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 🙂

OCR Transformations- Amelia Koeppel

ORM presents the series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing.

Amelia’s story begins with the odds stacked against her favor. She was born premature and did you know that premature babies are more inclined to be obese? Growing up she had always been more round shaped than her friends. She was never into sports and she always seemed to find an excuse to drop classes at school. As a teenager, Amelia tried many diets to become slimmer. However, she would never add exercise to her regiment or become more active so she would easily gain back any weight she lost.

After a long and toxic relationship, Amelia decided to go back to school to become a Software Engineer. So far, it has been the best decision she has ever made. Unfortunately, some bad habits followed her along the way. Between work and school taking up most of her time, Amelia would was finding easy short cuts with her food. She became a pro at ordering pizza, burgers, Thai, Indian, and anything else that helped her to not have to cook. She was never the person to prep her meals, or even eat that healthy…but her new lifestyle was getting out of hand. Amelia also had a foot surgery during this time, which really affected her habits and caused her weight to go up even more. In 2015 she weighed 65kg (~143 pounds) at 157cm (~5ft 2in), which put Amelia in an overweight category.

march2015-side

When Amelia moved to Canada, she wanted to try a Spartan Race because a friend of hers ran one in France the year before and she wanted to impress him. She began to do Crossfit at Missfit in Montreal, Canada once a week. She remembers it being very hard and she was not losing any weight and that frustrated her. While talking to some of the girls she trained with, she learned about a winter race in Montreal called the 5k Polar Hero Race. On February 21st, 2015 she ran her first ever OCR.

She started in the open wave with some of her friends. She was stressed out before the race, but began to feel a sense of euphoria when she started running. That feeling didn’t last long… she became breathless almost immediately after about 200m. Amelia couldn’t breathe, she couldn’t run, couldn’t jump, her grip wouldn’t last more than one second. She walked nearly the entire race and barely finished 50% of the obstacles. Although she didn’t do as good as she had hoped…she felt a sense of success at the finish line that made her yearn for more.

Polar Hero

Amelia realized that she needed to learn how to run and she also needed to lose weight and gain a healthy balance of muscle in order to be successful in obstacle course racing. So step-by-step she started to run/walk and in July of 2015 her first 5k time was 45 minutes. She even began to meal prep…sometimes.

After meeting a friend (Palmyra) through an OCR Facebook group while looking for a training partner, the two signed up for another event called the Dead End Race in Saint Sauveur, Canada on August 30th, 2015. This was one of the hardest races for Amelia. She had no idea that Eastern Canada races had that much hiking and such large obstacles. After meeting the rig for the first time, Amelia realized she had a lot more work to do with her training. She started organized training sessions in a group at Coexiste (an onstacle training center) in Montreal. The training center, along with the help from amazing people she met in her OCR Facebook group allowed her to reach the goal of conquering an 8” wall, to climb a rope, and many other OCR specific events. Amelia also started to see a nutritionist, Catherine Naulleau, to help her understand how to eat healthier and to be better prepared for her workouts and races.

december2015-absprogress

In 2015, she ended with 7 OCR events from 3km to 8km. She also managed to do her first Spartan Race in Boston that November. After her first OCR event, Amelia suffered from an injury in her same knee she injured from a motorbike accident when she was 21. She no longer had Synovial Fluid between her bones, which meant she should sustain any high impact on her knee. However, the more she trained the better she felt because she was gaining muscle in her thighs that helped take away the pain she felt in her knee.

For 2016, Amelia set a goal for herself to qualify for OCRWC. At the time, she thought it would be impossible, but she continued her training. In April, at the Spartan Beast in Vermont…Amelia qualified for OCRWC. She finished that race in tears because she knew she accomplished the goal she set out for. OCRWC made for her 29th race for 2016 and she was also celebrating her birthday.

OCRWC

CURRENT TRAINING SCHEDULE 

Amelia’s training schedule isn’t really stable. She goes at least twice a week to the gym and the other days she goes climbing, running, and roller-blading. She is usually found racing most of her weekends, but when she isn’t you can find her hiking, kayaking, and biking. She tries to spend most of her time outside and last winter she even found that running in the snow is easier on her knees.

In March of 2015 Amelia weighed 65kg (~143 pounds) with more than 33% body fat. Today she is a healthy 57kg (~125 pounds) and down to 23% body fat.

amelia-transformation

You can follow Amelia on Facebook and Instagram!

How To Get Your Office Mate To Try An Obstacle Race

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Intro

Forget Tough Mudder’s Funky Monkey 2.0, Savage Race’s Tree Hugger, or whatever rig Spartan throws at you. We all know the biggest obstacle can be getting that office mate of yours to actually try an obstacle race. We at ORM, always want to help where we can. So we’ve devised a foolproof plan. Get ready to recruit your new team with these unstoppable objection overcomers!

Objection Number 1:

“I did that shit in the military”.

