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Obstacle Race

Hard Charge Chicago/Milwaukee Televised Obstacle Race

I was invited to take on the Hard Charge Chicago/Milwaukee course, since I had nothing planned that weekend and it was close to home I just had to give the first ever Televised Obstacle Race a go. Before starting the race I was given a GoPro Hero 3 camera to wear on my head along with three other competitors including top Spartan Pro Athlete Brakken Krakker. I was excited to be racing alongside him and previous Hard Charge Champ, LeEarl Rugland.  Before the race we had met up and discussed the flatness of the upcoming course, you would have to be pushing 6 minutes miles at this race to be in the top spots. I knew I would be struggling since I still don’t consider myself a “runner.”

The Course and Obstacles

tony hard chargeMy impression of this course was that it was easy. There was nothing too challenging or demanding to overcome. There were no obstacles that threw ya for a loop or made you struggle. I did like how they utilized much of the venue’s already existing obstacles as part of the course. The event took place at a paintball park where there were boats to climb, trucks to jump over, and even a fortress that we had to scale and run through. It was very fun and enjoyable but again, I must say, there was nothing very challenging about the obstacles. The most difficult obstacles were the two sandbag carries and even those were not that bad when compared to some of the ones I’ve faced in the Spartan Race series, where they typically send you up and down a steep hill. Everything here was flat so the terrain was a very minor obstacle in the grand scheme.

final charge at Hard Charge ChicagoOne disappointing obstacle was the “lack of barbwire,” wire crawl. Instead of barbwire we just had to crawl under one of the shortest sections I’ve ever had to crawl and it was just under some standard metal wire that wouldn’t even cause a scratch if you touched it. That was the trend of this race though either you were running or you were crawling under something. Majority of the obstacles included, a trench crawl under a tarp, this “lack of barbwire,” wire crawl and a few other nets that we had to crawl under. My biggest suggestion to the guys at Hard Charge is to add in some more challenging obstacles that will push racers, stop runners, and create an event that is more exciting and demanding of it’s participants. A rope climb, tire flip/drag, or rope swing, or come up with something that hasn’t been done yet. For a televised race to be interesting the obstacle need to step it up a notch.

Other than that it was a very fast and fun race. The top finishing times for this four mile course were under 30 minutes. Brakken took first with a time of 28:17, LeEarl in second at 28:37 and Nic Zahasky with a time of 29:09. I place 11th overall with a time of 34:17.

top finishers at Hard Charge ChicagoAfter realizing how close I was to making Top 10 and being coached by my father I decided to go push myself to beat my time and ran a second lap for fun. The second lap was fun but it was not a directly comparable to the elite heat, there were no required sandbag carries (I was able to do the first one since the sandbags were still out), and there were a couple bottlenecks that slowed me down. I found it interesting that they made the course easier by removing the sandbag obstacle for the open heats. This was very strange to me and just doesn’t make sense, why not give everyone the same experience? I had a lot of fun running the second lap and realized some key points where I could have pushed myself much harder in that first heat. It was a great experience and I’m looking forward to my next Hard Charge race.

Festival Area

Hard Charge had a great festival area set up. Very easy to mingle and hang out with fellow racers. My parents showed up to support me which is always the greatest and we were able to enjoy some good food and great beer. I was very happy with everything they had to offer. The awards ceremony could have been improved as they basically just had the Top 10 for each category just quickly come up and receive their medals. There were no photo opportunities or anything like that for those who ranked. I did like that they offered medals to the Top 10 in each Age category for both males and females. Even though I was 11th overall I still was able to rank 6th in my age group which landed me a Hard Charge medal to add to the collection of bling. I am excited to see what the next Hard Charge event will have to offer. Be sure to check the schedule to see when you can view this race and maybe even see what it looks like from my point of view on Comcast Sports Net.

Men’s Broadcast Week: 10/31/13 – 11/6/13
Women’s Broadcast Week: 11/7/13 – 11/13/13


Alpha Warrior – Pure Obstacle Racing

After finding out that Alpha Warrior was going to be taking place in San Diego the week after my Spartan Group X Training I just knew I had to sign up for this race that looked very similar to what you would see on Sasuke or better known here as American Ninja Warrior. A race whose tag line is No Mud. No Miles. No Mercy. When I first show shots and video clips of this race I had a feeling this might be my kind of race.

san diego alpha warriorAs usual I was doing double duty while racing, making sure to get some coverage and photos for Obstacle Racing Media (“Like” on Facebook) and enjoying an incredible race. Corinne Kohlen, female winner of the first Alpha Warrior in San Antonio, TX (and California LotDR Race Director), and I made our way to the event early Saturday morning for our shot at the Elite heat and a chance to win some prize money. Alpha Warrior has prize money for 1st, 2nd and 3rd Male and Female Finishers, $1000 for 1st, $500 for 2nd, and $250 for 3rd.  When we arrived at the race I was very excited it was clear that this course was designed for people with lots of upper body strength. The obstacles were stacked heavily, one right after the other with minimal running in between. Most obstacles required grip strength, hanging strength, strong arms and shoulders. Obstacles ranged from the Barrel Jumps at the beginning to vertical pipe monkey bars, rope swings and cargo net climbs, and even trampolines! My background in gymnastics and Corinne’s experience in mountain climbing gave us an incredible advantage giving the style of obstacles offered. To say I was excited about this race is an understatement.

The Race

Lining up for the race I tried to keep myself focused and not get too overly confident. I didn’t want to let myself end up failing an obstacle (20-30 burpee penalty depending on the obstacle failed) and losing my shot at a podium finish. The elite wave began at 8AM and racers were sent out in waves of six – men and women mixed – each wave leaving approx. 45 seconds apart. Corinne, Dirt in Your Skirt’s Margaret Schlachter and myself were in the second wave of runners. Within seconds of the first wave we witnessed the first injury on the course, he took a nasty fall off a cargo net and we hope he is doing okay now, and we were sent off right after it happened. I was concerned for the racer and wished him well as we raced past.

tony matesi alpha warrior rope swing cargo net climbAfter the Sea of Ropes obstacle I found myself gaining on two of the runners from the first wave, I could feel the excitement rising seeing as I was flying through the obstacles. After the Skywalk trampoline series we started to get into more and more obstacles where I wasn’t 100% certain what I had to do because it was my first time ever on this course. The baby blue Battering Rams was one obstacle that threw me for a loop since they were hanging from chains and you have to basically crawl across them, then climb on one and crawl down another series of battering rams. Since it was my first time doing this type of obstacle I approached it with caution to ensure I finished the race with zero burpees.

alpha warrior first female finisher corinne kohlenThe final obstacle structure of the race (there were 16 structures 35 obstacles) was called Alcatraz and it is without question my favorite part of the race. If anyone fails any part of this obstacle during the Elite wave they are automatically disqualified and ineligible for prize money. I knew I had to succeed at everything within this structure and I was flying at this point. First you climb up a slanted incline with a chain, I sprinted to the near top and grabbed the last foot of chain. Then you run left or right depending which ramp you climbed, and enter the inside of the structure which is exceptionally well laid out for being spectator friendly. Inside you begin with the Gorilla Monkey Bars which are pretty standard monkey bars that are spread out a bit more than normal. After that you crawl up two netted ramps which reminded me of being in a kids playground. When you reach the near top you are faced with a series of blocks of varied height and distance apart that you have to hop about much like a Super Mario Bros game above a crash net. I felt extremely confident and went fast from one to the next without pause. Once you finish that you drop down a level and are confronted with a series of bars that all face in different directions and swing, basically a more challenging monkey bar to push your upper body to its limits. After that its just a quick roll down the cargo net, if you’re brave enough, and a leap onto a crash mat and you cross the finish line.

I finished with a time of 11:46.01. I was ecstatic from what I knew about the people who raced in Texas this time was faster than the winners at that race. When I first finished I kind of ignored the volunteers trying to give me my shirt and medal, sorry, I was too busy cheering on Corinne who was fighting her way through Alcatraz. Corinne came way in front of the other females in our same wave. We both felt amazing after our finish. There was a CNN camera there and we did a quick interview about the course. I eventually grabbed my medal and shirt and the waiting began. Since the race is done in waves of six we had to wait for the entire Elite wave to finish before we would know the final results. When all was said and done Corinne reclaimed her number one spot on the podium making her the reigning female Alpha Warrior and I had the great pleasure of my first OCR podium finish taking men’s third place. This race was incredible and I can’t wait for the next venues to be announced because we will be there.

