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Rucksgiving 2016

Melanie is helping to lead our 2016 annual Rucksgiving, and put together this awesome post, covering lots of people’s questions, concerns and giving some guidance, especially if this is your first year! You can follow more on her personal blog, here.


Hey all,

We are thrilled you are interested in helping with our annual Rucksgiving event this year!!  Rucksgiving is an event put together by the New England Spahtens and New England chapters of Team RWB where we bring all of the items we have collected to hand out to people on the streets of Boston and various shelters.  In this post, I would like to share some tips for interacting with people and what to bring/say (and what to avoid).  If this is your first time serving others in this type of capacity, it can be a bit intimidating and you want to do the right thing.  You are already heading in the right direction by wanting to help and wanting to understand and connect with people!  Having served in different settings in different countries, and reviewing different articles, I have compiled the following tip list.  If you think of anything I may have missed, please feel free to comment below!!

Before you go remember that for many people you will meet,

“life is very hard and very chaotic. You will find quite a few people who will be very appreciative of your help; others will be so jaded by past experiences they are not at a place where they can feel the love you offer. Offer it anyway. In the end, love always wins.” (Love Wins Ministries)

Also remember, there are many reasons why someone might be homeless (ie lost a job, runaway child, battling a mental illness/PTSD, medical disaster) don’t assume they are homeless (or are homeless for any particular reason).

Good Things to Bring

  • Hotels, dollar stores, and bulk stores are great places to buy/ask for donations for supplies.
  • Tarps are in high demand for those who do not stay in or have access to shelters (inexpensive at stores like Harbor Freight).  Please note, tarps would be better gifts as you interact with people at home.  Most people we interact with for Rucksgiving specifically stay in shelters.
  • If you receive/buy any pre-owned clothing, wash it, fold it, and label it with the size in masking tape.
  • Baby wipes are great for cleaning dirty hands and are better than soap (less messy for quick clean up).
  • Socks and underwear are in high demand, but should be new.
  • Bottled water!!!!
  • Do not mix food with toiletries (then snacks taste like soap) separate in freezer bags, they block smell better.
  • Lip balm, lotion, and sunscreen
  • Snacks – (easy to chew as they may or may not have access to dental care) fruit/applesauce/pudding cups, soft chewy granola bars, fresh fruit, crackers/cookies, beef jerky, small nuts/trail mix, and hard candy
  • Travel mugs to gas stations that give discount refills
  • $5-10 gift cards to restaurants/grocery stores
  • Travel size first aid kids
  • Hand warmers/hats
  • Warm gloves (not little knit ones that are decorative)
  • Blankets
  • Large/XL warm outer layers


Good Things to Say

  • FIRST!!!! Look each person you interact with in the eye and say “Hi, how are you?” or “Good morning.”
  • Ask him/her what his/her name is, shake his/her hand.
  • Let him/her know what you have or ask him/her what (s)he needs (don’t start the conversation with “Here I have homeless kits or free stuff” and hand it to them).
  • Talk to them with genuine interest and recognize their value as an individual.
  • Speak to each person the same way you would to a friend, family member, or coworker.
  • If you are able to have a conversation, avoid having debates.  Sit next to or get on the same eye level as the person you are speaking with.
  • Don’t tell them what to do or lecture them.
  • Regardless of your position on giving someone cash money, still acknowledge someone if they ask. “I don’t have money, but is there another way I can help you?”  (Not everyone will be homeless and may not need a place to sleep, but he or she may desperately need something else).
  • “Did you catch the game” or another neutral topic, “Good morning,” “How are you doing? Would you like to talk?” (open ended).
  • “I will keep you in my thoughts” (or if you are a person of faith, offer to pray with them-AFTER talking with them).


Good Things to Avoid

  • Do not mistake your discomfort for a lack of safety. If this is your first time interacting with people in this setting, you will likely be uncomfortable.  Getting out of your comfort zone is uncomfortable.  Focus on the people you are serving rather than your discomfort.  (Do remember to be smart though, for Rucksgiving stay with the group.  When you go back home, stay in pairs and in well-lit areas).
  • If someone is sleeping and they appear homeless, only leave one small bag of supplies. He or she may spend the night in a shelter or move locations. Many shelters limit how many bags a person can bring in with them.  If they cannot carry it, they may have to decide to throw something out or have difficultly moving.
  • Rather than simply handing someone that appears homeless a bag of supplies (because they may not be or they may not need what you are handing them) ask them if there is anything they might need.


