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A Journey of a Thousand Miles…

Let’s face it, weight loss and fitness are on most people’s plates.  And to most people weight loss is the modern story of Sisyphus.  It’s the never ending boulder being pushed up the hill only to see it roll back down again.  Tell me you don’t know at least five people whose goal is to lose weight and get in shape?  That’s what I thought.

Consider me one of your five.  The difference however is that I finally pushed my boulder up the hill and I completely obliterated it.  It has been a long journey and it is surely not over but I feel I have a handle on it now.

I have struggled most of my life with my weight, even with the multitude of sports I played.  I would manage to lose some weight and then gain it back again.  Last year however, things changed.  I decided that I was sick of constantly struggling with my health and my weight.  I wanted to lose the weight for good but what I believe helped make the difference is that I put more emphasis on being healthy and happy than on the number on the scale.

I started eating healthier, and limited the “treats” that I allowed myself.  It’s okay to have treats now and again, it’s not about limiting yourself, but finding moderation.  I took up running again and slowly worked up my mileage.  Then, I started challenging myself. I wanted to work my way up to at least a half marathon.  First, I ran a 4-mile race on Thanksgiving, then I found myself signed up for the Spartan Sprint in Amesbury, MA.  Now I am signed up for the Spartan Beast and also training for my first marathon. I want to constantly challenge my body and my  mind and I think running the Spartan race really sparked that fire within me.  I want to be my own hero, my own model and my own beast.

I also started adding more weight training into my workouts and eating at least 5 meals a day.  I realized that the way that I used to try and lose weight, was by not eating a lot and doing a lot of cardio.  What makes the difference is trying to lift heavy weights and eating enough food to nourish your body.  You won’t see results if you’re starving yourself. You won’t see changes in your body if you aren’t lifting weights.  Being able to open your own jars without relying on someone is sexy, being able to pull your own body weight over a 7 foot wall is sexier (weight training helps with both).

Once of the most important lessons that I’ve learned is to have the right mindset.  Leading a healthy and active lifestyle is not always easy, but you have to learn to be positive about everything.  Success comes in believing you can do it even when you fail the first time.  This is a lifestyle change and to be successful it takes determination and it takes patience.  Small healthy changes over time help to make them permanent.  There will be failures and face plants, but it’s important to get back up and keep going because that’s where you will find the victories.

Find your limits and push beyond them.

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Perseus, Odysseus, Heracles and You!

It isn't a race against a clock, its a race against your Will.

Make his fight on the hill in the early day
Constant chill deep inside…

Towering before you.  It makes you feel small, weak and insignificant.  It’s giant granite edifice looms at you, 4241 feet above sea level. The peak is a 3050 foot  vertical rise from the starting line.  It’s sheer, colossal, magnitude is a weight on your mind.  You question your sanity, your ability, and your Will.  You are staring into the belly of a Titan.  A Titan that has been resting since the Olympians defeated it to secure their thrones on Mount Olympus.  It is the Beast of the East.  Today, it is simply The Beast.

There are many ways to approach your own date with destiny.  You can hit the ground running and pound the Beast into the ground.  Bend it, break it, make it submit to your will.  Or you can pace yourself, out smart its traps and follies, finesse vs. force.  At some point you will have to do both.  Your approach to each challenge will differ from those around you.  Never quit, never submit.  The end is your goal.  Don’t take the Beast as one gigantic obstacle, break it into the task at hand.  You cant lift 2000 pounds all at once but you can lift 20 pounds 100 times with out a problem.  Remember why you are there, stay focused on your goal, and you will prevail.

The Beast is a Heroic journey like no other, this will be your Herculean trial. However this is not an insurmountable task.  You can overcome this Leviathan.  All of your training, the countless miles of running and innumerable pounds hoisted and lowered.  They will be enough to carry you through this odyssey, but you can’t slay the Beast by strength alone.  To arrive at the finish victorious you must draw on your Will and your Desire.  Long after your strength has left you.  After your endurance has become simple survival, it is your desire to prevail that will bring you into the arms of your battle hardened comrades.  When weakness overcomes you, exhaustion is crushing you, take a deep breath close your eyes and clear your mind.  When you open them, you will only see the small task in front of you.  Complete that task and move on.

