Tales from the Chicked: Carrie Adams, Chicked Founder
by Beth Shields, Spartan Chicked member
Two and-a-half years ago, no one would have expected Carrie Adams to spark a revolution for women in the sport of obstacle racing. Working in the corporate grind and raising her family she couldn’t fathom how much her life would change and how many lives she’d change in the process.
In November 2010, Adams finalized her divorce and was unexpectedly laid off from her consulting job within a two-week time span. Then 28, and suddenly a single, unemployed Mom of two young girls, “I was in a very dark place at the time,” she says. Never one to be down long, she quickly secured another job as a medical consultant in Omaha, Nebraska, and settled in to her new position.
Around the same time, good friend, and ultra-endurance athlete, Spartan’s own Jason Jaksetic, convinced her to try a Spartan Race,
the Super in Temecula in February 2011. An avid runner, Adams was an endurance athlete, but had never participated in an obstacle course race. “Just come try this Spartan event in California,” Jaksetic told her. “There’s fire, barbed wire and walls. You’re going to love it.” Adams was far from smitten. “The more he’s telling me, the more I’m like, ‘that sounds horrible.’”
Jaksetic’s urging prevailed, and Adams was convinced to come out and race on what turned out to be the coldest day in Southern California in 200 years. She was also featured in a race video that was made that day about overcoming obstacles. Notably, the video also features Hobie Call – it was the first Spartan Race (he won) of his career. Adams ran the course next to Joe Desena, who carried an axe the entire distance. Desena is one of the founding members of Spartan Race.
“It was one of the most beautiful and exhilarating races I’d ever done,” says Adams. “I was looking around, and thinking that there should be more people there. It blew my mind that more people weren’t doing it. I said to Joe, ‘How are you going to get more people here?’” His response was, “You tell me.” She laughs.
“That is how it all started. I’ll always be grateful to Jason,” says Adams. “He’s still one of my favorite people, we are co-editors of the SR blog, but more than that he’s a very good friend.”
The Spartan Race series was developed by eight “Founding Few” members, including endurance athletes, and mountaineers. Inspired by the Spartan Death Race (the liability waiver consists of three words: “You may die,” and only 10% of competitors finish), these obstacle courses are meant to be a more accessible version open to more than just elite athletes. There are four race lengths: the sprint, 3+ miles with 15+ obstacles; the super, 8+ miles with 20+ obstacles; and the beast, 13+ miles with 25+ obstacles and now the Ultra Beast that is a marathonish distance with more than 50 obstacles. Unlike traditional endurance events, it’s almost impossible to know what to train for. It’s the only chipped, timed obstacle organization in the world with world rankings and a points system.
After that seminal race in California, Desena contracted Adams as a part-time blogger and marketer, while she continued her full-time job of medical consulting and raising her daughters. The part-time work for Spartan quickly became unmanageable in tandem with her full time gig. At the point when it seemed she was in an untenable position, Adams met with her medical consulting services boss and was told they had lost funding on her project. She felt it was perfect timing and accepted a full-time contract with Spartan Race.
Passionate, upbeat, and charismatic, Adams set out to promote Spartan Races across the globe, and decided to focus on women, an as-yet unrealized demographic in the sport. To that end, Spartan Chicked, the female-only offshoot of Spartan Races, her brainchild, began. With very little fanfare, it was initiated at the first ever Spartan Beast with Adams and about a dozen other women. It’s now a phenomenon promoted through a closed Facebook group that has grown to about 10,000 members in the last nine months. Adams regularly joins in, recently posting a “WOD” – workout of the day – challenging the Chicks to do planks every hour on the hour, take pictures and post them to the group, and sharing her love of all things fitness, life with her two small girls, and her love of bacon, CrossFit and Pilates. ”These women mean the world to me.” She says. ”They are remarkable.”
