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Race Report: Spartan Race @ Fenway Park

spartan-fenway-mapFirst, let me apologize for taking so much time off. I have no excuse other than the fact life got busy with a few shifts over on Nantucket and, more importantly, our travesty of an election. I will go further into that very soon, it deserves its own post. As a preface, the next four years are going to be a great opportunity to practice kindness, patience and extreme levels of compassion; our nation will need it!

It’s been three years since I last ran the Spartan Race at Fenway Park and almost two years since I last ran an obstacle race, to say I was feeling a bit out of shape is an understatement. Running around the park was not something I was worried about; running I can do. I maybe haven’t run as much as I’d have wanted to leading up to this race, but my legs are/were solid enough for a few short miles.

After making the hike from Cape Cod via the highway, parking in Braintree and taking the T into Boston, I arrived. I grabbed my registration info, and at this point, Spartan Race has been doing this enough that the process was flawless. I had my bag searched, and nothing questioned luckily as I had all my vegan snack and fueling goodies with me. Although Spartan is not a big stickler on people bringing foods in, it’s mainly the Red Sox front office. I got my personal bag checked, another fluid process, pounded the last bit of my Vega Clean Energy and it was off to the start line.

After what seemed like forever, probably because of the cold, we lines up and were off. There was quite a bit of running before the first obstacle which was hands up push-ups in the visiting teams locker room. When I did this race three years ago they were just straight push-ups, in the same locker room, but last time you came out of the dugout and onto the field. We were then sent into the bowels of Fenway and ran quite a bit more until we hit some walls and the rest is kind of a blur to be honest. There was the Spartan staples such as 6′, and 7′ walls. There was the wall crawl which is not just a straight wall anymore, now you have to climb around corners and stuff, so that was fun.

nate_vcg_fenwayThere was the Hercules hoist, which usually gets the better of me seeing as I’m 145-150lbs soaking wet, and I end up doing burpees for failing; not today! There were the jagged monkey bars that I usually nail and did again. We came to the are out back of the park where the spear throw was set up. Can I tell you how much I hate how they do it now with the attached rope?! I understand it makes it easier to pull back for the next racer but it sucks and I’ve missed this twice now because of the ropes. When they didn’t use the ropes I nailed that f*cking obstacle every time; not today and that meant 30 burpees.

We ran some more and then hit that 50lb pancake bag carry, that was a killer on the old legs. Not that climbing up and down stairs for what seemed like hours helped any but what the heck right? There was a jerry can carry, men got the pleasure of carrying two down the concourse and then, of course, up some more stairs for good measure. After this we came down a bit of the concourse and I bombed down it trying to make up time from bottlenecks and stuff. Again, this is not an exact course breakdown as I don’t remember the exact one that came after this one and etc. We had some 25lb medicine ball slams to do. Had to jump-rope with a band around our ankles using battle rope to jump.

vcg_fenwayWhen we got down to the field again, finally, the are only 3-4 obstacles left. It started with the huge A-frame climb, some box jumps and then the rope climb. Normally I train my ass off for this. I have a rope hanging in my back yard that I actually purchased from a Spartan employee out of their trunk at the VT Beast a couple years ago, so I train on it specifically when a Spartan is coming up. I have not been training on it and it’s been at least 8 months since the last time I tried. Needless to say, my muscles remember and off to the bell at that top I went and I hit it.
After that it was off to the Gladiator Gauntlet and the finish line. I finished in 53:03 and am proud of that. Could I have done better, sure I could have. This race was a fun one for me and I was enjoying the views of the historic park as we weaved in and out of it. I love running this race and will happily do it again next year.

I had the opportunity to see some old teammates from the New England Spahtens. I saw Jess, Sandy, Jeff, Vince, Michael, Daniel, Marc and Jason. Plus a bunch more. It was a quick visit but a fun on never the less. Thank you to Muddy Mommy for the entry, I won a contest on her blog. I’m very grateful, thank you!

Back 2 Back!

back to back

This weekend I am going to try running my first two race, back to back, weekend.

