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Spartan Race Stadium Series Miller Park Sprint

Entering the Miller Park Stadium I could sense that this was not like your ordinary Spartan Race. It was unlike any other Spartan Race event I have attended. It just felt different. I arrived around 7:00AM and had to do a lot before it was time to race. I went straight to bag check and started working on stretching out and contacted my father to see how long it’d be until his arrival. Sarah Pozdol and I made our way over to registration to make sure we were properly registered for being on Corn Fed who had an astounding 316 people cross the finish line this weekend. Around 7:30AM I met up with all the Corn Fed Spartans that made it in time for the group photo, had that taken. Then I finally met up with my dad with only a few minutes left to get ready. So I handed him the rest of my ABB Performance Speed Stack Pumped N.O. (my now go-to pre-race fuel) and sped off into a quick jog. I didn’t have much time and basically headed straight to the starting area. I situated myself and went off with the second wave they sent out. Unlike a normal Spartan Race this one requires waves of 15 every to be sent out every 60 seconds to keep the flow going and to prevent too many bottle necks from happening.

The Elite Wave

Going into this race I haven’t trained as much as I had for many of my other races this year. Since Fuego Y Agua running has been non-existent from my training regimen. I’ve neglected it. Not because I wanted to, I actually kind of miss running. Since moving to the city of Chicago I find it harder to get out and lose myself to the sounds of my Spotify account and the rapid movement that I had started to enjoy. Without trails I feel a bit lost. The Miller Park Sprint acted as an excellent catalyst for forcing me to embrace an alternative training grounds from the great outdoors that I’ve grown so fond of. Right out the gate we were headed up a concrete incline ramp that lead to the next floor of the stadium, with each half floor we went up we were either greeted with a set of bungees we had to bear crawl under or skip over without tripping. It was a great way to start spreading out the competition and in my wave I was holding between top two and three for a while. 4057_156bfd57de9b267c72cc56caca90c2c8_TopZoneThe race was very fast paced, it brought you up and down staircases, around the perimeter of the park, inside and outside, challenged by most of the standard Spartan Obstacles that would be at any other Sprint, Super or Beast and then there were unique obstacles that are exclusive to the Stadium series. One of the first Stadium obstacles I encountered was the slam balls, you had to bring a 25lb slam ball over your head and slam it to the ground 30 times before continuing on your way through the course. The Stadium specific obstacles were derived from Spartan Group X workouts and served as a great addition to the race mix. The exercises were very effective in breaking you down and giving you that feeling that all Spartan Races inflict on those who finish the course.  Accomplished. 1410853_218263498351340_304010768_oThe one Stadium Obstacle that really got me was the Concept 2 Rowing Machine. At this obstacle you are required to row 500m in under 2 minutes. A task that I’ve done many times before on my father’s rowing machine. What I didn’t account for and didn’t realize until after running additional laps of the race was the resistance varied from machine to machine. If you didn’t have yours set high enough if didn’t matter how hard or how fast you rowed because you were going that much less distance per row. As I yanked away as hard as I could, feeling my legs begin to cramp I saw the dreaded Burpees screen pop up with only 2m left to row. I was shocked. How did this happen to me? Do I really have to do effing burpees right now? To say I was pissed in an understatement. Going into my burpees I was completely gassed. I’ll be honest I hope I did enough because counting out loud wasn’t working, my head was spinning. Nauseous? Check! Ya, these were probably some of the worst burpees ever. I’m sorry to those of you who saw these on the big screen. It was not my best but it was all I could give without collapsing. You see going into this race I made myself a promise. No matter what happened I was going to push myself as hard as I have even though my training has been lacking. Most races I have finished and I have been able to throw my front flip over the fire at the end. Knowing there wouldn’t be any fire here I wanted to just push it to the limit. I wanted to see how far I could really go. I wanted to see if I could make it into the top 10 with all the tough competition that showed up. I believed I could and wanted to prove that to myself. I had to keep going. 905278_218264195017937_1378506579_oAfter finishing those dreadful burpees I continued on and dominated the looming 8′ wall that came after the long row of garbage cans.  They were clearly there in anticipation of how people might react to the Rowing Machine obstacle. Other new challenges and obstacles here included 20 chest-to-floor hand release push-ups, 50 heavy jump ropes, and a jug carry. It was refreshing to have the standard Spartan obstacles like the hercules hoist, traverse wall, and Spear throw and a waterless rope climb there to make me feel like I was still running a Spartan Race even though I was not out in the wilderness, in the middle of nowhere like I am used to. I really enjoyed the way this race ended, you came off the cargo net, went to the hercules hoist, hit the rope climbs in the center of the outfield’s perimeter, from there you were essentially home free just a quick set of box jumps and it was a sprint to the finish. I hit it hard at the end trying to push myself all the way.

After finishing it took me awhile to collect myself. I felt very sick, coughed a lot, and spit up a little liquid vomit when I made it to the bathroom. I had to wash myself off before returning outside to see how I finished. I finished my first Stadium Spartan Race in 38:53. While I am happy with myself for pushing hard than I have before I do have to make myself change my training, it’s time to get my running back in check. Knowing how long it takes to do burpees and how pathetic mine were it’s safe to say I could have made it into top 10 territory. I’m coming to Fenway with a vengeance.

Double Dragon Tethered Heat

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As some of you know by now Joe Kauder is my “Double Dragon” brother. Given that I had a spontaneous idea to try doing a tethered heat. I’ve been wanting to try it ever since hearing about others that had done it before. It sounded like a unique challenge and who better to do it with than my Double Dragon brother whom I usually only run 2-3 minutes slower than at almost every race we do together. We’re very close in size and capabilities so it seemed like a no brainer. If anything it would be a great way to push each other to test our limits. It didn’t take too much arm twisting to get Joe to sign on board. We secured two bandanas and each tied one to our non dominant wrist, mine being my right arm and Joe’s left. This gave us the freedom to use our dominant arms without limitation, you cannot imagine how awesome it is that Joe was a righty and that I am a lefty but I’ll try to paint you a picture. Going into this heat was fun, just before things got started I ran into a few of my friends, Ilya and Kostya and we all started in the same wave. Joe and I took the lead and seemed to be acting in perfect sync right off the get go.

There were a few things we hadn’t thought of going into this that we would have to overcome as we encountered them. For instance when we reached the Over-Under-Through it became clear that everything wasn’t going to be done side-by-side during this heat. So Joe would go in front or I would crawl through first. At first there was some hesitation but we got into a rhythm fairly quick and started discussing our plan of attack as each new obstacle came into our sights. When we reached the Concept 2 Rowers I knew exactly what to do before starting that timer, I adjusted my resistance up to 8 or 9 of 10 levels and then Joe and I started together and we rowed as if we were one. It was something incredible that I cannot even begin to explain. The amount of energy and power we were unleashing on these rowers was like something you’d see in an anime. Glowing aura’s all around us, extremely loud and aggressive grunts and groans fueled by testosterone, veins clearly visible and pulsing through your skin. Less than 2 minutes later we saw the glorious AROO! unlatched our feet, let out a loud AROO!! ourselves and took off making our way in and out of the course like it was nothing.

