All those stories you hear about the course at Vermont are true. There’s a reason Spartan Race’s home is in the mountains of Killington. There are runs and there are trails and that’s all very cute, but when it comes to the absolute premier place to really test your mettle, the Beast – and of course, the Ultra Beast – in Joe De Sena’s back yard is where you need to come.

As such, this is why the World Championship race is such a special event. The course, when running it, feels like it makes absolutely no sense. Why are you constantly going upwards? The laws of physics state that surely at some point, you have to go down? But it never feels that way. Almost the entire course is on either an incline or a minimal decline, which further begs the question, how the heck is there a lake in the middle of it? Yes, you’ll get wet. Why are you surprised? This is not a jolly 5K. Look out for one of the hardest obstacles on the circuit there. You’ll know it when you see it. Don’t worry, there’s a burpee station not far away. Get comfortable, you’ll be there a while.

Also be prepared for everything to be scaled up just a notch or two. Everything will seem longer, heavier or colder. There’s a reason for that. But is it actually that way, or are the mountains playing with you? Remember that mental resilience is every bit as important as physical strength.

The World Championship Race will naturally attract the finest trail runners, speed hikers and even Olympic athletes to the event. With people from England, Australia, Germany, Russia, Slovakia, Italy and numerous other countries all vying for the enormous prize pool, it’s easy to understand why this event is the carrot dangling on the end of a very long, painful and punishing stick. No pain, no gain, right?

With the biggest, BADDEST Beast of the year comes the biggest cash prize purse in all of Obstacle Racing! The Vermont hosted World Championship Beast will award over $300,000 in cash prizes. Top Male and Female Finishers, Top Points in the Series, and Age Group awards will be dispersed to those who earn the spotlight for their accomplishments.

Get out there and claim your stake! The awards will be grand and that feeling when you cross the finish line even grander.

You won’t want to miss this! See you at the World Championship finish line.

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by Carrie Adams

Our Top Ten Blog Posts of 2012 span a variety of topics.  Yesterday, we introduced you to #10, a blog by our own Chris Davis who left Atlanta and came to Spartan HQ in Pittsfield, VT to live, work, and train with our staff and founder Joe Desena.  He lost over 400 pounds and completed the Spartan Beast, and earned his Trifecta Tribe status.  No small feat!  In today’s recap of post #9 we revisit something that has made Spartan obstacles famous (errr, maybe infamous is a better word.)

In a word: Burpee.

Missing a Spartan Obstacle doesn’t mean that you just mosey on your merry way, it means that you owe 30 burpees before you are to continue.  Here, our very own Dr. Jeff goes over the Muscular Analysis of the burpee.   If you don’t know Dr. Jeff, you should.  He’s greatly responsible for the success of the Chris Davis Project and is also leading the charge on the Spartan Coaching program.  He also routinely participates in the Spartan Death Race, because, well, that’s what happens when you work for Spartan Race.

From the drop to the ground through each phase of the movement, the body positions are described in detail to ensure that from the elite athlete to the newcomer, everyone can see the proper form associated with the burpee.

Read more HERE.

Interested in coaching the Spartan Way?  Click HERE to learn more.  Finally ready to get signed up?  Click HERE. 

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by Carrie Adams

With an epic year of racing in the books, we are recounting some of the biggest stories of the year.  Let’s start with post #10!  How about a story about a guy who lost over 400 pounds and reclaimed his life, conquered a beast, and earned his membership into the Trifecta Tribe?   We are talking about the one and only Chris Davis.  His story inspired thousands.  To see his journey, watch this video. 

From the original post:

Every day Spartan Race HQ gets emails and phone calls with success stories of our athletes getting off their couches and getting healthy preparing for a Spartan Race.  Untold pounds have been lost, new levels of health and well-being found by those who embrace a healthy Spartan lifestyle.  Every so often one of those stories strikes a chord so deep, we are compelled to tell it completely.  One of those stories is in motion now, and we are going to keep sharing updates of a man who has turned to Spartan to change his life forever.

We met Chris Davis in Georgia where he finished the race in 3:04, and at 390 pounds.  Struggling across the finish line and exhausted, Spartan staffers helped him to his car and he headed home.  But that is not where this journey begins and it’s nowhere near over.

Chris started his Journey at 696 pounds. in 2010, he heard of the Spartan Race and started losing weight.   We got in touch with him and moved him to Spartan HQ. He is currently down 300 pounds from his starting weight with the help of the Spartan Race motivation.