On Saturday, here on Cape Cod, is the first OCR to be held here. That OCR is Renegade Playground. My wife and I did it last year in New Hampshire and it was fun, though they have struggled with consistency and have a waning number of followers. Regardless, it’ll be great “warm-up”…

A “warm-up” for the Spartan Race I will be running in Amesbury the next day, Sunday morning. My hope is to be up in Amesbury before anyone in my house is even awake, run the race and get home by lunch!!

I know the task is not hard, but I am going to run both of them as hard as possible. My endurance is getting better, but it needs more beating into submission. I have been running more and have added tons of burpees every day, hoping to be up to a few hundred a day by the big Winter Death Race. Slowly but surely I’m getting there, here’s hoping 5 months from today I am truly ready!!

Review: Spartan Up

spartanuporiginally posted on nespahtens.com

I was lucky to receive an advance reader copy of the book from Houghton Mifflin. And while I am breaking a golden rule of advance reading reviews, I’ve seen a ton of them posted already so I figured what can another one hurt? If anything, it could help drum up some interest in our community, not that a ton of you haven’t already pre-ordered it right? And if you haven’t, click the cover right over there —>

We all know and love Joe DeSena, well some of us do at least, all those damned burpees he’s doled out has a few too many people hatin’ on him. That said, we know him as one of the founders of one of the most successful OCR companies, Spartan Race! You can search the history, but nuts and bolts of it is, Spartan had their first Spartan Race event in 2010. Since then they have exploded and are currently one of the largest international OCR racing companies. They push the limits and are driving the industry.

“Spartan Up” lays out the groundwork not only for Spartan Race from the past, present and future, but gets us into the head of what makes Joe DeSena the man he is. From humble beginnings, to desk jobs and then finally getting fed up with it all. Joe tells stories of how he broke and realized there was more to life than the rat race. I had no idea the extent of what Joe has accomplished in his short time on the planet. From running Badwater to doing other ultra-marathons and endurance hikes, he’s done it all.

desena1His wit and wisdom (did I just call Joe witty?) is expounded by the page and parallels are drawn from every possible angle. His advice is not medical advice, and should not be taken as such, but is practical and could save your life. You’ve heard it before, simple things like changing your diet, making time for movement of any sort. Joe basically talks about our roots as animalistic beings. We used to have to scavenge for our food, now it’s in a machine tucked neatly inside of cellophane and a box. We used to scavenge for our foods, which were fresh and free of preservatives. We have become so lazy that the most effort we put into our food, for the most part, is to tear open the package and shove it into our mouths.

He also talk about dealing with pain and prioritizing that pain. For instance, and I am not typing this verbatim, he mentions marathon running. Instead of focusing on the pain the whole lump sum of 26.2 miles may bring, prioritize it to each telephone pole. Deal with it bit by bit, it’s easier to cope with and is less daunting. It won’t control your mindset the whole run and maybe, just maybe you might enjoy it.

I have a new respect for this guy, nothing was handed to him on a silver platter, he made himself into the man he is today. One word you will read throughout the book, and that describes Joe the best, is grit. He has it, it’s been a driving force for him. Without it, he would be nothing. Spartan Up can very well provide you with a path toward building that grit of your own.

One thing I respect the hell out of Joe for is the fact he is what he is. There is no sugar-coating, there is no filter at all on this man. He will tell you like it is whether you want to hear it or not. Call it tough love, because I honestly believe he wants to see you become the best YOU that you can be!!

Highly recommend you read this!

Order the book by clicking the cover up above or CLICK HERE!!

OCR’s First Network Television Exposure

Last weekend Obstacle Racing history was made!

This past September, NBC Sports descended upon Mt. Killington, as did thousands of racers, for the Spartan Race World Championship. The intent was to record the race and broadcast it in November. For whatever reason, the decision was made to put it off until December. The tension heightened briefly when news of the delay broke, as those that were looking forward to seeing it were getting more and more anxious. Could it have been NBC wanted to edit it down some more? Or, was this another one of Spartan’s cruel jokes, we all know Joe and Andy love to build us up to bring us back down again… alas, the day was upon us!

