Review: Spartan Up! + Biggest Giveaway Yet!!

As part of my partnership with Spartan Races, I was provided a free copy of Joe De Sena’s “Spartan Up! A Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Peak Performance in Life.”   All expressed opinions are entirely my own.

Tune in to the 2014 Spartan Race World Championship Race, held in Killington, VT on September 20th, broadcast on NBC 11/16 3PM EST!!!

When Spartan Races approached me about reviewing Joe De Sena’s (Founder of Spartan Races) new book, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Admittedly, initially, I was concerned that this book might include an egocentric trip through the mind of a very successful and athletic guy.  A little judge-y, on my part?!

In actuality, however, this book is an inspiring synopsis of how each and every one of us, despite our current physical and mental shape, can “Spartan Up!” and challenge ourselves to face our next obstacle – whatever that might be.  In fact, within the book, Joe repeatedly discusses how he was rejected  by Cornell University three times before he was formally accepted, and graduated from the school.

Throughout the book, there is a common theme of relativity that explains how an obstacle may be more challenging for one person than it is for another.  As Joe says, “By the time I did my first Ironman, I had already completed eight ten-day races, so the Ironman felt like a warm-up to me…. In contrast, if the most strenuous thing I had ever done was walking to and from the supermarket a quarter of a mile away, an Ironman would have posed an unbelievably imposing obstacle.  I was not a natural athlete by any stretch, and I never thought I could do an Ironman when I first heard of one.  But after doing these multiday adventure races, I knew I could.  It all depends on your frame of reference.”

As the book explains, the Spartan Races were born out of a very challenging and military-style Death Race that Joe originally founded with his friend and fellow adventure-enthusiast, Andy Weinberg.  There are varying race lengths, starting from 3-miles to 20+, that include various obstacles and challenges, such as burpees, rope climbs, and greased monkey bars.

In Spartan Up!, Joe explains the purpose behind the race obstacles and how life is full of natural ones.  “In scientific terms, it is the ability to avoid the fight-or-flight response to a situation, to remain calm and able to think clearly.  This quality is borne of the kind of preparation that prevents the individual from getting stressed out by unfamiliar obstacles…. Preparing for the unexpected is easy.  You just need to do the unexpected.  Break out of your routine.  Go for a run at night.  Swim in the open water.  Stop and climb a hill in the distance.  Go farther during that bike ride.”

** Ultimately, Spartan Up! is an easy and motivational read that leaves you wanting to challenge yourself more.  The book contains stories ranging from Olympic athletes to 400-pound individuals taking on the obstacles in front of them – whether that’s a week-long Iditarod race or a walk around the block.  Joe provides an inspiring narrative about how each of us can face life head-on and push ourselves to be better, smarter and stronger individuals, embracing the true embodiment of the Spartan spirit.

We wanted to surround ourselves with people who inspire us.  The people who inspire us the most are those who don’t waver, don’t quit, don’t take shortcuts, and don’t fall short.  Each of us can be one of those people if we choose to be.  Sacrifice time now for more time later. -Andy Weinberg

BIGGEST GIVEAWAY YET – ENTRIES DUE BY MIDNIGHT EST 9/22.

1. Spartan Races is giving away a free cruise to Stirrup Cay, Bahamas!  Win it! Enter here.

cruise

2. Win a free entry to any Spartan Sprint Race.  Enter in the giveaway widget below.  The winner will be announced on Crossroads of the Heart on Friday September 25th!

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3. 10% off any Spartan Race in the continental US.  Use promo code: SPARTANBLOGGER

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My 2014 Word of the Year is…

The Night Train

It purrs softly in the dark of the night.

“Hurry!,” A. shrieks as I press my foot on the clutch and shift into third gear.  We’re a half mile away from where the pavement curls up to meet the wooden and metal tracks that divide our town equally in half. The lead foot in me wants to beat it before it starts howling.

“Did you see Ryan and Marissa’s fight last night on the OC?” A. shouts over the screeching as I slam on the brakes.  We fail to hit the safety gate by inches.  I let out a slow exhale.

“I missed it,” I say.  “I was working on a paper for AP European History.” Why, again, did I take AP European History my senior year?

“Oh,” A. responds.  “You have to see it – Marissa just can’t understand Ryan’s past and forgive him for that comment he said in last week’s episode!  I just don’t get it.”

Truth be told – the OC has been a favorite of my group of friends for a while now.  Most weeks, we gather at one of our family’s houses to watch it together.  The show’s drama, the clashing personalities, the underage mistakes all feel eerily familiar somehow.

The train is billowing past us, at this point, as I look off to its smoke in the distance.

I can’t help, but wonder where it’s going.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

**

Seven minutes later, we find ourselves parked in front of A.’s boyfriend’s friend’s parent’s house.  A distant relation we sought out for a night of acting far beyond our age.  His parents are either away for the evening or highly ignoring the situation on the first floor of the home – details worth avoiding, for now.  My heel stabs a crinkled beer can as we exit my dad’s red candy apple sports car.

We step into the house softly as a wall of stale Natural Light and lingering cigarette smoke smacks us in the face.  I recognize about 5 of the 26 youth packed in  like sardines around the living room table.  Half empty cans, strewn about the family photos and fabric floral displays, decorate the room surrounding them.  One of the familiar faces wraps his arm around me.  “Hey, so glad you guys could make it!,” he whispers, far too energetically, into my ear.  Did he even know we were coming? I think. But, I take the compliment, anyways.

A. holes up in the corner with her boy as I realize I’m in for a long night.  A few failed attempts at meaningful conversation and finding a beer pong partner later, my mind starts drifting.  At home, stacks of college pamphlets wait for me on my bedroom floor. They’ve been there for weeks, but I hardly tend to notice.  I’ll look at them someday.

The reality is that I’m terrified to read them. I want so badly to stand still in this moment, and let the world circle around me.  I want to refuse to leave the familiar.  I want to refuse to let go of everything I’m holding on to in this hometown of mine.  Who can let go of episodes of the OC and random people’s houses?

One of the strangers stands up shakily.  “I think I might be sick,” he mutters as he slips out the back door.

**

I drop A. off at home and steer my dad’s car back to our home a few blocks away.  As I turn on to one of my hometown’s busy roads, I hear its whistle.  Another one purring in the distance, just a little more seductively.

I enter my parents’ front door and make sure to dead bolt it behind me.  A custom ritual never forgotten.  As I glide past the stack of college pamphlets near my bed, I grab a couple to look at in the morning.

When the next train comes to town, I want to be ready for the ride.

Got a moon and a billion stars
Sound of steel and old boxcars
The thought of you is driving me insane
Come on, baby, let’s go listen to the night train
~Jason Aldean

**

The Spartan Race and protein powder giveaway winner is entry #5.  Jordan – please look for an email from me!!