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Run Hard. Pray Hard: Danielle Duhon & The Boston Marathon

Posted by on Sunday, April 20, 2014 @ 5:41 am | Leave a reply

 “Run fast. Pray hard.” That’s Danielle Duhon’s running motto. It’s what got her to the Boston marathon in 2011 and what is taking her there again this year. “Boston is like the average runner’s Olympics,” she says.  “Running Boston in 2011 was one of the greatest running experiences I’ll ever have. The crowd support and the privilege of having qualified and getting to run that course, is something I’ll never take for granted.” She adds, “It was such a blessing and an honor to be there, even if I never qualified again.”

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            The 43-year-old has qualified for Boston every year since, but traveling for a race can be expensive. Not to mention she works the night shift as a nurse and has three young daughters, the oldest of whom is disabled. But this year, is different. “I didn’t go back in 2012 or 2013. The reason I’m going back this year is because of the events of last year. I decided it was important for me to go back and show my support for the city after the events of last year.”

Aside from running alongside the more than 35,660 participants who also are running Boston this year, she’s headed to the race with her sister and seven of her girlfriends. All of who qualified. “It’s amazing we all qualified and got in. I think it will be really special and an honor to run for the people who can’t run this year. For those who lost their lives and to say ‘thank you’ to the city.”

But Duhon hopes this won’t be her last time running Boston. She has another goal in mind for which she will rely on her motto again, as well as the words of triathlete, Jessie Thomas, “Your best performance can come in spite of your biggest doubts. Always give your self a chance to succeed.” Duhon would like to run Boston again pushing her 14-year-old daughter in her new running chair. “My oldest daughter is handicapped and we just raised money to buy her a pushchair. My goal is to qualify for the push chair division. I am small and she weighs more than me, so it will likely take me more than a year to get there. I think she would be ecstatic. She just waves like she is in a pageant when I push her in races. It will be a tough road, but my goal is to give her that experience, however long it takes me to get there.”

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As she looks toward her next goal, and even her ensuing race, Duhon credits Newton for her ability to still run at all. When she first began to marathon train, she would get injured every time she increased her mileage—stress fractures, IT band issues, Achilles tendinitis—you name it, she had it. In March of 2009, she ran her first marathon in New Orleans in a time of 4:07. “I was injured again afterward and went in search of a new shoe.” That’s then she was fitted in the Newton Distance. That summer, she began to increase her mileage and remained injury free. In December 2009, she ran her second marathon in a time of 3:41, giving her the qualifying time for Boston. “Nine months later and 26 minutes off my time. What? The only thing I changed were my shoes.”

Fast forward to today and she’s gone through about 12 pairs of the Distance U and is headed to Boston for the second time. For the next few days, she’ll tuck away her thoughts on running it a third time with her daughter and try to just savor the moment—a change from the first time she ran Boston. “Last time I ran Boston, I wanted to run my fastest time and I didn’t enjoy the race as much as I would have liked, because I was looking at my watch and trying to PR. I missed my PR by 3 seconds and I came home disappointed.” She adds, “This time I promised myself I wouldn’t run for the time, but would enjoy myself more and soak up every single moment of this race. Especially with everything that happened there last year, we owe it to that crowd to enjoy every single second.” Then, she’ll get back to running fast and praying hard to make her next goal happen.

 

 

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Melody Fairchild: So This is 40

Posted by on Sunday, April 6, 2014 @ 9:24 am | Leave a reply

When it comes to running, Melody Fairchild knows what she likes and doesn’t like. For instance, uphills “yes,” downhills “no,” Newtons “yes,” other brands “no.” She should know, she has been running since she was 14. And we’re not talking jogging. She was the first high school girl to break 10 minutes for 2 miles and from there her list of accolades is long.

Last summer she turned 40 and aged up to Masters. She quickly proved she would be a force to be reckoned with in this category with three wins last fall in the space of a month: first place at the USA Masters 5K Championships with a time of 16:51; first place at the 15K Masters National Championship; and 1st female, and 2nd overall at the Project Athena US Trail Half Marathon, which served as the half marathon national championships, in Moab, Utah.

