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Poor races

This isn’t so much a race review for an event I hit up, but a general comment on poorly organized, potentially dangerous races in general – and how much support the OCR community is giving them.

Firstly, check this review out –

http://travlete.com/2012/10/16/review-sqwish-sqwash-challenge-tampa-florida/

The Sqwish Sqwash Challenge in Florida was universally panned as terrible – from the organization of the event, to the actual event itself. I mean, check out the video of the monkey bars …. or rather, the ladder strung up on a wobbly frame, with a step ladder to get up … *REALLY*?

It would be easy to shrug off as a one time deal – but this is their third event. They have appeared on the Matt B Davis podcast, and made some big promises. Even worse – they are not the only race series doing this.

If you read into the comments, and on their website – this is compared to the much bigger Rebel Race – they have an event in MA coming up soon. The Renegade Playground Challenge, a NH race with plenty of experience behind it just had a terrible event – running out of water, having obstacles collapse and not get repaired.

It’s one thing to attend an event and find it too easy or lacking a challenge, it’s another for the event itself to be downright dangerous.

So, question for the NE Spahtens – what does it take to stop the OCR community from supporting these guys? Why do we keep signing up for every OCR event on the market? It’s not like they are cheap days out … and those medical bills afterwards are even more costly …

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Team Jones Akuma shirts arrive

People are wondering what they will get when they order the NE Spahten drill shirts – after all, they are quite a bit more expensive than the tech shirts …

They are worth every penny. These things are a much heavier fabric, with a much higher quality feel to them than I’ve ever seen on a shirt. The fit is more like a compression, or fitted shirt than a normal, casual top – but you should order your normal size, or you run the risk of it simply being too baggy. The fitted area is around the torso – not around your arms / shoulders – it is definitely a compression fit, not “just too small” and ordering up won’t get you much.

This is my wife, Beth – wearing a long sleeved version, in a size S. For reference, she is 5’5″, 130lbs. The silk screening on these shirts is awesome – this isn’t going to come off in the wash, folks!

This is my bald self. The back can be customized with your name, nickname, Ninja number … this is the short sleeved version. For reference, I am wearing the XL size, and am 6′ and 215lbs.

There are more photos on the Facebook community CLICK HERE and as more of these hit peoples backs, there will be more photos to come, I’m sure.

I can’t wait to get a bunch of us at a race in them together!

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Individual to OCR Team Member in a little over a year.

Who knew.  Running a race, any race brings changes.  Some people embrace the changes.  Others are happy they did something challenging and move on.  Others get discouraged or just become totally disinterested in the whole idea and simply never run again.  I’m quite sure I could have easily moved on after last years Warrior dash had I not done the dash as a trial run for the Spartan Sprint.  I seemed to need a challenge in my life.  I definitely needed to start getting healthier.  Viola Spartan Race.

Its not just a race its a community.   Funny how a year ago I had never run, never run a race, never worked out and I only used Facebook to play Poker and words with friends.  But with the confidence of people I barely knew I have found a place to write, which has always been a passion, to learn, to get advice, to share advice and to meet crazy unorthodox people who want to enjoy life by living it; not existing in it.

Life is sweeter when it is enjoyed with friends.  Workouts are easier when your not going through the pain alone.  Because you never know where the day may take you, you have to be ready at a moments notice to receive an opportunity to partake in awesomeness!  Being on a Team means more opportunity to be awesome, and to be there where awesome happens.

James

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Drill Shirts Are In!

Chicks and Spahtens –

In case you hadn’t noticed, the shirts are in! The plan is to have these guys on the way to you by Friday. I do have to be up front about a couple little details…

1) The drill shirts are different from all the other shirts, but they are all awesome! I didn’t open up the other shirts to see the full shirt, however I can tell you they are embroidered in the front and silk screened the back. They are a bit different than we thought they would be, but still totally worth it. (I seriously am bummed I didn’t have enough money to buy one of each for myself!)

