“On February 16th 2011, I had open heart surgery and a single bypass to resolve my aortic aneurysm and a nearly closed artery.”

Steven Ramirez matter-of-factly drops this bombshell like his reeling of items on his grocery shopping list. No big deal. All joking aside, the resident of Brooklyn, New York spent a long time battling with health issues. Even as a child, the signs were there.

“Ever since the 4th grade, I was a chubby kid. Throughout my childhood I was made fun of a lot by classmates, friends with their jokes, turned down plenty of times by girls”, he chuckles.

“In sports I was never chosen first or seen as competitor. Sports was more disappointing to me because I love playing baseball and football so I obviously wanted to be great at it, but couldn’t be since I was overweight and had no speed.  Plus I was never taken seriously as a player. For example, when I would come to bat and get a hit, the other players would slowly throw the ball to base since I couldn’t run fast. This went on from 4th grade all the way to mid-2009. I always attempted to diet and work out but it never worked for me. I would end up giving up or seeing no results at all.”

“Around mid 2009, a close friend introduced me to a video work out program,” he informs us. Skeptical at first, but willing to try, his friend did the workouts with him. Embracing all manner of workouts from cardio to weights, CrossFit routines, even yoga and stretching. Steven went through this regime for 6 days a week while also taking a long hard look at what he was eating and drinking.

“I started eating whole wheat bread, 2% milk, non-sugary cereal, no sweets and tried maintaining my daily calorie count below 2000. Within half a year of the videos and the diet, I began to drop the weight like water. I went from a size 40 waist to 38 waist to 36 waist straight to a 32 waist in pants! Size small to medium in tops.  The hardest work-out in program for me was, believe it or not, the Yoga since it was around 90 minutes, but the first 30 minutes was not your typical yoga. What I enjoyed about the program is it was all indoors and cost efficient since I didn’t have to pay for a gym membership.”

Ascending aortic aneurysm

Before he began this regime, Steven saw a cardiologist because of a situation with a high blood pressure. Despite the weight loss, the pressure remained the same. Through this doctor, it was later discovered that Steven had an aortic aneurysm. In December 2010, the aneurysm grew to 5cm which required open heart surgery. This news shocked Steven to his core.

“In January 2011, I met with heart surgeon Dr. Paul Stelzer at Mount Sinai hospital in Manhattan for a consultation to review my medical record. He sent me to have a CT chest scan with dye that revealed I also needed a single bypass. My surgery took place Wednesday, February 16th, 2011 done by Dr Stelzer himself. I was told the surgery took approx. 9 hours. I woke up the next day at 7:30am without even realizing the surgery was done. I was at Mount Sinai hospital for 6 nights and 7 days when I was finally discharged. I couldn’t walk for the first 2 days due to the anesthesia from the surgery and needed assistance in every aspect. I’d never stayed overnight at a hospital before and I was home-sick. The food was ok but I couldn’t get any sleep since I was uncomfortable and the nurses kept waking me up for blood drawing.”

After being discharged, Steven was ordered to stay at home to rest for 3 months. During this time he couldn’t bend or even lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk. This sedentary lifestyle was forced upon him. Regular check ups followed and Steven was given a clean bill of health. More importantly he was given the all-clear to resume his “normal” life with the promise that everything would have to be slow and easy to start with.

“Once my 3 months were done, I started back work and also I began to slowly begin working out with only walking and fast-pace walking. One month later I added a 12lb weight vest to my fast-pace walk. I still had a hard time though. Honestly, it took me about a year after my 3 month recovery was done to start doing a lot of push-ups and adding weights to my routine.”

Then, in March 2013, life took a turn towards something that would change everything. His brother-in-law expressed interest in running the Citifield Spartan Race, but didn’t want to do it alone. Afraid of asking Steven – given his heart condition – he was a little stuck. Much to his surprise, Steven upped the ante. Not satisfied with a race that he considered “too short”, Steven told his brother-in-law to register the pair of them for the Tri-State Sprint. He wanted the fire, the mud, the punishment. He wanted to see what his limitations were.