Arriving at the Traverse Wall presented an interesting challenge. Whoever led would decide which direction we went. I have become very comfortable ever since installing the Traverse Wall at REACH with going both ways so I told Joe to go first so he could lead with his right, I would follow behind. Some of the holds were closer and others were further so sometimes Joe would have to wait for me to adjust before he could continue forward. Taking it slow and steady was all it took. After that came an 8′ wall that was the only time where our bandanas actually came unknotted. We quickly tied it back together before proceeding to walk over to the Spear Throw. This is where the whole lefty righty thing really came in handy. Joe took his spear throw first and nailed it. I picked up my spear and approached it how I always do. As the spear flew through the air I knew it was going to land perfectly

in the hay. Joe and I let out some loud yelling to show our excitement for both hitting the spear throw and we continued on to the last few sections of the race.When we got to the Heavy Jump Ropes we actually had to untie our bandanas because if we tried to jump with them tied they would begin to get tangled with the heavy ropes. As soon as we finished we fixed our tether and set out on the last few obstacles. As we approached the rope climb I was starting to feel a huge burst of energy overcoming me. It came out of no where but it felt great. Joe and I climbed our way to the top of the ropes and together we kicked our outside legs up rang the bell in epic Double Dragon style and continued on to finish the last obstacle of the course. 555970_10151684420781861_1648038948_n1459121_10151684420856861_1240334095_nAs soon as we finished the box jumps I wanted Joe and I to finish as hard as we possible could so I set the pace. Rounding the corner we plowed through the gladiators and that’s when I realized I had turned the gas on a little too hard. I looked back and saw Joe rolling on the ground, I took that corner way too fast. I’m sorry big bro. I got a little bit excited about our finish.

5721_ed84c99073f32ac35554663470641ea0_GladZoneRunning this race tethered to my pseudo brother was such an awesome experience. Working together to accomplish obstacles, pushing each other to run harder, figuring out ways to run along the bleachers, dipping, ducking, dodging, it was a really interesting way to run a race and I look forward to toying with more unique ways to tackle these races that I absolutely love to do.

Kids Race

As always I made sure to jump in and rabbit a lap of the Kids Race. Joe and I lined up and got the kids pumped up. I got them all yelling AROO! Asking them to give it louder each time. The greatest announcer there is, T.C., came over and got things rolling. Joe and I were in the ready position for what seemed like forever when finally T.C. said GO and those kids came running after us faster than any I’ve ever seen. We had to push it hard just to keep up with the leaders. Joe took the lead male and I the lead female. The lead females leader, Mackenzie, destroyed this two lap, one mile course. It was mostly running with only a series of walls and over-under-throughs at the end of each lap for obstacles but the uphill climbs were pretty demanding and these little ones just never stopped pushing. It was so fun seeing them finish. Rabbiting and seeing the next generation of Spartans being brought up with such a healthy lifestyle, and parents who are leading by example, it’s a very comforting sign that people are moving in the right direction. The Spartan way of life really is about building better humans. Healthier, happier humans.

REACH: First Timers – Photographer Heat

1400308_218265858351104_2072922705_oSome how after all this I still had just enough energy to grab my Canon DSLR run over and say hi to a few friends from high school, and jump in a wave with my guys from the gym, Charlie, Adam, and Kyle. I figured this would be great to capture them during their very first Spartan Race so they could be guaranteed a bunch of photographic memories. You can’t always expect to get the best pictures from the automatic photo systems and the few photographers they have on the courses so having a personal photographer guarantees you have those epic facebook profile photos. Running with them was an awesome experience, Charlie has been training hard to get back in shape and you it’s really paying off. Kudos to you Charlie. Adam was able to have a great time and pushed himself harder than he has in a long time. After the race I received a text message that they both wanted some more of the kool-aid. It’s pretty damn good. I know, I’ve been drinking it for two years now. While on the course I saw Danny Rodriguez running his third lap as well. He’s been working hard with us at REACH to achieve his goals and I am so proud of him for never giving up.

**If you are interested in having me photograph you during your heat please check my Facebook Page: AJM Consulting.**

After running the race three times plus the kids race I was spent. Festival Challenges are the one thing that was missing from the event other than that I must say the Stadium Races are top notch and I cannot wait until Fenway.

Spartan Race Nebraska – Hurricane Heat

This year has been riddled with races being postponed and many have been cancelled. I signed up for Spartan Race Nebraska when it was first announced but as the months went on and I discovered new races I had switched my plans and I was supposed to run the Alpha Warrior race in Texas.  This would be the weekend after Fuego Y Agua Survival Run: Hunter Gatherer. Plan was that I’d stay there in Texas for the week, race and come home. So back to how I signed up for this race long before I even knew what Alpha Warrior was. Luck was on my side because I never booked a flight until after finding out Alpha Warrior would be cancelled. (By the way this company gets “5 Stars” for customer satisfaction in how they handled this. Full Refund. Tshirt. Sticker. Free Entry to 2014 Alpha Warrior. VIP Experience. Invite to new Training Center.) Now that I wasn’t going to be in Texas I had an opportunity to go to the Nebraska race again.

1377130_10101028267036739_1156193921_nWhen I found out my friend Jeffrey Bent, the king of yoga as I like to call him, was driving from Ohio to Nebraska I was able to have him come kick it with me in Chicago before heading out to the wonderful Corn Fields of Nebraska. The plan was not for me to there to race though. I was still recovering from Fuego Y Agua and I actually had no desire to race for once, sure I wanted to when I saw my friends out on the course but I had a different objective. I was headed out here to help my the Queen of Green and Barbwire 4 Breakfast, Andi Hardy, with leading the Hurricane Heat. We had the great privilege of waking up at 4:00AM, arriving at the course at 5:00AM and getting the Hurricane Heat started promptly at 5:30AM.

Running this Hurricane Heat with Andi was such a great time. To begin I enjoyed half of my breakfast burrito in front of the Hurricane Heaters while they did burpees in the damp grass near the bag check area. We put them through a series of challenges that included playing hot potato with Atlas Stones, carrying a team member through a mile of the course going up and down the hills in the off road park area and lots of bear crawls. At one point Andi heard someone complain and instantly earned 25 burpees, but not even a second after those burpees were awarded someone else groaned doubling the burpees everyone had to do. The idea of “suffer in silence” was learned very quickly after that.

1377483_10101026645611089_1890734024_nWhile moving through the course we found some tires that looked like they could be moved to another section on the other side of a couple of hills. Once the Hurricane Heaters got all 4 of the enormous tractor tires to where we thought we wanted them it became clear that they just simply wouldn’t work there and were better off in their original location. After this challenge they had to army crawl across the course to these three culvert tunnels. We had them start on the far right, army crawl to the other end, bear crawl back, and then crab walk through the left tunnel to finish. These were very long culverts and when everyone showed up on the other side we had the teams select the 5 most muddy HH’ers. They were rewarded with not having to do burpees. Everyone else had burpees but naturally since they’ve become a team at this point everyone got down and did the burpees together. It’s amazing seeing the transformation these strangers and friends go through in the short period of time during a Hurricane Heat.

1395956_10101026703824429_1721642695_nThe last few challenges they had were to have each team get a spear throw the barbwire crawl without getting the spear dirty. This was an impossible task but very interesting to watch the various tactics deployed to try to succeed. After this it was off to the rope climbs, they had to get 6 bell rings between each team of 6 members. There were 3 teams one had 7 members. After this they had to get 10 spear throws it was during this time that we saw the first of the Elite runners come through the Spear Throw, James Appleton, followed by my brother from another mother, Joseph Kauder. It was an awesome finish and I was so pumped for Joe. We finished the last of the obstacles and finished the 3 hour Hurricane Heat with everyone finishing with only a few minor cuts and bruises.