2) If you did not order a drill shirt, it could not be personalized due to the nature of the fact that the design is different. I apologize for the let down in this department, however I assure you the shirts are still super rad!Please feel free to message me if there are any questions or if once you receive your stuff you want to give me feedback. Keep in mind this is the very first order we’ve done with Akuma and from this point forward we will know exactly what to expect!
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DNF: Ultra Aftermath.

I originally pictured the finish line as a goal.  But the real finish is so much further than the finish line.  Its at the Pickle Barrel for the after party.  Its Sunday when those racers take the field.  Its next month when people are still asking “Well how bad was it?  Really.”  Its next year at the Amesbury Sprint.  The NJ Super and at the Death Race.  The finish will be every single day after the race, whether its training for another race or just having a run.  It will be that sense of pride when I talk with these other crazy Spartans and we smile at the word “Crazy”.  The finish line is so much more than an inflated arch.  Its that accomplishment of completing the task, what ever the task maybe.”

The danger of writing something down is reflection.  I may or may not have created my own destiny.  Made a self-fulfilling prophesy, or simply slapped that bitch Karma one to many times on her ass.  For what ever reason I played till the chips were down, the house wasn’t dealing anymore cards, and they were calling in their marker.  They say you have to know when to hold ’em, fold ’em, walk away or run.  Well I didn’t hold, fold or walk.  They just wouldn’t let me run any more.  The Ugly lights got turned on and the race director Mike Morris said “Sorry folks the parks closed.  The Moose at the front should have told you

But the end never reflects the effort.  Even now in my head my mind is still running that course.  My body is in a battered state, yet I know if I could just throw on a pair of shoes I could drag myself back into a moving state. So where am I, what has happened, where to I go now.  Well the smart man goes to Google.  A smart woman taught me that.

Here’s what I found:  Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.  These are the 5 accepted stages of grief and loss.  “Although presented in a set order, they are not necessarily experienced in that order. In addition, most people cycle through each stage multiple times.”  

Denial even my own initial reaction of telling myself “I am not denying this, I accept that I didn’t finish” is in fact the denial.  Its denying myself the pain of the not finishing, to try to jump over to acceptance and move on.  There’s nothing healthy about that.

Anger is easy I am full of it!  But what I am not full of is blame.  There is only one person responsible for me not finishing:  ME.  Not the course, I had the endurance to continue, even on a faster pace than my first lap.  Not Spartan Race;  they had a rule they enforced it, I fell on the wrong side of it.  I do not blame my friends who I freely chose to stay with, staying with them may have been the reason I had that second wind and the energy to go on.  No, blame is a selfish emotion, it finds fault in others and absolves the self of wrong.

Bargaining, I’ll be going through this little hell for a while.  Oddly enough not on the course.  When I started that second lap I damn well knew it was a “suicide run”  I had no idea how long I was going to be able to go, but I had a pretty good idea they weren’t going to let me get far.  I went anyway because that is what I came to do.

Depression.  Do I really need to delve into this one?  If your not up to speed on my thoughts on this by now read on it becomes self apparent.

Acceptance.  I accepted this long before I should have and this why I am writing.  I have accepted my DNF graciously.  And that is not the right way.  I do not and will not accept this as a defeat, as quitting, or as failing.  I simply ran but oddly enough ran out of time.

I was accepted to undertake a great challenge.  An experience for a life time.  In an activity that I truly love, I, me, the little runner that couldn’t was given the opportunity to bite off as much as I could, and choke on my own hubris.  The names I was set next to.  Athletes of the highest caliber.  Training regimes which rival Olympic athletes, even Olympic Athletes!  And me.  Chugga chugga pokey pokey 30 minute 5k. What the hell was I thinking.  26 miles over a mountain!  I really thought I could do it.  I prepared a little, had some quality equipment and my little bucket of round 2 items.