Spartan Race staff, including founder Joe Desena are attempting to get him to 180 pounds by September a loss of an additional 200 pounds over the next 5 months.  In his own words, he’ll share his journey on the Spartan blog.  Here is his first entry.

To read the blog in it’s entirety, click HERE.  And stay tuned for another top blog post from 2012!

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Introduction and Closure by Carrie Adams

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

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

Hobie’s first Spartan Video, SoCal 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When Hurricane Irene descended on the East coast and ravaged Spartan HQ in Pittsfield, VT and nearby Killington, VT where the recent Spartan Beast race was held, it was clear that the stranded town needed help. Help came in the form of the Air National Guard and along with 14 other towns, they were airlifted supplies and supplied necessities as the roads were being repaired to allow access into the battered towns.

A week after post-Irene flooding crippled arterial roads through the state, the Vermont National Guard’s Task Force Green Mountain Spirit led a multi-state effort to support civil authorities helping residents and reconnecting cut-off communities with the rest of the world.

The ironic twist is the relationship that Spartan Race has with the Air National Guard. They are one of our biggest supporters and sponsors and we want to give them some love!

In addition to the heroics on the East coast in recent weeks, the ANG will be putting on a show in Staten Island! On Sept. 24, at exactly 8:45 AM an HH60 PaveHawk ANG helicopter will hover over the race site and four PJ’s (Pararescue jumpers) will descend, carrying the trophies for the race. These four will then be joined by about 10 others in racing at various time during the day. The PJ’s and chopper were featured in the movie “The Perfect Storm.” Elsewhere on site will be the ANG’s Rise to the Challenge mobile interactive display – essentially video games that simulate ANG training. Very cool stuff!

So, how can you get involved in such an amazing organization? Here are some details about our friends in the Massachusetts Air National Guard and Otis Air National Guard Base.

Air National Guard pays up to 100% for State and local colleges TUITION. The new mission at Otis Air National Guard Base in MA, for example is made up of positions centered around the Intelligence and Communications career fields. Take a look at the multitude of benefits they have to offer, all for only 1 WEEKEND PER MONTH, AND 15 DAYS PER YEAR:

· ENLISTMENT BONUS OF $20,000 FOR 6 YEARS; for individuals enlisting into one of the many critical career fields.

· 100% TUITION & FEE WAIVER ; offered at Massachusetts State Colleges and Universities. This equates to thousands of dollars in savings for members every year.

· MONTGOMERY G.I. BILL; provides $345 per month – non-taxable – for full-time college students. This money does not have to be used for school-related expenses; it can be used for any expenses that you may have.

· MONTGOMERY G.I. BILL KICKER OF $350; in addition to the Montgomery G.I. Bill; offered to selected specialties within the Massachusetts Air National Guard and provides an additional $350 per month to those taking advantage of the MONTGOMERY G.I. BILL benefits. Add that to the GI Bill, along with your monthly “drill” pay, and you could be making over $700 per month!

· COMMUNITY COLLEGE OF THE AIR FORCE ; earn an associates degree through the Air Force by combining your college credits, and military training that you receive. This allows you to earn a degree in less time.

Check out www.goang.com for more details!

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by Carrie Adams

[Editor's note: In just 12 hours, Jason Jaksetic, Spartan's legendary Barn Beast, begins the 150-mile McNaughton Ultra in Pittsfield, VT run by Spartan's sister company Peak Races.  Stay tuned to the blog, twitter, and facebook for live updates.]

Stumbling in the barn at 2:15 A.M. March 7, 2011 after 62 hours of effort, Jason Jaksetic had accomplished his mission: 100 miles on snow shoes in the books after 30 days of training.  Thus was born the Barn Beast.  Defying the naysayers and the experts, he accomplished the seemingly impossible–but that’s nothing new to this alternative athlete.  To Jason, there is no such thing as “normal.”

As a boy growing up in Stanhope, NJ, no one would have thought that the self-proclaimed “band dork” would become the athlete he is today.  As a traveling musician who both performed and taught, Jason didn’t enter his first long distance event until age 22.  With no training, he was immediately in over his head.  His first event was the esteemed Boston Marathon.  But there was a catch: he entered on a dare, he ran it bandit (and for you who always follow the rules, that means you crash the event and run the course), and still managed a 4:20 finish.  He’d previously never run more than four miles at one time.

