Tales from the Chicked: Carrie Adams, Chicked Founder

by Beth Shields, Spartan Chicked member

Two and-a-half years ago, no one would have expected Carrie Adams to spark a revolution for women in the sport of obstacle racing.  Working in the corporate grind and raising her family she couldn’t fathom how much her life would change and how many lives she’d change in the process.

In November 2010, Adams finalized her divorce and was unexpectedly laid off from her consulting job within a two-week time span.  Then 28, and suddenly a single, unemployed Mom of two young girls, “I was in a very dark place at the time,” she says.  Never one to be down long, she quickly secured another job as a medical consultant in Omaha, Nebraska, and settled in to her new position.

Around the same time, good friend, and ultra-endurance athlete, Spartan’s own Jason Jaksetic, convinced her to try a Spartan Race,

SoCal Super Spartan 2011

the Super in Temecula in February 2011.  An avid runner, Adams was an endurance athlete, but had never participated in an obstacle course race.  “Just come try this Spartan event in California,” Jaksetic told her.  “There’s fire, barbed wire and walls.  You’re going to love it.”  Adams was far from smitten. “The more he’s telling me, the more I’m like, ‘that sounds horrible.’”

Jaksetic’s urging prevailed, and Adams was convinced to come out and race on what turned out to be the coldest day in Southern California in 200 years.  She was also featured in a race video that was made that day about overcoming obstacles.  Notably, the video also features Hobie Call – it was the first Spartan Race (he won) of his career.  Adams ran the course next to Joe Desena, who carried an axe the entire distance.  Desena is one of the founding members of Spartan Race.

“It was one of the most beautiful and exhilarating races I’d ever done,” says Adams.  “I was looking around, and thinking that there should be more people there.  It blew my mind that more people weren’t doing it.  I said to Joe, ‘How are you going to get more people here?’”  His response was, “You tell me.” She laughs.

“That is how it all started.  I’ll always be grateful to Jason,” says Adams.  “He’s still one of my favorite people, we are co-editors of the SR blog, but more than that he’s a very good friend.”

The Spartan Race series was developed by eight “Founding Few” members, including endurance athletes, and mountaineers.  Inspired by the Spartan Death Race (the liability waiver consists of three words:  “You may die,” and only 10% of competitors finish), these obstacle courses are meant to be a more accessible version open to more than just elite athletes.  There are four race lengths: the sprint, 3+ miles with 15+ obstacles; the super, 8+ miles with 20+ obstacles; and the beast, 13+ miles with 25+ obstacles and now the Ultra Beast that is a marathonish distance with more than 50 obstacles.  Unlike traditional endurance events, it’s almost impossible to know what to train for.   It’s the only chipped, timed obstacle organization in the world with world rankings and a points system.

After that seminal race in California, Desena contracted Adams as a part-time blogger and marketer, while she continued her full-time job of medical consulting and raising her daughters.  The part-time work for Spartan quickly became unmanageable in tandem with her full time gig.   At the point when it seemed she was in an untenable position, Adams met with her medical consulting services boss and was told they had lost funding on her project.  She felt it was perfect timing and accepted a full-time contract with Spartan Race.

Passionate, upbeat, and charismatic, Adams set out to promote Spartan Races across the globe, and decided to focus on women, an as-yet unrealized demographic in the sport.  To that end, Spartan Chicked, the female-only offshoot of Spartan Races, her brainchild, began.  With very little fanfare, it was initiated at the first ever Spartan Beast with Adams and about a dozen other women.  It’s now a phenomenon promoted through a closed Facebook group that has grown to about 10,000 members in the last nine months.  Adams regularly joins in, recently posting a “WOD” – workout of the day – challenging the Chicks to do planks every hour on the hour, take pictures and post them to the group, and sharing her love of all things fitness, life with her two small girls, and her love of bacon, CrossFit and Pilates.  ”These women mean the world to me.” She says.  ”They are remarkable.”