Objection Overcomer: 

“Awesome. Thanks for your service. Now, here are a few ways an obstacle race is different”

  1. You will not have to carry any heavy weight as you did in the military (unless you choose to).
  2. Some of these races donate to military causes.
  3. No asshole yelling at you to “Get the fuck down off my obstacle!”
  4. Medal and hugs at the end.

Objection Number 2:

“I injured my ______________ (pick a body part) back in  1997/high school/college/Nam”. (Circle One).

Objection Overcomer:

“Awesome! Has a doctor told you in the last week that you couldn’t or shouldn’t exercise?”

“No?! – I didn’t think so.”

“Yes? – Get a new doctor!”

“Ok, now that we’ve cleared that up. Let me get my cell phone out and show you some photos”.

“Here’s picture of Amy. She’s missing a leg, and she does obstacle races”.

amy-winters-obstacle-race

“Didn’t do it for ya?!….Ok, here’s my pal Noah, he’s missing a leg AND an arm. He does OCR”.

noah-galloway

Not that one dummy! This one!

noah-galloway-tough-mudder

“Oh shoot, almost forgot…another dude I know. His name is Todd. He’s got 3 less appendages than you or me, does this kind of thing all of the time.”

todd-love

“Anyhow….Do you think it would be harder for you and your “little injury” to do an obstacle race than these folks?”

Objection Number 3:

“I have to lose ___ pounds first” (fill in the blank)

Objection Overcomer:

“Awesome. No you don’t. You can start today. Why wait?!?!?”

“Besides, you aren’t losing those those pounds any time soon.”

“You been walking around with all of that extra weight saying “one day I’ll diet”.

“Why would you magically do that now, without anything to motivate you? 

“Nothing changes if nothing changes!”

“Look, here’s my BattleFrog discount code to make it even cheaper!

“Shit, I mean, here’s an awesome discount I found on Obstacle Racing Media to save you a few bucks even”

Objection Number 4:

“I saw on the news that I will get diarrhea/break my arm/get a weird eye infection/die (circle one) if I try a Warriors Dash”

Objection Overcomer:

“If you believed every fear mongering thing you saw on the news, you’d never open your front door!”

“The mainstream media loves to pump you full of fear so that they can sell you more Ovaltine and Chevrolets!”

“Fuck that shit. Get out there and do an obstacle race!”

Conclusion

All right, I’ve done my part. Wish there was 5. Got stuck on 4. Print this out right now. You were about to go on a coffee break anyway. Grab that mate at the cube next to you. Tell them you got something to talk about.

 

 

Chasing the “Perfect Delta” and finding myself

Be one of the first in the world to earn the Spartan Race “Perfect Delta”, or at least get it in year one, was my major goal in my 35th year on earth. Change everything that I had become along the way was the method. “Unlearn what you have learned”. Wake up, look at my delta pieces, eat well, train hard, sleep and then do it again. This has been every day of my year. Each day has been focused on attainment of that specific goal. It was close to happening for me, but that is no longer a possibility, and that’s ok. I did not feel that way in Lake Tahoe three weeks ago, when the Ultra Beast was shut down due to inclement weather. I have many friends who also feel upset and confused, after what just happened at Agoge 003 in China, and I think now is a good time for this conversation. Please, let me tell you a story of how I have grown as an athlete and individual over the last month. I hope this perspective is able to help a few of my brother and sister Spartans out there who are pursuing the “Perfect Delta” with the same vigor as I.

Every person who runs an OCR style race is there for a reason. Some people were invited by a friend, are taking the first steps in getting healthy or are trying to get that first trifecta. For me, every event that I do is a step on my mission: to destroy every bit of the drunk, lazy and complacent person that I had become. After running my first Spartan Race back in 2014 at AT&T Park, I became obsessed with OCR but did not yet have the commitment level to start changing my life. That changed last fall when I read “Spartan Up” and decided to ditch the cigarettes, horrible eating habits, exert some control over my binge drinking and try to change my life. Time to stop wearing my Spartan shirts around and talking about how I’d get that Trifecta “one day” and do what I needed to do to earn it.

tahoe

It was August of 2015 when I got busy. I was tipping the scales at 262 pounds, which for a 5’9” man with not much muscle on my body, put me right around 40% body fat. I had been out of the military for ten years, having served the better part of a decade in the U.S. Navy Submarine Force. I dealt with a lot of trauma as a young man that had never been dealt with and pretty much inflicted as much damage as I could to my body and soul as an adult, struggling with depression throughout my entire life. I had considered suicide on numerous occasions. I had a problem. I’d gotten used to filling gaping holes in my soul with anything that “hit the pleasure button” and getting messed up and being the “party guy” helped me numb myself and avoid everything I needed to deal with in my life. By thirty years old, I had been through a gauntlet of heartbreak and found myself a single father. I had my little girl one week on and one week off, and was trying to figure out how to avoid winding up like my Mother. She lost her struggle to mental illness and substances when I was just 15, by taking her own life. I could not end up like her. My daughter deserved more than that.