The Festival

After the Hurricane Heat I decided I was going to just hang around and maybe compete in a few of the festival challenges to win some races for next year. The first one that I got pulled into doing was the Wall Climb challenge which was new for this race. The objective was to go up and over the 8′ Wall as many times as possible in 60 seconds. Jeff had already done this and was the leader with 12 times. The second highest was only 7. I decided to give it a go and with about 5 seconds left I came over the top of the wall and my feet landed on the ground marking my 12th jump over the wall, with only 2 seconds to get over again I was spent and tied Jeff. It was pretty funny and neither of us wanted to do the tie breaker which involved the addition of one burpee after every wall climb. No thanks. Jeff was kind enough to give me the free passes so I was able to invite 4 of my friends to join me at the Malibu Spartan Race for my birthday. I love that Spartan Race gives those of us with Season Passes a way to bring other people out to try the race when we win the Festival Challenges. It’s a great way to get my friends who are on the fence about racing out there for their first Spartan.

photo (1)We also went after the Slosh Pipe Challenge, I failed miserably but Joe destroyed it making all the big muscle heads look like wimps. When it came time for the tire flip challenge though, I knew I could likely destroy it. The one thing I do more than anything now that I have unlimited access to large tractor tires at REACH is lots of tire flips. Winning this challenge gave me another four passes which I’ll be using to bring some new friends out to the Midwest Spartan Race in 2014. How awesome is that. If you haven’t tried a festival challenge what are you waiting for? You can win free passes for you and your friends.

All in all it was an awesome weekend of Spartan Racing even without setting foot on the course as a racer. That’s because these races are about so much more than racing. It’s about the people you meet, the lifestyle that is embraced, the fun and mud, it’s about bringing people together from all over the world and giving them an opportunity to experience the great outdoors. Ever since doing these races I have seen a different side of the world. One you can only see by going out there and just living. It’s a wonderful life that I’m thankful for.

Spartan Race World Championships – Beast

The World Championships of Spartan Race arrived more casually than I had anticipated. For such a big event, I suppose I expected the day to arrive more dramatically. This would be my third appearance at the Spartan Race World Championships, my first taking place in Texas December of 2011, last year I was here in Vermont but I actually skipped the World Champs in favor of the Ultra Beast. That leaves me here in Vermont, finally doing the Championship Spartan Race Beast in the backyard of where the Beast became The Beast. All my training this year culminated up to this event. I even skipped the Ultimate Suck two weeks prior so I could zero my focus on training and giving my best performance of the year at this race.

Joe Desena, Hobie Call, Hunter McIntyreFirstly, let me just say that Race Director, Norm Koch’s pre-cursor to the Beast at the Virginia Super just a few weeks prior gave a very good glimpse of what he put together on Mount Killington. This course would take you up and down the mountain with relentless climbs that at times seemed never-ending, and descents that required I take extra precautions.  It’s pretty well known now that I let myself float down the mountain at incredible speeds, it’s what my body is built for – I can handle the feeling of letting gravity take over.  My years as a gymnast have left me with an air sense that provides me with an extra sensitive sense of alertness and sensitive knowledge of my surroundings. Like the Watson computer, I can typically calculate my entire path with little thought. On Norm’s course I had to slow my role to make sure I didn’t catch a root, or slide down one of the nearly vertical descents.

The Spartan Race Worlds Championships was an extremely eventful weekend filled with everything from playing a role on the Dark Side of the Spartan Team Death Race to running the Beast, doing some press work for Obstacle Racer Magazine, supporting Ultra Beasters and even playing the role of Ultra Beast photographer. That’s right I did not race in the Ultra Beast, and as a result of my performance in The Beast I could not take any risks leading up to the ultimate test of my ability to survive two weeks later where I’ll compete in the Fuego y Agua Survival Run: Hunter Gatherer 100K Race. To say this was an eventful weekend is an understatement.  It was filled with fun, laughter, stress, excitement, pain, love, happiness, an extremely unpredictable roller-coaster of emotions. This was a Spartan Race unlike any other.

Spartan Race – Beast Race Day

After waking up completely restless and covered head-to-toe in a cold sweat, I was not excited for the morning to have arrived so soon. The previous night, I awoke in the middle of the night literally punching at my leg, an excruciatingly painful cramp struck my left calf. I wondered if something was off in my nutrition but I couldn’t figure out what it could be. Leading up to the race I did everything by the book: water, check, potassium, check, carbs, check.  Overall, my diet had been very healthy I just did my best and prayed that the race would go well. Breakfast was a half bagel and a banana and as I’ve been doing everyday for over a month now I took down my morning wake-up call in the form of an ABB Performance Speed Stack Pumped N.O. Nitric Oxide Energy drink. Since starting on this I have been laser focused, energetic, and feeling pretty powerful. Besides that I had a bagel and a banana (a fairly standard pre-race meal for me). When it came to race days, I was good to go.

Photo Credit: Mohammed Iqbal

Photo Credit: Mohammed Iqbal

When I arrived I was still undecided on what to wear. I forgot all my short sleeve Under Armour compression shirts back in Illinois so I wore a long sleeve one to the race and my UA Compression Shorts. When I approached the starting line I already overheating, so I stripped out of the top and stuffed it in my Camelback. That’s when Joe DeSena had me gather all the top elites to the front of the pack, NBC Sports Network began things with a quick interview of the man who started it all. All I could see out of the corner of my eye was Corinne looking over to me. I ran over and gave her a hug. We wished each other luck and I ran back to my starting spot. The announcement of featured athletes was about to begin and then the rest of us elites would climb the wall to make our way to the starting line. Yes, we had to climb a wall before starting the race. I can’t wait to see what that looks like when the show airs.

After a few special “for TV” announcements concluded everything became familiar to us again, TC on the mic, giving his speech and the race began. A lot of runners took off way too fast.  I could see Hobie Call next to me saying what I was thinking, “they are going too fast too soon.” As we approached the first sets of obstacles we were greeted with the longest climb of the entire race.

Photo Credit: The Painted Warrior

Photo Credit: The Painted Warrior

Only a half mile in and I found myself already bear crawling my way up the mountain trying not to lose my pace. I wanted to make this race the one where I pushed myself to my absolute max. The thought dawned on me that I might have gone too far, something wasn’t right. I didn’t feel strong, my legs…they were aching, and then it hit…my right calf cramped up and felt like a rock. I was stuck. Barely able to lift my foot. What’s happening? I thought to myself. What did I do wrong?

I had forgotten to bring salt tabs even though I knew from last year that I should have had some. Thankfully from behind me, I could hear a familiar voice. It was Pete Coleman, a fellow Death Race companion and friend who has come to my aid before. He asked why I was so far back and when I explained my cramping situation he instantly asked if I had salt tabs. He saved me by providing me with two, one for now, and one I could save in case I needed it again later. Within five minutes I was thanking him and took off as we reached the one mile mark at the summit like a bat out of hell. Instantly I was back in this but I had fallen so far behind I wondered how hard I should really push myself with the Ultra Beast the following morning. Determination set in and onward I pushed. Trying to make up for all the lost time cramping and nearly collapsing within that first mile.