Nationwide, Spartans besieged training facilities, bars and living rooms to view the spectacle. Here in Massachusetts there were at least two events I knew of. One was held at Fanueil Hall in Boston and was hosted by the Spartan Race founders themselves. The other, in which I attended with a slew of other Spahtens, was held in Warwick, RI at Unleashed. The plan was to train for a bit at their immense OCR facility then head over to a local bar that was airing the event.

rsz_spartanchamp2We trained for an hour and a half, changed, then the convoy began to Millers Crossing. We arrived and steadily the bar filled up. Their were a couple of locals at the bar in for an early Saturday drink or two, and they shook their heads wondering what we were all there for. 4pm hit and on cue the show began to much jubilation. Voices were hushed and we settled in.

How was it? Well, to be honest, I think it could have run a lot longer. An hour didn’t seem like enough time to truly capture the whole experience. If you have run one, then you know what I mean. That said, I understand why the decisions were made to present it to the public like it was. Ideally, Spartan is looking to be at the forefront of making OCR a legitimate sport. What we got was a bunch of footage of the elite racers. There were some brief bio’s given of each, but again, they only had an hours time so it was not as in-depth as some might hope.

There were a couple of stories scattered of some inspirational figures such as Chris Davis, Danny Rodriguez and Winter Vinecki of Team Winter. A Spartan Racer from Texas, Isaiah Vidal, was challenged and funded by Joe Desana (co-founder of Spartan Race) to ride his bike from Texas to Vermont. Briefly, a brain cancer survivor was highlighted, and pumped up those of us that watched with his miraculous turn around story.

spartanchamp3Other than that, it was coverage of the race. Not much mention of individual obstacles, or at least not more than a couple. They did touch on some of the staples such as the spear toss, herculean hoist and the sandbag carry but this is where I think some attention could have been concentrated. Showing it done by the elites may have made some of those couch sitters cringe. Watching Matt, Cody and the other’s conquer the obstacles seemed like something only someone who was totally in shape could do, thus, making said couch sitter continue to sit on the couch. There was no ripping of people off the couch this time around.

I am certain this was only a smidgeon of what Spartan had hoped to present, and I am confident this is not the only time we will see Spartan featured on a sports network or television for that matter. With such a large partner as Reebok, be assured that their hands were in this too as far as editing and stuff went. This showing was as much a “show me party” to the world for Spartan Race as it was Reebok to parlay their new line of sneakers. I would love to see the next installment brought down to earth for the lay folk, because they are what are driving the popularity of the sport and obstacle races in general.

noahmtvNot to be lost in Spartan and Reebok’s big weekend, unbeknownst to most of us, MTV was airing an episode in their True Life ( series in which three people were training for a Tough Mudder. Of the three story lines, the one that interested me most was Noah Galloway’s. In case you didn’t know, Noah was a soldier and one day the vehicle he was in was hit by a roadside bomb. He lost his left arm and leg. After feeling sorry for himself and drowning himself in alcohol and other harmful habits, he awoke and realized it was time to move beyond that. Since then he has completed 7 Tough Mudder’s, a number of Spartan Race’s and more. His story is amazing and he has become a major influence people’s lives. I know my boys see him and are blown away by his drive and tenacity.

The second story line was about a set of male twin brother’s. They are both super competitive and always provoking the other into challenges to see who is better. They commit to get in on a Tough Mudder to decide once and for all who is best. After a talking to by their mom though, the boys realize they must work together, not against each other, in order to complete to course.

Lastly, the third “character” is a younger woman who wants to do this to prove to other she is more than just a princess. I will keep my forked tongue between my teeth here, but will just say that after all the whining she does get through and completes the Tough Mudder, so good for her.

noahmtv2While some may say Tough Mudder got the larger exposure being on MTV and all, that is debatable. Both OCR Series have their niche, and like previously mentioned, Spartan Race is truly trying to push beyond just being a mud run series and take this sport to a professional level. Tough Mudder, while difficult in its own right, is not looking for much more than they already have. I’m sure a few more ticket sales wouldn’t be bad, considering some of the bad press they have received from some recent accidents (including a death). MTV was the right market for them and I will argue that all day, it’s the crowd they are looking for. I think Spartan could have tried a sports network that more people had as part of the cable subscriptions as NBC Sports is part of a higher paying package. With their vision to take this to the next level and expose OCR as a truly competitive sport, a sports network was just right to find their audience.

