There’s this challenge called the Delta. It’s incredibly difficult. And Danielle is doing it four times.

Now we have a reason to start using this cool “Δ” symbol.

Anyone who has tasted Spartan’s various events knows that it takes a special kind of person to complete just one of them. It takes superior grit to complete three and earn a TRIFECTA. To complete a Spartan DELTA takes a total commitment to mind, body and spirit; over nine events (which can take multiple forms), a person is molded and strengthened into someone much stronger than they ever imagined.

How about four DELTAs?

On July 13th, Danielle Rieck (39) became the first person in the world to complete the Perfect Spartan DELTA. This was the first of the four DELTAs she has planned for the year. Who is this person? Why is she doing what she’s doing? How can she actually do it while working full-time? How does she have the energy? This blog has the answers.

(This blog was originally published on Spartan.com.)

So, who is Danielle?

Danielle’s athletic background is diverse. She has been a dancer, a professional ballerina, the operator of an MMA gym, a weightlifter and now, a Spartan racer. For training, she does “anything and everything,” from a basic lifting session to trapeze classes.

Danielle started running obstacle races in 2012 after her then-boyfriend attempted one. He failed to complete the challenge, and when Danielle said she wanted to give it a try, her boyfriend said she shouldn’t bother: she wouldn’t be able to do it.

At the time, Danielle didn’t question the comment. In fact, she believed him. However, this didn’t mean she wasn’t curious. After some investigation, Danielle found the Fenway Spartan Sprint, signed up quietly, and showed up with a friend. Little did she know this race would ignite a long and impressive string of Spartan events.

In 2014, Danielle completed 7 TRIFECTAs.

In 2015, 10 TRIFECTAs.

This year, she’s aiming for 11 — and 7 of those fit into her unrivaled 2016 DELTA plan.

The method to Danielle’s madness — or, how she makes a quadruple Delta (4Δ) work

How can a person complete four DELTAs in a year? The answer is simpler than you might think.

Danielle plans to complete four DELTAs before the end of the year: one Perfect DELTA, two Triple TRIFECTA (3X) DELTAs, and one Master’s in Endurance (M.End.) DELTA. This amounts to a total of 36 events, at least 300 hours total on the course. How does she make it work? By being strategic about her time, money and energy.

“No time”? Danielle says “planning is everything.”

You may be wondering how a person with a full-time job as a bartender and waitress can find enough hours in the day to work, eat, train, sleep, and complete multiple TRIFECTAs, let alone more time-intensive endeavors like the Agoge or Spartan X. Danielle makes it work by completing multiple events in one weekend whenever possible.

For example, Danielle treated herself to a weekend in Hawai’i, where she completed five events in one weekend: the Sprint, Super, Beast, Ultra Beast and 4-Hour Hurricane Heat. (She could have completed six if she had taken the Spartan SGX Course while on the islands, but she opted out because she had already taken Spartan Obstacle Specialist in the winter.)

When it comes to completing multiple events in one day, there are no skills more important than time management and saying no. For example, to complete her one-day TRIFECTA in Hawai’i, Danielle spent about eight consecutive hours on the course. Even with impressive Beast and Super finish times, she struggled to make the cut-off for the final Sprint heat. When people asked if they could run with her, she unfortunately had to set boundaries — not an easy thing to do.

“It was uncomfortable to tell people that I had to go faster than their pace. Especially men.” — Danielle Rieck

Despite expecting some ruffled feathers, Danielle always found her friends and fellow racers fully supporting her goals.

“No money”? Danielle hasn’t dropped a dime on a single race.

You may have heard that Spartan Volunteers receive a free race entry. Danielle has taken full advantage of this fact. Thanks to the time she has invested helping others on the course — as well as a fuel-efficient car, consistent carpooling and shared hotel rooms — money has simply not been an issue.

“A while back, I made a choice that racing was important to me,” said Danielle. “So I do what I need to do to make that happen.”

“No energy”? Danielle takes it one event at a time.

