedule to minimize my exposure to other people and germs once the chemo started 12/23/11. It took a long time for it to sink in that I was really sick.”

The reality of the gravity of her illness hadn’t quite taken hold.  ”I don’t think it truly hit me until after surgery when they told me that the cancer in my lymph nodes had been much more aggressive than that in my breast.  I think in reality it’s a good thing I didn’t realize back then all the things that were going to happen.  That would’ve been too much to digest all at once.”

The process had, in all reality, only just started. The chemotherapy brought about all manner of unwanted reactions. Nausea, tiredness, fatigue, and aches through the body.  The surgery put Sifers on the sideline for some time, “Surgery was tough because for about two weeks I was basically grounded.  I had three incisions, four drains coming out of my chest and a drug ball that dispensed medication.”  

The once active Sifers could only sit by and wait for her body to recover.  ”I had stayed fairly active during chemo, adjusting my activity based on how I felt.  Now I couldn’t do much of anything.”

Luckily, Kristen had already been leading a physical, active life beforehand and this proved to be a rudder that would help steer her ship through those stormiest of waters. Prior to starting chemotherapy, Kristen had been training at NDS Athletics, a  Kettlebell school in Lakewood, California, under the guidance of Spartan Race veterans Junior Nartea and Matt Trinca.

“Junior was great at giving me alternative movements when I wasn’t sure what to do.  He also helped me with some stretches & strength movements to regain my range of motion.”

Other, small obstacle races played their part, too. One in February of 2012 and then another in June would pave the way for what was to come later – the Spartan Sprint in Malibu.

“I had to walk most of the first one, but loved doing the obstacles in spite of feeling pretty crumby from the chemo.  It was important for me to do this because it had been a goal of mine when chemo first started.  The second obstacle race I did a week after chemo ended.  Again I had set that as a goal during treatment and it felt like a great way to prove I still could push myself to try new things.”

And so, as 2012 began to roll to a close, the Malibu Sprint came looming into view, but with the support and training – not to mention the resilient defiance Kristen had shown throughout 2012 – it proved no match her.

“I’d say the most difficult challenge for me was the wall traverse.  Not being very tall, I found the grips and footholds a little too far apart and slippery.  It was one of the two places I got to do burpees. The other was the spear throw.”

The experience at Malibu lit a fire under Kristen and those flames saw her conquer the Super in Temecula in January a few weeks ago. With two-thirds of the Trifecta complete, Kristen is now looking to celebrate her beating of Cancer with the Trifecta in Northern California later this year.  An incredible accomplishment given all she’s endured.

“Never give up.”  Says Sifers.  ”My staying active was a huge part of my treatment.  I would add that being a part of a community like the NDS community was huge.  It provided me with a place to practice.  The people that go there are awesome.  I always felt supported and encouraged.  I had people I’d only known for a short period of time take me to my chemo treatments.  Even when I wasn’t up to practicing full speed I would show up and when I left I felt better mentally.  Having a place to go that helps you physical, mentally and socially is a huge plus.” 

Sifers is an an example of complete and utter refusal to accept defeat. On that same token, it’s the same attitude that will see you not only conquer whatever is put in your way through life, but perhaps on a smaller scale, the next time you sign up of your next Spartan Race.

You’re stronger than you think. Remember that.  See you at the finish line.  Get registered today

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