Boston was the catalyst, and Jason wanted more.  Setting his sights on the Ironman, he got serious about training, and completed five Ironman events in two years.  At age 24, he qualified for Kona with a 10:23 finishing time in Lake Placid.  Jason seemed on the fast track and trained hard for a big showing in the Louisville Ironman in 2010.  Then, during a long training run, Jason felt a slight hitch in his hip.   Alarm bells went off in his head, but he dismissed them, not realizing that at that moment that he had suffered a stress fracture.

No injury could stop him.  He planned to destroy the Louisville swim and bike and then get through the marathon as best as possible given the hip injury.  The swim went well, but after pounding the bike for 70 miles, Jason bonked.  At mile 101, he woke up in an ambulance suffering from what appeared to be cardiac arrest due to exhaustion and dehydration.  This, his first DNF, weighed far heavier on his mind than on his body.  He escaped to Swaziland, Africa to reevaluate his training, his goals, and his expectations.  In the airport, he found a passport belonging to Joe Desena, owner of Spartan Race.  It was a turning point.

Not long after, Jason impulsively packed up and moved into the training facility, aka “the Barn,” in Pittsfield, VT, to work for Joe and to train for several ultra-distance races, including the infamous Death Race.  Abandoning his militant Ironman training style, he adopted a more non-traditional approach in the rugged mountains just outside his back door.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Reaching New Peaks: Andy Weinberg

by Carrie Adams

Growing up in Peoria, IL, Andy Weinberg, 41, always loved the water.  He swam competitively in high school and college, and when he did his first triathlon in high school, he fell in love.  At the time there weren’t many people doing them, and after college Andy spent a couple years really hitting the triathlon circuit.  He burnt out with swimming after a few years and decided to focus on running instead.  Admittedly never “super-fast,” he trained consistently and did 11 marathons in one year alone.

Read the rest of this entry »

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by Carrie Adams

Limitless Living: Joe DeSena

All too often we spend our waking hours trying to find and stay comfortable in our own lives.  We look for short cuts, gadgets, and processes to make things easier, seeking what we consider personal fulfillment.   We believe that there are things we can do and things that we can’t, and we become conditioned to that distinction.  It creates our everyday reality and it makes us feel secure, because we think we know what to expect of the world and what to expect of ourselves.  Enter Joe DeSena, the man who will turn that world upside down.

Growing up in Queens, Joe’s mother valued healthy eating and living and passed on that value system to Joe.   It’s been well-documented that he worked hard growing up and ultimately got to Wall Street, where he made his mark and made himself a small fortune.  He moved his family to Pittsfield, Vermont and quickly entrenched himself and his family in the local landscape.  Joe moved to Vermont in an attempt to get back to the way things used to be.

It’s also well-documented that Joe turned an interest in endurance racing into a passion.  His racing resume is the stuff of legends – over 50 ultra-events overall and 12 Ironman Events in one year alone.  Most of his races are 100 miles or more with a few traditional marathons in the mix.  (He once told me that my running a 26.2 marathon distance was “adorable.”)

To put it in perspective, he did the Vermont 100, the Lake Placid Ironman and the Badwater Ultra… in one week.  For those that don’t know or just don’t want to hear the gory details, the elevation climb for Badwater is over 8,500 feet up to Mt. Whitney and temperatures soar into the 120’s.   Joe also rode cross-country to the Furnace Creek 508 which has been coined “The Toughest 48 hours in sport.”  It’s no wonder his favorite quote is, “Death is the price we pay for life, so make it worth it.”

In 2005, Joe decided that the world needed a new race, something that had never beendone. And so, together with Peak Races, he created The Death Race, a 24-hour mental and physical test filled with unknown obstacles.  Racers couldn’t and wouldn’t know what to expect.  The fear of the unknown would either break or motivate, and all they could do was try to survive.  The race waiver consists of three words: “I may die.” It doesn’t get any more real than that.  No way to train, no way to prepare, just show up and make it to the end.  And don’t expect any love from Joe or the volunteers.  They want to break these people, make them quit.  Joe’s been quoted as saying, “There’s no light at the end of the tunnel. We’re basically holding your hand to help you quit. The same way life does, right?”

