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Drinking the kool aid

A personal note from Vince. Our favorite photographer and husband to Mama Hen

Back in the day, I used to be a pretty avid runner. Junior and senior years of college were full of 5Ks. And when I moved to Austin for grad school, I discovered that the city was home to year-round running, and I filled my 2 years there with untold numbers of 5Ks and 10Ks. I was decent enough, too, turning 5Ks in under 24 minutes consistently, 10Ks in under 50. Over the years, I didn’t run as much, but I did pick up another habit: the gym. 4-5 days a week like clockwork, so one way or the other, I was pretty much always in shape.

All of that was when I was younger and single and without a care in the world. Fast forward 20 some-odd years and 25 some-odd pounds, and I’m older and married and working all week. The game had definitely changed. I just didn’t have the time I used to have.

But…

In 2012, Sandy caught the racing and OCR bug in a big way. Not only that–and this is important–she latched on with the New England Spahtens, an incredible group of fun, supportive, like-minded people intent on spreading the word about OCR. 30+ races in 2012 for her (with a good chunk of them with the Spahtens). And I dutifully and happily followed her to almost every single one, cheering her on and making new friends, all the while happy with the fact that I was on my side of the fences.

So again, there’s Sandy. Pretty much the same age as me. Married (duh). Clients all week. But she goes to her gym three days a week, almost like clockwork. She races pretty much every single weekend, almost like clockwork. And all with the same 24 hours in a day as me.

Different game? No–different player. One who gets off the bench. One who… plays.

Oh sure, I’ve run a couple of 5Ks in the past couple of years. I’ve even run (or tried to run) a small handful of OCRs–Warrior Dash in 2011 (pulled up lame less than a mile into the race) … Metro Dash in 2012 (don’t ask) … Spartan Sprint in 2012 (finished it but it didn’t do a thing for me) … Wason Pond Pounder in 2012 (OK, that one was fun, but you could have measured my time with a sundial). But by and large, I was content with how things had turned out–her on the course, muddy and sweaty and exhausted; me on the sidelines and in the stands, cheering and taking pictures and just generally yukking it up. Wasn’t my game any more.

But…

You see, influences have this funny way of sneaking up on you when you’re not looking.

Bad influences, for sure–I think I’ve already shown that excuses are a convenient thing, mainly because they’re so easy.

But good ones, too. Like I said, the Spahtens are an incredible bunch, and I’m proud and happy to call a growing number of them my friends. The real thing about them, though–the part that sneaks up on you–is how infectious their attitude and spirit can be. Watching them as they bust their asses, seeing them cheer each other on and share in their personal victories… always trying, never quitting… it’s all so…

Fun.

Fun. As if was just a game. One they played every week. One that I knew all the rules to but didn’t feel like playing.

Until now.

To my utter surprise, I’m calling my own number. On tap for 2013 are at least four (small) OCRs–not as a spectator, but as a participant. Not only that, but I’m back in the gym for the first time in years. And to top it off, as I pen this note, I’ll be running (well, running/walking) a local 5K trail with Sandy tonight. Not for time necessarily but for fun–and I’m thinking (or at least hoping) it won’t be the last time.

No more excuses. It’s time to play again.

And at the end of 2013, we’ll see if I still like the taste of kool-aid.

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Arizona Spartan Sprint Review 2/9/2013

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The second Spartan race of 2013 was held this weekend at the McDowell Mountain Park in Fountain Hills, AZ.  Spartan HQ changed the venue just a few weeks prior to the event for a “more challenging course”.  As a result, logistics also became more challenging due to a 30 mile ride to parking, a 25 minute bus ride (each way) to the venue, and a 45 minute wait to board a return bus.  It was time to STFU!
The 4.7 miles sprint meandered through single-file trails littered with loose rocks of all sizes. Flat ground was rare and there were two steep hill climbs both up and down. My knee-high socks protected my shins from the desert scrub brush and the brutally sharp gravel I encountered on the crawls. The 47 degree temperature chilled my FL bones once I became water-logged during the last mile.

Obstacles:

  • Under/Over
  • Over Under Through
  • Concrete carry with 5 burpees (new to me)
  • Walls of 6′, 7′ & 8′
  • Log Hop (obstacle formerly known as Stump Traverse)
  • Monkey Bars
  • Pancake/Sandbag Carry (appeared shorter than expected)
  • Wall Traverse
  • Tractor Pull
  • Spear Throw (my only failed obstacle)
  • Rope Climb
  • Mud Mounds & Water Trenches
  • Cargo Net
  • Mud Crawl under barbed-wire (long on a bed of super sharp gravel)
  • Slippery Wall (no running start due to mud/water trench)
  • Fire Jump
  • Gladiators

I thoroughly enjoyed the desert terrain and panoramic views from the hilltops.  Cloudy skies and the cold temperatures were not ideal, but it’s part of the adventure.  Many obstacles had improved signage with descriptions.  The Reebok name was ubiquitous and omnipresent.  The festival area seemed a little tight and chaotic, but all the usual tents/booths were represented.  Bag check was a total mess.  It was drastically understaffed and many Spartans including me were permitted to retrieve their own.  Growing pains with volunteers at new venues are to be expected.

I’m looking forward to meeting NE Spahtens at the Miami Super, only 13 days away and 30 degrees warmer!

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Spahten Story: Nele Schulze

I’d like to take a moment to introduce you to one of your fellow Spahtens – someone who is known for her accent (she sounds as funny as me), as well as for her ability to leave many of us in the dust on her way to the Championship Heat at Ruckus – or running with Team Reload at the Fenway Spartan Race.