My life took a major turn when I met Danielle Burmaster. She is a super smokin’ hot first grade teacher and athlete, great Mom to her young son and was getting ready to start her master’s degree. She loves life, art, fitness and truly loved my daughter and I with all of her soul. I could not lose her but she was way out of my league and I’d need to mature by leaps and bounds to make this relationship last past the honeymoon phase. I remember seeing her head out for training runs while I was playing video games and having a drink, thinking I’d really have to step up my game to keep her. So I did.

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Spartan Race had already been introduced to me and I focused all my energy on getting healthy so I could achieve that first Trifecta. The effect on my life was immediate and powerful. I took a break from alcohol for the first few months, which eventually became full sobriety. I implemented a new way of eating, based on the structure in “Spartan Up” that JDS gave us. My life began revolving around training, and I found coaches who inspired me to get stronger, stay sober and work harder. The drunks in my life began to lose interest in hanging out with me, and I them. I began attending counseling with a therapist and aggressively diving into the issues of my youth and the problems that I carried into adulthood, which led to me becoming the person that I was. I was fat and had gotten accustomed to never dealing with any of my problems. I was not genuine with myself and therefore never putting my best foot forward in life.

I found meaning in helping veterans through my work with BRAVO Co. (Bringing Resources & Activities to Veterans Operation). My life was new and exciting. After attaining my first Trifecta at the end of 2015, a new goal was set. I’d be one of the first in the world to earn the Spartan Race “Perfect Delta”, and do it in the first year that the award was possible, 2016. There was a “new itch” that I had to scratch. I began to meditate again (having been introduced to kundalini yoga early in my life) and the authentic self finally began to emerge after months of sobriety, therapy and aggressive goal seeking. Today, I’m under 20% body fat, completely sober, eat super clean and have racked up quite a few endurance accomplishments in 2016. It has been my year of change. It took 35 years to do it, but I was finally living life, not just being alive.

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Having barely survived the Shackleton 12 Hour Hurricane Heat in January of this year, I trained hard for what I anticipated to be the hardest part of the nine requirements of the perfect delta, the first ever “Agoge 60 Hour”, in Pittsfield, VT. I started Olympic weightlifting, ran and rucked hard, tried a few different eating styles, and pretty much attempted every endurance event that I could to train for it. Agoge 002 was, undoubtedly, the most transformative weekend that I’d ever had in my life.

I put out everything that I had on that mountain. My team and other participants helped me keep my head in the game when my body was shutting down, which nearly happened twice, and I, them. Our team honored me with a coveted Spartan Race coin at the closing ceremony, an honor certainly more for work ethic or some shred of leadership, not athletic ability. That gift honestly brought tears to my eyes. My training and discipline intensified after, as I had set the last major event for the completion of my delta, the Tahoe Ultra Beast.

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I am not an elite athlete but paid for the elite registration to buy myself more time on course for the cutoffs. Bad weather was coming in, so I shelled out hundreds of dollars for insulated compression leggings and top, cold weather gear, new headlamp, and all the fuel that I would need. I bought new shoes, socks and had vaseline in all the right places prior to the race beginning at 6AM that dark Sunday morning. I had 15 hours to get this race done.

Knowing that my knees start to hurt around 15-20 miles into races, I took my time, moving slow and steady, and fueling my body with 300 calories on the hour, every hour. Tahoe was a challenging course, and my knees were not feeling great 14.7 miles in. I returned to the festival after wrapping lap one. The double sandbag carry, required for elites, pretty much took out my 30 minute advantage and I was tired. Shortly after heading out for lap two it began to snow. A lot. When we reached the top of the first loop of the second lap, Spartan Staff told us that all obstacles were closed and that we had finished the Ultra Beast. The “weather was our final obstacle”. We were elated. We were instructed to get back to festival safely and “claim what we had earned”. We took our time getting down the hill safely, took selfies and went live on our cel phones for the world to see. Posing for pictures with friends, I could not have been happier at that moment. I had done it. The Perfect Delta was in the bag for me, and I’d just need my SGX certification to complete the award.

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Upon return to festival, we were preparing to find out where to get our Ultra Beast medal and delta piece when we had our timing chips cut. We were then informed that we would not be getting either. We had earned a Beast finish and could go claim that shirt and medal. This directly contradicted what we were told by staff and I became unbalanced and lost my cool. I had been told I was an Ultra Beast finisher and now my “Perfect Delta” was on the line. I complained and fought for the finish I was told I earned. I went back to the staff to make my case and ultimately, was given the Ultra Beast belt buckle and delta piece. However, back at the house and on the ride home after, I felt horrible and sick about both my complaint and the “achievement” itself. I had friends who were told the same thing that I had been who went home, even more crushed than I, with a Beast medal. Even worse, were the cases of those who crossed the finish line and still got nothing as there was mass confusion at the award tent about who truly finished, and who did not.

