Spartan Agoge China 2016 – What the heck was that?

2016spartanagogechinaSpartan Race Endurance is always pushing the envelope.  Agoge 003 was billed as a unique opportunity to test your physical fitness, mental readiness, and to capitalize on a once in a lifetime training regiment around and on top of the Great Wall of China, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. However, it quickly became the proverbial Annual Check-Up at the Doctor’s Office for Agoge Finishers with information regarding our overall health that we were not ready to receive, much less confront.

As soon as news started trickling about the happenings in China, we began questioning Spartan leadership (Krypteia), the event’s goals, and Spartan Founder Joe DeSena’s mental state…and rightfully so. But WE, the Agoge Community, strayed when we began critiquing and passing unfair judgment on these entities without input from all parties involved.

Contrary to some of the past elitist mindsets and conversations I’ve witnessed from our community, we rallied support for those who at that point technically “did not belong among us” due to the absence of an “Official Finisher/Graduate” title or Spartan Delta Wedge which signifies successful completion of the Training program. There were alot of sacrifices made by some to cross waters in pursuit of the perfect Spartan Trifecta Delta in this first year of its existence. Many sold possessions while others were able to raise funds in very creative ways. Time away from loved ones and other invaluable resources were used without the expected return on investment.  We saw a fire but WE brought stockpiles of wood and gasoline to put it out. There were personal attacks and assertions made towards the female Graduates, Joe DeSena, and Krypteia which revealed some underlying issues that perhaps we should individually and/or collectively look into.

Why did WE feel it necessary to judge prematurely? Why do WE think personal attacks are acceptable? Have WE forgotten how valuable and impacting our words are? Have WE truly evolved in the areas of wisdom, discernment, and discretion?

I don’t have definitive answers but I know that growth happens slower for me when I look outward examining others instead of looking inward examining myself. I know that some Agoge 003 China Participants, Finishers, and Graduates are ok with the change in wedge distribution aka MedalGate. And I know that since details of Joe’s 10/23 Agoge conference call were released, WE have been identified as 3 groups of people that get 3 different “its”:

Group 1 was in China and able to accept “it”, meaning whatever came of what may have appeared to be “on the fly” program modification made by Spartan leadership.

Group 2 was also in China and able to accept “it”, meaning Joe acknowledging possible shortcomings, his thoughts, and resolutions offered to satisfy even the unknown variables that may have been overlooked during wedge distribution.

Group 3 are the well rested Stup”its” that had nothing to lose as WE prematurely and negatively Monday morning quarterbacked a situation we heard was happening halfway around the world without letting the dust settle.

I had a friend who would proudly introduce me as a “Death Racer” knowing I DNF’d both of my DR efforts confirming that even in my failures and in your successes WE are inspirational. Many aspire to emulate our efforts as part of their bucket lists but many have been turned off by us because of our words while discussing this event.

WE know that Agoge Participants, Finishers, and Graduates are mostly comprised of fun loving, adventure seeking, and sometimes emotionally unstable, unique, God created beings that find refuge in endurance events for sifting and rediscovering of ourselves.

Unfortunately, we now know that some of us have forgotten what we’ve overcome to get to where we are today and are now just focused on where we are today. Our list of accomplishments has grown but our character flaws remain so, have we evolved? We’ve forgotten that these Spartan programs have challenged and changed some of us, defined and defeated some of us, refined and redeemed some of us. As such, they deserve our sober judgment, respectful correction, and then our endorsements.

I believe that speaking as if our words do not have power is a greater disservice to our communities than not speaking at all.  I also believe that a little humility and a few apologies may be in order.

I hope that our 2017 Annual Check-Up will reveal more of the greatness WE are truly capable of.

“Life’s silver linings mean more than any metal means, more than any meddling, more than heavy medal dreams they can change your frame of reference and transform you into true mettle beings.” Author Unknown…jk, I just made that up 🙂

Spartan Race Boston Super Weekend 2016: Storm Chasing

spartanracebostonsuper-startPhoto Courtesy of Spartan Race

With the Spartan Race Boston Sprint over 2 months in the rearview, Saturday’s round 2 of the “unofficial” 2016 Carter and Stevens Farm series began with participants submerged in a 90 degree heat wave for the duration of the 8.1 mile Spartan Super. To our surprise the course took racers through previously unvisited parts of the property including a lap around the owner’s home and a 2 mile run through a spongy floored wooded trail. However, to no ones surprise, the elevation free terrain became an unrelenting fast paced footrace catering to speedsters from all walks of life. With the exception of the Barbed Wire Crawl before and after the Rolling Mud, single load obstacles were mere speedbumps where a double sandbag carry or other doubled obstacle could have made the elite heat more exciting and better suited as prep work for the impending Wintergreen, Breckenridge, and Killington races, not to mention the fast approaching 2016 World Championships in Squaw Valley.

