Spartan Agoge China 2016 – What the heck was that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Joe DeSena talks about his childhood, hard numbers, and Olympic ambitions

Joe Desena, Spartan CEO
On Wednesday Joe DeSena gave a talk to retailers at The Running Event (TRE), a conference and trade show for Running Specialty Retailers. This is the 10th TRE, and the first time they created an “experiential zone” that featured Spartan and other OCR centric brands.  Obstacle News  was able to broadcast Joe’s thirty-minute talk via Periscope. It can be seen in its entirety here.

The title of the presentation was “Adversity,” with DeSena giving an overview of the ethos and history of Spartan Race and obstacle course racing. When describing the history of Spartan Race, he went back to his childhood and gave credit to his mother for a major lifestyle change in their family. “I had monks in our living room…it went from literally “sausage and peppers” to “branch sandwiches”. He told the story of how, as a young teenager, he and his sister woke up to find his mother had thrown away everything they owned. His mother wanted to teach them they shouldn’t be attached to material things. “I said – Mom, that’s great, but YOUR material things. You don’t do that with OUR material things”. With that upbringing in mind, DeSena described Spartan Race as a “40-year-old start-up”.

DeSena continued his talk with thoughts on the philosophy behind Spartan Race. One of their goals is to change peoples’ “reference points” for their level of comfort with adversity. After talking about his morning routine of hundreds of burpees and a cold shower, DeSena shifted his talk to the hard numbers of the obstacle race business.

Spartan Race projects four million people will participate in an obstacle course race in 2016. DeSena says that dwarfs the number of people running marathons, half marathons, and triathlons. Of the four million people doing an obstacle course race, one million of them will race with Spartan. The average Spartan racer will do two races per year. Of the one million projected Spartan racers this year, 200,000 will do nine races or more.

DeSena referred to his recent move to Singapore when he talked about the global reach of Spartan Race. He believes Asia will “be much bigger than anything else we have going on anywhere else in the world”. This year Spartan will hold 170 events in more than 20 countries worldwide.

DeSena showed a slide entitled “Who is racing Spartan?” Spartan racers are 63% male and 37% female with a median age of 33. 88% of Spartan racers have college degrees and they earn about $85,000 per year.

When Spartan was first beginning to advertise in 2010, DeSena said he had a “moment of insanity” and was spending about $300,000 a month on digital marketing. In what could have been a warning to potential competitors looking at the Obstacle Course Racing business, DeSena said if he were to attempt to reach that same amount of people today it would cost about eight times that $300,000 monthly expense. “It would be hard for us to recreate that today”.

DeSena briefly talked about race fees. He said pricing in the industry is completely wrong. He said an Ironman triathlon has an entry fee of $725. The average Spartan entry fee is $88. “To put on our event is probably five times as expensive as it is to put on an Ironman.”

Spartan has a considerable reach in social media and traditional media with about five million fans on Facebook, 210,000 followers on Instagram and 140,000 followers on Twitter. In addition, they also have a TV show on the NBCSports network. DeSena gave the surprising statistic that NBC gave them 200 hours of television airtime last year. 200 hours is a remarkable number given that NBC only covered six races in 2015. Another upcoming TV show is the recently announced “Spartan Race” competition show with eight episodes scheduled to air immediately after American Ninja Warrior in 2016.

In a closing question and answer session DeSena said he is focused on getting Obstacle Course Racing into the Olympics. “All day, every day, that’s something we’re working on, (for) 2024”. He described some of the requirements and hurdles to overcome to qualify a sport for the Olympics and explained why this goal is so important. “If we can get this in the Olympics…then it’s not a fad.”

A Spartan’s Guide to Going Home for the Holidays

Aroo! I’ve got my Spartan-themed [insert whatever holiday floats your boat this time of year here] decorations up and I am psyched for an EPIC holiday season! (To be honest, I put them up the day after Halloween because that was my last #RestDay).

However, as we Spartans migrate home this season to celebrate with family and friends keep in mind that there are some “Don’ts” a thoughtful Spartan should avoid after he or she has sucked down a couple of Michelob Ultra-lights and is feeling cozy in the den.

DO NOT give your family a play-by-play account or (god forbid) force them to watch nauseatingly shaky GoPro footage of all your races, or any of your races, or even of any single obstacle! They don’t care and they don’t understand. You’ll end up feeling hurt and misunderstood.

misfit toys

DO NOT bore them to death with “Your 2016 Trifecta Plan” and the logistics of how it will involve volunteering in six different time zones and skipping the rent for a month so you can earn three identical medals with slightly different color schemes!

blackboard-process-s250x227

DO NOT overdo it on the race pictures! Yes, Aunt Emma will have her three albums of cat pics and cousin Bob is gonna show you those amazing snaps from his latest fishing expedition, but that doesn’t mean you should try and trump them with multiple different angles of you jumping over a Duraflame. Trust me, they already hit the “Like” button in passing as they hurriedly scrolled past them in your newsfeed.

firejump

Your mother spent 15 hours last night before you arrived meticulously decorating the family tree, following a particular pattern passed down from generation to generation. She does not want your help.

spartan race tree

I don’t care how many posts you’ve seen on SNE, burpees in the mall are never appropriate during holiday shopping.

mall

I get it. Uncle Bobby could stand to “lose a few,” but it’s the holidays so if he wants have another slice of double-blueberry cheesecake with a super-sized scoop of ice cream let him do with without your input on number of burpees that it would take to burn it off. In fact, avoid these terms completely: Macros, Carbs, Glutens and most especially: PALEO!

i dont even see food

This is never an acceptable Christmas gift:

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Instead, here are a list of some topics to bring up that will ensure your holidays with the family will be more interesting and fun for everybody than your endless humble-bragging:

  • The upcoming Presidential Election.
  • Your “Life Plan” to open a Crossfit box with a loan from Grandpa.
  • The situation in the Middle East.
  • What an asshole your ex is.

Happy Holidays! Aroo!