All in all though, both shows were effective in getting out the message that obstacle races and fun runs are here to stay and will continue to grow. Whether you are looking for some fun in the mud with some friends, or are looking to make some cash running with the elites, there is always a race for those that are interested in trying one out.

Fenway Spartan Sprint 2013

fenwatfamilySpartan Race shared their OCR mania with Boston this weekend, AND, for a second year in a row, it was at Fenway Park! Not sure if you folks remember a couple of weeks ago The Boston Red Sox won the World Series Championship there, for the first time in 95 years. Yeah, so this race was special for those of us that are lifelong Sox fans.

I was supposed to run the first Fenway race last year but was unable to as my family had moved to Nashville for a little while. We moved to Worcester and there was no way in hell I was letting this pass by. My wife was psyched, my two boys were over the moon and I was friggin’ spastic to get this opportunity.

Running through the park was surreal. How often does this opportunity come around? Ok, yes, once a year now, but seriously… This was a moment in time that I will never forget. Running over the Green Monster, running on the warning track along the Green Monster and smacking my hand against it to hear that distinct sound…. Chills people, there were chills!!

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Just get out there!!! “My New Years Resolution is…”

As the New Year sets in, the usual suspects have made their resolutions. You probably have a few of your own, I’ve got a couple too. The difference is, a lot of people make the same one’s every year. Their intention is there, or else they would not have said anything. But, like I said, for most people it’s the same old thing and they just make a resolution for face value with their family or friends.

One of the biggest resolutions you hear is, “I am going to join a gym, I need to get into shape.” You and I know that most people never go through with it. We also know, well a good part of us do, that you don’t need a gym to get into shape, you just need some ambition. Defined by Merriam Webster, ambition is “the desire to achieve a particular end.”

I always thought the gym was the solution, but I am broke and can’t afford all the ritz that the gym offers. Sure I could join the chain store gym down the street for $10 bucks a month, but I have issues with commitment so that might not work out. What I never realized, and those making this resolution over and over need to realize, is that they are their own gym.

There are a variety of exercises one could do using the weight of their own body. Try a push up or two. Push ups are fantastic for your body, especially for the triceps, pectorals and deltoids. Sit ups are also great, your hip flexors and abs will thank you. You could grab a branch out in the backyard and start doing some pull ups. Pull ups, depending on what kind you are doing, work your lats and back, secondarily they also work out your biceps and shoulders. Go for a walk or a run next, just to start out if you are only now breaking the restraints from the couch. If you are brave enough, and don’t mind a little soreness in the morning, start doing lunges around your yard.

Now tell me, what muscle did we not just “work out”? Even if we didn’t hit every single muscle group, it’s a great start!

You don’t need to get a set of 50lb dumbbells and start pumping iron, you don’t need a stair master or a treadmill. Go take a walk around the yard, maybe in the woods, you’ll find plenty of weight out there. Whether it’s a 20lb rock, a 20lb log or a sack filled with 20lbs of sand, they all have one thing in common— they are all 20lbs.

The underlying factor this New Year is, to get yourself up, off the couch and to get to work on that goal. As the famous ballplayer, Ted Williams, said “A man has to have goals – for a day, for a lifetime – and that was mine, to have people say, ‘There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived.”

How do you want to be remembered? Do you want people to remember you as just another guy/ gal making the same resolutions every year, or do you want to inspire and be that person that people say “wow, they did it!”

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Nate DeMontigny is the editor and author on the blog Precious Metal. He was ripped off the couch this past summer after being told his cholesterol was too high, he was out of shape, etc. He was also inspired by the Spartan Race and the athletes that are involved with the organization.