Nevertheless this is the type of friendly track where you could feel comfortable inviting first time Spartans without fear of losing their friendship forever as opposed to the back breaking, hamstring pulling, and calf cramping races in the mountains of Sparta.spartanracebostonsuper-heroes

Photo Courtesy of Spartan Race

Shortly after 8:30pm the forecasted high winds and torrential downpour began and continued through the night. I was able to spend most of the evening with Spartan Staff and witnessed their commitment to our safety first hand. After a few short hours of rest, Course Manager Woody Peters and other staff walked the entire course assessing risks to participants associated with the monsoon-like conditions and making the repairs necessary to safely launch day 2 of the Boston Super Weekend. I remain impressed by these folks who truly take pride in the OCR product they represent and the brand that we thoroughly enjoy.

By 5am Sunday morning order was restored in Sparta and at 6am the flurry of activity at the registration tents made way for the flood of participants itching to put their training (or lack thereof) to the test. The course was re-groomed and an exact replica of the day before without a need for modification. The fact that handfuls of obstacles were clustered together left plenty of open field for runners and provided the much appreciated shady tree coverage for everyone.

spartanracebostonsuper-map

Photo Courtesy of Nelson Runaway Diaz

Within a few minutes of the start of the elite race the slightly reduced heat and humidity ushered in yet another storm for the second time during a Spartan Boston race this year. This has become a predictable storm appearing on race day Sundays and is rather welcomed by New Englanders.  This Nor’Easter engulfed the podium again…as in another Team Nor’Easter OCR male podium sweep and beyond with Miles Bartlett 1st, Joshua Fiore 2nd, Michael Miraglia 3rd, Kiaran McCormack 4th, and Shane Leighton in 5th while Kelly Sullivan finished 1st place for the Elite women. Not sure how many 1st place Team results these folks have captured but they are a straight 4 for 4 on home turf this year alone. In a few short weeks they’ll know just how well they stack up against the more recognizable names in the sport during the October 1st Spartan World Championship. spartanracebostonsuper-noreaster

Photo Courtesy of Nor’Easter OCR

Rapcouragement:
Most Spartans are average couch to mountain top folks
Living life from the canvas, backs burned from the ropes
Though many stand outside the ring watching for you to get choked
You prevail when you pave your path with hard work and hope
So Hope On Spartans!!

God Bless & Keep Running…


Tell us what you think of Spartan Race, leave a Review Here.

Or sign up for a Spartan Race now with codes:
ORM15 for 15% off
or
SPEAR10 for $10 off

Spartan Race Palmerton HH12-021: Into The Eleventh Hour

Palmerton-HH12-021-HikePhoto Courtesy of Spartan Endurance

On 7/23, the 2nd Palmerton race weekend provided Spartans an option between the 4.7 mile Sprint and the 12 hour Hurricane Heat (HH12HR). However, staying cool was NOT an option as 96 degrees of ultraviolet sunrays rained on both formats. As usual, 7am in Sparta is 6am to the rest of the U.S. Eastern Hemisphere and a tardy arrival spelled additional Physical Training (PT) for the punctual participants. (Sorry Hurricane Heaters… I was that guy.)

After PT and a scramble for a mysterious 3rd signed document as part of the registration process, we were led to our base camp for a thorough inspection of the mandatory gear list which included: Black Top, Ruck, Hydration Pack, Headlamp, Reflective Safety Vest or PT Belt, Cardboard box measuring a minimum of 7”x5”x14”, Black Sharpie, 10’ of 1” Webbing, 10’ of 550 Paracord with Bowline Knots on the ends, Medium Carabiner, (4) 11” Zip Ties, 2”x4”x3” Wood Piece, Tennis Ball, and a 25lb weight for the men / 15lb weight for the women. There were also two songs which we were required to learn in addition to the Warrior Ethos:Palmerton-HH12-021-WarriorEthosSmallPhoto Courtesy of James Sternlicht
The gut checked happened within the 1st hour when we were asked to leave ALL nutrition in our cardboard boxes until further notice. In Sparta, further notice means after 6+ hours of physical labor and fun followed by grueling labor. Only then were we allowed 1 item from our box pantry for the rest of the 14.5 hour event because in Sparta, a 12 hour event is actually…well, you get the picture.

