I’m just gonna preface this by saying that I had the most amazing time at this race. Everyone knows all about Spartan Race so there’s no need to go into the nitty gritty of every single obstacle, but this race was a wholly new and different race for me, even after getting my Trifecta – it was the first race I did solo, racing to my own potential. Being that I am primarily a trail runner whose friends have yet to convert to the superior sport from road running (sorrynotsorry), I am used to running alone but also run many (road…) races with all kinds of people, not to mention the Trifecta I ran with my husband. Running with someone is a totally different experience. The joy I felt jumping the fire pit and plowing through the gladiators during the three Spartans I did with my husband were a different feeling – a feeling of happiness for just having DONE it in addition to the pride I felt for my husband who got off the couch to accompany me on the journey. I’ve always really admired this quote from Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run:
Some would call me sappy for that, so I might speak for myself when I say I believe that completely. I run with people sometimes who just urge me to “go on without [them]” or say “don’t let me hold you back” etc, but sometimes it’s just as fun to run with a friend. I would never give this up…but it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy racing as well. They’re just two different sides of the same running coin.
To say I had an amazing race is probably a bit of an overstatement. I did burpees almost immediately in the race upon coming to the log hop – an obstacle I have never failed – mostly because I was almost numb from the waist down after plunging into the muddy water at the very beginning of the race (really? I couldn’t help but laugh at the evil in this decision) and also due to two logs being almost impossibly far apart…which gave me a second of pause. A second of pause is not good on the log hop, it’s all about momentum. Despite that, I felt really good about my race at the very beginning – I killed a lot of the obstacles, took on the male weights and challenges a few times with no problems, and was running steady in between obstacles. Around mile two or three we were instructed to memorize a specific combination of words and numbers for a memory obstacle based on our bib number – the instructions said “You will recite this later”…mine was Lima 383 2898. I went flying down the hills following, repeating the phrase over and over in my mind and out loud, expecting the volunteers to soon ask me to recite it. (I was so, so wrong.) My amazing husband spent the entire day dashing through the woods and the Ranch to try and catch me at various obstacles to take pictures and offer moral support. I saw him after the first barbed wire crawl and frantically confessed to him that I forgot my phrase, but then suddenly it came to me as it had been getting ingrained with all the repetitive reciting along the way.
I got seriously lucky this race, I feel like – compared to some past experiences, I did not have ANY wait times on obstacles (to be fair I started in the first open heat of the day, though). Though this hasn’t been a serious problem in the past, it makes a HUGE difference on the barbed wire crawls (there were two in this race…or three?) where getting backed up behind someone can be a huge hindrance. I managed to go flying through both of my crawls, somehow earning a deep, bleeding gash on my right hand on the first one that I was worried would hinder me on the rope climbs and Tyrolean Traverse later on. But adrenaline is a magical thing.
After nailing the spear throw (YES!!) I started heading toward the lake, which was my one and only serious doubt about the entire race. Last year there was a swim and I had not received any word that it was cancelled…after trudging through a mud-water pit a volunteer instructed me to hit before entering the last barbed wire crawl before the lake, I was starting to become seriously worried. The pit was much more treacherous than it looked and I quickly sank into the pit as the mud was soft enough to suck me down all the way to my waist, which had the water hitting my chest. As soon as the water hit my chest I involuntarily began gasping uncontrollably as I completely lost my ability to breathe from the frigid water. The plants entangled around my legs combined with the thick mud left me momentarily unable to move. For a moment I was pretty much resigned to pitifully die in the mud pit until I got all pissed off and hurled my body violently to the shore.
When I rounded the corner, I could see Spartans who had gone before me trudging through the lake. I almost cried with relief. I’m all about Spartan’ing up and doing what I have to do, but I’m not afraid to admit that the thought of doing a 150m swim in a lake that currently had ICEBERGS floating in it was scaring the everloving shit out of me. We were instead instructed to enter the lake at the middle point where we would have began the swim, and walk/trudge/prance/run through the water on the perimeter going clockwise. This was better in a way, but also worse because it inevitably had most people in the water even longer than they would have been for the swim, and though we were only knee to almost waist deep, it was still cold as hell and I had pretty much made peace about thirty seconds in with the fact that feeling my body below the waist was a luxury that Spartan Race was no longer going to afford me. I resolved to suck it up and trudged through the water, cheerfully greeting the volunteers and plastering the deliriously happy face on in order to convince myself that I was HAVING TONS OF FUN. (I was. Sort of. Sometimes I have to remind myself.) As I climbed out of the lake and began the familiar trek past some of the lodges, I steeled myself for the Tyrolean Traverse, as I knew it was in the same location as last year. My hand was stinging, but I thought it would be okay.
