It was a tale of two halves as the 2013 calendar came to a close in Glen Rose at the Spartan Beast. Saturday saw competitors challenged by not only the evil genius of Norm Koch’s 14.8 mile course, but the freezing temperatures not helped by the relentless bone-chilling wind. Sunday saw frost at first, but quickly became an altogether different day as the warm Texas sun smiled upon all those who wanted to challenge themselves.

April Luu saw back to back wins over the weekend.

Familiar faces littered the elite podiums, with April Luu being clearly the happiest of the weekend with back-to-back wins in the female elites. In the males on Saturday, Hunter McIntyre kept up his impressive form by strolling to victory a good 6 minutes ahead of second placed Cody Moat. Isiah Vidal would come in third, but he quickly righted his own personal wrongs by romping to victory the following day. Kioyake KK Paul took the female second place with Rose-Marie Jarry claiming third. On the Sunday, Elliot Megquier gave himself the gamble of competing and forcing a fast time in order to catch a plane home. Spurred by this pressure, he took second place with another Pro Team favorite Shawn Feiock taking 3rd place. Debbie Moreau and Jolene Wilkinson both had impressive runs to take 2nd and 3rdrespectively. With many correctly seeing Glen Rose as their last opportunity to earn some coveted Spartan Race “bling”, the race was awash with people that had challenged themselves to rise above their own personal situation. Social media favorite Amanda Sullivan, accompanied by Pro Team Elite athlete Alex Nicholas, beat her own personal demons by taking the course on in her own inimitable style. With her backpack, knee and wrist braces literally duct-taped to her and her trusty crutches, she battled through taking nearly 9 hours to complete the race to find her boyfriend and friend of Spartan Race, Todd Love, waiting for her at the finish line. As she collapsed at his wheelchair the cheers and applause were deafening.

Waiting for Amanda at the finish line was her boyfriend Todd Love.

All of this after only 3 years ago having been in 2 horrific accidents separated by a matter of weeks that saw her break, “pretty much everything from my skull to my toes”,  Amanda continues build, grow and inspire everyone she meets with her lust for life and the smile she wears that simply refuses to stop shining.
Completing the course only moments before, Louisiana’s own Matt Pevoto had completed his battle against the course.  Despite suffering from Spina Bifida, Matt’s appetite for Spartan Race was tweaked when he completed the Sprint in Burnet earlier in the year. Deciding to go all guns blazing at the Beast, Matt trained rigorously and it showed. His shoulders, arms and chest now visibly bigger and more defined than they were when he finished the Sprint, he waltzed through many upper body obstacles with derisory ease. With his sights now to crash through 2014 like a wrecking ball, his states matter-of-factly that by 2015, he will race at the elite level.

Matt Pevoto refused to let Spina Bifida get in the way of completing the Beast.

 

Other racers of note included Californian Dave Huckle who finally managed to achieve his dream of nine Trifectas. There was the familiar sight of “Thing 1 and Thing 2” – The Unbreakable Joneses -, albeit this time not tethered, blindfolded or carrying sledgehammers. Must have been a rest day!

And in true Spartan Race tradition, staff, runners and spectators saw a marriage proposal by the finish line. Jenna Dalton (completeing her Trifecta) accepted Collin Witte’s hand amongst cheers of support and applause.

One notable finisher was that of James Simpson, the UK military veteran who, after having been forcibly removed from the London Beast after 6 miles due to horrendous weather conditions, made the flight to Texas from England purely in order to complete the Trifecta. In doing so, he is now the first double amputee in the world to have completed this achievement. Helping him along the way, amongst others, were his expat friend Steff Crawford, now living in Texas and military veteran Michael Smith, a right arm amputee from Fort Sam, Houston who, in his parting words as he walked towards the starting line was simply, “be motivated. Realize your potential.” Perhaps wise words we could all carry in the holiday season and into the New Year.

And so, as we go full circle and end another year with a trail of medals, bucket carries, rope climbs and oh-so many thousands of feet of barbed wire crawling behind us, we wish every single runner, competitor, volunteer, spectator, staff member, contractor, security guard and everyone in-between a healthy and prosperous happy holidays and hope that the new year brings in whatever it is you’ve chosen to dream and aim for.

See you in Temecula in January. AROO!

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By Scott Blough, Team X-T.R.E.M.E. Times Square Team Leader

Where it Began

In August of 2012, I traveled to Leesburg, VA for the Mid-Atlantic Super Spartan. This was my first exposure to the sport of obstacle course racing (OCR).  While on the festival grounds I heard bagpipes coming closer and noticed a group of soldiers entering the starting area.   The announcer informed us that these men were part of a group called Team X-T.R.E.M.E.  We turned our attention to the skies where we saw a black parachute open and the announcer told us during his descent that the team was going to run this course with two wounded warriors.  One of the wounded warriors, Noah Galloway, was being tandem parachute jumped in to the event.