Teams were assigned, team leaders volunteered, and missions were distributed. Throughout the day we became intimately familiar with the Mountain as we rucked, climbed, carried tractor trailer tires, competed against other teams, and ultimately helped one another endure the Krypteia planned activity under the unplanned heat of sunfire. The Spartan Festival Area became the testing ground for our knowledge of ‘The Humpty Dance’ and ‘Sponge Bob Square Pants’ songs. A little finish line entertainment for those completing the Sprint at the expense of our pride and dignity. Somewhere between the 2nd & 3rd verse of The Humpty Dance a few Spartans dropped it like it’s hot then started dropping cause it WAS hot in that unrelenting heat. No serious injuries were incurred so after a little Fitaid relief and a few more minutes of embarrassing dance moves we were all off to the next challenge. There’s video footage of our futile gyrations on the World Wide Web with shameful pelvic thrusts and all, of this I’m certain.

At one point we were tethered to one another in our teams of 20 with the 10’ of 550 Paracord and led on a ruck march through a very steep and rocky trail while practically squeezing the life out of the unfortunate folks in the middle of the lines. Imagine being pulled up a mountain by your waist while being pulled down by those losing their footing behind you…definitely NOT something you can prepare for.

The game changer happened at roughly 10hrs 5min into the HH12 when we were ordered to run the same steep trail we ran tethered together earlier except this time we were to run it individually for an undisclosed number of laps in an undisclosed amount of time. Penalty for not reaching the unknown goal was an immediate DNF.

It was at this moment where we were informed that the Eleventh hour family, which was heavily represented, earned their name and membership into the family after being DNF’d at the 11th hour of several HH12 and this day was no different with many of them not making the time hack again.

Palmerton-HH12-021-EleventhHourFamilyPhoto Courtesy of Luis Santamassino

Over 100 Spartans registered for the HH12HR, 79 toed the line, yet only 26 managed to finish the Palmerton HH12. However, in Sparta the finish line is often the starting line. So the finishers struck a deal with Krypteia Rob Barger where they placed their finishes on the line for 30 Spartans who were the closest in meeting the time hack. This sacrifice would pay off only if the 30 participants would be able to carry their rucks and the 26 finishers with their rucks for an unspecified distance in 27 minutes. Just like that the event continued for these chosen 30 and they earned their finishers’ medals.

It was truly a heart-warming site to witness most of the Eleventh Hour Family become HH12 graduates who will now be supporting the efforts of the new recruits in their family.

The Palmerton HH12-021 class graduates also boasts of 2 Spartans who have completed the coveted Spartan Trifecta Delta: Danielle Rieck & Eric Roman. Keep Rising! Aroo Aroo Aroo!!!!!!

Palmerton-HH12-021-SpartanTrifectaDelta-BreakdownImage Courtesy of Spartan Race

If you’re looking for more details on the happenings of a Spartan HH12HR, sign up, train up, and show up.

God Bless & Keep Running…


Tell us what you think of Spartan Race, leave a Review Here.

Or sign up for a Spartan Race now with codes:
ORM15 for 15% off
or
SPEAR10 for $10 off

Spartan Race: Pennsylvania Super & Sprint Weekend: Through The Fire

Pennsylvania-Super&-Sprint-Weekend-Fire-JumpPhoto courtesy of TJ Theis

Very few Spartan Race Sprints are worthy of comparison to Spartan Supers and very few Supers can be compared to Spartan Beasts unless you’re staring up the double black diamond slopes of the Blue Mountain Ski Resort in Palmerton, PA.

On Saturday 7/16, the weekend began with the filmed for TV Spartan Super as the 3rd stop of the U.S. Championship Series and the starting line was riddled with two types of Spartans. Type 1 were the elites led by 1st Place Ryan Atkins, 2nd place Robert Killian, and 3rd place Hunter McIntyre while the women were led by 1st place Lindsay Webster, 2nd place Faye Stenning, and 3rd place Alyssa Hawley…Yes, this is the 3rd consecutive Championship Series Race where Ryan and Lindsay have secured 1st place finishes.