The Vermont Beast pushed me harder than any other Spartan Race ever has. I found this course to be more difficult than the two laps and extra miles I did last year at the Ultra Beast. I welcomed the challenge. It kicked my ass and when I eventually crossed that finish line. I knew.

Vermont Beast World Championships Spartan RaceThe course threw a lot of surprises at us: a half mile climb with a 70-80lb sandbag (no male or female specific weights this time). In addition there were obstacles that rarely show up at the Spartan Races including the Tyrolean Traverse and so far exclusive only to Vermont, the Tarzan Swing. Those two obstacles took place back-to-back essentially with some swimming, running, and climbing the Traverse Wall thrown in between. Talk about a perfect algorithm for making your arms completely weak by time you reached the Tarzan Swing. Try as I might have, I didn’t experience the same luck as last year.  I fell off on the fourth rope and met my first set of penalty burpees in what seemed like forever. Immediately following that challenge was the reciting of our memorization challenge. Mike 025-5877. I still can’t get it out of my head.

Spartan Race Vermont World Championship BestWith approximately 7 miles completed, essentially half the race was over. It was around this point that a whole new world of crampfest set in. This time it was on the inner part of my right thigh. It felt like the muscle was pulsating, I found myself lying on the trail not too far after entering the wooded area. I slammed my fist furiously into my thigh hoping to make the pain go away. I searched frantically for the extra salt tab that Pete hooked me up with earlier. It was gone. With no other choice I started eating what I could, Clif Bar….one bite, yuck. Clif Shot Blocks….mmm love the taste of grit and dirt that came from the package being partially opened earlier in the race, yum. The pain never fully dispersed but I was able to pick myself back up and carry-on.

This race would test my limits the entire time. Throughout the course I was challenged time and time again. I still don’t know why the cramping started so soon. Norm sufficiently kicked my ass with the Vermont Beast course, so much so that I didn’t want to risk ruining myself for the upcoming Fuego y Agua Survival Run: Hunter Gatherer.  I decided to withdraw myself from the Ultra Beast the following day and decided to play reporter instead.

Spartan Race – Ultra Beast

Rob Barger Ultra Beast Vermont Spartan Race ABB PerformanceI knew I was not going to run this race when the next morning arrived, I wanted to see my friends off and figured I could spend the day taking photos and cheering everyone on that taking on this monster of a race.  We’re talking about more than a marathon worth of obstacle racing on one of the toughest mountains Spartan Race has come to. I soaked in the experience even by not racing.  Mad props to those who attempted to do both the Beast and Ultra Beast back-to-back.

I found it was very enjoyable to just hang out for once. I stationed myself at the drop box area and spent time shooting photos of the Spear Throw, Water Crossing, Log Flip, and later in the day the Log Carry up the hill and under the barbwire.  ABB Performance drinks and ZICO coconut water magically found their way into the drop bin area. I have no clue how that happened ;-).  It was very warming to see my friends coming down the mountain and seeing them still in very high spirits. This was the type of race that can really put an athlete through a roller-coaster of emotions. You’ll have your highs and lows both physically and emotionally on the mountain. It’s crazy what these extreme endurance events will do to you.

Barbwire for Breakfast Corinne Kohlen Obstacle SpecialistI did find myself on the course running later in the day. It was probably mile 17 or so. Corinne Kohlen (Barbwire4Breakfast) came through the cargo climb area.  The Ultra Beast course went out on its own and came back to the Beast course eventually, and I started running with her to see how she was doing, take her photos and cheer her on. When she came out of the water from the Tarzan Swing I helped her recoup and continued to run with her. By this time I decided there was no turning back so I decided I would pace her much like you would an Ultra Runner toward the end of their race. At the Bucket Brigade we were both annoyed and surprised to see that people were being allowed by the volunteer to Burpee out of this mandatory obstacle. It was very disappointing to see happen. I was proud of Corinne for taking on this challenge instead of following the pack. Integrity is far better than a finish that is not earned. We went through probably six or seven miles together all the way to the Tyrolean Traverse where Norm cut her chip and pulled her from the course. Just twelve minutes after the cut-off. One of the hardest moments of the weekend was seeing that happen. She was so close to finishing and there is no reason she wouldn’t have finished there was only a few more miles to go. But…that’s how it goes, Norm said, “This is the hardest part of my job.” I could see that. It was defeating to be pulled when you have so much energy and strength to finish. It’s extremely impressive how far Corinne went both days even though she’s been battling an injury most of the summer. There wasn’t much else to do after so we shared a beer for her extraordinary effort at taking on the Beast and Ultra Beast back-to-back, anyone who tried this is at a whole other caliber. Next year I intend to walk away with both medals.

Isaiah Vidal Ultra Beast and Beast FinisherIt was an incredible event and really put me in a place where I’ve started making more rational race decisions. I could have completed the Ultra Beast but something was off and I listened to the signs and enjoyed sharing all the energy and opportunities I had to help all those who took on the Ultra Beast, a race attempted by a small population of the Obstacle Racing world and finished by very few. A very select few went on to finish both the Beast and the Ultra Beast back to back. Isaiah Vidal finished and told me that he could go do another lap no problem, and this is after riding his bike from Texas to Vermont because of a bet with Joe Desena that he couldn’t do it. He finished in 16 days and had about a week to rest up before conquering both Beast and Ultra Beast. Still speechless on that one. Joe Kauder was another racer who succeeded in crushing the two deadly courses set up by Norm Koch and Todd Sedlak. I’m not certain how many Burpees Norm earned from the bet that no one could achieve this feat but I know he’ll finish each and every one of them. We would love to see the entire list of people who completed both the Beast and the Ultra Beast if anyone has access to it. 😉

I learned a lot from this weekend and I am looking forward to watching this special air on NBC Sports Network December 7th. 

More photos from the Ultra Beast can be found on my Facebook Photography page

 

Legend of the Death Race Year 2: Part 3 – Mile High Staircase

The first night we were on Joe’s mountain we didn’t finish working on the staircase until something like 3AM. The entire time, we worked tirelessly building those stairs. It was evident that some teams were clearly expending more energy and putting forth more effort in making a respectable staircase compared to other teams. My team, Team 1, was absolutely killing it. Our staircase was among the best with each step perfectly placed, filled in, and properly fitted with the chosen stone.1017478_589216627776933_448729304_nIn terms of weight, we moved anywhere from 300 to 3000-pound stones, each one requiring precise lifting and positioning before sliding it into place. The most impressive of stone steps that we placed had to be the one that Don Devaney claimed to be comparable to the weight of a Ford F-150 — in other words, It was enormous! To make this happen, we needed ti recruit help from other teams, coordinating how to lift the stone, and make that stone slide into place in addition to stopping it without endangering anyone’s life. Accomplishing such a feat required us to lay out multiple pipes that ended right where the stone needed to be set in place. Then, three or more people began prying the stone up from the ground with more pipes and a second group that had more pipes angled at the bottom as fail-safe, to stop a slipping rock just incase it locked into place further than we wanted. 1002957_589215937777002_801157212_n Naturally, there were naysayers, a lot of them, when we tried to coordinate this. I took the lead and directed everyone to successfully maintain sense of direction and order. Since we had already moved many stones of similar, we had a working system to accomplish this task. As soon as a stone was lifted and placed on the pipes, it started sliding fast and the second it hit the soil it came to an abrupt stop. What seemed like a disaster waiting to happen (especially for those watching) became the most successful and amazing moment of the staircase construction process. Success — it felt so good, especially after having so many other racers tell us we were nuts and that this would never work. We succeeded and with that, we connected one of the last sections of the staircase that needed to be filled in.

