This is the race you have been training for all month, all year. Spartans are you ready?!
The m/c was shouting those words when I took my place at the starting line at yesterday’s Spartan Beast. That’s the moment when my nerves melted away. I thought about the strategies my friend Kim had taught me and the talk I’d had with my boyfriend this past week about how I should let the day unfold. I pushed the panic attack I had the night before aside and concentrated on the pep talk instead. I told myself that my broken headlamp would work if I needed it, that my friend Tom’s makeshift repair would get me through. But the truth is, there was nothing more I could do at this point but be confident in the fact that I had trained hard enough and was packed with enough goods to make it to the finish line. I promised myself that I would not let Spartan break me down.
We took off for the first of several ascents – 4,236 feet up Killington Mountain. It just kept going. It wasn’t long before I heard people shouting for a medic. At the one mile mark I checked my watch: 30 minutes in; I was right on track to finish before it would get dark. My legs were already exhausted but I tried not to think about it and pushed on.
We headed right back down, but through the woods. It was steep and there were branches, rocks and big tree roots everywhere. Way too easy to slip and fall. I decided to play it safe and slide down instead of walk. A guy blew past me and commented on how my strategy was wise. Since he thought so, I suggested he try it. But he continued running. I found him at the bottom…lying on the floor. We went right back up through the woods and down again. I chose to slide once more.
Oh good, I am behind a slow girl. I can take it easy.
With that, I whipped around and told him – not very nicely – that if I am so slow he should pass me. He told me he was tired. Then I caught a glimpse of his bracelet…he had started 15 minutes after me. Not exactly a big enough gap to be calling me slow. Douchebag.
We approached the sandbag carry, but the usual Spartan pancakes had been replaced with 60 pound bags. I had already fallen behind schedule big time. I got a portion of the way up and realized I had a choice to make: turn around and burpee it out or keep going and risk missing the cut off. There was no way I was getting pulled from the course. Burpees for me.
I made all the high walls along the way and thought nothing of all the mud I had already ran through. I trained for the discomfort. But I failed the weight pulley and tire drag – two obstacles I never miss – so there were more burpees for that. It would’ve been so easy to cut them short and not do all of them, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to get to the end with any regrets.
Someone will always help you.
Soon after I came across a girl whose pants had just ripped…right at her butt. She was mortified. I stopped to give her anything I could find in my bag that might cover the hole. Time didn’t matter at this point; someone needed assistance and I wanted to pay it forward for all the times I needed help. That’s the Spartan way.
Another trip up through the woods. All of the consistent up and downs at once seemed overwhelming considering the point we were at, but clearly Spartan didn’t think so. I pushed on, and when I wanted to stop I just kept going further, past my comfort zone. My heart was pounding in my ears. But still, any break I took was just a few seconds. I was afraid that if I sat down it would take me too long to get back up.
I hit the barbed wire crawl, which seemed to go on and on. At the end I hit a muddy wall to swim under, which, given the sensitivity of my eyes, would not be wise to go under. But I did it anyway. No regrets.
Mile 7. Kim was waiting in the spectator area, following me along for as long as the fence would let her, shouting tips at me and offering some encouragement. She tipped me off on what was next – a ladder that led to a cargo net that was just high up enough to scare me. I started to panic.
C’mon, you’d be surprised what you can do when you push yourself to your limits.
That was all I needed to hear. I did it. I was here to embrace the suck.
I was told to fully submerge myself in water all the way soon after…and it was just as it had started to rain, so I was already cold. I was shivering but ran as long as I could sopping wet while I was on flat ground to make up time. I traded my Honey Badger shirt for my cold weather gear eventually. That was probably the best decision I had made all day.
The hardest obstacle of the day for me was approaching…hiking in the darkness. I had never had a reason to use a headlamp before, let alone one that may not work, and had been hoping to be off the course before sunset. I had heard from quite a few runners who did the race last year that this course was significantly harder. That made me feel a little better.
Through the woods and up the mountain I went, falling a few times but picking myself back up quickly. I could feel my legs getting cut up. They were shaking. The course was not well marked at this point and I was scared. But I was there to do things that scare me and take me further than I thought possible.The mountain just kept going, feeling twice as steep, unbelievably high, and a whole lot harder without light. This was beginning to feel like a game of survival. I stuck with a small group of strangers, including two girls that didn’t have headlamps or glow sticks. I might be fearful, but these girls were just plain dumb.
We were close to the end when I came to another ladder climb and the soapy wall, neither of which had proper light but I did them both anyway. And then came the fire jump, which in the dark scared me but again, that’s what I was here for.
When you hit an obstacle that scares you, just think of me shouting ‘You can do this!’
That did it. I ran, jumped and landed safely.
You go ballerina!
Those were the last words I heard for the night. And that’s how I will always remember that race, ending on a positive note from a spectator and an extra push from part of my support system.
I crossed that finish line with a huge smile on my face. I had pushed myself longer and harder than ever before – 10.5 hours – but I did it. I earned my trifecta. Giving up just was not an option yesterday.
Would I do this race again? I seriously doubt it. Do I regret doing it? Absolutely not. Because this was my year to prove to myself that I could do it.
And I knew at the finish line.