I’m not in the mood for writing a recap.  I will say when we started I felt like ass.  And I knew the initial accent would be tough.  I didn’t speculate that it would be as tough as it was.  But that first glorious down hill portion set the pace in my mind.  I was going to finish!  My character had other plans.  I fell back onto my personal training and habits, which is to place others first and myself second.  It wasn’t until it was too late did I make the hard choice to leave. It was personally my lowest moment.  After that I made a unbelievable accent to the summit, across it and then flew like a damn dive bombing eagle down the back side.  People complained how bad it was but I couldn’t tell you,   For myself I never saw it.  I looked at the ground for milliseconds at a time: Enough to decide if the foot hold would support 50% of my weight or less.  Yes Jesus walked on water but I was doing my damnedest to run over mud and stay clean.  My shoe and shirts swap at the Start/Finish zone ate some time, and I ate too.  Everything that was left in my pack and more.  I washed it down with warm PBR.  I looked on stunned at other runners who pulled the plug.  And I saw one undefeated soul.  We knew it was hopeless but out we went.  What took me hours earlier took less than 2 on my second lap.  We could have gone faster still but had linked up with yet another forlorn group.  It was all for not however.  Arguing with rules is not my style.  Being pulled was not a surprise or anything, we knew there would be time hacks.  That’s life.  Shit happens.

I only want one thing and one thing only.  Another shot at it.  In my personal life this is going to be twice as hard.  But I am a blessed man.  I am thankful for all that is set before me.  Challenges and rewards alike.  I just want a chance to fix my choices and be able to put the 100% at it again.  If I get some flak about that.  Than I might enter back into Anger.

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Ultra Beast: A few final thoughts before the Ultra.

I thought I wanted to blog about this coming weekend.  But couldn’t muster the energy.  I searched inspirational quotes.  Went over some old blogs.  Looked at other peoples blogs.  I noticed that a melancholy sense of apathy has set in.  My bin is packed.  Bags are packed.  Everything is prepped and waiting.  GPS is set.  Time to leave is set.  Emergency numbers and contact numbers programed.  Fridays events lined up.  Alarm set for Saturday.  Last “training” run has been done.  Rest period is in motion.  1 year of preparation, anticipation and aggravation is done.

At this time tomorrow I plan on sitting on my tail gate in the parking lot above the course, just like I did last year.  The Start and Finish line at the bottom of a very steep hill, will lay in front of me.  There will be an air of frantic energy as people put the final touches on the race.  The trick will be to not buy into that frenetic chaos. Later on at the Outback, there will be an all to familiar fraternity of racers boasting and retelling stories.  It will be wonderful. Hurricane Heaters, Trifecta Tribe members, those looking to complete the Trifecta, Beast Veterans and first timers.

On Saturday morning I will take my usual position at the back of the heat.  In front of me will be Championship racers and Ultra Beast Individual runners.  Behind me Team Ultra Beast Members will be waiting to fill that stockyard like pen behind the starting arch.  Every race is different.  Every race is the same.  Forward until its over.  This one will be holding the unique challenge of ending; only to start again and do it twice.  I have never done any race like this before.  I have never run this distance before.  I have however faced many challenges that will be replicated in this race.  I haven’t quit on them and have no plans to quit on Saturday.  If for nothing else to say yes, I did do that.

I originally pictured the finish line as a goal.  But the real finish is so much further than the finish line.  Its at the Pickle Barrel for the after party.  Its Sunday when those racers take the field.  Its next month when people are still asking “Well how bad was it?  Really.”  Its next year at the Amesbury Sprint.  The NJ Super and at the Death Race.  The finish will be every single day after the race, whether its training for another race or just having a run.  It will be that sense of pride when I talk with these other crazy Spartans and we smile at the word “Crazy”.  The finish line is so much more than an inflated arch.  Its that accomplishment of completing the task, what ever the task maybe.

