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Out of Dagobah

Somebody crashed a damn X-Wing into my swamp and spoiled my slumber. Now I have to go fire up an ancient Macbook and take to the keys. 40 years old you become, cranky too, you will be.

“Fear is the path of the Darkside. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Master Yoda

The worst fear is the fear we don’t even realize we have, and that is the fear that leads to anger. Its not the fear from with out that breeds hate. Its the fear from within. The things we fear about ourselves that we fear will be let out into the light. Jung’s “shadow”. When we see it reflected inn others, that which we fear in ourselves, we lash out. When you take to the internet and condemn others, your own fears about yourself spill out.

“Just because you are a character, doesn’t mean you have character.” The Wolf

Everyone is the the lead character of their own story. Most people believe they are the Hero. But if you are the villain of someone else’s story. you are probably the Villain of your own as well. It’s been said time and again that most people are their own worst enemy and I think that’s accurate. If your choice of options is to belittle, degrade or dehumanize another person for some trumped up reason in your own mind, you’re a bad person. It’s really that simple. Instead of being someone who others look up too, you simply attract sycophants who agree with you out of fear. Which leads to anger, and hate, and then suffering. So instead of being a bright, happy, respectful person. You become a twisted, bitter, angry, wrathful wretch.

Character is one of those words which many can define yet, few seem to understand. It’s quite simply the moral and mental process which lead to an individual’s choices and actions. Correlation does not imply causation however. What I mean is just because you do something good for others to see, does not mean you really are good. Dave Barry the humorist wrote: “If someone is nice to you but rude to the waiter, they aren’t a nice person.” To really be nice, you first have to think nice, then speak nice, and then: AND THEN, do nice.

Dennis Prager wrote: “Goodness is about character- integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage and the like. More than anything else; it is about how we treat other people.” Similarly Buddhism is often attributed to these five factors when speaking; Is it spoken at the right time? Is it spoken in truth? Is it spoken affectionately? Is it spoken beneficially? Is it spoken with the mind of goodwill? With all of these things in mind, when you interact with other people either in person, or over the internet, if you can’t qualify your thought and your speech by these ideas, your probably speaking with fear. And with fear you will only find anger, hate and suffering.

Master Yoda told us that the path of fear would lead to the Darkside. Lucas however didn’t define the path of the light side. Probably because it would appear too religious and didn’t fit his sci-fi movie. But we can discern it for ourselves with no need to attach currently practiced religious canon. Understanding is the path of the Lightside. Understanding leads to joy. Joy leads to happiness. Happiness leads to love. Love never finds fault. Some guy long ago tried to teach these ideas. We haven’t come to understand his message or any other great teacher who tried. Some day we will though. Some day.

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Ultra Beast and other Demon speak

Note from the editor: Horgan has been here since day dot. He has a reputation for being something of a Yoda, always around to say the right thing, to the right people, at the right time. I’ve been struggling to write my own recap of this race – and while my experience and sentiments were very different to Horgan’s, I thought this was well worth sharing, and showing a very different side of the weekends experience. Buckle up.

10702007_10152463378549811_1509408334021861424_nThe Spartan Ultra Beast.

Disclaimer: This blog was written under the duress of exhaustion and pain.
Disclaimer 2: If you have become accustomed to my blogs which attempt to find a positive aspect to my experiences you probably are not going to find one here.
Disclaimer 3: If you are looking for an inspirational story of willpower and grit with a triumphant ending or even a tongue in cheek best face forward resolution; stop now.

Warning: If you have not directly experienced my duress induced humor; which starts with philosophical Zen like koans and illogical quips on standard inspirational clichés. If you have not heard me speak in sharply sarcastic remarks, until I’m fully engrossed in darkly sardonic metaphors. If you have not been present when I have reached the frayed ends of sanity, where the voices in my head, spring forth spewing anger and filth through the open doors of my mouth. IF this will be your first experience with that side of me; then I might suggest that you stop reading now. I simply ask this because if this is will be new to you; there is nothing in this blog that you’ll want to read. The following article is not going to be pretty. It is going to be convoluted, rife with inconsistencies, contradictions, apathy, self-indulgent tangents, possible profanity and a heaping helping of self-loathing and pity.

IF YOU’RE STILL READING YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Seriously if you’re looking for some motivating inspirational shit STOP right now. I don’t want to change any image you may have of me. I put on an excellent Jungian mask most times but this time you’re going to get the shadow and right now he’s not fucking pleased.

Still here? All right, strap in. This is going to be a bumpy fucking ride. Sit down, hold on, and shut up because I’m driving. These are my opinions and yours have not been solicited.

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Before I begin let me get a little god in here first. Just in case at the end someone should strike me down they’ll know I looked higher at some point.

Proverbs 24:27-29
Prepare your work outside. Get everything ready for you in the field and after that build your house.
-Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause, and do not deceive with your lips.
-Do not say, ‘I will do to others as they have done to me. I will pay them back for what they have done.’

With that Norm Koch deserves all the credit in the world. He put together the most difficult Spartan Race ever created. He did his job and let no man be held under scrutiny for doing his job well and as asked. Now that I’ve said that I feel I have license to go on and say exactly how I feel, how I want to.

10178098_10152460126834811_6280330827670188269_nI didn’t come to the Ultra Beast to crush it or kill it or any other non-productive, completely ridiculous, pseudo-inspirational, two words on a gym wall motivationals. I came to face a Demon of my own. I came to look it in its eye. I came to break the bones of some skeletons that have been taking up space, collecting cobwebs. But I came to the Ultra Beast defeated. I was probably defeated the day I clicked the “check out” button on the registration page a year ago. I came to try and settle a score, but I didn’t bring any chips to the table. Maybe I thought I could gamble on an outstanding marker and expected that I could bluff far enough through the game to get some good cards later. That didn’t happen.