You may not know that only a few months ago, Nele hadn’t really been active at all – having been a skate boarder and competition roller blader back home in the UK – since moving to the US she hadn’t picked up any active sport, and obstacle course racing jumped in at the right time!

Since replying to Facebook post about Team Reload, she is now one of their team of 7 pro racers hitting the course first thing Saturday morning – before she hits it again with the team heat and the New England Spahtens.

Her story is inspirational – let me introduce you to Nele.

My Story 11/8/12

“I’m thinking about running Ruckus…” my boyfriend Ben said to me one day, “what’s Ruckus?” I replied.

And this was where it all began…

Before April 2012 I was just your average person, working, applying to grad school, hanging out with friends etc. Then at the beginning of April that changed. Ben and some of his friends were thinking about doing Ruckus at Marshfield MA on June 16th 2012.  I had no idea what this was so he sent me the link to the website. I had never seen anything like it before, a 4 mile long race with lots of obstacles and plenty of mud.

I immediately wanted to do it, so I began training. I started running, going to the gym more frequently, and eating better. The first time I ran a mile, I almost vomited and had to sit down in the middle of the path until all the pain, nausea, and aching in my body went away.

Being at Ruckus and completing an OCR for the very first time felt like a massive achievement. I had friends come cheer me on and I was thankful for their support. I was in awe of all the people around me. I saw everyone covered in mud, wearing their medals with pride, laughing and smiling with a beer in hand. I couldn’t wait to be one of them.

I beat my goal of one hour by completing Ruckus in 58 minutes and 33 seconds. The ‘post-race blues’ set in almost immediately after finishing Ruckus. I had worked and trained hard for two months all for that one race. Now that it was over, I felt a little lost.

One day Ben told me about Spartan Races. “They’re like Ruckus, but harder,” he said. I couldn’t register quickly enough and I was back into training mode, setting a goal to work towards.

The Spartan Sprint in Amesbury on August 11th was when I began to feel ‘at home’ in this sport. My first Spartan experience was the Hurricane Heat. I then ran the race; climbing up ropes, crawling under barbed wire and leaping over fire, in just over 1 hour and 6 minutes.  I could feel the improvement in myself and my performance. Just completing a race wasn’t enough anymore, I had seen the elite athletes and I wanted to run with them.

After my first Spartan Race, Eric hosted an event at his house, now known as Mini Sparta. That day I met too many people to name and the atmosphere was fantastic! Everyone wanted to push themselves and work towards their goals. I left feeling stronger than ever and with a whole load of new friends.

It was then that I knew what my next goal would be, The Spartan Beast in Vermont. It was quite a leap, from a four mile race to a 14 mile race, but I knew I could do it. I threw myself into training, running, doing the Spartan Workout Of the Day, or going to running clubs every day after work.

My non-OCR friends thought I was becoming obsessed, that just made me train harder. I registered for the Warrior Dash as training for the Beast. I completed the race carrying a rock the whole way. It seemed like everything I did became training for the Beast.

I completed the Beast with someone I had never met and who will now be a friend for life, Patrick. Without him, some obstacles would have gotten the better of me, especially the rope traverse. Hanging upside down from the rope, hands burning and legs aching, ice cold water beneath me; that was the one and only moment I ever wanted to give up. Patrick wouldn’t let me; swimming next to me in that freezing water, shouting words of encouragement, I forced myself to complete the rope traverse. I don’t think I’ve ever felt such a sense of accomplishment when I finished the Beast in 6 hours 15 minutes.

After the Beast I took part in Tough Scramblers, a small yet fantastic adventure race, with some amazing NE Spahtens. I remember being at that start line and asking Ben if he wanted me to run with him. I was looking at some of the other women running and never thought I could beat any of them. “I think you can do this,” he said to me and with those words of encouragement I was the first girl to cross the finish line and finished 8th out of the women.

A few weeks later I went on to finish second in the women 20-29 category in a local 15k trail race. Even after getting my second place medal, I still couldn’t believe it.

On November 3rd 2012 I ran Ruckus Fearless Fall 5k, returning to the place where it all started. In June 2012 I ran with my boyfriend, both of us new to the world of OCRs and with three friends there to support us. Five months later I was running with a large group of NE Spahtens, all supporting each other and cheering each other on. I was even able to qualify for the Champions Heat (top 10% of categories, in this case Open Women, qualified. I finished top 1.7%). What a difference. I finished 9th in my category and 29th overall.

I recently took part in a Worlds Toughest Mudder practice run with someone I had never met. Josh was doing 10 mile loops of the Charles River in Boston, complete with exercises, starting at 10am and going for 24 hours. How could I miss an opportunity like that?!?!  I have yet to do a Tough Mudder, that’s on the schedule for next year, along with GoRuck and Run For Your Lives.

So on a Tuesday evening after working 8 hours I drove to the house of a person I didn’t know to see how many laps I could do. The first 10 mile loop I did with Josh, Sean, Keith and Lubo. Then for the second lap, more people joined. It was just wonderful seeing people arrive and saying bye to others. Everyone just wanted a piece of the action and to show their support, whether or not they were doing WTM. I turned 27 at midnight at around mile 15.

In the space of 7 months I have gone from not being able to run a mile without wanting to throw up to being able to run a half marathon, completing the Beast, and finishing in top 10 of 3 races.

My focus is now on the Spartan Race at Fenway on Saturday November 17th. I have been lucky enough to have been selected to run on Team Reload Fitness with 6 other athletes. I also plan to run it with my fellow NE Spahtens and then again on Sunday November 18th. I will be ending 2012 with a new small local OCR, the Renegade Run, on November 25th. From there I will be looking onto 2013 and what that year will hold. 2012 has been a life changing year for me, I can only hope that I can push myself harder for 2013.