Misty Morris – Festival Manager for Spartan
Not everyone that is part of the racing community is tearing up the course each event. There are plenty of people behind the scenes that have raced and now are working on making each event the best it can be. Happy racers equal repeat customers, and Missy takes great care to ensure that everyone in the festival area post-race has the best time possible. Missy or “Mamma” as she is known has had quite the career within the OCR community.
I recall you telling me you earned a quadruple trifecta – that in itself is a huge accomplishment. From that, which race was your favorite (name it and the location) and why?
I have been asked this question a number of times and it's really hard to answer because each race is so unique, there are things I love about each race. But if I had to choose these are my favorite and the reasons why:
–(racing) The 2011 Midwest Spartan Sprint at The Cliffs in Marseilles – this was my very first Spartan Race and still the hardest Sprint that I have ever done. The race was very raw, the obstacles were built around the terrain, there was mud everywhere, and the energy was amazing. That race was far different than the Spartan Race everyone knows today, it wasn't about the biggest, hardest obstacles, it didn't matter how many water stations there were, and it didn't matter if someone didn't have the perfect burpee form, it truly was about getting yourself and others across the finish line and enjoying the suck of the experience.
-(racing) The 2013 Virginia Super and Hurricane Heat at Wintergreen Ski Resort – the week before this race I lost a very good friend of mine in a freak accident. For 2 years I had tried to get him to do a race with me and while he would tell me that he would kick my butt if he raced, he always joked around about having excuses on why he wouldn't race with me. His funeral was the Thursday that I started my road trip to Virginia for the Super. On the way there, I decided to not only do the Super, but to also do the Hurricane Heat the morning before the race. The Hurricane Heat that morning was brutal and to follow it up with one of the hardest Supers ever designed about did me in, but finishing that race and dedicating it to my buddy, Champ, is what pushed me through every mile.
-(working) This was a bit harder to decide, but I would have to say the Austin Super/Sprint at Reveille Peak Ranch. This is despite the fact that the Texas races hate me, literally every race that I work in Texas has some major weather issues – the two years I worked the Austin races they have had major flooding. But it's my favorite race to work because the venue is beautiful, the festival area is a challenge to build, but has a lot of fun characteristics, the venue owner is pretty easy to work with, the Austin racers are always very welcoming, and overall it's just a fun environment to work in.
-All races, all venues, have their own unique positives and negatives. As I travel around to many of the venues, I love to be able to take everything in including the beauty and the people. The best part of my job is being able to meet people who are truly passionate about the sport.
What is your signature OCR outfit/battle cry?
I'll answer this in terms of working for Spartan, because that's how most people know me – you will find me running around the festival area, usually with a purpose, sporting a blue Spartan Staff shirt, shorts, Reebok shoes (hiking shoes or mud boots), and my signature chesite (a radio harness) with 2 radios that seem to never stop on race days.
Is there one obstacle on course that you just cannot accomplish?
After not racing for over a year and a half, I tackled the 2016 LA Spartan Sprint this past December and I was surprised at some of the obstacles that I struggled with. The two that were the most difficult for me was the Multirig (which I knew I would have a hard time with since my grip strength is not were it use to be) and Olympus, one of Spartans new obstacles. Struggling at a number of obstacles that I use to complete no problem really showed me where I am with my fitness level (or lack there of). It gave me the motivation that I've been missing for a while.
If you could be a flavor of energy gel or chew, what would it be and why?
Margarita – most everyone enjoys a good margarita 😉
During your career as Festival manager for Spartan, has there been one moment you have witnessed on course that has changed you? if so tell us about it.
Each and every race there are moments that change me, that remind me that the long, hard hours and sacrifices we as a staff make are all worth it. Stand at the finish line for a while, especially towards the end of the day, and you will be changed, you will be reminded what makes this sport so amazing.
I'll answer this more in details from my racing days…
Back in 2013 my good friend Stefanie and I road tripped from Chicago to Vermont to take on the Vermont Sprint and Beast. Our plan was to meet up with Amanda Sullivan and Earl Granville and a team of others as we all took on the Sprint. When we met up with everyone at the start line, it turned out that there were only a few of us who actually showed up. So the 7 of us formed ‘Team Awesome One' and spent 9 hours on Killington Mountain making sure everyone crossed the finish line that day. Being able to watch Amanda and Earl, two inspirational adaptive athletes, take on such an daunting task was simply amazing. We started that day as strangers, but finished as family. Later that year, I flew out to Texas, to join Amanda as she took on the Dallas Beast to earn her first Spartan Race Trifecta. There is nothing that these two incredible athletes can't do and my life has forever been changed because of my experiences with them.
