So what's with all this 80s stuff? Meet Vegan Vince

Obstacle Course Racing

My name is Thomas Nastasi. I am a 30-year-old husband and father and I reside in Westfield, NJ. I am an Obstacle Course Race (OCR) fanatic. Let me explain why this addiction might infect you as well after reading this article.

I have always been very active. I have been playing basketball three days a week consistently for over seven years. I have incorporated weight training off and on over the past four years. Up until this past year, I have gone running a total of two times in the past seven years; I hated running. I have yo-yo dieted as well during this time, gaining and losing 20 lbs. with the seasons. Two years ago I completed P90x and was in impeccable shape, only to lose that physique in less than six months.

I wake up at 5:00am every morning to work out for what? Health is a given, but what else? I would find any excuse to not workout. If I was running behind just two minutes, I would pretend there wasn't enough time. A little sore? Better rest on the couch. Working out just three days a week should be enough to achieve above average health. The problem I find with working out is the same for everyone: motivation. What motivation do others have that helps them achieve and maintain optimal fitness? I found my motivation last year.

In July of 2011, a friend told me about a race he ran in the Poconos. It wasn't a normal race. He crawled under barbed wire, dove through mud, and jumped over fire. This sounded right up my alley. I signed up for the event Warrior Dash in Wyndham, NY. The only person I could find to run it with me and drive the two and a half hours each way was my 16-year-old brother. At the time of the event I was in pretty good shape. I was only two months finished with p90x and hadn't fully declined yet. The race was a breeze. I didn't run or train for it. The 5k with twelve obstacles was like a stroll in the park with a free beer at the end. We were hooked.

I started looking into more races and found Spartan Race. Another month of eating anything and everything with minimal training went by. With my brother and good friend, we drove out to Blue Mountain in Pennsylvania for another 5k race. The whole drive to the mountain we laughed about how much fun these races are and how easy it is. We were fools. This race destroyed us. After two hours of agony, we finished. There was no laughter on the ride home.

I put this aside and continued my workout regime over the winter. My brother and best friend told me they would never do an OCR again. I believed them. They both agreed it was the hardest thing they have ever done in their lives. In early May 2012, a friend posted on Facebook that he was signed up for Spartan Race in June in Tuxedo, NY. I immediately signed up and started training. For the next month, I worked out every day. I never decided to hit snooze or make excuses. I was motivated to be ready this time.

After all the preparation, the day had come. I came in 648th out of 4,500 people. I was very happy with this result. I signed up for five more events this season (June-October). At each event, I have done better and better. In July, I ran a 5 mile race called MudManX. I finished 51st out of around 1,200. I then decided to start trail running, a new found passion. After running for three days a week, I attended Rock Solid Mud Run on August, 18. I came in 7th place out of 1,000.

The feeling of gratification is still with me. I trained hard and saw results. I am not the fastest or strongest, but I have found my motivation and I am dedicated to being in the best shape possible for each race from now on. All of the workout clichés are true; you only get what you give. I never again want to feel the way I did last September at Blue Mountain. I have also joined a team on Facebook. Nationwide, they meet at events and essentially run together. The Team Facebook page is great for advice, motivation, and information. This also helps to have a great support group to push you in the right direction.

Obstacle Course Racing is for everyone. I have seen people of all shapes and ages compete. As an individual or running as a team, everyone feels the sense of accomplishment no matter what place they come in. For me, I wake up early to work out and each morning I can answer the question: What are you training for?

I am currently training for two more races this season: Super Spartan on September 8th and Tough Mudder on October 20th. This is an 8+ mile race with over twenty-five obstacles up a ski mountain in NJ. I actually have five family members competing as well. (I hope my Christmas list remains the same after this event.) Tough Mudder is 12+ miles and over thirty obstacles. Tough Mudder is not timed and is an accomplishment just to complete.

My training regime is as follows: Monday and Wednesday—weight training; Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday—four-mile trail runs; Friday and Saturday—five hours of basketball. But exercise is only half of the equation; my diet has changed as well. I now think of food differently. I want to consume the highest quality fuel I can.

My wife is a high-raw vegan and turned me on to Sunwarrior Protein. I used to be a whey protein junkie. I was brainwashed into believing you would be soft if you didn't use whey. Well the saying is true, with age comes wisdom. Every morning for breakfast, I add 2 scoops of the Warrior Blend Chocolate with a frozen banana, water, and a scoop of almond butter. This hits the spot. Also, when I got home from work I used to grab handfuls of almonds, raisins, carrots, etc. I realized, although healthy, I was consuming loads of calories and not becoming satisfied. Also, as an Italian we tend to eat until we are sick or it’s all gone, never until you’re full. I have now incorporated a 1 scoop shake in the afternoon. Two shakes and two solid meals each day have me strong and lean. I am really glad I am treating my body better and making conscious decisions. I am also cutting out dairy slowly. The only thing left to cut is a serving of Greek yogurt daily. I have not tried the almond milk version yet, but will soon.

I look forward to updating you on my training and next race. In the meantime, check out some mud races for next year; there are races across the country. I would suggest sticking to a 5k for your first one and progress from there. Signing up early gets you the deepest discount. Create a team and sign up with friends. Trust me; these races will motivate you into being a true Warrior!

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