The winner of the fourth installment of the Death Race was Richard Lee.  Richard, Joe, and the other members of the “Founding Few” wanted to create another event, something that captured the extreme spirit of the legendary Death Race, but was modified and accessible to a much wider racing audience.  And so the Spartan Race was born.  Spartan intends to wake up the world up and save humanity, one racer at a time if need be.  It’s a race meant to challenge, to push, to intimidate, to test and even to break those brave enough to try, and it was designed by seven people who know what that feels like.  “Fun run” doesn’t apply here.  It’s about being uncomfortable, overcoming obstacles and finding out what’s possible when what you expect of yourself is everything.   In the words of Joe himself: “The phrase ‘I can’t’ doesn’t mean anything to me anymore, not because of my ego but because I know anything is possible.”

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by Beth Connolly

[Editor's note: this post introduces a new series that will appear on the blog: "Spartan on the Road."  Read on for more information!]

Not just anyone can spend ten months on the road.  Imagine it: you’re separated from your friends, your coworkers, your girlfriend.  Driving from city to city, mostly staying in hotels.  It’s a lonely and exhausting life.

Now, imagine living on the road and completing exhausting CrossFit workouts every day.  Sound impossible?

Maybe other racing companies know the meaning of the word “impossible.”  Spartan Race does not.  Nor does Ben Killary, our intrepid Spartan On The Road.  Just a few weeks ago, he embarked on the journey of a lifetime.  Over the next six months, he’ll be travelling from state to state, from Crossfit Box to Crossfit Box, spreading Spartan toughness to Crossfitters across America.  He’s also embarked on a simultaneous, equally challenging journey: getting into shape the honest, brutal, sweat-bathing Crossfit way.

“If I’m doing this the right way, I’ll be a machine by the time I’m done,” Ben said in a recent Skype interview.  “What I’m doing is awesome.”

Ben might not strike you as a stereotypical “elite athlete.”  At least not yet.  A May 2010 graduation of Vermont’s Castleton College (major: Sports Administration, minor: coaching), Ben says he packed on the pounds from his wild college lifestyle.  Now, though, sick of being teased as the “chubby Spartan,” he’s dedicated himself to the Crossfit-approved Paleo diet, eliminating sweets, dairy, and gluten.

Ben was a devoted Spartan even during his crazy college days.  He’s proud to say that he’s been with the company since day one—he started at Spartan Race as an intern in January 2010, distributing fliers door-to-door in college dorms and garnering Spartan Race’s historic first 5000 Facebook fans in just one week.  After graduation, he started working at Spartan full-time, doing whatever necessary to get the young company off the ground.  Since then, he got sick of being constantly referred to as “the chubby Spartan,” and he joined Crossfit a few months ago.

He saw results immediately and loved the camaraderie he felt with the other athletes.  “I’m in love with Crossfit now, I’ll never stop,” he said.  “I feel like I have to work harder and get better.”

The Spartan on the Road concept developed as a way to get the Crossfit community involved in Spartan Races.  “I truly believe that the Crossfit athlete is the elite athlete to be in our sport, based on the way they train,” said Ben.   Crossfit workouts challenge athletes both in strength and cardio training, thereby creating an ideal, balanced athlete—not the narrow-focused athletes we’re familiar with, like distance runners and bodybuilders.  Who better to compete in a Spartan Race than an athlete trained for speed, precision, strength and focus?

Ben was honest about the difficulties of life on the road.  “I’m alone all the time,” he said.  He battles the physical fatigue of his grueling workout schedule, not to mention the long hours of transcribing notes and driving.  He left his good friends and girlfriend back at home in Boston.

But Ben is no stranger to personal adversity, nor to overcoming it with grace.  He struggled through a childhood of verbal abuse at the hands of his stepfather, a man who routinely told Ben he’d doubtless end up in jail or worse.  At 14, Ben’s mom gave him up, and Ben spent the rest of his teenage years in foster care.  “I was pawned off to the state because at the time my mother thought I was the problem.  I might have had a smart mouth, but that was the worst of me,” Ben said.

After bouncing from family to family, Ben eventually ended up with a wonderful family.  The mother was “the sweetest lady in the entire world,” and he considered her children his siblings.  Though less than 1% of Vermont State’s foster kids have ever gone to college, Ben went—and graduated.  “My caseworker had seven hundred kids in his career.  I was the only one who ever got a degree,” Ben said.

The difficulties Ben has faced in his past only motivated him to try harder, to excel, and to succeed.  “I’ve never blamed fucking up on my past,” he said.  “I’ve just taken responsibility.”  And his stepfather?   He’s and Ben’s mom have since divorced, and Ben and his mom are on good terms.  “Now it makes me laugh,” Ben said, “because the magnitude of what I’m involved in is incredible.”

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