The team assembled.  It was at this point when I got my first look at Todd Love.  Todd is a triple amputee.  Missing both legs being above the knee and his left arm below the elbow, he served as a Recon Marine before his injuries.  He is carried by the team in a backpack throughout the race.  I quickly snapped a picture on my phone and cheered them on as they took off to conquer the course.   That was the last time I saw the team that day, I stopped by the Team X-T.R.E.M.E. booth on the way out of the festival grounds and grabbed a t-shirt.

Joining the Team

Upon returning to North Carolina I began doing research on Team X-T.R.E.M.E. to find out who they were.  As the pictures and videos of the race came out they were nothing short of amazing.  The images of Todd climbing the 25 foot rope in Leesburg have become known throughout the sport of Obstacle Course Racing (OCR).  As I dug deeper into the articles on the internet I started to become more inspired by the team and the mission. The statement “We give opportunity not sympathy” was the final straw for me I was hooked.  I signed up as a Team X-T.R.E.M.E. Community Athlete (TXCA) then started looking for ways to join the team.  I learned that there was an indoctrination (INDOC) process to try out for the team.

Eduard Lychik, Todd Love, Hobie Call, and Joe De Sena

I signed up for the INDOC class 003-012.   We started with eight people trying out for the team with two wounded warriors.  Class 003-012 had six people finish, of those six; four were selected to join the team.  We were issued our Avon C-50 gas masks and welcomed to the team.

Times Square

Reebok Spartan Times Square Challenge was my first event as a team leader.  Times Square was an amazing opportunity for Team X-T.R.E.M.E. to get our mission out to the world and support Spartan Race, an organization that has lent us a great deal of opportunity and exposure.  The race course allowed the spectators to get right up next to the action and see the whole course.  Many of our community athletes were on hand, as well as two wounded warriors – Todd Love and Eduard Lychik.  As a team, we tackled the course in Times Square Lychik and Love demonstrating extreme acts of physical strength and endurance.  Watching them climb the ropes simultaneously was a sight I will never forget.   We got to meet many spectators and some celebrities like Tiki Barber and Brooklyn Decker.  We even met Reebok Spartan athletes Hobie Call and Spencer Hendel.  It was  a great day!

After the race the team headed to Ground Zero where we took a tour of the memorial that opened in 2011.  The memorial is overwhelming.  The names of the fallen line the outer edge the memorial appropriately named “Reflecting Absence.”  The mood of the team was very somber at the memorial.  We focused on how that day had changed our lives and where we might have been had that never happened.  Most of the team members have at least one combat deployment in support of the Global War on Terror.  To stand at the physical location that started it all was a great opportunity for the team.  We look forward to more events in 2013 and supporting our mission to honor, empower, and motivate wounded service members.

See additional Team X-T.R.E.M.E. pictures from Times Square HERE.  Photos courtesy of Kevin High Photography.

[Editor’s Note: Scott Blough grew up in Fairfield, Iowa and joined the Army in 2000.  Blough has served as a medical sergeant in Army Special Operations for the past 9 years.  Blough as deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom 5 times between 2005 and 2010.  Blough is currently attending Campbell University where he will earn a Bachelor of health Science later this year.]

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by Carrie Adams

When Team X-T.R.E.M.E. stepped out onto the Leesburg field, escorted by a bagpiper, the festival area that is normally buzzing with activity suddenly quieted and turned their attention to the eight figures crossing the lawn.  What would follow as the team took to the course, two wounded warrior athletes included in the effort was unlike anything we’ve seen at a Spartan Race.  Hands down, this was the most widely read story we published in 2012.

It was the first time the team would take on a Spartan course, but it wouldn’t be the only time we’d see the team, complete with blacked out gas masks, run in 2012.  They’d return to the Carolina’s Beast and will also be onsite in our upcoming Times Square demonstration.   They’ll be coming with two of their wounded warrior athletes, Eduard Lychik (single leg hip disarticulation), and Marine Corporal Todd Love

(trimembral amputee of both legs above the knee and left arm below the elbow.)  Love was a part of the Leesburg team and his performance and determination throughout the course was nothing short of inspiring.

I had the privilege to see them in action on that day in Leesburg and the blog post from that day was our biggest of the year.
What’s your excuse now?  Get registered TODAY.     To read about that memorable and emotional day, click HERE.

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by Joe Desena, Spartan Race CEO

Todd Love, Leesburg, VA Super Spartan

A New Year is the chance for a New YOU.  It’s never been easier, and we can tell you why.  Spartan Race has been able to keep 82% of those committing to a new years resolution on track with their health goals. It is a simple technique that has been proven effective over the last three years at Spartan.

What is it?

It’s simple.  Don’t go it alone.  Committing to a race with friends will keep you on track each day training and eating healthy the same way the Spartans did knowing they WOULD go to battle.  We can help.  Get daily workouts – we can send them directly to your inbox www.spartanrace.com/wod, and your daily workout will be waiting for you each day.  No excuse not to train.  Getting daily food tips, www.spartanrace.com/fod and you’ll get healthy, delicious food ideas sent to you as well so you can fill your table and your stomach with the fuel you’ll need to stay on track, lose the weight, get stronger, faster, and better in 2013.

