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  • Do the Impossible: A 5-Step Plan

    Do the Impossible

    What’s your take on the impossible?

    Here’s part of mine: I’ve banned two things from our Spartan Race headquarters in Boston: soda and the word “can’t.”

    One kills people, and the other kills businesses. You can’t do the impossible if you’re focused on obstacles. There’s an old saying that crazy is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. If you want to do the impossible, something big, something that will rock your world—and might even change the world for the rest of us—you’ve got to start where you’ve never started before.

    When we created Spartan, I wanted to help people find their untapped potential, but I had never done anything like that before. I had to define it in terms of possibilities, not obstacles, and try things I’d never done.

    Today, people sign up for Spartan races to achieve what’s impossible for them. Millions have achieved their dreams, including cancer survivors, wounded warriors, special needs individuals, and even grandparents. All have climbed walls, crawled through mud, and made it across the finish line.

    So how do you carry the Spartan attitude past the obstacle course? How do you infuse your impossible dream with the Spartan spirit? Here are some ideas:

    Step 1: To Do the Impossible, Focus Beyond the Finish

    Rather than thinking of all the reasons you might fail at doing the impossible, think of what your next step will be after you succeed. Thinking past the finish line can help you attack the problem from a different perspective—and boost your confidence.

    Step 2: Remember That Time You Sucked

    I know, I just told you to think about what would happen after you succeed and this is just the opposite of that, but hear me out. I’m not telling you to feel sorry for yourself; what I want you to do is to break down why things didn’t work during your previous attempts. What do you need to do to eliminate those problems?

    Step 3: Invent a New Tool

    Limited thinking never solved anything. Let’s say you want to provide clean drinking water to every child in Africa. What would you need to invent to make this possible? By visualizing the tools required, you’ve put yourself one step closer to creating them.

    Step 4: Surround Yourself with Allies

    Tackling big jobs requires backup; no one person can do everything. You need support if you’re going to accomplish the impossible. You’ll need people to cheer you on, analyze your ideas, ramp up your creativity, and help you scale that wall.

    Step 5: Give Some of It Away

    We’re really into charitable giving here at Spartan, which is why we started the Spartan Foundation. Generosity, whether it’s with time, supplies, money, contacts, ideas, or anything else fosters connections. Working together for a common cause can achieve great, even miraculous, things.

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    Puerto Rico Spartan Community in action

    Puerto Rico Spartan Community & Hurricanes

    It may have been the island’s first Spartan race, but after Hurricane Maria, the Puerto Rico Spartan community was primed to test its fortitude again.

    When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September, Armando Vengoechea didn’t stop training. The Spartan SGX Coach lives in Toa Alta, 15 miles southwest of San Juan. Although local damage was minimal, the island saw sustained winds of 155 miles per hour and up to 30 inches of rain. Power and running water were out for 50 days for some, 100 days for others; downed trees and power lines bisected the streets, and amid the chaos, residents say they effectively lived under martial law.

    In the months that followed, Vengoechea’s training was looking after his family. “When you have no water,” he says. “You need to fill up. I got 20 to 30 buckets of five gallons each and picked them up from the floor every day to fill the toilet and wash.”

    Lizaida Jiménez grew up in San Juan, but chose to weather Maria at her boyfriend’s house 30 minutes from the city. “It was really impressive. You could hear the hurricane through the windows,” the 35-year-old says. A food distributor, Jiménez was among few whom authorities allowed to drive at night; she’d wait in four-hour gas lines to find supplies. “All of a sudden, you have nothing. No cell phone, no water, no food,” she says. Jiménez’s power came back on the day before Thanksgiving Day.

    The Flourishing Puerto Rico Spartan Community

    The Puerto Rico Spartan community is flourishing. The Boricuas Spartan Team brought 45 athletes to compete at Killington in 2016, and in December, the squad flew just as many athletes to the Central Florida Beast. “The original team was the Boricuas,” Vengoechea says. “But no matter which team you go with, you represent the island.”

    It had been a difficult year for the island, but where mainland television audiences saw images of desolation and the political turmoil that followed, people like Vengoechea and Nelson Runaway Diaz found an opportunity to remind Puerto Ricans what they’re really made of. Last January, Diaz flew to Puerto Rico from Vermont to bury an uncle. The trip, unbeknownst to him at the time, set in motion a series of events that would bring Spartan racing to Puerto Rico.

