Alexander Nicholas | By Ember Schmitt
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By Ember Schmitt

I discovered a love for obstacle racing a few years ago, but my workout routine had become mundane and uninspired – and I had no way to practice the obstacles in a ‘normal’ gym setting. I decided to give Epic a shot after reading a New York Times article and I was instantly hooked! I heard other Epic members talk about the owner, Alex. They were all so proud to be associated with him and the Epic family, and talked about what a great coach and motivator he was (and insanely good Spartan racer on top of that).  I was intimated to meet him, but when I did I was both surprised and impressed by how kind and genuinely humble he was – not what I had expected from such an accomplished and elite athlete.


1932381_824696840941707_5933722862341231699_nWith help and guidance from Alex and the amazing trainers at Epic, I worked very hard over the 2014-’15 winter and with Epic on my side, transformed myself from a mediocre Spartan racer into a contender. Physically, (at 34!) I was in some of the best shape of my life. My first opportunity to test my new skills was a crazy one – my first Spartan Beast, and one against seriously accomplished athletes like Amelia Boone, Lindsay Webster and other Spartan Pros.  To my own shock I finished 11th!  I followed that up with a number of top 10 finishes, but continually made bad mistakes and couldn’t crack the top five.  I got down on myself, lost focus, and questioned if all of this training and obstacle racing was really worth it.


A turning point in my relationship with Alex was when he offered to ‘mentor’ me on a race – to run alongside me throughout the race and coach me through it.  I couldn’t believe that he would do something like this – a Spartan Pro sacrificing his own race (and traveling far from NYC) just to help ME?   Regrettably I had a horrible race, committed numerous mistakes (racked up 90 burpees), and complained endlessly up the hills while I slugged behind Alex.  I was incredibly embarrassed and feared that Alex would think I was a failure.


Alex took the time to explain that I had done a great job with my physical transformation, but had done nothing to strengthen myself mentally.  I wasn’t making all of these mistakes because I was physically unprepared, but rather because I was mentally unprepared and was dreading the obstacles thinking I might fail instead of entering with confidence that I would succeed!  I’d been to a lot of gyms over the years and no one had ever taken the time to ask me how I felt (emotionally) and offer their advice.  Alex took time to coach me, detailing the mistakes I was making and explaining how to remedy them in a race situation, instilling the confidence in myself that I was lacking.


The Killington Beast race strikes fear in the minds of all Spartan racers, and this past September was my first.  Instead of pressuring myself to break that top five and not make mistakes, I entered the race with confidence in my abilities and excited to see what my body could do on such a difficult course.  I shocked myself (and pretty much everyone I know) by placing 1st for elite females.  I couldn’t believe it!  Just a year prior I told people that did the race that they were certifiably insane, and now here I was, Queen of the insane people!


Now being fall, the 2015 Spartan season is over I am thrilled to get back to Epic and use the upcoming winter to get even stronger, eagerly anticipating the start of another racing season.  Thanks to Alex taking the time to connect with me and truly get to the root of my racing problems (my crazy mind!), I am excited about racing again.  I now truly believe what my husband has been telling me for years – with the right amount of training this winter, next summer I CAN and I WILL compete with the best in obstacle racing!


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