I don’t remember a lot of the race in any order. Lets just start with the swim. I actually thought I was doing pretty well until then. I remember looking at my watch and guessing I was on a pretty solid pace. A good friend reminded me that I could in fact swim. So with out PFD I swam out. It was cold but not miserable. I got up the ladder without difficulty, but it was at that point that I realized, no upper body strength. Bell tap, and then I was only able to get both hands on the first knot. I decided to drop.  So grabbing my hat I let go. Down, down, down deep. And I puked, underwater, through my nose. Talented I know, right? It made the swim to shore lovely. So I went and did my burpees…most of them. And no I don’t care what you think, so fuck off. Which led us back into the water. This became a swim for the full length of the pond because the FUCKS in front of me didn’t want to go in over shin deep and clung like turds on a bowl to the edges. In all honesty I was already cramping at this point so swimming was a relief to my legs. When I exited I met up with a most excellent friend and Spahten who looked at me with all honesty and said, “This isn’t fun.” No. No this was most certainly not fun. Even in the most sarcastic, sadistic sense of fun that I keep tucked away in the deeper recesses of my mind. None of this was fun, and it was only about 8am.

From here on it’s going to get a lot fuzzy. We went up the mountain. I had some mustard. You know what? Fuck this bullshit about mustard! I poured that shit down my throat all day and all it did was irritate my soft pallet and upper esophagus. If you want to argue with me about mustard I’ve got some left. You can slather it on a certain area of mine and suck it!

Moving on. Up the mountain! You know straight up just slogging up the mountain. Oh was there an obstacle? I didn’t see it. Wait I remember it was the phoned in, half forgotten, Fedex cargo net they inherited from Tom Hanks after he got off the island.

And then there was just more walking up. At some point I ran into some Cornfeds.  I managed to stay with them for a good bit. I stayed with them till just about to where we dragged a rock. It wasn’t particularly taxing until you get to end and your legs lock with 7 out of 10 pain. I know it was a 7 because I couldn’t breath to scream. I stood standing stiff as a board becoming, myself, an obstacle to other racers. And then I fell over. I managed to drag myself out of the way, by my hands. If you have ever tried to cry through the lump in your throat where a half strangled scream had been only recently stifled; you may begin to understand my agony. Then through tears:  one hand, one knee, one foot, one push and I was on my feet again.  In no longer than five minutes.

On to the memory: India 202-2871, and then a spear throw. Don Devaney gets all the credit. I learned the technique from his, via telephone, spear throwing lesson on Friday: “Hold it like a dart and push it at the target.” Perfect.  That would be the first, the last, and the only happy moment for me on the mountain that day.

If you haven’t stopped reading yet now would be a good time. It’s not going to get better and it’s going to get a lot darker and self-indulgent. Thankfully at this point, as I write, the anger is ebbing.

So we went down the mountain. I don’t know how long we were headed down but when we got down it was at the inverted wall. My Cornfriends (in fairness for background I’ve know both of them for a long time and they are friends) were ahead of me due to my leg cramps that just continued to shift from one leg to the other from one muscle to the other. But at the inverted wall they were sitting. Rick was hurting from an earlier injury and at this point we were not aware of another very serious injury he had. But this isn’t about him. I helped him over the wall. Then it was over to the bucket carry. I think it was number 2. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. For the purposes of  this it is the one where I saw another Spahten spectating. This Spahten is an animal and is always there with honest encouragement. During the carry I had to stop too many times and I sat down. That’s the race killer there. Once I finally completed the carry I asked if he could work some magic on one of the cramps that was locking. He did, but said the best thing is to walk it out even if its Frankenstien walking, His last piece of advice was “but if it is really that bad, stop your race.” Death knell. He certainly didn’t mean it to be a coffin nail.  He was only truly looking out for my safety.

I’m not entirely sure but I believe this next part was the direct climb up, under the gondola. Again for purposes of my story timeline and not giving a damn about facts, this is where I started to stare at my demon. He’s only man size and not much bigger than me. He has a pronounced dragon like head with a torso covered in tight shiny green scales like a snake. His wings project backwards and would look only like a decoration. His red tongue dances and darts from his mouth through crocodile arranged teeth. He speaks telepathically in a soothing condescending voice. He never told me to quit. He made me convince myself that the race was over. That I couldn’t finish.  That I was a fraud. That I should just walk down the mountain. I wanted to. But I was too high at that point. And now I was with another set of forlorn souls, Golan and Bill. Golan from Wisconsin and Bill from NH. But this is not their story. So I walked. And I sat. And I stood and walked and sat. I stared blankly down over the parking lot. I looked over the valley at a perfectly cut timberline and thought “Oh there’s a utility line over there.” And I began to break old skeleton bones. Feeling them crack in my hands.

