All in with Shannon Spake: Fox Sports’ broadcasting polymath is always on the move — literally

first_imgIn high school and college, Spake said, she had to wake up at 5 a.m. to go to swim practice on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On top of that, she had practice every day after school, not to mention meets on Saturdays.Spake said her life began to move “in a positive direction” once she moved to New York after college in 1999. But she credits swimming as the element that gave her the foundation for that push. Swimming, she said, kept her on the rails as much as it could.While Spake was in New York, those rails took her through positions at Nickelodeon, CBS News and HBO. A reporter/producer position WCCB-TV brought her to Charlotte in 2003, and in 2005, she began the NASCAR reporting/hosting portion of her career at Fox Sports’ Speed. In 2006, she left Speed for ESPN.Then, while Spake was working for ESPN in 2014, the rails brought her back to swimming … and biking … and running.Another chapter in Spake’s life, another reason to go all-in.* * *These days, Spake’s workout routine borders on excessive. In 2014, when she started training for her first triathlon, the bar was lower.Spake’s passion for endurance training is the result of the kind of break that no longer exists in her calendar. The 2013-14 college basketball season had ended, and she had four months before college football season would bring her back to work.Most would have selected Spake’s other option — sitting around and drinking wine for a few months. But she likes to stay motivated. “Not busy; motivated.” She instead followed the lead of some NASCAR drivers who had been competing in triathlons.”I was like, ‘All right, I was a swimmer in high school,’ I had already run a couple of marathons in ’05 and ’06, so I knew that I could do the distance thing.” Spake said. “I knew that I had the discipline to train, and I was like, ‘Might as well just try it.'”That year, she trained for and competed in a sprint triathlon (0.5-mile swim, 12.4-mile ride, 3.1-mile run). She loved it. The next year, she trained for and competed in an Olympic triathlon, double the distance of the sprint. She loved it.In 2016, Spake signed up for her first 70.3, also known as a Half Ironman. For this level, she needed a trainer, and he installed the training regimen Spake continues today. View this post on Instagram (FOX Sports) (FOX Sports) (FOX Sports) Spake describes her routine as “pretty manageable.” You be the judge. The following is her weekly schedule in the fall.Monday is swim day: “I’ll wake up, get my kids up, my husband will drive them to school, and I’ll go to the pool. I’ll swim for an hour, hour and a half, go home, take a shower, come here (Fox Sports).”Tuesday is bike day: “I do the same thing; get my kids up in the morning. If it’s a long bike, I’ll get on the bike before they get up. If I have a five-hour bike ride, I’ll get up and get on the bike by 4 a.m. so I can get two or 2 1/2 hours done before they wake up. And plus, if I have to be (at work) at noon, and I have a six-hour bike ride, I have to get on the bike by 5 or 6 a.m.”Wednesday is for running. During NFL season, Thursdays are her off-days: “I’ll wake up and kind of get some stuff done. I’ll do some prep work (for the game she’s covering that weekend).”On Friday, she flies to the location of the game, but not before she gets in her long run for the week. When it’s not football season, Spake on Friday bikes and runs (typically a half-hour bike ride followed by a three-mile run). On Saturday, she’ll run 12 or so miles — sometimes more, sometimes less depending on the stage of her training.Spake insists endurance training is a bigger challenge mentally than it is physically. When she runs, she listens to podcasts to avoid letting her mind wander. “Because if you do, it’s going to tell you to stop.” During long bike rides on her Peloton, she watches NFL games. For somebody so busy, multitasking is key.”I love the discipline, and I love the structure,” Spake said. “I love the fact that I knew today I had to wake up and do an hour bike ride, and then tomorrow I have to run nine miles.”It makes me a better person doing something for myself because — I think it was Kelley Earnhardt who told me (this), and I picked up on the analogy — a lot of moms are always filling other people’s cups: the work cup, or the kid cup, or the husband cup, or the family cup. And then you go, well, where’s the time and the energy to fill my cup?”I need to fill my cup. This does that.”