Apparently, many of us were told we had finished but did not meet the metric of a true finisher. What really was a true finisher? People were super upset with Spartan and sadly, I was one of them. How did they not plan for the weather? They moved our UB requirements back because of the weather that we all knew about and prepared for. They called the race, I never quit! I felt that I had done what I was told by the staff, told I finished my race by them, and went home with the medal I was told that I’d earned. I finished my race, right? Or did I just complain louder than others? Did I not let myself get rolled on or did I take something home I had not earned? Damn it. Was my “Perfect Delta” now completely ruined by this tainted piece?

I tuned in to the ORM Podcast the following week where Matt B. Davis interviewed Joe Di Stefano and Joe De Sena. I heard Joe Di talk and listened with an open mind. If you had not run 26.2 miles by the time the race was called, “could you feel good wearing that buckle?”. I already felt like crap about the entire debacle, but hearing that made up my mind. I had to “reset the karma” of the event. I calmly pulled the delta piece away from the others and then packed it up with the coveted belt buckle and finisher shirt I had left the venue with. I shipped it off to another athlete who did finish the race and who was preparing to head to China for his first Agoge. He crushed the course but received nothing from the staff in the kerfuffle that followed the race closure. The staff was overwhelmed and I understood that now. Their priority was our safety and getting everyone off course, in accordance with their plan, when the race was called. I was not proud of how I acted when my chip was cut. Too focused on the material achievement and not appreciating the moment I was in. I knew nothing about 26.2 mile requirements for an Ultra Beast, and was very attached to my final chance to earn that delta piece in 2016. My goal for the year was now unattainable and I had earned a DNF. Life is not always fair, but its no fun eating crow. Spartan has since worked out the details on the UB and given those who truly finished the opportunity to claim their swag.

The reality is that I had truly run “my own race” on the mountain in Tahoe that day. I was not an Ultra Beast finisher, but that was fine. I spent valuable time with the people I love that weekend. I got to meet Randy Moss, one of my favorite receivers of all time, enjoy the Spartan Race festival as a spectator for once, and then see my fiancé take 5th in her age group on her first ever Elite heat in the WC Beast. I got to run the UB with close friends and see the beautiful day turn into a winter wonderland. With two trekking poles swinging wildly, screaming knees and hip, I prayed and asked God to keep me safe and told him/her that “I see you”. I felt the snowflakes melt on my eyeballs as I ran with every fiber of my being down a snowy mountain like a madman. That was MY race and I won it. That is what this life is all about. For me, “You’ll know at the finish line” has new meaning. It is not about the medal you get there but the total experience you had during the event.

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If we can learn to detach our emotions from the material achievements that we seek (be it cars, homes, money, medals, “Perfect Deltas”, or patches), and simply enjoy being “in the moment” and experiencing the journey, we can reach a new level of growth as individuals. Our sense of internal value and accomplishment should not be based on how many achievements we have hanging from our walls or how cool that shiny pyramid looks on our desk (even though I still really, really, want that pyramid on my desk one day). I will finish my “Perfect Delta” as soon as I can, but now the timing is of no matter. There is life to live first.

I empathize with the people who are bummed with how a few things have gone down lately at Tahoe and China, as I was one of them. Joe De Sena held a call for all Agoge finishers and Krypteia this weekend to formally announce their changes to the Agoge finisher metric and he gave a chance for those who feel they earned their finish to claim their swag on that event, as well. If you plan on doing this event in the future, you had better prepare and give your all when you get there. That may still not earn you an “official” finish!

Life, love and racing are rarely perfect in totality. Let’s grow together and focus on the positives. Spartan Race will continue to change many lives moving forward and I hope we can all continue to be models of that change. I will always try my best to be, that’s for sure.

If you ran the Ultra Beast in Tahoe but got pulled due to the weather, be proud of your accomplishment. If you finished the Agoge on the Great Wall, I’m jealous, and you’ll have those memories for the rest of your life. A delta piece does not define that experience or your journey as a whole.

My Agoge experience changed my life. Danielle and I are now training for our first Ironman, and I, for the big rowing expedition (more on that to come, stay tuned).

“Aspire to inspire” and choose to evolve.

(Sorry, I stole your phrase, Don)

OCR Transformations- Mandie Hoppe

Mandie had been overweight most of her life. She had gained and lost weight on all types of fad diets throughout her life, but as an adult (and after her pregnancies) she became obese. One day in September of 2013, Mandie decided to go for a walk with her daughter and her life was changed. They only walked a mile or so, but she felt hot…sweaty…and alive! That very day she made the decision to change her ways.

Mandie with son

Her life changes happened quickly. Mandie signed up for a 3k local run that was at the end of the same September. She would get up between 4:00 and 5:00 every morning to train and run. Mandie was able to transform a room in her house into a makeshift gym and started her training at home. Her main goal for the 3k event was to not walk any of it and she was able to accomplish that goal. Although it took her 28 minutes to do a 3k, she didn’t walk and that’s all that mattered.

