Rise of the Sufferfests – What I Loved & What I Didn’t

Let me start off by saying if you love OCR then you need to see this movie.

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It’s a ‘must see’ for those of us who would describe ourselves as being part of a ‘community’ rather than ‘oh yeah, I did a Warrior Dash once’…

If you google ‘running documentaries’ you will have a myriad of selections to choose from. There are several documentaries that are purely about specific races, there are even trail running film festivals, but there are no documentaries on OCR…until now.sufferfests-viewing-party

If for nothing else, you need to see this movie because it’s the first. And I don’t mean download it or wait for it on Netflix. You need to attend one of the showings, pay the $7 and shake Scott Keneally’s hand for being a pioneer in this community or have a viewing party with your local OCR group. Just like everyone reminisces about the first Spartan or Tough Mudder and how different things were, going to a Rise of the Sufferfests party/showing will be something you will realize later on (if not immediately) that it’s a significant milestone for OCR. And I’m confident this will be the beginning of many more things to come from Scott Keneally.

What I Loved

If you’ve done OCR to any extent then you know what it means to suffer brutal calf pain, wasted grip strength and throbbing forearms as well as hypothermia and electric shock. Scott does an A+ job at catching some of these moments. In fact, I’ve never seen better examples of hypothermic shock than what you see in Rise of the Sufferfests. You feel it. You remember it, because it happened to you before too.sufferfests-cold-guy-at-tough-guy

Another great thing Rise of the Sufferfests explores is the psychology of why we choose to do such crazy things. The movie features interviews with a variety of sociologists and other authors that give insight into the rising popularity of our cult of insanity…except as Rise of the Sufferfests points out: OCR isn’t a cult…because cults are small…and OCR is not small.

The coverage of the history of the Tough Guy challenge founded by Mr. Mouse is not only interesting, but downright necessary if you’re going to understand the origins of OCR and Mr. Mouse himself, along with his marketing techniques is every bit as noteworthy and interesting as his event. It’s truly where it all began and the Tough Guy challenge is the Torah of OCR.

The profile of Hunter Mcintyre is absolute gold. Not because of his accomplishments, but because the film shows in a brief segment how he has evolved as a person through OCR. Starting out as only a competitor and then taking on the role of a personal trainer has had a great impact on him, and that’s what we love about OCR: how it changes you.

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It made me angry. The film also explores outsiders opinions on why we choose to endure such crazy suffering in our spare time. Some of the theories are silly and some of them such as the ‘white privilege’ argument just made me angry. I have this on the list of things I love about the movie because Scott, being a good journalist, didn’t only choose to include data and experts that would flatter his personal opinions but also included insights that offer a counterpoint. That’s what a good documentary does, it challenges your personal beliefs.

What I wished was different

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, stop reading.

Seriously.

Just stop reading now. I want you see Scott’s vision unfold without any prejudice and it’s worth your time and money to go see it.

Okay..

Only us who’ve seen it are reading still right?

As a videographer and editor I always watch movies and documentaries and have opinions about how I would’ve did it differently. If I was doing a documentary on OCR I certainly would’ve told a different story, but that’s not the type of thing I’m interested in critiquing here. Rather, there’s a few different things that I would’ve done as an editor/videographer to help Scott capture the story HE was trying to tell a little bit better.

Perhaps the biggest thing was the flow of the film felt a bit ‘off’. At first it seemed like it was a documentary about Tough Guy and it’s influence and impact on what we now know as OCR, but then it shifted gears and it felt like it was more about the sociological reasons that drive OCR, then it felt like it was a documentary about Scott and how he evolved as a person through OCR, then it seemed to become a documentary about making a documentary, then it was about a man wanting to be a better role model for his newborn son. As one friend told me “I wasn’t sure what the goal of the movie was”. All of these things certainly had a place in the film, but none of them were held together very well by a single idea and I kept having to adjust my expectations on what the main point was exactly.

Too much narration. Yes, it needed narration, but there was simply too much of Scott explaining how he felt and what he was experiencing rather than showing it, to the point it felt more like an audio book than a film at moments. Scott is a brilliant writer and one of my favorite OCR articles of all time was written by him about his experience of DNFing a Spartan Sprint, but somehow it didn’t translate as well in the movie. In the future I would like to see Scott get better at verbalizing what’s going on in his mind at the moment he’s experiencing it and capturing it on film. I think that as a writer he probably was thinking “I can put all of this into words so much better if I can just have a moment to reflect”, but doing so is much less powerful in film. Just the visual of a few painful burpees, a disjointed sentence filled with expletives and a hangdog expression with the caption “DNF” would’ve said so much more than a clean voiceover after the fact would. And it wasn’t just this one scene, almost the entire film misses these opportunities.sufferfests-matt-and-scott-qa

Missing key figures/events/places. Yes, we all have our favorite OCR athletes, and having Hunter and Amelia were certainly excellent, if not necessary choices, but it seemed like a few people were missing. What about Hobie Call? He was synonymous with Spartan Race in the early years, Hunter has even referred to him in the past as “the Master”, yet I can’t remember whether he was even mentioned in the entire film. What about Norm Koch? Chris Accord? Certain race directors have become almost like celebrities in this community, but no mention. No mention of Shale Hill or the myriad of other obstacle focused gyms on the rise. Sure, Hunter’s gym is mentioned, but his is kinda small potatoes compared to Shale Hill. No Pak? No Atkins? Noah Galloway? No Albon? And while all of the sociological authors and experts were important to the movie, it seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time on them, especially when you consider the list of people important to defining the OCR community who were left out. Don’t get me wrong, I love A.J. Jacobs and have read a couple of his books, but there was a lot of A.J. Jacobs in this movie.sufferfests-norm-chris-garfield

In the end I want Scott be as powerful as a filmmaker as he is a writer. I think the story Scott was trying to tell was about his experience with OCR and how it evolved him as a person, the intellectual data he gathered along the way and how he used it as a tool to be a better man for his son, I just don’t think he glued all of those elements together as good as he could have to his personal story. I wish he would’ve kept a video journal of his progression. I wish somebody was aggressively pointing a camera in his face throughout some of the more notable races (not just at the end of the race)and he was forcing himself to talk about what he’s thinking and feeling, or at least capturing some of the nervousness in his face as he faced newer challenges and the laughter and joy in his expressions as he reached his goals towards the end. A couple people have anonymously told me they felt the movie was too much about Scott, but I strongly disagree; it just didn’t give us enough reason to root for him and care about how well he did at the end of the movie because we didn’t clearly understand from the beginning what his goals were and didn’t see enough of the ‘visual evidence’ to feel connected to his joys, struggles, hard work and disappointments along the way.sufferfests-scott-and-laura-messner

While it fell short of a few of my expectations, it was still a good movie and I was glad I invested my time to watch it. It was an amazing feat for someone who just did his first film and I hope to see more from him in the future.

Order this movie on Amazon here.

Order on iTunes here.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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

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Not that one dummy! This one!

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“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.”

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“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.

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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

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