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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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Thoughts on a Beast.

 Why would I do such a thing to myself.  I have had many rambling thoughts as to why I would do this.  The basic overriding reason is because somewhere in the back of my mind is a voice from the past saying “you can’t do that”.  I don’t like that voice.  It isn’t me, it never was me.  That voice has prevented me from a great many things in my life.  I didn’t put that voice there, someone else did.  I can’t tell you who or when but its there.  At some point, someone told me I wasn’t good enough.  I wasn’t fast enough.  I wasn’t talented enough.  And I believed them.

Last year I heard about the Death Race.  I watched the only video they had at the time, I think it was from 2007.  I thought to myself that has got to be the coolest things ever.  And of course I also immediately thought “I could never do that.”  Again I thought “Man what an awesome concept”.  And again “Well maybe in another life that could have been you too.”

March 2011 I was coerced under duress to sign up for the Spartan Race in Amesbury.  To say I was out of shape at the time would imply that at one point I was in shape.  Have you ever got out of breath bending over to tie your shoes?  That was me.  Not terribly over-weight but completely sedentary.  Not one chin-up, 5 push-ups and I was out of breath and dizzy.  12.5 minute mile and that was it, I couldn’t have gone another step.  Multiple days to recover from that 1 mile.  But as you know when you sign up for a Spartan Race you open your email to the flood gates of Spartan Nation.  It seems that last year 8-10 miles wasn’t hard enough for people, so now they were going to hold the inaugural Spartan Beast! 10-13 miles on Mt Killington.  Well the idea sounds cool and it’s 10 miles (yes I completely blocked out the possibility of 13)  and if you registered with the promo code you got %50 off!  There’s that voice “you can’t do it”  So I bargained, a stage of denial, and I thought its 8 miles further than you have ever run in your life, how hard can it be?  So  I signed up.  My wife thought I was crazy.  My son threw up (reflux he was about 7 months old at the time)

So with no training, 0 experience, and not even a good pair of running shoes I set out to do a half marathon obstacle course on a mountain.  Thankfully my favorite color is green.  Because focusing on that little medal is the only thing that kept me going.  I was not leaving without that medal.  And I didn’t.

So why do I think I can do the Ultra-Beast?

It wasn’t just the Beast.  After Beast I still had to do the Sprint.  Thats would be a great way to wrap up the summer and move back to normal life.  The Sprint came.  It came on the heels of 3 days of rain.  It came in the middle of a Hurricane!  And it was everything the Beast was in a small package.  Epic-ness!  It was about this time that someone whispered trifecta.  Well I did the hard part:  Beast.  I did the fast part:  Sprint.  It didn’t seem right not to at least do one of everything and hang it up.  So off to Staten Island my buddy and I went. It was a very fast course, but when Eric DeAvilla and I crossed the finish line and we put a Blue medal over a Green one and a Red one , there was no turning back I was hooked.   I must say I really  liked hearing the whispers “why do they have 3 medals”  or “what’s the Green one for?” I now officially had “mud” in my veins.  On that day Eric and I had become 2 of the 77 people in the world who held the title trifecta tribe.  Granted its a small world but I belonged to it.  And I belonged to an even smaller club.  No one could say I can’t.

Upon completing that challenge everything became about Spartan Race.  I sought out every fb page, I became a Street Team Member.I began to exercise and run infrequently.    I remembered there were these crazy brothers who supposedly dragged a tire through the Beast, I believed it was a tall tale for sure.  Wrong!  I thought they were crazy when I found out it was true.  Then they said they were holding a training camp in Rhode Island.  For some reason I signed up.  That is when I met people who told me “you can”  They joked and asked us if we wanted to quit.  But they were changing the voice in my head.  They were teaching me how to turn off the “I can’t” voice.  I didn’t have to be better than them.  Shit I didn’t even have to keep up with them (to a point)  All I had to do was not quit.  The same thing I did at the Beast.  Just don’t quit.

So can I do the Ultra-Beast?  Yes I can, yes I will.  Will I hurt?  Immeasurably. Will I cry? Probably.  Will I stop?  At times.  Will I give up and quit?  Not while I have some ability to move forward!  I have no intention of listening to that voice that says “I can’t” any more.  Now I have the tools to hear that voice and punch it in it’s mouth.  And if I can’t there’s a whole Army of Spartan Warriors I call friends that will help me beat that voice to the ground!

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Brief Interview with Junyong Pak…

I recently had the opportunity to have a brief conversation, via Facebook, with one of the few men to consistently give Hobie Call a run for his money at various Spartan events. Rather than be a one trick pony though, Junyong Pak races without discrimination or favoritism toward any specific company or obstacle race. The proof was in the  (mud) pudding, so to speak, at this years Worlds Toughest Mudder, where Junyong dominated and took the title back home to our beloved state of Massachusetts.