While promoting the Spartan brand, she continues to race approximately six Spartan events a year among other events – she just did a marathon on Saturday.  She ran the Beast in Vermont with three of her girlfriends, cartwheeling over the finish line.  “I was so proud of that medal,” she says.  “We didn’t run fast or anything, but we laughed and shared food and crawled through mud side-by-side, collectively suffering and coming out the other side.  That’s pretty rad.”  Two of the girls, Alyssa Tokorcheck and Monica Mondin, she had just met that morning, corresponding only on Facebook previously.  After finishing, Tokorcheck turned to her and said, “It seems kind of silly to tell you now, it was nice to meet you.”  That Spartan Race series has been an epiphany for Adams on many levels.  “I don’t know how to explain the magnitude of what I experience working for this company.  I am forever changed by the incredible people I get to work with, the athletes who I meet, and what I see on race day.”  That sentiment is encompassed by Spartan Race’s tagline which Adams coined, “You’ll know at the finish line.”

“It made complete sense,” says Adams of the tagline, “You can’t explain it to people who haven’t done it.  You just have to get out there and do one to understand.”  The recent Team X-T.R.E.M.E. Heroes Heat in Virginia is one example.  “That team blew my mind,” says Adams, who becomes serious for a moment, “I am so honored to have gotten to witness their race and I’ll never view the world the same again.  There is no such thing as impossible.  Life gets more beautiful every day.  Who gets to say that about their job?” she asks.  “I’m extraordinarily blessed.”

About the growth of Spartan Chicked, Adams says simply, “It’s a movement; it’s not a team, it’s a movement, a community, a network.  These women have changed their lives.  I am just thankful to have a front row seat to their accomplishments.”

The online Spartan Chicked Facebook group includes women of all ages, sizes, and ethnicities who share not only training and nutrition tips, but also swap stories of motherhood and overcoming personal adversity.  The group is also free to discuss other non-Spartan races, a decision that was made early on in order to promote the easy atmosphere that Spartan Chicked maintains.  When Adams started, Spartan Races had 20,000 facebook fans; she’s helped grow that to nearly two million.

Adams sees these races as serving to challenge women in a way that traditional endurance events don’t.  “If you’re a racer in any capacity, finish lines can become anticlimactic.  As much fun as [racing] is, [Spartan races] are a gift; because when you finish, you finish something that you couldn’t prepare for.  The level of challenge starts to escalate . . . .  You find out what you’re capable of achieving is far greater than what you thought because you were living in a very constructed space of your own making.”

Adams sees women as having an edge in ultra-endurance sports. To her, “That’s a very cool thing.  Many women can go farther, go more, and endure longer.  It’s fun to show women, who are predominantly caretakers by nature, that doing for yourself from time to time will make you a better sister, daughter, wife, friend, because you’re more complete and more self-actualized.”

The Spartan Race series is something Adams promotes with a passion, “We’ve come to this place that we’ve forgotten how to be human beings, and we’ve forgotten what it means to live.  We’ve lost that connection that we have with the most primal parts of ourselves.  That’s why these events are so strongly resonating now more than ever, because people long for it.  We miss being human beings.”

Seeing women transformed and how her own daughters are impacted by being around ultra-fit women are huge inspirations for her.  “My girls are active.  Always have been.  They’ve grown up around that kind of atmosphere.”  She’s excited about an upcoming opportunity for them as well, “My Cross Fit Gym, CrossFit Omaha is starting up a kids’ program.  What a gift to give my girls,” she explains, “how to be powerful and strong and to understand and appreciate what that means.  You can’t put a price on that.  That will infiltrate everything that they do as decision makers, even into adulthood.  It’s something that is born out of ‘I can run that far,’ and ‘I lift this barbell,’ and ‘I can climb this wall.” It’s all part of the equation.”

