ION Episode 19 Joe DeSena Talks Spartan Race 2015

With big things on the 2015 horizon I got a chance to chat with Joe DeSena, CEO of Spartan Race, about all the exciting changes.  Right off the bat, he seemed to keep things in perspective and when I asked him about how big a year 2014 was for Spartan Race, he replied,

“Not as big as when we had our first child.”

I followed up with an appropriate question submitted by one of our viewers, “How do you find balance with work and family?”ION Ep 19 Joe DeSena talks Spartan Race in 2015 YouTube

“My wife is awesome and she said that I can be on the road 250 days a year.  As long as I buy her nice things!”  Joe replied.  He also said that his kids workout 2+ hours per day, which allows him to spend more time with them.

We moved on to the new Spartan UP! Podcast and he talked about the whole goal being, to find the attributes that people have within themselves, or develop within themselves, that make them ultimately successful.  Also to find out how they define success, and for some, it’s different from what Joe believes.  Is there a common thread between all these successful people?  That’s the challenge and mission of the Spartan UP! Podcast.  He’s had some pretty funny moments, and some amazing guests like Richard Branson, so don’t miss it.

We talked next about the Spartan Cruise and how the idea stemmed from the second 300 movie based on a navy battle.  To make it as authentic as possible, people won’t ride in the cruise ship, but will be swimming behind, he joked.  But depending on whether you buy a VIP cabin, you might be in the lower decks rowing on the way to the private island.

Joe then answered another viewer submitted question, “Will the Hurricane Heats expand internationally?” and since HH director Tony Matesi sat just out of frame, it was a good chance to ask.  Joe laid out a surprise new partnership with The Weather Channel, in which he and Tony will go to the nastiest places on earth to find the worst weather possible for the new Hurricane Heats.  It started to seem clear that DeSena was joking, but you can’t always tell with Joe and so I take that one with a grain of salt.

Since we were talking international, I moved on to the new World Championship and Joe discussed briefly the new qualifying coin system, but I forgot to ask him why the Spartan World Championship moved to Lake Tahoe from Vermont.

Another viewer question Joe answered was about the quality of elite burpees at the 2014 World Championship Spartan Race in Killington Vermont that aired on NBC.  Some people were pissed at how they didn’t reflect what we all think a burpee should be and Joe agreed.  “I was pissed,” he said, “unacceptable.”

“So how do you combat that?” I asked.

Like any developing sport, Spartan Race will have to enforce stricter rules and scrutinize more closely, including disqualification for some elites.  “You don’t do your burpees right…. You’re out,” he replied, “simple as that.”

I asked him about the trend of mandated obstacle completion and stated matter-of-factly that Spartan has been doing that for a while at the World Championship, but when asked straight up, will the burpee ever go away?  He replied emphatically, “No.  The burpee will never go away….  It’s too much of a staple, too important of an exercise to positively change this world…. I love the fact that it’s so aweful.”

Joe and I next discussed the governing body and he stated that they are still working on it, but with all the regulations, a governing body “does not go as fast an entrepreneur would like.”  And he hates saying that, “It’ll just take time,” but it’s the hard truth.

When asked if Spartan Race will cooperate with other event companies to create a governing body and an Olympic bid, DeSena joked, “Are there other event companies?” But seriously, he said, “as long as they take it as seriously as we do, and they’ve got a solid foundation, and they’re going to exist a year from now, then sure…. Part of the problem is, a lot of these companies come and go.”

When asked how Spartan plans to stay on top, he answered, “Once you’re on top, it’s hard to stay on top.”  He also believes that Spartan Race works hard to stay authentic, getting out there to the races, and living the Spartan lifestyle.  Secondly, it’s everything on the periphery, the NBC show, the elite racing, the Spartan UP! book, and the new Spartan UP! podcast.  It all come back to the secret sauce of Spartan which is the name.  The Spartan brand comes from the first exclusive special operations military unit that evokes a strong emotional response when you hear it.  Are “you gonna go to a race and say, ‘well, I did a mud-run’? No, you did a [Spartan].  You’re a Spartan,”  and there’s a lot of power in that.

Lastly, I asked Joe about the short course racing that we got a taste of in Vermont in 2014 after the Beast, but you’ll have to watch to get his answer.  Did you seriously think I was going to write the entire video transcript here so you didn’t have to watch?