The Festival Area

The layout of their festival area was very well done. They had a beer garden, set up a VIP area which was a lot of fun to hangout in. There were food trucks and lots of tents including one for ZICO, a chiropractor, and others. The Start line and the Finish line were next to each other so the whole festival area culminated between those two points which made for a great place for people to hang out, relax and enjoy the race. Since the distance of this race is minimal spectators can easily view the whole course by following their runner all long the inside.

After the race Corinne filmed me doing almost the entire course. All in all this is an extremely spectator friendly event with lots to do in the festival area and I highly recommend this race to anyone who wants to challenge themselves.  If you want to view a how-to video be sure to check out my man Rodrigo Ortiz’s FUNning video on YouTube. I was very happy to finally meet Rodrigo as we had missed each other at a few of the recent events that we had both attended. Thanks for the interview bro and thanks for posting these how-to videos to make the world of OCR more accessible to the masses.

Colorado Spartan Sprint – Obstacle Heavy Racing

Another weekend and another Reebok Spartan Race event in the books. This time to get my obstacle racing fix I flew out to Colorado, a state I’ve only driven through at night and seen from the the Denver Airport. After this weekend my love for this sport, the Spartan Race series, and everything that comes with it grew exponentially.


reebok spartan race elite red rock colorado

Love all the Spartans that have become my crazy family.

Spartan Race without question has one of the most incredible networks and community of individuals that become part of this huge extended family that works together to help everyone have an incredible experience.  The trip was one of a kind and I just want to thank everyone, Joe, Rich, Andi, Corinne, Tommy and everyone else who made it possible. Every event I attend I meet more people that I’ve only known through Facebook photos and messages. Those moments where you finally meet are sometimes awkward because let’s face it everyone looks a little different in real life. But once that moment is over it’s as if you just met your second cousin twice removed who is now part of this big group you call family. It’s pretty awesome.

The Race

Coming into this race I had expected that we would be hitting more mountainous terrain just because that’s all I could picture in my head when I thought COLORADO. I was a little off but there were some wicked hill climbs in Fort Carson. One thing that I was wondering about leading up to the race was how bad my lungs would handle the elevation. Saturday I definitely felt the effect more than I did when I raced again on Sunday. Every so often I had to put my arms up with my hands on the back of my head to help open the airways. It was also a lot warmer out on Saturday. Sunday ended up being a very cold, windy, hypothermia inducing kind of day.

The Course

This was another Spartan Sprint so the distance was the usual 4.5 miles, unlike Todd’s longer 5.2 miles the previous weekend in Indiana. Yoda, as they call him, designed this course and an excellent job he did.  In what was one of the most evil and obstacle heavy races to date I have to say that THIS is what I envision obstacle racing moving toward in terms of course design. Right out of the gate we were faced with a series of moats to jump. Saturday they were all pretty much equal in how wide they were. Sunday the first and fourth moat were made larger to force people into the muddy water, apparently a lot of people missed these moat jumps and they busted a lot of people up so to fix that SR increased the gap on the first and last moats, leaving the middle two a still conquerable distance to jump.

reebok spartan race obstacle racing obstacle race mud runRight after the moats came the over under throughs with the nets and as soon as I finished them I was already feeling completely gassed on Saturday. Could this be the elevation kicking my ass I thought to myself? Again, Sunday wasn’t nearly as much of a problem for me. The rest of the course continued to be fairly obstacle heavy. There were two sections that were extremely obstacle heavy after around mile 2 you came toward the festival area again and had to do an Atlas Carry, Log Hop (should be called Stump Jump), one of the most interesting Barbwire Crawls (there were lots of obstacles to go around including some saggy low-hanging barb wire), then it was a gauntlet Spear throw, Traverse Wall, Slippery Wall, and then the Hercules Hoist. Not even 500 yards from there and you were right back into a strength gauntlet of obstacles, Tractor Pull on one side of the hill, then circled around to the other side to do the Sandbag Carry up and down the steep slope, then right back up that to the top where you had the Tire Flip. After the tire flip it was a short jog before coming up on the Ruck Sack which was 120lbs for Men and 60lbs for Women (a little ridiculous the weight differences if you ask me) and then it opened up and there was finally a half mile of running after a quick wall jump. Then just before the end of the race came a series of rolling mud pits, rope climb, cargo net crossing and of course as always the Fire Jump followed by the Gladiators.

The Indiana Spartan was pretty obstacle heavy and extremely challenging, I feel like even though there were different Race Directors this race built on that course design and philosophy of being more obstacle frequent and heavy and less about running and took it to the next level. In Indiana there were a lot of obstacles but there were not spaced out as consistently as Colorado. I think what made the Colorado Sprint great is that you almost never had a chance to really hit your stride, giving a lot of us non-runners an advantage we normally do not have, especially in the longer distances. The course was challenging to the point that within the first 10 minutes I questioned myself why the hell I was doing this race but when I crossed the finish line I knew exactly why. They don’t use that tagline for nothin’! It’s completely true and no matter how many Spartan Races I do it still holds true. You’ll Know at the Finish Line. Once again I knew, this IS my sport, this IS my life, and I love it.

reebok spartan race obstacle race mud run finisherBoth days left me feeling that sense of accomplishment when I finished and though both days were on the same course they each offered a different experience. Saturday was a challenge adjusting to the elevation and just discovering what the course was like. The second day was cold, windy, and once you got wet pretty miserable. That cold gave me just the boost I needed however to finish 4 minutes faster than the previous day even though I had more burpees (which I’m still not able to do perfectly…getting there). I finished 11th place on Sunday during the Elite Heat. That’s my best finish to date. Let’s break the top 10!

Jr. Spartan Adventures

spartan race reebok spartan kids obstacle races

Thanks for Rabitting with me Juliana Sproles!

The most rewarding experience of the entire weekend was hands down my decision to Rabbit the Kids Race. It was my first time rabbiting a kids race and I just couldn’t believe how much fun it was. Those lil munchkins and some of those young pre-teens are wicked fast. I was running out of breath trying to stay in the lead fast!

While running the race with a bunch of kids chasing after you like a riot was a total blast it was handing out the medals to them as they crossed the finish line that really got me all pumped up and excited about doing the kids race. Seeing their bright smiling faces as the succeeded in becoming a Spartan and being able to place the orange ribbon around their little heads while telling them, “Congratulations Spartan.” it was a moment of complete understanding and realization of how much bigger this entire sport is going to be years from now. These little young-ins are being brought up with something exciting and fun to do that helps them live a healthy and happy lifestyle. They are being encouraged to go out and play in the mud, to have fun, and it’s so great to see. Maybe one day I’ll have my own little Spartans. Who knows… but going forward you can be sure to find me rabbiting and hanging out with the Jr. Spartans. As Don Devaney always says, “Aspire to Inspire.”

Festival Area/Race Photos

The race festivals continue to improve and become more and more inviting for EVERYONE to hang out in and enjoy a beer, food options could still improve – I don’t understand why more Food Trucks are not being invited out to these races – the free beer now included choice of beer which was a very welcome change. I also enjoyed getting into some of the Festival Challenges, slosh pipe is not one I can do yet but the number of consecutive pull-ups I can do has significantly jumped, I should be able to win that one again soon enough. Overall the Festival experience continues to improve, the only dissappointment I had was that they ran out of the Colorado shirts but thanks to Andi I secured one of the old shirts for my collection, thanks Andi!

Now about the FREE photography we receive. Since the new system has been put in place I’ve tried to give it a chance. The pics I got from Vegas were okay but when I downloaded hi-res they were just the unedited photo and not the “enhanced” images with the Reebok Spartan Race logo. They got a few shots of me but most of them were of others. Then the same thing with Indiana only a couple shots were actually of me. Now again the same thing with Colorado, two days of racing and really I have maybe 3 images I like and would use. Thats not too bad really but what is frustrating is the fact the images from all these races have been basically the same thing, Barbwire Crawl, and/or Gladiators/Fire Jump. It’s as if these have become the default obstacles for the photographers to capture and it’s pretty lame. There are so many more moments I would like to see captured. I remember we (the Spartan Racers) used to have to spend an hour or two going through Lost and Found and various obstacle catalogs of photos but at least you had variety and usually found anywhere from 5-10 photos. Now you are lucky if you get anything over 2 and after three races the only reason I can distinguish them apart is because of what I was wearing. So if anyone out there is listening…please start taking photos of the other obstacles, pretty please?