Fairchild started 2014 with a goal to do all of the USATF Masters National Championships and a main goal of doing the Master’s National Championship in the marathon at the Medtronic Twin City Marathon in Minneapolis in October. Obviously, age has not diminished ability nor competitive spirit.

So far this year, Fairchild has taken 2nd in the half marathon in Melbourne, Florida and 2nd at the USA Cross Country Championships in Boulder, both in February. Results most runners would consider great. But, Fairchild doesn’t like to lose. “In the Twin Cities, I plan on being a contender to win and I would like to win. I will have my work cut out for me, there are a lot of really good Master’s marathoners out there, including the two women who I have been beaten by already this year.”

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Although Fairchild makes running look easy, she has had her share of bumps in the road. Looking back on her career, she credits her ability to still run strong to the fact that she took a break from running from about the time she was 27 to 37. This was at a time when many of her running colleagues were pushing the envelope and taking their careers to another level professionally performance wise. Her body was telling her to do otherwise. “I had to really listen to my body, and it was telling me to stop running. I had massive sciatic nerve pain and my feet were hurting. Rather than getting surgery on my feet to keep running, I went an alternative healing route.” Fairchild focused on getting healthy.

Along the path to healing, Fairchild also found a friend in Newtons. “I’ve been told I have a dropped metatarsal head. I thought it was a neuroma.” No matter how you cut it, it’s painful. “I also have large bunyans, which is why Newtons are great for my feet, because they have a nice wide toebox. With other shoes, I would have to cut them open because there was too much pressure on my feet.”

Fairchild used to race in the Distance Elite and train in the Distance U, which she loves because it’s so light. But then, last summer, she discovered the new Energy—not a shoe you would immediately pair with an elite athlete. “ I ran a half marathon in Costa Rica last summer and placed 2nd. Normally, I would take a racing flat, but I ran the whole race in my Energies.”

Fairchild says, for any Newton lovers with any sort of forefoot issue the Energy is just a fabulous option. ”I still feel the energy return that you get from a Newton, but it’s just so much more gentle on the forefoot, especially if you have a neuroma or a bone bruise.”

            Listening to and looking after your body, especially as a runner, is a message Fairchild now loves to share with the next generation of athletes. When she’s not training and racing—or planning for her wedding this summer (it’s true!)—she’s busy coaching across Boulder County. She runs after school cross-country and track programs, and running camps for girls in the summer. “My girls running camp in the summer is a passion of mine.  I know the pitfalls that befall young women. I help my girls gain a perspective of themselves and their life. It is a long winding road.”

As she runs from job to job and race to race, Fairchild knows that winding road well. But at this stage in life, she’s loving every minute of it. “It’s so awesome to be paid to run. Every day I get up and train and look forward to the next race I have planned. I definitely don’t take it for granted.” She adds, “For someone my age, competing at the level I am, to have the support from a shoe company, is off the charts.”

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Kara Henry

Posted by on Sunday, March 9, 2014 @ 8:16 am | Leave a reply

Don’t be fooled by Kara Henry’s relaxed nature. At the start of a race, it’s a different story.

 

Bacon. Check.
Gummy Bears. Check.
Coca Cola. Check.
Pretzels. Check.
Frozen pizza. Check.
 

These aren’t your ordinary race snacks, but then again Kara Henry isn’t your ordinary runner. One minute the 29-year-old is doing 6:20-minute pace in a half marathon, look again, and she easily falls into a 15-minute pace for the Leadville 100, where she placed 6th last summer in a time of 23:50 (four hours faster than her first attempt in 2012). But truth be told, 50-mile and 50K races hit her sweet spot. In 2012, she ran her first 50-miler, the Bear Chase 50, in Lakewood, Colorado. She not only won the women’s division, she set a course record. “That was a shock,” she says. But it also showed her (and others) what she was capable of.

Kara is the first to admit she has a competitive side. “I learned the hard way that I can’t do a race as a training run. I go into every race wanting to win whether I’ve trained or not.”

Growing up in Elmhurst, Illinois, Kara joined the cross-country team in 8th grade. She had never participated in competitive sports before and it wasn’t really the running that drew her to the team. Rather, it was the fact that her tough science teacher was the coach. She thought if she joined the cross-country team she could get in his good books and get a better grade. But that didn’t mean she came to practice ready to run, “I would show up at practices and walk and chat with my friends.” That was, until her very first cross-country race. “I couldn’t sleep the night before. All I could think about was winning the race.” And win she did. This set in motion a strong high school cross-country career that earned her multiple all-state honors and landed her a scholarship to Butler University.