* * *In 2016, Stanford’s football home opener against Kansas State received a jolt of electricity. Christian McCaffrey, then a junior for the Cardinal, returned a punt 98 yards for a touchdown. The play didn’t count; it was called back due to a penalty. But it still sticks with Spake, who was reporting for Fox on the sidelines that night.”I had never seen a human being move as fast as he did,” Spake said of McCaffrey, who now plays in the NFL for the Panthers. “And he’s 10 times the athlete now than he was when he was at Stanford.”Witnessing the athleticism of professional athletes is “100 percent” what Spake enjoys most about covering the NFL, which she has been doing for Fox Sports since 2017. Part of the reason: Despite her unusually strong endurance, she does not consider herself athletically inclined.”I’m not a very balanced person,” Spake stated frankly. “If I were to try to run a route, I’d fall all over myself. I can’t shoot a basket. If I try to dirt bike or mountain bike with my husband, I fall all over myself. But I can go and do some of these endurance things.” See you tomorrow! @atlantafalconsA post shared by Shannon Spake (@shannonspake) on Nov 25, 2017 at 7:45am PST* * *Spake isn’t sure if she experiences pain because she’s a 43-year-old who runs 70.3s, or if she experiences pain because she has two rods in her back.Regardless, the pain does come; it’s the downside of Spake’s hyperactive lifestyle.But the payoff is worth it. Sure, the pride associated with endurance racing is great, but Spake insists the best parts about Ironman events are the people and the relationships.Spake, who is an Ironman Foundation Ambassador, said the foundation is hosting a massive service project at Ironman Florida this year to rebuild structures that were destroyed by the hurricane last year. Such service projects are commonplace around Ironman events.”When people ask me how a race goes, the race part of it is, to me, it’s what allows me to experience everything around it,” Spake said. “The physical part, it allows me to kind of experience all these beautiful things around it.” Spake was training for her next athletic achievement, and she needed a twist to her Saturday morning run, a new source of focus. Nothing motivates the 43-year-old more than her husband, Jerry, and identical twin boys, so her house, as part of a newly configured running loop, would serve as her water station. She would be able to use her own family as a checkpoint, of sorts.This particular Saturday was Jerry’s birthday, and the air conditioning in Spake’s house was broken. That wasn’t expected to be a problem. Spake’s husband would welcome the repair man at 7:30 a.m. while she was on her run. Sure enough, when Spake reached her house for her final water checkpoint of the morning, Jerry was dealing with the A/C repair man.Spake’s husband, though, gave her a look of frustration upon her arrival; the dog had given Jerry the last thing he wanted on this already chaotic birthday — a nice dropping inside the house. She felt obligated to delay the rest of her run and clean up the poop herself, so she did. Her two boys, fixated on their iPads, didn’t even notice their mom’s brief visit.”I am never going back to the house again,” Spake told Sporting News with a laugh as she recalled her reaction. “Like, once I’m on my run, I am not going back!”Now Spake’s Saturday morning runs — you know, just your typical, 19-mile jogs — go relatively uninterrupted. “I’m just there to have a good time and to use it as training for Chicago in October,” Spake said.That training seemingly never stops. Spake the human — both as an athlete and as a broadcaster — never stops, either, save for the couple hours before she goes to bed each night. That time is reserved for wine.So, make that two things that can stop Shannon Spake: dog poop and wine. The only thing that can stop Shannon Spake is dog poop.The veteran sports broadcaster found out the hard away about a year ago. Many recognize Spake for her work with Fox Sports, where she handles all anchor duties for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series races and pre-race shows, co-hosts “NASCAR Race Hub” on FS1 and reports from sidelines at NFL and college basketball games.Few know she is a badass athlete herself.When Spake encountered the dog poop last year, she had already run 14 of her 19 miles that day. She was training for Ironman Florida, a full Ironman triathlon that consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.22-mile run. The event was postponed when Hurricane Michael slammed into Panama City, Fla., in October. Spake, who had been granted a week off from her NFL reporting duties to race in the triathlon, instead entered the New York City Marathon, which was scheduled for the same weekend.Having trained for a 140.3-mile triathlon, Spake was “more than ready” for NYC.Imagine running a marathon — especially that marathon — and thinking, eh, piece of cake.This weekend, Spake will compete in an Ironman 70.3 (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, 13.1-mile run) in Michigan, her second 70.3 in the span of one month. When she runs in the Chicago Marathon in October, it will mark her fourth completed marathon.This is the result of Spake’s persistence. She somehow manages all of her duties at Fox Sports while improving upon her already-ridiculous physical endurance. She does all of this while raising her two 9-year-old boys.”I’m an all-in person,” Spake explained.She has always been an all-in person. That wasn’t always a good thing.