Below is a video from the Sunday Elite heat. Thanks for posting this Corinne 🙂

Next up: Spartan Sprint Texas. It’s time to get packing.

Indiana Spartan Sprint – Hardest Sprint Yet…

Founders Race

Just a year ago a group of us Midwestern folk were pushing hard to bring a Spartan Race Spartan Sprint to Indiana. At the time the only Spartan Race was in IL and the rest were either on the East or West coast. With a lot of help from the Corn Fed Spartans the race became a reality and Spartan Race unleashed the first ever Founders Race in a small little town known as Laurel, IN. Last year was so unique compared to the typical Spartan Race; it was designed to be a more natural course.  This year we got the full Spartan Race treatment. It was glorious.

124_02c62480ac0051e90518bbf699fddf94_BarbZoneSpartan Race brought all the goodies you usually see at one of their sprints, Atlas Carry, Log Hop, Rope Climb, Spear Throw, and one of the most difficult, peanut butter-like barbwire crawls ever. Utilizing an entirely different part of Haspin Acres, Race Director Todd Sedlak made his debut, one that was heard across the interwebs. Claiming no-one would finish under an hour days before the race, Sergeant Sedlak was spot on with only 0.27% finishing in the sub one hour time that he deemed impossible for this grueling 5.2 mile course. That’s right this Spartan Sprint was 5.2 miles in length, that’s appox. 0.7 miles longer than what average Sprint typically ends up being.

Come race day and I had already spent two days at the course. Thursday I drove up, picked up “Mick” (Michael Aspinall), we also met when I picked him up. My new Australian friend and I drove up to Haspin Acres and met up with Todd Sedlak. Friday we hung out at the course for the second half of the day and even saw the Hurricane Heat get started, I loved the look of the pond and may have suggested that the HH’ers looked a little too dry (insert evil laugh). After that I drove out to the Cincinnati Airport, which strangely enough is in Kentucky, to pick up my friend Jennifer so she could help work the race.

Becoming Elite

Saturday morning came quickly and it was time to prepare for my first Elite Spartan Race since surgery. Going into the event I knew I was still not nearly as fast I needed to be to make it into the Top 15 but knew this would serve as a great baseline for which the rest of the season will build from. After my disastrously overheated and dehydrated race in Vegas and the snowy frozen course at Gladiator Assault Challenge, it was very welcoming to have the perfect race weather on our side. It was even more exciting since just a year ago this race was probably the coldest Spartan Race I’ve ever competed in, it may have been 34° at most in 2012. This was the perfect race weather. Cool breeze, warm sun, clear skies. It was magical out there on that course.

I warmed up with my usual light jog, stretched my shoulder out on at the Pull-Up Challenge area. The race itself was pretty incredible. I had decent start but again I need to get my hill climbs in check. As always, Spartan Race finds the most treacherous slopes and steepest climbs and while speed is easy to come by on the downhill, I’m finding myself completely gassed within seconds of most hill climbs as of late. I’ll be continuing to remedy that as the Death Race approaches. I have a feeling Colorado is going to be harder than anything I’ve experienced [since surgery] this coming weekend. In the course design, Todd made sure to place obstacles often and fairly close together. The first 3 miles or so you’d barely catch a good stride before tackling an obstacle whether it natural or Spartan built.

124_34a969668c54b1a14550ee0a5878e391_GladZoneAfter running the elite heat I found myself continuing what is becoming a tradition at these Spartan Races as of late. I crossed the finish line quickly grabbed my medal nearly skipped the free finishers shirt and found my head hovering over a garbage filled with clear plastic cups and banana peels. Nothing but water came up but I took this as a sign that I gave it my all. At the end of the day I placed 42nd overall and 9th in my age group. Not too shabby for only my third race back from being fairly dorment post surgery. With each race I’ve found myself becoming stronger. I successfully completed nearly every single obstacle including my new favorite, the spear throw, where I found myself passing a ton of the fast guys who could easily out run me. It’s nice to know that some obstacles still give an advantage. My streak of no burpees came to an end, I did in fact fail an obstacle this time, and I’m beyond shocked about it still. The slippery slope at the very end of the course got me, just before the fire jump, where the chip timing now officially ends.  The gladiators came after the timing chip stopped. No longer do you have to worry about a gladiator favoring one guy/girl over another and unfairly determining the outcome of a race. I like that. Good job Spartan.

Lap 2: 50# Ruck

After my first lap I hung out for awhile, talked to the Corn Fed Spartans and watched them take off for their 10am heat. Around 11:00am my cousin Derek and his friend John were getting set to take off for their heat. I made a mad dash to my car, packed my ruck with my bricks, water, etc and within made it back with 4 minutes to spare before the 11:15am heat took off. I kept a pretty wicked pace the entire course, attempted to do every single obstacle with the ruck, many I failed, I almost rang the bell on the traverse wall but the rope climb was impossible I kept sliding down barely 6 inches from the ground. At the Spear Throw I actually missed with my pack on and Jeffrey Bent was there so he called me out and suggested I do a Burpee Back-Flip, how could I not? I also did a burpee back-flip in place of the five burpees at the Atlas Carry. Thank you to all those years of gymnastics.

476901_10200280184982077_394732775_oEventually, I caught up with one of the Corn Fed Spartan packs. What I love so much about this team is the no-one left behind rule. They will hang back and make sure that every single teammate crosses that finish line, so long as they don’t find themselves breaking a femur like our friend and teammate Tim White. I didn’t find out till we were back at the hotel. Heal quickly Tim! After the Hercules Hoist at mile 3 I decided to kick it back up a notch and took off on my own again. By now my cousin and John were way ahead of me. I finished the course in about 2.5 hours and go figure I successfully scaled that slippery wall, burpee free, when I climbed it with all that weight on my shoulders. It was awesome to finish with a weighted ruck. I felt like me again after this race.

Laurel Indiana Spartan Race Sprint Back Flip Burpee

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Bent

Recovery is not complete yet, however. It has still only just begun. I still have to ice my shoulder daily, I am constantly stretching and massaging it. It’ll be a battle but I’m confident I can make it through the Death Race. And that’s what this is all about, training for the Death Race, utilizing every opportunity to advance and progress. Developing my mind, my body, and my spirit and focusing on being aware of when and where I can push myself. For all the other times, I’ll just have to adjust and adapt.

Why I Loved This Race

  • The festival area was amazing; excellent flow from start to finish
  • The course was outta this world. Todd, you are a sick motha effer. I like that shit.
  • Corn Fed Spartans are an incredible group of people and I’m happy to be on their Team. #LotDR, I need a jersey.
  • Gummy Bears. #youknowwhatsup
  • Back Flip Burpees
  • I love this sport. I love this race. I love these people.
  • Making new friends, and meeting amazing athletesNew Friends Family Spartan Race


Gladiator Assault Challenge – Snow Edition

Another week and another obstacle race to test my progress since my surgery November 30th. This time I was racing up in Wisconsin for the my third appearance at the Gladiator Assault Challenge. This race has become one of the races that I look forward to every time it comes around. The obstacles, challenges, distance, festival area, and location are all top notch. Located at Grand Geneva Resort in Wisconsin they really utilize the steep inclines that make up the fairly short (in terms of height) hill. Every time I’ve come to this race the course has been drastically different which has kept it surprising and interesting.


When we arrived there was still snow on the ski hill but myself and the Corn Fed Spartans that I met there were all still on a high from spending the previous weekend in Vegas for the Super Spartan. This snow added a new elemental challenge and was a complete 180 of how things were the week before. New Balance shorts, Injinji performance socks, and Inov-8 X-Talon 212 shoes…that was Vegas. Injinji compression socks, same shoes, Inov-8 Gaiters, Under Armour Cold Gear compression pants, Under Armour Heat Gear long sleeve compression shirt, my Legend of the Death Race tshirt, an Under Armour beanie, and Under Armour gloves. Cold weather requires so much more but with the right gear you can be plenty warm, wick away the water, and not have to restrict movement which is key in cold weather obstacle racing. Get Dry. Stay Warm. Retain flexibility.