The thing about dragging skeletons out of closets is, they don’t want to come willingly. You gotta start with small bones. “You never thought you would actually finish this year anyway: Snap!” Then the Demon speaks and he says, “but did they have to make this so fucking hard?” And you pull out a bigger bone and think, “well you were pretty nonchalant about the whole thing, you were just trying to act cool: Snap!” And then the Demon says, “If you do go to the top you can take the gondola down.”  You reach in and grab a hand full of ribs and say “I didn’t put a damn bit of effort into this race and I fucked myself right into this shitty mountain and I have no other fucking person to blame but myself! Snap! Cackle! Pop!” The Demon speaks again, he’s so cunning, He says “oh but you had so much on your plate. You don’t sleep. You have a crazy schedule. Your wife, your kids, the dog.” Now you dig in and you grab that skull. That grinning, gape mouthed fucker and you hold him up to the light for the last time and you say, “I’m a quitter that’s what I do. I quit. I quit. I quit. IFQ!” And you take that skull and you crush it under your heel and you stand up and you look at the absurdity of your situation which is: Go ahead fucking quit. But what the hell are you going to do? Go down the way you came, or go down by going forward? Forward. Up and forward.

And then down. Down, down and more down. There was no trail left. I felt like George of the jungle swinging from tree to tree. Legs cramped so fucking bad and then a horrifying collapse. My water bladder collapsed not me. It collapsed because I was out. Out of water. Great. At some point this was bound to happen but really, now? Now I went to pull a tire. Great obstacle. I’d have rather been pulling a noose around my neck at this point. Cop out obstacle. Up side, I was able to get Golan a walking stick to brace himself. Kid has the guts of a martyr but he was toast and I don’t blame him. His knee wasn’t getting any better. It was the last pitch down to safety. A stick was my parting gift to him. I left him with a crossfitter named Susan from ME. She’s pretty badass, completing a Goruck heavy. We knew some of the same people.

And the Demon managed to stick a new skeleton into my closet. A skeleton whose bones where rotting green with mold and mud. I left an injured person clearly in pain on a mountain. Fuck you Green Demon. Fuck you Ultra Beast.

When Dante descended into hell with the poet Virgil he passed through it’s many levels and the inhabitants there of. As I walked down this nasty half excuse of a goat trail I couldn’t help but think of Dante. I knew there were nine rings and that Satan was at the bottom frozen up to his waist eating those denizens of the ninth circle: Betrayers. Was that what I have become a betrayer? Turns out with a little research no I wasn’t destined for the ninth circle quite yet. I’m destined for the eighth. Circle eight that’s where I sit. The fraudulent: liars, deceivers, false prophets, panderers, seducers and thieves! These, these are my vices and those are my people. And sandbags apparently.  Two sandbags because: “Fuck it I’m going to quit anyway but I’m Ultra so I have to carry two.” I want to say it was about 2 pm. I think I had it in my head that I already hadn’t made a cut off but it didn’t matter though because when I was done. I was going to quit. 10 feet. Stop. 10 feet. Stop. 10 feet. Stop. Wow that took like 16 minutes and I’m…fuck im like one one hundredth of the way there! The Demon says, “You said you’re quitting, just put the bags down and walk.” No that just means somebody else has to clean up my mess. 10 feet. “Your going to leave just leave.” No because how could I write about this later if I have to tell 3300 Spahtens not only did I quit; I trashed the course for them to pick up? The Demons is not so subtle any more: “Fuck them he say’s.” NO Demon: FUCK YOU. 10 feet. A wonderful gentleman with a beautiful smile and an ancestry I guessed to be Mexican said to me “You can’t quit now man were headed down.” I said thank you but when I’m done I’m going right through that arch, I quit. Then he, in the most elegant, cheery, Spanish accented English said. “Well I hope you change you mind.” Fuck you feelings: 10 feet!

When I got to the bottom I couldn’t quit. I couldn’t quit because telling someone I quit would be harder than actually doing it. It would have been easier to lie down and die right there than make the effort to quit. And it was so easy. It would never be easier than right there to quit. Strangely enough, you see a lot of things you need to see, only when you need to see them. Yes I’m patriotic but I don’t go busting my zipper every time I see a flag go by. I know what it means to me. That’s what matters to me. But when you see a flag on a Spartan course, it is usually being carried by someone for a reason; and usually by someone I know. If you have ever seen a man who looks like he jumped off of the pages of Robinson Caruso, its Stephen Reid. Bones. That was his flag and that was he. It dawned on me that with his “more faith than fear and more heart than scars” I just needed to keep going, off into the woods. Fill the water first.

The next last bits you know. The anger is subsiding as I write. I can tell you that at the race. at this point, my venom was toxic and it was killing me quickly. I didn’t care any more. I got to try my hand at the new obstacle. Some rings and swing bars. NO problem I nailed it, until the rope. One hand two hands; and faster than you can say fireman on a pole I was in the dirt. Slicker than snot on a doorknob. I tried to burpee. My legs wouldn’t unlock. So in the now rigid, prone position where I lay. I gave three or four more attempts and I had to give up even trying, You can start breaking the bones on that skeleton your holding right now because we’re going to need the space.

Now off to the Tyrolean traverse. It said in the rules if any body part touches the water you failed. So I got on top of the rope and sank. And I went out further and it sank further. How the fuck can I keep my body out of the water when the fucking rope is under the water. So I floated my bloated, cramped, broken ass. Hand over hand down the line. Slapped the bell, rolled off and swam in.  I still did it right.

Rope climb, fail. Limped past the two volunteers who couldn’t even be bothered to look up from their iPhones. Spear throw: Perfect. Perfectly short. It did stick in the ground underneath. I limped to the burpee coral. 5 or 6 until my arms couldn’t move. More broken skeleton bones. Don’t get too angry just yet, I blow off plenty of more burpees.