Mandie Before

The next week was her birthday and she wanted to celebrate with a 5k run. Mandie loved the way she was feeling and she knew she had to just keep going! She discovered an ad on Facebook for Spartan Race. It looked like something so cool and different that she knew she had to try it. That June, Mandie convinced her sister to do the Hurricane Heat and Sprint back to back.

Mandie with Children

This race was her most sentimental event to date because she did it with her sister. Each year they make sure to do that race together for their “Spartan anniversary”. Also, from this event Mandie’s training changed and she was able to add in a mixture of weights, cardio, and some OCR specific routines. Mandie continued to use her home gym and she would teach herself workouts through research on Spartan and other OCR sites.

Mandie Gym

In September 2014 (one year later), Mandie started working at a local fitness facility…Peak Fitness. Her boss, Nic Palidwar started helping her with her training. She had lost about 120 pounds by this point and went for an abdominoplasty to remove about 10 pounds worth of loose skin along her core area. In January of 2015, Mandie was able to resume her training and she has been training with her boss ever since. Her parents have also helped her along her journey by providing encouragement; love, support, wisdom, and a swift kick in the butt when needed.

Mandie Pants

The hardest and most challenging event that Mandie has participated in was the race in Owls Head in Montreal this year. Mandie and her racing buddy, Keith Oftebro, have been traveling around this season doing a bunch of races together and they raced both days. Both days they raced elite…the super the first day and the beast the second day. The super was so hard that she contemplated not even doing the beast the second day, but she knew she had to. She knew that her training would help get her to the finish line. Although it took her just over 7 hours, Mandie was able to cross the finish line and earn her double trifecta for the year.

Mandie Spartan

Mandie’s current training schedule is Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are functional weight training. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays are endurance days (teaching classes at peak, long runs, hill repeats, etc.). Sundays are used for “rest” days, but as a single mom of two…Mandie doesn’t know what “rest” means. She also uses Sundays as her meal prep days so that way she is able to stay accountable for what she eats. Mandie was heaviest at 310 pounds and she is currently about 170 pounds.

mandie-transformation

Follow Mandie on Facebook and Instagram!

OCR Transformations- Jules Smith

ORM presents the series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing.

Author’s Note: The following transformation story is being told by Jules herself. No better way to see the impact of someone’s story than through his or her own eyes. Enjoy this month’s OCR Transformation brought to you by Jules Smith!

BACKGROUND 

My name is Jules Smith and I was born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana. Shreveport is in Northeast Louisiana about three hours from Dallas (to give you a generalization). Although we have a great deal of traffic coming and going to the major cities around… this is actually quite a small city. Most everyone knows everyone, has gone to school with, or knows someone you know.

I had a more normal childhood than most. Saying this because I know that there are kids who are born in more difficult situations than I. The problem I faced most was the wanting to be accepted and understood. I tried hard to fit in growing up despite being made fun of because I was the biggest kid in class. One of my problems that spurred from this was noticing the way other people would look at me. This was very uncomfortable and unnerving.

Young Jules

Little did I know that the way people looked at me when I was younger would still haunt me later in life. As I grew up I reached a point where I stopped trying to be understood and stopped caring. By the time I reached high school, my over all care for anyone or anything was gone. I started rebelling and making youthful teenage decisions. I’m sure if you’re thinking it right now, I probably experienced it.

I struggled in high school everyday and stepped through the entire five years (yes, I did say five not four). My poor choices were not just in the foods I ate, the negligence towards my school work, but also in the company I kept. Everything stemmed from one place, this one circumstance I faced and had no control over… my body. I was angry all the time because I was not like my friends and other girls. If other girls were playing sports and on diets, they had the body results to show for it. Not me. I loved sports too, but I hated the way my body felt playing sports. It’s not the pain from sore muscles that bothered me, but the way my body felt as my weight shifted while playing them. This had to be the most disgusting feeling in the world to me. Not to mention the way my skin rubbed together in the humidity and heat down here. I was a walking dermatologist text book. So naturally I didn’t like wearing short sleeve shirts, or even gym shorts at school. I remember how as a child every time I was called fat, ugly, pathetic, loser, sloth, disgusting slob, POS… I would go straight for the things that made me into this. I ate my weight in feelings. Granted most of the time I was being called these things was because I was mean. I was mean because I was unhappy and I was unhappy because I was overweight. The only time I was at peace was when I was creating art. “I AM MY OWN VICIOUS CYCLE!”

Jules in Highschool

WORLD UPSIDE DOWN

Youthful teenage decisions we all face, yes we all face them in some sort of slightly altered manner, lead up to a moment in my life that would be one that changed me forever. Not just change in one sense, but in many more ways than I would ever expect. After my first year in college, struggling with acceptance still, I came home for the summer and with no ambition or want to proceed in anything in life. Not even a month later, I found myself with what I call a party favor. I WAS PREGNANT!

There was no father, I was not financially stable, I didn’t have a job, I didn’t even have a car. Worst part was having to break my parents heart by telling them I had failed my life again. These were the thoughts I had going through my mind when I found out. However, 9 months later with loving support from my entire family… I realized I was not alone.