Sign up for a Spartan Race, even if it terrifies you.  Especially if it terrifies you!  Your fight or flight mechanisms kick into gear, and you’ll be sure to get moving. Once signed up, you and your friends will have a goal and a reason to start taking your health seriously and it works 82% of the time which is an amazing statistic.  We call it the Resolution Solution.

With the support of your community of friends and family, healthy recipes and food ideas, and workouts that will get your body in shape, you can accomplish more than you thought possible.  And you’ll never have to be alone in the process.  When you feel down, have a bad day, don’t want to eat healthy, you’ll have the reasons you need to stay on track, to get outside and run, to get to the store and buy something green instead of something fried.  It’s time for a change.

Once friends are involved they act like a vice grip, should you start to go back to your old ways. Not only are you training to get through the event you signed up for…but you are training for them and they are training for you.  In signing up, they aren’t just holding you accountable, they are depending on you for the same support.

Not enough?  How about some proof?

How is losing 430 pounds?  Spartan Chris Davis did just that and finished the Spartan Beast (and several other Spartan Races) in Vermont after five grueling months in Pittsfield, living, eating, and exercising with our team at HQ.  You should see him carry a sandbag now!  He sure couldn’t when he arrived.  Chris resolved to lose the weight and finish the race and he got it done.  It’s amazing that he began his journey at 696 pounds.

Spartan Chick Andi Hardy started following the Spartan WODs and is in the best shape of her life.  One of the Spartan elite athletes in our 300 group, with 21 races completed she had an incredible eight first place finishes in the 40 – 44 division in 2012, three of those first OVERALL female.  Not too shabby!

Todd Love, triple amputee from Georgia alongside his teammates from Team X-T.R.E.M.E. took on a Super Spartan and a Spartan Beast all while donning a blacked out gas mask.  Despite his injuries from an IED attack in Afghanistan while serving as a Recon Marine, he completed the races.  How is that for inspiration?

So, now what’s your excuse?

It’s all here waiting for you, you just have to decide it’s finally time to do it.   Get signed up for a race, get signed up for our FREE workouts and FREE food tips and you’ll join the 82%.

Sign up, show up, don’t give up!

[Editor's Note: Need extra motivation?  Spartan founders include Guinness World Record Holders, Triple Iron Man finishers, former professional Adventure Racers (AR).  Check out our Founding Few Bio Page to learn more of their incredible stories.]

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by Carrie Adams

With all the trails, mountains, and gnarly terrain we’ve tackled, we’ve yet to take on one landscape – the URBAN jungle!  That’s going to change ONE WEEK from today!  Spartan Race is headed to Times Square!

For the first time, Spartan Race,  will take over New York City’s famed Times Square, not for a race, but a very special public demonstration of the best that Spartan has to offer.  There will be obstacles, some familiar Spartan faces, and even MUD at the famed Crossroads of the World!

Want to come check it out?  The public is welcome to come down and watch elite and local athletes test themselves against our most love (or feared) obstacles and cheer them to victory!  Dubbed The Spartan Race Times Square Challenge, we’ve created an invitational demonstration featuring some of New York’s fittest competitors, some special guests, and, of course, our crazy obstacles.  Thursday, Nov. 1, from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., we’ll be rocking it out at Duffy Square (between 46th and 47th Street), in Manhattan.

Our good friends from Team X-T.R.E.M.E. will be on hand including always inspiring Marine Corporal Todd Love, trimembral amputee

Claude Godbout, Spartan Champion

of both legs above the knee and left arm below the elbow.  Claude Godbout will also be in attendance.  The Olympic bi-athlete from Canada is the only Spartan in our history to win a Spartan Race at every distance we offer!  That’s better than even Hobie Call or Cody Moat can claim!  A Sprint, Super, Beast AND Ultra Beast.  Godbout even headed overseas to Slovakia and took the top spot at our first race there earlier this year!

Other elite Spartans from our 300 group will be taking part in the demonstration alongside some other inspiring Spartans.  John Ulsh, car accident survivor and PA Spartan Super finisher will be one among the lucky 100 who will be showing the crowd some of our most beloved (and feared) obstacles!

For the next week, we’ll be counting down to New York on our blog and Facebook.  There may not be a ceremonious ball drop at the end, but who needs a ball when you have 8 foot walls to climb and traverse?  So, mark your calendars and get ready for some urban Spartan mayhem in the city that never sleeps.  See you at the Crossroads of the World November 1st!

Ready to get off your couch and race with us?  Get after it already!  Click HERE to find an event near you!

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by Carrie Adams

As our Spartan Race 2013 season just kicked off with a Beast in the Carolinas and preparing to head to Fenway in November (we’re not scared of a big Green Monster), we’ve got something special in between!   Where the urban jungle meets primal Spartan… A treasured landmark will be the backdrop to a Spartan demonstration like nothing we’ve done before.   That’s right, Spartan Race is headed to Times Square!