Texans. Why is it always Texans! They are always big happy and helpful. Hobbling now I approached the wall. My defeated face must have given me away. He asked if I needed help. I could only say yes. And that was it. Knee, shoulders, wall. Crushed my testicles in spectacular fashion and then guided myself down…to barbed wire. At this point any prone position is a lightning storm of fiery pain and agony. I made it all the way through and then through the rolling mud. I could not physically bring myself through the last section. I had indeed; quit. And so I walked.  Past the American Ninja Turtle, this is only here for the elite heat to look epic on TV, 30 yards of pipe BS obstacle. No I didn’t attempt it, or burpees. Why? Fuck you that’s why.  Just staying on my feet at this point was torture.  Up and over and down and then to the Herculean hoist.  The rope was slick but I made it no issue. Monkey bars: I’ve lost count but I think I have done 15 Spartan races, 4 or 5 hurricane heats and sometimes multiple laps of the same course. I have never, ever, ever failed the money bars. I couldn’t hold on for 1 transition. NO I didn’t do burpees. Why? Why are you still reading?

At the long over grown blow down ascent which actually might have been kinda cool I caught up with Haidar Hachem. I’m not sure what intrigued me the most, the hat, the hairiness or the stash. Either way, this is Spartan Race. You come for the race and you stay for the people. Hadir is more than a competent athlete.  He began to tell me his story, a similar one to my own except he was actually on pace to finish his Ultra.  As we all were at one point.  But now to finish, to simply try and finish, we just had to walk up this hill and down. That’s all.

The very last bag of bones I can shove into my closet is this:  I pulled my sleeves over my coveted green armbands and hobbled toward… the finish. Fraud. Coward. Quitter. Liar. Cheater.

At the start line I had given up. At mile 3 I had quit. And I stayed quit until the end of my race, the whole Beast distance. My race. NOT yours. Not yours to measure against mine. Not yours to tell me what I did wrong. Not yours to tell me that you are disappointed in me. Not yours to tell me you have lost respect for me. My race. Yes I took a 2014 Beast Medal. I crossed the start line and the finish line and at no point in between did I cut the course, or not carry the weight. I went as long as I could, as far as I could, as well as I could until I could not. No I did not do all the burpees. NO I could not do all the obstacles. It was medically irresponsible for me to continue. It was also ethically irresponsible for me to destroy myself into irreparable harm for a race. Once I finished and took my medal I went to my truck to leave.  And that should have been the end.

253292_10100600883117453_6769654311866755350_nHowever providence struck again as it always does in Sandy Rhee. She made a bus driver stop and let her off as she went by. Sandy has always been there for me, as she has for so many others but Sandy just seems to be there right when she’s needed the most, for me. I was changing to leave. Angry. Demoralized, Crushed. Belittled. Betrayed. Broken physically and mentally. Friendless in a sea of brothers and sisters; and then a friend. So instead I decided to stay. To watch some of my heroes actually complete their Ultra Beast. I did get a chance to meet teammates I only know online.

So yes I am proof that I can finish a Beast, mostly, without any training. But not an ultra. I may never finish an Ultra race. I’m positive I will never finish an Ultra Beast. Now that it is all said and done. I’m done. I’m done with Beasts and trifectas and Spartan races. I will end my Spartan relationship the same place it started. When I started it was fun. It was hard and brutal but fun. Sunday was not fun. It was not fun and it got worse the further I went. That whole useless awful race catered to the Sprint distance at the end and NBC. That’s my opinion, which you are welcome to disagree with, or not. If I wanted to aimlessly hike straight up and down a mountain I would do it in Colorado for free. The distinct lack of obstacle spacing was bullshit and simply carrying something heavy up a hill is not an obstacle. Shit I would have rather the atlas stone carry 5 more times than just some endless up hill sand bag or bucket. No, Spartan has lost any allure for me. I will gladly encourage my teammates to set and accomplish goals. I would even volunteer at a Spartan Race to see and encourage others, but to give my money to that? Not anymore. Racelocal and have fun.

Like all good things this came to and end. I rattled some bones.  I had open and frank discussions with my demon. He wasn’t crushed, quelled, released or any manner of exorcised. He’s still there and he speaks, a lot. A great deal of what you have just suffered through was written on that mountain in between fits of rage and despair. In the end I thought mostly of my Spahten family. I thought about the people, you people. The people I would have to tell “I quit.” Not because I was physically injured requiring immediate medical attention. No I would have to tell you I quit and then suffer all the “good effort man, you really tried” comments. As well-meaning as those are they don’t break skeleton bones. Instead I chose to finish the only way that I could. And if that means I left burpees on Killington that’s fine with me. They are up there with my ego, my pride, some dignity, a couple of aspirations and a belt buckle.  But when it was really. sincerely, all done. I got in my truck put TOOL radio on Pandora and drove 3 hours straight home, by myself, and was still at work at 7am this morning.

Authors note:  This was originally published without reflection or edit.  It was published in raw form, The media added were not mine and the sole choice of the editor, which I am happy with.  After being able to review this I have not changed anything with the exception of deleting some occasional profanities which were unnecessary.  I write what I feel.  After closer inspection I would simply like to say that anyone choosing to do a Spartan Race should most certainly do one or many.  To have the aspiration to complete an obstacle course race on the caliber of Spartan Race is excellent.  My personal experience is varied, and should not influence anyone not to do a race.  I work with my Demon every day and everyday he wins some battles and I try to push through the losses the best that I can.  I don’t do many things for myself and OCR are my chance to beat on that voice inside my head.  On Sunday the Demon had a lot of time and distance to dance in my head and he did so without restraint.  When I write down what I was experiencing you only get the edited 1% of those thoughts.  So again, if you choose to judge me or my choices remember you are judging less than 1% of one race, on one day in the life that I live 24 hours a day, everyday.  Thank you for reading.