While promoting the Spartan brand, she continues to race approximately six Spartan events a year among other events – she just did a marathon on Saturday. She ran the Beast in Vermont with three of her girlfriends, cartwheeling over the finish line. “I was so proud of that medal,” she says. “We didn’t run fast or anything, but we laughed and shared food and crawled through mud side-by-side, collectively suffering and coming out the other side. That’s pretty rad.” Two of the girls, Alyssa Tokorcheck and Monica Mondin, she had just met that morning, corresponding only on Facebook previously. After finishing, Tokorcheck turned to her and said, “It seems kind of silly to tell you now, it was nice to meet you.” That Spartan Race series has been an epiphany for Adams on many levels. “I don’t know how to explain the magnitude of what I experience working for this company. I am forever changed by the incredible people I get to work with, the athletes who I meet, and what I see on race day.” That sentiment is encompassed by Spartan Race’s tagline which Adams coined, “You’ll know at the finish line.”
“It made complete sense,” says Adams of the tagline, “You can’t explain it to people who haven’t done it. You just have to get out there and do one to understand.” The recent Team X-T.R.E.M.E. Heroes Heat in Virginia is one example. “That team blew my mind,” says Adams, who becomes serious for a moment, “I am so honored to have gotten to witness their race and I’ll never view the world the same again. There is no such thing as impossible. Life gets more beautiful every day. Who gets to say that about their job?” she asks. “I’m extraordinarily blessed.”
About the growth of Spartan Chicked, Adams says simply, “It’s a movement; it’s not a team, it’s a movement, a community, a network. These women have changed their lives. I am just thankful to have a front row seat to their accomplishments.”
The online Spartan Chicked Facebook group includes women of all ages, sizes, and ethnicities who share not only training and nutrition tips, but also swap stories of motherhood and overcoming personal adversity. The group is also free to discuss other non-Spartan races, a decision that was made early on in order to promote the easy atmosphere that Spartan Chicked maintains. When Adams started, Spartan Races had 20,000 facebook fans; she’s helped grow that to nearly two million.
Adams sees these races as serving to challenge women in a way that traditional endurance events don’t. “If you’re a racer in any capacity, finish lines can become anticlimactic. As much fun as [racing] is, [Spartan races] are a gift; because when you finish, you finish something that you couldn’t prepare for. The level of challenge starts to escalate . . . . You find out what you’re capable of achieving is far greater than what you thought because you were living in a very constructed space of your own making.”
Adams sees women as having an edge in ultra-endurance sports. To her, “That’s a very cool thing. Many women can go farther, go more, and endure longer. It’s fun to show women, who are predominantly caretakers by nature, that doing for yourself from time to time will make you a better sister, daughter, wife, friend, because you’re more complete and more self-actualized.”
The Spartan Race series is something Adams promotes with a passion, “We’ve come to this place that we’ve forgotten how to be human beings, and we’ve forgotten what it means to live. We’ve lost that connection that we have with the most primal parts of ourselves. That’s why these events are so strongly resonating now more than ever, because people long for it. We miss being human beings.”
Seeing women transformed and how her own daughters are impacted by being around ultra-fit women are huge inspirations for her. “My girls are active. Always have been. They’ve grown up around that kind of atmosphere.” She’s excited about an upcoming opportunity for them as well, “My Cross Fit Gym, CrossFit Omaha is starting up a kids’ program. What a gift to give my girls,” she explains, “how to be powerful and strong and to understand and appreciate what that means. You can’t put a price on that. That will infiltrate everything that they do as decision makers, even into adulthood. It’s something that is born out of ‘I can run that far,’ and ‘I lift this barbell,’ and ‘I can climb this wall.” It’s all part of the equation.”
For women who have never attempted this before, Adams has some advice: “You have to just decide. You can literally be a different person right now than you were 10 seconds ago. You just have to choose it. Tomorrow’s coming, whether you live healthy or not. Imagine what one day on top of one day on top of one day starts to look like when you are living a healthier life. Just embrace, whatever it is, registering for a race, joining a new gym, making healthier food choices . . . don’t wonder what your life could be, go out and make it what you know it can be.”
Let the revolution begin.
[Editor's Note: Carrie has been a full time Spartan employee since March 2011 and started the Spartan Chicked movement in August 2011. To join the closed network (women only) go HERE and request to join. You can find Adams' personal blog at www.leavingapath.com.]