Give us a brief run down on how you got started living an active lifestyle.
I’d have to say that it actually started early, as in way back in elementary school where as kids, my friends and I would spend a LOT of time outdoors exploring the woods, playing tag and other games that involved lots of running. I definitely feel the times have changed even over these last couple of decades; I just don’t see a lot of kids doing much of that anymore. (On a side note, it would be pretty cool to see obstacle racing make its way into a school curriculum (i.e. make running fun). Maybe it could be the thing to kick start healthy living into a lot of young lives.) Officially though, my competitive edge was whetted when I got to Junior High and my friend inspired me to join the XC team.

Do you have different training regiments throughout the year? As in, do you have an “off season” and an “on season” schedule?
I ran in high school and regrettably didn’t continue into college but I became competitive again when I moved to Boston in 2006 and joined the Greater Boston Track Club. Over the years with the club I’ve participated in whatever was going on at the time, which generally transitioned from track in the winter and spring, to road racing into the summer and fall, to cross country through to the early winter… and put on repeat. So there was never much of an off season per se but the change in seasons would keep things fresh and interesting. I ran everything from the mile to the marathon—roads, trails, and everything in between. This mix would ultimately help me in obstacle racing. In the past year however, I have shifted my focus towards obstacle racing and will be strategizing to time my fitness peaks to coincide with important races.

Do you have a trainer, or have you ever used one? If not, how did you come up with your training program?
When I was running with my club I was joining them in the city for weekly workouts, but between the distance and straying off on my own unpopular direction with obstacle racing, I’ve sort of become the black sheep of the bunch. So I’m my own coach, trainer, doctor, and athlete. It can be really good that way as the feedback loop is very small and continuous, but it certainly is extremely difficult sometimes and I can fully appreciate the benefits of having a coach or trainer type figure, or even training partners to keep motivated. However I’ve never been in shortage of self-discipline and that’s 90% of it right there; just having the mental strength to get out there and go to work, whatever that may be. There is no special recipe for success that bypasses the work aspect. It’s seems obvious but it needs to be said: Some people have talent that can easily carry them above everyone else, but even the talented will only bring them so far before they have to bridge the gap with effort to reach their own full potential. I train by feel, and being my own coach and athlete it’s easier to execute successfully. But basically when I’m ramping up for something big, I try to go right to the edge of breaking down then back off a half-step. This has just as much to do with training the mind as it does the body because when the mind is well-conditioned, the body will obey and follow naturally. Come race day when the two are playing in harmony, it will become a symphony and you’ll be ready for your opus.

What drove you to start obstacle racing, etc?
I had always envisioned myself doing obstacle races but until recently they didn’t exist. I knew my odds of being decent at it were good because none of my fast running friends were very strong above the belt and everyone who had enough strength could never run very fast. Welcome to my world of being a jack-of-all-trades, and a master of none.

I wasn’t going to touch this question, feel free to “no comment” me on it. There seems to be a rivalry of sorts between some of the obstacle racing organizations, mud runs, etc. At times, it seem to get kind of trivial, and to me it seems to lose sight of the goal many of them started with. They’ve always talked about inspiring folks to get fit, to have fun and just be active. Do you think it’s just friendly competition betwee them? Thoughts?
I don’t follow it much but I’ve definitely sensed and witnessed the bitterness of the rivalry first-hand. Regardless of what anyone says their motives are, it seems obvious to me that it’s a matter of finances (and as business endeavors, at no fault to them). But with the sport as young as it is it, there’s no limit on the foreseeable horizon to indicate they wouldn’t be better off working in harmony with each other to grow the sport for the long haul and prosper simultaneously. Taking early profits can only lead to the demise of growth, and possibly even a phasing out.

Back to the real stuff here… What did you do to prepare for the WTM? How long did you train?
This answer could have been an insanely long one, I should have realized that when I asked it. So, Junyong is referring us to http://tinyurl.com/JP2011WTM for the answer. You will find an extensive training schedule, nutrition and supplement info and more than you might need to understand what the beast went through.

Do you follow a particular diet? You get this guy talking paleo, that one talking vegan, this guy talking carb loading before races. Where do you stand on nutrition?
Again, my take on this exact topic can be found in the link above.

Finally, a huge congrats to you for the win at the WTM. Where are we going to see you this year? You going to continue to race right? Thanks for taking time here, Junyong!
I got off to a delayed start and I’m presently cramming like crazy to prepare for the Boston Marathon next month. Then I intend to carry some of that fitness over to Tough Mudder New England and the Death Race in the months following. I’ll also be at the Spartan Sprint in Amesbury, Spartan Beast in Vermont, World’s Toughest Mudder (wherever that is). I’m sure I’ll jump in some other races as well when the time comes.

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HH-007 A storm in the desert

0530, 11 Feb 2012 Rawhide.  Chandler Arizona.  HH-007

Dispatches from the Storm Front.