“On June 8, 2013, I entered into the Tri-State Spartan Race. It was definitely what I expected: tough! The tape was pulled back and we began. The first right turn I made there was a pressurized water hose running over rocks and I fell! I knew right there that this was not going to be easy. I felt that endurance was key to finishing the race successfully. While waiting for my heat time, I saw muscular people struggling through the course and the lean, petite participants just running through the course with no issue. The hardest part of the course was maintaining your stamina. I mean, the 7 and 8 foot walls were hard, but making it up and down that wet muddy terrain at a steady pace was not easy at all. I thought that running the course from start to finish was impossible because you are going through incline and declines of rough terrain while completing obstacles. The walls were crazy since I am only 5 ’2 facing 7 to 8 foot walls.”

But Steven made it. Like there was ever any doubt.

Knowing that others would read his words, Steven quickly issues a rallying call for those who doubt themselves. Pausing only to collect his thoughts, he points out that the undoable is in fact a myth.

“If you are a person sitting there watching ads, commercials, reading all about the Spartan Race thinking ‘this is not for me, I can’t complete that’, just think that a guy called Steven Ramirez crossed the finish line 2 years after having open heart surgery. If you compete with a purpose in the Spartan Race instead of thinking about finishing first, you will finish the race with no problem. Nothing is impossible. Get up, push yourself, and become a SPARTAN! It is an amazing feeling, but you can only know when you cross the finish line!”

Want to experience what Steven did? Sign up at spartanrace.com for your own chance at glory.

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by Carrie Adams

I received an email from Jen Rosant, the team captain of Gaspari’s Team Braveheart, and I wanted to share it with the Spartan Race community for a few reasons.  First, I know Jen personally and she is one of the most remarkable women I’ve ever met.  A survivor in every sense of the word, a motivator of the masses, and a living embodiment of the best of what Spartan is about.  Not new to Spartan Races, Jen has brought a team with her, her beloved Bravehearts, in bigger and bigger droves race to race.  When the weather was falling apart in New Jersey, when the hills were breaking the toughest of Spartan competitors, and when the miles weighed long and hard on the competitors last weekend, Jen was still powering forward, still motivating, still inspiring her team, many of whom were racing for the first time that day.

Jen Rosant

Jen Rosant, team leader of the Bravehearts is a 35 year old from Cliffwood Beach, NJ was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis ten years ago while in college and received the devastating news that her colon was in danger of rupturing or she would develop cancer that would ultimately kill her.  She suffered from kidney stones, received blood transfusions and had major surgery that showed she had developed PSC or Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis.  She had a colostomy bag and a promise of a liver transplant for over three months until they could finally reverse the process.  She took painstaking visits to the hematologist for over two years every week spending hours in a chair getting IVs of chemotherapy and injections for cancer-related anemia. She ultimately faced a new diagnosis of Chrohn’s disease and despite the trauma, she’s been lucky enough to NOT need a liver transplant.

Jen, a member of Team Gaspari alongside her Bravehearts, has been taking Gaspari Nutrition products herself and has never felt better or been in better shape.  She’s able to do upwards of 35 events in one year – that’s pretty impressive for someone who weighed in at 100 pounds a few short years ago.  It’s just one of the many reasons why we love our partnership with Gaspari Nutrition.

They conquered the Spartan Race course that day, led by Jen, committed to one another and committed to finishing the course they’d been training for and they found their Spartan finish line.  We honor them, their accomplishment on race day, their dedication to training and to one another and we thank them for being an integral part of the fabric that makes up the tapestry of our Spartan community.

Here is her email:

Hello Carrie.