    Diaz estimates he has about 238 cousins on the island. He used WhatsApp to contact them after Maria, although Diaz says it took months to hear from a few relatives whose towns were completely washed away. The 44-year-old grew up in New Jersey and works in audiovisual systems, although his real passion is helping adaptive athletes conquer the OCR circuit.

    The path brought Diaz to the Central Florida Beast in December, where his cousin Adam introduced him to the Boricuas. Then he met Spartan Race’s founder, Joe de Sena. The conversation began with a discussion of discounting the Saturday Sprint fee for the Puerto Ricans who made the trip. “They’re still trying to scrounge money to come to the US to be part of the community that got them off the couch,” Diaz says. “They don’t want to go back to the couch.”

    Diaz followed up with a bold proposition: get the Puerto Ricans to go from the island to the Spartan Agoge in one year. De Sena liked the idea, and Diaz got the green light.

    The schedule would be grueling: two Spartan Hurricane Heats in Puerto Rico, then the Tri-State New Jersey Ultra, then the Tri-State Tuxedo Sprint, then the Palmerton Super, the Killington Beast, and finally, the Iceland Agoge. Tougher still, Diaz slated the first Hurricane Heat for late January, and the second for late February. He needed someone on the ground to rally the OCR community, and through Adam, he met Vengoechea, the island’s only Spartan SGX coach.

    Puerto Rico Spartan Community in action

    The pair had a month to put together a Spartan race on an island where power had been restored a month earlier. The venue would be the San Juan National Historic Site, a lush peninsula adorned with the turret of Castillo San Felipe del Morro—a 16th-century citadel of Alcatraz proportions. Soon, an army of OCR athletes would lay siege to the site’s beach and grassy hilltops, and Diaz and the Spartan team worked tirelessly to perfect the route and secure the tractor tires needed for the Sisyphean effort.

    Meanwhile, Vengoechea put out a call to the Boricuas, many of whom had just arrived at a state of normalcy. “It took three or four weeks to get people involved and start running and doing stuff,” Vengoechea says. It was difficult, he notes, because utilities were out and no one likes running without water. He made a plea. “I said, ‘Stop it,’” he says. “We still need exercise because if you don’t exercise, things are going to get worse. You’re going to get fat and frustrated.”

    Gyms were closed while insurance policies were being settled, and Vengoechea couldn’t train people in them anyway: his personal training certification was up for renewal, and the local police department couldn’t get him the proper papers. So he took the Boricuas to the streets and parks, knowing firsthand how important the routine was to his people’s collective sanity.

    In 2013, Vengoechea lived with panic attacks and took anxiety medication to calm the symptoms. Then he ran the Spartan Beast in Killington Vermont, where the 40-degree weather chilled his Caribbean blood to the bone. Alone in the woods without his anxiety medication, a prodigious panic attack struck. He was paralyzed, fixating on his fear of dying of hypothermia.

    He talked himself out of the panic, picked himself up from the forest floor and trudged on. Soon, he saw the light from the end of the singletrack. Before Vengoechea knew it, he was out of the woods. Killington changed him irreversibly; the experience made the post-hurricane toil of filling and lifting endless water buckets seem easy. With any luck, HHPR-001 would do the same for the Boricuas.

    Without timing chips or bibs, the Hurricane Heat encompasses the post-hurricane Puerto Rican experience—no one succeeds as an individual; everyone’s strengths and skills are needed for success.

    More than 100 participants from the Puerto Rico Spartan community lined the beach for the first Hurricane Heat in late January, and a month later, they came back for the 12-Hour Hurricane Heat. Linked by gear-filled backpacks and gallon water jugs, they traversed the hills and dove back into the surf for burpees. A rainbow shone overhead as they carried each other along the shore, and rain pelted their faces as they heaved tractor tires above their heads through San Juan.

    If you poll Americans, 41 percent don’t think Puerto Ricans are US citizens. (They are.) Apart from the odd regional catastrophe, mainland Americans will not get to know their countryfolk in the deep sense that Puerto Ricans did in 2017. In early 2018, a chance to visit—this time under much better circumstances—wasn’t to be missed.