Jules

My whole family… aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandfather all helped me. My mother was a saint and taught me step by step and day by day how to be a mother. A year later we were celebrating my daughter Ariella’s first birthday. What a year it had been. It had ups and downs. There were days where I would fight with my mother to be a mother. There were days where I would consistently praise my mother for being a mother. It is very difficult being a new mom, not only being a new mom but a young mom at that. My daughter was a joy, she was never problem. I knew one thing with her and that she was a blessing. I have always known this. Not because she didn’t cry for 10 months. She cried when she needed something but as soon as her needs were met, she was always satisfied. Always smiling and always happy. We even used a program much like the baby Einstein’s, “Your Baby Can Read”, and she would read the flash cards and respond to the by point to a nose or clapping her hands. She loved attending church with my parents. Her favorite part was attending the children’s church and seeing all of the other kids.

At around 10 months old, she started getting sick. I think over the next three months I took her to see about 7 or so different doctors. I even took her to her pediatrician several times. It was a couple weeks after her first birthday, I took her back to her pediatrician demanding an X-ray on her abdomen. She had a huge bulge protruding from her stomach. That day was the last time I napped with my daughter. From that doctor, we were sent to another, then another, before she was admitted into the hospital. The next day going against medical advise, I left with nothing but the clothes on my back for St. Judes in Memphis, Tennessee.

They had already accepted her before my plans of travel had even been made. I never realized that this blessing bestowed upon me would ever have a one in a million disease. A cancer so rare that there are only two cases in the United States per year and that only one would end up at St. Judes. Theres my “Million Dollar Baby”. I arrived on a Saturday and she was admitted into the ICU that Monday. Two and a half weeks later, she passed away from a second one in a million disease that forms due to more intakes than the body has outtakes. Kidneys had shut down and dialysis wasn’t working. The body had to release the toxins the only way left, through the skin. That’s my “Two Million Dollar Baby”. My blessing, dying in my arms. All the nurses would call me such a humble person. I had no idea what they meant. This was one of the first times in my life that people called me anything that wasn’t negative.

I didn’t know how far this word humble would come to play in my life. After that my will to try and get healthy for her, to find her a father, give her the family she was supposed to have..was gone. I remember, its been six years since her passing for those reading this article, people at that time would bring over trays and trays full of food. Dishes, casseroles, and SWEETS!!! My mother, was always good about telling me when I was over doing it on eating. Normally, I would stop but the day of the funeral, I came home after being around friends all night and went straight to the kitchen. I did what I always knew how to do best. I looked at all this food sitting out and started with that one brownie. When my mother saw me that night she reminded me as always, that I was over doing it, I just remember turning to her and saying, “Mom, I just lost my daughter, now please let me eat my feelings in peace.” She did and I did.

The impact of losing her on me was so much more weight than the 250lbs of fat I carried on my skeletal system. First off is the everyday routine. I mean I should say “what everyday routine?” now. I went from waking up to a baby needing to be changed and fed a bottle. To “whats the point of waking up?”. I think for the first week or two all I did was eat and cry. I didn’t even know what to say for the longest. Someone had given me a book at the funeral, “Surviving The Loss Of a Loved One.” I thought it cliche, trivial, demeaning to my situation. I read that book not longer after. That book helped me to find a routine. You see… that book was about the impact that a wife and husband had to endure after loosing their child. It was not at all what I perceived it to be. Just like those stares I got growing up, I would become more than what they all perceived me to be. This was the first time in my life I began to stop judging everyone and everything around me. Before I got half way through the book, I remember asking my mom, what is my everyday routine? In the book this family had other children, this was their everyday routine. My mom replied to me, “Wake up, shower, brush your teeth, brush hair, and get dressed.” There are days where I still wake up lost and confused even now. I wake up, shower, brush my teeth, brush my hair, and I get dressed. I got that down, then decided I might as well go back to work. It could have possibly been too soon but I needed to be doing something aside from looking at her face in pictures trying to understand why my blessing would be taken from me. Why would God, bless me then take from me. Work was all I had left.

Going back to work, stocking merchandise seemed like the only other plausible answer. After a couple of weeks, I was pulled aside and was told to make a decision, either I needed to pull myself together for the job or I needed to resign. Working that day, I thought and debated plenty in my head. The reason I had that job was for her. To get discounts on children clothes and house hold items, I would need to start my family. I don’t have a family anymore, the one person I thought would never leave me, is gone. She’s not coming back. So I resigned and decided to go back to school. After all I have the time now to focus on my studies instead of worrying about my daughter and her needs.

I have a different outlook on life now, maybe it will be a better experience going back to college. Maybe I would mentor troubled kids. That year was even harder than I thought it would be. Although it was tough being away from my family, I needed to rediscover who I was. All I discovered was more trials and more food. Now I started facing real health concerns. I was not able to eat certain foods without getting very sick. I had no idea what was going on. I went to a couple different doctors before one discovered I had gallstones the size of lemons and the only option was to remove my gallbladder. They did laparoscopically.