I cannot even begin to explain the impact that Spartan Race has created for Team Braveheart.  I have been contacted by each individual. They laughed, they cried, they shared their stories of triumph.  More importantly, we changed their lives.  They are making new goals, registering for more Spartans and they are begging me for more workouts in my Braveyard. The energy is high, the smiles are large and right now Team Braveheart feels like they can accomplish anything. Really, your team put together a challenge I couldn’t even imagine. Even with a few handfuls of events under my belt, this was one of the most difficult challenges to date. Yes, pinch me, I’m living a dream. I feel fantastic and so does my team. It’s contagious. Our posts, pictures and videos have not only inspired all of us but the people around us are ready to make changes too. Today, 4 people asked me about Spartan Race.  The words on the street, the fire is in their eyes, people are ready, and they are ready for real results and happiness.  The amount of letters, calls and texts are unbelievable.  I promise you this, you will see Team Braveheart again, you will see them at many of your events, but next year’s Tri-State you better get us a bigger tent, I plan on bringing 100+ Bravehearts with a larger drive than this year.  “If you don’t believe us, try and beat us” 

Jen Rosant.  

Jen’s Motivational Speech

Read Jen’s post about their experience HERE: Team Braveheart comes LOUD.


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by Carrie Adams 

As a co-editor of a blog like Spartan’s we are lucky enough to get emails from our community about what inspires them to run.  More often than not, the stories are not about the ones contacting us at all, instead, they opt to tell us the story of fellow Spartans and how they themselves have been inspired by another.  I recently received an email from Jen Morgan who along with Sam Stark and her husband David Morgan met a fifteen year old boy named James at the Tri-State Super Spartan (his first race) and his heroic finish of the race. 

The Super Spartan, one of our most brutal to date, was James’ first obstacle race and even as he struggled through the course, the debilitating burpee penalties, and the worsening weather conditions, James managed to find it inside himself to finish the race and claim his Super Spartan medal and the pride that only Spartan finishers know.  

For those who witnessed his efforts, it was humbling and inspiring.  So, here, in Sam, Jen and David’s words is the story of James, the relentless young Spartan. 

James recently turned 15, and has never done any obstacle course… ever.  He chose the Tri-State Super (the mother of all Super Spartans) to be his first race.  We met James early Saturday morning as our team was sitting down in the festival area stretching and waiting for our start time.  A woman asked if anyone had a sharpie marker.  She was James’ mother, and visibly worried about her son’s decision to take this race on. A teammate offered up a marker and started up a conversation with this mom and her young son.

He was obviously new to the sport.  He had on a gray cotton tee shirt, shorts, no camel back, energy bars, or energy gels. She told us that he was racing alone and had never done an OCR before. It was at that moment that our teammate told the worried looking mom, “He will race with us.”   And so it was!   Our group snatched him up and stayed with him for the entire race.   His performance was nothing short of amazing.  Not once did he complain, whine, say that he wasn’t going to make it, or say he wanted to quit.  He was excited about the cliff jump and jumped off the 24 foot jump without hesitation.

At the pancake carry he struggled but never once gave up and only accepted just enough help to get him through it.    At the monkey bars he fell after a few rungs.   He was told to complete his burpees.  Wide-eyed he asked us innocently, “how do I do a burpee?”

The hill climbs were brutal.  Grown muscle men were lying on the ground, dropping like flies around him, but James kept going.  Putting one foot in front of the other, he just got the job done.  When we rounded the corner and saw the cargo net attached to the trees the look of excitement on his face was priceless.  When one of our group member’s legs cramped up and had to rest, he sat down next to him and waited with the rest of us to make sure he was ok.

The weather was also deteriorating quickly around us.  When the storms rolled in with the thunder and lightning, he was only worried that he would not have the opportunity to finish.  We had already gone 10 miles and only had one mile left to go.  He was determined to finish and wouldn’t let anyone or weather conditions stop him at this point.   It was the most inspirational, and motivational thing we have seen in a long time.   His mother was able to see him at the last of the obstacles that were open.  She was beaming with pride.

James crossed the finish line in just over seven hours. What did he do after?  He commits to running Super Spartan in NJ again next year and the Tri State Sprint in Tuxedo with his mom in 2013.  A true Spartan! James Signed Up! Showed Up! And Never Gave Up!

*Photos by Sam Stark and Denise Byrne

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by Carrie Adams

10,000 competitors and spectators from across the U.S. and several foreign countries representing every walk of life, age and stage and varying degrees of athletic abilities converged on Mountain Creek Waterpark (200 Route 94, Vernon, N.J.) to tackle the Super Spartan 8-mile obstacle race, presented by Dial For Men and Gaspari Nutrition on Sat., September 8 and Sun., September 9, 2012.

