I feel bad for not writing this sooner but to be quite honest I was just too damned tired.  It took me three days of rest and food (including a major carb-fest on Wednesday) to recover from one of the best days of my life, but I guess better late than never, eh?

 

My day of days finally arrived on Sunday the 23rd and to say it was awesome is a complete understatement.  To say it was cold and dirty are also understatements. It was 41 degrees that day with the wind chill bringing it down to an (almost) icy, 33 degrees.  It was cloudy and raining…and cold. Did I mention that it was cold?  SO FRICKEN COLD!  I’m fairly certain that the majority of the calories I burned that day were spent just trying not to freeze to death.  Regardless, the numb fingers and toes, scrapes and bruises and mud in EVERY crevice were aboslutely worth the joy and sense of accomplishment that came with completing my very first Spartan Race.

So here it goes…

Fortunately, I’ve been obsessing about this race for over a year so I was well prepared for the day.  NO COTTON!  Tight fitting clothes, good trail running shoes, wool socks and a hat to keep my head warm. (and protect my new hair extensions- which by the way look awesome!)  I can’t tell you how much these few things helped me get through the race.  Thank you Dirt In Your Skirt!  (I love her blog!)  I wore my Aero Tech Designs compression capris, a long sleeved compression shirt I picked up at REI and my trusty Brooke’s Trail Running shoes.  Those things are bad-ass!  When others were slipping and sliding all over the place I was sturdy and grounded- 95% of the time, the other five percent couldn’t have been avoided in cleats.  SO MUDDY!

Moving on.

 

When I got to the US National Whitewater Center, I was already dressed and ready to go-  wearing a pair of bike shorts under my capris for easy clean-up post-race and pair of pants over both to keep me warm until start time.  However, about 10 minutes before I had to be at the starting line I decided I couldn’t handle the bike shorts- they were too much, I felt constricted by two layers of spandex.  If you know about my love of spandex then you’ll find this hard to believe, I know!  So in an effort to get more comfortable I wrapped a towel around me, stripped down to my underwear and got re-dressed right there in front of everyone. It was quite liberating. HA!  I would have never even considered doing that 135lbs ago.  Hell, I wouldn’t have been able to get a towel around me 135lbs ago.  Being “normal sized” makes life so much easier in ways I never even imagined!

 

When I finally got situated, redressed, shoes back on, all of my crap reloaded in my duffle bag in a very specific order so I could get to my dry, post-race clothes but not before getting to the post race towels and baby wipes, I headed to the start line with two minutes to spare.  The starting guy (there’s probably a technical name for him) was pumping up everyone in my 10:00 heat.  Yelling into the mic, getting people to chant…something, I have no idea what but I played along making some sort of guttural sound and then, BAM!  We were off!

I had no idea what the course looked like.  Didn’t know what obstacles I was going to face- there was a course map available but I didn’t look at it.  I didn’t want to know what to expect.  That was part of the fun, the mental hurdle, so-to-speak.  In the beginning, we ran for what seemed like forever. Up hills, down hills, through puddles, around trees, over roots and rocks- I was seriously in awe of myself.  I couldn’t believe how strong my body felt. My feet, ankles, knees, supporting my weight effortlessly on uneven terrain. When I did the Charity Chase mud run just 9 months ago I was too scared to run even a little because I felt so unsteady just running in the grass, but this time I ran and ran and ran on a slippery, muddy, rugged trail with no issues whatsoever.

I can’t remember what the first obstacle was, I THINK it was three walls- over, under and through, but that could have been the second.  Either way, one of the first two obstacles was a pond “swim”. I say swim because it was armpit-high for my short-self…waist-high for those around me. When I first jumped in it literally took my breath away.  I could not breath.  I’ve had that feeling before, but not in a long time.  It didn’t scare me, my brain knew what I had to do…exhale for one, and two, move ahead five feet where it was a little shallower.  Not being able to breath is not a fun feeling but even though my body was freaking out and I’m sure there was panic on my face, my brain knew what was up.  I trudged through the icy, muddy water (thankful that snakes don’t like the cold) and finally got to where it was only waist-high and my lungs were finally able to let go and I was able to breath again.  The whole ordeal probably lasted 20-30 seconds and once my body acclimated itself to the cold-ass water, I moved through the rest of it effortlessly.  I have no idea how big the pond was, I’m going to guess somewhere around 50 meters possibly less?