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Dispatches from the Storm Front: HH-016 Amesbury, MA.

Zero dark thirty.  A parking lot somewhere or nowhere.  The air is damp.  Remnants of the previous evenings deluge still hangs off tree and person alike.  A black technical (thats a pickup truck for you non-military types) marks the make shift rally point.  Tommy Mac and his staff greet each HH’er collecting waivers and directing them to put excess gear into the back of the Technical.  This is the Hurricane Heat.  A team oriented pre-race heat for Spartan racers who need an extra adrenaline push before they start their race day.

HH-016 was special.  It marked the 1st anniversary of the original HH brought on by Hurricane Irene.  Where hearty souls took up Joe D’s challenge to run into the storm.  So successful was that first HH in 2011 that Spartan Race has run 16 more.  Yet again setting a standard for separating themselves from their competition.  By listening to their racers their Spartans most importantly their family.  All Spartan Racers are family.  HH’ers are like that awe inspiring Aunt or Uncle.  The one that shows up at birthday parties and holidays with strange gifts and stories from exotic places.  Their stories seep into your imagination until one day you decide you too need to go on an adventure too.  HH-016 was just that adventure for so, so many.

When Spartan Race says 0530 sharp with a start time of 0600 they mean it.  I learned on my first HH, HH-007, that you do not want to be late!  Not wanting to be that guy, I also learned being early is no prize.  Now I have just given in to the fact that early or late your going to be doing burpees, lots of burpees.

Along the dirt trail which makes up a nice piece of downhill on the course HHer’s were assembling. Breaking off into groups.  Strangers, pairs, small groups, Spartan veterans and previous HH’ers.  For me it was an internet reunion.  I couldn’t turn around without seeing someone I have ran with at a Spartan Race, HH, met at training camps, volunteered with at the DR, handed out flyers at an expo with, or met in Spartan FB pages.  Former co-workers, Fire Academy graduates.  This was like a small version of “This is your life 2011-2012”  Yeah I was more than happy.

Typical of every HH the forming of groups is paramount.  And staying with that group is the goal.  To work together.  Out of the 22 persons on team “Lost” I knew 4 prior to starting.  Because I am terrible with names I tend to characterize by apparel.  And Spartan did a great job of killing that for me by making everyone wear black.  I know now Dom was wearing his signature Orange hat.  Keith a blue back pack,  the 2 wonderful ladies from Canada who did not speak to much english, which didn’t slow team “Lost” in anyway, and Mikel who translated.  Sandy protected the eggs, Brig had a k-9 eaten Tough Mudder shirt, someone had a pack with the Zelda logo on it, Devin more hair on his face than on his head.  Steve all the way in from AZ who I was with at HH-007.  Our Team Captain with the epic left arm sleeve tattoo.  Lisa another DR racer, over coming injury to run.  Some other heavily accented Gents who could scale walls like Spiderman.  This partial list is brought to you by Aricept.  For those I can’t immediately recall my most sincere apologies.  Because Team LOST was, to date, my favorite team to have been a part of.  Micha Arnoulds team in AZ was hard to beat.  And Storm Chasers IN was a classy group.

Team Lost immediately grasped the concepts of team work and accountability.  Together we pushed, pulled, carried and motivated each other.  This is what the HH is all about.  Whether carrying a tire over water pits, assisting each other over walls or up ropes. Team Lost always put the mission first, never accepted defeat, never quit and never a left a fallen comrade.  I have read posts from those on Team Warrior, Team Ninja and The Storm Chasers.  The Warrior Ethos was plainly in use on every team.  Even “bleedover” teams were people got confused, and lost their original team.  They were quickly absorbed into another.  This is how the HH works because in the end we are all one team.