My mom sat with me the whole time (this was beginning of that spring semester of 2011). Not long after, her and my father began talking to me about this surgery they wanted me to have to help me with my weight. They had mentioned it numerous times before when my daughter was alive, but I lived in fear and worry then. I was afraid of something happening in surgery and leaving my child without a mother too. I didn’t realize that I was already facing these issues being obese. When they mentioned it would be preformed the same way my gallbladder was removed, I said to myself, what else do I have to lose at the point. Aside from the obvious (my daughter), I was about to lose over 100lbs and an entire person all together. I decided to have a gastric bypass. Meaning, I had made the decision to have my stomach stapled down to keep my from eating.

Jules Modeling

I still continued being angry for a long time. Even after the surgery I can remember my mom cooking for the family and being so angry at how good the food smelled, this was during the first month of my recovery when I was only allowed to have water, broth, and juice. I swear I didn’t think General Sao’s chicken could ever make me so upset from just the smell. I think I stayed in that anger phase for almost the entire next year. I was so angry that everyone around me could eat and I couldn’t. I even wrote across my mirror a new motto, “I eat to live, I do not live to eat.” This still holds fast to today. I retaught myself portion control, because at this point, it was no longer an option choice for me, but a life or death choice. I followed my recovery diet to a T and lost 125lbs. I no longer eat certain things either because it. I thought I would miss beef. I really don’t.

MOTIVATION

After a couple months into recovery I became a nanny. I needed to do something, work, anything, to get out of the house and keep my mind off of the FOOD I could no longer have. My grandfather always says a busy mind is a healthy mind. This holds truth for me in so many ways. When I transitioned into being a nanny, it had been a little over a year since the loss of my daughter. I had time to think. So much time to think. I wasn’t able to keep my mind busy during that first year. Some days were better than others. Some days all I could do was think about that everyday routine and think about what I would be doing if she was still with me. One of the things I came to have a realization on was, even if I were to have another child in my life, they would not be her. Nothing will replace her. I always had a void in my heart due to this as well. Not having a child to focus my love on was part of this void. When I became a nanny, I found that void being filled. It was replaced and she’s always in my heart but the emptiness I had inside me after her death was being filled. Like planting new seeds in an old pot. These children, even though they were all boys and not babies, put seeds of faith back into my heart. Where I would once cry, I now began to laugh. I now was laughing so hard I cried. I started hoping again.

Jules Flex

By the time, I reached my goal weight, I was new again. I lost that 100 lbs of hurt, I lost that anger, I stopped being so mean all the time. I started giving. I gave these children what I always wanted to give to my daughter. I gave them a care taker who was happy, fun, and was for once in her life excited to play games outside! I wanted to run. I wanted to do more than I had ever wanted to before. I WANTED TO LIVE! I wanted to give to those in need. I wanted to make laugh those who cried. I wanted to inspire those who’ve lost hope. Because coming from place where I had no faith and no hope, I saw come to pass the blessing I felt promised in my heart for so long. I knew there was something inside me when I was younger, but I wasn’t able to have the faith I needed to see it through. Promising myself after she passed away, that there’s a reason for this. Even if I spent everyday of my life after determined to create a reason why in that day. She Died So I Could Live.

Not long after I felt the urge to go back to school once again. Taking courses strictly for my own knowledge. I took weight training thinking it would help me gain the definition I was now seeking. I started searching everything online from workouts, programs, to even athletes. I wanted to become more. I have such a strong desire to become great now, it can be scary to those who’ve never met me. I always felt held back because of my weight that I feel now, there is nothing holding me back from anything I want to achieve. This digging lead me to Spartan Races. I wanted to be a Spartan. They were tough and over came challenges. I knew enough about the races to get me started or so I thought. Weight training was causing me to plateau. I was keep up with average standards but I wanted to be above average. I took yoga next. This will help me tighten up this loose skin and give me that muscle definition I am seeking. Lets face it although I can fit into a bikini, I still didn’t look good in one. I was also nervous about training my core without instruction. I was told to be very careful after my surgery not to pull a staple or I would internally bleed out so to speak. How am I ever going to be strong enough to climb a rope or jump a huge wall?!

Jules Crossfit 1

I had no initial formal fitness training. Before sports were a way to try to fit in and make friends. Now it’s about the will to thrive. BUT HOW?!!!! Then I found out about Joe De Sena and soon discovered his book, Spartan Up. Reading that gave me what I had been looking for. Theres no correct way to train for a Spartan Race. But the next best thing that could help would be Crossfit. It wasn’t long after finishing my yoga course, did I find that we have close to seven Crossfit gyms in the area. Now which one and how do I choose. I choose one that a friend of mine was going to at the time. I went in to check it out and a couple months later, I became a member of Crossfit SBC. This has been the best decision I have made for my life since deciding to have the gastric bypass. When I started my journey, I wanted to be thin. When I became thin, I wanted to be defined and strong. My goal when I started, was to loose the weight and after a year, the weight was gone and I had a new goal. I wanted to be strong and I wanted to be a Spartan.