    Lizaida Jiménez, the food distributor and Boricuas OCR athlete, returned to training in November. Her race preparation was sporadic, she says, because finding restaurant supplies in a scarce market often left her depleted. Her fitness didn’t matter: having the race in her home meant more than a result. “It’s about exploring yourself, your emotional and physical strength,” she says. “When you compare everything we went through with Maria and everything we went through with the Hurricane Heat, you get this feeling that you cannot quit. You have to keep striving, because life is so precious.”

    Getting ready to tackle a Spartan race? Download The Spartan 2018 Training Plan as your blueprint. #noexcuses

    thomasyoxall

    A Road To Tahoe: Trauma, Heroism and Overcoming Obstacles

    Thomas Yoxall looked at the rack of medals hanging on his wall. There were eight in total: one for each race he’d completed since he began running Spartan races three years earlier. And at the beginning of 2017, he’d planned on running more. A lot more. He was gunning for the Spartan Triple Trifecta and the Ultra Beast in Tahoe. But here it was, already Thanksgiving, and he hadn’t run a single race this year. His plans were completely derailed by a single flash of violence on January 12. It was a moment he’d been training for his whole life, but hoped would never happen.

    By now the story has been widely reported. It was a cold Thursday at 4:30 a.m., just west of Phoenix on Interstate 10. Yoxall, just launching into a career as a photojournalist, was heading toward Los Angeles to visit a camera shop. But he slowed down when he saw flares in the road and the flashing lights of a squad car. He got out of his truck and pulled out a gun when he saw the attacker smashing a police officer’s head into the pavement. And after his shouts failed to stop the violence, he squeezed off three rounds.

    The assailant crumpled, dead. He’d shot trooper Ed Andersson, and now Andersson lay bleeding from fractures, skull lacerations, and a bullet hole in his arm. But he was alive. Yoxall covered him with a jacket he found in the cruiser, and later, with blood still on his hands, he gave a statement to first responders on the scene.

    Nearly a year later, as Yoxall, 45, stared at the rack on his wall, he thought: “There should be nine more medals on that thing.” Plus he was short an Ultra Beast medal, which he’d wanted to hang in a custom frame he’d made in anticipation of crossing the finish line in Tahoe. “You know what you have to do,” he told himself. “It’s time to get out. It’s time to Spartan up.”

    A Hero’s Unlikely Path

    Yoxall got his first of many tattoos when he was sixteen. The most menacing ink on his body shows a straight razor climbing up his neck and cutting an imaginary wound into his throat. Alongside the stretched holes in his earlobes where he used to wear spacers, it makes for a striking image. He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t seem overly concerned with social norms.

    Immediately after the shooting, Yoxall wanted to remain anonymous. He hoped to avoid drawing attention to himself or being called a hero. But local and national news outlets were eager to hear from the civilian who’d saved an officer’s life, so twelve days after the shooting, Yoxall agreed to speak at an Arizona Department of Public Service press conference. He knew his appearance would come as a shock.

    “I was like, you guys realize that these motherfuckers aren’t ready for me?” he says, reflecting on the moment just before the conference. “They think Johnny Football’s going to walk out: six foot two, blonde hair, blue eyes, all-American quarterback. I’m going to stroll out and get behind the podium, and people are going to shit themselves.”

    But things went smoothly, and the media ran with the story of a good samaritan who’d saved an officer’s life. Despite his hardscrabble exterior, Yoxall is thoughtful and articulate. And he didn’t take his role in the shooting lightly. “It’s difficult to think about that day still,” Yoxall said into a microphone, fighting back tears.

    Nearly twenty years ago, Yoxall went through a rough patch. He was implicated in a burglary and convicted of a felony. “I would ask people to remember that those moments of poor judgment have not dictated my future nor represent the person that I am here today,” he says about that time. After serving out his probation, he had the charge reduced to a misdemeanor. “When I got my rights restored, it was one of the happiest days of my life,” he says. “Because for almost sixteen months, I couldn’t carry a gun.”

    Arizona makes it easy for citizens to carry firearms, and Yoxall takes his right seriously. He fired a gun for the first time when he was five years old and bought his first sidearm when he was twenty-one. “I made the decision a long time ago that I was going to carry,” he says. “But I also know that with making that decision comes responsibility. I’m one of those people: if you’re going to be a responsible gun owner, you should go out and practice, just like anything else.”