Team Braveheart

This race was hardly normal even in the Spartan world.  The theme seemed to be hills and water – the water coming by way of the course and the skies!   In the week leading up to the race, there were several bear sightings by the build crew and as the race edged closer, the weather reports indicated that it would be a story weekend of races.  Let’s talk about the course itself… 11 miles long and with over 3,000 feet of elevation gain over the grueling course it was not for the faint of heart.  Touted as one of our most challenging Supers of all time, the course spanned three mountains, the fastest time of the weekend clocking in at 1:47.  That’s almost 10 minutes per mile indicating the course difficulty.

Our friends at Gaspari Nutrition were on-hand in a big way.  Coming with their Team Gaspari Braveheart crew, of over 77 individuals they represented one of the largest teams of the year at a Spartan Race.  We told you about their story in a blog post last week leading up to the race.  Gaspari has been a sponsorship partner for Spartan Race throughout 2012 and Official Gaspari Nutrition® has handed out over 50,000 FREE drawstring mesh bags to our racers throughout the year with samples of their products.  We’ll have more on them later this week!

Jim Miller, UFC fighter and Sparta, New Jersey native who we told you about last week in this post, also made an appearance at the epic race.  He competed with the 10 A.M. heat and taking on all eleven miles with  a smile and a sense of humor, even joking on Twitter about taking the infamous 24 foot cliff dive instead of burpees!  The cliff dive was a notable part of the course this year.

There was another Spartan first, a “Tornado delay” brought by a massive storm system in the Northeast.  The tornado inducing storms struck Saturday, forcing some of the racers in later heats to leave the course early, one obstacle Spartan Races did NOT plan.  Despite the wild weather, what is being called a mini-Beast course, as well as the bear sightings, the 3,000 feet of elevation, and the 24″ free fall into a waiting pool, the Spartan Race was deemed a huge success.

September 8th Storm Cloud
Photo courtesy of NJ.com

Huge thank you to our brave and awesome volunteers!  We can’t put on our races without you!   Also, a big thanks to our other sponsors for the Tri-State Super: Air National Guard, Inov8, Newton Medical Center, Franklin Sussex Auto Mall & Dodge RAM, Zico, and Body Armor.

Looking for results: Click HERE.

Photos from Race Day?  Here are two FB photo albums.

Super Spartan Tri-State: Saturday Race Day

Super Spartan Tri-State: Sunday Race Day

Your FREE Race day images coming soon from our friends at Nuvision Action Image.  

Can’t wait to race again?  We understand.  Click HERE and find your next Spartan finish line.

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by Carrie Adams

Team Braveheart, a Team Gaspari crew, is heading to New Jersey for yet another Spartan Race.  When Team Braveheart shows up, you KNOW it’s going to be a good time!  Rolling 77 deep this time around, they are one of our largest teams in 2012 and we’re excited to have them take on our super course, that in recent days has had several black bear sightings!  Yikes!  Talk about being brave!  They’ll have company in their ten o’clock heat, UFC fighter Jim Miller will also be taking on the Spartan course.  We told you all about his home state appearance in a blog post earlier this week.

Gaspari has been a sponsorship partner for Spartan Race throughout 2012 and Official Gaspari Nutrition® has handed out over 50,000 FREE drawstring mesh bags to our racers throughout the year with samples of their products. We’ve seen people fill these bags with sand or rocks and use in their workouts. We’ve seen Spartans use them as a place to carry their gym clothes or muddy shoes after a race!  They’ll be on hand as a title sponsor in the Tri-State and we couldn’t be happier about it.

Here Jen Rosant, coach of Team Braveheart talks about how they are feeling going into this weekend’s Super Spartan event.

With only one day remaining before the Spartan Race, Team Braveheart is fired up and more lively than I have ever seen them!  For many, we have been training for over a year.  For some, this will be their first obstacle race.  The excitement and anticipation in the air is thick, but the real magic lies in our enthusiasm. It’s the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment. This team is ready for one of the biggest challenges of our lives!  We are ready to take on our fears. We are ready to conquer the mud, fire and extreme ice cold mountain water. 

