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Are They the Same? Australian vs US Spartan Races

It goes without saying, no Spartan Race is created equally. Each is designed to test you physically and mentally. Even if you've raced at the same location more than once, it is highly unlikely it will be the exact same race. 

I recently participated in my first US Spartan race. Before the start, I was excited and nervous. There were many obstacles I had never encountered. Some seemed incredibly intimidating (I'm looking at you A-Frame. It's not the height that scares me, it's the falling) and others I was seriously looking forward to (I'm talking about the Dunk Wall!). 

Before the race, I did not think the races would be that different. Spartan is the same company, you would expect there to be the same rules and regulations throughout. But there were some significant differences I noticed between the two countries races. 

**Some of this information may not be accurate. I have only done 1 Spartan race in the US and 6 in Australia. All accounts below are my personal experiences with Spartan thus far**

Sorry Oz but the US Spartan races are incredibly well organised. From picking up your race packet to starting times to the finish line, the Spartan SOCAL was a well-oiled machine pumping out Spartan Warriors like they were headed to battle. 

The only downside, you couldn't sneak into an earlier heat. I made the mistake of thinking my start time was 12:30, not 1:30 and arrived at the arena super early. I tried to get into the 12:30 heat as scheduled the rest of my day around a 12:30 start time but was unable to do so. Oh well, I still had a killer time on the course!

Related Post: A Single Event Can Change Your Life for the Better

The Obstacles
This was probably the most exciting part. There were different obstacles between any of the Aussie races I had previously run. Obstacles that were newer to the States (Olympus, Z-Wall and the Atlas Carry), had been in Australia since I started racing. But I had never done the Bucket Brigade, A-Frame, or Dunk Wall. Please please please can the Twister come to Australia? I've been wanting to conquer this obstacle for a while but haven't had the opportunity. 

Other obstacles differences, Australia still does the Gladiators and Balance Beams. Australia also has the Fortress which is an impressive rock climbing wall you must scale up and over to avoid doing burpees. 

I also appreciated the sturdiness of the Multi-Rig during my US race. Australia tends to stick to Monkey Bars, so it was a lot of fun to tackle the Multi-Rig. Australia just announced that they would be introducing 12 new obstacles to the races, I'm beyond excited to see if any of them are obstacles I tackled during my SOCAL Sprint. 

Force a friend to run a Spartan for your birthday

The Penalties
DISCLAIMER!!! Everything I am about to say is just observation. I realise that everyone is racing their own race unless you're in the competitive or elite heats. I am in no way, shape, or form knocking people down for their decisions on how to race THEIR RACE

In Australia, if it is your first race, you're granted a Rookie Pass. This means if you fail an obstacle, you do not need to do the burpee penalties. Personally, I think this is an incredible way to welcome people into the sport. It makes the race slightly less intimidating and means people are more willing to give it a go. 

While the Rookie Pass is not offered in the US, I was a little surprised at how many people I saw completely skipping their penalties. There were very few people I witnessed actually do their penalties at any capacity. I've had to adjust my penalties and switch to squats when I busted my wrist during a race, but I still did some form of a penalty when failing an obstacle. 

In Australia, it was rare to see a person skip their penalties. There are a lot more modifications to the penalties, especially during the Sprint, but they were still done. 

At the end of the day, it's your race. You do what you're capable of while still pushing yourself. You're already a winner that you got your booty on the course and tried. 

Related Post: Bright Trifecta Weekend. A Weekend of Insanity 

The Comradery
The comradery is probably the most incredible aspect of a Spartan Race. It's not every man/woman for themselves, you get through this together. The teamwork attitude was present both in the US and Australia. The only difference, at the SoCal Sprint, people waited for you to ask for help with an obstacle. In Australia, the second someone sees you struggling they offer you support. Regardless, all Spartan racers are ready to help you be the best you possible. 

Regardless of what country you're in, why not push yourself and sign up for a race. Yes, it's intimidating. Yes, it will challenge the f*ck out of you. Yes, you may cry at some point. But it will be SO worth it! If you've ever run a Spartan Race before, share your story in the comments to help encourage new racers!

And until next time...

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An Expat's Guide to Cooking: OG Mac n Cheese

Moving to a new country takes a lot of adjustment. You're introduced to new people, new foods, and new languages. Adapting to a new country is a massive adjustment. Sometimes you have to adjust to the culture while still keeping a bit of your own. After many talks with a lot of expats, for some reason adapting to food seems to be one of the most challenging. The top two foods I hear constant feedback about: Mexican and Mac n Cheese. So today we have a fabulous guest post, from my friend Nick, for all you expats looking to make some killer mac n cheese in Australia (without breaking the bank to get your hands on some Velveeta).

Mac n Cheese: The Velveeta Famine 
So, coming in to contact with many expats over the last few years, I’ve noticed that there is one major hurdle that all of you people seem to struggle with when moving overseas: Velveeta Goddamn cheese. 

What this post aims to do, is teach those of you poor, homesick individuals that not being able to easily access this dead-shit “cheese” product is not the end of the world by sharing an OG Mac n Cheese recipe. 