Crushed by brutes or out witted by knaves The Beast puts each person to the task.  Strength and Will are the weapons at your disposal.  Use them wisely, like water in a desert you’ll never know when they will run out.  Good luck out there.  Return Victorious.

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Challenges: Rise Up!

There has been a lot of chatter lately.  It sounds like this.  “I can’t do the insert obstacle here because I’m too short or too tall.  Because I’m a Woman, because I’m a Man.  Or it sound’s like this:  I want to get people to do the Spartan Race but they think its too hard, Spartan Race should market more inclusively like other races.  Let me point out some obvious facts that seemingly have fallen through the cracks.

This is Sparta!”  This is not a rallying cry.  It is a statement of fact.  It is not a marketing tool.  It is a statement of fact.  It is not a feel good phrase, it is a statement of fact.  The Spartan Race does not use passive phrase’s like “This might be the toughest race you ever do.”  They are confident that this is the toughest race you will ever do.  They are the only race that makes you do a penalty for not completing an obstacle.  The obstacles challenge the Mind, the Body and the Will of the runner.  They design the race deliberately through arduous terrain, and put the obstacles in the most awful locations within that terrain.  This is on purpose, this is why we do Spartan Race and not Warrior Dash.

So why do some seem bent on lowering the bar.  Why is it that we push ourselves to greatness, but seek to cheapen it for other’s so that they can compete with us?  The City-State of Sparta was a military powerhouse.  It was also unique in its treatment of Women, its emphasis on education and its political structure.  Males were indoctrinated and educated into military life at an early age and served for the rest of their lives.  Women were educated in a more physical fitness sense, through gymnastics and similar endeavors.  Aside from the culling of the sick and weak in infancy, this was not unique to Sparta or any other ancient culture.  Spartan’s pushed for physical greatness all their lives.  Some research indicates this was in fact done by law.  To be a Spartan was to be the best, to be recognized as being superior, to be feared because of your greatness.  Spartan Racers are no different.

Spartan Race is available to those who seek to push their limits.  Its not about arriving at your limits and stopping to admire the view.  Spartan Race is about finding how far you will go, and then keep going.  It is not about doing obstacles faster or even doing them at all.  Its about challenging yourself to attempt them, to do them or fail in your attempt.  If you can not complete the obstacle, you Spartan up and take the penalty and move forward.  Spartan Race has a goal “Ripping people off their couches” Ripping is a verb;  It requires action.  This is not “coaxing people off their couches” or “holding some ones hand, off the couch”  This is about challenging people to change their lives.  If you are trying to convince someone to do a Spartan Race, don’t ask the race to be easier, or more approachable or anything that takes away from the glorious challenges of the race.  You need to step up your game.  You need to be able to convince people that it is hard, it is a challenge, it will hurt, and it will be the best thing they do to change their life.

Spartans are the tip of the spear.  We are few.  We walk proudly among other racers because we know that they have done what few others have done.  We seek out others to join us.  To strengthen our ranks.  They needn’t be the fastest or the fittest.  We challenge those we deem worthy or in need of the challenge.  We do this because we see greatness in every person and want to see it come out.  A Spartan has a mindset, a singularity of purpose that sets them apart.  We seek challenges, and overcome them.  We do it until we cannot.  We understand the meaning of hardship and embrace it.  We do not complain about the chore, the task, or the obstacle.  Spartans don’t seek to have the bar lowered, We seek to raise it.

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Why do we Spartan?

Why do we Spartan?  In 1943 Abraham Maslow wrote a paper A Theory of human Motivation. In this he postulated the theory that became Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  At the bottom you have Physiological and Safety.  In a nutshell.  After the basic human functions are met.  After we are clothed, sheltered and fed.  After we are protected from the intrinsic dangers of weather, nature, and other people, we are free to explore other avenues of interest.  Which are the top two levels of Maslow’s hierarchal pyramid.  Self Actualization and Self Esteem.  This leaves one level in between, Love and Belonging.  So why do we Spartan?  For many it is a chance to belong, to subscribe, to participate in a group where simple participation is a badge of acceptance.  Finishing is a validation of accomplishment.  And for everyone, it is a chance to push one’s limits beyond the length of a given course or the weight of cold iron in a gym.

