by Beth Connolly

Intense athlete, Spartan Chick, and up-for-any-adventure girl Shannon Roche is the only racer I’ve ever interviewed who talked herself down.

“Are you sure you want to interview me?  I’ve fallen off the wagon,” she wrote in an email before we spoke on the phone.

Then, at the end of our interview, she brought it up again.  “Am I intense enough?  I don’t feel like I measure up to the other athletes you’ve profiled on the blog.”

Chatty and modest, Shannon most certainly does measure up.  This 36-year-old real estate agent, who describes herself as 36 going on 26, just takes her challenges in stride to such an extent that they don’t seem like a big deal.  At least not to her.

She’s always been athletic, starting from her school days of track and volleyball.  But after college graduation, she moved to New York and realized that she needed goals to keep her motivated in her fitness.

So, back in 2006, she started training for a half-marathon.  Having successfully completed that, she moved on to a marathon in 2007 and a triathlon in 2008.  Then, in 2009, she really got serious and signed up for the Escape from Alcatraz, a unique event in San Francisco that she describes as the best racing experience she’s ever had.  To begin the race, a ferry drops off 2000 people in the frigid San Francisco bay  (she estimates temperatures were around 55 degrees F when she did it).  After a 1.5 mile swim to shore, racers face an 18-mile hilly bike, and an 8-mile run over hard and soft sand, including a timed 400-stair climb.

After her Alcatraz adventure, Shannon found herself “bored” once again.  So she decided to join Warrior Fitness Boot Camp in NYC midtown, where she met Kat Dunnigan, who told her about the Spartan Race.  That was all it took for Shannon to sign up for the 8-mile Super Spartan taking place in September 2011 in Staten Island.  “I feel like I’ve done everything else and I’m wanting to try something different,” she said of her decision to compete in a Spartan Race.

Shannon thinks that Warrior Fitness Boot Camp is the perfect way to train for a Spartan Race.  “It has all the elements,” she said.  “Nothing I’ve ever done has pushed my heart rate as much.”  The Boot Camp is an indoor obstacle course run by former Marines who “yell at you with a smile on their faces and push you.”  When she first started last fall, she couldn’t climb all the way up the six-foot tall wall and she couldn’t make it all the way across the monkey bars.  But after just one or two weeks, she noticed improvements in her performance at the course and felt herself getting a lot stronger every day.

Beyond the physical improvements, Shannon loves the camaraderie and encouraging atmosphere she has found at Warrior Fitness, and she’s even convinced her friends to join her as well.  I bet we’ll see them this September, too.

If Shannon’s past performances are any guide, I think that she’ll blow the Super Spartan out of the water.

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By Carrie Adams

The role of Spartan women was unusually prominent for the times.  They had legal rights to property, marriage and divorce, and they had the opportunity to participate in sporting events alongside Spartan men.  Spartan women represented, and this weekend in Georgia, twenty-four year old Olympic hopeful Lindsey Scherf is looking to breathe new life into that tradition.

Scherf

An accomplished track and road racer, Scherf is heading from her home in San Francisco to Georgia to try obstacle racing on for size and to give Hobie Call a new challenge.  She’s no stranger to competition.  While at the University of Oregon she set a new indoor track school record at 5,000 meters.  In 2009 she made the USA World Cross Country team that finished in 5th place at the World Championships in Amman, Jordan.  She broke the American Junior 10,000m track record with a time of 32:51:20.  That record had held for 26 years and was the second longest-standing women’s track and field record in world, American, collegiate, world junior and American junior records until Scherf came along.

The Spartan race, fiercely challenging and competitive in its own right, appealed to the accomplished runner.  “I am looking forward to coming down and trying this race for the first time.  It looks like quite the challenge! “says Scherf.  “The running and obstacles are things we have always wanted to do but never had a place to do it.  That’s where the Spartan Race comes into play.”  Her strategy for the race is to focus on her core competencies: “The running part is my greatest strength and a lot of the skills come down to having an attack mentality.  So that’s what I like about it.  The event suits my personality and it looked like fun.”