I started at 250 lbs and got down to 125 lbs. I started as a person miserable with herself. Now I am 155 lbs with muscles I never knew I had. I heard through out the last five years about how strong I am. Today though, I feel strong. I know I am physically stronger than I was when I started out. July 7th this year I will have been doing Crossfit for two years. I have now an entire Crossfit Family. They’re not just friends you work out with. These people, who I worked very hard day in and out for months to prove that I wanted to be in that gym, have become my family. They do not just encourage me in the gym but also in life. Crossfit while is very intimidating to people looking in, has taught me to be proud of the shell I live in. My gym has taught me to love my body for what it is. Crossfit taught me that while things may seem to be this way on this day, with hard work and consistency, it wont be the next day.

I say things in generalization, because I take what I learn in the gym and apply it to my everyday life. We all face events and unexpected occurrences in our life, yes everyone’s is different from each other’s, but the one thing that holds constant is our reaction towards these circumstances. When in the gym if you can’t get that last rep, you don’t cry about it and give up. Like life, when misfortunate events happen, you don’t cry and give up. You dust yourself off, pick that bar back up and you try again and try harder. My goal while it started as just to become thin, has changed so much. I wanted to be a Spartan so I started training like one. I always dreamed I would become a model and show those who doubted me what I was worth. I have been modeling since last fall. With that has come opportunity after opportunity. Even now, I still look and search for that motivation and inspiration.

Jules Powerlift

I never stop seeking guidance and wisdom from mentors. Some of the things I like to do are listening to Podcasts, reading books, finding mentors, and above all asking questions. Podcasts have got to be the best. I like to listen before bed or in the car. Actually I started with Joe Rogan Experience, then found OCRMedia, and after reading Lewis Howes, The school Of Greatness, found him on podcasts. I also read a great deal of Joel Osteen, he’s a feel good preacher and he makes me feel good. He also part of that mindset I keep so that when I feel stressed or anxious, I can turn those negative feelings into positive ones. His books aren’t the only way to gain this type of mindset either. I have been expanding my spirituality as well. This journey while is about fitness, is also one about faith and hope.

SUCCESS

I owe all my success to God and my parents. Without their constant support and guidance I would not have become the person I am today. They have always pushed me to do the right things. Make the right choices. Be the bigger person. All these morals and values they bestowed upon at a young age were what shaped me into a God fearing young woman. A woman who is grateful and not selfish. A woman who is loving and caring. A woman who is patient and kind. I find these qualities make me richer than any dollar ever could. I also want to say thank you to my mentor Andy Shaw. Starting as my fencing coach at 15 years old, has never given up on me and always been there for me as a coach, friend, but most of all a mentor. He saw the real me when I could not. I’d like to thank my teacher Darrell Chitty for believing in me as a student first but for also unleashing the model within me, that I always wanted to be. Last but of course not least, I just want to say thank you to my coaches, Angelina Moreno and Tyler Bray, you guys have stuck by me from the beginning of my Crossfit journey until now and I know I would not be where I am right now writing this article without you both. Y’all helped me to build that strength I wanted from the first day starting out with that 15 lb training bar. Having people like you all in my life aid me into becoming a stronger, faster, more inspiring athlete and model. I am so grateful to not just know you all but have you batting on my team.

CURRENT TRAINING PLAN

As far as an obstacle race, I have yet to sign up for my first one! I am so ready to be a Spartan, that I am willing to do it alone. I started to sign up last summer but couldn’t get my registration to go through on the website. I have been trying to get my gym to start a team but I haven’t gotten the feedback I am looking for. I know I will be doing plenty of penalty burpees and walking some of the race but to be called a Spartan is worth every burped.

On a usual basis I train at my Crossfit gym every Monday, Wednesday,and Friday 5:15am-7:00/7:30am. Tuesdays and Thursdays I was going at 7:00pm-8:30pm but now I’ll try to get in there during lunch from 11:00am-1:00pm. With my new job, trying to find a happy schedule is key for me. If I can’t make it to my Crossfit gym, I’ll go to a regular gym or try to run over to the high school stadium and do stairs. I have quite a few different things I like to do when I cannot make it to Crossfit. My previous weight at my biggest I think I was close to 270 lbs. They made me lose around 30 lbs before surgery and pre surgery I weighed in at 248 lbs. Now Im a solid 155 lbs. It will fluctuate between 145-160 lbs.

Where this started as a story about a fitness journey, and with careful thought upon many rewrites, I wanted to convey a certain point throughout my story. The message I wanted my readers to gain from this is one of hope and faith. Hope in something and have faith that it will come to pass. While we cannot control the circumstances we are faced with, one thing holds constant, that is our reaction towards these circumstances.

Jules Transformation 3

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