The Spartan folks are creative and we know they will design the most intense battlefield. We have been working extremely hard and we are ready to test our physical strength and mental resolve. We come large. We come loud! We come as a beast of a team!  Boasting a squad of 77+ Bravehearts, I plan on leading them through an experience which will only improve their vision, patience, persistence, courage and confidence.

Braveheart Danielle said, “I’m so ready for this Saturday, I’m a little scared but I know my team will pump me up and get me through this. I’m doing every obstacle, I don’t care if I fall, I’m getting back up and finishing!”

Being a part of Team Braveheart has been an amazing experience for many members.  “To be a Braveheart means that not only do you have the fortitude to try something new and challenging, but it means that you have a family of support right behind you to give you that extra push, high-five and that extra drive when you hear the Braveheart chant,” said Braveheart Jared.

Braveheart Greg says, “Being a Braveheart means to have an attitude and strength like no other. It has changed my life for the better. I see so many Bravehearts who never accept defeat and they always finish. I have learned so much.” Braveheart Manda said, “Being a part of Braveheart makes you a better person, not just athletically, but because you cannot help but be a kinder, gentler, more determined individual. Positivity radiates throughout this amazing group and anyone who encounters us is moved and affected in a way that has been described as life changing.”

Bravehearts push each other, motivate, inspire and genuinely care for each other. It reads in their eyes but most importantly you can see it out on the course. The Super Spartan Race is a challenge we have prepped for and are anxious to accomplish.  Braveheart Dave B said, “This race is another chance to push the limits, to change the routine and up the ante.” Team Braveheart faces daily challenges every day and they do not let anything get in their way. Braveheart Bryant was told he may never walk again after he was attacked by a metal baseball bat in college and spent 2 months in a coma. He has 14 plates in his head and many other terrible ailments, but today his perseverance and involvement with Team Braveheart has given him the extra drive to compete in his 2nd Spartan Race.  He told me, “I’m excited for Spartan; I can’t believe it’s been a year, I’m stronger, faster and I get the chance to race against younger, stronger and faster athletes. I’m looking forward to testing myself against the best and break through my own walls.” Braveheart Jeanette said, “Defeat is not an option, not for myself or any of my teammates, it means I will give more than I got.”

Just to cross the finish line is the main goal for most of the team.  To wear the finisher medal proudly will mean the world to most.  Braveheart Ivette said, “This Spartan Race will be my first race and definitely not my last.  I am excited and anxious to put my physical abilities to the test. I am doing this for me because I want it and because I can! I want to inspire my kids to be active, fit and healthy.” Braveheart Mechelle said, “The greatest challenge for me this year at Spartan will be those obstacles challenging my upper body strength but I’m confident with our Braveheart trainings and Gaspari Nutrition’s amazing products I will improve and finish with a higher level of achievement than I did last year. I can’t wait to run with our team, the energy is going to be ridiculous.”  Braveheart Jayson said, “The Spartan Race is the one race I look forward to every year.  I can’t wait to be with my team, my family!  I’m excited for the atmosphere, the challenges, the uncertainty and of course the beer!”

Team Braveheart is coming fierce! Together, we work towards creating positive change in one another every day of our lives. It’s not just about fitness. It’s about self-worth, integrity, passion, inspiration and the drive to live strong.  We were born to take on The Spartan and blessed to have found one another to take on the battle with!  You’ll see us Saturday braving our red and black proud… and when you hear that Braveheart warrior cry, find security knowing you are surrounded by some of the most incredible people you could ever encounter! We’ll see you out there!  Be brave enough to recognize your strengths and take on your challenges!  Go Team Braveheart!

Team Braveheart will be warming up and cooling down at the Official Gaspari Nutrition® tent which will be located near the Finish Line. Be sure to stop by their tent, meet their team and check out some of the products available at the Gaspari tent! See you this weekend!







