HEROES Spotlight: Danielle "Dee" EspositoOct. 15, 2017
If you don't recognize Dee Esposito, perhaps you need to take another look at our homepage. Dee has been a close friend to the Cause of a Kind family since the beginning and we finally get the chance to talk more about her.
Dee is not just a Cause of a Kind model, she's also a competitive Spartan racer! We got a chance to catch up with her last week so we could tell everyone her story.
How did you get into adventure racing?
My old gym was bootcamp-style, meaning it had walls, ropes, fake barbed wire, monkey bars, etc. They used to do a ton of Spartan Races, so just being there and having my trainer and buddies around me all the time sort of convinced me to try it. I had always had an interest in them but never felt comfortable enough to actually do one. Those guys made me try... and changed my life entirely.
What would you say to other women that want to do their first adventure race but are intimidated?
Evvvvvveryone is intimidated. I'm still intimidated before every single race, no matter how short or long of a distance. But I'm also a firm believer that those nerves and that intimidation comes before all of the best things in life. The best I can promise is you'll come out the other side with a new sense of what life actually is. Where today we're so accustomed to thinking life means texts and Google searches and losing ourselves in this crazy digital world, these races take all of those things away for a moment. For those hours that you're on a course, you'll remember what it's like to be a human - when you're in tune with your breathing and your steps, when your mind and your body gets to work together... and you get to just be. Also, the Open Heats guarantee friendships - you'll see all different types of people from all walks of life on that course. I've seen 90 year old women, blind men, children and the handicap conquering a course alongside each other. The only thing to be intimidated by is your own mind... because once you cross that start line, you CAN do this - and we won't let you fail.
What was the most challenging race you've competed in so far and why?
Easy. The 2014 Spartan World Championships in Killington, Vermont. It was my first season doing any sort of OCR (obstacle course racing) and my first time running a Spartan Beast. Killington is known as being one of the most challenging courses (it's the birthplace of the Spartan Beast, after all), because they love to utilize their steep ski slopes. I remember it was freezing that year, and at the summit we were walking in a cloud. I had busted out my knee on Mile 5 of this 12+ mile course and had to do every decent in a crab walk. I had strangers who carried me over walls, some that had warned me to quit to avoid further injury, and others that told me not to. It was the first race where my mind really had to come in to play to keep me moving, and I LOVED that. I think that's partly why I've been so interested this season in endurance events - I really like the mental aspect of pushing myself to break through those mind games. There's something very satisfying about that.
What's your favorite obstacle?
Rope climb! I also really like rig work now that I'm developing a stronger grip.
What weaknesses are you currently working to overcome?
Two things: grip strength and steep climbs
How are you training to overcome them?
Honestly CrossFit has helped me make leaps and bounds with my grip. Probably all that barbell work and those pullups. Other than that though I do dead hangs a lot, play around on the gym rig and I've gotten some grippy tools like the GripSling. For steep climbs it's a little harder because we don't have the terrain in Queens that other parts of the country get, but I throw on my ruck and find stairs and a few spots that I know of that have some hills to work on.
If you had to train for an adventure race in four weeks what would your regiment look like?
I'd keep WODing daily and doing ruck workouts after. One thing I will say is since I've begun training nightly with my ruck, heavy carries in a race have felt so much better. Also, use some weekends to focus on timed training rather than mileage training. What I mean here is a road mile and a mountain mile are two completely different things, and you might be out on a race and find you've only covered 3 miles in an hour. Get used to working for long periods of time. Carve out 4 hours to just explore - run, burpee, speed walk, pick up a heavy rock and carry it around for a bit. Just use that time to get your body acclimated to long non-stop movement.
Would you consider yourself to be environmentally conscious, and why?
I'm environmentally conscious but I do think I could get better at it actually executing that consciousness.
Is there a particular natural place that resonates with you particularly?
Two things: bodies of water and trails.
If there were an individual cause that you care about, related to the environment, what would it be?
Water pollution and wrecking beautiful forests.
Do you think there is an intersection between being an elite spartan athlete and caring about the environment?
Well, of course. Spartan Racers, or really any racer that races out in the world, cares about the environment because that's where we play. Obviously you don't have to race trails or swim lakes to care about them, but we're connected to them differently. They're an intricate part of our world not only physically, or in those typical aspects, but we use these places to train, we suffer here and grow here, and there's something very special that comes from living part of your life with this sort of primal connection to the earth. I think it helps us to really appreciate it.
When you say that you are environmentally conscious but wish to do more, what do you feel you could improve on?
Volunteer more, donate more, live consciously, etc. no wrong answer.
Live more consciously. I mean, I already don't litter, and while racing I'm one of those that picks up any wrapper some inconsiderate person threw on to the trail, but I mean most people can always do MORE, right? It's just a matter of having the outlet and resources... and education... to do that.