GAC does release a map of the course and obstacles but I choose not to really look except maybe a quick glance before race day. I really do prefer the unknown. I find it makes you learn to react faster when you come up to a new challenge and develops analytical thinking ie. do I climb over the elevated cargo net or do I try to traverse as though it was set of monkey bars, these types of decisions are critical in determining how fast you complete any course. While I understand there are many people that don’t worry about their time or how fast they finish, the way I see it is you have to challenge yourself, and to do that you have to set a baseline. From there it’s all about pushing yourself to meet and exceed that with the intention of creating a new baseline. Continuing this process and replicating it in all areas of your life is the path to becoming the best person you can be.

Before the race began I was hanging out with the Corn Fed Spartans inside the lodge, I believe they were waiting on some people finishing up in the bathrooms. I didn’t want to miss the first wave start that Sunday morning. So I told them I’d meet them at the starting line and I took off to drop my backpack off at bag check. I climbed to the top of the steep ski slope and did a quick active stretch before the race began. I thought I’d be clever and put my GU energy gel in my glove for easy access later and so it wouldn’t fall out of my shorts. The race started off faster than I expected and as I descended the steep slope there were my friends all heading up the hill. I waved at them as I took the lead and hit the first wave of rolling hills. Within the first couple minutes we were heading up a large A-frame obstacle and I heard a “Go Anthony” from Joe, one of the owners of Gladiator Assault Challenge. As I hit the top I gave him a quick glance and nod to acknowledge and then I was floating down the other side and attacking the snow covered course with a burst of excitement and competitiveness I hadn’t felt since the Midwest Super Spartan.

That lasted only a short while, after running through the fire and hitting a few sets of steep inclines I was toast. Once again I was forced to realize that I’m still not 100% and that’s okay, I’m training and pushing hard to get back to where I was. It’s a process. One I am dedicated to. After my position fell past the top 10 I focused on my race and stopped worrying about where I was. I found myself battling for the second half of the course, probably sometime right around the log carry, somehow I ended up with a essentially a tree on my shoulders. Surprisingly enough it didn’t bother me too much.

That was one hell of a log carry too. Every time I thought we were coming up on the turnaround point to head back and drop our logs back off I’d find us twisting somewhere further down the trails. I remember coming out to a clearing and thinking to myself, “finally.” Then my eyes took in the entire picture and glanced to the ground below, or lack there of. We had to carry the log across this shoulder high swap that had a single rope going down the center for shorter people to grab hold of. There was no way I could keep my log on my shoulder and not risk drowning myself so I tossed it in front and did my best to push it along the muck. By the time I exited my log weighed twice as much as before I started, what’s that one song…I wish I was a bit taller?…ya right then, I did. I took off and was barely able to respond to Rob (GAC employee) when he questioned why I would do that to myself, meaning why I grabbed the log the size of a tree, and began the trek back so I could finally unload. It was one of the longest log carries I have done and when I finished I felt awesome. I knew my strength was returning and soon my speed would.

The rest of the race I found myself trading places with this one guy wearing a blue shirt. After every so many turns one of us would overtake the other and then I’d get ahead and would hear him coming up behind me. It wasn’t until toward the very end of the course when we came upon a quicksand-like mud pit. The suction was incredible, I found it very difficult to pull myself out, and the key is to only use your arms because kicking will only make it worse. After that there were two sets of balance beams, the first was just a 2 inch wide platform which I only successfully crossed by a quick leap to the end of it, the second one was 4 inches wide and much easier to conquer. Finally, you hit the end of this gauntlet of obstacles which was a cargo net set up to be like monkey bars over a few feet deep mud pit. I elected an alternative option and climbed on top of the structure and jumped off the end, it did slow me down but ensured success and avoided causing any damage to my somewhat fragile shoulder. From there it was around a mile or so to the finish. I had finally created some distance and came over the top of that last A-pillar obstacle, crossing the finish line, and feeling so much better since my pathetic performance in Vegas.


After the race I waited for the Corn Fed Spartans to finish, met up with Joe and talked about how great the course was (he had just finished running it with his 12 year old daughter, ya that’s right she finished and she’s 12). Joe invited me to the Boone, IA race that they are hosting May 18th so if anyone in the Chicagoland area wants to carpool with me let me know (Hotel is $60/night). I will most definitely be attending as many of the Gladiator Assault Challenge races as I can fit in my schedule. I suggest you check one out.

Once everyone had finished we had some burgers, brats, and dogs grilled by Missy, thank you! A bunch of obstacle racers, that I consider family, tail gating in the parking lot after a tough race, it was the perfect ending to a wonderful race. Oh ya and ZICO Coconut Water hooked Corn Fed up for the Indiana Spartan Race and Legend of the Death Race secured them as a sponsor.


Vegas Super Spartan Race – All In

Returning to the Obstacle Racing world as an athlete and competitor has been one of my primary goals ever since I elected to have the labrum in my left shoulder repaired by Dr. Mark Bowen. Since then it has been an upward battle with myself to redevelop my strength and flexibility, still a work in progress, yet with all my recent micro-triumphs (a pull-up here and a burpee backflip there) I have still found myself wondering how far I had actually come.  I am a strong believer in testing yourself where it matters most, at a meet, during a race, or at a competition in the sport you play. The same goes for obstacle racing. The only way I was truly going to know where I stood as I begin my training for the 2013 Death Race, basically taking my 6 month plan from last year, throwing it away and experimenting with a 2 month accelerated regimen.

Currently I work out 3-4 times  week with one day focused only on shoulder flexibility and strengthening. I’m running 3-5 times per week now, only doing 15-20 miles per week so far but upping the mileage as fast as my body allows.  My eating has been pretty spot on, and I’ve been taking my Innerzyme Pain and Inflammation blend. I rarely take pain killers but occasionally I’ll have a few aleve. Everything needed to get me back in gear for obstacle races.

To begin my journey I personally needed to know if I could complete a Spartan Race, based on my physical therapists recommendations and my doctors I originally made my schedule out to have the Gladiator Assault Challenge serve as my first test run followed by the Indiana Spartan Race Sprint as my chance to start racing in the “Elite” circuit again. When I realized how fast my strength was coming back I decided on the whim to see if I could catch a ride to the Vegas Spartan Race Super.  To me Vegas is like a second home, it’s the most visited place I’ve ever been serving as our go-to vacation spot growing up.

Vegas Bound

Flying out to Vegas was not an option so I reached out to my network to see who might be road tripping. Sure enough my friends from the Corn Fed Spartans and hosts of the Legend of the Death Race location had a spot open. I met with my man Chad, his wife Lisa and Jon in Wisconsin on Tuesday April 2nd and we set off on a 24 hour road trip to the Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada. Even though we were not flying I still tagged my bags with my new LostnScanned© tags just incase anything got misplaced out there. (Full Disclosure: LostnScanned© is a new startup that I work with, it’s a very cool product that helps you retrieve your lost valuables).

We arrived in the early afternoon on Wednesday, checked-in, hung out at the pool and it was then that Vegas took over and the debauchery began. Vegas was good to me and hooked me up with a couple extra bucks before I left. After a few nights of what we’ll simply call, “Vegas,” I had every intention of NOT getting all “Vegas” on Friday before the race on Saturday, however the excitement of more friends arriving that night got the best of me and I gave in and began day “Vegas” way more than I should have. Stupidity at its finest.

Vegas – Super Spartan

Reebok Spartan Race, Corn Fed Spartans, Reach Boxing, Obstacle Race, Vegas, SparatanCome race day and I was not in any shape to be running over 8 miles in the desert at Lake Las Vegas. Even though I felt like absolute shit I didn’t let that stop me from pushing myself.  Starting your day dehydrated and then trying to rehydrate/stay hydrated during an intense mountainous, desert obstacle race is like skydiving without a parachute. It’s really dumb.  Needless to say, I puked on the course, it had to happen. After that one of the volunteers had medical check on me, the gatorade he gave me was a huge help for my hydration issues.