For the first time, Spartan Race,  will take over New York City’s famed Times Square, for a public demonstration of the best that Spartan has to offer.  The public is welcome to come down and watch  elite and local athletes test themselves against our most love (or feared) obstacles and cheer them to victory!  Dubbed The Spartan Race Times Square Challenge, we’ve created an invitational demonstration featuring some of New York’s fittest competitors, some special guests, and, of course, our crazy obstacles.  The date is Thursday, Nov. 1, from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., at Duffy Square (between 46th and 47th Street), in Manhattan.

Think we can’t do mud in Times Square?  Think again.  We sure can.  We’re Spartans after all!   We’ll be joined bysome familiar faces, Team X-T.R.E.M.E. will be on hand with with U.S. Marine Sergeant Jonathan Mozingo, amputee of the left leg below the knee, and Marine Corporal Todd Love, trimembral amputee of both legs above the knee and left arm below the elbow, and spectators will love the opportunity to see it all go down in one of the beloved New York city locations!    No charge for spectators, just head on down and watch it unfold.  There will be plenty of surprises to keep everyone, even the pugil-wielding Gladiators, on their toes!

The week leading up to the event we’ll be counting down to New York on our blog and Facebook.  There may not be a ceremonious ball drop at the end, but who needs a ball when you have 8 foot walls to climb and traverse?  So, mark your calendars and get ready for some urban Spartan mayhem in the city that never sleeps.  See you at the Crossroads of the World November 1st!

Ready to get off your couch and race with us?  Get after it already!  Click HERE to find an event near you!

 

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“We are brothers forged in the fire of commitment, hardened by the hammer of war and sharpened by the stone of honor. By our sword of fortitude and faith, we can conquer all things.” –  Team X-T.R.E.M.E. X-Athlete, Vigilance

Since the dramatic images of Team X-T.R.E.M.E. flooded the internet after the Leesburg, VA Super Spartan, fighting their way through the difficult course, Spartan Race HQ has been inundated with questions about the men and women who donned the blacked out masks.   Their faces hidden and their identities unknown, the team captured the attention of the Spartan community and it spread like wild fire.  Aside from the wounded warrior athletes, the rest of the team are distinguishable only by the call signs stitched into the patches they wear on their arms, and they intend on keeping it that way.  This deliberate anonymity is in recognition of their mission to honor, empower, and motivate wounded warriors and to remain selfless in the process.  With an upcoming appearance in the Carolinas Beast, I spoke with some members of the team behind the mask about what makes them a unit, a team, and ultimately, a family.

Those athlete patches bear designations like Vigilance, Endurance, Justice, Loyalty, and CommitmentSacrifice is the designation for the wounded warrior X-Athletes. These self-selected leadership traits are chosen and embodied by the new team members who endure the Team X-T.R.E.M.E. Warrior INDOC process and are selected as Team X-T.R.E.M.E. X-Athletes.  We recently published a story about call sign “Justice” the lone female who raced with the team on the day of the Leesburg race and chose her call sign because, “So many wounded Veterans from so many generations haven’t seen justice to the extent we wish we could have provided them when they came home.”  She goes on to say, “That one we need to keep in the front of our minds; getting them the support that they deserve and are taken care of by a grateful nation.”

Another Team X-T.R.E.M.E. X-Athlete, a Richmond VA native with the call sign Loyalty, is one of the newer members of the Team.  He survived a devastating motorcycle accident in 2008 and in surviving knew “My whole life changed.  I knew I had to do something with that.”  After completing Team X-T.R.E.M.E. Warrior INDOC and officially joining the team, he chose Loyalty as his call sign because, “Being loyal means that no matter the obstacle, you will be there for your brothers and sisters.  Loyalty brings the team together.”  And the team did come together.  They finished the grueling eight mile course in five and a half hours taking it one obstacle at a time as a unit.  Says Team X member Loyalty, “Knowing you will not be left behind and will never leave a teammate behind, a team will accomplish anything.  No man left behind.  Ever.”  They will need that same attitude to get through the longer Beast course in South Carolina in October.

One of the wounded warrior X-Athletes, call sign “Sacrifice” who also chooses to remain anonymous has no doubt of the team’s success in the Carolinas.  “Together you can do anything.  You can last through anything,” says the 25 year old USMC Sgt.  The Leesburg resident who joined the Marine Corps in 2005 lost his left leg below the knee April 1st 2010 while on patrol in Afghanistan after stepping on a pressure plate IED. After a speedy recovery in Walter Reed’s Ward 57, he took off running and never looked back.

He joined Team X-T.R.E.M.E. in April 2012 and in addition to his Spartan finish, has an XTERRA triathlon finish under his belt.  To him, “Sacrifice doesn’t mean what I’ve already sacrificed but what more I can give to help our wounded warriors.  Whatever happened to me happened.  It’s over.  Now I can help others.”  He’ll be on hand in the Carolinas to support the team in taking on the course.

