When I last wrote, I spoke of my journey from being a Spartan to becoming a KBIA Certified
instructor for Kettlebell Kickboxing Canada. I realize that article implied a transition from one to
the other which is far from the case. At no point did I give up with my Spartan racing, I used
KBKB training to help me take it further than I ever had before…both figuratively and literally. I
recently returned from a 10 day trip to Greece, where I travelled to Sparta to compete in the
Spartan Trifecta World Championships along with more than 1000 other athletes from 68
countries around the world. Today, I want to share a little bit about that journey, some pictures
of the amazing sights I saw, and the part that KBKB played in all of it, not just in helping race,
but over the entire trip.
And, it showed up right away. For me, the trip to Greece with multiple flights, layovers in
airports, and a long drive to Sparta from Athens, totalled around 35 hours of travel. That is a
long time to just spend doing nothing, but thanks to the things I’ve learned, while I was in the
airports I was easily able to keep myself moving, working out, and mobile so that I wasn’t just
sitting around and seizing up. In fact, I even got up at points during the international flight to do
a few windmills in the aisle of the airplane, just to relieve some of the tension of being crammed
in those little seats. We arrived on Monday, with the races not starting until Saturday, to give
ourselves time to acclimate, adjust to the time change, and do a little sight seeing while we
And there again, my training with KBKB showed up,
changing the way I sightsee while I travel. For anyone
who doesn’t know, Greece is very mountainous country
(as you can see from the picture at the top of the
article). And as such, a large majority of the sites to see
are not on flat ground. If you want to really see the
sites, you need to be prepared to put in a little effort.
For example, this beautiful view from our AirBnB where
we could wake up each morning to look at a castle up
on a hill. If you look closely at that picture just off to the
left of the tree about halfway up that hill is the point you
enter the castle site, the rest is a hike up the hill through
various ruins to the castle at the top. Even if you just
want to take in the amazing scenery and go for a walk,
the hike we did the first day ended up going up a mountain beside that hill that took us high enough we were looking down on the castle in that picture.
Either of those was a hike that me from a few years ago probably wouldn’t have even
attempted, let alone made it through, but my KBKB conditioning had me flying through it
without a hitch, enabling me to fully enjoy everything there was to see and experience. No
longer was I left thinking “I wonder if the view from up there is amazing?”, because I just went
and found out…and it was, every single time.
Another thing to know about Greece is that it doesn’t seem
to matter which way you turn you are looking at something
that is thousands of years old. The sightseeing possibilities
seem endless with something historic around every corner,
and I could go on for pages and pages with picture after
picture. But, I don’t have that luxury, so I will limit myself to a
few pictures and listing some of the amazing things I saw.
Things like the Acropolis in Athens, where even if you
discount the thousands of years old the structures are, the
thought of the engineering and effort to build the massive
structures without modern technology is mind boggling.
The Caves of Diros, an underground
cavern about 500m (about 1/3 of a mile)
long that you can take a boat ride/walk
through with astounding stalactite
and stalagmite formations.
Th Amphitheater at Epidaurus, an ancient structurethat seats around 17000 people but has acoustics capable of letting a person stand in the centre and talk in anormal voice and be heard by every seat in the place.
The ruins of Ancient Sparta just north of modern Sparta, home of King Leonidas and the 300 over 2500 years ago.
And the highlight of my trip (outside of the races) the town and
fortress of Monemvasia, built on the backside of an island off
the coast to help people hide from invaders. What made this the
highlight of the trip was that when we arrived it was later in the
afternoon, making it early morning back home. As we wound
our way up through the village and fortress towards the top of
the island, we quickly passed the point where most tourists
stopped climbing and turned back (thank you once again
KBKB), and found ourselves at the top of the island fortress
alone, and surprisingly, with fantastic cell coverage. So not only
was I able to take in the breathtaking endless panoramic view of
Greece and the surrounding sea, I was able to FaceTime to my
kids back home and share the experience with them!