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Is there a Warrior within you?

I came across an interesting bit while researching ancient warfare.  It seems the author attributed the naming of the month of March to the beginning of the campaign season.  Being that armies could now ford rivers and would begin marching toward fields of battle.  It is also observed that most fighting was done in the summer months and curtailed by the fall in time for harvest. Of course there are numerous historical battles that would be in stark contrast to this.  However none of this is to my point.

“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.” ~Heraclitus

When you head out into your training you certainly should never consider yourself part of that bottom 10%.  Because you are here, at the precipice.  In the ring of your own Agoge.  If you belong in that 10% quit now and save everyone the trouble of listening to you whine.  But you are not of that ilk.  No you are not.

Perhaps you feel you are merely a target.  And perhaps you are.  You feel slow and weak.  Tired and alone.  But you aren’t.  Because you are here.  Through discipline you will become stronger and faster.  You will become a moving target.  A moving target is hard to hit.  Through courage and tenacity you will engage your challenges.  Targets do not engage.  Once you have decided to face your challenge, looked it in the eye and not cowered away, then you have become one of the nine, a real fighter.  You needn’t be the fastest, or the strongest.  What you need to do is to hold the line.  To move forward.  The power of the Spartan Phalanx was never it’s strongest soldier.  NO the strength of a phalanx was it’s weakest soldier.  If he breaks all is lost.  BUT if he can hold on, stand his ground, and inch forward in the face of certain failure oh the tides of war he can change!

In that soldier is the Warrior, the weakest link.  The one who chose discipline over bravado.  The one who did what was asked  of him and did it without seeking glory.  There my friends is your 1%.  There is your warrior.  And he will bring the others back!

Being a warrior is about courage, discipline, and commitment.  Honor, sacrifice and integrity.  Being a warrior is doing what you said you would do, because you said you would.  Not doing it for honors and accolades though they may be bestowed.  Being a warrior is doing it for the personal satisfaction of a job well done.

Go out and train.  Run miles.  Good miles.  Suffer through bad miles.  Walking miles if you must.  Do good exercises with good form.  1 good pushup will always always beat 10 half assed ones.  Said a great man once “It took me 6 weeks to do 100 good push-ups.”  Yes said his Trainer but look over at him.  When you started he could do 100 bad push-ups to your 10 good ones. And in that same time he can still only do 100 bad push-ups.

Do not be a target be a fighter.  Use your discipline and your desire to become a Warrior.  Bring the others back.

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Ripping people off couches

“Ripping people off the couch.” ~Joe Desena

“When we started this band all we needed, needed was a laugh.” ~ Vince Neil.

Ripping people off of a couch and making better humans was an original idea.  It was not “throw people into a race and create uber-athletes.  In point of fact, making athletes is no where in that statement.  Give people a struggle and they will rise to it, run from it, or keep doggedly at it until they can over come it.  Keeping doggedly at it for better or worse was what people who really got Spartan Race understood.  Determination to succeed.  Progress in spite of failure.

So, what happened?  Before the voices clamored Olympics and the pundits called foul at obstacles people ran obstacle course races primarily for one of 2 reasons:  Mud or beer, and that was fine.  Subset to those reasons were a sense of community, a judgment free environment, and oddly enough simply for fun.  Remember fun?  The challenges were either difficult or silly.  But in the end it was fun.  So much so that you told your friends about it.

So what happened? Races got longer, obstacles became more difficult,  people got faster.  Races became widely popular.  Obstacle Course Racing became a “Boom-Town”.  The gold rush was on and like any run on a good thing so came the ancillary industries.  Media outlets, outfitters specializing in niche items, communities.  And of course “The Experts”.  The experts on everything.  Over night every one had an opinion.  Snake oil salesmen on every corner.  “If you can’t drive a nail into a wooden shaft, I’ll sell it to you fully assembled!”  “You need to do this, to do that.”  “That race is child’s play son!  Prove you’re a man and do this race, it was designed by a Navy Seal don’t you know.”  The list is endless, everyone is cashing in.

So what happened?  When we were ripping people off couches, or not “running” races but doing “event’s” we encouraged everyone.  We “aspired to inspire” as I have seen the terms used.  We said “I can do this” without having any shred of confidence we could.  And we did do it.  We did it not because we had the confidence to do it but because others inspired us to.  Because someone told us “I won’t let you fail.”  We helped “Rip people off couches.”

So what happened?  The most hurtful thing I have ever seen written was by a very good friend of mine.  He is one of the experts.  No sarcasm, he is truly an expert.  There probably is not one single person who has more access to OCR information than him.  When he suggested that “There are a ton of less competitive, less “rules” driven OCRs out there that first timers, burpee haters and such can hit up if they need to.”  I knew the party was over.  Yes the context of the statement was specific to an event, but the sentiment is universal.  And he is not alone.  The culture of the industry has changed, and this is the way of the future.

So what happens next?  A good teacher teaches without the students realizing the lesson.  In the end the student is endowed with knowledge and the teacher satisfied with accomplishment.  Lao-Tsu  tells us “When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!'”  I feel that anyone who has gone on to their second and more obstacle race, learned the lesson.  They have been “ripped” off the couch.  I have witnessed sedentary people do a Spartan Race and within a year run a road marathon.  I have watched someone who can’t climb a rope, join a gym and shed 100 pounds.  I have seen the most timid woman shake violently at a Sprint starting gate in the Spring, only to gnash her teeth in the chute of the Beasts starting line in the Fall screaming “Come and get them!!”  All of this because they either got it in their mind to change, or someone told them “You can do it.” But it’s an elite class system now, and the gap is widening between the tiers.