    And practice he did. Alongside his military and law-enforcement friends, he ran through tactical drills with the same tenacity he cultivated through Spartan races. “We train at a 100 percent plus 10, because you never know what you’re going to come up against,” he says. “Why train for less than the worst possible conditions?”

     

    Thomas Yoxall

    “There was a period of time when I would stay up as many hours as possible because I didn’t want to fall asleep. I’d have these horrific nightmares, and I’d wake up looking for my gun.” Fortunately, Yoxall received an outpouring of support from first responders, law enforcement, and military personnel.

     

    The Hardest Year

    A week after the shooting, a Phoenix police sergeant took Yoxall to the gun range. But the trigger felt heavier than it had before. “The smell of the gunpowder, and boom—I’m right back on that morning at 4:30,” Yoxall says. “I had to take a step back. I started shaking. I started crying.”

    News publications were celebrating him as a hero, and government and law enforcement officials all over the country were flying him out to accept words of kindness and certificates of honor. Meanwhile, Yoxall was seeing a counselor to work through the trauma of the shooting. “Anybody who hasn’t killed anybody—and I know that sounds crass—but you don’t know how that’s going to affect you,” he says. “There was a period of time when I would stay up as many hours as possible because I didn’t want to fall asleep. I’d have these horrific nightmares, and I’d wake up looking for my gun.”

    He felt anger and confusion about what happened. But help came in surprising ways. After the accident, Yoxall received an outpouring of support from first responders, law enforcement, and military personnel. These were people who understood what he was going through, and their gratitude and encouragement helped him frame that brief moment in January as an emotional obstacle to overcome. “You walk up to it and say, ‘I’m going to figure out how to get around that,’” he says. “Or over it, through it—whatever it takes. That’s my mission.”

    The other thing that helped was the friendship he’d developed with Ed Andersson, the Arizona state trooper he’d saved. Andersson was a twenty-eight-year veteran of law enforcement, and in his free time, he volunteers as a high school volleyball coach. “This is a good dude,” says Yoxall. “People respect the hell out of him.” If Yoxall hadn’t intervened, Andersson would have likely been killed. Today the two men meet regularly to chat over breakfast.

    While he was focused on healing and showing gratitude to those who wanted to thank him in person, Yoxall’s Spartan ambitions seemed to be cooling. He didn’t have time to train properly, so as each race approached, he let it pass without signing up. But he still thought about the feeling of his first race back in 2015. “‘Life-changing’ is the best way I can describe it,” he says. “When I crossed that finish line, I knew I had to sign up for another one.” He ran his second race in Utah wearing a kilt, which has become his signature race-day attire. In Colorado Springs, he ran with a kilt and a broken hand. (“I’m not even going to lie and try to act like I’m Mr. Macho,” he says, when asked about grabbing obstacles. “It hurt.”)

    But by the time the 2017 championship in Tahoe came around, he’d missed the whole season. He went anyway, watching from the sidelines and mentally preparing himself for the battle ahead. “It’s a long game,” he told himself. “I’m not quitting. I’m just setting myself up for victory and success.”

     

    Thomas Yoxall biting a medal.

    “It’s time to get out. It’s time to Spartan up.”

    The Road to Sparta

    Back before the shooting, when he’d begun to plan his 2017 race schedule, Yoxall had put a Trifecta weekend in Hawaii on the calendar for 2018. As life intervened, it seemed unlikely that he’d make it. But after a year of battling through trauma, he’s ready to return to the course. He’ll start with Hawaii in August, and next year, he’ll go back for all the races he missed. “As long as I’m still breathing, I’m going to check that shit off my list,” he says. “Now it’s just in a different order. It’s what you do: You adapt. You do what you need to do to do to get across the finish line.”

    The shooting, the trauma, the year of healing. They’re all just new obstacles. He’ll conquer them somehow. “You just focus on how you can,” he says. “Not why you can’t.” It’s an outlook that simultaneously keeps him moving and grounded at once. “Some people would construe what I did as heroic,” he says. “But by no means would I classify myself as a hero. I’m a photojournalist, I’m a father, and I’m a grandson. And I did what any responsible member of the human race should do, and that’s fucking help somebody who needed help.”