Most of the race I found myself running with my friends I made during Team Tire’s tribulations at the 2012 Death Race from Team SISU and the Weeple Army.  Daren, Louis, Matt, Dave, Rob and whoever else I’m forgetting to mention (sorry theres a lot of ya) made for some great company during the race, something I’m not used to having. We talked about the SISU IRON event that Daren is hosting, sounds like a mini Death Race, the Legend of the Death Race, and of course about THE Death Race. For us, everything else is preparation for the main event, including this race.

Lake Las Vegas Spartan Race Nevada Obstacle Race CourseThe course was gorgeous, Lake Las Vegas is an awesome location for an obstacle race. The dust was a bit of an obstacle itself, within minutes of hitting the course there were just clouds of sand and dirt all kicked up into the air, choking you out and taking away from the already minimal air supply you had to work with. The water was refreshingly cold. There was a new obstacle, a tire drag, you had to drag a tire that was attached to a rope and spike in the ground all the way out until the rope was tight and then back. It aggravated my shoulder a little bit, the weight was prolly in the upper 150-200 lb range.

Spartan Race is doing this cool new thing where they actually send you all your video clips from the race. So they captured me doing the rope climb, shipping container cargo nets, and the fire and gladiators at the end. It was a real treat to see video from my race, very cool Spartan Race, very cool. This was an amazing race and it’s good to see that it continues to improve and evolve both on the course and technologically. Now if only they would get rid of the annoying pop-up ads on their websites. Here is a link to the video reel, it’d be nice if this gets updated to allow you to compile and publish to your youtube account.

How it Felt

As it stands I’m still in recovery mode, I was able to do all the obstacles without having to do burpees. I did skip one obstacle and burpees because my shoulder was sore, and that was the bucket carry. The weight, distance and way I would have to carry the bucket was not worth the risk. I am no longer able to consider myself anelite competitor but I believe there is more to being an elite than how you place. It’s how you train, it’s how you recover, it’s how you spend time helping others, it’s how you giveback and always keep yourself open to learn more. I’m not placing in the top 15 overall and top 5 in my age group after this first race and that is okay.  It just motivates me to train more and of course train wise. There’s a happy medium I have to focus on with my newly healed shoulder and I’m finding my limits and learning when to break past them.

Gladiators Super Spartan Race Reebok Vegas NevadaOverall I am super happy about this race and even though I performed worse than I ever have since I began racing I’m okay with it. I was dehydrated from the heat, sun, and from all the “Vegas” that happened. It was a whole new challenge and one I learned a valuable (already known, so I guess it’s a reminder) lesson going forward. Everything is improving and I have two months left until the Death Race. Let’s do this.

Midwest Super Spartan Race – Best Obstacle Race of the Year?

It’s been difficult finding where to even begin in regards to the weekend of non-stop obstacle racing fun. Just a year ago, I was attending my first ever Spartan Race. I had been emailing back and fourth with Tommy Mac trying to gauge how difficult this obstacle race would be in comparison to the Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder I had done a few months before. Fast forward to this year and just days before I was torn on whether or not I would attend the Hurricane Heat the night before the race.  My focus this year has been becoming more and more competitive. It has been ever since my performance at the Texas Super Spartan I went to for my birthday weekend last December.  Throughout the year I’ve had some injuries and mishaps that have held me back.  The two weeks leading up to this race I did  a lot of nothing. The Chicago Marathon left me with some pain that only dissipated during the days leading up to the Midwest Super. This left me with a tough choice, I wanted to be competitive in the Super Spartan come Saturday morning but I really wanted to celebrate my one year anniversary of Spartan Races the best way I knew how, with a Hurricane Heat.

I emailed Tommy a few days before the HH and told him my situation. He gave me the details on when to be there incase I could make it. I decided Friday morning that I would leave work an hour early and make my way there. If I arrived early enough, game on.  With an hour to spare I pulled into the familiar parking lot that has become host to the Midwest Spartan Race and home of the permanent obstacle course I helped with this summer, Dirt Runner.  This specific weekend would be my last weekend of racing for an unknown amount of time, I’ll finally have my shoulder-tear fixed in the coming weeks. I decided having fun and enjoying my weekend the way I wanted to was more important than how competitive I would be this weekend; I can save that for next year when I’m at 100%.

Friday Night: Hurricane Heat – 019

Hurricane Heat Obstacle Race Team work Camaraderie

Building Fire Pits and Buddy Carries. Photo Credits: Chad Weberg and Chris Glowney

It was fantastic to see so many familiar faces.  As I finished getting “suited-up,” Jennifer, my homegirl, Death Race crew, and the first friend I made from Spartan Race (because of last year’s HH) pulled up with her father who came along for the fun.  We walked into the festival area and met up with Tommy. He was happy and relieved to see us, we could help lead the groups for the Hurricane Heat. For those of you who don’t know, a Hurricane Heat is a Team event that does team oriented tasks while going through the course alongside Spartan Race employees and/or Founders. Tommy and I had a few talks back and fourth months ago about possibly having me lead a group, and now it was time to step up to the challenge. Jennifer and I decided to stick together, last year we had to lead our team back towards the end of the HH because our leader was a bit….incompetent.  There were 87 people who showed up and we broke off into teams of 17-20. There were the Cornfed Spartans, Chicago Spartans, Randoms, Badass, and our beloved Storm Chasers group that I joined last year after completing my Texas Hurricane Heat. Jen and I led the Storm Chasers, our first mission was to get 5 fire pits built using the wood, concrete and gravel that was available in the surrounding area.

Hurricane Heat Team Obstacle Race Storm ChasersAfter a few hours of going through the course backwards, climbing walls, being carried, carrying people, doing burpees, and more we successfully completed another Hurricane Heat. It was the best one I had ever been a part of.  It was just smooooooth. I think the reason for that was the fact we stuck to the course and didn’t go off course at all.  This HH was nothing but smooth sailing, with some sick PT thrown in the mix, those frog jumps and bear crawls at the end were KILLER on the glutes, quads, and hammies.  Jennifer and her dad did great, we all did. There wasn’t a single team that really “screwed” up like there have been in past Hurricane Heats. It was a great one year anniversary and I’m very happy I opted to participate.

Saturday Morning: Super Spartan – Elite Heat

After the Hurricane Heat I was able to head back to the Marriott with Jennifer, her husband Danny, and her father. Jennifer’s mother was waiting for us back at the hotel. I have to thank the Sullivan’s again for letting me stay with them.  Leading up to the event my mind had been so preoccupied with setting up for the Training Camp that I forgot to book a room since Matt B. Davis would no longer be making the trip.  Jennifer and her family saved the day though and allowed me to stay with them, for that I thank you so much. It sure beat my plan to just sleep on site in my car.

Spartan Race start community love friendship

Start of the race…Let’s Stay Warm, Group Hug!

Come 6:45AM I was wide awake.  Being my last competitive race of the year I was bit anxious for morning to arrive and woke up a few times throughout the night.  Yet somehow, I felt fantastic.  I guess race day can do that to you, I just felt so pumped and alive as I pulled up to the race venue. One of my favorite things about the Spartan Race series is the community, everyone is just amazing and more important than any race is the happiness it brings me to see all my racing friends.  I left my photo ID in the car, not thinking and had to do some running back and fourth. My father met me for the race to cheer me on which I’ve gotta tell you, that is the best thing in the world to me. Having him there to support me at these past few races has been a game changer. It was closing in on the 8AM starting time and I was running around like a mad man to get ready and make it to the starting line. I was there at the front of the start line with a lot of the amazing women in the obstacle racing circuit, Andi Hardy, Ella Anne Kociuba, Margaret Schlachter and Amelia Boone. With the cold weather keeping us nice and chilly we all shared a group hug before the race began.

balance logs spartan race sandbag carry

Rockin’ out and always smilin’ Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

Once the sport smoke bombs dropped we took off.  I felt good as we began. Not too sore from the night before, ready to tackle anything Spartan Race would throw my way, hell I helped set up much of the course from helping Dirt Runner earlier this year. Within the first two miles I realized they made this a runners course. Not exactly my cup of tea. I’ve learned to love running but it’s still not my favorite. For a while I was pitted against my friend and fellow racer of EPIC Racing Arena, Michael Sandercock, we took turns swapping places and rocked out a few of the obstacles together. Some time after the obnoxiously long sandbag carry I began to gain some distance. Herein lies yet another thing I love about  these races, even though we’re competing against each other there still exists a level of camaraderie that I’ve never experienced in ANY sport.