After moving west after Butler, Kara notes, “running took a back seat to paying my bills for a few years.” But then, a friend convinced her to run the Quad Dipsea, a 28.4-mile annual trail run in Mill Valley, California, and surprise, surprise, that old competitive nature kicked in without hesitation. She placed second in the women’s race. “It’s a pretty prestigious race and no one knew who I was.” The ultra community would know who she was soon enough.

Shortly after that first race, Kara moved to Boulder, Colorado, in the Spring of 2012 to take a job as the marketing manager at Newton. Since she didn’t know anyone in town, she spent a lot of hours running the trails by her self. Then came the Bear Chase 50. “That first 50-miler was the best experience. It went so well for me. I think if it had gone poorly, I wouldn’t have kept on with the ultra thing.” It was at that race, where she realized what she was made of, “I had such a fun day and really learned to dig from the deepest depths of my own personal hell and get out of it. I learned when you think you can’t take another step, you can all of a sudden run 8-minute miles again.”

Although Kara knew she had great potential for the distance races, it hasn’t been totally smooth sailing.  “In 2012, I screwed up every week. One week I was vomiting, the next race I fell off a cliff, and I got lost. I am really bad with a sense of direction. Some people can look up and know where the car is, if you spin me around in downtown Boulder, I’ll get lost. If I’m not paying attention, I’ll go left, when I should have gone right.” Which is what she did when she went to Texas for the US 100K championships. She took a wrong turn and the next thing she knew, she was tumbling head over heels through cactus. “It’s a long way to travel to end up all bloody and in the car before the race was over.”

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At Leadville in 2012, she entered simply with the hopes of finishing, which she did, but not without hallucinating and falling asleep while running in the wee hours of the morning. “It was about 4am or a bit later. I had been out there for 24 hours and the sun was about to come up again. It’s really rough watching the sun rise twice. My friend was pacing me and she was just super chatty, chatty and she would ask me something and 10 or 12 minutes later I’d say, ‘what?’ She realized I was falling asleep, so she started breaking up Honey Stinger bars and she would make me eat these bites of sugar every 15 minutes. It woke me up.”

2013 was a different story. She took a different tact: she trained. “I really focused on a training plan and on the races leading up to Leadville. I was good with nutrition, everything that could have gone well went well.” In other words, she won all of the 25-mile and 50-milers she entered, and garnered 6th at Leadville.

So now what? “I’m going to take a year off from running a 100 miler. I’ll do a few 50s. I’ve had this marathon monkey on my back for a couple of years. I’ve never really raced a marathon. I’d like to get one real crack at a marathon and call it a day.” That marathon will be the Twin Cities in October and then she’ll focus on Rocky Raccoon, the Trail Running 100-mile championship 100-mile in January, 2015 in Huntsville, Texas.

Oh and about that nutrition thing. She did focus on good nutrition while training last year, but seems like anything goes in a race. Kara’s secret weapons are in fact gummy bears—she ate 5 packs of them in Leadville—“a lot of pretzels, some bacon…and cold frozen pizza is this excellent running food, too.” And that 8th grade science class? She got an A.

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Larger than Life!

Posted by on Monday, January 27, 2014 @ 10:58 am | Leave a reply

Sculptor Bob Zasadny makes a unique pair of Newtons

 

If you find yourself driving in western Kentucky any time soon, specifically in Madisonville, take a moment to drive by, or even run around the Baptist Health Madisonville Trover Wellness Park, which sits next to the Baptist Health Madisonville hospital campus. Here, you’ll find something that looks strangely familiar: a pair of Distance Newton running shoes. But these just aren’t any pair of Distance shoes, this pair is four-feet long, roughly 20 inches high at the back and heel and about 20 inches wide—roughly four-times the average sized shoe.