However, the first obstacle I hit here was not the Tyrolean Traverse but the MEMORY OBSTACLE. As I climbed the hill I saw a volunteer at a table with a clip board. Almost seven miles and heaps of obstacles later, there they were. The cold water had long erased any semblance of memory from my mind and upon seeing them I completely panicked. There were already a few people gathered around them doing burpees (the guy who ran up to the initial instructions with me immediately exclaimed “Fuck that,” upon seeing it, and discussion with a few people afterwards lead me to believe that most people just disregarded the memory challenge all together). I began to furiously search my brain as I walked up to the skeptical looking woman (I probably looked confused or probably brain dead in my state of intense concentration). She asked me for my number.
I have no idea where those words came from, they just spilled out of my mouth. Apparently those miles of repetition did me some good. The volunteer, very visibly surprised I had provided the correct answer, congratulated me and I dodged a guy doing burpees to hit the Hercules Hoist with a quickness before busting out the Tyrolean Traverse in (for me) record time. An easy mile to the next log hop (which I did not fail this time) and the inverted wall, and I could see the festival area. I didn’t get my hopes up, as I knew from volunteering the day before that I was not quite at mile 10 and the course would veer back into the woods after hitting the cargo net. As a side note, I’m proud to say that I did not act like a totally pitiful idiot when I hit the cargo net this time – they were kind enough to shoot video at the cargo net at the Vegas Super, and you can literally hear me coming painfully close to whimpering as I walked across the net in such a way that pretty much required me to look down the entire time. This time I just rolled across and all was right with the world.
My husband pretty much assured me I was slaughtering at this point, telling me I looked great and was passing lots of people, etc etc. Unfortunately, this is probably where my race totally lost it. The few miles through the woods were one thing, but the complete and total onslaught of leg obstacles after this point combined with probably not taking in enough nutrition to account for the very end of the race slowed me down a ton. I think I speak for me and the hundreds of Spartans who came before and after me when I say this second bucket carry SUCKED. I have no eloquent words to describe the complete and total suckage of this obstacle at this point in the race. People were cheating and just running off like mad on this one, and the volunteers were going super militant on checking everyone’s buckets because there was so much cheating going on here. (I am completely not condoning the cheating, but most people were so wiped by this point…but so was I, and sometimes you just have to embrace the suck.) The entire race after this obstacle was a suckfest of a slog.
I completely trudged through the last 1.5-2 miles of the race, finally emerging from the woods to see the traverse wall. Thinking it would be an easy day, as it was not an obstacle I had ever failed before (though it had never been at literally the last few meters of the race before, either) I took a deep breath and climbed up.
Hardly a minute later I was doing burpees. Shit. My brain is not working properly at this point.
Rope climb. Try number one. Fall. Volunteer yells at me to try again. Try again. Fall. No upper body strength left. Remind myself that climbing the rope is so damn easy at CrossFit (stupid thought) and try again after the volunteer instructs me to try a different rope. Fall. Almost scream with frustration (I didn’t fail the earlier rope climb, why can I never get this one?!) The volunteer is yelling at me to keep going but I know at this point I am completely not capable. I climb out to head to my punishment, in what the volunteer calls her “Wonderful World of Burpees”, and throw myself on the ground for my first one. The volunteer could see that I was pissed at this point. I felt like I killed the whole race only to fail it at the end. A few burpees in she started doing burpees with me to cheer me on (so I thought) and then I get to twenty she tells me she did ten of my burpees for me and to GO get my fucking medal. I smile and thank her, tell her what I tell every freaking volunteer I come across (that they are amazing) and run towards the barbed wire crawl (it was three!) and up the slippery wall. I slide down the wall the first time, but get it the second after drying my hands on a nearby tree.
One fire jump and a trio of gladiators later, I am crossing the finish line. The photographer is telling me it is 1330 on the dot. I am in complete shock. I am close to an hour past my goal time. I spend all of two minutes beating myself up about this, then I realize I have to take a freezing cold shower and that becomes my preoccupying worry. (I don’t like to dote on stupid things like missed goals/PRs, fleeting things….hah.)
So, 14.5 miles later, a shitload of obstacles, and I feel alright. I have a few worries in regards to my time in regards to this race, but I’ll save those for later. (2014 goal posts, guys…they’re a thing.) But for now here are the stats as they stand for the my race at the 2013 Texas Beast:
325 overall for Sunday open, 36th for my gender and 9th in my age group…I’ll try to be satisfied with this. But until next time, all I can do is train.