As convenient as it would be to complete multiple events simultaneously, it’s not possible. For that reason — and the simple fact that doing multiple events is taxing on the body — Danielle takes her multi-event weekends “one event at a time.” For Spartans thinking of conquering multiple events in one day, Danielle offers these simple pointers:

  1. “Don’t stop moving. Ever.”
  2. “Plan ahead.”
  3. “Keep track of time. Don’t waste a second. It’s better to be way ahead of schedule than to be on time.”
  4. “Tell everyone your goals.” (What got Danielle through her toughest moments was the encouragement of others.)
  5. Plan for things to go wrong. (Bring extra socks, bandages, Vaseline, sunscreen…you get the picture.)

Of all the different pieces, what’s the hardest part?

For Danielle, this question is difficult to answer. “Each piece came with its own challenges,” she says. “But getting over those challenges made you more mentally prepared for the next challenge. By the time you got to the last pieces, even if they were physically difficult, you went into them much more mentally prepared. The more experience you have to reference when things get tough, the easier it is to deal with the challenge.”

When Danielle first heard of the DELTA, she was a bit skeptical. Plus, after losing part of her toe at the Winter Agoge-001, she was considering leaving obstacle racing behind and taking up knitting. Thankfully, her friends reminded her that her thumbs are “deformed,” so knitting was out of the question. In February of 2016, she did her calculations and committed to completing her DELTA in the summer.

Sticking to that commitment wasn’t easy. After her foot injury, Danielle was limited in her training for some time; she spent many lonely hours barefoot on the rowing machine, unable to wear anything on her feet — let alone run. However, this didn’t stop her from attacking the New Jersey Ultra Beast seven weeks after the Agoge.

“I had a pretty giant panic attack,” she says. “It was my first race back, and my first time wearing shoes [in a long time]. I was really, really nervous.”

“I didn’t know if I could take a back-to-back DNF.”

Despite her fears, Danielle didn’t DNF at New Jersey. On the contrary, she finished it in an impressive 11:21:05. One month later, she crushed the Hurricane Heat in Ohio. “I realized I probably am tougher than I give myself credit for,” said Danielle. “That [event] is probably when I realized the [DELTA] was attainable.” The final piece of her DELTA was Spartan’s online mental training course, Spartan X, part of the Training TRIFECTA, which she completed on July 13.

Every piece has it’s own story.

Even after completing so many TRIFECTAs and multiple DELTAs, each step of the journey has a significant emotional impact for Danielle. The people she has met along the way as well as her own personal growth have made every piece special.

When Danielle was having moments of doubt in Hawai’i, she used the encouragement of others to refuel.

“It was nice to hear people say that I was a beast, even when I wasn’t feeling it,” said Danielle. “When I was cutting it close to making that last heat and a part of me wanted to just not do it, Angry Rob looked at me, told me to haul ass across the monkey bars and get out for the last lap.”

Another staff member, Brian, who was working the festival, helped Danielle change her timing chips so she could get a drink of water. After her Sprint, he gave her a hug.

“Since most people had gone home by then, it was super fun to have a friendly face acknowledge your achievement,” said Danielle.

According to Danielle, not only does each piece of the DELTA come with its own story; it also comes with “its own friendships, its own heartbreaks and its own triumphs.”

“I’ve met some of the greatest people in the world, people who you know are going to change the world, through [the DELTA].” — Danielle Rieck

How does your story start?

Earning your Spartan DELTA can take a year. It can also take a few months, with proper planning. It doesn’t require you to set world records, and it doesn’t require you to take a bite out of your kids’ college fund. (If you’re smart like Danielle, you actually don’t have to buy any races at all.)

So what does it require?

Simply put, the Spartan DELTA takes commitment and grit. In Danielle’s case, it took a lot of planning, cooperation, sharing, encouragement from others, willingness to volunteer, willingness to learn, and a no-quit attitude.

Most of these factors are within your control.

Why is she doing it?

When asked why she takes on challenges like the DELTA, Danielle responds, “To prove to myself I can. And because doing epic things makes other things in life seem less daunting.”

Every time we get out of our comfort zones, our frame of reference changes. What was hard before now seems easy. In this way, the DELTA builds what we call “total resilience.” That means resilience in every way — mental, physical and spiritual — and in every situation. You might remember the term “obstacle immunity” from the early days of Spartan (2011–2012). The two concepts are similar. A person with either one isn’t afraid of obstacles. Obstacles are just a part of life, and he or she can always figure out a way to get over, under or through.

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