* * *While on a recent cruise, Spake and her husband were getting massages at the ship’s spa. Spake’s massage therapist encountered a surprise.”You forgot?” Jerry asked. Yep. Spake failed to warn the massage therapist of the two rods in her back.Spake was diagnosed with scoliosis at age 9. A few years’ worth of chiropractor visits later, she was told she needed surgery to address the curvature of her spine. The rods were inserted on each side of her spine, and they immediately became a massive part of her life.”I had to quit dancing; I had to quit all kinds of sports,” Spake said. “I had to take some time off of school. I had to be aware for about a year until the fusion settled.”There were kids that didn’t understand and heckled me a little bit. I always had the scar, which goes all the way down my back.”At the time, Spake didn’t know her scoliosis diagnosis and subsequent surgery would indirectly lead to the discipline and structure that continues to define her life, both professionally and athletically.Spake grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., under a single mother who worked three jobs. She said she did not have much guidance early in her life, and she often got derailed.”I didn’t have the best academic situation,” Spake admitted. “Again, I’m all-in, so if I was going to clubs at 17, I was going to clubs at 17. It wasn’t about school. If I was going out with my friends on a Friday or Saturday night, I was going out!”Beneath the surface, though, the seeds that would facilitate Spake’s rise had already been planted. With other sports out of the question in the wake of her surgery, she took up swimming, a non-impact, straight-line sport that would allow her to remain active. View this post on Instagram View this post on Instagram Work. @nflonfoxA post shared by Shannon Spake (@shannonspake) on Nov 18, 2018 at 2:37pm PSTSpake understands her variation of athleticism is different than the kind possessed by the athletes she covers. But her life away from work gives her a greater appreciation of what they do, and from a mental standpoint, she can relate.For example, Spake understands how athletes enter a zone in which they can’t hear the crowd screaming. She knows all about the anxiety athletes feel before a game or a race. When she interviews an athlete, she asks the same questions she would appreciate being asked of herself before or after an event.Of course, many of the athletes Spake interviews don’t know that, distance-wise, she can easily outrun, say, Julio Jones. Yet she has never felt disrespected by a subject.”I don’t think I’ve ever given off the impression that I can relate to them physically, because I can’t,” Spake said. “I don’t know what it’s like to get in that huddle. But I do feel like I’ve spent a lot of time at practices and a lot of time watching film.”That’s a huge thing for me, and it always has been in my career, going to all those practices and allowing those players or drivers to see me giving their team and what they do as much respect as they feel like it deserves.”After all, Spake is a sports fan who grew up yearning for the NFL sideline gig she now has. And her job allows her a unique ability to blend her interests.In 2013, she began a tradition of running stadium stairs while on site at college football games. She’s proud to say she has run the steps at Wisconsin, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Alabama, the Rose Bowl and the Cotton Bowl, to name a few. Her favorite experience was reaching the highest point of Penn State’s Beaver Stadium on a Friday morning with the massive venue all to herself.Spake has run the stairs at basketball arenas and NFL stadiums, too. This football season, she plans to add to her list that already includes 35 sports venues. Done! Thank you all for the support!!! Number 4 in the books!!! 06:35:21 @im_foundation @ironmantri #santarosa703A post shared by Shannon Spake (@shannonspake) on Jul 27, 2019 at 2:16pm PDTSpake again has her eyes on a full Ironman Triathlon. After missing out on Ironman Florida last year, next year’s Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, is on her radar, though she has not yet committed.As a college football fan would, Spake described the Kona event as “the granddaddy of them all,” a daunting event due to the island’s volatile climate. The 2020 edition of Kona is tempting, she said, because she is “not getting any younger.”For now, though, Spake will continue with her current routine. This weekend’s event in Michigan will be her fifth 70.3. She is not shooting for a personal-best time, which is just under six hours. Simply being able to complete two half Ironman triathlons in one month is the goal.last_img

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