Cultures through the ages have had rites of passage.  An event that marks the transition from one state of development into another.  This is usually the point where a person develops that level of love and belonging.  That point where you are no longer provided for by the tribe but in fact contribute to provide for the tribe to become a tribe member.  In America, as a nation, we really don’t have a point where we recognize this transition.  Cultures and religions in our society do, but as a Nation we typically don’t.  We have markers which are recognized such as attaining a drivers license, the right to vote, or to drink.  But these are arbitrary, and set up by law.  With no real accomplishment by the individual except to attain a certain age.  So why do we Spartan?  It fills a principle need in our lives to accomplish a goal, to have validation of that accomplishment by our peers.

A Spartan race fills one of our basic human need’s love and belonging.  To this end it frees us to explore and attain the next level of need.  Self Esteem.  For many, starting a Spartan race is a huge accomplishment.  For others finishing it is.  Still others improving over a previous time is their goal.  The sense of accomplishment is no different for any runner regardless of their personal goal.  We Spartan because there is a group of obstacles in front of us which we can see, we can manage, and we can over come.  To our left, to our right, in front of us and behind us there are other people who must accomplish the same task’s.  Regardless of gender, ignorant to age or ability, unimpressed by level of fitness; the obstacles are there.  The obstacles stand stoic and unfeeling.  They do not judge you.  They will not mock you and they will not compliment you. Wether you breeze through the obstacle or fail in your attempt the obstacle is there, you chose to meet it.  Some will succeed others will not.  Everyone will try.  In the end it is the sense of accomplishment in our attempt that fills our self esteem.  It is a well we can draw from in our daily life.  It is something that cannot be taken away, it cannot be diminished.  It cannot be cheapened or diluted by others.  At the finish line we all are deserved of the title Spartan.

The pinnacle of Maslow’s pyramid is Self Actualization.  Becoming, who you are.  Philosophically and Theologically this can be debated as to how this is attained or even what it means.  It is the by product of challenge and the accumulation of self esteem, where we are confident to seek out new challenges to make us a better person.  We see this all the time  at Spartan race’s.  “I have never, ever done anything like this in my life! ” “It was awesome.”  “It changed the way I look at myself”  “I can’t wait to do another”  This list goes on. People get fit to do a race, and it becomes a habit.  They identify things in their life that are bad for them, that are destructive.  They start to notice people or activities that don’t support the positive changes they want  to make for themselves.  They gain the strength, the energy and the confidence to move forward and stay moving.  By running a Spartan race and getting involved in the tribe of Spartans people change.  Not everyone.  But most.  Not everyone is ready to make change.  Others are.  Not everyone is ready to except the challenge but everyone need’s the invitation to try. You don’t need to be the best runner, the best jumper, the best climber or the best anything.  You do need to try to be the best at being you, because being the best you is the only best you need to be.  And that is why we Spartan

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Tire Guys: Adventures in the Insanity.

Where do I start!  Well lets see, the Tire Guys; Jeff and Bruce Foster, these guys are insane.  I looked it up because the word insane is used so much in our daily life.  Here’s the wiki about insane: Insanitycraziness or madness is a spectrum of behaviors characterized by certain abnormal mental or behavioral patterns.  Ok so we have the right word for this blog.  We will touch on this more.

First Jeff and Bruce are located in Lincoln Rhode Island.  A charming hamlet I have had the wonderful opportunity to enjoy only by the light of the moon.  This lunacy it seems is part of the training.  Of course I wouldn’t want to traipse around my town in broad day light the way we do during the Death Race camps.  However I’m quite sure the Tire Guys don’t care.

The Tire Guys provide these camps based out of their home and are supported by friends, family and the occasional on looker.  Death race camp number 3 also had the Fire Department and a Rhode Island State Trooper.  This brings us to the next wiki: Insanity may manifest as violations of societal norms.  “FIRE!”  It is a natural and human constant that as mammals we have an aversion to fire.  We have a conceptual understanding of its raw and destructive power, and although we reap many benefits from it we know there is no controlling it.  So would setting over 50 pallets in a ring on fire be a “violation of societal norms”?  How about building a 50 foot long cinderblock and metal tunnel with a bunch of pallets on top set ablaze? What if the tunnel was in the ring of fire and you had to crawl under it?  Insanity established.

