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Episode 36: Norm Koch

With his friendly smile, and penchant for designing courses that make you cry – Norm Koch has been a fixture of the Spartan Race world for years – even inspiring his own hashtag and fan club. #effnorm

But, all good things must end, and Norm has left Spartan Race. We caught up with him to talk about why – and what comes next.

If you’ve ever wondered what makes Norm tick, take a listen to Episode 36 of The NE Spahtens Show.
Hint: It’s not the years of innocent racers.

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The value of #racelocal

Many of my OCR friends and connections have complained this year that the annual Spartan Race elite season pass has gone up in price – now running $799 annually.

And, despite their own season passes running many months into 2017, there appears to be no pro-rating (although I have seen people claiming they have indeed got pro rated pricing).

This blog post isn’t to talk about that. I’ve spoken about Spartan season passes in years past and if you are at the pro or elite level, or have sponsor support, or simply have your heart set on running Spartan’s over and over, then it makes sense for you and you go nuts.

But what if there was an alternative? Of course, there is.

If you registered for:
The Endurance Society’s SnowShoe 10k
BoldrDash Race – Winter Dash
FIT Challenge’s trail race
FIT Challenge’s OCR event
Runzilla’s OCR
Wason Pond Pounder
Gauntlet Races Rock the Gauntlet
Tuff Scramblers
Bonefrog’s Challenge distance
Samurai Sprint Mud Run
BoldrDash Race’s Rocky Point event
Gauntlet Races’s Run the Gauntlet
(basically, every sub 10k #racelocal event currently open for registration)
The total with NO discount codes or pre-sales would be $793

Add in $35 for #racelocal registration, and you earn points as you go, and get prizes, and competition to push yourselves against others.

and you don’t even need to leave New England.

#racelocal – a lot of bang for your buck.

Of course, many of these events also have multiple lap options. Most race directors will be at the start line, the finish line, and will know your name and say hi.

Learn more about #racelocal, and find links to each of these race brands – and more events right here

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Playing in the Mud – Be a Champion

Let’s be blunt here. I am not a great obstacle course racer. I know what my many limitations are and they are numerous. I cannot do a rig, or rings, or get over walls 9 feet or more, I have hit a spear throw once in my life and I believe I have completed two monkey bars ever. I had to put a rope in my backyard to learn to climb it and have completed it on a wet course once.

What does this mean? This means that my jealous side hates most of you that can all of those things. Also, because of some restrictions in my life’s schedule I know I can never go to the US OCR Championships or the OCR World Championships. I can barely get to most races in the New York area where I live. I guess that makes it good that I will never qualify for the “World’s,” so I don’t feel too bad about myself. Oh, don’t tell me that I can go as a Journeyman. I know that, but I am talking getting that email that all of you post on Facebook saying “QUALIFIER”. (The following statement is mine only and should apply to anyone else) In my head, going to the World’s as a Journeyman instead of qualifying is like saying that you “ended” up at Denny’s as opposed to “going” to Denny’s. (For those not in the United States, do a Google search for Denny’s and you’ll understand). It is also like being that guy who gets into the Baseball Hall of Fame because you had a long career and not because he did deserve it. Maybe because I am sloth-like and I cannot complete obstacles, I feel this way. I want to go. I wish I could go. Even if I could just feel the camaraderie and atmosphere, I know it would be worth it. I could tell everyone about OCR Buddy. I could hang out. I can make new friends. I heard how amazing it is and although I wish I could go and I continue to hate all of you for going,

So, I have this defense mechanism so it never truly bothers me. It slides away and falls into the back of my brain like those dreams of winning the lottery.

It doesn’t really bother me because I know my limits and abilities. Races such as a Tough Mudder or a Spartan Beast are my World’s. Everyone needs to your own goals and aim for them. Just because you are not on a pro team, on television, at the World’s or on a podium you are no less of a person or a racer. I think it takes someone special to do the things that are hard as opposed to easy. What is hard to you? Finishing on the podium? Qualifying? Finishing at all? Whatever is hard to you will make each and every event worth it to YOU!