For women who have never attempted this before, Adams has some advice:  “You have to just decide.  You can literally be a different person right now than you were 10 seconds ago.  You just have to choose it.  Tomorrow’s coming, whether you live healthy or not.  Imagine what one day on top of one day on top of one day starts to look like when you are living a healthier life.  Just embrace, whatever it is, registering for a race, joining a new gym, making healthier food choices . . . don’t wonder what your life could be, go out and make it what you know it can be.”

Let the revolution begin.

[Editor's Note: Carrie has been a full time Spartan employee since March 2011 and started the Spartan Chicked movement in August 2011.  To join the closed network (women only) go HERE and request to join.  You can find Adams' personal blog at www.leavingapath.com.]

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by Sarah Dubois

A Tribe Called Messed1A little over a year ago I stumbled across the Spartan website and I couldn’t comprehend it.  As in…what the hell were these people doing?  And why were they smiling?  I moved on and didn’t give it another thought.  Fast forward 9 months.  I’ve quit my miserable Fortune 500 sales job (to remain unnamed) taken a couple months off to recoup while getting certified as a personal trainer, got hired as a women’s Bootcamp Instructor and as a Personal Trainer at a fancy gym here in San Diego.  Just a slight unplanned turn in the road from my original plan to follow my International Business degree.  When does life ever go the way you actually planned it anyway right?

At the very beginning of my fitness career I had an interview with another local San Diego bootcamp.  In the interview they asked tough questions that I was pretty used to from the sales world but I didn’t expect in a Bootcamp Instructor interview.  “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”  I had gotten this a million times in past sales job interviews and simply BS’d my way through with some comment even I didn’t believe about management or owning my own businesses blah blah blah.  Cripes can you tell I was in the wrong field?!  At this point in my fitness career, surprisingly I hadn’t given it alot of thought yet.  I answered with the first thing that came to mind that I thought would be fun.  My bold response was “I want to be the Race Manager for a major event”.  After saying it I realized it was totally true.  I love racing and the vibe that surrounds races, expos and fitness events.  I also have a business background so why not mesh the two!

I came across a Facebook ad this past fall that showed people crawling through mud. A Tribe Called Messed Intrigued, I clicked on it, not realizing at the time this was the same website I had pretty much dissed just a few months back.  It’s amazing the things you will try and succeed at with the right mindset.  That same day I sent Spartan Races my email and explained I wanted to work for them and why I would be a great fit (even though I’d never done a race!).  I like to think my business background and new fitness training experience hold some meaning in this odd world of mud and obstacles.  I did my research and learned about the company and their races and within a few weeks I was granted the opportunity to become a Street Team Member.  Sweet!  My first step into the mud. 

I got so excited about the upcoming Spartan Malibu Sprint that like all Spartans, I talked to everyone I knew, friends, family, clients, gym members I knew, gym members I didn’t know, total strangers, you name it.  People were intrigued but no one committed.  I managed to get ONE person to join me in the race, my Bootcamp coworker.  I didn’t let it bug me though.  Upon finishing (and loving every step, climb, crawl, jump, wade, swim, lift and hit), I noticed that people seemed more interested when discussing the race with them.  Maybe they could see the crazy spark in my eye had ignited. 

A Tribe Called Messed2Post-race, I put up my action photos at my upscale gym.  One showed me crawling under the barbed wire while spitting out gravel – something our clients aren’t used to seeing there.  Everyone commented on my drooling as if hinting I should be embarrassed by it.  Seriously?  I’m proud of that drool!  I have Joe Desena, founder of the Spartan Races to thank for that photo – he was behind the hose that was blasting my mug.  I was running Spartan classes at the gym in the evenings, which mind you had ZERO interest leading up to the Malibu race.  Those pictures caused a buzz and instantly my class was full!  Before I knew it I had a team of 23 join me for the SoCal Super this past January as A Tribe Called Messed (represent, represent-sent).  It was a mix of clients, members, and trainers from my gym, clients from my women’s bootcamp, friends, and friends of friends.  Of those 23, eight have became Street Team Members and about 95% of the team has gone on to sign up for next year’s race (whether Malibu, SoCal or both) as well as jump into other obstacle races to train for the Spartans.  The remaining 5% just can’t commit this far out, but I expect will register again.  All of these teammates were great but alas, I couldn’t seem to get my favorite guy, my boyfriend Kurtis to join me in a race….yet (heehee).  I didn’t want to push him too hard to sign up like I did with the others.  I wanted him to join me in my new passion by coming to his senses on his own, which I figured had to happen sooner or later right?  He was really great about spending entire weekends getting up early, coming to the races, and as a photographer in the making, spending hours taking awesome photos of our team before, during, and after the race.  About a week after the race he texted me from work out of the blue “Get your own personal photographer, I’m doing it with you next year”  Upon asking what changed his mind?  “It just looked like too much fun”. 