Team X-T.R.E.M.E. is led by X-Athlete Vigilance, a Marine veteran based out of Richmond, VA.  He is looking forward to the longer Carolinas Beast course with the rest of the team, “We welcome it.” He says.  “The challenges that we accept are indicative of our determination and passion to honor our wounded brethren’s sacrifice.” He explains.  “We take on these events and challenges based on either the opportunity to empower and honor the sacrifice of a wounded warrior or because they have come through our cycle of rehabilitation and now don the gas mask as an icon of overcoming insurmountable odds.  We provide them with a stage to show everyone who witnesses, that they are limitless.  That is simply our method to the madness.” And they’ll be facing several more miles than they conquered in VA. The South Carolina Beast promises to be a tough course for even the most accomplished Spartan.

Of his call sign Vigilance he says simply, “It hits very close to home and defines me.  It’s a fire that started inside of me as a young boy.  As I listened to my fathers account of returning home from Vietnam believing he would be welcomed as a hero, to instead be spit upon and cursed.  He would later work in the wounded warrior ward at the VA and experienced the emotional and physical pain and suffering of men whose country had abandoned them.  All this made a lasting impression on my mind and heart.  At a young age I silently vowed that I would honorably serve my country, that I would remain vigilant and this catastrophe would not repeat itself in my generation.  I would NEVER forget!”  The team has come to represent an elite embodiment of values.  We do not rest in complacency but wish to enact and inspire change and make a difference in the lives of these young warriors.  “Just imagine what people see when these wounded warrior X-Athletes selflessly continue to serve from behind the mask.  People can take solace in that example of physical, mental and emotional fortitude.  If these men and women are limitless, then what excuses do we have?  We will remain vigilant!”

Team X-T.R.E.M.E. will be participating in another Hero Heat in the Carolinas set to kick off at 9:50AM with proceeds from each race registration in this heat going directly towards Team X-T.R.E.M.E. and their ongoing mission.  To be a part of their team on race day and run to support their mission and cause, go HERE and register for their 9:50 heat.  Use the password “teamx” during the registration process.  

The Spartan Race – Carolinas Heroes Heat with Team X-T.R.E.M.E. promises to be an epic and emotional journey through the Beast course.  Team X-T.R.E.M.E. X-Athletes will don their mask along with Marine Cpl. Todd Love and other wounded warriors to show that nothing is impossible through determination and teamwork.  You will be motivated and inspired as you walk, run, crawl and swim alongside them and Team X-T.R.E.M.E. Community Athletes as part of their ongoing mission to honor, empower and motivate our nations wounded patriots.

Check out a gallery of Team X images courtesy of Kevin High Photography HERE.

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by Carrie Adams

Rounding down the hill to the Super Spartan Mid-Atlantic sandbag carry with the Team X-T.R.E.M.E. crew, eleven year old Junior Marine Luke Sliwinski was offered the option to take one of the the lighter 20lb bags in lieu of the men’s 40lb bags that were stacked in piles at the base of a quarter mile loop over halfway through the 10.5 mile course.  He immediately declined the offer with a polite, “No, thank you.” And without another word stooped down, his slim build struggling slightly under the weight, hoisted the bag up to his shoulder, and kept moving forward.

When Luke Sliwinski was five years old, he drew a picture of the twin

photo courtesy of Heather Sliwinski

towers ablaze, an image all too painful and familiar from the morning of September 11, 2001.  Too young to remember it in person, he’d grown up seeing the images and as he drew in the details, he knew that all he wanted was to be a Marine.  At that same tender age of five, he saw an air show demonstration from Marines at a nearby airfield, and was even more determined to join the service.  His mother, Heather, had to explain to the young Sliwinski that he’d have to wait until age eight before he could join the next closest thing – the Junior Marines Program.

According to their website, “The Young Marines is a youth education and service program for boys and girls, ages 8 through completion of high school. The Young Marines promotes the mental, moral, and physical development of its members. The program focuses on character building, leadership, and promotes a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.”

Luke, the youngest of six waited, however impatiently, until he could enlist and the now eleven year old who is about to enter sixth grade holds the rank of Sergeant and calls the Young Marines in his unit brothers. “I am the person I am today because of them.”   And that person is the youngest Spartans to take on our VA Super Spartan course alongside Team X-T.R.E.M.E. last Saturday, August 25th at Morven Park.  He toiled with the team for the 5.5 hours it took to complete finishing every obstacle and taking every step of the 10.5 miles course.  Says his mother Heather, “The accomplishment on Saturday blew me away.”  But her pride extends far beyond the Spartan course.  She goes on to say, “I am most proud of him humbleness through all of this.  He’s the kind of kid that stands up for what is right, even if he’s the only one standing.”