You will need:
Red Leicester cheese.  (90g/3oz)
American Cheddar (90g /3oz)
Sharp tasty cheddar (90g/3oz)
A METRIC fucktonne of parmesan ( 170gm/6oz)
Macaroni (500g)
Pancetta (3 x 10mm slices)
Milk (1 Cup)
Flour (2-4 Tbs)
Panko Breadcrumbs (1cup)
Butter (2-4)
Salt and Pepper to taste.

First off, you’re going to make a Bechamel sauce, Bechamel is French and roughly translates to “How much cheese can I render down into the heaviest concentrate possible?” or something like that.

Heat butter in a pan when bubbling mix in the flour, Whisk until you develop a sexy golden roux slowly pour in a cup of milk, constantly whisking to incorporate it until you have a gravy-like consistency. Then add your cheese, only 110g/4oz of the Parmesan, the rest is used on top. The only real cheese you need to keep regardless of your taste is Parmesan, you can use jack or whatever ungodly concoction you see fit to match your horrible personality. Keep adding until it’s all combined and as thick as a Kardashian’s grey matter  Add cracked pepper and salt to taste.

Related Post: 10 American Foods That Are Impossible to Find in Australia

Meanwhile, we’re going to address another sore point amongst the community: Bacon. 

Bacon is for burgers and to have on top of pancakes. We’re making neither today, so for this exercise, say “fuck bacon” to yourself and go get some Pancetta. Pancetta is an OG cured pork that makes bacon look like the cooking equivalent of the Cleveland Browns. The difference being is it’s salt cured instead of smoke cured like bacon. Which means two things: It’s got a stronger flavour and required to be cooked to fuck before consuming to prevent the spread of gross pork germs.

You can find it literally anywhere if you look hard enough, IGA, any weekend market. But if you’re too goddamn lazy to take 20 minutes out of your day going to your local markets, I’m sure you could dig it up at Woolworths or Coles. I’ve never tried. But you do you boo.

Slice it up into little lardettes and fry it until it’s all crispy and shit. Take it out and set it aside. Now you’ll notice that it’s a lot fattier than bacon and will leave a substantial amount of greasy goodness in the pan. Get your panko breadcrumbs and whack them into the fatty, juicy goodness. Brown the breadcrumbs until they resemble that god awful Pittsburgh Steelers throwback uniform and put aside to cool. Now instead of having boring breadcrumbs you’ve got bacon-y (pancetta-y?) awesome toasted breadcrumbs.

Mix your pasta (Do I have to tell you to cook the pasta? Of course you have to cook the damn pasta.) in with your bitchin’ cheese sauce and mix until everything is lathered and sexy. Then add your crispy Pancetta awesome and mix that in too.

Put it all into a baking tray and cover with your breadcrumbs and another horrendously large amount of Parmesan. Cover it, put it into the oven at 230 degrees Celcius (450F, assimilate people for crying out loud) for about 10 minutes, uncovering and continuing to cook for another 15 minutes. Pull it out. And enjoy breaking through that ridiculous layer of cheese and greasy breadcrumbs like you would a motherfucking creme brulee.

Related Post: 9 More American Foods That Are Impossible to Find in Australia

Post photos of it on Instagram, eat an embarrassingly large amount to yourself and scoff arrogantly the next time one of your other countrymen complains about not being able to get that godforsaken crappy, aluminium coated block of sin called Velveeta.

Pro Tip: Add finely chopped parsley to the finished product to garnish, because we all know that the only purpose parsley has in its miserable existence is to make garbage food look like it’s got its shit together.

If you’re still unhappy, you can always find Velveeta at your local American foods store and pay $15 a block. Because quite frankly, you deserve it.


How to Save Money on a Student Visa in Australia

Saving money seems to be a hot topic these days. I'm not sure if its because we are constantly surrounded by adverts pushing "Buy! Buy! Buy! We have the NEWEST, most amazing product ever!"? Or is it's because schools will teach you calculus, reciting the US presidents in reverse alphabetical order, or finding out how to kill a mockingbird but does not teach its students how to file taxes, make investments, or (god forbid) set a budget? 

Studying in a foreign country can be overwhelming, exciting, and expensive. Financial assistance is rarely granted to international students. In Australia, international students are limited to 40 hours of work per fortnight during the school term. This can often be challenging to save money. But it is not impossible! Australia offers relatively decent wages to workers, but there are a few things you can do to help save money and not live paycheck to paycheck. 

Sunday...Sessions? The Subtle Differences Between the US and Australia

It would appear that most people I know have spent the weekend in either Hawaii or Vegas. I must admit, this is one of the few times I've "missed" home. By this I mean, I miss the relaxed atmosphere of Sunday Funday (especially during football season). I miss spending the day with friends enjoying cheap food and even cheaper drinks. By the end of my stay in San Diego, I developed a bit of a routine: wake up, go surfing with Keshia, protein style double single with grilled onion, then meeting up with Steff and Lauren in PB for some wild ruckus. So, in turn, comes another list of differences between AUS and the USA.