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by Carrie Adams

Jim Miller
Photo courtesy of KOreps

If you hale from Sparta, NJ like UFC light-weight fighter Jim Miller, it would seem almost necessary to find your way to a Spartan Race start line.  And Jim Miller is doing just that!  When I asked the 28 year-old fighter who holds a 21-4-0 record why he wanted in on the Obstacle Racing scene, he said, “These types of races have always intrigued me.   It sounds like a fun challenge.”   Not one to shy away from a new adventure, the race is something he still admits is outside his normal.  ”It will be a fun test and something that is probably going to beat me up!”  And beating up Miller is no easy task.  He has 12 of his wins coming by submission and three by knockout.  With eight of his last ten fights resulting in a win, he’s about as tough as they come.

The location of the race also appealed to Miller.  The fighter will be in his home state of New Jersey to take on the Super Spartan Race in Vernon, NJ at Mountain Creek Waterpark September 8th.   Spartan courses are known for brutal hills, barbed wire, fire jumping, wall climbing, sandbag carrying… not exactly the kind of opponents Miller is used to squaring off against.   So how does a UFC fighter train for a Spartan Race?  ”More miles,” says Miller.  “Four, five, or six miles before my normal training.”

The mileage is a good strategy given the grueling course distance of roughly eight miles in the ski slopes, not to mention the 20 or more obstacles he can expect.   “The distance traveled is my biggest concern,” says Miller.  ”I’ve been running a lot before workouts and it feels good.”  However unknown the course and longer distance, Miller,  who says that in recent years he has developed into more of a sprinter type, is still confident about his performance in the event.  ”I think the all-around athleticism to be a well-rounded fighter is going to help; the ability to do physical things for an extended period of time.”

He’s also excited to interact with some of his fans. “MMA fans are doers,” says Miller.  ”There aren’t many sports where fans actually go out and do what the athletes are doing.  MMA fans do.”   And those fans will get to see Miller take on the infamous hills of the ski slopes and imposing obstacles that Spartan is ready to serve up.  The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt known for his choke techniques has a few nerves.  ”I know there will be hills,” he laughs.  ”That’s going to hurt.”

In addition to his race, Miller, whose fight calendar is currently open is hoping for a fight by the end of the year.  But the Spartan Race is giving him plenty to think about.  When told about the global rankings and chip timing that Spartan Race boasts as part of our World Class level of racing he said simply, “That’s what I like to hear.”

Want to join UFC Fighter Jim Miller in the Tri-State Super Spartan Race?  Get signed up today by clicking HERE.


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by Carrie Adams

PB090327 (2)All kinds of women are taking on the Spartan challenge for the first time in 2012.  Moms, daughters, grandmothers, sisters, friends, wives, and girlfriends are heading out to have some fun in the mud and take on something new.  Renee Diaz is joining the movement.  Diaz is a full-time model and actress living in New York City.  The stunning brunette also teaches yoga, loves fashion and art, and at age 30 decided she take on a new challenge in the form of a Spartan Race!   She will be participating in the Tri-State New York Sprint June 2nd.   Says Diaz, “I try to live a healthy and happy life and never take things for granted.  I like to keep things easy-breezy.”

Diaz saw Spartan Race coverage and mentioned it to her husband who jumped at the idea and they signed up together with two of their friends.  She loves taking on new challenges and racing a Spartan certainly fits the bill.   PB060329 (2)

The athletic Diaz is running three times a week and practicing hot yoga three times a week to prepare.  Living and working in NYC has her on her feet walking and on the go so she feels like she will be as prepared as possible on race day.  When asked what she’s most looking forward to she laughed, “Beating my husband!  Just kidding!” 

Though quick to laugh she says, she has a few small fears.  “I guess failure scares me, but I am a true believer that our mind prevents us from accomplishing our goals.”  With her friends and family by her side, she’s positive and excited about the experience. 

PB060323 copy (2) “Humans are incredibly resilient creatures, there’s not much we cannot do.”  

Renee hopes more women get out on the Spartan Race courses in 2012.  “Some of the greatest athletes in the world are women. I think its so important for woman to follow their desires and to never lose sight of their dreams.”  

To find out more about Renee follow these links:




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