This fire ring/tunnel was merely a small part of a larger obstacle course the Tire Guys had set up around their property.  Suffice to say I have paid significantly more money for a less challenging OCR.  Without going into great detail there were, in no specific order, things to go under, over, up and through.  All with a pack and of course a log.  Their under was lower than any wire I’ve gone under at a race.   Conveniently built in a bog, so it actually got lower, muddier and wetter as the night progressed.  There was 25 feet of scaffolding that you, your pack, your log and a very large tire had to scale and come down.  No dropping anything.  There was drain pipe to crawl through, tires to flip, sand bags to move and 127 tires of various sizes to step through.  The real bitch.  The calisthenic station.  Two words about that:  The WORST!  I haven’t covered everything because its not important.  What is important is that you will use every single muscle to its point of exhaustion.  This is the warm up, it last usually about 5 hours.  If you only did this portion of the training you would get your moneys worth, you might leave satisfied but you would never see the real fun stuff.  Trust me this stuff is fun and it gets better.

The trick is to not where a watch.  Let someone else wear the watch and if you really need to know ask them.  Not having a watch means you don’t have a mental crutch.  Focus on the task at hand, break it into manageable pieces.  Our next task grab 2 tires.  I grabbed to moderate tires.  In hindsight tires with a larger side wall would have worked a lot better.  We jogged a half a mile with them, and then put them down on a ball field.  End to end we moved the tires across 300 yards and back, by standing on one, moving the trailing tire and then stepping onto it.  If you fell off 10 push ups.  The Tire Guys had me on my knees early this time, but I found a system and it worked.  I don’t know how long this took but I never want to do it again.  Once done back to the house we went.

At this point, I was pretty spent and the next task did not look like anything I wanted to do.  There were 5 gallon buckets filled with water and sealed with a lid and a rubber raft.  Because I am slow,  I got to use the buckets.  My more fit counter parts got to carry the inflatable white water raft.  It really  didn’t matter because for the next 12 hours or so we would be swapping out.  This is were being on the good side of insane comes in handy.  I have this exact set up at my house.  So I know carrying buckets sucks.  And of course this just dropped me even further behind.  But you have to be crazy like a fox.  I have carabiners and slings, I just attached those suckers to my pack and took the strain off my arms.  I wasn’t a whole lot faster but I didn’t need to stop either.

This phase goes on for hours and miles.  Stop when you need to.  Sometimes its a forced stop so we all get back together, other times you just need a break.  Task at hand.  Don’t worry about the things you can’t control.  Thankfully being on a street I could use light poles.  All I needed to do was make it to the next pole, or intersection, or what ever.  Sometimes I had a buddy some times not.

We arrived at out next “rally” point and the wonderful Sheri Foster was there.  We finally could drop our packs.  So we could go on a run!  Run!  Are you F***ing kidding me.  Well no pack is good, so off I went.  I made it one quarter mile maybe half who knows, who cares.  I figured I would either see them on their way back or eventually meet up with them.  And I did.  Mental challenge time.  Record the construction of children’s building discs, run back and reassemble it.  Ok I got this no problem but I wasn’t running anywhere.  So Captain Turtle finally got back in time to see the group leaving on the next task.  Modern Art assembled and I to was off with my cinderblocks, up a hill.  This sucked.  But task at hand.  Done.

Back to my pack, and where is everyone going?  Well they’re rested. Because every time I’m slow they rest.  So what’s the deal now.  Oh buckets again.  And where too?  Same path to the Modern Art.  These buckets were almost the death of me.  But the sun was coming up so that meant I only had about 12 more hours of this left.

At this point I will glass over the details for the sake of brevity.  There were some opportunities to buy coffee donuts with the pennies we were required to bring.  I didn’t I chose to rest.  There was another long walk with buckets and boat.  Then we arrived at the State Park.