    Late last year, Yoxall went in for a new tattoo. In addition to some work he had done on his left foot, he added a banner that reads: “Isaiah 6:8.” The verse reads: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’”

    Yoxall maintains that it has nothing to do with the shooting. And maybe that’s true. But it’s hard to ignore the connection. Few among us—even those who know how to fire a gun—have the fortitude or wherewithal to face danger, act fast, and save a man’s life at 4:30 a.m. on a cold, dark highway. But that’s why Yoxall trains. He’s preparing to answer the call, whenever and wherever it comes.

    Join veterans and active-duty servicemen and women in the 2018 Spartan Honor Series.

    Brian Chontosh

    What is Performance On Demand?

    Some years ago I found myself in Patagonia on an expedition length adventure race. It was late summer in a two-season environment. I was a member of a four-person coed team with considerable experience and plenty of capacity. It was day six or seven (continuous days) out of a scheduled ten and nearly 500 miles. We had just dropped into a massive ravine on a 200 foot-plus night rappel. It was a one-way entrance. The landing wasn’t visible and what we thought was solid footing was actually thick moss among tree branches. We had to make a waypoint some 30 miles off that would serve as a steering marker to guide us who knows where through a passage of the Darwin Range. The route had been scouted only via helicopter.

    After cliffing out in the early morning hours of darkness and exhausted, both physically and emotionally, we straddled boulders to avoid sliding down the scree. We napped. Well before sunrise, uncontrollable shivering woke us to inches of snow melting on our bodies.

    Long story short, a teammate became delirious and unable to function due to hunger, fatigue, and illness. The emergency GPS had no signal and our contingency satellite phone proved there was nothing in orbit at that latitude to connect with. We had less than one day of supply to ration across four people for however unknown long. We weren’t going over the mountain range now and had no map chip for off-course areas. It was primitive, remote backcountry.

    The scenario went from an expedition length adventure race to survival over the stretch of a few short, small events. Next, our training would be legitimately leveraged for a true test; absent any convenient failsafe or comfort blanket.

    This is a vivid example of what I refer to as Performance on Demand.

    ***

    It never fails to amaze me how people routinely conflate training and testing. Then, to top it off, their attitude toward being tested is magnificently flawed. Although they might understand the difference between the two and have an ability to articulate definitions or describe their concepts as events, a lot of people struggle (if not out right fail) at being able to consistently identify with the processes in their everyday lives. There is a major disconnect – whether out of convenience, ignorance, entitlement, laziness or whatever society has tended to reinforce and normalize. I submit that it can all be summed up as having low standards towards excellence.

    Let’s reconcile the terribly socialized behavior towards testing. More often than not, individuals approach a test with an expectation to have ample opportunity for deliberate “study time”. This mindset opens up the door to drift from a life of preparedness and puts emphasis on “the test” as a holy grail of sorts that suggests achievement or success. Someone half heartedly moves through daily motions until a specific time domain preceding a test where they will then devote themselves to study. It would seem that the certificate, medal, title, or other awarded gadget for passing becomes the object of desire. This is entirely lame; the accomplishment becomes for others to observe and applaud. I might even suggest that what comes after the test for many is a data dump or another drift – from maintaining competence to looking for the next shiny object to pass and show others.

    Tests evaluate, at any given moment, how developed your capacities are. This can be mental, emotional, spiritual, physical, and even moral. It is incredibly irritating when someone whines about not being given well enough notice that a test is coming. Or even worse, griping that they haven’t been told what’s going to be on the test so they can best prepare for only the minimum required information. Or afterward, bitching that they weren’t told a certain item was going to be tested. They continue to then suggest something was not fair. Why? They are focused on the pedestrian aspect of passing. How many times have you heard “How many can I get wrong?”

    Personally, I go out of my way to suggest that someone who maintains this position is a charlatan, underachiever, or lazy bitch. What they are saying is, “I’m not interested in putting forth the effort to live every day to the fullest or uphold my responsibilities in earnest; I just want to know when someone is looking so I can turn on my sauce. I want to rest easy, and when I sniff that something is coming I’ll prepare.” Where I’m from we call those people losers. Bare minimalists stuck with a primary school mentality. Hey loser, graduate or get accustomed to being mediocre.