The 2nd type of Spartans were those who were there to best their times from last year mixed in with those looking for their 1st Spartan Race experience on the highest vertical terrain found in Pennsylvania. It did not take long for smiling to become a task as the 89-91 degree heat provided an additional obstacle which revealed that many were simply unprepared. We are often reminded that hydration starts weeks before an event and each hydration station served as constant and painful reminders of the same since participants were not allowed to refill their packs. As usual, the volunteers were excellent in providing the racers cups of water. My hope is that the racers remember that hydration is each individual’s responsibility and as we become better Spartans, we rely less on the resources provided by others.

Shortly after the Competitive waves, inspiration showed up at the starting line in the form of paralyzed Lindsey Runkels, wounded veteran Earl Granville, and the Crutching Tigress Amanda Sullivan Love with their supporters and fellow Spartans. These Adaptive Athletes have become a motivational staple in Spartan races but to see them start together and fight through the cruel course design and unforgiving terrain was enough to bring out the 2nd wind in the abundance of fatigued Spartans. Another fan favorite moment was watching Spartan Pro Amelia Boone join Amanda in parts of the course while on crutches herself due to a fracture that has left her sidelined for this racing season.Pennsylvania-Super&-Sprint-Weekend-Starting-LinePhoto courtesy of Nelson Runaway Diaz

This was a very long and challenging day but after hours of grit coupled with some dehydration many Spartans completed the Palmerton Super and joined the Trifecta Tribe. This included Lindsey who wheel-barrowed through the fire after 9pm to become the 1st paralyzed female to earn the Spartan Trifecta. Congratulations to you young lady and to the compassionate members of @teambelieve923 who have now assisted 2 paralyzed athletes in joining the tribe. Many thanks to the volunteers who chose to stick around to personally hand Lindsey her Spartan shirt, medal, and can of Fitaid.Pennsylvania-Super-&-Sprint-Weekend-Team-Believe-923Photo courtesy of Nelson Runaway Diaz

The Sunday 7/17 Spartan Sprint was another spectacular event filled with high temps, a faster course, and thousands of satisfied Spartans. The Herc Hoist and Sandbag Carry were used for the Super but their absence during the Sprint coupled with only 1 major ascent and 1 major descent led to more impressive times from the elite racers. When the dust settled, Blind Pete Cossaboon became the 1st visually impaired athlete to earn a Spartan Trifecta which included running, stumbling, and tumbling through the Super the day before. This is a shared victory with his guide and friend Joey McGlamory who is an elite racer himself. Thank you both for helping us part with some of our excuses.Pennsylvania-Super-&-Sprint-Weekend-Blind-Pete-&amp-;JoeyPhoto courtesy of Joey McGlamory


Tell us what you think of Spartan Race, leave a Review Here.

Or sign up for a Spartan Race now with codes:
ORM15 for 15% off
or
SPEAR10 for $10 off

Spartan AGOGE 60: Adaptive Grit Overcomes Grim Expectations

SpartanAgoge60-AdaptiveAthletesPhoto Courtesy of Michelle Stone Stairs Roy

On April 25th, Team Believe 923 received the exciting news that the 1st ever Agoge 60 endurance event was opening its roles for amputees and other Adaptive Athletes (AA). As an Agoge 48 (Class 000) participant I understood that; a) hell’a miles and labor would be waiting for us in the Green Mountains of Vermont and b) with only 24hrs to commit to participating, there was no way I could mentally prepare our team and paralyzed athletes for the hell’a miles and labor that would be waiting for us in the Green Mountains of Vermont so we reluctantly declined the invitation. However, I did ask to be assigned to another Adaptive team in case I could be of any assistance…access granted!

Stardate 94062.71 (June 17, 2016 5:30am)
Enter stage left: team Operation Enduring Warrior (OEW) consisting of U.S. Army Veterans Earl Granville and Justin Shellhammer (each with 1 prosthetic leg) and Norbie Lara (with 1 arm) at the ready who were supported by Andi Marie, Eric Schmitz, and Erica Walker.