All this time there was only a few things on my mind:

1. Keep going.

2. This is the easy part.

3. Don’t push yourself to hard.

4. Keep your nutrition and hydration solid while it’s still manageable.

5. I wish Corinne was here.

During this whole process, while we busted our asses on those stairs, I started hearing from people that we might be getting food for doing so well. This struck me as very concerning and shocking at first. Why would they give us food?Is this a gamble? Are we being tricked? And what was up with them providing everyone with ZICO. I thought this race was self-supported. Something was fishy; it just didn’t add up. They were helping us and being nice to us. Then it hit me. We were going to be on that mountain until those stairs were finished. How can they make sure these stairs get finished as fast as they want them done…provide the racers with unconventional comfort that will motivate them. Very interesting tactic, Joe and Andy, well-played. The chicken coleslaw and bread was delicious. I feasted, then went back to work. Feeding the racers worked very well, very few people dropped those first 18-24 hours and the stairs…they look magnificent (you should really get to Pittsfield, VT and check them out). Those stairs will only get better with age. 1053054_589183007780295_457346040_o

Once we had done as much as we could on the staircase one team at a time we were sent to the top of Joe’s Mountain. Atop the mountain the directive called for headlamps off and to find a place to sit or lay down. I sat there with Michelle Lomelino and Lee Biga, impatient and aching for this race to begin already. There we were, laying under one of the largest moons you could ever see — shining through some clouds with an ominous hue. The view of the nighttime sky at the top of Joe’s mountain is incredible. It’s one thing I stare at in awe every chance I get when I’m in these mountains. Joe’s Mountain top has come a long way since last time I was up there. The cabin is now covered with the most amazing stones that have been laid by the athletes training and living in the cabin. There is an incredible stone fire pit that was made earlier this summer by my friend, Michael Aspinall, whom I stayed with for the Indiana Spartan Race. He did a damn fine job of constructing this fire pit. Given that there was no seating, I knew at least one thing we’d be doing after nap time.

All at once everyone instructed to get up, headlamps on, and begin doing some good old fashioned landscaping. We had to bust out our snips and saws and whatever other useful tools we brought for cutting down some brush and such. Some racers were instructed to move logs and stones to create a seating area for that badass hand-built stone fire pit. Seriously though, it’s what I envision when I think of building one, but with probably a much different outcome. I was instructed to do some hedging, so I used my saw and began tearing through all the tall grass, weeds, and whatever else we were gutting through. Joe kept reminding us that there was a wedding later in the day and that was why he needed the stairs and landscaping completed ASAP. I never saw a wedding. 1014266_589216374443625_1486149692_n

Finally, there was one particularly large stone at the top of the mountain that everyone was trying to move. Literally almost everyone was on it. I could tell from the distance (and basic physics) that the ropes might snap any minute. That stone just wasn’t moving. As I began to walk up, they summoned all hands on deck. Snap. The rope snapped just as I approached. Back to cutting down brush and staying away from the race directors to avoid risking being caught doing nothing. It’s better to do something than nothing. As I hacked away, Don called me over and told me to take my hay and seed and bring it down the mountain to Andy. He told me how long it took him to get from the top the bottom and I was sent on my way trying to go as fast as possible. I grabbed my compression sack filled with wet hay, the easiest way to get 5 pounds without requiring an extra large garbage bag to carry all the hay stalks it would take to make 5 pounds dry. I was one of the first few sent off on this task, and I took off at full speed.

Determination. Power. Confidence.

I had it all at that moment. I wanted to push myself to compete with everything I had. No limits. No torn shoulders. No excuses. I felt great and with that newly-risen sun, I was feeling alive. This was it, this was my time! I had been training for this since last year. Even when I was stuck in my parent’s house with one arm stuck to my side, I was preparing for the Death Race. My mind knew what it had to do. The rest was just systematic. My body is programmed to do what my mind tells it to do. Whoosh. Full speed down the mountain. I knew, this race is about to begin.

To be continued…

Spartan Race – Wintergreen Mountain Virginia

Just over a week before the Virginia Spartan Race I found myself itching. I needed my fix. I decided waiting until the World Championships at Killington for the Beast/Ultra Beast combo was WAY too long to wait until my next Spartan Race. Yes, it’s true, I have an addictive personality and it might be out of control but I wouldn’t have it any other way. After a quick post on the Corn Fed Spartans page looking for a ride, I found myself a confirmed spot with Missy, Stefanie, and my Dragon Brother, Joe. This was going to be one epic weekend with some of the best company.

The Course and Obstacles

When I tell you that this was the most difficult Spartan Race courses that I have ever done, I’m not exaggerating, the overall consensus from everyone I talked to, Elites, Pro Athletes, even Hobie Call was surprised at the technicality of this course. When I asked him his average Super Spartan finish time he said typically they are under an hour and thirty minutes, usually the 1:27:00 range. This time it took Hobie an 1:55:51 to complete the entire course. A very impressive feat. What was more impressive was the Alaskan, Matt Novakovich, who took first, beating Hobie by nearly 6 minutes. Yes, you read that correctly.

virginia spartan race super spartan This course had to be one of the most treacherous, dangerous, and intimidating courses to date. Running…ha. There was very little running, except for the speedy downhills and a few switchbacks, most of the course was spent climbing Wintergreen Mountain. When I say mountain climbing, what I mean is, 8,600 feet of elevation change during this race. As much as it sucked at the time, it was epic and every time I reached a peak it was like I had conquered the most difficult climb ever. Each time it felt that way.  Most of these climbs were not easy, they were Black Diamonds, very steep, very long, and extraordinarily demanding of the quads and the hamstrings. Turning many racers’ legs into solid rocks. There were literally bodies scattered about the mountain later in the day when I went out for a second lap.

spartan race virginia wintergreen mountain sandbag carry tony matesiThe obstacles were decently spaced considering the way this course was designed and laid out. The usual suspects were there, Over-Under-Through, Wall Climbs, Spear Throw, Monkey Bars, Sandbag Carry, Vertical Rope Climb, Traverse Wall…the usual. Then there were a few new ones as well as some less frequently seen obstacles such as the unexpected Log Flip, instead of a tire flip you had a big ass log to flip down a lane – touching the race tape lanes would be burpees – and back, another new one was a water obstacle that had you swim under three sets of tubing sleds that were strung together which came right after the Super Slip-n-Slide – another infrequent obstacle.

The course and the obstacles were amazing, demanding and quite possibly a bit on the “too dangerous” side for the general population that runs through these courses. From what I heard there were a lot of ankle twists and sprains. This one section down a ravine had a lot of nasty rocks that people were constantly losing their footing and falling down over and over. I was very concerned how bad this section would be later in the day after more people went through, it wasn’t pretty. Otherwise I would say this was one of the best courses out there because of how incredibly rewarding the finish was. I’ve never been more proud of a Super Spartan finish. At the finish line…I knew.