    High achievers are mildly interested in knowing when they will be tested or even what is on a test. They live a life oriented from a position of being prepared and partisan towards acceptance; acceptance not being the same as satisfied. Winners lead a daily life of discipline that constantly seeks personal and professional development while being keenly self-aware. Some of the best can acutely forecast moments of challenge because they are connected to their surroundings, constantly engaged with progress, and have an appetite for excellence. Oftentimes they even put themselves into circumstances where being tested is invited. They pursue curious challenges in order to test themselves because they are dominating across most normal domains.

    I submit to you Performance on Demand. Critical challenges rarely come with adequate forewarning. Performance on Demand is the act of producing results PERIOD. Right here, right now. No questions asked. No excuses offered. No cute rationalizations for any measure, or lack thereof, indicating accomplishment or failure.

    Performance on Demand is less than zero percent interested in what you could have done three years ago. It is equally unimpassioned with what you might have accomplished if only if, or what you could do absent any current number of oochies or owies, or even three weeks from now when you’ll have had the opportunity to focus train. Performance on Demand simply insists on what you are capable of in the moment. What is your capacity NOW. Do you think the lion gives two fucks about the gazelle being a little tired and having a limp today? Do you think the fish is telling the fisherman that he cheated because it wasn’t announced that Pop’s lucky spinner bait was in play? People like to introduce fairness into the performance and testing conversation to distract us from a lack of capability and shitty execution.

    In the Corps I needed to have an intimate appreciation of the current capacities of the Men, the Unit as a whole, and every combination of Team in between. We didn’t have the luxury during Operation Iraqi Freedom or Al Fajr Fallujah to ask the enemy what was going to be on any test they might mettle against us. We had to simply perform when challenged. Not only perform, but perform magnificently, as the consequences could be ultimate. I needed to formulate plans that would be supported by appropriate capability and employ the men in certain fashions that were consistent with their right here, right now competence. In order to appreciate these facets, we were always training, always evaluating, and ever accelerating toward advancement. We adopted and accepted a mentality of Performance on Demand.

    When I am tested, I eagerly await the results, but not to hear whether I passed or failed. I already have a sense of how I did and waste very little energy worrying about some result that will be what it will be. What I get most excited about is having areas of opportunity for improvement identified. If I answered question 4 wrong, awesome: it provides an azimuth to pursue for development. If I got question 7 right, so what, no kidding.

    Then, of course, it’s always nice to register for an event that is relatively known and knowable to read the temperature of our progress and identify directions for advancement. Spartan events are tests. So are all the adventurous endeavors I register for or simply create for myself. They are incredible opportunities to display prowess and identify accomplishment against challenge. Mental fortitude comes under assault, and performance metrics are measured against a continuum with infinite upper limit. (I deliberately refused to suggest a continuum for measuring against others.)

    Unlike standings and rankings that compare you to how well someone else prepared, was more lucky, or had better capacity, the mental fortitude continuum is scaled in different increments that are unique to each individual. Like a fingerprint. It is solely calibrated based off the sets of experiences we’ve had and shared and relevant only to the efforts we put forth. So too is the measure of what is extreme to you versus me or anyone else. *

    When you adopt this view of testing and commit to challenge, you gain a tremendously valuable sense of self-appreciation that will limit any ability to bullshit yourself one way or another. You will experience what you experience, and your degree of success will be directly related to your capacity. It is much like Nature: she doesn’t care about excuses or performance caveats and is indifferent to your feelings and success. You simply perform or you do not—are you eating today or being eaten.

    What if we altered our perceptions regarding testing and the challenges we face in life? If we looked at our lives as a process of accruing experiences in the event we are tested without warning? How well prepared we are to win becomes inextricably tied to how well we live with an appetite for excellence in everything we do: dealing with others, taking care of our family, taking out the trash, brushing our teeth, work, play…

    (It is important that we hold organized sport and competition as a special category apart from this conversation. Not because it doesn’t share similar veins, but there are different aggravating interests that alter the conversation. Bottom Line: in organized sport, you compete to win. For some that is first overall, for others, it’s top 10, and for others yet it means simply setting a PR or even finishing. Have you ever asked someone why they are racing and had them say, “Well, I don’t care if I quit. I’m just here for the community and free hotdogs”? Pfft.)