Luke was first introduced to Team X-T.R.E.M.E. and their mission in 2010 when he met USMC Cpl. Todd Love at Walter Reed Medical Center in Ward 57.  Cpl. Love, who also completed the Spartan Race on Saturday, was newly injured having lost both his legs above the knee and his left arm below the elbow in a violent IED explosion in Afghanistan.

Photo courtesy of Heather Sliwinski

Heather Sliwinski recounts the moment that Luke first saw Todd, “Even as a case worker for injured soldiers for six years, to see him that soon after injury took my breath away.  Luke didn’t see it, he just saw a hero. He climbed right up onto the bed with him and started talking.”  That first meeting was an encounter that would turn into a lasting friendship.  ”They call each other brothers,” says Heather.  And what kind of Marine does Sliwinski want to become?  ”A Recon, just like Todd.”

And Luke has not only spent the last seven years visiting wounded veterans at Walter Reed, he’s been raising money for them – nearly $10,000 worth.  And he’s not done.  ”I just want to do more.”  His appearance at the Spartan Race he hopes can draw attention to not only the team he loves, Team X-T.R.E.M.E. but to the work of Operation Ward 57 an organization he is closely connected to personally.  Known as “the amputee ward”, the orthopedic Ward 57 at WRAMC houses some of the most severely injured patients for weeks or even months and is a place that Sliwinski and his family have spent a great deal of time.   His plan until he’s old enough to join is to keep educating kids, raising money, and ultimately joining the Marines when he graduates high school.

Team X-T.R.E.M.E. member Todd Love says of Luke, “Luke has been with me since the beginning of my recovery. He is one of heroes, and we stay in touch with each other. I see him as a little brother but he full of what this country needs more of.”

When asked about how he feels about his heroes of Team X he said, “They are the most amazing people.  What they do, how they treat people.  They just keep fighting, even injured… Freedom isn’t free.”  And of his sandbag carry in Virginia he admits it was his biggest test of the day, the toughest obstacle for him to complete.  ”If they could do it, I didn’t want to let them down.  I didn’t want to take the easy way out.”

Spartan Race offers Kid’s Heats at every US Domestic Event.  Find one near you by clicking HERE and get you and your kids ages 4 – 13 signed up!  Proceeds to to benefit the Kids Fit Foundation

Find Luke Sliwinski on FB HERE.  To find out more about Team X-T.R.E.M.E. click HERE.

To find out more about the Young Marines Program, click HERE.

To find out more about Operation Ward 57, click HERE.

 

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by Carrie Adams

When Team X-T.R.E.M.E. approached the start line, dramatically proceeded by a bagpiper, and followed by members of their community, the crowd couldn’t help but be captivated by the scene.   They moved as a unit almost indecipherable in identity when donning their masks and kits.  With the rest of the festival spectators I watched them silently, and as they filed past me I glanced down and noticed arm patches with a single word on each, a “call sign” derived from the 14 leadership traits that designate the embodiment and symbolism of the mission to that indoctrinated team member.  They are worn by each athlete during the events.  As they passed I saw Endurance, Sacrifice, Vigilance, Honor, and Courage and then, Justice...  I paused when I saw the word.  Powerful and dignified, I was curious to know who had chosen that designation and for what purpose.

Earlier in the week I asked Team X founder Jeremy Soles about the patches.  He explained, “We each wear a name tape indicating our “call sign” on the shoulder of our uniforms.”  He went on to describe how the wounded athletes and the rest of the team are identified.  “In the mask, our Warriors Athletes are always identified as “Sacrifice”.  Out of the mask they are the only ones that we allow to reveal their identity publicly.”

The athletes that support the mission are always kept secret, staging and donning their masks and also de-masking in a private location.  Soles says, “This is keeping with the intent of the focus being on the wounded warrior and their empowerment instead of us as able body athletes.  In the mask we are all a collective, living, and breathing representation of each of these leadership traits.”

When the masks came off and the team entered the festival grounds I was finally able to see the faces of the team members.  Who we’d only known as “Justice” was at the back of the group, the 31 year old veteran of two deployments to OIF in Iraq with the United States Marine Corps was not only physically capable, mentally tough, and committed to the mission, but, I saw for the first time that Team X-T.R.E.M.E. member “Justice” also happens to be female.  The only female that ran with the Team in Virginia.

“Justice”
Photo courtesy of Kevin High Photography

Justice, whose real name will be withheld out of respect for the anonymity of the team and the commitment to their focus on their wounded comrades, has been a member of Team X since January when she went through the INDOC process.  She was asked to join after 48 grueling hours of physical and psychological testing.  The INDOC testing phase was the third and final stage of Team X-T.R.E.M.E.’s intense indoctrination process.  The first step Justice underwent was the submission of a two minute video.  Upon acceptance of the initial video submission there is an invitation to join the athlete community to show a candidate’s dedication to the organization by raising money and awareness.  If proven in the community, the candidates are invited to participate in the Richmond, VA 48 hour test.  The most recent INDOC with seven candidates actually resulted in no new team member invitations, a nod to the difficulty and exclusivity of the process.