Saturday: Elite – Lap 1

Shoes worn: Inov-8 X-Talon 212s

The morning started out a little rough, I slept very little from a combination of excitement and staying up late making my DIY Luna Sandals kit. A big thanks goes to Billy at the Days Inn who let me use some of the tools from his maintenance room to get the job done.

spatan race virginia gladiators tony matesiWhen we arrived at the venue I was feeling a little sore and tired from the 12hrs in the car and lack of sleep but ready for great fun with all the amazing people who do this sport. The race started out fast and turned to slow as soon as we hit that first uphill slope which was then greeted by an extremely fast and long downhill. From there on out the course would become very demanding and took a lot out of me. I was able to finish with a time of 2:31:24.

Saturday: Barefoot Sandals/Barefoot – Lap 2

Shoes worn: DIY Luna Sandals kit and none.

After refueling I busted out the Luna Sandals that I made and got ready to do lap two with Richard from Team Mud and Adventure, and Joe. We took off together and stuck together for the first couple miles, Joe and I eventually broke off for a bit. Downhills in the barefoot sandals was a little scary not having the nice toe box that shoes have to protect them toes. I was still fairly reckless though, what can I say… I LOVE the speed of the downhill. It’s a rush.

Close to the 3.5 mile mark one of my sandals busted and that was it, I had no choice to but to continue barefoot. Never quit. Never surrender. I took my sandals off and carried them a bit before resorting to stuffing them into the back of my compression shorts. IT feels great to have sandals rubbing against your ass when climbing…not that I could feel anything anymore.  Before going barefoot I was already receiving a large range of comments from other runners, “that dude is crazy,” “check out the Jesus shoes” and a few recognized them for what these barefoot sandals are known as in the runners world, Tarahumara Huaraches. After busting the sandals I became “the hobbit,”and heard everything from “barefoot?! That’s hardcore,” to “dude, that guy is barefoot, I have nothing to complain about anymore.” It was very motivating to hear all the comments about my lack of shoes on the course. I felt somewhere between badass and completely moronic.

To answer the question, “did it hurt?” Yes, itBarefoot Luna Sandals DIY Spartan Race hurt but the course didn’t have too many rocky areas to worry about with the exception of the one ravine which was now covered in super slick mud forcing me to stay low and basically ape crawl my way through the muddy rocks and flowing water. I was keeping my cool but truth be told I was scared.  I was afraid I was going to break a toe or worse fall, snap my ankle, and end up smacking my head on a sharp rock leaving my concussed in a location that no one would be able to easily remove me from. Thankfully, none of that happened and I cleared that section safely.  During that section we had regrouped with Richard and eventually Joe and Richard took off ahead since I could not keep any sort of pace with how cautious I was being about protecting myself from injury.

log carry spartan race virginia wintergreen mountain barefoot

Around the 6th or so mile just as I finished the log carry I ran into one of my close friends, the Barbwire Queen of Green herself, Andi Hardy who was out filming Operation Enduring Warrior. If you haven’t heard about these guys look them up. What they do is just some of the most inspiring acts of bad-assery you’ll ever witness. They are the definition of no excuses. Thank you for all you do for us, our country, and our world. Andi let me drop my sandals in her bag so I could finally take off without having them rub against my ass in my compression shorts. She hooked myself and a few others with granola bars, brownies, and other fuel. I couldn’t be more thankful having already had a GU pack, 4 Snap Infusion Gummy packs and now this, I was far from satisfied but it would give me the boost I needed to finish strong. I gave Andi a quick hug and wished the Warriors and her good luck.

Spartan Race Virginia Wintergreen Resort Finish Line Super Spartan

From there my pace picked up and victory was almost in sight. After that last steep ascent it was just a quick tractor pull, followed by one last hill climb, the rope climb, traverse wall, the slippery slope and finally the fire jump and gladiators. I had conquered more than half the course entirely barefoot. I’ve never felt more in touch with the earth than during those last few miles and crossing that finish line never felt so good.

Will I ever run a Spartan Race barefoot again? Probably.

Sunday: Elite – Lap 3

Yes, when Sunday morning came after much whining and groaning I forced myself to toe the line once again with this BEAST of a mountain. For once this was a Super that actually did live up to the title of being a Mini-Beast. without question this was the hardest Spartan Race Super that I’ve ever done and I want those who may have done this as their first Spartan Race to know that they’re not all this painful but they’re also not this rewarding to finish either. Finishing this Spartan Race was an extraordinary accomplishment for anyone who completed the course no matter how long it took or how many burpees you did. If you got that medal, you had better be proud of that one.

super spartan virginia wintergreen mountain sunday elite heat

Starting out the Sunday Elite Heat I was very sore and very slow. I could not get much of a stride and walked up the first slope but as soon as we hit those two downhills I took off and used my strength in going fast on the downhill early on to try to get a good position flying past a lot of people recklessly floating down the hill knowing exactly when I needed to switch gears. From there on out I definitely felt like I had to struggle through some of the course but for whatever reason the third time going up the ridiculously long steep slope that led to the Hercules Hoist didn’t seem so bad. I guess my body and mind were just becoming numb to the pain that and ruthlessness that this course was putting me through. All that mattered was pushing myself as hard as I could to maximize my training for the World Championships coming up this September in Vermont.

Surprisingly enough I was only ten minutes slower than Saturday’s Elite heat. Typically I’ve run faster on day two but after that second lap I knew I’d be slower, I actually was expecting to clock in closer to three hours so that was a happy surprise. I finished 20th Overall, 18th Men, and 3rd in my Age Group. Let’s just say I had a smile on my face.

Festival Area

This was one of the more spread out festival areas of the year and it really makes a difference for how people interact before and after the race. I was out on the course far too long to really have enough input on the festival scene at this venue and left early Sunday but from what I could tell there was less mingling post race than what I’ve seen at some of the other venues I’ve been to.

A couple complaints actually came about at this venue which would include the lack of our usual Free Beer at this venue. That really sucked especially given that there were signs along the entire course teasing you about the Craft Brews from the Brewery at the bottom of the mountain at each mile mark. I understand that this was a VA thing and not up to Spartan Race, but why have all the beer signs if you’re going to take away my free beer, poor play on the resort’s part. My other complaint was with how I was treated at check-in by the bag checkers (who were not Spartan Race employees but Wintergreen Resort). Not only was everything taken out of my bag, my full bottle of Smart Water was dumped out for seemingly no reason (wasn’t explained well), then as I went to leave after anxiously waiting for my bag to be repacked, don’t they care about efficiency?, I was grabbed by my bag as I tried to leave the bag check area and I was told they had to check my bag. When I explained that the lady just did check my bag the guy said he didn’t care and was going to check it. I gave him my piece of mind and walked away aggravated at how I was treated by this guy.

Spartan Kids Race

Spartan Kids Jr Adventure Kids RaceThe Spartan Kids Race was once again a highlight for me. This time even more so than previous times. This time I had the pleasure of meeting young Mathias on Friday night before the race. When he raced Saturday morning he successfully completed a lap of the Kids course with the help of  his grandfather, mother and Andi guiding him through the terrain and the obstacles while his father awaited him at the finish line. What makes this Spartan Kid so incredible is that he did this without being able to see any of the obstacles he faced, Mathias is blind. I was very impressed, motivated, and inspired by the tenacity of this young Spartan in training. No obstacle will stop him from succeeding in life. He climbed the walls, went over the cargo net, crawled under the web, I can only imagine how proud his parents, Craig Vescelus and Katie Vescelus are with both of their sons. That’s right, Mathias’s brother Magus also conquered the Spartan Kids Race. I’ve gotta say, the thought of a Spartan Family is looking mighty appealing.