The hospital commissioned Indianna artist, Bob Zasadny, to create the giant shoe sculpture as a tribute for outgoing CEO, Berton Whitaker.  Whitaker, is a runner, who actually runs in the Newton Distance. He also was responsible, amongst other things, for the creation of the Baptist Health Madisonville Trover Wellness Park, which has 10 different fitness stations and a half-mile walking or running trail. So, the real idea here, says Zasadny, is that Whitaker is leaving big shoes to fill.

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The other surprising thing about these shoes is that they only weigh about 20 pounds each. Zasadny constructed them out of rigid polyurethane foam coated in fiberglass.  Zasadny worked at a fiberglass company in his early 20s and was always fascinated with the medium. Now, 50 years later he says, at the age of 75, he’s still working with fiberglass. “It’s an alternative material, but not a widely used thing because it’s a unique product. It’s not a pleasant material to work with and you have to be a bit technical to work with it.” But he says, “It was a perfect media for me because I could manipulate it because of my industrial experience with it. I knew how to fabricate it and I could find artistic ways to use it.”

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Typically, Zasadny likes to sculpt the forms we see in nature—sand dunes, leaf patterns, flower petals, things that are more organic. “I’ve tried to incorporate more natural things into my art. It resonates with people, they have to reach out and touch it and run their hands over it. It’s a tactile thing that you want to feel and start touching art with your hands.” But when the opportunity to create the Newtons came his way, he jumped on it. He hadn’t heard of Newton shoes prior to the project, but quickly found a pair to check out. “It was like walking on my socks and a piece of foam, such an airy feeling.” The colors weren’t lost on Zasadny either. He kept the shoes bright, but instead incorporated the four colors that matched the hospital logo.

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So what does it take to complete a project like this? Zasadny says when all was said and done, including making the tabletops the shoes are mounted on, it took him “easily 400 hours. For 6 weeks, I worked 60-70 hour weeks. We were making something that had never been made before.” And with that much time invested, you would think he might be worried about the longevity of the sculpture. But, the ultimate beauty of working with the foam and fiberglass materials is that if the sculpture gets a ding in it or is damaged in any way, Zasadny says, “I can go down there and take some material, grind it up and make the damaged area totally like brand new. It’s not as tragic for that to be vandalized as it would be for someone else’s materials.” Long live Newtons!

For more information on Bob Zasadny’s art - http://www.bobzabstractsculpture.com/

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Form, Function & Education

Posted by on Monday, January 13, 2014 @ 8:34 am | Leave a reply

The Treadmill’s owner, Chris Cleary, was selling Newtons long before he was selling Newtons.

 

When Chris Cleary moved with his wife, Janice, from Toronto, Canada to Carmel, California to be near his sister and her husband, he was very active in the running and triathlon world, but working in construction. Still, motivating and inspiring others was just something he liked to do, almost like a hobby. “I was running and doing triathlon and leading an active lifestyle. In construction, my goal was always to get the guys who weren’t health conscious to think about it.” And then, the Treadmill running store came up for sale and his life changed.

“One of my coworkers said, ‘I saw The Treadmill is for sale. Then my sister called a couple of days later and said, ‘I saw The Treadmill is for sale.’” The seed was planted. The owners were retiring after 29 years in the business. Cleary and his wife had just had their first child (they now have two), and he debated, “Should I do something crazy, or do something smart?” He and his wife decided to go for it, they bought the store in April 2012, and they’ve never looked back.

One of the first decisions Cleary made as the new owner of The Treadmill was to bring Newton running shoes into the store. “I was a Newton customer long before we bought the store,” he explains. Several years prior, Cleary and his wife had postponed their honeymoon until after they ran the Big Sur Marathon, whose course runs 200 yards from the Treadmill’s front door. Cleary had been running a lot of ultra races and he ran the Big Sur race in another popular shoe. “I was in so much pain when I finished, I couldn’t walk for days. It ruined our honeymoon, because neither of us could walk.” As Cleary got more into racing, he started to read more about form and stumbled upon Newton.

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“I started reading about Newton and then I looked up the local store that sold them, and started running in them. I was 2-3 weeks in when I had that ‘Aha’ moment that I should have been running like this forever. That’s how you create a cult following, people have that ‘Aha’ moment.” As a result of his enthusiasm for Newtons, Cleary adds, “I was selling Newtons, long before I was selling Newtons.”