There were 20 obstacles total…I think.  Each one provides its own memory…

1) over, under, through- awesome!  easy.  I can totally do this!

2) freezing pond- i may have almost died.  not really.  but maybe?  still made it my bitch.

3) six foot wall- “ummm, that’s really high and I’m really short. thank you unknown women who helped me over!”

4) eight foot wall-  “well crap. oh, you strong men are going to give me a lift?  okay, thanks!  HOLY SHIT!  I wasn’t expecting you to FLING me over the wall!  Dude!  A little warning next, time, ok?”  (that made me feel tiny!)

I’m pretty sure that’s where I got this on the inside of my left thigh…

 

5) drag the cinder block up the hill and back down through the mud with a chain-  my hands are like icicles. drag, drag, rock. stop, drag, rock, stop. “ah ha!  if i put the chain between my legs, turn my body uphill and just walk it’s effortless. ‘hey look guys, do it this way!'”  no one listened to me.  NO ONE!  at one time I actually blurted out, “why isn’t anyone listening to me?”  as I passed a bunch of people struggling to move their blocks just a couple inches at a time. I tried!

6) I don’t remember, more walls, I think.

The rest of the order is a bit of a blur…there was one that was just huge mud puddles followed by huge mounds of dirt (mud since it was raining), like five in a row- harder than it looked. Getting out of three foot water and up and over a six foot mound when you’re soaking wet and there’s nothing to hold onto is quite the challenge. It’s also a LOT of fun!  There were monkey bars – also knows as burpees in my book and the ever-famous, barbed wire crawl which seriously went on FOREVER!  That’s not an exaggeration- I’m pretty sure I’m still crawling under that stuff. The bruises on me knees and elbows are proof!

 

There was some sort of pulley thing, where we had to pull a rope to get a weight to the top and back down without losing control- I totally owned that one. There were also lots of hills that required butt-sliding…how my pants survived I do not know.  Apparently those Aero Tech pants are made of steel, or Kevlar   Whatever it is, they took at serious beating and somehow show no signs of wear!  If you saw the scrapes and bruises on my butt you’d wonder how I was still wearing pants when it was over.

 

I remember there was a net climb and as I was climbing up I had no idea what was on the other side because there was a wall blocking the view. I thought maybe it was going to be a rope climb but fortunately it was just more net!  Up and over- quite a relief!  There was also a three-foot-tall drainage pipe we had to go through. I’m glad I’m good at bear crawls.

There was lots of running throughout the race of course but the stint between the net climb and the last few obstacles seemed to go on forever.  I knew I was nearing the end.  I had passed the 3 mile sign a while ago- the course was 4.5 miles total. Turns out it was about a half a mile to the next obstacle. I was alone through most of it which probably made it seem even longer. But when I finally got to it, the sandbag carry, I was relieved to see spectators standing by.  I searched the crowd for Brett but couldn’t find him, that’s when I stabbed myself in the eyeball with a muddy finger- that stopped me in my tracks.  Grrr!  One of the spectators offered me her sleeve but I couldn’t take her up on that.  I just stood still and closed my eyes for a minute and then moved on.  Fortunately it didn’t last long.

The last few obstacles were the worst- with the exception of the sandbag carry-  I owned that one too.  Thank you Crossfit!  Carrying a sandbag down and then back up a muddy hill is no small task but I made it and only dropped the bag twice.  Go me!  There was one guy who was really struggling.  I think he was wearing bad shoes because he could not stay upright to save his life.  I offered to help him but he declined.

Help.  That’s the nature of this sport. Everyone is so helpful and supportive.  I got so many high fives, and “keep it ups” as people passed me on the trails–  I run REALLY slow, remember?  If I slipped and fell, there was someone right there willing to give me a hand and I was able to reciprocate by doing the same.  There was one point when the trail was so slippery that people were falling all over the place.  Because of my awesome shoes I had pretty good footing so I held the hand of another woman and helped her get through.  It was such a great feeling. The give and take.  Even though I was on my own, I was never alone (except for that long period of running around the 4th mile).  Help was there when I needed it and I was there to help when others needed it too. Warms my wee little heart just thinking about those moments…

Okay, back to the obstacles!