Spartan Race Sprint Championships – Pacific Northwest

Two weeks after contracting the now infamous Spartan Rash I was back out for another Spartan Race in Washougal, WA. Why would I go back to a Spartan Race after suffering from super-itchy-itis for two whole weeks? Because that’s what you do. This sport is bound to cause some wounds, I have more scars than ever, and each one tells a story. Just like this crazy rash we all contracted has become a big story. I went to another race because this is what living is all about. I welcome any and all obstacles when I sign that waiver before I enter the battle ground. No rash, cut, bump, bruise, torn shoulder (cough, cough), will stop me from coming back for more.

IMG_8889sEnough about that, onto the fun stuff. A race in the great Pacific Northwest. I have been wanting to visit the PAC NW for quite some time now. Flying into Portland, OR I met up with Spartan Pro Athlete, Corinne Kohlen and we set off to a small hotel in Washougal, WA about 25 minutes away from the airport and another 15 or so from the venue. The morning of the race came quick after getting little sleep thanks to some creaky floors and lots of movement in the room above. Not happy.

Once we arrived at the race venue, set at a Motocross Park, happiness returned. I was in my element. Being on the race site is the ultimate feeling. I love the energy, the motivation, the friendliness and the competitiveness. You can see people coming together from all over the country and then as it often happens you have the locals that blow all the normal competition away. Being that this was the Sprint Championships, Midwest marked the Super Championships, with everything culminating next month in Vermont at the World Championships at Killington Peak in the form of the Beast with the Ultra Beast happening on Sunday. Given that, the competition was even more ferocious than in it just was at Midwest.

barbed wire crawl spartan race spartan sprint washington pac nw

The course was impressive, starting off with a very steep incline that lasted for what seemed to be an eternity. In the Men’s Elite Heat it was an all out charge to the top. To me it felt like I was pushing too hard too soon but I didn’t want to fall too far behind that early on in the race. I foolishly charged forward at full speed. The following day I remembered to run my own race and took the beginning section easier, giving me more gas to push through the entire race. It was a good lesson. For the remainder of the course it was a lot of up and down with some very rocky downhills that were difficult to unleash on at 100%. I found myself moving sideways on a few of them just to prevent slipping.

Super Slip and Slide Spartan Race Tony MatesiOne of the best obstacles at this course was the uphill barbwire crawl. It was gnarly. The height of the barbwire was high enough to give me an edge here and both days I was able to pass 2-4 people during this upward crawl. Flexibility is a huge bonus in the barbwire crawls. The entire course was very intense and catered to those with a tremendous amount of strength. Heavy tire flips, heavy tire pulls, lots of intense uphill and downhill. The layout for this course, the obstacle spacing, everything was pretty damn spot on. Plus, there was a freaking super wicked fast s I’ve done more Sprints this year than any other type of race, I can say this was definitely one of the most fun and challenging of them all.

Joseph Kauder, Spartan Race, Rope Climb, Bell Kick,

Joe Kauder with the bell kick!

The race ended with a pretty wicked series of obstacles that really pushed your limits. Coming down the hill you hit one last barbwire crawl followed by a series of motocross rollings hills and banked turns. That then led to the rolling mud pits, followed immediately by the rope climb. They got you nice and muddy just to add to the challenge. The rope climb mud pit was fairly deep making it guaranteed to come out wet and and muddy perfect for the next obstacle, the most dreaded, the spear throw. Day one I hit the hay bales all the way to the left and somehow the spear stuck and didn’t fly all the way through like it has many times before. I was ecstatic and didn’t stick around long enough to give it a chance to fall. Day 2 I would miss the spear throw right behind Robert Coble, I had to beast through my burpees to get the lead on Robert and almost catch my “twin” Joe Kauder.

Leslie St. Louis Spartan Pro Athlete Spartan RaceNext up after the spear throw was the traverse wall, hands still slightly muddy and a mess. I would have to take this nice and slowly to avoid falling off. The second day it was even more crucial to take this slowly after missing the spear. Immediately following the traverse wall was the tire drag and of course I grabbed one of the heaviest, I swear the appearance is a complete deception of what you’re actually getting yourself into. Regardless this series of obstacles was demanding and gave me a continued advantage, after this one more barbwire crawl followed by a slippery wall climb and it was home free and time to battle with the gladiators. Sadly, there was no fire for me to do my front flip over, apparently there was a fire ban in effect due to dryness. I charged at the gladiators and shouted out the most d-bag phrase I could think of, “come at me bro.” An exciting end to an incredible event. Both days were very interesting and rewarding as all Spartan Races tend to be. This race continues to leave me with the happiest moments and fragments of time. Each race leaves me with a lesson and something to look forward to.

Spartan Race Clinics and Tutorials

Spartan Race has a Pro Team and a group of Elite racers that are dedicated to improving the sport and sharing the knowledge we’ve gained through our experience with anyone who wants to learn and avoid the dreaded burpee penalty. Recently we’ve been trying to host clinics like the Traverse Wall Challenge clinic. We help show our techniques and most times there is more than one right way to do it, it’s a matter of figuring out what works best for you. The Spartan Pro Team has also started filming tutorial videos of how to do all the obstacles so keep your eyes on the Spartan Pro Team Facebook page for videos and team updates.

Spartan Kids Race

Spartan Kids Race Spartan Kids Mini Spartans I know we’ve been here before recently but I can’t help but bring the Kids Race up again. This has become without question one of my favorite parts about the whole weekend. Participating in the Spartan Jr Kids Race is such a blast. I love rabbiting (leading the top kid through the course), turtling (making sure every kid crosses that finish line), it brings so much joy seeing those young obstacle racers smiling up at you as you present them with their medal and congratulate them for being a Spartan. It’s pretty special, who knows maybe some day I’ll have my own little Spartans.

Obstacle Play-Time

Sometimes after a race is nearing its end on Sunday I like to go out and just play on all the obstacles. Practice my spear throws 20, 30, 50 times. Drag a few tires, Climb a muddy traverse wall, swing on the ropes like Donkey Kong, Spartan Race is a big kids playground, and I’m the kid that never wants to leave. Expect this type of child’s play to only get worse the more often I go to any racing event. I love this sport.

Spartan Race on NBC

Vermont Beast, NBC Sports Network, Spartan Beast, Spartan Race, Reebok, Killington

As many of you know by now, [I mean how could you not my entire newsfeed is still crowded with posts about it] the Spartan Race World Championships will be aired on NBC Sports Network. Obstacle Racing Media was one of the first to post after the announcement was made and from there the ripple effect power of social media began. We’re all excited. Everyone has been directed to the Spartan Pages (vote for me 😉 )to create a profile and share their story of how Spartan Race has changed their lives.

It’s amazing how many lives Spartan Race has touched so deeply. We all know the story of Chris Davis, he moved up to Vermont gave up everything and lived on carrots and lettuce for weeks doing whatever madness Joe DeSena may have put him through. He’s come an extraordinarily long way and it’s been beyond inspiring to see him fight and push forward. He’s a motivator, he’s a Spartan.

