10 Life Lessons From Spartan Racing

Over the last three years I’ve had the chance to run some Spartan Races and earn trifecta twice. If you don’t know what the Spartan Race is, and are wondering what trifecta is, here’s a quick rundown for you. The Spartan Race is an obstacle course race that has different levels of difficulty. The shortest distance is the Sprint, ranging from 3-5 miles. Next is the Super, which falls between 8-9 miles, and there’s the Beast, that can run from 12-15 miles. If you complete each distance in a calendar year, you have earned your trifecta.

I'll never forget the experiences that I had earning these two Spartan Race trifectas.
I’ll never forget the experiences that I had earning these two Spartan Race trifectas.

The Spartan Race is pretty popular now, and I’m sure you’ve heard people describe the obstacles and terrain. If you want to get a better picture you can visit the Spartan Race site and see photos or you can watch the NBC Sports Channel because it’s actually televised. If you’re a Verizon FiOS customer like I am, it’s channel 590 in HD. I just end up recording it on my DVR to watch later so I can fast forward through the commercials. We pretty much DVR every show we watch for that same reason.

Here are 10 things that I’ve been able to take away from my experience running the Spartan Race (they are in no particular order):

1.  Don’t be overconfident.

I learned my lesson about overconfidence after my first Spartan Race, which was a Sprint at Citi Field. I thought I was in decent shape, but I was wrong. Completely unready for the race, the Sprint proved to be extremely challenging for me, resulting in a very harsh reality check. When people are overconfident about things, they usually don’t prepare as diligently, which can end up in failure.

Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law Mike and Anne for getting me to sign up for my first race and causing my addiction.
Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law Mike and Anne for getting me to sign up for my first race and causing my addiction.

2. Anything worth doing isn’t easy.

I have this phrase on my Twitter background for two reasons. I’ve found that the things that matter often require more effort and commitment. The more time and effort we put into things, the more meaningful they are. And also, we are defined not by what we say, but by what we do. If you want to separate yourself, or distinguish yourself from others, you have to do things that others aren’t. And I’ll be that most people are already doing the easy things.

The Citi Field race got me started, and humbled me at the same time.
The Citi Field race got me started, and humbled me at the same time.

3.  You don’t know what you can do until you try.

If you told me 3 years ago that I would have run 8 Spartan Races and come away with 2 trifectas, I would have said you were crazy. But I credit my brother-in-law for getting me to run my first Spartan Race and challenging me to push myself to another level. The Spartan Race definitely isn’t easy, but going through those races has allowed me to see how much I can push myself to do. It’s also shown me that I can still push myself even more.

Citi Field was the first piece of my first trifecta run.
Citi Field was the first piece of my first trifecta run.

4.  Enjoy the journey.

After the reality check of my first Spartan Race, I went into overdrive with my training. What I learned was that in order for me to succeed, I had to make the training fun. While you’re on the road to achieving the goals you’ve set, make sure you enjoy the journey getting there.

Two-thirds of the way through my first trifecta.
Two-thirds of the way through my first trifecta.

5.  Who you surround yourself with matters.

Jim Rohn says that you are “the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”.  Therefore whoever you surround yourself with has a big influence on what you do. Training and conversing with the friends that I had that were running these Spartan Races with me helped keep me focused and made the journey that much more fun.

The Vermont Beast at Killington was the hardest thing I have ever had to physically do. This crew made it bearable and enjoyable. Start together, finish together.
The Vermont Beast at Killington was the hardest thing I have ever had to physically do. This crew made it bearable and enjoyable. Start together, finish together.

6.  Always challenge yourself.

I guess this piggybacks off Number 3, so after you’ve gotten yourself to try new things, keep pushing. You can always improve and always get better. And when you do conquer the next challenge, you’ll feel great. I remember being intimidated by 9 and 10 foot walls that we had to climb, but after learning how to scale them and successfully doing so at the race, it was such a big confidence boost. The more you challenge yourself and push through, the more confidence you’ll gain moving forward.

The 2014 Vermont Beast medal, the last piece of my first trifecta, looks pretty good.
The 2014 Vermont Beast medal, the last piece of my first trifecta, looks pretty good.

7.  Plan ahead.

The goal was to run the Spartan Races to the best of my ability. Realistically I’m not one of the elite racers and I know that. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t plan. The workouts had to be planned to maximize time and gains. Of course there are things that you absolutely cannot plan for, but if you an eliminate as many question marks as possible with good planning, getting over those unforeseen obstacles is much easier.

2014 Spartan Super
2014 Spartan Super

8.  Don’t be lazy.

It’s one thing to take a break, it’s another to just spend a lot of time doing things that don’t help you accomplish your goals. I believe that laziness actually sets you back, reversing some of the progress you’ve made. I’ve definitely had my moments of laziness and the results of those moments were magnified on the race because my laziness made some of the obstacles tougher than they should have been.

The 2015 Spartan Beast was tough for me. I injured myself at mile 3 of the 13 mile race. My teammates stuck with me and got me to push through and finish anyway.
The 2015 Spartan Beast was tough for me. I injured myself at mile 3 of the 13 mile race. My teammates stuck with me and got me to push through and finish anyway.

9.  Quit complaining.

Everyone needs to vent now and then, and I’ve definitely done my share of it. But complaining about things doesn’t change the situation, it just makes it worse for yourself mentally. Being on the mountain at Killington in Vermont was brutal. There was one section where we had to climb up the K1 slope. Complaining about it wouldn’t have made the task any easier, we just had to put our heads down and move forward.

2015 Spartan Sprint, two-thirds of the way through my second trifecta.
2015 Spartan Sprint, two-thirds of the way through my second trifecta.