     

    Brian “tosh” Chontosh is a retired USMC Infantry Officer who lives in Boulder, Colorado. He founded Crooked Butterfly Ranch, an experiential leadership company that leverages nature to create opportunities for individuals and organizations to challenge their ethos, values, and philosophies regarding life and leadership. He is also an active outdoor enthusiast and adventure racer having completed ultra-endurance events like the Arrowhead 135, Moab 240, Primal Quest, GodZone Adventure Race, the AR World Championships XPD, and others. For more info, visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Chontosh and http://www.crookedbutterfly.com.

     

     

     

    Be a part of the Oscar Mike mission and join veterans and active-duty servicemen and women in the 2018 Spartan Honor Series.

    honor series

    The Spartan Honor Series Presented By USAA

    The virtues and values of the U.S. Military and Spartan Race are similar, emphasizing courage, teamwork, community and a never-quit fortitude.

    The Honor Series events are Spartan races, held at active military installations, where American civilians can express their support of our servicemen and servicewomen in a rare and powerful way: Experiencing the challenge and camaraderie of what it’s like to be a part of our Armed Services.

    Part 1

    In part one of this six-part series, watch National Guard Captain Robert Killian, a Spartan World Champion, race with three servicemen new to Spartan.

     

     

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    Memorial Day Workout For the Special Ops Survivors

    If you are traveling this weekend and are perhaps away from your local gym community, are you in want of a Memorial Day workout?

    Listed as a Spartan Hero workout in the book, Spartan Fit, 300 burpees for time is something you can do anytime and anywhere. You don’t even need a pull-up bar.

    It’s simple. Gather any friends willing to join you, start the watch and execute 300 burpees in honor of those who gave their lives while serving our country.

    We also encourage you to make a donation to Special Ops Survivors.

    Special Ops Survivors is a non-profit dedicated to supporting the spouses and families of service members who have given their lives in service to the country.

    To get more info and make a pledge, go to Special Ops Survivors.

    You can also sign up for a Special Ops Survivors Team to participate in a future Spartan Race by contacting the organization’s executive director.  Direct contact info can be found at the bottom of home page: http://specialopssurvivors.org/

    Back From the Brink

    Back From the Brink

    Paul Trehern, an insurance sales broker in New London,  Connecticut. He’s a 47-year-old husband, father of three and grandfather of two. He’s also an increasingly accomplished age-group OCR athlete, qualifying and competing in the 2017 Spartan World Championships.

    What makes Trehern’s success in Spartan Racing remarkable is that it was part of getting sober after hitting rock bottom as an alcoholic. “Up until the start of 2017 I was just existing in life and barely at that,” he says. His drinking, a DUI and collapsing health were compounded by the hit he took when his father died.

    “I was at the brink of losing my job, getting a divorce, losing my home and even my own life. I don’t really know what made me take that first step but on Jan 29th, 2017 I took my last drink and then next morning my life started over again.”

    That was the beginning of a year of recovering his life and health, in concert with pursuing OCR. His message for others who are struggling: “If you believe it can happen then you can make it happen. Don’t ever give up on yourself and leave nothing to chance.”

    We caught up with Paul recently to talk about his journey.

    Can you describe the moment you made the decision to take action and change your life?

    I lost my dad on April 27 of 2016 after his four-year battle with cancer.  He was the person I looked up to most. Still battling my alcoholism at the time I had registered in June 2016 for my first obstacle race (Spartan Sprint in Barre, Mass.). I almost chickened out but imagined my dad’s face looking at me telling me that if I said I was going to do it then I had to commit to it.  This got the wheels turning. It me still another six months but then at the beginning of 2017. January 30, 2017 was the exact day I hit rock bottom and took my last drink.

    In thinking back on your ability to make a change, did it almost seem necessary to hit rock bottom to summon the decision to turn your life around?

    Yes.  Every single day was the same….dark.  I was just existing and barely at that. There wasn’t anything worth living for because I just didn’t care.

    How important was getting the help and support of others?

    Very important. Without the help and support from friends and family there is no way I could have done this on my own in the beginning.  I had to make the initial step towards asking for help. Help was always there around me but I didn’t want it or was scared to ask for it.  When I finally was broken and asked for help, people were there for me.

    Were there bumpy spots in those first few months?