When Cleary bought the store, Newton’s weren’t in the store. Cleary jumped on bringing them in because the “local” store where he had been buying them was actually an hour-and-a-half drive up north. But selling them, he admits, was a bit of a difficult transition at first. “We have an older demographic—a lot of walkers. We only have a few runners on our staff. We have a lot of people who do adventure travel. We had to do a lot of teaching as to how this shoe makes a difference in your running.” But the education process is partly what attracted Cleary to Newton shoes in the first place. And the concept of teaching form, helping people understand how they are moving and offering tips to make the running experience more enjoyable for his customers is key to Cleary’s overall business plan. “We have to stand out. We want people to like us and support us and think there is nowhere else to go because we know exactly what is going on.”

The education focus is working for him. “We went from selling five pairs a month, to 35 to more than 50 pairs a month.” This past year, the store started a tri-club as well. Cleary himself, is now a Level 1 Newton Natural Running Instructor.

Realizing the road to success is going to be bumpy, Cleary’s vision is clear, “I want to create a store that I would want to go to.” And although everyone on his staff saw Newton as Cleary’s shoe, he says it’s not his efforts alone that have made the shoe a success in the store. “Newton has been 100-percent supportive. They have come and done clinics for us. Ian Adamson spoke on our behalf. They stand behind us with the 30-day guarantee. It’s nice to have a company that is really aware of where they’re at in the industry and doing the best for everyone trying to sell the shoe.”

 

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Winter Gear: Extras that make a difference

Posted by on Thursday, December 19, 2013 @ 4:33 pm | Leave a reply

It’s true. All you really need to run is a pair of shoes. For that reason, it’s hard not to like the simplicity of the sport. But in reality, it is nicer to run in running apparel than say jeans. And as the temps dip in the winter, there are some items, thermal tights for instance, that can make your run that much more enjoyable. We’ve put together this package of winter-friendly products for those runners who are willing to venture out when sitting by a fire with hot chocolate is oh so tempting. Receive 20% off on each item. Free 2-day shipping is available with a purchase of $118.99 or more.

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Terra Momentum, $149

Slip these shoes on if you’re heading off-road into the winter wonderland or if you need a little extra traction on urban paths. The Momentum offers highly responsive cushioning on a lightweight platform.

Firewall 180 Jacket, $140

You can brave the elements in the Firewall. This lightweight, front-zip jacket is made with a thermal knit laminate for wind and rain protection. Lycra cuffs keep wind and rain out, while one back-zip pocket and two front hand pockets will hold your phone or keys tight.

Mid Zero Tight, $70

This form-fitting tight is made with thermal fleece to keep you warm and cozy no matter wear your feet take you.

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A Holiday Salute

Posted by on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 @ 4:43 pm | Leave a reply

To Our Military, Police & Firefighters

To our military, police and firefighters, we salute you. Words cannot express how much we appreciate what you do. In recent years, we’ve been through our share of fires in our own backyard here in Colorado. We have watched as firefighting squads have fought around the clock to save lives, homes and land. This year, the fires were followed by the flood — 17 inches of rain in just a few days, when Boulder County’s annual average is just 20.7 inches. As damage spread across an almost 200-mile range covering 17 counties, we were in trouble. Relief came as Army and National Guard soldiers were brought in to help. What a mess we were in and how much we appreciated your efforts in search-and-rescue operations and flood relief and recovery. We know that hard work continued long after the rains stopped.

This is just Colorado. Across the country, our men and women of service work hard to keep our homes, communities and children safe. From Hurricane Katrina, to the Boston Marathon tragedy, you were there. And, there are those of you who aren’t at home. You’ve been stationed abroad once, twice, perhaps many times. You’ve sacrificed time with loved ones and friends to protect our country, to protect others and to help rebuild global communities. Your work makes the world a better place.

We also recognize that our men and women of service represent some of the toughest and strongest athletes around. Sure, people love to get out and do a Tough Mudder race or a Warrior Dash, but try doing those events year round, in bitter winter conditions or without warning or notice. Floods and fires aren’t planned, catastrophes don’t happen on cue. While many of us covet our daily routine, our eight hours of sleep, healthy meals, and workouts, you just keep doing what you do.