There are many exhaustive recaps of HH-016 online.  Very excellent recaps that cover each and every nuance of the course.  I love those recaps.  Mainly because I’m lucky if I can remember what I had for breakfast, so in reading their work I can relive moments which blew by me in a blur.  Those who can recall each obstacle and challenge certainly have superior memories to mine.  I don’t remember each challenge individually because my HH’s start the moment I try to sleep the night before, through the groggy sleep deprived drive to the Heat and then the awesomeness of the Heat itself.  I don’t take stock of the how many walls, pits, hills, ropes of burpees I did.  Much like a boxer doesn’t take inventory of the punches he threw or the hits he took.  He just keeps going till the bell rings or his gets bell rung.

Its time for you who have not done an HH to get off the fence.  There were so many first time Spartan first time HH’ers at HH-016.  You can do it.  I believe in you.  More than 150 people who turned out on Saturday believe in you.  You will never reach your limits if you don’t find out where they are.  To go further than you ever have you must first go to where you have never been.  Take the challenge run the Hurricane Heat.

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HH-011 Middle Ground

1800 hrs, 20 April 2012 Haspin Acres.  Laurel Indiana.  HH-011

Dispatches from the Storm Front.

Chasing a Storm can be a lot like chasing your tail.  Organizing runners is akin to herding cat’s.  Organizing Hurricane Heat Runners is like trying to herd cat’s while they are simultaneously trying to chase their tails, the wind, and each other.  Andy Weinberg, Joe DeSena and Tommy Mac definitely know this, and boy do they love the chaos.

HH-011 fit right in with the Founders race as a whole.  It was chaotic, dirty, wet and brutal.  The Chaos started right in the beginning and lasted right to the end.  Truth be told I have revised this blog many times.  At each revision it morphed into personal observations and internal issues.  That isn’t fair to those who participated in the HH or those who oversaw it.  I believe it was a success.  It was “fun” and as alway each person should have taken away something that will make them stay positive for a long time.

For me I tend to believe in the “Warrior Ethos”  which is the benchmark of the HH.

“I will always put the Mission first.”

“I will never admit defeat.”

“I will never quit.”

“I will never leave a fallen comrade”

These aren’t just words.  You don’t just say them.  You either believe them and act accordingly or you don’t say them at all.  In the small realm of the HH the “Mission” isn’t always apparent however there is always a primary directive in every HH which is also part of the ethos:  Finish the HH, never accept defeat, never quit.  Which brings us to the last part.  “Never leave a fallen comrade.”  This is where my blog has digressed numerous times.  It comes down to this.  A team is only as strong as its weakest link.  Or in these cases its slowest member.  Your job, as a team, is to encourage that person.  I’m not going to go into my tangent rant again. Just do it, stay together as a team.

It was a little difficult in this HH to keep the teams separated.  I’m not sure why but we seemed to be one massive swarm for the majority of the HH.  That was actually ok although personally I am more of a small group person.  It is easier for accountability, safety, and enjoyment.  Oddly enough those are my primary goals when I do anything.  Life is to short to get hurt while not having fun.

Going into details about what actually occurred during the HH isn’t really relevant.  HH’ters got wet, got dirty, climbed ropes, sat in nasty disgusting water.  And of course carried heavy objects and pushed the hell out of some ground.  If you are reading this and want insight into what to expect from an HH I will tell you this. Show up on time, with a smile.  Remember you chose to do this.  Be positive; always.  Leave your baggage at the door.  Be a team player, sacrifice for your team.  Chaos is an exponential factor:  Like a fire, chaos builds with the more air you give it so shut your mouth and open your ears.  Have fun.  If you can’t have fun by laughing at the ridiculousness of the whole thing, this really isn’t for you.  There are 3 types of fun.  There’s the type of fun you have while doing something and its fun to talk about after.  There’s fun that isn’t so much fun while your doing it but lots of fun talking about after.  Then there is the last type of fun.  Its not fun while your doing it and its not fun to talk about it after.  Keep your head in the game long enough to have the first 2 types of fun.  If your slipping into the third type.  Stop, take a breath, reassess the situation.  You might have missed something.