I see people post photos of their medals and I look at the few that I get every year and realize that I did accomplish a lot for my abilities. I am a 46-year-old, former 300 pounder, twenty-two years removed form heart surgery, with a bad back (multiple herniated discs) and a shoulder that I pray survives every workout. Awesome, huh? I get out there and I treat each and every race like my World’s, whether it is an inflatable race, a 5k, a 10 mile or a 17-mile race on a mountain in Vermont.

So tomorrow I will train in my way, alone with my iPod playing my KISS songs and other rock that has inspired me. I know that no matter what I do, I will see my friends in Killington and I will attack the Spartan Beast and know after I finish that race, that I am a champion.

I hope my thoughts haven’t offended anyone. Just know that my hate for you is just jealousy because I wish I could accomplish what you can. I wish I could run the races that you run. I wish I could have the physical abilities that you have. Instead, I am a Ginger, I can steal your soul if I please and I am damn proud of the person I am.

My hope for all of you reading this is that you realize that you are a champion no matter what course you attempt because you are a champion of life. You have accomplished amazing things. Your life and your story is epic and no matter what you do from here through eternity…you ARE A CHAMPION to me.

Ask yourself, am I a champion? If the answer is not yes, make a plan, attack it and train for it. Life will give you it’s own version of monkey bars, walls, spear throws and rigs and you will face these obstacles like you do the ones on a race course. The only difference is that once you succeed in life, there is no obstacle that can ever stop you or slow you down. Be a champion. Stay a champion. Qualify for your “World’s” and do not ever let anyone push you down, keep you down or get in your way.


Until we meet again, be epic and as always, keep playing in the mud.

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Spartan update their rules, and the internet loses its mind …

Update: Spartan HQ are editing these rules to make sure the intent is crystal clear – keep your hats on, folks!

The good folks at Spartan HQ updated their rule book today, and the collective OCR community promptly lost their shit …

The important bit, the bit that made people pull their hair out at the roots and go “NO WAY” is the T Shirt rule.

The history behind this is with Ryan Atkins and Lindsey Webster in 2015 – the Canadian elite power couple who have been dominating the North American OCR scene at Battlefrog, OCRWC, Spartan and more over the past couple of years. As Battlefrog sponsored athletes, they had a habit of wearing their sponsored gear on the podium, even if that podium happened to be at a Spartan Race. Fair enough, if you ask me – there was a company helping them meet their goals and dreams financially, so they were representing that company.

Unfortunately, someone at Spartan HQ took umbrage to this – and decided to adjust the shirts.

Photos courtesy of MudRunGuide –

Spartan quickly backtracked on this rather ham fisted approach, and said that they would request that athletes wore Spartan shirts, to help promote the brand, and that too, is fair enough.

Fast forward to 2016. Ryan and Lindsey do pretty good in the Spartan points series and at their World Championships, and Battlefrog exit stage left – leaving the power couple sans-sponsor. So, like any self respecting elite with no sponsor and a solid sense of humor, Ryan took the podium in a Tough Mudder T Shirt.

Photo courtesy of Obstacle Racing Media –

So here we are, at the start of the 2017 season, and the rule books are updated. Rather than being casual about it, and simply asking people nicely – the rules are clearly mandated. To stand on that podium, you will wear that finisher (or similar) shirt. A policy that will only affect the elite of the elite, and people are upset.

Possibly, as I’ve seen some commentators, this comes not from Spartan, but from Reebok. Reebok famously mandate that UFC fighters wear Reebok gear. Crossfit athletes heading to the games are required to wear Reebok gear – so all the puzzle pieces fit.

My thoughts? PARTLY: So what. The rules are clear. 3 men and 3 women per prize pool will be affected, and Spartan has a pretty solid lock up of their Pro Team at most races anyway. What this is really saying is that the casual shenanigans of Ryan and Lindsey are over, and Spartan HQ are sick of not being able to use their own race podium promo photos for their marketing and business development. Welcome to the world of OCR in 2017.

The other part – the bigger part? Let these elites wear what they want. Let them get support where they can. Let them be sponsored, and represent those sponsors. Treat them with respect – and get it in return. Quit with the cheesy editing and the ham fisted rule changes – and let the athletes who support the sport of OCR do that how they can.

Clearly, no easy answer.

Whats clear, and it’s been clear for a few years – Spartan have no interest in expanding the world of OCR. They are interested in expanding the brand of Spartan. Rightly or wrongly, if you care about OCR, you care about it regardless of brand. Spartan is not on that path.