17) Tire flip- Even though tire flips are common in Crossfit, I had never done one.  Actually, I attempted one a couple of weeks ago but couldn’t get a good enough grip to lift it.  It’s possible that the tires at the race were a little smaller, though they seemed awfully big at the time, it could also be that the muddy ground was more forgiving than the solid ground at the gym or it could have just been my adrenaline pumping from stabbing myself in the eye, regardless I flipped that thing two times by myself!  Then a girl came over and we teamed up on the last two flips for the four required flips. Go us!

18) Traverse wall- yeah that didn’t happen.  In fact I didn’t see ANYONE do this one. It was impossible with the rain and the mud and frozen fingers.  Basically it was an 8 foot high wall that was about 15 feet long.  It had five inch cuts of 2x4s placed along the length of it and you were supposed scale it all the way across…or do burpees. There were about 15 of us doing burpees at the same time. I didn’t see anyone conquer that one!

Before I started my burpees, I notice a guy who was obviously not doing well at all.  He was just standing next to the wall shivering.  I asked him if he was okay.  He said he was just cold. I stood there for a minute, asked him again, he just stood there, staring off into space. He was obviously not okay.  I found a volunteer and told them he needed help and went on my way.  After the race- about 30 minutes later, I saw that same guy being carted off in the medic-mobile.  There were people dropping left and right of hypothermia.  It was crazy! There were two others that I found like that in the last 10 minutes of my race. The medics were going non-stop the whole day.  Totally nuts.

19) Spear throw- FRICKEN BURPEES!  Ugh!  I had never thrown a spear in my life and I actually got it to HIT the target but it didn’t stick.  No stick, no count. In the 1 minute or so that I was at that obstacle I didn’t see anyone even come close!  I was like, “come on! did you see that?! it totally hit the target!”  The guy was like, “nope, burpees!”  HA!  I really didn’t mind but I at least wanted someone to acknowledge that I ALMOST made it! He did give me a high five and then told me to do my burpees.

20) Rope climb- burpees

It was at that point- the last round of burpees that I had to do all day, that I realized if I pulled my sleeves down over the palms of my hands the gravel didn’t hurt so bad.  WHY DID IT TAKE ME SO LONG TO FIGURE THAT OUT!

21) Some kind of climb over thing- like a wall made from pallets.

22) Slippery wall- “slippery” is no joke.  Considering you start in a mud “puddle” that’s about three feet deep and then scale a slick angled wall with help of a single rope, there’s no way to NOT slip.  I failed my first attempt.  Got almost to the top and slid back down…SPLASH into the muddy water.  But my second attempt was textbook. However when I got the top I wasn’t sure what to do.  It’s hard to find the courage to fling one leg over a wall when the other foot could slip at any second.  You’re either going to tumble back down to the mud or severely injure your you-know-what!  Somehow I managed with some encouragement from the guy manning the obstacle. I could see the finish line just ahead…I looked for Brett but I still didn’t see him.

23) Fire Pit- I have to admit, this was less intimidating than a sleeping cat. I didn’t even jump over it.  I just sort of stepped with a little hop.  So if the fire is what’s keeping you from doing this race, trust me, that’s the LEAST of your worries!

24) The Gladiators- They are supposed to hit you with their gladiator stick things and try to block you from the finish line.  I approached the guy and said, “and now you’re going to hit me.” He laughed, tapped me with his over-sized baton and I “sprinted” to the finish line. Where I FINALLY saw Brett.

Someone handed me my medal and a t-shirt and then I started crying. Actually it was more like hyperventilating because I was so cold.  I had done it.  I finished my first Spartan Race. Four and a half miles of muddy trails with obstacles I could have only imagined being possible just a few months ago. I did it. I set a goal for myself and I accomplished it.

 

135lbs lost, six months of crossfit, learning how to run, eating healthy, not giving up. That’s what this race meant to me. I am in awe of myself and who I have become.  The little girl who loved watching army men do boot-camp obstacle courses in the movies finished one herself.

When I got home I realized that I hadn’t even redeemed my free beer!  I was so cold all I could think of was getting in the car with HEAT!  But first I had to change my clothes, in a towel, in front of everyone. Couldn’t have cared less!

 

For a little perspective, read this blog I wrote back when I first signed up for this race…HA!

I can’t wait for the next one!  THE END!

 

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