Aside from racing and running Spartan classes, I continued to do my part as a Street Team member by flyering parking lots of events, and running those races in Spartan gear.  I created spreadsheets of everything to keep organized and shared my info with Kati and Coleen.  My baffled boyfriend wondered why I was doing all of this extra work for free.  My equally baffled response was “um, hello because I love it!”  Next thing I know Coleen and I are discussing bringing me on board as Spartan Race’s first Race Manager.  I couldn’t have been more flattered and excited at the opportunity to pave the way and hopefully set a great example.  My 5 year goal has just happened in one year!!!  Amazing, scary, and exciting all in one.

I emailed home to Massachusetts to tell my family how excited I was and that I would be back in August to do the New England Spartan Sprint.  “So who is joining me!?” One lone Sparkle, my cousin Colleen responded.  We are the same age and she has managed to become an amazing runner of late, after having 2 children.  She has been as excited about the Spartan Race as the day I first started talking about it except she lives so far away that we could only chat over email about it and never train.  She has already succeeded in getting a handful of people to join the East Coast version of A Tribe Called Messed.  I emailed my entire Boston contact list and included my younger sister Caitlin to keep her in the loop.  Caitlin wrote this race off awhile back saying there was no way she could/would do it.  After reading my email, she was suddenly and surprisingly in.  “How would it look if you flew all the way over here to do this race with all your friends but I wasn’t a part of it??” GOOD ANSWER Sparkle!  Peer pressure gets another!  Since that email, friends are coming out of the woodwork, college buddies who I haven’t seen in 10 years are registering, high school friends, elementary friends, old coworkers. 

I’m bringing my love of racing, my dedication to Spartan, and my background have all collided in the perfect job for me.  How’s that for a fairy tale ending… or beginning? 

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Introduction and Closure by Carrie Adams

“It’s simple…If you don’t think you were born to run, you’re not only denying history.  You’re denying who you are.” – Dr. Bramble

When Hobie Call crossed the finish line of the 2011 SoCal Super Spartan he was unknown.  His accomplishments, however remarkable, remained largely undiscovered and he was just a man with a plan that would take nearly a year to see through.   Crossing the finish in SoCal in early 2011, he was ending one race a champion but beginning another, the race of a lifetime for a man who thought his time may have passed.  While we, Spartan Race were introducing a new sport, Obstacle Racing to the masses, we were also unknowingly meeting the man who would come to define excellence in the burgeoning sporting event and who’s valiant efforts would inspire a community of Spartans to find their own path to glory.  He was featured in our SoCal video about Overcoming Adversity where we first heard part of his story. 

Hobie’s first Spartan Video, SoCal 2011

Venue after venue, race after race Hobie’s winning streak continued and almost every race he touched he owned. After SoCal, came many more races for Call to take on, even the Death Race, and despite his DNF at the Death Race and his loss at the Beast, his fans never faltered and the interest in what this humble man from Utah was pursuing grew.  His journey that began in California led him all the way to Glen Rose, TX and a shot at $10,000.  The cash prize heat was on the minds of many of our Spartan community when the heat took off at 3:30 on December 3, 2011 at Rough Creek Lodge.  With Xterra racer Josiah Middaugh hot on his heels the entire course, Hobie still crossed the finish line first earning him a check for $10,000 and the right to call himself Spartan Race champion. 