So what happens next?  Do you say “look out fatty”, “out of my way pokey”, “do all your burpees cheater!” or do you teach the lesson.  Do you aspire to inspire.  I have never once heard a top finisher say that their time was slowed because someone skipped an obstacle or dropped a burpee.  But it never was about finishing first in the first place.  It was about ripping people off couches.  Now it seems it’s ok for some people to do the ripping as long as we don’t put those people in the way of the “real” Spartan Racers.  Sad really.  This isn’t about standardizing or maintaining etiquette.  It’s about getting people to move. To be better.  It is about a process that we all are involved in.  Some of us are further along that journey than others.  Some are still in the physical transformation stage.  Some are developing the emotional stage.  These journeys however are personal.  If you are crippled by someone else’s journey and the way they navigate it, you are not as far along your own journey as you think.

What happens next is a mystery.  Experts and prognosticators alike are just as in the dark as anyone else.  Follow your own path.  When the path leads you in a unintended direction you must either  maintain the course or correct the course.  Be careful in your corrections however.   You may find the course, though divergent, was the correct one all along.

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Run your own race.

I had some fun the other day.  It was not intended to be at another persons expense.  First let me say that I detest advertising and marketing as a whole.  A very long time ago I saw Mike Barnicle do an editorial where he was painstakingly removing the treads from a logo on a pair of running shorts.  “I purchased the shorts, they are not paying me to advertise for them.”  It’s a bit extreme but it drives my point.  So when I see a famous person associated with a product my gut reaction is “advertising”  and then it is “what is this company trying to sell me?”  Selling is the art of separating you from your money.  Make no mistake, it’s an art and that is exactly what it’s for.  Advertising wants you to put your money in one companies pocket and not another companies.  It’s that simple.

So I had some fun.  I was poking fun at Spartan Race.  My issue was not what they did.  It was not how they did it.  It isn’t even with whom they did it with.  So what were my issues and what was I poking fun at?  Fame, Media saturation, Viral Marketing, and Idolatry. Mostly I was poking fun at culture.  American culture.  Our culture.  We as a nation are media obsessed.  We are awe struck by stardom.  So when a company can capitalize on someone who has achieved fame they will.  This is not something new.  Satirizing it is not something new.

“But but but…”  Awe stick it.  Ms Keys is probably by all accounts a wonderful person.  I don’t know her.  Were I to meet her that would be wonderful.  Because of her vocal talents and the fame that has given her, I too would be a bit starstruck. In my book, for running a Spartan race, she has a check in the awesome column.  But I have weird standards anyway.  My meme was not about her, it never was.  My largest issue was normal people needing to post and repost the fact that a Grammy winning singer ran a race.  Hence “Regale me with the profound significance of this.”  It’s a profound significance to her I am sure.  I hope that medal sits right next to other awards she aptly has earned.  I hope it hangs from her review mirror. (no I don’t because that is a visual impairment and could cause an accident, that goes out to all of you.)  But on that day she was just a normal runner, the race was hers.  She prepared for it.  She ran it.  Alicia, woman, mud runner.

Fame and stardom are wonderful but using a persons notoriety from one thing and then plying that, into something entirely different is silly.  It’s advertising.  It is trying to sell you something.  When the demographics of that celebrity match your target audience, it’s marketing.  Good marketing at that.  Smart marketing.  But we all have within us the ability to do this on our own for ourselves.  We needn’t say “Some famous person did this I should too.” To Spartan is to make a leap.  A leap of confidence, a leap of physical endurance, a leap of faith.  You can bring the Red Carpet with you, but it can’t make you run.

So no.  My meme was not about who was in the picture so much as it was about those who shared it.  To Ms Keys, go be on fire.  Set others alight.  Challenge stereotypes of fame.  If an apology is needed, I sincerely am.

 

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Tell us your story.

There have been more than a few memes/blogs going around Facebook as of late.  The context is the quiet sufferer who feels, for what ever reason, that they don’t want to relate their story.  Some feel they don’t have anything to add or that they aren’t “part” of the group.  They feel that maybe they haven’t done what others have.  I find this a little disheartening.  If you are on the NE Spahtens team/group/twitter feed/facebook page/sideline or whatever I need to let you in on the big secret:  YOU’RE A WIERDO!  Plain and simple.   We have podium finishers and people that finish dead last.  In between those equally inspiring people is everyone else.  So it doesn’t matter where you are, you’re with teammates.  Therefore everyone should feel they have something to share.  If you surround yourself with positive people you become positive and once you become positive there really is nothing you can’t over come.