In support of our military, firefighters and police offers, Newton Running offers special discounts and promotions for members of the United States military, state and local police and fire departments and their families. To qualify, simply go to our community military page and provide proof of military status or current employment. A “.mil” or “.gov” email address counts as proof of status. It’s easy to do. On top of this discount, we’re also offering 20% off on these select items, inspired of course, by you:military

Terra Momentum, $149

An all-terrain shoe, the Terra Momentum serves as an everyday base-training shoe from roads to technical trails. Lightweight, yet cushiony, this shoe is ready for action. And we know you’re sayin’, “bring it!”

Camo Mid Height Compression Sock, $15

We know, you’re wary of the hot pink and lime green. They’re not the stuff that stealth is made of. That’s why we made these for you.

Newton Race Hats by Headsweats, $20

Everyone needs a hat, whether to run in or to be incognito every once in awhile. Made with an adjustable clip in back, this hat is made with Coolmax and nylon, which means it’s lightweight, breathable, and fast drying rain or shine.

Whether you’re home or abroad, we hope this helps to make this holiday season a little brighter. Thank you again for all that you do.

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On The Podium

Posted by on Sunday, December 15, 2013 @ 6:02 pm | Leave a reply

Podium Seeker

If you spend time reading about our athletes on the Newton Running Elite site, you’ll see that we like to be on the podium. There’s Melody Fairchild, who turned 40 this fall and subsequently took first place in the women’s category at the USA Masters 5K, the 15K Masters National Championship, and the half marathon national championships. Not bad. Newton marketing manager, Kara Henry, prefers the longer distances, taking first at the Bear Chase 50 Mile, Collegiate Peaks 25 Mile, and North Fork 50 Mile races earlier this year (eating chocolate and bacon en route to help her win, of course). Jeremy Freed won the Bolder Boulder Citizen’s race for the second time this year, no small feat, considering a mere 50,000+ runners sign up for this event. And we could keep going, but you get the point.

It’s not so much the podium that we’re after—it’s simply that we love to run. And we like to run fast. We like to run with goals, and to push ourselves to do our best. Sure, it feels great to cross the finish line first, to feel the ribbon at your waist, even second and third can feel good, as you stand on the podium at the end of the race. And the ribbons and medals can be a little addicting. But really, it’s a good day when we run, and in fact, not many days go by that we don’t run. We’re kind of grumpy when we don’t run.

If you’re reading this and nodding your head, you know what we mean. Whether it’s for you or someone you love, we’ve created this package for the podium seeker with up to 30% off each item. With a purchase of $118.99 or more, we’ll even throw in free 2-day shipping in case you’re too busy training to shop!

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Distance, $155 (men’s or women’s)

Fast is your game, and you’ll be fast in this lightweight neutral performance trainer, which was originally designed for the elite racing team. A go-to shoe for high or low distance training and racing.

Women’s Short Sleeve Jackie/Men’s Short Sleeve Pace $35

Lightweight, quick drying with a streamlined fit, this shirt will quickly become a workout favorite. And we think you’ll love the blue, too.

Women’s Jackie Run Short/Men’s Titan Run Short $35

This loose fit short has a featherweight liner and inner key pocket. What more do you need?

Neon low-cut socks, $10

Just in case you sometimes take your running a little too seriously, we’ve added these socks to bring a little levity to your life and your toes.

 

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Meet The Dogs Of Newton – Week 16 Hello Ollie

Posted by on Wednesday, October 23, 2013 @ 11:59 am | Leave a reply

Dogs of NewtonI’m a dog’s dog. You know, a ball-chasing, pretty-boy, shoe-chewer who craves constant attention. Yep, that’s me.

My name : Ollie Foppa Dunn. Don’t start with the middle name. The dork that named me had some unhealthy obsession with a former Colorado Avalanche star and wanted to live out his failed hockey dreams through me. Doesn’t he know dogs can’t skate? I am one world-class belly-sliding snow dog, however. Give me a hilly Boulder snow run and I’ll out-glissade any Newton clad biped. I’m fast (downhill at least).

While I’m honored to be featured here, truth is I almost never get invited to the Newton offices. Seems my fancy-pants dad thinks monitoring my trash can obsession all day may disrupt his productivity. I call that an inflated sense of self-importance. It’s a good thing he’s in the shoe business. Where’s that bright-orange one? Woof.

