By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV
Siblings bond with each other in various ways. Some get together for weekend cookouts. Some take an annual trip to the beach.
Travis & Elise McClintic do their sibling bonding by competing against elite athletes–and each other–in Spartan Races all across the eastern United States.
“It usually comes out about 50/50 who has the faster time, me or her,” Travis says.
What is a Spartan Race?
“A Spartan Race is cross country meets American Ninja Warrior,” Elise likes to say. “With a little bit of Strongman Competition thrown in.”
Athletes race set distances (5K, 10K, 21K, & 50K) with obstacles thrown in along the path. Obstacles are athletic challenges such as climbing cargo nets, barbed-wire low crawls, and carrying rocks.
Travis says, “Anything you can jump over, climb, or carry they have you do as an obstacle.”
“You’ll take off running and then you’ll come to an obstacle,” Elise explains. “Sometimes they’re back to back and sometimes there’s a mile or two between them.”
If you fail to complete an obstacle, you either have to run an extra loop, complete a task such as a set amount of burpees, or receive a time penalty. The object of the Spartan Race is to complete the track in the fastest time.
Brother & sister compete at ‘elite’ level
Both Travis and Elise were college athletes. Travis played football at West Virginia University while Elise played basketball at West Virginia Wesleyan. After college, they were both looking for competitive outlets.
Travis tried bull riding first, which he did successfully for about six years before suffering several concussions. “I retired from that before I ended up crippled in a hospital somewhere,” he remembers. “I needed something a little safer but something that still fueled my competitive spirit. I don’t like running. The Spartan gave running some flair, throwing in an obstacle, not just running the whole time.”
Elise struggled with the same urge to compete. “After college, I had a break from any competitive sports. It felt like something was missing.”
Travis urged her to give the Spartan Race a try.
“I did my first race in 2016,” Elise says. “Travis had been doing it for a little while and enjoyed it, and I really enjoyed it too.”
Not only did they enjoy it, but they were good at it. So good that they both qualified for “elite” status with the Spartan Race.
In order to achieve elite status, athletes must place in the Top 3 in their age group. Both Travis and Elise have done so multiple times.
About last weekend
Travis & Elise traveled together to Fayetteville, NC, for a Spartan Race weekend before last. (They always travel together.) They competed in separate events, with Travis running the 21K while Elise ran the 50K.
Elise had a huge day, finishing 5th overall in the elite women’s division.
She was pleased with her performance, as it was the first time she had ever run a 50K. “I met my goal time which was to be under 8 hours. I finished in 7 hours and 13 minutes.” The course includes more than 60 obstacles in addition to the 31 miles she ran.
Over the course of the 7+ hour race, Elise took a single break to replenish her water bottles. Athletes must carry their own food and water.
Elise doesn’t get hungry during the race, but knows she needs to refuel along the way. “I take energy bars, Uncrustables, cookies, water, and an electrolyte drink.”
Meanwhile, Travis ran “the beast,” which is a 21K or half-marathon. It has 30 obstacles along the 13 miles. While he didn’t make the podium this time, it did mark his 50th Spartan Race in 10 years.
During that time, Travis has completed 1,160 obstacles, run 458km, and spent 3 days/11hours/55 minutes-2 seconds on a Spartan course.
Travis takes his own food along as well, and he packs some unique items to help ward off cramps. “Mustard, lemon juice, and pickle juice. If you stimulate the noxious receptors in your mouth, it will override that faulty nervous system and allow the muscle to relax before the next cramp.”
‘Always trying to be better than yesterday’
What drives Travis & Elise to put their bodies through these athletic tests?
Travis says, “It’s the competition. Not necessarily with others but with your own times and limits. I’ll keep doing it as long as my body allows me to. It’s also fun to do this with a sibling. It’s nice we’re so close in abilities that it’s usually a matter of minutes or seconds between our times. It gives us something fun to talk about at the family reunion.”
Elise says, “Always trying to be better than yesterday. I like to challenge myself and see what I’m capable of doing. It’s also rewarding. When you finish, knowing you put all this work into accomplishing a goal gives you a boost of confidence.”
Travis & Elise both work as physical therapists at Greenbrier Valley Physical Therapy, where they help other athletes and patients be at their best. They take pride in their work and realize their example is an inspiration to others.
“I never consider myself an inspiration,” Elise shares, “but i get a lot of comments about being an inspiration to others. That’s kinda cool.”
“Our family thinks we’re crazy,” Travis jokes, “but they enjoy cheering us on.”
Both point to their family, colleagues, and Crossfit Espirit teammates as reasons they are able to compete at such a high level.
“If people want to get into a fitness journey, don’t be afraid or intimidated,” Elise recommends. “Set a date, find a race, set a goal, and work towards it. Find other like minded people to help you out along the way.”
“You can’t put a price on your health,” Travis agrees.
Travis & Elise will be competing up and down the east coast this summer. Stay tuned to The Real WV for updates, and plan to cheer them on in Fayetteville, WV, this August at the annual Spartan Race at Summit-Bechtel Reserve.