Well it’s over just like that. I’ve run my race of the season and it came and went so quickly! While I sit around in my post race blues, I guess I’ll write you guys a post 🙂
This past weekend, I conquered the Spartan Beast. I usually run the Tough Mudder as my race of the season, but this year I found it a little disappointing. Every year I run the Tough Mudder and I feel changed. It is usually the only race that pushes me to my limits and leaves me feeling accomplished for overcoming my fears in the race and finishing. This year, it just didn’t feel the same. The race was held in a new location and the course was much easier. Everyone I had talked to felt the same way. So when we crossed the Tough Mudder finish line, I didn’t feel like I’d accomplished my goals for the year. We raced really well and I completed all the obstacles, but I didn’t feel changed. I didn’t feel pushed to my limit. I didn’t learn anything in the race.
So two weeks later, we signed up for the Spartan Beast. The Beast is a 14+ mile mountain trail run with 35 obstacles. Most of the obstacles require upper body strength, agility, and practice to complete. If you fail an obstacle, you’re penalized with 30 burpees. 30. We had never run the Beast before because we always preferred the Tough Mudder. I’d always heard it was just as hard, but in a different way.
Start Line: I haven’t been so nervous at a start line in a long time. I’d never run the course at Breckenridge, but I’d watched the elite team run in on TV the year before and it looked brutal. I heard them announce that the course was just under 15 miles today. There always some shouting at the start line about “I AM A SPARTAN” and then it’s time to run. We made it up the first hill climb fairly easily and I could tell that our trail running training had really helped.
First Miles: In the first miles we covered some obstacles, 7 foot walls, 8 foot walls and a river crossing. We were both feeling strong and excited for the race. Near mile 3-4, we picked up an additional team mate. As you run these races, the people near you tend to hang around. You turn around and help the same person over obstacles and you find yourself playing leap frog on the course with the same people over and over. Finally, I just asked a girl what her name was because she appeared to be racing alone. Emily quickly joined with us and kept our pace. She stuck with us till the end 🙂
Middle Miles: In the middle miles we covered a lot of the heavy carries. There’s an atlas stone carry, sand bags, and even a bucket carry filled with gravel. It’s not easy. The heavy carries leave your legs dead, your heart pumping and your arms weak. And they happened all together. I had been worried about my grip strength for weeks leading up to the race, but it seemed to holding up just fine. Emily kept us going when we needed and we dragged her through the obstacles.
Burpees………crap: There are two obstacles that I have failed in the past at other lengths of this race. The spear throw is one chance at throwing a spear into a bale of hay from 15-20 feet away. 1 chance. 1 fail. 30 burpees for Kim. The very next obstacle was the rope climb, no problems here. Then came my nemesis: Mount Olympus. I have always failed this obstacle. I can never figure it out in time before my strength gives out. 30 burpees for Kim. The next obstacle was Hurcules Hoist where you pull a sandbag off the ground using a long rope until you hit the bell at the top and then lower the bag back down. I foolishly tried the mens weight, and my hands just didn’t have the ability to hold on to the rope. 30 more burpees for Kim. Immediately following that one was the Rings Rig. It’s a series of rings and pipes and then you hit the bell at the end. I was so tired at this point that I wasn’t sure I could do it. If I were fresh, I could no problem. But I’d just had two failures. I couldn’t do more burpees but wasn’t sure I had the strength. I even cut my hand on the obstacle before I began. I could have skipped it. I could have just given up, in fact in the middle, I almost did. But I didn’t. And it felt AWESOME.
Final Miles: In the final miles, you feel like you’re about to finish at any moment. After we passed the Mile 6 marker (not quite half way) we didn’t see another marker for along time. We missed Mile 7…..Mile 8……by the time we were in Mile 9, I didn’t know we were so far. I thought we were at 7.5 and I didn’t feel like I had it in me to finish. There was still so much left. (Or course I was actually almost to mile 10!) I went to my dark place. I let Dan and our new friend Emily know that I just needed quiet for a while. We covered the next half mile in mostly silence while I got mad at nature, the course, the racing crew, life in general…….and then we saw the Mile 10 marker. I was so excited. I was worried I would fail. I thought I couldn’t make it the whole way. I almost thought about quitting. And then it came, the relief. When we hit mile 10, I knew I could finish. I think a mile marker has never made me so happy before. We completed the obstacles to the end.
When I crossed the Finish Line of the Spartan Beast, I felt changed. I felt like I’d overcome fears, pushed myself outside my comfort zone, and accomplished something that I never could have done just a few years ago. I felt changed. I felt strong, like a beast. 🙂
The next day, we raced again. If you complete all three lengths of the Spartan Race Series in a year, you get special recognition as a Trifecta Finisher. All of the medals piece together and it’s a pretty nerdy/cool deal to have done all three. We decided to all but walk though the race the next day. The Spartan Sprint is advertised at a 3-5 mile race. I was hoping for 3 since I was pretty destroyed from the day before. It was 5.6 miles. This time we raced with friends and had a great time. We saw them go through the same struggles we had when we started racing together and watched them overcome fears and the struggle to finish. Running the race with friends was a much different experience but I’m so glad we did both races.
This time I only failed two of the obstacles and finished stronger than I thought I would. I’m not sure how much longer my body will allow me to do these sorts of things but I’m going to while I can. I had a moment on the second day with a fellow racer that summed up my journey on these races:
As we approached the Bucket Brigade, there are two types of buckets. Red for Women (60lbs) and Black for Men (80 lbs) . You fill your bucket up to the holes and then carry it a quarter mile up hill and back down. As I started filling my BLACK men’s bucket, the volunteers alerted me that I had the wrong one. I insisted that I did not. I try to lift the men’s weight on every obstacle for as long as I can. So I filled my men’s bucket and started up the hill. At one of the rest points, a girl questioned be about my bucket but seemed genuinely curious.
“So what’s with you and the black bucket? The red ones are much easier” she said.
I replied, “There were days I couldn’t lift a 20 pound bucket. Today I can lift the men’s bucket, so I did. I’m thankful for my strength today.” Then I picked up my bucket and kept going.
Be thankful for today. Use your strength today. Use your power today! You’re stronger than you think you are and you’re capable of so much more. How long have you been comfortable? What will it take to get uncomfortable?