2017 Spartan Palmerton Super – Adversity Rehab

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

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

Conquering Challenges

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

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

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

Background

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

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

Adversity Rehab

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

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

The Plan

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

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

Assisting Adaptive Athletes

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

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

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

Results

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

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

#likecureslike
#adversityovercomesadversity
#mountainsarespeedbumps
#lastburn
#13milestogo

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

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

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

Spartan Race – Palmerton Super/Sprint Weekend 2017

Spartan Race U.S. Championships Series – Blue Mountain Challenge

Ask any Spartan Racer what the most grueling event they’ve done in their racing tenure, and Palmerton is sure to be high on that list. After Killington and Tahoe, I’ve heard plenty of stories of racers dropping out during the dreaded double-sandbag carry Palmerton is famous for or succumbing to the heat on what has proven to be a very formidable mountain.

Palmerton, PA also just happens to be the 3rd stop in the Spartan Race US Championship Series – dubbed The Blue Mountain Challenge, which meant the stakes were higher than ever. If you came to watch the best athletes in this sport, you weren’t disappointed. Atkins, Call, Boone, Webster, Kolbl, Killian were all on site. Spartan Race continues to drive amazing live footage, along with an onslaught of social media presence around these big name races – something the OCR enthusiast in me truly can’t get enough of.

For myself, and thousands of other racers, this was simply a chance to experience a championship caliber course on a mountain that has proven it’s worthy of mention in conversations about the toughest Spartan Race venue.

Spartan Up Your Friday Night

Select Spartan courses have also been offering an Open House the Friday before an event weekend. Spartan also offered racers an option to “Spartan Up” their Friday night, which gave the public the perfect opportunity to come enjoy the festival, learn obstacle and training secrets of top coaches, and maybe even meet a few Spartan Pro’s. New obstacles like Twister and Olympus were available to try out, which helps runners get a valuable chance at trying an obstacle before they see it on race day. We also saw a “prototype” rope wall obstacle Spartan was trying out that didn’t make its way into the race itself but gave us a possible look at what may be coming next.

Ape Hanger was another obstacle that has only been seen in one other location – Lake Tahoe, for the 2016 Spartan Race World Championships. Combine the old school rope climb from the water, with a monkey bars / slash rig type feeling, and you’ve got the Ape Hanger. Here is hoping Ape Hanger finds its way to more events because it was an absolute blast.

Spartan continued the assault on racers bodies by building two of the most grueling carries seen so far this year. A double sandbag carry (mandatory to Elite & Competitive racers) down an aptly named ski trail dubbed “Nightmare” and a Bucket Carry that was so long, it extended into the festival area, where onlookers could cheer on runners, and share in the pain that is the Bucket Carry.

All in total, Palmerton saw 25+ obstacles over 6000+ feet of elevation change across the Super course and didn’t skimp at all on the Sprint course the following day. After completing both events on consecutive days, I’m starting to understand the groans I have heard from fellow racers any time the word “Palmerton” is mentioned. When you combine the presence of the obstacle course racing elite, NBC and Spartan Facebook Live coverage, with a course like this, it’s a recipe for success. I’ll be adding Blue Mountain to my list of must-do events going forward.

Photo Credit: Josh Chace

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