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Founders Race: Laurel, IN

 

Authors note:

I have about 80 different directions to approach this blog from.  I have narrowed it down to 3.  The next will be in:  Dispatches from the Storm HH-011 in http://maspahtens.wordpress.com and the third will either be in my personal blog or again here in MAspahtens.

CORN FED!!!

The founders race started from a couple of people hashing around on fb wanting a race, to getting Spartan Race to put their money where their mouth was, and bring a race to Indiana where it had been demanded.  For those of you sitting back and saying bring it to my state I give you this.  Its been said that if Moses won’t go to the mountain than the mountain has to go to Moses.  If your Moses and you think you can bring the mountain to you?   Good luck.  These Corn fed’s literally moved a mountain to get this race here.  It caused monumental strains on friendships, relationships and I think some Navy ships.  I could be wrong about the last part.  A warning to those of you who think Spartan race is just going to load up and bring their toys to your town.  You had better be ready to give every last drop of sweat, blood and tears to make it happen. And even if you are successful you will still have to measure up to the Corn Fed’s and that is one tall order.

FOUNDERS RACE

“Here is my take on it. I feel like people missunderstood what a Founder’s race was. Taking it back to the day when the Rad Dudes that thought up OCR. I imagine that there weren’t really any major obstacles expect nature. Nothing fancy. As the years have gone by, they have to up the anti and compete with the other OCRs and make it fancy. Since it’s my first one, I have no idea what it was like but I have a feeling I do now. It’s kinda like, “In the beginning….(insert biblical reference here)… there was cold shoe eating, slide on your butt, climb with your nails and lose a toe nail mud…and it was good.” This was a grass roots, a CORNFED Founder’s race. I didn’t do it for a medal (although it’s pretty), I did it for the accomplishment and I met some pretty darn good people along the way. Kinda restored my faith in mid-west culture.”

~ Melonie Judd  from the Cornfed!!! fb page 

There isn’t anything more to be said than what Melonie stated so eloquently.  This race was old school for sure.  They gave you a barbed wire crawl and two cargo net climbs.  After that it was old school kill you hills, dips, water pits, massive hay bales, pond swims, heavy log carrying. and straight forward nasty terrain. The weather alone should have turned people away.  Just barely in the 40’s over cast and windy enough to blow what little body heat you had into the next county.

There was no fan fare, no DJ not marketing flags strewn about making it look more like an amusement park than an OCR.  No Gladiators, no gimmicks or “signature” obstacles.  There was no inflatable finish line, shit the damn finish line was an obstacle. And this guy had to have his ass pushed over it!  The participants of this race were a special breed and they deserve all the accolades they can receive.  If you missed this race, you missed and epic weekend.   Don’t miss the next one.

POST RACE

This race is going to be the diamond of my race season.  Straight out of a kimberlite field still stuffed in quartz.  This diamond is more than in the rough it is still imbedded in rock.  No amount of polishing is going to make this rock shine, because it doesn’t need it.  If you can’t see this gem for its value you need to dig deeper within yourself.

At the end of the day I was privileged to meet many of who I can truly call my Corn Fed family.  Nathan Deaver and his wife Mary and their children.  Jonathan Nolan and wife Laura. Gary Cates 3rd place winner!   Storm Chaser Tim White and Mike from Syracuse.  Jason Moss, Christopher Kalfa, Denise Healy-Hall, Christie Berg-Nelson, all the Kendall’s.  Hobie Call as a person and not a name.  And of course many of the Spartan race staff.  Tommy Mac, Andy Weinberg, Jeremy and the uncrushable Todd Sedlack.  I am missing so many others I feel aweful not mentioning them.  Lastly I would like to thank my MASpahtens co-runners who drank the Corn syrup and came down with me Eric and Jeremy they made this happen for me because a 16 hour drive is not damn joke!