In his own words, he remarks on a year of racing and on where he started, how he’s changed, how very thankful he is as an athlete, husband, and father. 

081016_hobiecallOh what a remarkable year!  I was 33 years old and my best athletic accomplishments were virtually unknown to the world.  I’ve logged a 4:40 mile on a treadmill with a 40 lb. vest on, a 17:36 5k on a relatively slow course with a 40 lb. vest on, and I had lunged a mile with a 40lb. vest on in 34:01. (and I don’t use my hands to help when lunging, lunging is a leg workout). Guinness world records wouldn’t recognize my lunge mile because apparently lunging a mile without any weight is hard enough.

I was disappointed enough about the lunge mile, that I never bothered to see if there were even records established for the runs with the 40 lbs. Anyway, in the midst of producing these records, I moved to the city where the smog is too thick, the winters are too cold, and my new job took too much time and energy to train properly to continue to improve. Of course, I’m not one to settle for mediocrity, so I tried anyway. This just caused me to get injured.

I attempted for 1-1/2 years to get back into shape, but to no avail. My job was just too demanding. For the first time in my life, I decided that my chance to be a great athlete had passed. I would attempt a few marathons next year, make a few thousand dollars, and retire. It was a disappointing end to a lifelong dream. As winter settled in, I switched up my training, because running outside, in the dark, on cold icy roads, in the smog just didn’t sound like a good idea. I shortened my runs and focused more on building extra strength, which I could quickly transfer to endurance as soon as spring came. And I did aerobically intense upper body workouts a few times a week in place of my easier runs, so I could stay indoors to workout. 

Early in February, my wife showed me this race that someone had FaceBooked to her and she thought I would like it, so she showed it to me. I saw a picture of a girl crawling through a mud pit under barbed wire. I said no thanks, I’m not a big fan of mud. I don’t even like walking through it to get to my job sites!  But later, for some unexplainable reason, I decided to take a closer look.

310567_10150297865671861_251061411860_8456162_348277038_nAs I was researching the race, I came across an article where the race founder was offering $100,000 to any of the winners of the survivor show who could win his Death Race. And then on a whim (and just for publicity reasons I’m sure) he threw in “if anyone can win all of my other 2011 USA Spartan races I will also give them $100,000”. Nothing on his website said anything about this, nor any other article I could find. But that was enough to get me excited. I could handle a little bit of mud for a prize like that. I figured that as good as I was at running, I would actually be even better suited for a race like this because I had a lot more upper body stamina than a typical runner, especially considering the way I had been training for the last few months.

I talked to Irene (my wife), and we decided to give it a try. So, 2 weeks before the race, I clip_image005 (1)signed up, went and got some contact lenses, and spent every last penny we had to pay for gas to get to California.  And for the first time in many years, I remembered just how fun racing was supposed to be. I felt like a kid all over again. No boring road race here. I was running up and down hills, sometimes on trails, sometimes not. Over walls, under walls, through walls, crawling under barbed wire and through tunnels. Running through freezing water, jumping over a fire, pulling a bucket full of concrete up a pulley. Solve a Rubik’s cube, throw a spear…The list goes on. I was having the time of my life.

SRFL_AB_0012Well, as you can imagine Joe DeSena (one of the race founders) was happy to see someone take on his challenge. As the races progressed, so did the excitement. Joe was happy to see me winning, but was also getting nervous that I would actually win the $100,000. They couldn’t find anyone to challenge me. But, as he was quick to keep reminding me, he still had his Death Race, and I had no chance of winning that. I did a total of three Death Race training workouts. I had never tried working out when sleep deprived, and had no idea what we would even be doing for the race. But, I was healthy and had been working a full time manual labor job while also training for the other Spartan Races, so I knew my endurance was good.