    I was told sometimes you have to  “fake it until you make it.” Yes, the first 24 hours, the first week, the first month—all were rough. I just had to break it down into small amounts of time.   There was no way I could think long term. It was too scary. Many said: Just deal with today. Don’t drink today. So that’s exactly what I did.  One 24-hour-day at a time. I would check in daily with friends and be open and honest all the time. I had to be accountable for myself.

    If you were to meet someone on the street who was rock bottom in the way you were, what do you think you could say to them to help them open their eyes to the possibility of major change?

    I would hold out my hand and ask them to take it.  There is always help, even if you don’t think there is.  If you don’t like where you are right now or how you feel and you are willing to take a chance on changing right this very minute…. I’m telling you that you can because I was there once too and I’m here to listen.     

    That you worked yourself into the elite category of Spartan Racing so quickly is pretty impressive. How did you do it?

    It’s funny because I never was a jock back in school.  When I started running obstacle races there was something about it that really pushed me.  At first I only ran in Open divisions but quickly networked with others in the sport and they encouraged me to run more competitive, so I tried Elite. I really just started doing my own workouts in the local gym and outside.  Then I stumbled onto an online training program called Yancy Camp. I joined the program and followed the workout schedules weekly. Also, teamed up with two local OCR groups. F4 OCR and Spartan 4-0. Members would frequently get together for group training sessions.

    What are your race plans for this year?

    I set some goals in January for 2018.  First was to get a podium in a Spartan Race.  Well, in March at Greek Peak I did just that. I placed 3rd in ALL Age Group Divisions. Next was to take on my first Ultra.  I am doing that this month at the New Jersey Ultra Beast. Last was to once again qualify and return to the Spartan World Championships in September. Already qualified for the North American Champs! So I’m on my way.

    It’s never too late to make a change. Download the Spartan Way of Life E-book

    Spartan Strong

    How Do You Build a Great Community?

    Through Spartan Races, I’ve been fortunate enough to help millions of people get off the couch and make a healthy change in their lives.

    But, I didn’t do it alone.

    I have the whole Spartan community to thank for that.

    Spartan truly is a global community. Our reach spans across more than 30 countries and more than five million participants have crossed one of our finish lines. Spartan is about inspiring each other to push ourselves past our limits and to become better versions of ourselves.

    In my quest to reach 100 million people, I’ve been thinking a lot about the role businesses play in building communities that can change the world. As I’ve said before, the secret to happiness lies in helping others.

    Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” 

    Giving can take many forms, but without a community, it’s nearly impossible to bring about change. Here’s why communities play such a pivotal role:

    1. Every one of us has a limited perception of the world.

    By working in teams, we bring new perspectives and ideas. One person’s strengths are often another’s weakness. Together, we can combine our skills and support one another to build a better world

    2. In improv comedy, the golden rule is to always say, “Yes, and…”

    When a performer pitches a new idea, team members do not suggest alternatives. They take the original idea, say yes and build off of it. This method helps create trust and respect within a group, and it works in almost any collaborative situation.

    3. Communities support one another

    You see it all the time. The recent hurricanes caused people all over the country to send supplies, food, and support. Whenever a school needs to raise money, parents, teachers, and students come together to host a fundraiser. Humans inherently want to help others when they see they are in need.

    Want to build your community up? Start by thinking about how you can help the people closest to you. I realized that by encouraging those around me to make a healthy change in their lives, I could also help the world. Now, that small group of Spartans we started out with has grown into a worldwide community, but our mission is still the same: help others live a healthier, happier life.

    Live Spartan. Download the Spartan Way of Life E-book

    Dan Morris

    Taking Up the Fight Against Parkinson’s

    Dan Morris, 37, formerly a University of Pennsylvania football player, had always considered himself an athlete.  A few years ago he noticed a slight tremor in his hand. The results of preliminary medical examinations were unclear. But last year he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.

    “It changes your perspective on life,” he says in the video.  After the initial emotional shock, Dan and his family turned toward action. “How are we going to make things better?”

    This question led them to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Dan now leads a fundraising effort through Spartan Racing. The next event is August 25, the West Point Spartan Sprint.

    “For me it’s all about working out every day knowing that there’s something I can do that will make a difference, and than having the support of everyone behind me.”

    Ready to conquer your fear. Download the Spartan Way of Life E-book