Ever wonder why these guys are called the Tire Guys?  They were crazy enough to push, pull, drag, lift, carry and toss a huge tire up and down Mt Killington at the Spartan Beast.  How do you train for something like that?  Well you go to a very scenic, very hilly State Park, you look at all the wonderful trails that go around objects and stay on gentle sloping grades and you completely ignore them!  You push that tire up nasty grades and over rocky outcroppings.  You go up trails designed for mountain bikes to down, not up.  And if you think going up is hard try controlling these suckers going down.  My trick, partner up with the biggest guy who just loves this stuff and says this helps his back.  Also If you have the heaviest tire to begin with, and another team leaves there tire in the middle of the trail so they can go change clothes, take their tire.

With that accomplished it was back to buckets and the boat.  I was done with both by now and I really had lost a lot of my niceness.  Being aware of this and not wanting to become a “just add exhaustion a-hole”  I took the heavy-ass, block of wood; strapped it on my back and lit out.  This guy was tired of being last.  With one minor detour photo op, it was into our bathing suits and into the pond.  The frozen pond!  Simple task at hand; take a cinder block with a rope attached, go in waist deep and untie the knots.  HOLY CRAP!  Yes it was beyond cold.  Yes I did have to get out once, your block stays in.  Yes I did it!

For the round up we did change into fresh clothes, a mandatory carry item, and then we stood with out partner back to back where we were Velcro’d together with our packs on our chests.  I can’t begin to describe how awful this was, or how far we actually went.  Maybe a mile and a half.  Keys:  Task at hand, unbelievably good communication skills with your partner, patience. This bought us to the final road march.  Simple directions and we would be back at the Tire Guy compound, and done.

Not even close.  Once there we were tasked to break down all the equipment we used for the obstacle course.  Not really a bad task there were 10 of us and we were all so jacked about being done, and how awesome the Tire Guys are we were all happy to do it, have those Guinness’s we bought and toast our success.  Compound cleaned up and we were done…  Not!

Out come the eggs.  Ok guys 5 mile run with an egg.  Don’t finish the run and you get a DNF.  Break the egg and you get a DNF.  Did he say run?  Did he say 5k?  No he said 5 miles!  WTF!  Oh and the egg totally forgot about that.  Did I finish?  Hell yeah!  Was I last?  Nope, second to last.  Would I have run another 10 miles.  Nope but I would have walked it.

During all of this there is time to rest, eat, hydrate, adjust equipment and all that goes with it.  Jeff and Bruce have this set up so you can succeed, unlike the real Death Race which is designed for you to fail.  Peak Racing will do everything in their power to help you cripple yourself.  The Tire Guys Death Race Camps are designed to strengthen your resolve.  You on your own can strengthen your body, but your mind will quit long before your body.  That’s what these camps are about.

The last wiki:  In English, the word “sane” derives from the Latin adjective sanus meaning “healthy”. The phrase “mens sana in corpore sano” is often translated to mean a “healthy mind in a healthy body”. From this perspective, insanity can be considered as poor health of the mind, not necessarily of the brain as an organ (although that can affect mental health), but rather refers to defective function of mental processes such as reasoning. A Latin phrase for “sane” is “compos mentis” (lit. “of composed mind”), and a euphemistic term for insanity is “non compos mentis”.  Thats the long way of saying, you make bad decisions.  Of course this is completely subjective to the norms of the society in which we exist.  Are Death Race Camps insane?  To the uninitiated probably yes.  To those that enjoy the wonderful gifts of a strong mind and a strong body “mens sana in corpore sanoisn’t it insane not to use both to their maximum potential.

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Just get out there!!! “My New Years Resolution is…”

As the New Year sets in, the usual suspects have made their resolutions. You probably have a few of your own, I’ve got a couple too. The difference is, a lot of people make the same one’s every year. Their intention is there, or else they would not have said anything. But, like I said, for most people it’s the same old thing and they just make a resolution for face value with their family or friends.

One of the biggest resolutions you hear is, “I am going to join a gym, I need to get into shape.” You and I know that most people never go through with it. We also know, well a good part of us do, that you don’t need a gym to get into shape, you just need some ambition. Defined by Merriam Webster, ambition is “the desire to achieve a particular end.”

I always thought the gym was the solution, but I am broke and can’t afford all the ritz that the gym offers. Sure I could join the chain store gym down the street for $10 bucks a month, but I have issues with commitment so that might not work out. What I never realized, and those making this resolution over and over need to realize, is that they are their own gym.