Now, how about the requirement that we all must wear those stupid headbands, or face DQ? Can we have some uniting of the big headed runner who can’t wear them? Can we protest on social media about that?

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Playing in the Mud – Monday Memory “Fear Before Killington”

Weekly, I have been posting on the New England Spahtens Facebook page. These posts have motivated people, reminded people of their worth, shown people that they are not alone in the world and also shown everyone that we are all one family. The obstacle course world is the same. People feel alone. People do not feel worthy when compared to others. People do want to continue because they just don’t have that motivation.   I hope that these posts help change you and show you that you are all amazing people.

Besides weekly new posts, on Mondays I will be posting a “Monday Memory” of a Facebook post of the past. These memories will posted here, with a current introduction.

Be epic and as always, keep playing in the mud.

September 15, 2016 – Two days before the Spartan Killington Beast

Two or three days before Killington, people start to freak out.

I wanted to remind people that we are all scared. We all have fears. We all have worries. However, that fear also brings us all together.  Fear drives us and pushes us. I wanted people to begin to channel that energy for something positive and based upon the people I met on that mountain, I believe it worked.

I bring you fear.


Fear can do one of two things, it can freeze you or it can drive you.

In two days, I will be on a mountain in Vermont. Standing at the base of the mountain that is scary. You look up and think, how the hell am I going to get all the way up there? You look and you see obstacles and carries and all these people around and you think…”30% of these people will not finish this race”.

You have a choice. You head into the race wondering if you will be a statistic, a number, a DNF and wondering if you gave it your all.

Or, you use your fear of the unknown and of that mountain and you use it to drive you. You motivate your friends, your battle buddies and your race family and you will tell them that they will make those climbs, they will carry those carries, they will complete the obstacles and the crawls and they will jump the fire. You use this Beast in front of you as motivation to make yourself a better person, a stronger person and someone who will not listen to the voice on your head saying ” I cannot”.

There is no alternative. There are no insecurities. There are no options in your day that includes failure. Stand in the starting corral, look to your left and look to your right. Let them see your eyes and your confidence and show them all that “We ALL got this”.

Let’s all congregate up in Killington tomorrow and conquer the Beast.

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Book Review: Spartan Fit!: 30 Days. Transform Your Mind. Transform Your Body. Commit to Grit.

Spartan Fit!: 30 Days. Transform Your Mind. Transform Your Body. Commit to Grit. by Joe De Sena and John Durrant is the newest book by Joe De Sena and is geared at getting you fit and ready for a Spartan Race, or life as De Sena would rather you look at it. 

41dirjom-nl-_sx331_bo1204203200_This took me longer to read and longer to write than I would have liked.  That said, I liked this book. There was a bit of wading to do to get through the life that Joe lives and what he has his children do and the unrealistic standards they seem to live by.  Life is about living, not simply surviving.

The book is broken up into sections covering how to get started, the history of Spartan Race and what is Agoge and how is it tied to the new event, examples of obstacles, the pillars of Sparta, a 30 day plan, recipes, options for the elite, and of course, making a case for the Olympics.

Once I got past the braggadocio of Joe De Sena and got to the meat of the book, I found it to be great. For someone who has never ran a Spartan Race or is a seasoned veteran, you can find something worth your time.  The plan is designed to need little to no equipment other than sandbags and things you can make.  It includes a warm-up, cool-down, options to make it harder or easier, and is laid out in an easy to read manner. There are examples of what obstacles you might face, how to execute them, and how to train for them.

While I didn’t take on the 30-day workout, what it offers is a great starting place, something to add-in to your current routine, or something to break you out of a funk!

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Winter is coming …

10629393_798675933554088_8871261640807198930_oand so is the winter obstacle course race season.

Wait, what?

Spartan Race recently announced that they will be holding their first winter focused event – and the social media space got all excited.

Spartan Race, in the snow? I mean, holy crap right? Crawling in the snow? Running in cold-gear?

I’m here to break the news to you that while I think this is an awesome move on their part – they are late to the party.

New Englanders have been running in the snow for four or five years now.