SpartanAgoge60-OEW

Enter stage right: team More Hearts Than Scars (MHTS) consisting of U.S. Army Veteran Billy Costello (with a prosthetic leg), U.S. Navy Veteran Greg Bullock (on crutches), U.S. Marine Veteran Matthew Pietro (an amputee on crutches and wheelchair), Blind Pete Cossaboon (no explanation needed), and Zackary Paben, who were supported by Joey McGlamory, Wendy Paben, and me.

SpartanAgoge60-MHTS3A Photo Courtesy of Nelson Runaway Diaz

We were 14 in total who were mostly greeted with silent nods for showing up but not given much hope to make it beyond the first 12 hours. After all, this event was created by the core of Spartan Staff that produced the DNF-friendly Death Race in this very same environment.

The day began with registration from 5:30am-8am where we received an Agoge Passport Card in exchange for our car keys and Drivers Licenses; a necessary precaution for participant safety especially for those who would endure 2.5 days of undisclosed training and torture. Next came medical evaluation followed by the barking orders for mandatory gear to be splayed on the required 8’x8’ tarps. Penalties for missing gear included disqualification while food other than the required MRE’s (Military Meals Ready to Eat) and Backpacker’s Pantry were confiscated. Reward for early registration included hauling lumber and other weighty objects to and fro Riverside Farm aka base camp until the registration process was complete.

Erica and I were tasked with a running assessment of the Adaptive Athletes for the duration of their participation. I was told that when they dropped out I could continue the Agoge with the rest of the participants but understood that I would not be a “finisher” if they indeed quit. Spartan leadership (aka Krypteia) had a look of concern and slight agitation as they said they didn’t even know what to do with AA’s, they didn’t know any would actually show up, they felt this was another one of Joe’s (DeSena) crazy ideas, and that this was NOT the right venue for the Adaptive Athletes. Well, it took less than 60 hours to prove them right. And wrong.

After a brief welcome and introduction to the Agoge format, both able-bodied and adaptive participants were split into larger teams tasked with carrying 80lb. bags of concrete and 5gal. buckets of water to reinforce the famous steps on Joe’s Mountain which was built and expanded on with manpower provided by several years of Death Races. It became instantly clear to the Krypteia that the veterans of OEW would need little assistance while we of MHTS had a different set of challenges in front of us that would require teamwork of epic proportions to overcome so when asked if we were capable of participating in this “beautification” project…a silent nod was my answer and that’s all that was needed for them to send us up the mountain to join the renovation. A single file of Spartans snaked up and around Joe’s Mountain like an ant trail with the adaptive athletes melting into the numbers pulling their weight and assisting others along the way. We were joined by Michelle ‘Stone Stairs” Roy who was assigned field communications for OEW and MHTS. She is intimately familiar with this terrain from years of Death Races and for writing the names of those battling cancer on stones that she would then personally add to this landscape.

Following this 3 hour effort we were reassembled at the Farm and divided into 3 large groups consisting of 3 smaller groups. MHTS now became Team 3 Division A aka Team 3-Adaptive. We understood that our goal to complete this 60 hour event required us to NOT interfere with the experience of any other athlete and that anyone who chose to assist us could potentially miss out on portions of the event that could cost them a DQ as the event progressed. With fair warning, we accepted 4 Spartans to join our ranks for an experience of a lifetime that, if fulfilled, may never be duplicated. Enter Brian Lynch, Matt Rex, Anthony Schena, and the bearded Mexican in a skirt Fernando Casanova. We were now equipped with 5 adaptive athletes, 4 work horses, Wendy to keep Zack in check, Joey who served as Blind Pete’s guide & 1 Puerto Rican Reindeer.

SpartanAgoge60-MHTS Photo Courtesy of Nelson Runaway Diaz

Teams were assigned a slosh pipe and a kayak filled with 25 gallons of water that would later serve as our source for hydration. Team 3 however, was assigned (2) kayaks, a slosh pipe, plus Matt’s wheelchair which has been in heavy use since he lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident after returning from combat with PTSD. Another team was assigned a wooden handled fence post hole digger and wooden 4×4’s which would serve as the structure that held the metal Spartan helmet bell to be rung as the final act of those who would later succumb to the rigors of the Agoge training.

SpartanAgoge60-Bell Photo Courtesy of Nelson Runaway Diaz

As we completed several uphill miles to the Log Landing, we were given instructions to eat and hydrate quickly just as the Spartan Helmet Bell of submission first broke silence reminding us that we would all reach a point where tapping out would become a real option. Several participants withdrew due to equipment failure and medical complications while Lora Cesuga from Spain sacrificed herself for the sake of the team in light of her slower pace coupled with hearing the fate of those who chose to travel through the night into the famous Bloodroot and not make the time hacks. Lora also loaned me equipment that enabled me to keep working alongside OEW an MHTS teams.

12 hours into the Agoge and the 8 Adaptive Athletes were still in!! The toughest part at this moment was convincing the AA’s to follow a different path to the new base camp called ‘Area 51’ while the other participants trekked up Bloodroot to the same location. Fact is that only logistics prevented our teams from pressing on into Bloodroot but at the same time there were only 8 people trudging through with missing or disfigured limbs which kept the scales well balanced. This alternate path enabled Justin to stick around as he contemplated an early exit concerned whether a lengthier stay would cause him further injury and derail the limited summer time scheduled with his children.

We trekked back to Riverside Farm as everyone else powered through the night for their rest at Area 51. Before we were reunited with the rest of the Spartans, we were greeted in the morning by Michelle, cups of coffee, and Joe DeSena giving us limited time to gear up and transport building materials back up Joe’s Mountain to Muddy’s Hut, which is a rentable retreat built out of nature and recycled materials by Matt Batz.

At Area 51, another favorite destination for Death Racers, we began Physical Training and noticed for the 1st time that there was another adaptive athlete among us. It was virtually impossible to detect that Amy Palmiero Winters was an adaptive athlete until we saw her pant leg rolled up revealing her prosthetic leg. Amy would outperform many in this event even while tasked by Joe to personally assume responsibility for the fate of Spartan Editorial Content Manager David Deluca (you must read the 1st hand account of his Agoge60 experience!). The bell continued to be rung for different reasons. One international participant complained of boredom with little learned not realizing that shortly after quitting the real teaching would begin which would make the previous days torture worth it. After PT, DeSena interrupted the silence to advise that going forward NO ONE would be considered a finisher if ANYONE quits for non-medical reasons.

It was at this new base camp where our Agoge passports would be stamped as we completed evolutions including Drown Proofing in a leech filled pond (yes, blood everywhere), Raft Building, Survival Information (eating meal and earthworms), Litter Building (Stretcher), and Rolling 700lb bales of hay (through a swamp…I’m still confused about this one). Failure to complete an evolution sealed your name on the growing list of DQ’s and DNF’ers. At some point, Zack and I were asked to accompany Blind Pete to The Abyss for a 200’ repel followed by a 60-70 degree single track climb up a rock face with unstable footing as a way to assess this evolution for the other AA’s. Many faced and conquered their crippling fear of heights but to hear Pete who has been totally blind since April 2015 laughing as he stepped backwards off of the cliff to begin his descent was truly remarkable and inspiring for those that followed. Does it help not being able to see the dangers around you or does it help knowing that you are alive and thriving in spite of them? Another answered question for most of us this weekend.

SpartanAgoge60-BlindPete Photo Courtesy of Nelson Runaway Diaz

The verdict was in, Norbie and Earl of OEW were more than prepared for The Abyss while Justin stayed behind to be checked out by medics due to a fall. Also Billy of MHTS who lost his leg in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan ran against daylight to make it to this location before nightfall. The inspiration continued as Norbie began his one armed repel since his right arm was severed by an RPG in Iraq, 2004. The climb continued to challenge able bodied Spartans alike but to hear the pounding metal of Earl’s prosthetic left leg as he sometimes crawled up the stone proved that a missing limb at the hands of a roadside bomb in 2008 would not deny him victory in 2016 (nor would the cast on his left hand from a recent cycling incident…this boy has issues :).

SpartanAgoge60-RockTop

Upon our return to Area 51, we were told that Justin was removed from Agoge due to medical issues and we couldn’t be any prouder for him since he was forced out after fighting through 32 hours of Agoge training. A fellow Spartan ensured that Justin’s green military issued sun hat made it to the Agoge graduation ceremony in his honor. That was the least that could’ve been done for this soldier who lost his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, 2005.

Prior to the repel, OEW was the 1st team to literally hack through the uncleared woods with Andi Marie on the litter but after the repel MHTS was the last team to perform the several miles of Litter Carry. The best Krypteia Eric Roman could offer us was to be partnered up with another team should we need help carrying one of our heaviest teammates, Matt, on the litter for an undisclosed distance. As both teams set off for the carry, we found a comfortable rhythm of resting and rotating positions every 100 steps…then every 50. Zack mentioned how the friction on his hands and the pain on his wrists and fingertips was akin to what he felt at the age of 10 when he had to tear off his fingertips in a horrific accident. Watching him persevere was a fresh reminder that even the crippling hurts of our past can be reduced to inconsequential memories when you choose to fight on! This includes physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual hurts as well.

At the end of the carry Krypteia Eric told us of how the team that went with us raved about our efforts. One of them helped us with Matt’s backpack while we managed without additional assistance. It was said that they mimicked our cadence, tempo, and methods of transport. We knew that inspiration would present itself as the AA’s fought to stay in the Agoge but this bit of news demonstrated our significant value which could benefit the able-bodied Spartans experience as a whole. We had Grit and it was contagious!

About that 700lb. bale of hay…even though the swamp route was now closed it still sucked to navigate it up and down several hills around the perimeter of Area 51. A funny thing happens when all participants are allowed to sleep for a few hours and your team of AA’s still has to deal with this 6-foot tall circular bale of hay, you get it done anyway.

A few hours of sleep later, we were woken up by the commotion of a Spartan who rang the bell late night but was not allowed to leave. You ring, you leave, and try again another time was the norm but this was different. This distraught Spaniard nicknamed Hunter was brought out into the circle of the 98 remaining Spartans because he worked harder than most in every evolution but due to language barriers he was under the impression that he had to manage the 700lb. bale on his own since his team completed it prior to his return from The Abyss. Only 1 question was asked “Should he be allowed to stay?” and only 1 resounding answer was given “YES!” And just like that many cheers, hugs, and tears were shared. The language of hard work and integrity was understood and well appreciated by these Spartans.

The language of flatulence during morning yoga stretching was also understood by all. We had plenty of time to interact with others while waiting to begin the “final” 1-mile hike that would conclude the event. Turns out many had gone without eating for hours and even days since their meals were confiscated. Every ounce of shared carbs were gratefully accepted by the Spaniards and other international participants who did not have MRE’s nor Backpacker’s Pantry to purchase in their country.

We began the hike without Matt’s wheelchair since he should be able to crutch his way for a mile…then 2…then we realized we would be back in these mountains for a long time. Someone suggested we make a litter to carry Matt once his wrists had enough. Four of us were allowed to continue while the procession stopped to make the litter. It was Matt and Greg, who fell 40 feet from a helicopter during practice jumps before is second deployment, on crutches, the Mexican in a skirt, and the Puerto Rican Reindeer moving as fast as possible to avoid using that stretcher. At one point, Agoge staff caught up and mentioned taking an alternate route for evacuation which caused Matt to crutch for his life. He would accept nothing less than crossing the finish line on his foot (if there ever was a finish line). So off we continued alternating crutching with piggy-back carries up the mountain over and over again. A mile or so later Krypteia Eric caught up to us and ordered us to stop and wait for the others since we had no radio communication. Matt was convinced to use the stretcher for a short while so the rest of us would have litter carry experience in this real environment. Although this was not the most popular moment of the journey, once again things got done and Matt was back on his foot in no time.

SpartanAgoge60-Matt Photo Courtesy of Nelson Runaway Diaz

The last few miles were marched in silence and, with the help of many Spartans, we piggybacked Matt as needed with the Adaptive Athletes leading the way. After a pit stop for a refreshing river dunk, we marched the “final” mile back to Riverside where the graduation ceremony was set to commence.

We were met with applause and cheers from families and friends in attendance as well as several participants who rang out. This premature celebration was short-lived as Joe found someone whose medical exit seemed questionable to him and therefore rewarded our 60-hour efforts with disqualifications FOR ALL. However, a deal was struck where able-bodied teams had to run timed laps up and down Joe’s mountain while the adaptive teams ran timed laps through the woods around Riverside. It was chaos, it was confusing, but after 60 hours it was over.

SpartanAgoge60-Class002Graduates Photo Courtesy of Spartan Race

Several hundred registered, 139 showed up and, in the end, the Agoge 60 produced the 99 graduating Spartans of Class 002! Closing ceremony was officiated by US Marine Corps Retired Veteran, 40 years of service Massachusetts State Police hostage negotiator, Gilbert Bernard, who prompted each team to nominate 2 Spartans to receive the coveted Spartan Coin for being the most inspirational, the most motivational, and for being the reason why many were able to complete this feat. And when the dust settled, 3 adaptive athlete’s were counted among them! Congratulations Blind Pete, Earl, and Norbie!!!

