Typically this month is a difficult time for me because in March 2011 I attempted suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills. It’s a month I just wanted to get through. On 23 March 2014 I ran a Spartan Sprint with the intention of taking myself from victim to a victor. I had attempted the easy way out, but I’ve learned a lot about myself over the past few years and especially the last six months.
So when my husband Doug asked me if I would run a Spartan Race with him, I was hesitant. I can run, I’m just not one to enter races. I find running to be a great “one on one” time with my thoughts, a way to clear my head. Although, with sharing my story, I have had two episodes of what I think are “panic attacks” while running. It feels like I cannot breathe when I start to recall that night and the years that led up to the overdose, but I digress. So, I agree to run the race which is a simple 5k but with 15+ obstacles. The obstacles are what scared me!
I felt ready when we picked up our packets, but when I saw the words “YOU MAY DIE” on the envelope it was a bit unsettling. The one challenge I feared was the rope climb, and yes I could see that causing death or catastrophic injury. Race day arrives, and I have to hand it to whoever set this race up, because all but a few obstacles were visible. In my mind I’m thinking “no mud, no fire” and those are two things I had hoped to encounter, quintessential Spartan, right?! We still didn’t know exactly what we had in store for us, but when we had the opportunity to start an hour early, we took it.
After a few shout outs of “WE ARE SPARTANS” to get us pumped up, we start the race by heading into the stadium and climb stairs and come around to head up one of four sets of ramps where we encounter some over and unders, pretty easy. The volunteer at that station said it was the easiest we would encounter, thanks kid! I’m certain he imposed no penalty burpees. In case you don’t know, if you fail to complete an obstacle, your punishment is 30 burpees! I have no idea how many stairs we climbed, there are too many to count. Moving right along! We are coming down one of the four ramps, and I hear Doug mutter something, and even though I didn’t understand him it didn’t take long to “see” what he said, a 6 foot wall jump was in front of me. It stopped me in my tracks, I had to compose myself, back up and take a running jump. I wish I could say that was the only of its kind, but there were a total of three of these walls. They can wreak havoc on a busty gal!
More running followed by more stairs, my glutes and my calves knew what they were in for, I’ve run enough hills to know the pain I would endure in the days to come. As we came down a ramp we encounter orange home depot buckets with a sign telling men to take two, women to take one. My husband was told “you can just take one”, I’m thinking what the hell!! Oh well, lets keep going. About half way through this portion of going downstairs, in front of stadium seats and up another bank of stairs my biceps are really starting to burn, but I was able to lap another couple, and that’ll boost your ego! I was so happy to drop that bucket, I think I uttered a few curse words.
One of the few obstacles that we saw when we entered the parking lot were some tires hanging off of ropes that we had to pull up from behind a red line, and slowly release. I channeled my inner Tony Horton “The Challenge” and pulled it up with ease! Score one for me!
There was another weighted pull with a bucket, Herculean Hoist, another easy one for me! At this point, even I’m impressed by my upper body strength. The two characters at this station were my favorite, their energy and enthusiasm was contagious! I pulled that home depot bucket up like a boss!
Another obstacle we encountered were the traversal wall, where you have foot and hand holds and have to make it across without falling and then ring a bell! Ding dong and done!
If there are any “obstacles” that I was not happy about, it would be the football toss where you get ONE chance to make a nerf ball into an angled trash barrel, really? I didn’t stand a chance on that one. I was not surprised by the cluster of people doing burpees at this location. The other two that I was not happy with were the two in the locker rooms, one to call out and do 15 burpees, what am I being penalized for here, running the course, nah … but ok! The other locker room had some hands up push up situation that still leaves me boggled.
We came upon the spear throw, and we weren’t surprised to see another cluster of burpee doers! I gave it my best shot, but my spear didn’t make it in the hay! You only get one shot, so I’m not gonna beat myself up for that, I took my burpee punishment, and moved on. What surprised me is how much people just blatantly cheat! I saw people “start” do a burpee or two and move on. Okay, yea maybe you lose track and do 25, 27 burpees but just not doing them negates part of the experience and you’re cheating yourself. That’s part of the fun… Whatever…
I had babysat for a friend about a month ago and took her daughter to a nearby park and gave the monkey bars a shot. I remembered I needed to swing my body back and forth! Race day comes and Doug glides across with ease and waited on the other side encouraging me that I could do it, just swing! Yes, that’s all I needed, momentum! There was another lady next to me getting the same encouragement, so I went for it, maybe making it across will help her. I swung to the right and left and made it to the other side! BOOM! That’s me in motion, and you can see Doug waiting for me to make it across! We had made a pact to stick together for the entire race.
Two obstacles were easy, and a little fun. We had to do chair squats across one row of stadium seats. Easy, I do squats in almost every workout. Another was to climb up one section of stadium seats. I did my best to jump, but I had to do one leg jumps vs. doing two-legged jumps, but hey I made it to the top. At a few locations Doug would reach his hand up to help me, I loved the encouragement from him and the volunteers that would recognize our team work!
I knew we were approaching the rope climb, and I’m dreading this obstacle. I’ve had a fear of heights my whole life; I don’t see myself as someone who is held back by this fear, I have tried to overcome it in bits and pieces. I knew I had done my best to work on my upper body to conquer this obstacle, although I hadn’t attempted to climb up a rope since middle school, I wanted to give it my best effort. I chose a rope with several knots, thinking this would be my best option. I was able to get half way up the rope and I heard the sweet southern voice below telling me I had it, keep going (that’s Doug), and I made the mistake of looking down and was gripped by fear, seeing the words “YOU MAY DIE” in my mind I quit on myself. No, I won’t beat myself up about this for eternity, but next time I’ll try harder! You best believe I see some rope climbing in my future! It’s my only race day regret.
We knew the end was drawing near, we had more stairs of course, a few corridors to maneuver through, another 6 foot wall with an over, under and through, done and done! That last wall damn near killed me, and my girls (sorry, but that’s the truth)!
We ran onto the field where we had 30 step up or box jumps and my calves we’re already killing me! With that task completed , we head to the cargo net! We had hoped for fire to jump over together, hand in hand… yea we are dorky! We didn’t get that moment so we decided to share a kiss at the top of the cargo net. We go under a bridge without water or mud, jump up on a platform and come around to the right to enter the finish line. You already know you will encounter pugil sticks, but honestly my grandma can hit harder than that!!
I am sad that we didn’t get mud or fire, but all I can say is… Bring on another Spartan Race! There is a trifecta in August on Oahu, and I am NOT up for that task, but I do want to conquer the beast! I think there I’ll feel the mud on my face, (and everywhere else) and the flames licking at my heels!
I know with absolute certainty that I am proud of myself on this race, we didn’t do it for time, it took 1:04:17; we did it to have fun together and to make a happy memory in the month of March. Mission accomplished! For me, the biggest take away is I am capable of anything I set my mind to, but I thrive on support and encouragement to make it through some of the tougher obstacles, whether in life or a race. I could not ask for a better partner to share these moments with.
I AM SPARTA!!
**the order of obstacles is most likely NOT accurate.