Blizzard Blast – January 29th 2017 – Lowell MA. While the snow doesn’t always co-operate, this is a ridiculously fun event, and last year, we ran in onsies. That non co-operative weather? 50f.

Join Us.


Polar Bear Challenge – February 4th 2017 – Held on the world class course at Shale Hill, snowy and challenging – you want to push yourself, this is where you should do it. One lap, or 8 hours worth of laps.

Join Us.


BoldrDash – March 4th 2017 – A Rhode Island staple, this Winter Dash was a blast!

Join Us.


and of course, now a Spartan Race. Held in central New York state, a 6 or so hour drive from Boston. If you’re excited for this, check out the other much more local options too – because after all, there is no off season!

Join Us.


(and here’s to there being *snow* this winter!)

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Featured Review: Spartan Race – MA Super 2016

Shaina has ran many obstacle course races, and has been a New England Spahten from the beginning – one of our Ambassadors, she ran her first Competitive wave at the Super this past weekend. Thank you for contributing this Featured Review, Shaina!

13962766_10153664899452212_8758883322380532839_nSpartan once again held their “Boston Super” at Cater & Stevens Farm in Barre, MA, despite the venue being over 70 miles away from Boston. This may be quiet inconvenient for many as the venue is far away from accommodations that would be plentiful in the actual Boston area. Spahtens have learned to take over Camp Colbrook which is quite close to the venue and a decently price d campground with plenty of amenities, such as a pool and a bar. The venue itself is a beautiful farm complete with a BBQ hut, homemade ice cream and the new Stone Cow Brewery (which is GOOD!). This makes it a great venue to actually bring family. The farm also provides a BBQ in the festival area along with ice cream and stone fired pizza (which is delicious!). One issue with the venue is the lack of elevation mixed with the lack of good footing due to most of the course outside of the woods being cow pastures. Because the New England Spahtens were the biggest team both days we got our own tent which was thoughtfully placed a bit away from everything else, purposefully so others were not using the tent as a refuge and waste disposal point.

You’re biggest team wave for the @spartanrace Super at @carterandstevensfarm – gooo! #nespahtens

A video posted by New England Spahtens (@nespahtens) on

Communication prior to the race is good as we got our pre-race e-mails over a week ahead of time,
letting us know about off site parking and costs. We even got an e-mail the day before with a heat
advisory and recommendation to bring water. The course had at least 4 waters stops, but the heat was
harsh and many of us brought nutrition and electrolytes in our water. If you didn’t bring your own
hydration and weren’t elite, you were wrong and probably had a rough time! This is more of an
endurance event and Spartan is kind enough, thanks to insurance policies, to provide a lot of water and
even Clif Shot Blocks (a sponsor) during the race. If you plan on continuing with races like this be sure
you get yourself prepared!

13923892_10208588740649771_8452938472734898646_oGoing into this race I was a bit apprehensive. I like longer distance races, however, I would rather them on the mountain or in the woods, especially with the heat. Running is not quite my thing and I knew that going all out would be what much of this race was and it was my first time running competitively. I was not mistaken in my assumptions. The first two miles were very light on the obstacles, which also happen to always be the worst running miles as legs are warmed up. During those miles there were hay bales, a couple of 5 ft walls and a gut check . People’s legs cramped up pretty quick, though it did spread the field out a bit. Soon after we were on the cargo bridge, which is Spartan’s opening gate as you walk into the festival area under the bridge on stacked up cargo containers as racers are passing over. The rope climb came next, which has changed from the tall, wet ropes you have to climb up from water, to much shorter distance ropes due to going from nearly 3 feet of piled bark mulch. This led to the very short sandbag carry and almost right into the spear throw (curse you spear throw).

I’m going to cut in at this point and put in my own personal 2 cents. The spear throw is where this race
turned irritating for me. I joined the competitive heat to see where I would stand against people there
to race fully and completely. The open heat is great, however the rules are lose and standings are just
for show in many instances. Elite and competitive follow the same rules, must try every obstacle with no
aid, and only once, and must do 30 burpees if you fail. The spear throw is where people started skipping
burpees as there was no one there to ensure these were getting done (here and any burpee zone). It is
where I saw racers “helping” other racers complete their burpees also. How is that competitive? Go
here What-you- need-to- know-about-
running-Elite- Competitive- for more info on the rules of the Elite and competitive heats. If you are out to
race with your friends and family for a fun time, do it in the open. Why does this bother me? Because
people I saw do this came ahead of me. In some instances, this could have been the difference between
being a OCRWC qualifier and not. If you cannot do the obstacles and burpees then think of the other
racers and go to open.