 

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Experience Spartan World Championships With a 14 Year-Old

Posted by on Monday, October 21, 2013 @ 2:18 pm | Leave a reply

I sat on the steep hillside with a 5-gallon bucket of gravel between my legs, protecting it from spilling. This was just a temporary stop to collect my strength as I climbed up the Killington, Vermont ski run. It was a brutal reminder that ski slopes are for skiing down and that is it! This same obstacle was my biggest challenge at my first Spartan Beast several months ago in Utah. The sight of a bucket now makes me cringe. Descending the hillside, with my bucket in my arms, I thought I might actually cry. As I dumped my gravel into the bin at the end, successfully completing the obstacle, I said to myself, “Pull yourself together, you still have a long way to go.”

Spartan Vermont Beast World Championships 2013-start line

Show Time

I had no idea this race would be so hard. Standing at the start line, I felt welcomed amongst my new Spartan family. I appreciated the cheers and well wishes from my fellow racers as my name was called to the start line of the Spartan World Championships. I found myself standing amongst some of the world’s greatest athletes. There were Olympians from around the globe as well as Xterra, USTAF and Trail World Champions, Professional Obstacle Course Racers, Adventure Racers, triathletes and marathon winners. This talented group of athletes, including the Spartan Pro Team, will be featured in the NBC Sports Network TV special about the World Championships on October 19th.

Given Spartan’s history and the presence of NBC TV, most of us assumed we were about to embark on the toughest, most grueling 13-mile course ever designed by Spartan. Little did we know how humbling the day would be—the steep climbs, cold water and grueling course would sideline even some of the world’s most fit athletes.

Climbing & Descending

The first part of the course was mainly a steep never-ending trail climb up the hills of Killington Ski Resort. I was happy with my selection of running this course in my Newton Distance. I knew there would be a lot of serious climbing so I chose to stay on the lighter side with my shoes. I had done my last Spartan Beast in my Newton All-weathers. The unique lug design of Newton shoes is not only great for forefoot running but also provides great traction on these difficult courses. Spartans were once again falling, slipping and sliding on the steep descents and I was able to keep my footing. There were a few walls and round hay bails to climb on our way up, which is always fun.

Spartan Vermont Beast World Championships 2013-wall traverse

Living and training at 7,000 feet in Park City, UT, as well as only carrying 98 pounds on my small frame, was a great advantage on the first part of the course. I was surprised to find myself hanging with many of the elite females for the first six to seven miles. It was only when we encountered the heavy obstacles, that their more adult bodies became a huge advantage for them.

Two-thirds My Weight

Upon reaching one of the few black diamond ski runs at Killington, I peered up the steep slope.  As far up the mountain as I could see, it was just a stream of racers carrying something. As I approached a pile of sandbags, I quickly realized there was only one size. Many of the weighted obstacles at Spartan Races have female and male sized weights. This was the World Championships, though, what was I thinking. There was no time to stop and think. This was a race!

Spartan Vermont Beast World Championships 2013-60#sandbag carry

As a competitive athlete, you learn to improvise as you go. I wasn’t sure how I would handle this heavy obstacle but knew I just had to get moving with it. I grabbed my sandbag, tossed it up onto my back and began the long trek. I would alternate carrying the weight on one shoulder, then the other. When both shoulders got fatigued, I would place it evenly across my upper back and neck.  The one thought I had the entire time was, “Why is a 14-year-old girl carrying what a grown man is carrying?” At the time, I had no idea I was carrying 60 pounds, literally two-thirds my body weight. All I knew was, “It was heavy”.  It was only after the race, that I had learned the actual weight we were all carrying.

Burpees & Perseverence

The Hercules Hoist gave me my first set of burpees. A cement bucket is hooked to a pulley system.  You must use a rope to pull the bucket up to the top. As I started to hoist the bucket up, I would quickly find myself being pulled up in the air as the bucket returned to the ground. “You got to be kidding me! I’ve done this before. This cement bucket must be heavier than my last race.” After being lifted off the ground several times and only getting the weight half way up, I realized Hercules would win today. I immediately started doing my 30 burpees.