spear throw, barbwire log climb

Concentrating before the spear throw. Fun in the muddy barbwire crawl and then climbing the logs to exit the pit. Photo Credit: Rich Matesi and Nuvision Action Image

As I neared the end of the course, and I knew it was coming because the end was the same as the start of the Dirt Runner course, my mind switched to focus mode. The traverse wall and the spear throw awaited me.   When I made it to the spear throw I took a deep breath, focused on the training that Junyong Pak gave me at the Ultra Beast, took my three step approach and let the spear fly out from the grasp of my fingers. As it glided through the air and approached the Spartan hay bale targets I could tell it had the distance, my heart was beating wildly. For an obstacle that takes only a few seconds to execute, it can cost you 2-3 minutes of burpees should you fail. “Hell ya” I cheered as the spear pierced the target.  At long last I hit my first target in a Spartan Race! The finish line was within sight.  Just a quick leap over the fire and a swim out to the rope climb in what was manhood-shriveling, freezing cold water followed by a ridiculously sloppy, muddy barbed-wire crawl (which I log rolled through half, instantly bringing back Death Race memories, and crawled the other half) stood in my path. Then it was a quick climb up the impressive Dirt Runner log-obstacle, a battle with the gladiators to finally cross the finish line. It was then that I was presented with my bright blue Super Spartan Finishers medal.

spartan race obstacle race super spartan trifecta

The coveted Trifecta Medal

The course felt shorter than a typical Super Spartan, and it was. We found out later this was because of the weather leading up to the race left some of their excavating equipment stuck out on the course. It was still a very challenging race, and probably the best one I’ve done. Not just because I discovered I placed 14th Overall and came in a minute after Amelia Boone with a time of 1:29:51.3, but because the course was different.  It was fun, challenging, and simply put, amazing. I really am having the time of my life! Oh yeah, finally nabbed myself my long awaited Trifecta too.

super spartan pull ups with Andi Hardy

Pull-Ups Challenge. Andi Hardy is one tough cookie!

Soon after getting out of my wet clothes and into some dry ones I was able to spend time hanging out and participating in some of the festival challenges. Andi and I entered a pull-up contest and she trumped me by one pull-up, 22 to my 21. Who says women can’t do pull-ups?! Around noon time they had the Spartan Kids Race and somehow I managed to get my coworker, Lena, to bring her kids out! They had a blast and her daughter even said “I want to grow up and do the big race!” How freakin’ cute is that?!

Kids Fit Foundation Spartan Race Kids

Showing Lena’s son how heavy the Atlas lift challenge cement blocks were. Photo Credit: Lena

Later I made my way to a Corn Fed Spartans/Chicago Spartans party at Missy Morris’s casa and we all enjoyed food, beers, and great people. Missy and her husband were incredible hosts and even offered me a couch to crash on. Again, I thank you both!

Sunday Morning: Super Spartan – Round 2

Sunday morning did not start out as well as I’d have liked. After two days of racing I realized I was out of dry compression pants. Thankfully one pair had already been rinsed off thanks to my pops but were still too damp to wear.  I slept right next to the laundry room and threw them in for about 10 minutes. I arrived on site maybe 15 minutes later than I’d have liked but still had plenty of time.

Today, I that plan was to run the race at 9AM with my cousin for his first Super Spartan. He came out last year for the Midwest Sprint and also ran the Indiana Founder’s Race as well. Derek, my cousin, and his friend John met up with me and we made our way to the starting line. Derek had just gotten his first pair of Inov-8 shoes, he went with the Roclite 295’s and within the first 20 minutes of the race was 100% satisfied with his purchase as we looked back and so people slipping all over the place. Derek and I set a pretty decent pace and maintained it for a majority of the race. I noticed a few changes had occurred since I ran the race the day before. The entrance to the first barb-wire crawl was purposefully gated to force you into the puddles of water but we quickly made our way to the left.  Though it was still sloppy it seemed like a much better route than through the cold puddles of muddy water that formed down the middle.

Cousin Family Sandbag Carry Barbwire crawl Gladiator

My cousin and I rockin’ the sandbag carry. Barbwire crawl and smashing through gladiators. Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

Running with my cousin was an excellent experience. We were able to help each other over obstacles, keep each other in high spirits, and able to do the number one thing at these events, have fun. There were a few points where I felt my body getting a bit pissed off at me, three days of racing was definitely taking its toll.  Not only that but the mud seemed….heavier this time around.  It actually felt like it was slowing me down quite a bit. We rocked out almost every obstacle, I slipped at the very end of the balance logs and had to do 30 burpees. I gave my cousin a brief spear throw lesson before the race and we both nailed it! Back-to-back spear throw success! Booooya! When we finished the race together we clocked in at just under 2 hours which was still better than the average time. After receiving our medals, Derek and I hung out, had some sausages, and waited for John to come through the finish. Even after John completed the race we continued to hang around for a bit, taking pictures and enjoying the atmosphere.

fire jump spartan race obstacle race

Oh yeah, I decided to do a front flip over the fire again. Thanks for the suggestion Eric Skocaj 😉 Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

Yes, this was the best race of the year, and it’s because of all the above. Spartan Race has changed my life. And I just can’t get enough.

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Indiana Spartan Race Founder’s Obstacle Race – The Perfect Holiday Gift

Obstacle Race season is coming to an end for me this weekend.  Friday night I will be heading down to the Spartan Race Super Spartan in Marseilles, IL. This is where it all began last year. Sure I started my obstacle racing a few years back with the Men’s Health Urbanathlon and I really got into the muddy obstacle races starting with the Warrior Dash then Tough Mudder and finally competing in the Midwest Spartan Race Spartan Sprint a year ago. It was there that I entered my first Hurricane Heat, and met the Storm Chasers. It’s been one hell of a year since then.  And I couldn’t be happier.  It got me thinking about the Indiana Spartan Sprint; the first ever Founder’s Race it was one of the shorter, more difficult races I’ve done.

indian spartan sprint founders race

Corn Fed Spartans

What makes it better? In an effort to increase registrations for Indiana, with Jonathan and the Corn Fed Spartans leading the way, I decided to start buying Christmas gifts for friends and family… I wanted more people to experience what I had.  Two of the people I bought a race entry for, as a gift, were my mother and my younger sister. My mother is a former bodybuilder and martial artist and my younger sister is an elite gymnast.  Even now in my mothers younger years 😉 she has a very ambitious attitude toward staying fit and healthy. They both do. Their faces were shocked, stunned, and perhaps slightly irritated, when they opened their gifts.

The months passed by and finally it was time for us to go Indiana for the Founder’s Race. I remember when we were driving there it was all flat land, we questioned what the terrain could really be like in the vast flatness that is Indiana. To our surprise when the four of us arrived, my friend Matt also came along so he too could try his first Spartan Race, they made magic happen. The masterminds behind course designing at Spartan Race managed to locate a piece of land that had an incredible amount of elevation change, and the weather was completely in SR’s favor, wet and cold. Just the week before it was upper 70s maybe even 80s. Then it plummeted to the 40s, water temperatures hovered around 38° in the water. Internally, I kept thinking how bad I felt for dragging them out with such crappy weather but I couldn’t reveal that, I remained very jovial and reassuring that the cold wouldn’t be an issue.

Damn was I wrong. Matt and I headed over to the race early in the morning from the hotel to race in the Competitive Heat. That heat was incredible but within the first three minutes of the race I rolled my foot really bad on a sharp turn during these rolling hills. I heard and felt something pop. EFFFF I shouted out, but I really said it.  Then I think I remember saying something along the lines of “there goes my race” Andi Hardy told me she remembered hearing that happen while she passed me, all I remember was her making sure I was okay before taking off and giving me a boost of encouragement.

founder race first lap anthony matesi spartan sprint

Finishing the first lap. – Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

Given the circumstances I still had a decent finish. I was hurting but felt good enough to go again. After all I had a promise to keep to my mom and sister. After the first heat I met back up with my mother and sister and tried to warm myself up before going out for more cold weather sucky fun. Yes it was fun. Cold, but fun. My cousins also came down so they drove my mother and sis over with their friend. Ya, that’s right we had the whole family out for this one. On top of that we had Matt there along with high school buddies, Craig and Joe. Big thanks to Joe for a lot of the awesome pictures he captured!  All of us lined up for the next heat and I brought a little something extra to help me prepare for the Death Race. I packed a small ruck with a 24 pack of 16 oz Miller Lite cans. Mmmm-Liquid Bricks.