Biggest Team block was presented to Steven Blais for his work with Team RWB, NES and being generally an all around awesome dude.

All racers should read the athlete guide to know what they are getting themselves into and what the rules are. Year after year we see people falling over with cramps and dehydration, slipping with improper footwear, even simply wallowing in the cotton shirt they wore. A simple read of the website and athlete guides may solve many of these problems! Just be prepared when you toe that start line, or defer defer defer!

Back to the race itself… The multi-rig was next in line and myself and many others were too sweaty and sandy from spear burpees to even attempt, though many attempts were futile due to the evilly place base balls mid-rig. The race rolled on after this with all the same that we expect from Spartan. The barbed wire crawl went into the rolling mud hills back and more barbed wire to the dunk wall (a bit of a change I guess?). There were walls that were tough due to the muddy conditions after a stormy night, an A-frame, atlas stone, bucket carry, and Stairway to Sparta, followed up by a sled you got to walk and pull and a sled you got to pull up a hill. Then another long back and forth through the woods, putting those miles in that we paid for to get that coveted middle of the Trifecta blue medal. The race ends with a slope wall and a fire jump that was a bit iffy for me after going all out on the last mile of trail runs.

The race overall for me was OK. I think I was miffed at the competitive aspect and let it get to me too
much at points and got very angry about all the running and the lack of obstacles, though this Super did
come for me after 5 laps of Shale Hill obstacle awesomeness the weekend before. No, Shale obstacles
are not practical for a company that is moving around the US and needs superfast turned around. I’ve
worked quite a few builds, and actually cut and built some obstacles. It’s time consuming, expensive and
very tough. However, this course didn’t even have Monkey Bars. Tough Mudder seems to be able to
come up with new obstacles quite often. I will Spartan would be a bit more innovative and more
obstacle focused since they are the leading “obstacle” race.

13920011_10154479798263338_7069176112264020872_oI must speak a bit to the Spartan Kids’ Course in my review since my kids were surprised with their own OCR on Saturday. I did not plan for them to do the race since our past experiences with the Spartan Kids’
race was less than thrilling, more of a trail run and left me with kids wondering why they didn’t get cool obstacles like Mom. On my volunteer build shift my friend and I were thrown in with the Kids’ Course build crew and spent the day building mini Spartan obstacles- even a rope climb for the oldest kids! I couldn’t let my kids miss this awesome course and they truly had a blast. Had we not had to leave they probably would have done more than one lap each.

If Spartan chooses this venue again for a Super I probably will return. I’ll return for the farm, for the kids’ race, for the well-done festival area, and of course the Spahtens. I will volunteer again because I really love doing it, and therefore I will race again. My expectations, however, will remain the same, and Spartan seems to be happy that way. Hey, it’s the most cost effective, right?

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The NE Spahtens Show: Episode ten

nespahtensshow-finalTodays episode marks double digit show counts! Yay!

Josh digs into the Montreal Ultra Beast, and why Spartan HQ should seriously reconsider their water situation.
Sandy talks about trashing team tents and #racelocal miles
Paul brings up a couple of Frogs, and some Civilian Military Combine news.

As usual, we wrap up with questions from the community!

If you’re listening, please leave us a comment, a question or a review in iTunes – we love to hear from you guys – it’s what keeps us going – let us know you’re out there!

Do you want to sponsor this show? Reach out!

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Episode 12: Henry Marte

frameHenry has been around the OCR scene for a long time, and it’s rare not to see him working, volunteering or running at a major event in the region. In this episode we talk about how you get a job at Spartan Race, and why it’s not quite as glamorous as you may think – we talk about his work for Team RWB and Oscar Mike and his most recent venture as a professional photographer for his own company, Marte Photography.

This show was live streamed to Facebook at the time we recorded it, so thanks to everyone who tuned in live!

You can check Henry’s photography work out here:

This episode was brought to you by FIT Challenge!

Audio Only