Did giving up your full-time stable job in 2014 to work more races scare you? have you used that same fear since then to conquer a difficult course?
Leaving a stable job with a steady income after 8 years to jump on board with Spartan scared the crap out of me. At that time I was only working support positions with Spartan and maybe a race or two a month. Knowing that I had bills that I was responsible for on a limited income posed quite a challenge the first few months. But at the time I wasn't happy in my current situation, I was given an opportunity to live almost rent free, and I had the chance to make my passion my work. In life, if we don't take chances, if we don't follow our dreams, if we don't do what makes us truly happy, all we are doing is settling for a life less than what we are capable of living. Taking that leap of faith has been the best decision I have made.
Very few situations will ever compare to that kind of fear. I think whether it's racing or working, if there isn't a bit of fear involved, you're not pushing yourself enough. Working my first race as a festival manager (SoCal 2015) was a frightening experience – knowing I had all of this new responsibility and not wanting to let anyone down was tough, I had fellow staff, racers, spectators, and a venue counting on me. I made it through the race, with a lot of help from our amazing staff, and haven't looked back since.
I see you have quite the accomplished Spartan race resume. Have you thought about or would you ever try doing the Worlds Toughest Mudder event to really challenge yourself?
Back in 2013 when I was racing (and training) a lot more, it's something that I looked into. But since starting my job with Spartan, I haven't dedicated myself enough to training or staying in shape. I've run 4 races in the past 3 years. This past December I ran the LA Sprint with one of our staff members who has never run a Spartan Race before. Doing that race, gave me the motivation that I have been missing to get myself back into racing shape. One of my goals this year is to get another Trifecta. I'll start there and see how things progress.
What’s a bucket list race for you? (name of the race, location and type please)
I would love to do an International Spartan Race, anywhere overseas. I'll be working the Cuba Spartan Race this March, so I'm pretty excited for that opportunity. It's not racing, but it's still being a part of a race away from the continental US.
If you had to choose between only having peanut butter or chocolate for the rest of your life, what would you choose and why?
No question about it, Chocolate. Chocolate goes better with wine. But really, I have always been a huge fan of chocolate – chocolate milk, chocolate covered anything, and smores. In fact, I'm currently snowed in at my house on a mountain in Southern Oregon, I have been enjoying sea salt chocolate carmels for the past week.
What are some of your planned races / challenges in 2017?
Like I stated earlier, I'm planning on getting my Spartan Race Trifecta this year, it's been 3 years since I received my last Trifecta. I haven't decided which races I will be doing yet as I'm still waiting for my work schedule to be set. Besides getting a Trifecta, I've set some goals for myself to be more dedicated with my training and workouts. For the past few years, I've used working long hours on the road as an excuse to be lazy. We typically work 12+ hour days while on the road, so whether it's before or after long days, it's hard to find the motivation to take care of yourself. But this year it will be one of my main priorities. You all are reading this, so help me be accountable, I know I'll need it!
Do you have any cute nicknames on course? what is it if you do?
Spartan Staff, and even racers, seem to pick up nicknames pretty quickly. But I have yet to pick one up. I'm often called Mama or Ma for the simple fact that I try to make sure everyone is taken care of.
Is there anything else you want to share?
For the past 3 years, myself, and some of the best people I know, have dedicated ourselves to putting together the best possible obstacle courses possible, not just the race but the entire experience. We work 12 hour days for 2 weeks straight to build and tear down the races, then enjoy a few days off, before we do it all over again, sometimes on the opposite side of the country. The hard work and sacrifices that OCR production staff make rarely gets noticed, but is quick to be criticized. So I just want to make a shout out to everyone who is in this industry, working thankless hours, being away from family, promoting a sport that we are passionate about, so that we can make a difference in the lives of others. As a racer, I was one of those people who's life was changed because of Spartan Race, because of the sport of OCR, and I will continue to work my ass off so that other people have that same opportunity. If anyone wants an opportunity to see all of the behind the scenes action at an OCR, volunteer, volunteer on a build day, the staff appreciate it!
If someone wants to reach out to you on social media to say hi where can they find you?
Facebook – Missy Burnstad
IG and Snapchat – cheeseheadproud