She’s doing this one for all the ladies out there, but she’s also looking forward to facing off against Hobie Call at the starting line.  Hobie is the undefeated Spartan champion chasing down a $100,000 prize.   “He’s a fierce competitor,” observes Scherf, “but I think it takes a few to be the pioneers, to be the ones to set the bar and raise the bar.  Women need to take some of that back.  Women can dominate it, and set the marks, and lay out really solid performances. “

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by Carrie Adams

Since the dawn of time, there has been disparity between the sexes.  Women, perceived as the weaker sex, have waited patiently.  We wait no more.

A Brief History of Time

K. Switzer

776 B.C. – The first Olympics are held in ancient Greece. Women are excluded.

(Lots of stuff happens here)

1967 -K. (Katherine) Switzer registers to run the Boston Marathon. Race officials try to tear her number from her back during the race.

1972 – Congress passes Title IXBOOM.

1973Billie Jean King wins the “battle-of-the-sexes” tennis match against Bobby Riggs on Sept. 20 in Houston in front of more than 30,000 people and a world-wide TV audience of more than 50 million people.

2000 -Fabiola Da Silva’s scorching athleticism leads to the introduction of the “Fabiola Rule,” which allows women to qualify into the men’s vert finals of competitions of the X-Games. Since then, Fabiola has placed several times in the men’s Top 10 and she was the only girl competing against a field of male inline skaters at the 2004 X Games.

2004Michelle Wie becomes the youngest person and the fourth-ever female to play in a PGA tour event when she tees off at the Sony Open.

Michaela Hutchison

2006 – In Anchorage, Alaska Michaela Hutchison becomes the first girl in the nation to win a state high school wrestling title while competing against boys.

2011 – This morning– I passed four dudes on the trail during my little training run.

Okay, so the last one isn’t compelling, but it made me smile when it happened (four times, actually, and they were the only other people on the trail.)

The point is, women are making advances in all sports and we are gaining ground on our male counterparts.  “Getting chicked” is what happens when a man is passed, beaten, bested, or out-done by a woman.  And though it’s becoming a more frequent phenomenon every day,  men almost universally are not entirely okay with it.

Most of my male friends acknowledge their aversion to being bested by women.  I’m no Paula Radcliffe, but in my circle of running buddies, I’m no slouch either.  I can throw down some good times and on a pretty consistent basis.  I’ve been challenged to races more times than I can count by those who didn’t know better, those who thought they knew better, and those who had been drinking heavily.  In the sake of transparency, I haven’t always won those bets (yes, I generally take them), but on the trail and on the road, I can hold my own.

Chrissie Wellington

Regardless, whenever I roll up on a guy in an event or even on a gym track, I get the same reaction: deer-in-the-headlights eyes, the sudden onset of panic/embarrassment/fear, and an overly exaggerated effort to not let me pass them.  When I do, when they forfeit, it’s a small victory for me and a huge shot to the ego for them.

But let’s get real for a hot second.  I’m just a blip on the radar screen.  Take Chrissie Wellington for example, the phenom Ironman athlete.  She has rarely been outside the top 10 overall in her races – 7th in Roth, 7th in Korea, 8th in Arizona.  Her marathon times in some of her wins have been beaten by only a few men in those races.  Only at Kona does she find herself outside the top 10 (22nd in 2009, for example.)

Pam Reed

Or what about  Pam Reed, the ultra-distance runner who in 2002 was the first woman to become the overall winner of the Badwater Ultramarathon?  That’s a nasty little 135-mile ultra that has crazy elevation and heat indexes well above 120 degrees.  She subsequently repeated her feat as overall winner of the race in 2003. In 2002, her win also set the women’s course record.  In 2005, Reed became the first person (not woman, but PERSON) to complete a 300-mile run without sleep.  It took less than 80 hours.  And NO, that’s not a typo.  300 miles… in 80 hours… without sleep.

The moral of the story is simple.  Guys, the ladies are showing up.  Day in and day out, in all sports, niches, and events, we’re here.   Ask anyone who’s squared off against Sonya Thomas, the 98-pound professional eater who goes by the moniker “Black Widow” and is currently ranked as the fifth-best competitive eater in the United States and sixth in the world, with 29 world titles.

The ladies are kicking ass, and we aren’t going anywhere.  So when you hear the tell-tale sound of approaching footsteps behind you, it could very well be a woman about to smoke you.  Don’t fight it.  As she leaves you in her wake with what you’ll tell your friends later was superhuman steroid-fueled ease, give her respect (even if it’s only in your head.)  You and I both know that getting “chicked” may be the best thing to happen to you all day.

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