Arizona, pre-dawn.  The darkened desert stretches for miles and seems to absorb the light from my rental cars headlamps.  The ever expanding darkness is not a comfort.  Coyotes really are howling in the distance, otherwise I had the area to myself.  Off in the distance the coyote pack was getting really fired up now.  Those little desert tricksters, they definitely knew something I didn’t.  I’m sure they’re on Joe DeSena’s payroll.

Shortly more cars begin to arrive.  People started lacing up shoes, turning on headlamps, mowing down powerbars and prepping for the unknown.  Though the darkness we could hear “Everyone lets form it up!”  I know the voice.  Its a measured thoughtful voice.  Much like that of a college professor.  You know the voice, its the kind of voice that asks ridiculously hard questions with an even, relaxed tone because he knows all the answers.  Its Joe D, he must have rode in on the backs of his howling coyotes.

Dispatch note number 1:  Although they tell you not to be late, being early is not a prize.

So while we wait for other HH’ters to arrive and get themselves set; we burpee, we jumping jack, we yoga, we do not wait standing still. As 0600 approaches we here “Tommy, do we have everyone?”  Its a logistical question, it’s asked in that all knowing tone of a Senior Drill Sergeant.   The kind of tone that makes a statement in the form of a question.  Joe’s saying everyone that is present is all that will be going. The question didn’t require an answer.  Its go time.

With no regard to instruction our first task is beckoned.  “Break yourselves into 3 teams, preferably with people you don’t know!” 30 29 28 27…”Who’s the team Captain?”  Raising Micha Arnoulds hand I proudly proclaimed “Micha!”  26,25,24,23.  Micah went to retrieve something when “Whats the team name?” was asked.  “Street Team!” I responded.  Little did I know how well this fit our team.  There were at least  7 Spartan Race Street Team members on our team that ended up with 13 members. As for the other 2 teams;  Rattlesnake and the one that wasn’t Rattlesnake.  They were just plain awesome.  Watching people give their all is something that really should be experienced first hand.

Dispatch note number 2:  When you leave the comfort of your car for a Hurricane Heat you should treat it like you are combat jumping from a plane.

If you need it you better have it, if you have it you better need it.  We were told we would have a place to leave our bags, and we did, well into the HH.  But because of the distance between the start and the bag check there are currently a few cell phone customers who are replacing water logged cell phones.  Oh well it is the Hurricane Heat.

This is Spartan Race.  This is the Hurricane Heat.  This is madness.  As we gleefully follow Joe D and Tommy Mac into the darkness it occurs to me that none of this makes any sense.  Its dark, its the desert, there are things out there that do go bump in the night.  I’m not a strong runner and I question the level of my fitness every time I leave the house.  With all this on my mind, into the darkness I ran following a man who has been quoted as saying “Marathons are cute”.  Why am I doing this?  I don’t know.  But because I don’t know the why, I might as well try.

So we ran.  A short distance into the run we received our 5 team sandbags and team flag.  I was handed the Reservoir Dogs flag, after a few Tire Guys Death Race Camps this may be the lightest thing I have ever had to carry.  A flag is a rally point, it gives people a place to belong, a place to center on, it gives purpose.  I felt honored.  Team Street Team under Captain Micha came together quickly, and this was awesome to behold.  Strangers only moments before were now comrades.  Teamwork was instantly second nature. accountability was paramount, numbers checks were held often.  Sandbags were rotated out regularly.  I don’t think anyone was ever over burdened by them.  Obstacles were approached, crushed and left for dead.  The energy was palpable, no one ever lacked for support or encouragement.  Feed us more Joe!  We love it.

If you have done a Spartan Race you know the obstacles.  There are things to go under, over, and through.  Cargo nets to assail, ropes to climb, ropes to pull.  Heavy things to lift or to carry or to drag.  What I wasn’t prepared for was what made this Spartan event epic.  It was the apocalyptic amount of water obstacles. This is the desert for crying out loud!  We swam rivers, jumped in holes filled with water, swam under bridges and trudged like Army Rangers though a water and debris filled drainage ditch.  We forded the river, swam across it, and swam down it with the current.  Later we walked up the river against the current.  In the drainage ditch Spartan Race managed to get the obstacle so low over the ditch you had to put your head under this awful water to navigate it.  Through all of this I couldn’t have been happier!

Dispatch note number 3:  Commitment is something you can read about, but to see it, to be part of it:  Is to be a part of greatness.

The Hurricane Heat is what its all about for me.  It is the culmination of doing what I do naturally in a Spartan Race.  This was my first HH and it will certainly not be my last.  A team is strong because of its commitment to a common goal.  I don’t know what our common goal was beyond having fun.  If that was the goal, our level of commitment far exceeded that of what we needed to achieve that goal.

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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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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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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…

http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/first-look/American-Gladiators.html