As the race began we all took off together. My cousins, Derek and Cameron and their friend John took off pretty quick along with my sister.  When we first lined up I told them all to run their race and promised my mom I’d stay with her. I told Mariah, my sister, to do whatever she felt comfortable with.  She disappeared pretty quick.  I was happy she took off; this would be an incredible learning experience for her, especially at the age of 16.  I also knew she had what it takes to successfully finish. She’s a rockstar.

There my mom and I were making our way through the natural obstacles that Spartan Race utilized to make the Founder’s Race a one of a kind experience. Instead of a lot of the standard obstacles Spartan uses we faced muddy hills, log carries, steep and slippery inclines, and it was the first time I had encountered a cargo net that was hung between two rather far apart trees. The key was to get on the outside edges where it was more tout. My mother was an animal, even though she was a bit cold and we had both ass-planted in the mud a few times she never stopped getting up and pushing forward. She’s always been a powerful, inspiring, and motivating woman. I’m very thankful that I was able to grow up with such a good example of what women can accomplish.

indiana spartan race obstacle race barbwire

Clearly my mom had more fun crawling than I did. Look at that smile! Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

I think the obstacles that really took my mom by surprise were the water obstacles, the tall logs we had to climb near the end and the treacherous barbwire crawl that seemed to go on forever. When you finished a section of the barbwire crawl you’d get up and realize you were only getting started. They separated the barbwire into multiple zig-zagging sections that would end, allow you to get up a second just to cross over and drop back down to your belly. It was brutal, but no matter what my mom kept crawling and even got caught with a huge smile on her face by the photographer. I remember when we rounded that left turn and she just let out an “are you serious?” at the sight of the extremely short three-barbwire criss-cross-length crawl, that concluded the barbwire obstacle.  It was a sick little trick played by Todd Sedlak when he helped with designing the course. Thanks again for that one buddy.

spartan indiana race sprint obstacle race fall

She made it over…then she slipped. But Spartans get back up when they fall and thats just what my mom did! Photo Credit: Joe Miksan

At the end my mom and I trudged through the last of the water obstacles, carried another log and climbed over the remaining obstacles.  I felt terrible when I gave my mom a boost over one of the tall log hurdles. I thought she was fine getting over and down on the other side but she was so exhausted she lost her grip and went splat on her bum. I felt horrible and quickly helped her to her feet. She looked at me and said, “Tone, I’m so tired.” I cheered her on and told her there was just one more left. I assured her we would get some fellow Spartans to help us over. She couldn’t believe how helpful everyone was around her. When we finished, there were hugs being given by my mom to all the complete strangers she met along the way. She was overwhelmed with happiness at what she accomplished, and surprised at how much camaraderie there was among strangers.

Finishing that second heat with my mother was just the experience we needed together. It brought us even closer than we already were.  My mother was a Spartan, the race reinvigorated her and made her feel strong and powerful, how she felt when she used to be a bodybuilder. I was proud of her, and my little sister, Mariah, dominated that course. She finished some 30 minutes before my mother and I made it in. She even wrote a paper about how the experience changed her for her senior composition class and another for her college admissions papers.

spartan race indiana family sister rockstar

My sister is a rockstar and destroyed the course. Finishing 15th in her age group. Not bad for never racing. Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

Spartan Race has this unbelievable ability to change people. It takes them out of their shells, it empowers them, the race reinvigorates people’s very beings, it restores their faith in humanity, and opens the doors for so many like-minded people to come together and share the most incredible experiences in the world. Spartan Race gives the opportunity to truly live; it gives the ability to embrace the suck and endure any obstacles that may come our way, literal and metaphorical.

After the race my mother was so cold I could tell she was approaching the possibility of becoming hypothermic. I rushed her to my car where Matt had been hanging out most of my second lap. He got to enjoy a few brews with fellow racers too. We got everyone changed out of his or her cold, wet clothes and did it all behind a couple towels. How else you gonna change in the middle of nowhere? I cranked the heat in my car to the high of 80° and turned it up to full blast. By time I ran back from saying my goodbyes and washing myself off, my mom’s lips had already returned to full color and her teeth had stopped chattering. I was relieved to see that she was able to return to normal. It was a hectic rush to get our things together to head home.

Spartan Indiana Race Family Fun

Our next Family Christmas photo! Photo Credit: Joe Miksan

All in all I think it is safe to say that it was probably the best Christmas Gift I have ever given anyone. My family spent an awesome weekend together; we overcame the miserable, cold and wet weather. Dominated the ridiculous amount of elevation change and obstacles thrown our way.  In the end we learned more about others as well as ourselves. It was an experience in every sense. One I felt a lot better about when I looked back and realized how much it really did for all of us. Spartan Race has created a very unique experience, one that I can’t seem to get enough of. I can’t wait to race this weekend.



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EPIC Racing Arena – Citizen’s Elect Video Submission

Citizen's Elect ChallengeEPIC Racing Arena, has requested that elite racers wanting to get a leg up in being selected to race in the Elite Races submit a video of themselves performing the following challenge: At a Football field perform 15 pull-ups (for men, 5 for women) then run to the opposite end of the field, go around the field goal post and sprint back.  Then, immediately drop down and perform 20 burpees when back in the end zone.  After being sick all last week and having terrible rain all weekend I finally made if over to my old high school football field, good ol Glendbard North High School, to attempt putting this video together.

epic racing arena obstacle raceWhen we arrived there was still football practice going on for the junior high school kids.  Thankfully they would be leaving soon.  Once 7:30pm rolled around it took them a little longer to depart than we were told so we tried to wait as patiently as possible for our opportunity to get the video done. As soon as the field was cleared I jumped up onto the soccer net post, yes a soccer net post, they decided to block the field field goal post with a soccer net, I had to make do. My first attempt I finished in 1:42.08.  My father convinced me to give it at least one more try to see if I could beat my time. I went for it.  As I rounded back from running across the field I could tell I was still feeling the effects of being sick. When I finished my burpees I knew I didn’t beat my first attempt. 1:48:10.  After that I was more than satisfied with my first attempt since I would need to go home and still edit and upload the video. You can’t a video without some tunes. So without further ado, I give you my video submission for EPIC Racing Arena.


UPDATE: Voting has begun!!! Please go to this page and click the like button to vote. 🙂

Super Ultra Beast – Part 1: Going Above and Beyond

After months of anticipating this race, it was finally here, The Spartan Race Ultra Beast.  My father tagged along with me for this trip so we woke up at 4am on Friday morning, Sept 21st. We arrived in Boston around 10am and wasted an hour trying to get our rental car situation sorted out, and then it was a nice 3 hour drive up to the wonderful land of Sparta, I mean Vermont. We took a detour and stopped off in Pittsfield, VT before heading to our final destination, Killington, VT.  I felt it was necessary to give my pops a tour of where it all went down this summer when I participated in the Spartan Death Race.  Both of us were starving so our first stop was of course the Original General Store.  After filling up we headed out, I pointed out a few key spots and we continued down Route 100 until we reached Killington.

Olof was the first to arrive at the house and we met him at a grocery store we stocked up on supplies at before we went to the house. When we arrived it was only us, so we toured the house, scouted out the rooms and settled down in the basement.  Soon after Junyong Pak, Shelly, and countless others began to arrive. Right away Pak got out the spears and started teaching us the proper technique for spear throwing.  Within a few tries we were all throwing far better than before Pak’s quick lesson.  He also set up a tyrolean traverse between the trees and a post on the house and taught all the methods to getting across this obstacle.  I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome it was to receive lessons from the World’s Toughest Mudder.

Homemade Tyrolean Traverse practice area

Pak and I set up this awesome practice traverse at the house.