What to do After Rucksgiving

  • Go where people are!
  • If you are able to interact with someone repeatedly (ie you pass them on your way to work), ask them what they have difficulty finding and could use.
  • For continued ways to connect once you get home, check out this article.

Have you signed up for Rucksgiving yet?  Want to know more about the event or how to join us?  Click on the button below!


To follow my blog for other community outreach info or product/race reviews click here!

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So you signed up for 24 Hours of Shale Hell, now what!

24 Hours of Shale HellSo you bit the bullet and signed up for 24 Hours of Shale Hell or 8 hours, or some other race where you must go as many laps as possible in a given time period.  Your reasoning might have been a desire to challenge yourself to see what you are capable of or you might have been suffering from FOMO (fear of missing out) but at this point, the why matters a little less and the how matters a little more.

A 24 hour race takes a little more than just showing up.  Many of us can show up and fake our way through a 5k or even a 10k.  To go for 24 hours, you must pay attention to your nutrition, you hydration, your feet, and your body.  You also have to keep your head in the game.

where-magic-happensSet a goal.  It gives you something to push towards or something to push beyond.  The way you set your goal is your choice.  You are going to go as long as you can, regardless of how many laps that gets you.  You want to get at least 5 laps or more than 3 laps.  You might want to go the entire time and take less than 20 minutes between each.  Whatever will drive you forward.

Know your why.  This can be a part of your goal but doesn’t have to be.  You want to push yourself.  You are running in memory or honor of someone.


Stephanie Rios Bin Drop
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Rios

Head Games.  Your mind will try to tell you that you are too tired to go on, that you can’t do it.  Find a way to silence that voice.  That being said, listen to your body and stop before it gets injured.


Despite telling you to watch out for head games, if you decide you are done and have had enough, that is okay. Just make sure it is a rational choice and not an emotional “I QUIT!”

So now that your head is in the game you need to take care of everything else!

Stephanie Rios Food Bin
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Rios

Hydration.  Start early. Start now. If you normally drink 3-4 liters in a day, up that should be plenty.  If you drink less, up it.  While Shale Hill has 4 water stations on course, I encourage you to carry water with you in a bottle, a belt, or a hydration pack.  The last thing you want is to get dehydrated while running multiple laps in the hot sun.  If you like your water icy cold, bring a cooler with ice, don’t count on a venue to have it.  If you like having something mixed in your water, electrolytes, sugars, such as Nuun or Tailwind, you can pre-mix in liters or gallons and keep in your cooler ready to refill.

Stephanie Rios Food
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Rios

Nutrition.  Keep your tummy happy, don’t try new foods on race day.  If you know bean burritos give you an upset stomach don’t eat them the night before or during the race.  Make sure to consume calories during your run and in between your laps.  This can be in the form of gels and chews while on the course, or via tailwind,
but could also be real food, almonds and dried mangos.  When you come in to transition, in addition to refilling your water, make sure you to consume calories.  Eight to ten hours into a 24 hour even is not the time you want to bonk.  Bring more food with you than you think you will need.  Remember, food for fuel and food for happy.

Foot Care. Keep your feet dry and happy.  Change your shoes on socks as often as necessary to keep your feet dry. Apply Trail Toes or some other type of moisture barrier.  Powder your feet to remove moisture, drain blisters as they form to keep them from getting worse. Blisters are not your own problem, keeping your feet dry is imperative to keeping away maceration.  Maceration, if severe enough, can end your race.

Body and Chafing. Lube is your friend.  Inner thighs, where the waist pack or hydration pack rubs, shoulders, and especially between your butt cheeks.  Finding out you chafed when you get in the shower is not a pleasant experience.

Stephanie Rios Bin
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Rios

Gear List. Towels, headlamp(s), spare batteries, water, food, gels, hydration pack, water bottle, socks, shoes, two to three sets of running clothes, long sleeve, hat, sun glasses, tent, chair, first aid kit, foot care kit, sunblock, bug spray, and a roller if you want one. Don’t forget a bin or bag to hold it all and keep it organized!

That’s it! Oh, and remember to have fun.

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Who is ready to race?

The warm sun, the gentle breeze, the mud; cooling off in the water after tackling a grueling course in the heat of the summer.  Congratulating yourself for a race well run with an iced cold beer.

Boy, it’s going to be amazing when race season comes back around!

Except, around these parts, we didn’t get the memo of race season requiring warm sun and a gentle breeze.  On Sunday, January 31st the 2016 #racelocal Grand Prix kicks off in earnest with Blizzard Blast!

BB tree

When you sign up for Blizzard blast, make sure you use the following team name: NE Spahtens. We’ve got your hook up for 15% off, at check out pop in NES15.  Boom, saving cake!  We’ll be rolling in one of three waves, 12:30, 12:45 and 1:00. Right now, until this Friday (1/8) the price is $64.  $64!!!!  I mean, holy ___.  A kickin’ race, amaze-ball obstacles, more fun than a barrel of monkeys on a sled in a blizzard, and a medal you won’t want to take off!

#racelocal 2016 is the year we get the whole family involved!  Do you have kids who have always wanted to run with you?

BB kegsThe minimum age for this one is 14.  If you think you have what it takes to keep up with your super star, make sure they are signed up as well!

Blizzard Blast has some of the most innovative, challenging, and fun obstacles you’ll find…on top of the fact that it’s an OCR in the winter.  I mean, right?!?  Let that sink in for a minute. You don’t have to wait until spring or summer, and your kids get to run with you.

It’s time to get serious, and it’s time to race, and it’s time to get the family involved!

Have you registered for the 2016 #racelocal yet?  Have you seen the 2016 medal?  Ooooooh,  you haven’t?

rl medal


Those eyes, tho. Right?!

Your first race gets you this badass medal.  And, here is the thing…every year this happens after Blizzard Blast:

Pictures of the event get posted and people get massive FOMO.  “Those obstacles look super cool, why didn’t I know about that race?”  Then the pictures of people’s medals start hitting on line…

Don’t be left out.

#racelocal.  Blizzard Blast.  It all starts…now.


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Out of Dagobah

Somebody crashed a damn X-Wing into my swamp and spoiled my slumber. Now I have to go fire up an ancient Macbook and take to the keys. 40 years old you become, cranky too, you will be.

“Fear is the path of the Darkside. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Master Yoda

The worst fear is the fear we don’t even realize we have, and that is the fear that leads to anger. Its not the fear from with out that breeds hate. Its the fear from within. The things we fear about ourselves that we fear will be let out into the light. Jung’s “shadow”. When we see it reflected inn others, that which we fear in ourselves, we lash out. When you take to the internet and condemn others, your own fears about yourself spill out.

“Just because you are a character, doesn’t mean you have character.” The Wolf

Everyone is the the lead character of their own story. Most people believe they are the Hero. But if you are the villain of someone else’s story. you are probably the Villain of your own as well. It’s been said time and again that most people are their own worst enemy and I think that’s accurate. If your choice of options is to belittle, degrade or dehumanize another person for some trumped up reason in your own mind, you’re a bad person. It’s really that simple. Instead of being someone who others look up too, you simply attract sycophants who agree with you out of fear. Which leads to anger, and hate, and then suffering. So instead of being a bright, happy, respectful person. You become a twisted, bitter, angry, wrathful wretch.

Character is one of those words which many can define yet, few seem to understand. It’s quite simply the moral and mental process which lead to an individual’s choices and actions. Correlation does not imply causation however. What I mean is just because you do something good for others to see, does not mean you really are good. Dave Barry the humorist wrote: “If someone is nice to you but rude to the waiter, they aren’t a nice person.” To really be nice, you first have to think nice, then speak nice, and then: AND THEN, do nice.

Dennis Prager wrote: “Goodness is about character- integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage and the like. More than anything else; it is about how we treat other people.” Similarly Buddhism is often attributed to these five factors when speaking; Is it spoken at the right time? Is it spoken in truth? Is it spoken affectionately? Is it spoken beneficially? Is it spoken with the mind of goodwill? With all of these things in mind, when you interact with other people either in person, or over the internet, if you can’t qualify your thought and your speech by these ideas, your probably speaking with fear. And with fear you will only find anger, hate and suffering.

Master Yoda told us that the path of fear would lead to the Darkside. Lucas however didn’t define the path of the light side. Probably because it would appear too religious and didn’t fit his sci-fi movie. But we can discern it for ourselves with no need to attach currently practiced religious canon. Understanding is the path of the Lightside. Understanding leads to joy. Joy leads to happiness. Happiness leads to love. Love never finds fault. Some guy long ago tried to teach these ideas. We haven’t come to understand his message or any other great teacher who tried. Some day we will though. Some day.

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Stop Hiding Behind Your Comfort Zone

where-magic-happensWe have all heard the saying “Life beings at the end of your comfort zone.” by Neale Donald Walsh.

We all have places we feel comfortable and confident.  We know that we will succeed, even if it takes effort and all that we have, we know we will not fail.  That is our comfort zone.

It’s important to know where your comfort zone is.  To know what your boundaries are.  It is within those boundaries you can relax and reflect.  It should be where you can recharge and reevaluate.

Now comes the hard part.  Step outside of it.  It doesn’t have to be big.  It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing mentality.  Find something to push you.  That is where you grow and learn about yourself.  That is where you find yourself.   Don’t like meeting new people?  Introduce yourself to one new person, not a whole group.  Don’t think you can run a 10k?  Sign up and finish, however that happens.

Comfort zones are wonderful.  Reach for growth, step outside of it!


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What it takes to be an inspiration.

inspire2Just what does it take to inspire someone?

Not necessarily as much as you might think.  It will differ for each person.  You might not even realize that you are being an inspiration.Everything that you do can be inspiring to the right person.

Did you share a recipe that was healthy?  Someone might have seen it and decide that looks good and takes a step to cook a meal at home instead of going out.  Guess what! You just inspired someone.

Did you post a photo of yourself at the gym?  Someone might have seen it and decided they were going to do something active.  Guess what! You just inspired someone.
Did you do something that pushed you outside of your comfort zone?  Did you shout it to the roof tops when you finished?  Someone probably saw it and probably decided to do something else to step outside of their comfort zone.  Guess what! You just inspired someone.
I know that running a marathon or an ultra marathon is inspiring.  So is running a 5k when you couldn’t run 30 seconds a year ago.   You know what else is inspiring?  Walking a 5k even when you are worried people might be looking at you.
Anything you do that pushes you is inspiring.  Remember that what you are doing could be inspiring someone, just as you are being inspired by others.
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Resolutions and Goals

I am not a big New Year’s Resolutionist.  If I set them too quickly, without a lot of thought, they usually aren’t right for the long term and I give up.  If I spend too much time setting them, the year is too far into it and I give up.  Sometimes I set them too hard and challenging, so I give up.  Rarely do I set them too easy but when I do, they are over before I even get the satisfaction of working on them.  Sense a theme here?  I give up on them.

Goals should be in constant evolution as you grow and change.  When you realize there is something you want, figure out how to obtain it and go for it.  Don’t wait for the New Year to start your weight-loss journey, your sub 3:00 marathon, your quest for all the 4,000 footers in NH, the list goes on and on.

So what are you waiting for! Just because New Year’s Day has passed doesn’t mean it is too late or too early to set those goals.  Goals are motivation!

Set your goal.

Set when you want to achieve your goal.

Write down the steps needed to achieve your goal, including mini goals.

Execute your plan.



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Spahten Stories: Mario DaSilva

** Editors note: This story amazed me when I first heard it, and inspired me to say the least. Through perseverance and sheer will, the man we now know has transformed himself into an elite athlete. When you have days where you think you can’t do it, it’s too hard… Remember this story! Mario is not only an inspiration as an athlete, but is truly humble. He is a friend to everyone and anyone who wants to be his friend. We here at NES love this guy and could not be prouder at the accomplishments he has made.

Before-and-After-300x236I haven’t always been athletic. Far from it, I was a beer drinking, 2 pack a day smoking, McDonald’s Eating (breakfast, lunch and dinner) 210lb slob!

When my little girl stated crawling I was playing with her and within 15 maybe 20 minutes I was winded and went outside for a smoke. As I was standing there smoking away it clicked! If I’m this tired crawling around with her what the heck’s going to happen when she stats walking and running? I put out the cigarette and quit right there and then.

As overweight as I was I took up running the next day to curb the urge to smoke and to start changing my life for the better. It wasn’t easy by any means, it was Horrible, Brutal, but I stuck with it and today 8 years later I’m proud to say I’m a lean 155lbs that can run Marathons, Spartan Beasts and anything in between then drive home after the event.

marioI guess you can say I started June 25 2011 when I decided to Run in the Warrior Dash in Amesbury Ma. I saw the ad for it in Men’s Health and figured why not it looks like fun. It was really cool running through and over obstacles all the while trying to get to the finish line through the most mud I’d ever seen in my life! It was a Blast!

I completed the race with a time of 37:15, at 1st I was like this was fun but my time was horrible of course I was comparing it to a normal 5K time. Once I spoke to a bunch of people I realized my time wasn’t bad at all. so i decided to sign up for a few more OCR’s.

I’m attracted to obstacle races because I love the challenge of the courses, the thrill of running, the camaraderie and friendships you make at these events. That’s what keeps me coming back.

My training consists of a lot of running, long runs and short speed and hill work. I also weight train a few days a week keeping it heavy. I do circuits with heavy weight to keep my body confused from getting bored.

mario2My diet is pretty strict, No Deep Fried Foods, No Beer, No Fatty Meats, No Pastries, Breads and Pastas. No Soda. I live on Fruits, Veggies, Lean Clean Meats, Fish, Protein Bars/Powders and Tofu. On rare occasions I’ll splurge a little but never ever with Deep Fried, or McDonald’s, BK, Wendy’s or Sonic.

Other than Obstacle Racing my other Athletic pursuit is Road Racing and Marathons after all that’s where my love for Obstacle racing started.

In my spare time, what very little time I have I enjoy watching Movies. Action, Adventure, Comedies, Mystery and Dramas. I don’t get into who’s playing the roles and don’t watch movies because of who’s in them. If it sounds interesting add it to my list. I don’t watch Television because of all the commercials, with Movies/DVD’s I can just stop it go to bed and resume it the next chance I have time.

ps. Peanut Butter is my Kryptonite!

pps. Abs are 80% diet!


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happy_face_Yesterday, Hannah “Happy” Hawley asked a simple question.

What is it about the New England Spahtens, OCR, and these sufferfests that we do together that makes you happy?

I wanted to take a moment and sample some of the responses. These aren’t all of them, of course, nor is there any logic to which I picked out – but these, THESE make me happy.

Thank you, Hannah, for the reminder of what makes ME happy.

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Spahten Story: Ben Millina

ben1TO SAY that SPARTAN RACE has inspired me to do a complete 180 lifestyle turn with life would be an understatement. It not only inspired change in my ethos from the very core of my being, but became the instrument of my resurrection. In 2012 I weighed 300 lbs., I smoked cigarettes, I was on too many prescription medications for a variety of health issues (physical and mental), and I was doing a few other things I’m not proud to mention. The very few friends I had in my rather depressed state of life other than a few small handful of “frenemies” included Adolphus Busch, Jack Daniels, and Mary Jane. The few moments of purpose and meaning that developed in my life at the point derived from the couch and what was coming next on the television. The only exercise received at that time was lifting the remote to change channels, and my nutritional intake was the Standard American Diet (SAD). My life had been progressively falling apart and worsening over the course of a decade. Through various situations, events, circumstances and ultimately poorly made choices, the situation was exponentially worsening and life was completely unmanageable.

I was on the brink of suicide-literally millimeters away from eternal black darkness. I was beyond the “cry for help”; I was at T-minus seconds to launch into the abyss of eternal darkness…

Then at a serendipitous moment an old childhood close friend walked back into my life. I had not seen or heard from him in over a decade. He reached out to me out the blue during this time to tell me he had to come to Boston for business for a few days and wanted to get together again. My friend was very shocked to see the decrepit state of life I was in. My friend wanted to help, and in doing so simply gave me the challenge to STFU-SPARTAN the F*#K UP. He told me of these wonderful events he was doing known as obstacle course races, and how he recently earned this coveted prize known as a Trifecta. He gave me a simple challenge that no other friend, relative, doctor or well-meaning individual had previously. He simply said, “I cannot help you in the state you are in. If you are going to leave this world-then so be it. I know you have been through a lot, and have been suffering many years. You have tried many avenues to seek improvement, and met those with consecutive failures. But-for the sake the of the “ole college try”, just try one more thing before you cash your chips in. Try to eat better, move a little more. Find a gym you like and be around more positive people who will inspire you. I want you to try one of these races. I’ll make you a promise that I’ll come back home and do one with you when you feel you’re ready…” Knowing I had absolutely nothing left to lose, I decided to take him up on his offer. In that mindset at the start, I had absolutely no expectations for success-at the time I was merely fulfilling a final promise to old friend on my way out.

ben2My friend honestly thought (as he later told me) he never thought that day would come. Eight months later, I did my first OCR having lost 70 lbs. A month later, I did my second-having lost 15 more pounds. A month after that; my friend returned home to New England to do my third OCR and first SPARTAN RACE with me, a hundred pounds slimmer than our last morbid rendezvous. Eternally grateful am I to the simple act of making SPARTAN RACE a goal. It opened a door to a literal new life and my former life is gone. My life now has a solid foundation in health; and my former nemeses of the couch, drugs, alcohol, processed foods, prescriptions, “frenemies”, pessimism, and sedentary life have all vacated. I have made a myriad of new friends throughout the country and even worldwide through the health and wellness journey that began with the simple inspiration of a SPARTAN RACE. The new adopted extended family I have made in life-long friendships along this journey has left me blessed and eternally grateful. I owe a great debt to not only the SPARTAN RACE community, but the greater OCR community as well…as in the great force to be reckoned; the New England Spahtens-AROO!

AROO! AROO! I have also been fortunate to make fantastic friends through the Biggest Loser community in California and the great juicing community through the inspirational Joe Cross of RebootWithJoe and the film Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. This amazing voyage of health, wellness, exercise, and nutrition all started with the goal of doing this wacky thing called a SPARTAN RACE. I do consider myself to be fully resurrected through mind, body, spirit. My former self did perish onto itself and is floating down the Styx into Hades. I followed Leonidas…err I mean Joe DeSena…out of Hades and into Sparta. SPARTAN RACE was the initial spark on this journey I have undertaken. I owe my life to it for what has unfolded over this last 18 months. There is no reservation, or any mountain I would not climb, nor any feat I would not attempt for any one of my new found family that began with the goal of SPARTAN RACE.

The rest of the story continues to be written…

ben3I still have many more life challenges and obstacles to overcome. In reality, I am dealing with more now than I was in 2012. The difference now is that I deal with them by the strategy of STFU and the 9 tenets of the SPARTAN CODE as opposed to that of a sedentary and morbid lifestyle inter-laid with poor choices. I am going back to school to study health, wellness, nutrition, and kinesiology. It is now my sincere hope with life and career path I am exploring to help others with their struggles in life. Having experienced it first hand, I am convinced that a healthy lifestyle and a positive attitude can change anyone’s life. I see so many different facets of our populous out there on the racecourse; all leaving their strife and struggles out in the mud and emerging victorious at the finish line strengthened. From the obese, the addicted, the crippled, the young, the old, to the very fit and unfit-SPARTAN RACE provides a metaphor for conquering life’s challenges. We all finish the race with indescribable feelings of elation; ready to handle whatever life throws next. No matter how long it takes; finishing is what matters most.

Joe DeSena’s statement of, “Sign up. Show up. NEVER give up…you’ll know at the finish line” is the most raw & brutal truth I have ever been exposed to in my entire life. I now proudly say in solidarity with my OCR family that I know my profession: I am a SPARTAN! AROO!