There are countless stories of Spartan Race changing lives physically, mentally, emotionally. I know countless people who have left their stressful, miserable desk job for something more in tune with what they love. What they are passionate about.  Everyday people are inspiring each other in all the Facebook groups, posting photos from their workouts, providing tips and sharing reviews. You have inspiring stories like that of Michael Mills, the first man to complete a Spartan Race in a wheelchair. The definition of “Never Quit, Never Surrender.” Many of our military have found a place within Spartan Race. This challenging Obstacle Race that draws from the Spartan Code has brought the idea of living a healthy lifestyle and sharing it with a growing inclusive community of extraordinary individuals that together are creating an even better world.

My life in particular has been dramatically changed ever since I discovered Spartan Race. Beyond finding a new sport to participate in competitively, I found some of the most amazing friends in the world. It’s a brilliantly wild community of people who share the same crazy sense of adventure, health and fitness. I’ve traveled the country, seen some of the most interesting rural places that Spartan has taken us. I’ve stayed in nice hotels, slept on floors, in my car, and even directly on the earth atop of Joe’s mountain.  I have more tattoos (read: scars) from my encounters with the barbwire. I went from working a desk job that I really was not happy with, I wasn’t challenged and I wasn’t motivated. After Spartan Race, everything changed. Now I’m enjoying my life. Living it. Breathing it. Loving it.

Recently I’ve been presented with the great opportunity to take what I’ve learned and share the knowledge with my fellow Spartans and future Spartans. REACH: Beyond Fitness is a new training facility featuring Spartan Group X Training taught by myself, Coach Dewayne, and Coach Sarah. You see Spartan Race hasn’t only changed my life in regards to my physical strength and endurance, it’s given me happiness, freedom, excitement, new career opportunities, and so much more. It’s like they said “You’ll know at the finish line.” Ever since my first race I’ve known. Spartan Race continues to change my life daily, it’s a very bright future and I am so thankful for all the people I’ve met, the places I’ve gone, and the opportunities I’ve had.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up for the Spartan Pages. Share your story. In the words of Don Devaney “aspire to inspire.”

Midwest Super Spartan Race – Curse of the Ivy

The Spartan Race once again returned to the Midwest. This would mark my third appearance at this event but for once it would not be in the middle of a very cold Midwest October like it typically was scheduled for. After last year’s race Spartan Race moved the event to the end of July, most likely to avoid dealing with the huge amounts of hypothermia that occurred in previous years. Even though time wise this wasn’t exactly three years since my first Spartan Race, it still felt like it given that this was the venue where it all began.

spartan race midwest Anthony Matesi obstacle race elite spartan proThe event was incredible as always and I won’t even go into too much detail because at this point these races are starting to become very consistent. Race two days. Have a ton of fun at the Festival events and maybe throw in an extra lap. I had an excellent run on Saturday during my first lap and upon finishing I had originally planned to run another with my sister whenever she got there. When I saw her I was not really feeling up to subjecting myself to another 8.2 miles of that madness…but just before her heat was ready to take off I jumped the fence and decided what the hell and joined her. It was well worth it. My sister, Mariah, and her friend Tommy had a great time on the course. Mariah had a much better time at this race as opposed to her first Spartan Race which was over a year ago at the Founders Race in Indiana. It was another one of those cold and miserable ones.

Mariah Matesi Anthony Matesi Spartan Race Midwest Super SpartanIt’s amazing how much a difference just the weather can make for someone’s experience at one of these events. Mariah came in first in her age group in the open heats and I’m currently trying to convince her to start running elite, she’s got the skillz yo!

After day one I of course went back for another shot at the open heat and as seems to be the trend I ran the race faster day 2 than day one. It also helped that I had zero burpees on Sunday. After three laps I was feeling pretty beat and decided I was not going to go for a fourth lap like I had originally wanted to. I just didn’t have the energy or desire to put myself through that. I felt accomplished enough as is with how treacherous some of that terrain was.

Dirt Runner Wipeout Challenge

Since I wasn’t running any more laps I decided to join my Double Dragon brother for a lot of punishment on the Wipeout course that was built by the guys at Dirt Runner, the host venue for the Midwest race. The course is short and simple, you run across a spinning barrel, then there are four swinging, suspended barrels, and finally a trampoline jump to a cargo net that is over 12 feet away. What seemed like it would be pretty simple to accomplish was not. I had attempted this course once before just two weeks prior during a scouting visit for the upcoming Legend of the Death Race Adventure Race, and I was able to just barely touch the net during that run. Joe Kauder successfully became the first to complete the course on Saturday.

trampoline jump cargo net catch ninja warrior wipeout spartan race midwest dirt runner challenge I put in a lot of attempts and started to become quite consistent at finishing the course in my own unique way. For the sake of saving my shoulder I never really gripped the net all the way when I would launch myself at it, for fear of tearing my shoulder from the extreme force you feel when grabbing hold. Somehow I found a way to consistently hook my feet which would land my head in the water but with a quick reaction I pulled myself out, still attached and climbed to the top. A few people including Todd were worried I was hurting myself when I’d catch the net but every time I resurfaced and climbed out…No Problem. It was a lot of fun and if you live in the area you should head out to check out this fun course.

Poison Ivy

poison ivy spartan rash zanfel reliefA day or two after the race I discovered I had poison ivy…EVERY WHERE. By weeks end it was evident that nearly everyone caught some form of poison ivy or swimmers itch at the Midwest Spartan Race. Some people were so upset they even requested refunds. To that I say. Spartan the F@#% UP. Seriously. You come to an outdoors event. You sign what essentially amounts to a DEATH WAIVER. Yes that waiver you sign says that if you die it’s not their problem. So if you happened to get some skin irritations from the event, it sucks but don’t be a whiner about it. Suck it up. Do whatever you have to during that time to heal yourself and move on. That’s what Spartans do. It sucks and I feel for those who had to deal with it, I’m right there with you.

sponsorship zanfel poison ivy relief spartan rash spartan race midwest spartanAfter running the course three times I had a very severe case.  Thankfully Zanfel teamed up with myself and Legend of the Death Race. To all who had to suffer, it sucks, it’s definitely annoying, unsightly, etc. It just so happens to be one of those things you have to expect MIGHT happen when you do a race. We throw ourselves into mud pits, run through single track trails, and so on. If you don’t want to take the risk go run a road race. I hope all of you who contracted some sort of irritation have cleared up by now. I feel your pain, mine took two full weeks to go away completely. Welcome to Obstacle Racing.

Giveaway: Spartan Race Entry – 1000 Facebook “Likes” Thank You

We would like to thank each and every one of our followers that have helped us to reach 1000 Facebook “Likes” and for helping this blog grow into what it has become. When I started this I thought it would just be a journal documenting my Death Race experience but thanks to all of you we are now hosting multiple races, creating a culture of active people who REACH beyond their perceived limits and we are pulling people off the couch. We have a lot more in store in the coming months so stay tuned, keep getting at it and never give up on your dreams.

Now for the good stuff. I have another entry for the Miller Park Spartan Race to giveaway to one lucky winner. Enter below and don’t forget you can tweet daily for additional entries!

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Giveaway: Spartan Race Sprint at Miller Park

The Spartans are bringing Obstacle Racing to Miller Park in Wisconsin.  The Stadium Series is set to hit the home of the Milwaukee Brewers September 7th. I have Free Entry for ONE to the Miller Park Spartan Race. All you have to do is enter below. You can tweet daily for extra entries. Who’s going to win a free race and join me with the rest of the Corn Fed Spartans this September?

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway