2017 Spartan Palmerton Super – Adversity Rehab

adversity /ədˈvəːsɪti/ A difficult or unpleasant situation; an undesired, unexpected, or unplanned state or event.
rehab /ˈriːhab/ rehabilitation, repairing, reconditioning, rebuilding, reconstruction, remodeling.

With sincere appreciation for the continued encouragement and support of our paralyzed and amputated teammates; Team Believe 923 made an open invite for several social media groups to experience a race from the unique perspective of these amazing human motivators.

Conquering Challenges

Members of Spartans of the Northeast, Southern Spartans, Los Callaos of Puerto Rico, and dozens from Spartan 4-0 signed up to form one unit with TB923. Many of them had been inspired at previous Spartan Races by the grit and determination of Lindsey Runkels (paralyzed from a mountain bike accident), Andrew Bateson (double amputee), Robert Baez and Tim Morris (both paralyzed due to automobile accidents).

Compassion and a genuine desire to help were the offerings of these participants but unbeknownst to them, Lindsey and Andrew would be offering their help instead. The physical adversity that Lindsey and Andrew push through may be obvious but the mental, emotional, and psychological are not as easily seen. The same goes with us.

We push through some of the challenges in our lives and turn tail and run from others. Sometimes we intentionally back down because the road to victory seems too long and filled with sacrifices we are unwilling to make; while at other times we shy away unintentionally as we find ways around the obstacles. Yet the outcome remains the same; we suffer from a lack of growth and an unfulfilled life. But not on this day!

Background

Spartan Race Director Jason Barnes always labors to ensure the Palmerton Super remains one of the toughest, if not the toughest 8+ mile course in the U.S. However, as demanding as it was, I endeavored to recreate an experience that we lived through when it was just 5 of us starting the 2014 Ottawa Beast with Tim Morris of New Hampshire who ultimately became the 1st paralyzed athlete to earn the Spartan Trifecta and Double Trifecta.

In Ottawa, we were undermanned, overwhelmed, and outright exhausted. Completing that Beast took all we had plus the help of 5 not so average Spartans in Eric Paquet, Dan Luzzi, Taylor Cuevas, Sarah Landry, and Nial O’Dougherty.

Adversity Rehab

For Palmerton, the plan was to stack layers of physical and mental difficulties that would far exceed what all had registered for. To make carrying, pulling, and pushing two wheelchairs while navigating a para-athlete and a double amputee safely through the Spartan designed event so daunting that it would make everyone’s personal challenges seem inconsequential.

We wanted this unit to feel the reward of helping an adaptive athlete but to also conquer parts of this race as if they were adaptive themselves. It was our attempt to help strengthen the participants for endurance in life while preparing them for the endurance events offered by the Spartan brand. I personally wanted to drive people as close to committing to Spartan Agoge as possible, as soon as possible, and in the most compassionate way possible through our journey.

The Plan

Believe me, being a motor-mouthed Puerto Rican made it extremely difficult to keep our goals hidden from the 75 Spartans that toed the line with Lindsey and Andrew, but I did. They were a fun loving bunch with high spirits and their sights set on seeing the race through together.

Among us were Spartans of varying athletic abilities so tasks were assigned accordingly. First, we separated into groups of four then assigned the groups to either Lindsey or Andrew. Each group also had a designated wheelchair carrying team which is no easy task in that unforgiving terrain.

Assisting Adaptive Athletes

Everyone who was physically able to wheelbarrow was requested to do so from the starting line until Lindsey got tired but of course we all petered out before her. We reindeered up in pairs 3 rows deep pulling the wheelchairs with our adaptive teammates on the uphills and served as brakes on the downhills in skein.

While some attempted the obstacles in the same fashion as Lindsey and Andrew, others had to race ahead of us due to time constraints, cramps, and other weather induced challenges. As our numbers dwindled, all groups were assigned the same wheelchair with Lindsey on it and Andrew on her. We loaded almost every Spartan obstacle with a dose of Adversity Rehab.

The total team effort required to complete the double Sandbag and Bucket Brigade with this para-athlete short stack was unbelievably impressive! To see visually impaired Michael Tubiak piggy backing Lindsey up the mountain and watching Damian Ryan fighting through his Neuropathy alongside us added an extra measure of inspiration to the day. And just like in Ottawa, a few strangers joined our ranks at different points of the race including Mr. Green Shorts.

Results

ALL finished before the cut-off, ALL received medals, ALL created memories, and ALL overcame the day’s challenges including 12 hours of TB923 Adversity Rehab.

Joe Desena created something to get people from couches to the starting line and based on participant feedback, we provided something to get participants from the finish line through HH, HH12, UB, Agoge, and life…in our unique way.

#likecureslike
#adversityovercomesadversity
#mountainsarespeedbumps
#lastburn
#13milestogo

P.S. Lindsey intentionally remained confined to her wheelchair on portions of the course where she would normally wheelbarrow for the workout and Andrew gave the opportunity to assist him in wheelbarrows and piggy back carries but only when we could catch him.

P.S.S. As this article was being written this pic was in circulation from Adversity Rehab participant Michael Tubiak and it just about sums up the effort…

Photo Credits: Spartan Race, members of Spartan 4-0 and Team Believe 923.

Spartan Race: 2017 Citi Field Stadium Sprint…Swimsuits Required

Amidst an unexpected Nor’easter with heavy rains and temperatures ranging from a 53-degree high to 45-degree low, which was 20 degrees colder than the 2016 Citi Field Stadium Sprint 0f 73 high / 56 Low, many residents from the tri-state area found logical reasons to stay indoors, but thousands of Spartans did not.

Conditions were less than stellar with many unknown variables at play prompting Spartan Race to send weather advisories en masse via social media and to registrant emails. Though a slippery and dangerous course it was, the overall winner’s times appeared unscathed as 2016 Stadium Series Champion Brakken Kraker 31:13, Michael Miraglia 32:49, and John Yatsko 33:31 swam to the podium alongside the Tsunami of Spartan Pro Team Females Kate Kramer 34:19, Cassidy Watton 35:00, and Orla Marie Walsh 37:41.

Many Elite and Competitive racers expected the monkey bars to be closed due to the heavy rain as in other Stadium races, but instead, they were greeted with slick metal, a few face plants, and 30 burpees.

Note: No serious injuries were reported from a day of slippery monkey bars except for the deep bruising to human pride and ego.

The low temperatures were no match for the highs found during the Special Spartans and Spartan Kids Race where these athletes lit up the stadium and ran as hard as they would on any other sun-filled hot summer day. Another race day high point was witnessing paralyzed and wheelchair bound Lindsey Runkel wheelbarrowing the venue then roll her wheelchair through the Atlas Carry with double-amputee Andrew Bateson on her lap and the concrete Atlas block on his. They also attempted the Spear Throw in the same fashion and with a few warmup throws and several tweaks to their technique this stack of adaptive athletes hit the target.

In retrospect, the course was more physically demanding in 2016, where racers practically touched every bleacher and stairwell at Citi Field, however, the inclement weather of 2017 created mental challenges never before experienced in a stadium series race.

At the finish line, racers were greeted with the sorely missed and familiar voice of renowned Spartan Race emcee Dustin Dorough who is pursuing other aspirations but knows he belongs among us…at least once in a while. Welcome back…and forth Dustin 🙂

As with every Spartan Race experience, there is opportunity for both the brand and the participants to continue building on past successes and correcting current missteps.

At the time of this publication, we remain uncertain if the distribution of the finisher shirts in the parking lot outside of the venue was attributed to contractual limitations of Spartan Race, bottlenecking at the finish line / photo area inside the stadium in years past, or a trial run for future standardization.  We did, however, notice that some volunteers at the registration area were not aware of the finishers shirt tent behind them, just like in 2016.

If you were on the course and not pleased with your individual outcome regardless of poor training, poor nutrition, poor attitude, or poor climate, you can always (insert Milli Vanilli song here)

Courtesy of Super Mario Bros 3 – Kooti Pie Rocks Episode

God Bless and keep running…

Photo Credits: Rosa Farciert Lopez, Adam Ortiz, and Spartan Race

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…


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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…


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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


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