Then I heard another car pull up while I was in the kitchen and I went outside to see who it was. Finally, the one person I was waiting for more than anyone else, Morgan.  My Death Race savior, had finally, arrived.  As usual, she was in extremely high spirits, and had more energy than a five year old all jacked up on Mountain Dew. We exchanged bear hugging each other off the ground and I was introduced to her client she trains, Pat.  We all went inside and they got settled in.  We were going to be having a pasta party in a few hours so between setting up for that, playing with the spear throws and saying our hellos to everyone that arrived we all had a lot of catching up to do.  It’s amazing how a year ago most of these people were strangers, and even until that moment I still had only known many of the people via the social internetz (mainly Facebook), and yet somehow it felt like a family reunion. One big, Spartan Family reunion.  Later we went over to the race site to pick up our registration packets and even there you couldn’t avoid running into a bunch of people you were unexplainably happy to see.

spartan race ultra beast car flip

Not a good way to start the race. Thankfully everyone was okay and still able to race.

It was difficult to sleep that night, but eventually we all made our way off to bed, it felt as though I only slept a few minutes. We had to wake up around 6am to get ready so we could be at the race site by 7:05am. The race was scheduled to begin at 8am…it didn’t actually start until almost 8:15am however.  When we arrived at the race site you could feel the energy in the air. The mountain was covered in a dense fog, we would be running through the clouds if it stayed around long enough.  As we pulled up I spotted some friends from Chicago Spartans, Candie, Stefanie, Paul, and Maureen.  I also spotted another familiar face, Brakken, he won the Indiana Spartan Sprint and I was rooting for him to place high at the Beast. Walking up to the race site put a stunned face on all of us, just moments before we arrived a SUV flipped turning into the site.  We later found out they couldn’t see the ditch when they turned causing the vehicle to roll, thankfully everyone within was okay, they still went and did their race.

Obstacle Race Starting Line

Spartans! Are you ready for battle?! Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

At the starting line you could just feel all the excitement building, we all were ready to tackle the Ultra Beast. We staked our place at the front of the heat, Morgan, Pat, and myself were there, along with Matt B. Davis, host of my favorite podcast, and Margaret from Dirt in Your Skirt.  There was Junyong Pak, Hobie Call and Olof.  I remember spotting Andi Hardy, Ella Anne Kociuba, and I even had a chance to introduce Andy Weinberg, one of the founders of Spartan Race, to my father just before the race. With so many top athletes here for this race you knew it was going to be an incredibly competitive race.  Not only was this the first ever marathon distance obstacle race, but it was also the Spartan Race World Championships.  Just under a year ago I competed at the 2011 Spartan Race World Championships in Texas, since then they have relocated the end-all be-all event to the homeland, where Spartan first began, in Vermont.  It was after that race last year that I decided to compete at the Spartan Death Race a year earlier than originally planned.  So many excited feelings were brewing.  Before the rules were sounded off by race director, Michael Morris, I gave Morgan one last HUGE hug for good luck. Then it was time to listen to all the rules: stay on trail, watch for markings, if you miss an obstacle you must do 30 burpees with push-ups, and so-on.  Ultra Beast racers were provided green armbands, these would signal other racers doing the beast to move to the side for us on obstacles; free season passes were on the line after all. To get the pass you had to finish by the 7pm cut-off time.  For me that was my primary goal, my secondary goal was to see how well I would rank in my first BIG distance race.

Cameras were in our faces, the sound of the shutters going off, my heart was beating, and then they dropped the sport-safe smoke grenades. I blew past the ancient pillars, keeping my standard start pace, not balls to the wall but enough to get out in front a bit. Within seconds we were at the first set of mud pits.  They were the perfect size to clear with a leap, and then it was time to begin multiple ascents up the mountain. I looked back and didn’t see anyone I started with in sight.  Part of me wanted to hang back, the other said push forward.  After turning into the woods I met up with Margaret for a bit, we shared some words about the race, strategy, what our expectations were, and how some people were turning the juice on too soon.  Every few minutes I looked back.  As we moved up the mountain, zigging and zagging, and climbing, and running, it was so serene and fitting to see all the fog rolling off the mountain tops. This was the Ultra Beast, everything about it felt perfect. Almost too perfect.

ultra beast barb wired

There was a high barb wire section before exiting a wooded section of one of the early ascents. Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

Just before one of the downhills came up I reconnected with Morgan and Pat.  Once that downward descent began I took off like a rocket. When it comes to the downhills, that’s where I have a natural advantage. For whatever reason, I’ve always found that my legs can handle the downhill, more than most.  The way I have described it is that I basically let my body go numb, essentially letting gravity take over control; I only turn my control on to keep myself from tumbling over or losing it and biting the ground, hard. I did roll my ankle a few times out there but this specific time I just glided down that mountain side.  As much as I was wanting to go fast I didn’t want to leave them behind. I kept moving forward.  At some point we came out of a wooded section of the course and the fog was extremely dense. It seemed like we should just keep going straight but I remember seeing an arrow to my left in the distance pointing downhill.  It seemed like the trail going straight made sense, but I couldn’t shake the notion that it didn’t make sense for them to have the course intersect itself.  Just a few strides away though I remember seeing more Spartan Race markings, I figured, along with a few others, that we must be on the right path. It has to be, it’s marked, I thought.

sand bag pull skis ultra beast

I want to know how much these sandbags weighed. Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

Morgan, Pat and I kept breaking off from each other, but I slowed down a few times and we’d catch back up for a bit. I remember I had taken off for a while and that’s when some of the strongman obstacles came into play, dragging the stone block with a chain is the first I remember. We were probably about 3 or so miles into the course and we still didn’t seem to be anywhere near the festival section of the race. Wasn’t there supposed to be a 3 or 4 mile drop out point, I questioned myself.  I shook off the doubt and trudged on.  That tractor pull was one of the easiest I had ever done I remember proclaiming to another racer, he agreed.  When I got to the bottom of this twisting and turning descent we were told to turn and I could see the tyrolean traverse in the distance, but before that we had to drag a sandbag that was in a small pallet-like box attached to a set of wooden skis.

rope traverse over water at spartan obstacle race

Ring the bell…then drop in the water. Yay. Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

We had to drag those wonderful things across gravel, it was fairly heavy and I was in awe at the women around me who were keeping pace with the same weight in theirs as I had in mine.  Once I dropped the sled it was off to the traverse. Luckily, I had practiced a few times the night before thanks to Pak’s nifty little rig that I assisted him with setting up.  It paid off, even though I could feel my sternum was already bruising up from this and the practice.  Just before ringing the bell I swung underneath after losing my balance from performing the on-top technique. I only had two arm lengths to travel before it let out the wonderful, ding.  The sick and twisted part of this all, there was no reward for successfully finishing the traverse, you still had to swim across the 38 degree water for a long enough distance that my body began to cramp almost instantaneously. When I emerged I had to crawl under a semi truck trailer and took off toward another set off rolling hills and mud pits, and then it was back into the forest for one of the most gnarly ascents I’ve ever faced.

rope climb at top of ski mountain

The ropes are attached to the ski lift carousel. Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

About halfway up this section of the mountain, which was a full out hike at this point and if you didn’t know how to hike efficiently this couse was going to destroy you, I was passed by none other than Alec Blenis, a top contender at every Spartan Race.  This took me by surprise, I knew I was hauling ass, but I had no idea I was doing that well.  We had to be at least five miles into the course at this point. When we emerged from the dense, bushwhacking, mountain climbing, hiking section of the course we were greeted by a pleasant surprise, a rope climb.  The rope hung there from the  top of a Ski-lift carousel with a bunch of hay bails circling the bottom.  A quick climb to the top and a ring of the bell and I was back on the course.  I took off quickly but was stopped almost immediately just a few hundred feet away from the rope climbing obstacle. What the hell is going on, I thought? There were 4 or 5 other guys stopped, including Alec and a Spartan Race employee.  We were informed that we went way off course. We would have to hold here and wait until the race director, Michael Morris, arrived to tell us our options for how to proceed from here.  This was terrible news, there was so much on the line for some of the racers. For Alec, his points rankings was just shattered, for others the race would be over entirely, for myself my shot at placing top 10 or even 20 was completely out the door.  I still had a larger goal that I held onto, and that was simply finishing what I started.  After the Death Race this year, it’s become increasingly important to me to finish anything and everything I sign up for. This race included. While we waited for Michael, more and more people who clearly took the same wrong path as us joined the party.  Even Morgan and Pat joined us not to long after we initially stopped.  What a disaster, you had easily 20-30 people here by time Michael showed up in the pickup truck.

There was only one question that we mattered to us more than anything, now what?

To be continued…Part 2


Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image