In a post comment today I came across Tony’s post:

Tony DeMauro:  I have held off posting a lot of my thoughts in this forum as i really do not want to sound like a kiss ass…But what the hell… This ENTIRE community of the NE Spahtens has been almost overwhelmingly inspiring. I have done Warrior Dashes and Spartan Sprints and thought I was doing pretty well with a WHOLE lot of room for improvement. But after joining this group and seeing their posts and aspirations, and challenges, nevermind pics of their Medal Collections…I am pushing myself even harder to better myself. to have people STILL waiting at the finishing line at the 5 miler on Sunday (WELL after they had finished and the beer was flowing freely) just to cheer people coming across the line- might be a small act for some…But to someone like me who feels very new, and “off”, and even as far as to say a “Square peg in the round hole” at these things- THAT was a HUGE act of kindness and solidarity for a group to show. I felt a large sense of accomplishment finishing a 5 mile run. As it is something I never thought I would ever do let alone even TRY! Each race (3 mile, 4 mile, and 5 mile of the Wild Rover Series) I have watched and learned from how to land my feet to strides, to pacing, just from watching others and from the words they gave me as I started back up from a “walking break”…Not sure where this post is leading…Just wanted to express my gratitude for this group as everyone really DOES stand behind their commitment to being a “TEAM” not just a facebook group that sometimes gets together for things…They really are a community,and one that I am glad to quietly be a part of…”

 

Tony said it all perfectly.  My hope is everyone feels they can share.  Please at events say hello, come to the team tents or where ever we are gathering.  It’s your tent if we have one.  You did it, you made it happen.  It’s hard knowing everyone from Facebook but no one bites unless asked to.  We’re all just obstacle racers.  How we finish or what we have accomplished wouldn’t be half as awesome, for me at least, if it weren’t for the Team.  Inspire and pass it on.

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Featured Review – Peak Snow Shoe – Building a fire within your heart.

It is below zero.  It is 7:30 in the morning.  I have had half a cup of coffee and a portion of a danish for breakfast and I’m about to run a 10k on a mountain.  I’m ecstatic!  At Riverside Farm Peter Board and and Andy Weinberg are talking loudly at everyone and no one.  Some people look anxious. Other people look happy.  A few people however are positively beaming.  I’m one of them.  Why am I so excited?  Because there is absolutely no where else I want to be.
Whenever I get to Pittsfield I feel very at ease.  Vermont itself can have that effect, but there is something about Pittsfield specifically for me.  There is a very real sense of home.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

~Henry David Thoreau.

Living.  That is what we come here to do.  To be cold on our skin and warm within our heart.  Weather can bring the cold but friendships they are what warms the heart.  That’s why I am so happy when I get to one of these shindigs in the woods.  Good people.

The race was in typical Peaks fashion or at least my experience of them.  Huddle everyone up.  Say “Go” and follow along like a heard of turtles.  The course went like you would expect…straight up.  We looked rather like gold miners in the Klondike going over Chilkoot pass.

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And thats just how it is at a Peaks race.  The initial accent followed much of the same trail that Summer Death Racers followed and built in 2012.  I’m not going to lie I had a few flashbacks.  We made our way over ever steepening terrain till at last we summited Joe’s mountain and saw Shrek’s cabin.  The familiar faces of Mark Ford and Eric Matta were welcome.  The views were breath taking.  The decent lead us into the labyrinth, that might have been during the accent but who cares.  From there more woods.  More ups more downs.  The weather being so blasted cold made the snow in the trail like sugar.  It became down right slippery at times causing snowshoes to act like skis.  But a clear sky, beautiful day and great company can help you overcome any obstacle.  I ran with a small group of Spahtens, my wife, my boss and her husband and the unsinkable Hannah Hawley.  I can’t really tell you any more about the race that would be of any great value other than those small observations.  Running in snowshoes is a challenge.  Running on Vermont trails is a challenge.  Doing anything below zero is stupid.  But…

“Then it turned and trotted up the trail in the direction of the camp it knew, where were the other food providers and fire providers.”

~Jack London

The dog in London’s story is a great example of why I do these things.  Because of the camp.  I don’t always receive actual fire or food but I certainly do metaphorically.  And afterwards I can carry it in my heart for months.  Inspiration, motivation.  You can’t go to a Peaks race and leave unchanged.  You can’t leave a Peaks race without changing someone else. If I have raced with you or trained with you, you have been part of the moments that define my life.  If you have met me after one of these things you also know I don’t shake hands; I hug.  I’m a hugger.  I also really don’t care if you aren’t, you’re getting one.  If you’re Don Devaney you might get a blindside hug.  If you’re Keith Glass you might get tackle-hugged in the middle of your race.  If you are Jane Coffey you might get hugged twice.  If you are a New England Spahten it’s coming you have been warned.

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Hurricane Heat: A path of Honor.

The Hurricane Heat is what its all about for me.  It is the culmination of doing what I do naturally in a Spartan Race.  This was my first HH and it will certainly not be my last.  A team is strong because of its commitment to a common goal.  I don’t know what our common goal was beyond having fun.  If that was the goal, our level of commitment far exceeded that of what we needed to achieve that goal.”  HH-007 A Storm in the Desert.

Thats how I felt after my first Hurricane Heat.  I went on to complete 2 more and am now at the precipice of number four.  I still enjoy the HH the most, racing or not.  And I still love it for all the same reasons.  But its not just the Hurricane Heat.  Its the team work that is abundant at every level of Spartan Race.  I was asked to re-post the following as a blog.    But I feel to do so I must mention that Spartan Race is often a defining race for Obstacle Course Racers.  Its seen as the toughest introductory race.  The most competitive of competitive races and the most arduous at all levels.  But its something different to everyone.  Whether it is your first, 10th, 100th race.  If its a Hurricane Heat, Sprint, Super, Beast, Ultra Beast and even the Death Race you must approach them the same.  You must put aside fear and doubt.  You must rise to the challenge you have accepted.  There’s no turning back, move forever forward.

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Some of you will do your first Spartan Race on Saturday. For some it will be your first Hurricane Heat. For a few, you have accepted the challenge to do both. These are brave and wonderful things you have chosen. Do not let one once of trepidation dilute or misguide your challenge. This is what you want. Do not put energy into fear, but channel it into faith in yourself. Your body is a wonderful thing and your mind has not even begun to fathom the heights and distances that it can achieve. I researched some words for you to take with you as you enter this great thing we call Spartan Race.