Justice not only succeeded, she excelled, and has been a remarkable addition to the team.  For her first Team X event and weighing in at just over 120 pounds she carried 45% of her body weight for 26.2 miles through the New Mexico high desert while wearing a gas mask at the 2012 Bataan Death March.  At the Spartan Race in Leesburg she carried almost 90% of her body weight with wounded warrior athlete USMC Cpl. Todd Love on her back throughout the course rotating with the rest of the male-based team every half mile.  Not once did she miss her turn to carry the weight, not once did she falter or complain.

Justice isn’t a stranger to hard work.  After seeing part of an OCS exercise while interning for a government official, the South Carolina native knew that the Marines was the place for her.  And after joining the summer after 9/11 she ultimately would serve two deployments as a marine officer.  Her first deployment in 2004 was as an Air Support Control Officer near Ramadi, Iraq (Al Anbar province). Her job was to coordinate and direct fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft for troops in contact (air support) and MEDEVACs/CASEVACs.  Her second deployment was in 2006 to Al Qa’im, Iraq, near the Syrian border where she served as an Air Support Element Officer-in-Charge in support of 1st Battalion, 7th Marines.

“It does not make physiological sense how she does it, how she endures…  that is why she is perfect for the Team X-T.R.E.M.E. mission,” says Soles.  “Her actions defy conscious logic and her power source is passion for her wounded brethren.”

When asked about the Spartan Race in Leesburg, VA and the incredible performance of the collective team she said, “You don’t think about it you just do it.  We had the equipment and we had each other.  There was never a point where we couldn’t get it done.  Time wasn’t a consideration, it was completion.  We completed our mission.”

In choosing her call sign, Justice stood out in her mind because of the veterans from past and current generations who haven’t seen the justice she believes they have deserved.  “So many wounded Veterans from so many generations haven’t seen justice to the extent we wish we could have provided them when they came home.”  She goes on to say, “That one we need to keep in the front of our minds; getting them the support that they deserve and are taken care of by a grateful nation.”

She says she was aware of the impact the team had on the crowds as they passed, but that it was emotional on many levels. “There were points where I was more aware of it than other times.” She paused, “When Todd climbed up the hill… and with everyone around the start and finish.  Hearing the cheering, the kids waving at us, people watching us pass by…  that by itself was exciting and motivating.  I wish I could take it all in, but it was almost sensory overload.”

Photo courtesy of Kevin High Photography

Justice will be back in the mask in a couple weeks at the Heartbreak Ridge half marathon at Camp Pendleton.   Her day job keeps her on the move as well so she strives for balance as she supports the team and the wounded warrior athletes.  Married to a former Naval officer, she stays active in her off time and is humble about what she’s done and will continue to do with her dedication to the mission of the Team.

Soles sums it up best when speaking of Justice, “Like the rest of the team, when pain veils itself over her, it is then that she finds the core of our mission and endures with one intent:  To honor the sacrifice of wounded warriors and to set a precedent that will be contagious to all who bear witness. ”

Photo courtesy of Kevin High Photography

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by Carrie Adams

The plane in the sky was hardly visible in the clouds, but circling overhead was 30 year old double amputee Sgt. Noah Galloway and he was less than 60 seconds away from a tandem parachute landing in the Spartan Festival grounds to kick off the first ever Spartan Heroes Heat.

The jumpers came in hot, just past a small tree line in an open field, a dramatic beginning to what would be an inspired day of racing.  Galloway immediately left an impression on the eager crowd.  Galloway was introduced to the Spartan community in a prior blog post , you can read more about his story HERE.

The 30 year old Alabama native is missing two limbs, his left arm above the elbow and his leg above the knee.  He would be the first ever Spartan Racer to parachute his way into the race but when he landed, in the open field in Leesburg, VA he wasn’t alone.  A team was waiting, Team X-T.R.E.M.E., a group of incredible individuals that includes Sgt. Jonathan Mozingo, amputee of the left leg below the knee and United States Marine, Cpl. Todd Love, trimembral amputee of both legs above the knee and left arm below the elbow.  In addition to the three wounded warrior athletes, the team had an additional five members including Team X-T.R.E.M.E. founder, Jeremy Soles who had a bagpiper usher them over to the start line for their heat.

No loud music blasted for the start, and the normal speech to pump up the athletes was a replaced by a simple quote about service, dedication, and gratitude and an acknowledgement of what was about to take place.  Over the course of the next 10.5 miles and nearly 5 and a half hours, Galloway, Love, Mozingo, Soles and the others would battle the course alongside  warrior athletes, community members, volunteers, and other Spartans who took part in the historic heat.

USMC Cpl. Todd Love

Team X-T.R.E.M.E. is not stranger to endurance challenges.  The team is actually a non-profit organization with an ongoing mission to Honor, Empower and Motivate our nation’s wounded heroes and it was started by Jeremy Soles, a United States Marine Corps and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran.  Known for donning blacked out gas masks for endurance events that restrict 25 – 30% of oxygen intake, Team X-T.R.E.M.E. completed the brutalizing 10.5 mile course and all the obstacles on Saturday.  With over 75 obstacles to speak of, it was no small task.  The gas masks are worn as a symbol of encouragement and inspiration for their fellow wounded brethren and to honor the sacrifice of our nation’s wounded veterans.  The venue in Leesburg, VA is a unique location, normally reserved for horse racing, but it wasn’t horses that were unleashed on the landscape this weekend, it was people who would ultimately hurdle, climb, crawl and run their way to the finish line.

The course was rugged and muddy, each obstacle posing a unique challenge to the team who took turns carrying Team X-T.R.E.M.E. member, USMC Cpl. Todd Love who weighs in around 100 pounds.  Love was carried throughout the course but regularly completed obstacles solo including a heroic hill climb near the halfway point of the race, the cargo nets and rope climbs.  Love is a 22 year old Marine who in August of 2010 nearly lost his life and all but one of his limbs in a devastating explosion in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.  He would not only battle back from his injuries on the battlefield, but set out to push himself in all things physical, proving that overcoming obstacles isn’t just something you attempt, it’s something that you embrace.

From hoisting cinder blocks, to wall climbs, cargo nets, spear throwing and taking on the infamous finish line gladiators wielding pugil sticks, the team ensured that each member of the team completed the obstacle before moving forward, always together.  Another notable addition to the group was Junior Marine, Luke Slowinsky.  Soft spoken and polite at his eleven years of age, Slowinsky will one day join the Marine Corps, but currently raises money and awareness for wounded warriors as a sign of respect and admiration.  He also completed the 10.5 miles alongside his heroes and earned his Super Spartan finisher medal.

Spectators, racers, staff, and volunteers gathered to watch the team work their way through the course and the images of the athletes completing the obstacles was inspired, humbling, and a reminder of all the reasons why so many of us run; for reasons that are bigger than ourselves.  When the team was nearly finished, a crowd had gathered and more would come and congregate near the finish line where they would ultimately cross the same way they began, as a team.  As the team rushed the finish line and medals were placed around their necks, there was a roar of cheers and clapping from the festival grounds.  Many faces were lined with tears.

Leading the final charge at the finish was Galloway, Love, and Mozingo, now soaked and dirty, their gas masks speckled with mud earned on the course.  After rinsing off and demasking, the team entered the festival grounds and thanked the crowd who had remained to shake their hands, offer encouragement, and thank them for their service.   In an unexpected twist, Jeremy Soles, alongside Team X-T.R.E.M.E. presented Spartan HQ with a hand carved log with the names or their wounded warrior athletes in the side, a physical reminder that will reside in Spartan HQ in Vermont, and will undoubtedly make rounds up and down the training mountain with our founders and staff.  Our way of honoring the such a gift.

Mike Morris graciously accepted the gift saying, “You have all honored us with your presence here today.  There isn’t much we can say that you guys didn’t show out there on the course.  There wasn’t a dry eye out there when you guys went by.  Thank you for all you do.”

Masks removed, the men (and one woman) are revealed to be mortal, not the superheroes that seems far more likely.  Humble and gracious, they spent the remainder of the day with the people who were so touched by what they accomplished.  And at the end of the race we all were moved and inspired by what we saw, and what they accomplished.  And the words that were uttered just before they began seemed even more true now, “This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, not matter the odds or consequences.  When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself lie a tree besides the river of truth, and tell the whole world – no, you move.”

What are you waiting for?  Find an event and get signed up TODAY.  If you want to learn more about Team X-T.R.E.M.E., their mission, and support their cause, visit their FB page or websitehttp://www.team-x-treme.org/.  For information about Warrior Athlete Noah Galloway, visit his FB page or his website, www.noahgalloway.com.  To learn more about Todd Love, visit his FB page.  Find more photos of the Heroes Heat HERE on the Spartan Race Facebook page.

[Editor’s Note: Rarely does a story resonate so deeply and touch so many as the story of Team X-T.R.E.M.E.’s involvement in Saturday’s Leesburg, VA Super Spartan Race.  Personally, I was so thankful to bear witness to such a heroic feat by such remarkable men and women.  Weeks of preparation came together in an open field in a non-descript part of our racing venue in front of thousands of waiting spectators.  From start to finish, the feats of heroism demonstrated by the team and their community were monumental.  Spartan Race was honored to host Team X-T.R.E.M.E. and their warrior athletes and community for the first ever Heroes Heat where warrior athletes ran alongside Spartan runners.  Spartan Race has long been dedicated to the armed forces and the men and women who serve and protect.  We look forward to the inclusion of more Heroes Heats in upcoming Spartan Races and we wish to thank Team X-T.R.E.M.E. for gracing our event with their presence, for their positive message of support, inspiration, and courage and for joining our community of athletes and our Spartan Race family.  We will never be the same for what we witnessed on the course in Leesburg, and we will also never forget.]

 

 

 

 

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