While there may still be confusion on how to pronounce AGOGE, I defy you to prove that AGOGE stands for anything less than Adaptive Grit Overcomes Grim Expectations. Are you adapting?

FOOTNOTES:

  1. It is a very humbling experience when your character is on display in the harshest environment and it proves to be less glorious than you thought it was.
  2. The struggle doesn’t build character; the struggle reveals your character.
  3. If allowed, times of suffering can transform strangers into family in some instances and preserve family in others. Suffer well!

Spartan Race Boston Sprint 2016: Built For Runners & Bovine Manure!!

spartan-boston-2016

Photo Courtesy of Brandon Narciso

While the Spartan Pro Team and other highly ranked Elite Spartan Racers had their sights locked on the large payout and potential face-time on NBC courtesy of the Golden State Classic Super in Monterey California; many North Region Spartan hopefuls toed the line this weekend with dreams of conquering obstacles and claiming their one-way coin West to the Spartan World Championship in October.

SpartanRaceBostonSprint2016-Map Photo Courtesy of Brandon Narciso

The 5.2 mile runners dream came true with just Hay Walls and Monkey Bars in the first mile followed by a few additional walls and sporatic obstacles in the second mile. The proverbial cherry on top revealed itself in mile three where A net, A-frame, and A speedbump of a Sandbag Carry helped these speedsters continue to crush all 15,840 feet of the course thus far.  The Rolling Mud with Dunk Wall and Barbed Wire Crawl of Mile 4 provided little resistance for the sprinters however the obstacle assault of the last half mile bogged down the racers with the Herc Hoist, Rope Climb, Bucket Brigade, Spearman, followed by the Atlas Carry to finish the course but…too little too late for those who favor the physical demands of the obstacles over the faster pace of uninterrupted mileage.

spartan-boston-2016-2

Photo Courtesy of Nelson “Runaway” Diaz

To add insult to injury, the 80+ degree heat and hives, reportedly from the hay, did not make things any easier. Translation: Other dreams were simply buried in the bovine manure surrounding the Carter & Stevens Dairy Farm. Yes, my dream included.

SpartanRaceBostonSprint2016-bovine Photo Courtesy of Nelson “Runaway” Diaz

The Saturday Elite male landslide, all from Massachusettes, consisted of Ryan Kempson 1st, Junyong Pak 2nd, and Joshua Fiore 3rd of Nor’Easter OCR who now owns a streak of 3 podium finishes in 3 weeks including 2nd at the Endurance Society Infinitus 88k and 3rd at the Bone Frog New England.

For the Saturday Elite females Kathleen Lanphear, Orla Marie Walsh, and Nicole FitzGerald finished 1st through 3rd respectively.

The Sunday Elite Male heat re-introduced the Nor’Easter OCR storm to the Spartan Race community led by Kiaran McCormack 1st, Michael Miraglia 2nd, and Shane Leighton 3rd.

While the Elite females kept it in high gear with Debbie Koch 1st, Kelly Sullivan 2nd (also of Nor’Easter OCR), and Serra Langone 3rd.

Could this race have uncovered an underdog in the Nor’Easter OCR Pro-Team for us to rally behind? The fact is that at least 5 of their members have qualified for the Spartan World Championship at this race alone, and there is still plenty of time for the rest of their team to earn some coin. Do they have enough to upset the Spartan Pro-Team? Can Nor’Easter OCR run with the big dogs or just bark from the porch? Time will reveal.

Spartan inspiration provided by Adaptive athlete Misty Diaz at the rope climb reminded us that we have officially run out of excuses for our laziness…again.

SpartanRaceBostonSprint2016-MistyDiaz Photo Courtesy of Spartan Race

A friend recently reminded me that most of us understand fear of failure and some of us are accustomed to living with that fear. At the same time, some of us have a genuine fear of success and are accustomed to living with this fear. Fear of success is equally real and a true hindrance to our God-created potential. Fear in any form and for any reason is futile. However, there is a reason to fear NOT – so find it – and be prepared to be amazed on the Spartan course but more importantly throughout the course of your life. #inspiresomebody