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!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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.]

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , ,