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Is there a Warrior within you?

I came across an interesting bit while researching ancient warfare.  It seems the author attributed the naming of the month of March to the beginning of the campaign season.  Being that armies could now ford rivers and would begin marching toward fields of battle.  It is also observed that most fighting was done in the summer months and curtailed by the fall in time for harvest. Of course there are numerous historical battles that would be in stark contrast to this.  However none of this is to my point.

“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.” ~Heraclitus

When you head out into your training you certainly should never consider yourself part of that bottom 10%.  Because you are here, at the precipice.  In the ring of your own Agoge.  If you belong in that 10% quit now and save everyone the trouble of listening to you whine.  But you are not of that ilk.  No you are not.

Perhaps you feel you are merely a target.  And perhaps you are.  You feel slow and weak.  Tired and alone.  But you aren’t.  Because you are here.  Through discipline you will become stronger and faster.  You will become a moving target.  A moving target is hard to hit.  Through courage and tenacity you will engage your challenges.  Targets do not engage.  Once you have decided to face your challenge, looked it in the eye and not cowered away, then you have become one of the nine, a real fighter.  You needn’t be the fastest, or the strongest.  What you need to do is to hold the line.  To move forward.  The power of the Spartan Phalanx was never it’s strongest soldier.  NO the strength of a phalanx was it’s weakest soldier.  If he breaks all is lost.  BUT if he can hold on, stand his ground, and inch forward in the face of certain failure oh the tides of war he can change!

In that soldier is the Warrior, the weakest link.  The one who chose discipline over bravado.  The one who did what was asked  of him and did it without seeking glory.  There my friends is your 1%.  There is your warrior.  And he will bring the others back!

Being a warrior is about courage, discipline, and commitment.  Honor, sacrifice and integrity.  Being a warrior is doing what you said you would do, because you said you would.  Not doing it for honors and accolades though they may be bestowed.  Being a warrior is doing it for the personal satisfaction of a job well done.

Go out and train.  Run miles.  Good miles.  Suffer through bad miles.  Walking miles if you must.  Do good exercises with good form.  1 good pushup will always always beat 10 half assed ones.  Said a great man once “It took me 6 weeks to do 100 good push-ups.”  Yes said his Trainer but look over at him.  When you started he could do 100 bad push-ups to your 10 good ones. And in that same time he can still only do 100 bad push-ups.

Do not be a target be a fighter.  Use your discipline and your desire to become a Warrior.  Bring the others back.

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Ripping people off couches

“Ripping people off the couch.” ~Joe Desena

“When we started this band all we needed, needed was a laugh.” ~ Vince Neil.

Ripping people off of a couch and making better humans was an original idea.  It was not “throw people into a race and create uber-athletes.  In point of fact, making athletes is no where in that statement.  Give people a struggle and they will rise to it, run from it, or keep doggedly at it until they can over come it.  Keeping doggedly at it for better or worse was what people who really got Spartan Race understood.  Determination to succeed.  Progress in spite of failure.

So, what happened?  Before the voices clamored Olympics and the pundits called foul at obstacles people ran obstacle course races primarily for one of 2 reasons:  Mud or beer, and that was fine.  Subset to those reasons were a sense of community, a judgment free environment, and oddly enough simply for fun.  Remember fun?  The challenges were either difficult or silly.  But in the end it was fun.  So much so that you told your friends about it.

So what happened? Races got longer, obstacles became more difficult,  people got faster.  Races became widely popular.  Obstacle Course Racing became a “Boom-Town”.  The gold rush was on and like any run on a good thing so came the ancillary industries.  Media outlets, outfitters specializing in niche items, communities.  And of course “The Experts”.  The experts on everything.  Over night every one had an opinion.  Snake oil salesmen on every corner.  “If you can’t drive a nail into a wooden shaft, I’ll sell it to you fully assembled!”  “You need to do this, to do that.”  “That race is child’s play son!  Prove you’re a man and do this race, it was designed by a Navy Seal don’t you know.”  The list is endless, everyone is cashing in.

So what happened?  When we were ripping people off couches, or not “running” races but doing “event’s” we encouraged everyone.  We “aspired to inspire” as I have seen the terms used.  We said “I can do this” without having any shred of confidence we could.  And we did do it.  We did it not because we had the confidence to do it but because others inspired us to.  Because someone told us “I won’t let you fail.”  We helped “Rip people off couches.”

So what happened?  The most hurtful thing I have ever seen written was by a very good friend of mine.  He is one of the experts.  No sarcasm, he is truly an expert.  There probably is not one single person who has more access to OCR information than him.  When he suggested that “There are a ton of less competitive, less “rules” driven OCRs out there that first timers, burpee haters and such can hit up if they need to.”  I knew the party was over.  Yes the context of the statement was specific to an event, but the sentiment is universal.  And he is not alone.  The culture of the industry has changed, and this is the way of the future.

So what happens next?  A good teacher teaches without the students realizing the lesson.  In the end the student is endowed with knowledge and the teacher satisfied with accomplishment.  Lao-Tsu  tells us “When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!'”  I feel that anyone who has gone on to their second and more obstacle race, learned the lesson.  They have been “ripped” off the couch.  I have witnessed sedentary people do a Spartan Race and within a year run a road marathon.  I have watched someone who can’t climb a rope, join a gym and shed 100 pounds.  I have seen the most timid woman shake violently at a Sprint starting gate in the Spring, only to gnash her teeth in the chute of the Beasts starting line in the Fall screaming “Come and get them!!”  All of this because they either got it in their mind to change, or someone told them “You can do it.” But it’s an elite class system now, and the gap is widening between the tiers.

So what happens next?  Do you say “look out fatty”, “out of my way pokey”, “do all your burpees cheater!” or do you teach the lesson.  Do you aspire to inspire.  I have never once heard a top finisher say that their time was slowed because someone skipped an obstacle or dropped a burpee.  But it never was about finishing first in the first place.  It was about ripping people off couches.  Now it seems it’s ok for some people to do the ripping as long as we don’t put those people in the way of the “real” Spartan Racers.  Sad really.  This isn’t about standardizing or maintaining etiquette.  It’s about getting people to move. To be better.  It is about a process that we all are involved in.  Some of us are further along that journey than others.  Some are still in the physical transformation stage.  Some are developing the emotional stage.  These journeys however are personal.  If you are crippled by someone else’s journey and the way they navigate it, you are not as far along your own journey as you think.

What happens next is a mystery.  Experts and prognosticators alike are just as in the dark as anyone else.  Follow your own path.  When the path leads you in a unintended direction you must either  maintain the course or correct the course.  Be careful in your corrections however.   You may find the course, though divergent, was the correct one all along.

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Tell us your story.

There have been more than a few memes/blogs going around Facebook as of late.  The context is the quiet sufferer who feels, for what ever reason, that they don’t want to relate their story.  Some feel they don’t have anything to add or that they aren’t “part” of the group.  They feel that maybe they haven’t done what others have.  I find this a little disheartening.  If you are on the NE Spahtens team/group/twitter feed/facebook page/sideline or whatever I need to let you in on the big secret:  YOU’RE A WIERDO!  Plain and simple.   We have podium finishers and people that finish dead last.  In between those equally inspiring people is everyone else.  So it doesn’t matter where you are, you’re with teammates.  Therefore everyone should feel they have something to share.  If you surround yourself with positive people you become positive and once you become positive there really is nothing you can’t over come.

In a post comment today I came across Tony’s post:

Tony DeMauro:  I have held off posting a lot of my thoughts in this forum as i really do not want to sound like a kiss ass…But what the hell… This ENTIRE community of the NE Spahtens has been almost overwhelmingly inspiring. I have done Warrior Dashes and Spartan Sprints and thought I was doing pretty well with a WHOLE lot of room for improvement. But after joining this group and seeing their posts and aspirations, and challenges, nevermind pics of their Medal Collections…I am pushing myself even harder to better myself. to have people STILL waiting at the finishing line at the 5 miler on Sunday (WELL after they had finished and the beer was flowing freely) just to cheer people coming across the line- might be a small act for some…But to someone like me who feels very new, and “off”, and even as far as to say a “Square peg in the round hole” at these things- THAT was a HUGE act of kindness and solidarity for a group to show. I felt a large sense of accomplishment finishing a 5 mile run. As it is something I never thought I would ever do let alone even TRY! Each race (3 mile, 4 mile, and 5 mile of the Wild Rover Series) I have watched and learned from how to land my feet to strides, to pacing, just from watching others and from the words they gave me as I started back up from a “walking break”…Not sure where this post is leading…Just wanted to express my gratitude for this group as everyone really DOES stand behind their commitment to being a “TEAM” not just a facebook group that sometimes gets together for things…They really are a community,and one that I am glad to quietly be a part of…”

 

Tony said it all perfectly.  My hope is everyone feels they can share.  Please at events say hello, come to the team tents or where ever we are gathering.  It’s your tent if we have one.  You did it, you made it happen.  It’s hard knowing everyone from Facebook but no one bites unless asked to.  We’re all just obstacle racers.  How we finish or what we have accomplished wouldn’t be half as awesome, for me at least, if it weren’t for the Team.  Inspire and pass it on.

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Biggest Loser Off-Road challenge

As a Spahten, we are privy to many races and OCRs that are going on in the New England area. We talk about who is going to which event and talk about how long the race will be. We chat a lot about training, techniques, times, scores, etc. All of us at some point made that choice to “get off the couch and get moving”.  NE Spahten Dennis Michaud had a unique opportunity to volunteer for the Biggest Loser Off-Road Challenge that took place during the Spartan Sprint at Amesbury. These are all people who made that choice to “get up and get moving”. Here is his experience as a volunteer. Take it away, Dennis…

 

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On Sunday August 11th during the second day of the Massachusetts Spartan Sprint another separate, yet equally impressive event was taking place: The Biggest Loser Off-Road Challenge as part of the Biggest Loser RunWalk Series. The Biggest Loser RunWalk is a non-intimidating race series designed to challenge America to get fit. You’ve been inspired by the hit reality show “The Biggest Loser,” now it’s time to get off the couch and hit the pavement and achieve your fitness goals. This race series will include a challenge for everyone. I should add right now that I have never seen more than an advertisement for the television show. I volunteered to be an on-course guide as a way to give back and pay forward something to the sport of OCR. It ended up being a bit more than I expected.

As a volunteer I was instructed to be there for 7am, no problem, checked in and was told I was told wasn’t needed till 8:30. Gave me a little time to actually check out the festival area and visit with a few early arriving NE Spahtens, make lemonade, right? I had an opportunity to observe the registration process and did appear a little disorganized, but considering the same folks were doing the children’s race, I was amazed at how smoothly it went. I should add that Hilary, another Spahten was a volunteer as well.

As 8:30 approached I made my way over to the area where the participants were told to congregate, a separate area off to the side. I understand the reasoning for the segregation, it was more to keep Spartan competitors out as than to keep the participants in, but some form of encouraging them to visit the festival area would have been nice. As well as a map of the festival area, nobody even knew where the porta-potties were. Finally, Dan Evans from Season 5 showed up, introduced himself a bit, and left to set up the course. Hilary and I helped hand out shirts and socialized a bit with some of the participants. Dan came back and made a few announcements, introduced Chris Davis who had a few encouraging words for the participants and finally it was time to make our way to the starting line. Hilary, Chris, myself and 1 other volunteer were going to be the on course guides. The group was divided into 2 waves with one guide leading and another doing sweep. Off we went.

The course was a shortened version of the regular course without all of the obstacles. The traverse wall, the slippery wall, the sand bag carry, and the “climb up and down” were not part of the course. I’m not going to talk about the course, that’s been done. I’m going to talk about the heart and the change I saw come over people I was fortunate enough to be with on the course. At the inverted wall it was “no way can I do that”. Well, then 1 person tried and with a little help from her friends, she made it. Then another person tried with the same result. Confidence was growing. The cheers and comments from Spartan competitors helped as well. There were a few who ended up not trying, and a couple who tried and just couldn’t quite get there. It was time to move on. I believe the next obstacle was the tractor drag. A little teamwork and everyone was successful, same at the Hercules hoist, they were starting to believe that hey, “I can do this stuff”. Now we came to the wall. Funny thing happened, it wasn’t “no way I can do that” it was “how do we get over that”, and most were able to get up and over, with a little help from their friends, and it was pretty awesome seeing their faces when they were on the other side. The monkey bars came into sight, everyone tried and with help everyone made it. Tire pull, everyone tried, some needed a little help, but some said I can do this, and did. Sadly, none of the group I was with stuck the spear throw, but not many Spartans did either. Onward to the barbed wire, crawl. You could not stop anyone from trying this one and all but one made it through, and the one was due to a knee injury suffered earlier on the course. Ok, it was time for the fun stuff now, jumping over fire and taking on the gladiators. Over the fire we went, down the hill and took on the gladiators as a team.

Before the challenge these folks sat around in their little corner of the festival, after they felt like they belonged and rocked the medals they earned. The support and positive comments made by people doing the Spartan race along the way really meant a lot to the group I was with. The change in that occurred in the around 2 hours it took was nothing short of remarkable. That I was able to witness this transformation made it one of the most rewarding days of life.

If you are reading this and are wondering if you can do this or if you know someone who wonders if they can all I can say is: Yes, you can.

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The most important Beast or Ultra Beast blog post you will ever read

The Beast is coming (or the Ultra Beast for many). Next weekend, folks!

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And thats it. Thats your advice.

The weather may be hot, or cold. Sunny, or snowing. The mountains will be steep and seemingly endless, and the obstacles will be cruel and punishing.

You haven’t trained enough – no one has, even the elites – and regardless of what you pack, you will forget something you need.

When you get on the mountain, you’ll have over dressed – unless you have under dressed. Regardless, you won’t have enough clothes, or you have too many.

You may not be able to swim, or the walls will be too tall, and your feet will probably cramp at some point.

You may wrench an ankle, or wrench an IT band (or break your hand *Jess*), or get a blister.

A million and one things may go wrong – and a million and two things will be guessed at, speculated upon and simply made up. Facebook is not your friend this week, and don’t believe anything you read when it comes from a Spartan employee – especially that wily, pesky Don fella. Would you believe, they *want* you to panic?

Oh, and there may be bears.

Despite all this – all the things that *might* go wrong and *could* happen there is only one thing that is for certain – you will finish.

You’re crossing that finish line and earning that medal. Only ONE person can take that away from you – and thats you.

So – Don’t Panic. Bring a towel. Towels are important.

 

… a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: nonhitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, washcloth, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

— Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

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NE Spahtens do 100 Mile Summer recap.

Team Mike McNeil member, and New England Spahten, Mark Gearin initiated a challenge before Memorial Day – run 100 miles before Labor Day.

For some, this was a couple of weeks work – for others, the task was daunting – it ended over Labor Day weekend, and he sent me over a recap of the challenge – and if you want, you can hop into the new Labor Day to Fenway 100 mile, 100 pushup challenge too – just join our community, and check this event out. 

 

Runtastic

This summer 73 Spahtens took on the challenge of running 100 miles between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  Some pledged to do more while others panicked at the idea of even running 100 miles.  To sweeten the challenge, some even pledged donations to charity if they did not complete the challenge.  The spreadsheet was created and member signed up and waited for the 27th to arrive.  The final pledged miles were posted at 8,850.  A very lofty goal.

The day came and some hit the ground running logging in more than 10% of their challenge miles while others started slowly.  We had 90+ days to get it done so there was no need to panic yet.  Miles were posted and people took notice and signed up to get in on the event.  Things like “If that person can do it, so can’t I.  How do I sign up?”

The summer rolled on and more miles were posted.  There were Spahtens that finished their miles early and pledged additional miles to keep them running.  Others fell behind but had time to get there.  The postings in the event page kept coming, Runtastic, Runkeeper, and Map My Run postings filled the page and there were pictures of people running, walking, and hiking their miles away inspiring others to get their miles in.

Those last few weeks were upon the group and most of us were close. We needed to get this done. We were going to finish.  The Spahtens were there to cheer us on every mile.  Member that have never run more than 100 miles EVER were close to finishing their summer goal.  Just 3 more 5K’s or 2 more long runs to get this done.  The finish line was near and we were going to cross it no matter what.

In the end, these 73 special people that pledged to run 8,850 miles during the summer finished 8,576.5 miles. 96.91 % of the goal.  A true hero’s effort put in.  People finished early while others finished on the last day and got in every last mile.  Donations were also collected totaling close to $650 from the group. This included donations from those that finished the challenge. For that, a Heartfelt Thank You to those that donated to whatever charity you picked to support.

Finished or not, It doesn’t matter.  This group had the courage to put their name on the sheet and  gave it an effort.  That is what this group is about, the courage to challenge one’s self to complete a goal.

We are New England Spahtens.

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So You’re Running the Super (and/or Beast)…

In the next week or 3 there are a couple of big races coming up, in case you hadn’t heard.

NJ Super – this coming weekend
VT Beast – 2 weeks later

Paul did a great series of blog posts for the Sprint (Here, Here, and Here).  All of which are still super applicable here.  Some points to remember (for the newbies, especially):
1) Cotton is NOT your friend
2) Start hydrating
3) Dress for the weather, and your ability to stay warm/cold.  Also keep track of weather reports.
4) Eat a good meal hours before you are taking to the course.

The Super (and the Beast) will likely be supported races (meaning there will be water stops along the way).  Last year, initially, the Beast was not going to be supported.  I had already run the NJ Super (aka Mini Beast) and had an idea of what worked for me, and what my Battle Group encountered on the course.  I used this knowledge to prepare my pack for the Beast – and some extra.  This is my take on the subject of packing for these races.

I highly recommend planning as though there won’t be any stops along the way and you are self supportive.  Granted, if you are planning to be running with the elite folks, you may not need to worry quite so much, so use these tips as needed.  Some people will take a few hours.  Some people will take longer.  Some people may lose the trail for a bit – Sorry Team Lost 🙂
Last year the NJ Super took me about 5 hours to complete and the VT Beast took me about 10 hours to complete.  I had ITB issues in both races which led to a slower pace, but I was trucking along nonetheless.  If you feel you fall in the middle of bell curve (like me) or on lower end of the bell curve (a slower, and yet still awesome pace!) you’ll want to pay attention to the information I have to share.  Keep in mind, on these types of courses, you obviously need to look out for your own needs first.  It is always mindful to consider you may run into another athlete in need as well, and it would be best to have some extra stuff “just in case.”  Also, in the event you have some sort of issue that slows you down, you’ll be happy to have prepared for the extra time by having extra stuff.

My Packing List:
3L  Hydration Pack – 50/50 mix of unflavored Pedialyte (or generic brand) and water
2-3 Powerbar Energy Gels (I’ll use at least one at the midway point)
2-3 GU Chomps/Clif Bloks
2-3 Pkg Snap Supercandy
2-3 Bars (My current bar of choice is Garuka Bars, but Clif/Luna/whatever)
2-3 Salt or Mustard Packets (You, or someone you encounter, may have some serious cramping – this will help!)
1 pair of dry socks

Pack Supplies

*I purchased some small dry bags to put all of this stuff in.  There’s nothing worse than consuming half a package of Chomps or SportsBeans and then discovering they were submersed in water along the way and now are useless.
** The socks will be stored in a different dry bag.  Obviously they are more useful when dry.

I’m not saying they’ll be needed, because I don’t know what is being thrown at us, but here are a few other things worth possibly throwing in your bag:
Sharpie
Bug Repellant
Sun Block
Goggles (I’m giving these a shot this year, as I wear contacts!)
Headlamp (For the NJ Super -If you are still on the course and hit the cutoff at 7pm, you will need this to continue!)

Above and beyond the lists above, use your best judgement.  I like to prepare for the unexpected on some level.  If this is your first distance over a Sprint (and TM doesn’t count because they are HEAVILY supported, usually), you’ll probably want to bring a little more than you expect to use and learn from your personal experience.

I hope this answers some questions for those of you who are trying to figure out what to bring along!

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FIT Challenge – a first timers point of view

FIT Challenge was a huge success (review), not just because it was such a fun course and such a community and team friendly race, but because it saw so many people’s first time race – most especially, two moms were brought along, and promised that no matter what, the community would get them to the finish line.

Rosa Da Silva (Mario’s Mom!) was one of those first time runners – I asked her if she could give us a bit of a recap of how the race was for her – whats it like for a 61 year old to come out to her first obstacle course race, with the New England Spahtens?

Mario and Rosa

I was very worried when I decided to do the F.I.T. Challenge because it would be my very first OCR. Last Summer I had knee surgery which was a contributing factor for why I became completely out of shape due in part to prolonged periods of inactivity for recuperation.

Mario, Debbie, Lisa, and Robb McCoy all told me that with the help of the team I would make it through the course. “NO NE Spahten would be left behind”. That made me decide to do it and I promised myself I would at least try every obstacle although I never thought I would be able to get over the walls and do the monkey bars.

I owe my awesome success to a great team, The NE Spahtens, my son and friends, who gave me the courage to sign up for this great event. With their help I was able to do something that I never thought possible. When Mario said the team would help me get through it, I didn’t know he meant it literally. Thanks to the help of James Mscisz, Mario, Lisa, Sandy, Debbie, Adriane, Michael a few others that I might have forgotten to mention and a special Thanks to Matthew for saving me from drowning in the dumpster, lol.

I’ve been fortunate enough to run and complete a few road races but when I crossed the finish line at the F.I.T. Challenge and received my medal I had such an overwhelming sense of accomplishment that I truly felt blessed for doing this race with such an amazing team.

I want to sincerely Thank Robb McCoy for giving me the opportunity to enjoy such unforgettable experience. God willing, I’ll be running in the April 2014 event.

Lisa and Rosa

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Game time

It’s game time.

One more sleep until we bring the biggest and best team Spartan Race has ever had. One more sleep until several of us also take on Tough Mudder (same weekend, *really*). One more sleep until the Hurricane Heat.

There really isn’t a lot left to say or do. You’re ready for this. You’ve got this. You may be confident that you’re trained and primed and raring to go, you may be petrified that you haven’t done enough and you’ll struggle.

Doesn’t matter. You’ve still got this.

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Now it’s time to make the choice, mentally. Do you want to go into this scared, and full of doubt? Or do you want to go into this pumped and ready to kill that course? You can make the choice about how you feel on that start line.

Trust your body. Trust that 98% of all Sprint distance starters finish. Trust that when you get told to do 30 burpees, you can, and you will. Trust that you will be surrounded by the best support system you could ever wish for. This community was *made* for this, and you are a part of that.

During our team heat, someone will be the first off that course, someone will be the last off that course. They get the same t shirt, they get the same medal – but I guarantee you that the person finishing last gets the bigger self confidence boost, and the bigger reward to their life, long term. It’s like a prize for being last, that no one told you to expect.

First or last, you will finish.

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No more talk about how slow you are. No more talk about how big you are, or how scared you are, or how injured you are, or how unprepared you are. You will still step up to that line tomorrow, and you will run the same race as everyone else, and you will earn that damned medal, like everyone else. It will have even more meaning to you, because you earned it over 3 hours, instead of 1 – or you dragged your obese ass over an 8′ wall, instead of your 2% body fat ass … You will earn it all the more. Injury will slow you down, make you adapt and over come – but that finishers medal will be earned. The obstacles will be overcome.

As Spartan says … You will know at the finish line.

As Mens Warehouse says … I guarantee it.