There are a variety of exercises one could do using the weight of their own body. Try a push up or two. Push ups are fantastic for your body, especially for the triceps, pectorals and deltoids. Sit ups are also great, your hip flexors and abs will thank you. You could grab a branch out in the backyard and start doing some pull ups. Pull ups, depending on what kind you are doing, work your lats and back, secondarily they also work out your biceps and shoulders. Go for a walk or a run next, just to start out if you are only now breaking the restraints from the couch. If you are brave enough, and don’t mind a little soreness in the morning, start doing lunges around your yard.

Now tell me, what muscle did we not just “work out”? Even if we didn’t hit every single muscle group, it’s a great start!

You don’t need to get a set of 50lb dumbbells and start pumping iron, you don’t need a stair master or a treadmill. Go take a walk around the yard, maybe in the woods, you’ll find plenty of weight out there. Whether it’s a 20lb rock, a 20lb log or a sack filled with 20lbs of sand, they all have one thing in common— they are all 20lbs.

The underlying factor this New Year is, to get yourself up, off the couch and to get to work on that goal. As the famous ballplayer, Ted Williams, said “A man has to have goals – for a day, for a lifetime – and that was mine, to have people say, ‘There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived.”

How do you want to be remembered? Do you want people to remember you as just another guy/ gal making the same resolutions every year, or do you want to inspire and be that person that people say “wow, they did it!”


Nate DeMontigny is the editor and author on the blog Precious Metal. He was ripped off the couch this past summer after being told his cholesterol was too high, he was out of shape, etc. He was also inspired by the Spartan Race and the athletes that are involved with the organization.

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Great Article On Spartan Race and Obstacle Racing

In case you haven’t seen it yet, there was a great piece written about the current state, and rise, of obstacle racing. Of course, the mecca of all obstacle racing was mentioned, the mighty Spartan Race. They even grabbed a quote from the fearless Hobie Call. Click the link to read it…

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Incorporate these exercises into your run, you might thank us!

James Horgan, a card carrying member of the MA Spahtens, suggested we come up with a few exercises to incorporate into a running routine. The hopes was the exercises be practical, and that you would not have to carry anything to make them possible.

So, we came up with a  list of ten that we think will strengthen the WHOLE body only using your body weight. The idea is, after every mile (more than likely on a three mile run) to run through a set of these. There are no particular reps you HAVE to do, just do what your body says you CAN do. This list may change, nothing is static, change is inevitable. We hope that with these exercises, you will feel that change.

These exercises, and video links, were compiled by Eric Matta, another card carrying member. Thanks for your work Eric.

1 – Burpees (full body)

2 – V sit Crunches (core)

3 – Lunges (quads, glutes)

4 – Divebombers (shoulders)

5 – Pullups, find a tree, bench, ledge.. (back)

5 – Squat jumps, elbows to knees (full body)

7 – Russian twist (core)

9 – Air Squats (quads)

6 – Plank (core)

10 – Pushups AMRAP (chest, arms)

Let us know how it goes, we’d love to know how you incorporate this into your lives. AROOO!!!

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The 100 Burpee Challenge

We, the MA Spahtens and other Spartan Warriors, are presently on day 8 of the challenge, so if you do the math you’ve got a bit of catching up to do.

Anyway… What is the 100 Burpee Challenge? It is a challenge that runs for 100 full days. On day one, you do one burpee, day two you do two burpees, day three you do three burpees until you hit day one hundred when, yes you got it, you do 100 burpees. It might sound like a lot now, but consider how many you’d have done to get to that 100th day! Yeah, you will be ready.

What is a burpee you ask? The most simple, and straight forward burpee is this, taken from Wikipedia:

The burpee is a full body exercise used in strength training and as aerobic exercise. It is performed in four steps, and was originally known as a “four-count Burpee”:

  1. Begin in a standing position.
  2. Drop into a squat position with your hands on the ground. (count 1)
  3. Extend your feet back in one quick motion to assume the front plank position. (count 2)
  4. Return to the squat position in one quick motion. (count 3)
  5. Return to an upright standing position. (count 4)

GET TO IT!!! You’ve got some catching up to do!! Join the challenge on Facebook HERE!!!