Mixed in with all the vacationing was the reason I was there, the races. For those who don’t
know about the Spartan races, they are obstacle course races that involve varying distances of
running, interspersed with physically challenging obstacles. Failure to complete an obstacle
has one of two results: for most the penalty is 30 burpees, for the few deemed as mandatory
obstacles failure results in disqualification from the race. Either is a large incentive to complete
the obstacle. In the regular race season if you complete each of the three base races (Sprint,
Super and Beast) at least once over the course of a calendar year, you earn the pieces to put
together a special Trifecta medal. Earners of a Trifecta medal have earned the right to enter the
world championship. The world championship however, ups the stakes for the competitors. All
three races are run over the course of two days, and all of them have increased difficulty in terms
of distance involved and challenge level of the obstacles. The stats for this years races (as
tracked by my Apple Watch) had the races marked at distances of over 8km (5 miles), over
17km (10 miles), and over 27km (16 miles), with a combined elevation between the races of over 1.5km (close to 1 mile), each with dozens of increased difficulty obstacles.
The next thing you might wonder is what constitutes obstacles, and how do you increase their
difficulty? The range of obstacles is vast but here are a few samples: the wall climbs, typically 6, 7 or
8 foot sheer vertical walls (no footholds) that you have to get over without assistance, in one of the
races the wall size was moved up to 9 feet and was “conveniently” placed on the course after the
biggest ascent up the mountain, with the water station on the other side to the wall of course. The
platinum rig is a series of bars, rings, and ropes that must be swung across hand over hand to a
bell on the other side, in the final race the length of the rig was doubled.
The spear throw, (exactly like it sounds, the competitor must throw a spear at straw bale figure a distance away and have it stick without it touching the ground), is consistently one of the highest failure rate obstacles in the Spartan races, how do you make it harder? There were two of them instead of one. One placed in a river so everything was wet and slippery and one placed high on the mountain exposed to gusting winds and set to throw uphill.
Some obstacles were made technically more difficult, for example, the log carry wasn’t increased in weight, but was stretched out over a longer distance and up and down steep rocky terrain. And no Spartan race is complete without jumping over a fire at the end. Even the running itself was made more difficult by increasing the technicality of it, for example long stretches of the running were actually done IN the river. There are too many obstacles to list them all, but that is a good idea of some of the things we faced. And I can easily say that my Kettlebell Kickboxing training had me physically prepared for every single one of them. Any obstacle I didn’t succeed at was purely on me either being injured (a hurt shoulder and torn up hands can only hold your body weight for so long), or me failing by my own mistakes: wet gloves + metal bars =slippery.
Between races, the mobility and stretching I’ve learned from Kettlebell Kickboxing Canada, kept me limber and ready to keep going. If you want to know more about the races, I’m always more than willing to
talk about them, or better yet, sign up for one and try yourself! They are a lot of fun, challenge you to be your best, and come with an exhilaration when completed that can only be described by the phrase “you will know at the finish line”. A lot of people ask how I
placed competing at a world class event. And my answer is: not as good as I could have, but as good as I needed to. Why didn’t I do better when I knew I could have? One of the things I appreciate most about KBKB is the community I’m part of, my tribe is a huge part of my life. During the last of the three races with about 20 km (12.5 miles) left in the race, the person I was running with (someone I’ve been friends with almost 30 years) sprained his ankle on one of the obstacles. I was faced with thechoice of running on without him and placing better, or sticking by his side. I walked the rest of that race beside him because I understood the relative importance of placing better in the raceversus standing by my tribe. I have absolutely no regrets about that choice, and never will.
Now that the topic has been broached, it’s time for me to speak on the KBKB community, how
it has been there for me, helped me along the way, and what it has added to my life. The only
place for that to start is with our amazing leader Jodi. When I was first considering starting on
my fitness journey, long before I discovered KBKB, I looked into a trainer who was offering a
training course for people who wanted to run Spartan races. The response was, “No you
shouldn’t take this, you won’t make it through it, I’ll let you know when I run a course more
your speed:” I didn’t have the support system or confidence I have now, I was discouraged and
pushed off my path and my journey never started. It was the worst possible example of what a
trainer should be. It was two years before I made another attempt to get on my path. The next
trainer was better. He listened when I told him what I was looking for, he taught me what I
needed to know, he encouraged me and pushed me while I was in the gym. But he did what he
did because it was his job and that was it, I got the feeling that I was just a client. He did make
every effort to give me the tools to run a Spartan race, and that led him to bringing in someone
to teach an obstacle training class, which ultimately resulted in him losing me as a client,
because that was where I first met Jodi.
She hadn’t brought us KBKB at that point, but once she had, and I had found her again a year and a half later, was when I discovered what a trainer, and the community they’ve built around them, should be. When I first asked about training with her, Jodi was truly excited to have me as a client. Once I started training she was honestly concerned about me achieving my full
potential, encouraging, supportive, pushing me when I needed it, and even slowing me down, or stopping me from training when she knew I needed that. I wasn’t just another client (no one
in her class ever is) and it made her sincerely happy to see me succeed. She became someone I trusted both with my training and as a friend. Her support didn’t end at the door on the way
out of class, and as I left for Greece, one of the last messages I got sent before leaving the country wasn’t from family like I expected, but from her, reminding me how hard I worked, that I had everything under control, and to go enjoy myself. While I was there she made sure I remembered to take time to pause and reflect and take everything in, and when I was back she was among the first to welcome me home. She exemplifies everything a trainer should be, someone who really cares
about the people they are working with, and I have repeatedly told her how proud I am to be part of her tribe.
And her caring carries over to the people that she has
attracted into her tribe, both as her certified instructors (which
I am proud to count myself part of), and the community of
people training in her classes. In the days leading up to the races, and the days after I finished them, I was flooded with messages of support from the other instructors across Canada and
the US. And I’m not talking gratuitous “Good luck, have fun” messages, I’m talking sincere messages, recognition of how hard they knew I worked, messages telling me how amazing
they knew I would do, that they were inspired by me, and how
proud they were of me. People honestly wanting to hear about my adventures. One of them even went so far as to buy me a kettlebell she knew I wanted in recognition of my accomplishment and everything I’ve done for her and the community. I’m still in shock that she did that for me! These people are my tribe and an extension of my family. There is a huge mental aspect to these races, and as the seemingly endless miles rolled by or the insurmountable looking obstacles faced me, knowing that this group of people was out there with that faith in me and offering
that support, helped me keep putting one foot in front of the other during those endless miles, and made those obstacles look not quite that big. I might be on the course alone but I know that I
have a team behind me, and that is also why I’m so proud to wear my KBKB branded apparel out on the course showing off what Iam part of.
It’s not just the other instructors either, but as I said before, it’s the entire community of people
that train KBKB. They are caring, inspiring, and all amazing people as well. We have a lady in
our class that drives an hour and a half (one way) to come train with us. She’s 72 and an
inspiration to watch as she comes in and crushes it in class. She recently shared a story about
one of the ways the training has changed her life as she was coming home from getting
groceries and had a 75 pound bag of potatoes in her car. There was no one around to help her
unload so she just grabbed it and hauled it in herself. So, when I was out on the course in
Greece and came up to the next obstacle and they said, “here, grab one of these 80 pound
bricks and start carrying it. The path is up the hill that way, see you in a bit”, I didn’t stop and
think “how am I going to carry that thing?” I thought, if Iva can haul that bag of potatoes, then I
sure a hell don’t have any excuse to not be able to haul this brick around!
Before KBKB I spent years going to a gym, I knew the people there by sight, but can honestly
say that over two years I don’t think I had a conversation with anyone other than my neighbour
who I happened to run into there once in a while. If I was gone for a week or two, no one
noticed, or if they did they never said anything. Contrast that to the inspiring people I train with
now, aside from their inspiration and support I felt out on the course, I came back to class to
hugs, to people telling me they missed me while I was gone, to people happy to see me back
and anxious to hear about my trip and my races. In fact I would even go so far as to say someof the kids whose parents I train with were more excited to see me back than my own kids…
LOL. The road to Sparta may have been a long and hard road to follow, but with my KBKB training
and tribe beside me, I didn’t even notice.
I’ve shared a few pictures of my journey here, and if you would like to see more you can look me up on Instagram (@behiel2018) where I posted some each day I was in Greece. If you happen to be in the Regina/Moose Jaw area and want to see more, look me up and I will gladly show off some of the hundreds of pictures I took along the way.
Written By: Sean Behiel KBIA Trainer -Moose Jaw,Sk