But, the theme of the Death Race is to “expect the unexpected.” We started out by lifting rocks for six hours. As monotonous as it was, I actually enjoyed it. Then we found my kryptonite. The cold. We hiked up a river in the middle of the night, in the rain, had to swim through a freezing pond seven times, and hike back down the river. The seven times through the pond were the seven hardest decisions I have ever made in my life. It’s amazing my body didn’t shut down on me. Anyway, I got held back with a small group of other people for going too slow, and had to wait until the very last person finished. By the time we finished doing group challenges, and arrived back at the farm, I was 1-1/2 hours behind the leaders.

262164_10150227079801861_251061411860_7837628_189769_nNo worries, the race was just getting started, and as long as I was warm, I was gaining on them. But it seemed that for every two steps forward, I took one step back. It was constantly raining, and my body was hypersensitive to the cold because of the night before. I had to wait out rainstorms, and change my clothes often to try and keep warm. Twenty-five hours into the race, I was approximately one hour behind the leader (Joe Decker, who would ultimately win the Death Race for the second year in a row), and gaining fast. Carrying a log up and down a mountain was my kind of fun. But just as things started to look up, a big storm hit as I was reaching the top of a mountain. I had to wait out the storm while my brother brought me a wetsuit. Then, while going down the mountain, I got lost. By the time I reached the bottom, I was over 2 hours behind. Now 29 hours into the race, I concluded that there was no way I could possibly win. So I stopped.

I still had a lot of races left this year, and there was no point in possibly injuring myself268274_10150227079701861_251061411860_7837627_4225439_n just to say I finished. I was not there to finish, I was there to win. So, the cold bested me before Joe ever got the chance to. I won’t be naïve and say that I would have won if the cold wouldn’t have been so severe. The endurance/strength, and sleep deprivation of the next 10 hours may very well have got the best of me. 

Leaving Pittsfield and the Death Race behind me, I had more racing to do before the year was done.  The agreement was, no Death Race win, no $100,000 but I wasn’t done.  People wonder why I continued to race after even when the $100,000 was gone, but if you understand me, it’s obvious. If my pursuit for excellence was driven by money, I would have quit 10 years ago. It’s always been my desire to inspire others to never give up, eat healthier, get out and exercise, take care of your body; it’s the only one you’ve got. These races were accomplishing that more than anything else I had ever done. Besides, I was having the time of my life. Well anyway, to keep this thank you letter from turning into a book, the rest as they say is history.

374691_10150389185026861_251061411860_8883400_172098013_nI would like to thank everyone for such a memorable year. I would try to mention names but would surely miss many of them. From everyone at Spartan Race (of which there are more than a few), the volunteers (many of which didn’t even race, but are just good people looking for an opportunity to help out), to those who donated money, those who put me up in their homes and drove me to the races and back and forth from the airports, and all of the fans with all of their encouragement and support.

I would also like to thank my wife and children, who for most of the year only lived on the386409_10150389197686861_251061411860_8883570_1579919594_n sacrificing end of things, but supported me anyway; my brother who took the time off of work to come to many of the races, and help make a workout video (that you can get at www.hobiecall.com). I would especially like to thank my Heavenly Father for blessing me with the knowledge, ability, and opportunity to be where I am today.

“I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks.”  – William Shakespeare

We at Spartan Race would like to extend our own thanks and congratulations to Hobie Call for an epic year.  His kindness, generosity, dedication, and work ethic has come to represent the Spartan spirit.  Whether it was voluntarily pitching in at a pre-race packet pick-up in Malibu when we were overwhelmed with racers wanting bibs and chips, to chopping wood for fellow Death Racer, or posing for pictures, signing autographs, giving tips on training and nutrition to eager racers, and making fun videos and commenting on FaceBook questions, he’s a class act.  Always with a smile and always with honor and  integrity leading him we’ve loved having him as part of our Spartan community and look forward to 2012.

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