For the First Timers:
“Obstacles are like wild animals. They are cowards but they will bluff you if they can. If they see you are afraid of them… they are liable to spring upon you; but if you look them squarely in the eye, they will slink out of sight.” ~Orison Swett Marden

For the First time Hurricane Heaters:
“The time to take counsel of your fears is before you make an important battle decision. That’s the time to listen to every fear you can imagine! When you have collected all the facts and fears and made your decision, turn off all your fears and go ahead!” ~ G.S. Patton

For Everyone:
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
~ Frank Herbert.

Toes on the line. Eyes on the horizon. What is set before you is no where near as great as what’s inside you. The tightness in your chest is the heart of lion roaring to escape. The pain in your muscles is the last vestiges of weakness digging in to hold on while your true strength pushes it out. The time for preparing is over. The time for Greatness is upon you

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“We’re all Mad here”

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So you want to do an OCR?  And this agonizing thing pops into your mind.  “Why?”  Well. Why not?  Drink the koolaid.  Yes well Papa Jim might have a little more in common with what you are about to do than just alittle cyanide laced grape drink.  Obstacle Course Racing starts on a whim.  “hey me and some of the others from…the gym, the box, church, work, local bar…are thinking of doing this mud run.  Wanna come?”  Yeah sure why not?  Summer is hot, you feel out of shape, or the best shape of your life, and who doesn’t want to play in mud.  So you sign up, watch a few videos.  People are smiling, drinking beer, seems to be very little need for clothing.  Hey why the hell not?  You forget the words “run”.  And so you sweat, and you curse.  You get bruised, cut, tear clothing, twist ankles, face fears and maybe lose a friend or gain a new one.  So. Now you have entered the grounds of the Peoples Temple.  But lets leave Father Jim and think of another place of Madness.  Lets go to Wonderland and see what the tour guide there had to say about his corner of Crazy.

Ladies and Gentleman, big or small, I give you the Cheshire Cat.

Mr Cat what can a person new to obstacle course racing expect?  Should they be worried about injury.  Will they find out new things about themselves?

Cheshire Cat: “Only the insane equate pain with success.”

Um ok comforting… and where should one start?  Does one race matter over another?

Cheshire Cat: “Every adventure requires a first step. Trite, but true, even here.”

What about first timers first times?  Is there anything they really need to know?  Are there places where people will help them?  Does it matter?

Cheshire Cat: “The uninformed must improve their deficit, or die”.

Cryptic.  Ah lets move away from mortality a moment.  How about a bit on hydration if you would.  Suggestions?

Cheshire Cat: Those who say there’s nothing like a nice cup of tea for calming the nerves never had *real* tea. It’s like a syringe of adrenaline straight to the heart!

Ok then moving on.  Races.  Is it a one and done thing?  Do you think people will become so transformed that it becomes part of there persona?

Cheshire Cat: “Only a few find the way, some don’t recognize it when they do – some… don’t ever want to.”

Deep very deep.  What do you say to those who do only try it once and hang it up.  Then they go back to their sedentary life styles?

Cheshire Cat: “I’ve never trusted toadstools, but I suppose some must have their good points.”

And to the racers who find a home in OCR.  What do you say to them.  How far should they go?  Ultra Beast, WTM, Death Race, Ultra Marathons?

Cheshire Cat: “Let your *need* guide your behavior. *Supress* your instinct to lead… Pursue the Rabbit! ”

So should someone just dive in?  Are there introductory races?  Spartan Race has Sprint, Super, Beast and Ultra Beast levels.  Superhero Scramble has the Charger, Intimidator and Villain.  Any thoughts?

Cheshire Cat: “The proper order of things is often a mystery to me. You, too? ”

So no insight just wing it huh?  Not a lot of help are you?

Cheshire Cat: “I’m afraid I have to expel a rather ferocious hairball. You’re on your own.”

Lovely.  Well it has been splendid chatting with you.  I think I’ll wrap this up any final words of wisdom for our readers”

Cheshire Cat: “Haste makes waste, so I rarely hurry. But if a ferret were about to dart up my dress, I’d run.”

And there you have it readers whether its Guyana, Wonderland or in the World of OCR we’re all a little mad.

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You will know at the finish line. But will you understand?

I should someday string all my posts on the Beast, Ultra Beast, DNF, and the Death Race together.  Maybe someone with web-sense and a little more polish than me can do that.  For now heres a quick post I threw out there yesterday in a small private group.

Im a little upset at the quietness of this group. No not upset, surprised? But not surprised. I’m sure its contemplation. We more than anyone know what this race means. For us its more than miles and obstacles. Its personal validation. Vindication even. Not an opportunity to tell anyone else what we have done, but to prove to ourselves that we are what we believe ourselves to be. Finishers. People who finish what we start. I myself am still wrestling with registering. A registration is the first and the largest obstacle. Because its not one hurdle but a whole race in and of itself. Im not sure that I can hurdle it. But I’m ok with that. Maybe this year, maybe next, maybe never, maybe something even more grand. The fact of the matter is, UB finisher or not, we are people who get shit done. We attempt great and difficult things for ourselves. Not for anyone else. When we toe the line, we are greater than any of our detractors. Our first stride, is our greatest accomplishment not our last.

Define your win.  Define your success. Keep the hunger alive in your heart.  Everyday need not be a PR in everything.  Everyday in motion toward positivity is a PR for that day.  Every day is a new day.