10.  Eyes on the prize.

Always have your end goal in mind and keep focused on it. I won’t lie, during many moments at different races I’ve asked myself why I decide to put myself through these things. What gets me through is the finish line, and the feeling you get when you know you’ve just done something that most people won’t even want to try. Whatever your goal is, stay focused on it. Don’t let the speed bumps and detours discourage you, because when you accomplish what you set out to do, the feeling is great.

The 2015 Spartan Super capped my second trifecta. Not easy, but completed.
The 2015 Spartan Super capped my second trifecta. Not easy, but completed.

Disclaimer: This post is part of a campaign I’m doing with Verizon FiOS in NYC. #FiOSNY

Why We Go Back To Cape May Every Year

I’m a creature of habit and I’m all about the routine. Some routines I like and some I don’t, but over the last few summers we’ve had one routine that I’ve really enjoyed, and that’s going to Cape May for a week for vacation. And since this year the warm weather has continued through September, it makes me really want to go back there.

A great little beach town to visit in the summer.
A great little beach town to visit in the summer.

My idea of an ideal vacation is to get away from the crowds and have absolutely nothing planned. That’s not to say that I don’t like doing things while I’m on vacation, I just don’t want to have a schedule.

So for me, Cape May definitely solves the crowd criteria. It’s a nice small town located at the bottom of New Jersey, exit 0 off the Garden State Parkway. While it is a popular summer destination for some, it’s not nearly as crowded as it is in New York City during a regular workweek.

I wouldn't mind living here for the summer.
I wouldn’t mind living here for the summer.

Why I Like It There

One advantage of being in a smaller beach town is that you can go bike riding in the street and not have to worry about a ton of cars. From what I’ve seen, it’s how most of the people get around town there anyway if they’re not walking. So it’s a great place for the kids to go biking. We stayed in a location that was within a short walk into the center of town and beach, so it was great to not have to drive everywhere.

It's nice that the kids can ride their bikes in the street because it's not too crowded.
It’s nice that the kids can ride their bikes in the street because it’s not too crowded.

And then there’s the beach. You do have to pay to get on the beach, and I particularly don’t mind that. In my opinion, it helps to keep the beach from getting too crowded. Our family can spend the whole day at the beach, the boys love playing in the sand and building things. A huge plus is having a beach box to store all of our things in so that we don’t have to keep lugging stuff back and forth each day.

The kids can play on the beach all day.
The kids can play on the beach all day.

Besides The Beach

So if you’re wondering what else there is to do besides hit the beach, the answer to that is yes. If you’re willing to take a walk more inland, or a quick bike ride, you can see the Fisherman’s Memorial, which is a statue and monument dedicated to the local fishermen that have lost their lives at sea.

The view from the Fisherman's Memorial.
The view from the Fisherman’s Memorial.

Washington Street Mall is where you’ll find some restaurants and shops, and great places to get snacks. Nearby is a great breakfast place that we love called The Mad Batter. We love the fresh juice, pancakes, and corned beef hash.

The kids color their placemats while waiting for breakfast to be served at The Mad Batter.
The kids color their placemats while waiting for breakfast to be served at The Mad Batter.

This year we didn’t do as much exploring as we did in previous years. So we didn’t go to the Cape May Lighthouse and we didn’t hit Sunset Beach. Maybe we’ll try to do that next year. I’m hoping my boys will want to go to the top of the Lighthouse with me.

There are other cool things to see around town, like the fire house.
There are other cool things to see around town, like the fire house.

We did venture out to Wildwood one day, which is another town not far from Cape May, to take the kids to the amusement parks and boardwalk. The kids enjoy the rides there and it’s a nice way to change up the scenery and take a break from the beach.

Just a short drive away, Wildwood has a boardwalk with come cool rides for the kids.
Just a short drive away, Wildwood has a boardwalk with come cool rides for the kids.

Evening Entertainment     

Since the kids are still pretty young, our evenings are rather low key. We made the effort to go and see the sunset on the beach a couple of times, and the experience didn’t disappoint.

You don't want to miss sunsets like this.
You don’t want to miss sunsets like this.

The kids had a chance to participate in the Kiwanis Sunset Flag Ceremony on one of the nights. It was a great experience for them. From Memorial Day through September 11, the Kiwanis Club invites kids to help lower the flag. “Each child receives a certificate signed by the Mayor of Cape May and the President of the Kiwanis Club, indicating their participation”.

Participating in the flag ceremony was a nice thing for the kids.
Participating in the flag ceremony was a nice thing for the kids.

After the kids went to bed it was nice to be able to close out the day watching a movie. Even though it’s great to unplug for a while, we really like watching our TV shows and movies. Verizon FiOS allows me to sync up the UltraViolet digital movies that I have and I can play them through the FiOS app or website. It’s awesome because I can watch whatever I want to wherever I am.

I'm probably one of the few people left that buys Blu-Ray discs. So it's nice that I can virtually take my collection wherever I go.
I’m probably one of the few people left that buys Blu-Ray discs. So it’s nice that I can virtually take my collection with me wherever I go.

Until Next Year

Sadly vacations don’t last forever, and after a week it was back to reality. I would rather leave a place itching to go back, than leave a place that I can’t wait to get away from. If you’re looking to get away from the busyness of the city or just looking to take a break, Cape May is a great relaxing place to go. I highly recommend it.

Can't wait to get back to Cape May.
Can’t wait to get back to Cape May.

Disclaimer: This post is part of a campaign I’m doing with Verizon FiOS in NYC. #FiOSNY