Spartan Vermont Beast World Championships 2013-rope climb

During the entire race I was reminded, “I had it easy.” I was not carrying a tumor, like my new friend, Iram Leon. He is 32 years old and living with an inoperable brain tumor, yet not letting it slow him down. I had two healthy legs unlike the amputee that crawled up the entire Killington ski slope on his hands and knees or like the female amputee who stood at the start line with me. I was able to just be at the event, unlike my dad and many others that left this world too soon. It wasn’t hard to put my pain aside and persevere.

Having previewed the course the day before, I knew the water obstacles would come at miles seven and ten. Seeing all the water on this course, I also knew I wanted a shoe that had great drainage, not one that would hold water. I had poured water in my Newton trainers prior to the race to see how quickly it would drain out. Unlike many Spartans, I was not intimidated by the water, but rather excited. As a two-time triathlon national champion, I had been battling it out in the water since I was five years old. I didn’t take into account, however, how much wearing shoes affected your ability to swim. I was especially glad I didn’t wear a hydration pack like so many did. It would have been yet another thing to weigh me down as I swam across the frigid water and climbed up the rope climbs.

Tarzan & The Tyrolean Traverse

The Tarzan Swing was nearly impossible! I heard of only one female who made it successfully across. This obstacle consisted of ladders and ropes suspended from a bridge in the middle of a lake. After swimming out and climbing up to the top of the bridge, there were about five or six little ropes. One had to swing across these ropes to get to the bell. I made it across two ropes then fell about ten feet into the lake.  As I swam to shore, my only thought was, “I think I’m turning into an ice cube.” As I crawled onto shore, it was burpee time again.

Spartan Vermont Beast World Championships 2013-barb wire

Next up, the Tyrolean Traverse. Imagine a rope suspended across water; a kids dream, an adult’s nightmare! I may have moved slower than Sid, the two-toed sloth, but I made it! I hung below the rope with just my knees and elbows draped over the long rope that spanned the freezing cold, irrigation pond for the ski resort. There was no way I was going to fall off that rope, swim to shore, do 30 burpees and then have to reattempt it again. It was pretty intimidating seeing Elite men wrapped in a foil blanket at the edge of the water, hypothermic and unable to continue on. Today, the Tyrolean Rope would separate the winners from the losers. All I could think was, “Just hang on!” I have some great rope burns on my arms to show for my effort.

Tyrolean Traverse- Spartan Vermont Beast World Championships 2013

Pushing Beyond

The Spartan World Championships pushed me farther, mentally and physically, than I have ever been pushed before. However, with this being said, I know I have not reached my limit. There is always a take home lesson I learn from every race; whether it is a triathlon, a marathon, an aerial skiing competition or a Spartan Race. Spartan reminded me how crucial the mental component of a sport can be. Even if your body wants to give up, you can usually mentally keep pushing on and many times your body will recover. If you give up mentally though, it is over immediately.

Spartan Vermont Beast World Championships 2013-fire jump

For many, crossing the finish line on Saturday was the end of their race weekend. Placing first in the world in the 19 & under open division and 28th amongst the elite females was perhaps my greatest accomplishment ever. However, the most important race to me was actually the next day. For the first time, Spartan offered a charity race. Beat up and exhausted but willing to do it all again, my team of five athletes, Team Winter, set out Sunday morning to try to capture the Spartan Charity Race Title. Our team raced for the 1 in 6 men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer, the cancer that took my 40 year-old-dad from me when I was only 9-years-old.

We were expected to navigate a two- to three-mile course, with the fastest three times from each team counting. Seeing some of Spartan’s best obstacle course racers smiling at the start line Sunday and getting their “Spartan On” for something bigger than themselves was a great sight. These guys and gals went out with revenge and were ready to give everything they had left for their cause. Although Team Winter took 2nd place by only a few seconds, we were proud to stand on the podium as one of the top five teams in the world. Each team took prize money home for their charity and most importantly raised awareness for their cause.

Finish Line Spartan Vermont Beast World Championships 2013

Spartan World Championships was great training as I headed into my sixth marathon on October 12th on New Zealand’s Great Barrier Island—my second to last continent on my world marathon tour for prostate cancer awareness. Keep following Newton for my next race report!

Never Give In!

Sig

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