I know I’m about three weeks late with this post, but better late than never! On April 18, I ran my first Spartan Race. Now for those of you who aren’t familiar with the Spartan Races, they’re not your typical running race. They have obstacles that utilize mud, water and fire to really test your limits. There are three levels: Sprint (3 miles), Super (8 miles) and the Beast (12 miles). Now of course, I started with the longest one (such a brilliant idea). I ran the Spartan Beast.
The race start time was 11:30AM. It was 75 degrees and sunny, but being that the race was located at Mountain Creek, there was still snow and ice on the mountains (yeah, in mid-April!). I ran this with two of my friends on a team and it really helped. We helped push each other to make it through.
Mile 1 was simple. Just climb uphill, err…climb up a mountain. Sounds easy, but I was NOT used to that elevation. Towards the end of the first mile, my legs were tired and I found myself trying to catch my breath. This is when it started: the mental check out. I knew I needed to climb uphill, but what the heck was THAT?! That was ridiculous. I started thinking “Crap, am I really ready for what I’m about to do? I thought I was, but that last mile just kicked me in the ass.” I mustered up all the breath I could get and had to immediately change my mindset “You’re here and you’re doing this. Keep going.”
Mile 2 proved what goes up, must come down. Of course now that we climbed uphill for a mile, we must go back down. I’ve practiced running downhill and I knew that I had to put my feet in front of my body by leaning back. But again, I was NOT used to that elevation. I was going downhill and picked up a bit of speed; a little too much speed that I lost control of my body. It basically felt like I was a kid learning how to ride a bike and not knowing how to stop. Running downhill on a mountain where there was still snow and ice, I found myself tripping/slipping/whatever it was on the ice and next thing I knew, I wiped out downhill. My body rolled down for a bit but I picked myself up and kept going. My shin hurt a bit but I brushed it off. It wasn’t until a mile later that my teammate pointed at my shin. Wiping out downhill cut through my leggings! There was a flappy patch on my leggings by my shin. It was bleeding underneath but not gushing, so I moved my leggings to cover it up as best as I could and kept going.
After that wipeout, you would think that I would be done. Nope, I felt BETTER after falling down. I got beat down and I got back up. That’s what caused my adrenaline to go and say “LET’S DO THIS!”
Around mile 3, there was a memorization test. We had to memorize a name, a 3 digit number followed by a 4 digit number based on the last two digits of our bib number. We would have to recite it when they asked (which we had NO idea when they would ask) or else the penalty is 30 burpees. [Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that if you failed any obstacle, you had to do 30 burpees? Yep, I’ve never thought “burpees suck” more than that day lol.] I thought, “What does this have to do with anything?!” One of the volunteers said “We rely so much on technology. This is a test for your memory. Just remember a name and a phone number.” Crap, I barely even remember my own home phone number because I never use it. I recited it to myself over and over again. So much that I still remember it three weeks later “SIERRA 740-5443”. But, it was time to move on.
We trucked through miles and miles of uphill and downhill of mud, water and snow. Crawled under some barbed wire after seeing someone get hurt (don’t worry, I’ll spare the gross details). There was a bear, yes, a black bear in the middle of the woods. Because nothing says “RUN” like a bear. Don’t worry, it didn’t chase after anyone, but it was a good 50 feet away from everyone. Carried a bucket of rocks UP a steep hill and then back down. That bucket carry was definitely challenging. I would go a few feet, then have to stop. I tried wearing my gloves for the grip, I tried without. No matter what, I felt like it took me FOREVER to get up that hill with those rocks.
I’m not sure around what mile marker it was, but what really killed was the cramping. My calves were cramping hardcore and I was making sure to stay hydrated (thank God for my Camelbak) so I wasn’t sure what to do. All I wanted to do was stop and stretch, but I had to keep going. As the miles went on and the elevations got higher, I saw more and more people stopping to stretch. I was relieved to know that it wasn’t just me but it sucked. Physically, everything was fine, except for that damn cramp.
We had to go upside down and monkey climb on a rope until we hit a bell. I climbed upside down, gripped with my hands, and found my foot positioning. I kept moving and just thought “Damn it! Where’s that bell?!” My teammates yell “Val, you’re SO close! Keep going!” I was ready to go but in that moment, I lost my foot positioning and held on to the rope with just my hands. My feet did not hit the ground so I was still good to go. I just thought “crap, how do I get back up there?” My hand grip on the rope held on for dear life while I tried to throw my body up onto the rope again. Yes, it was as hard as it sounds. I tried and tried and then I felt someone assist my feet up so I could get my foot positioning again. I had no idea who it was; I was just back up on that rope and I hit the bell with my head. Ouch, but I did it! The person who helped me was just some stranger that saw me struggling. I really felt the community of the Spartan Race in that moment.
It was around mile 9 that we had to go recite the name, 3 digit number and 4 digit number. That was six miles ago and we did so much other stuff to make us forget it. I thought I had it but was unsure of the order of two of the numbers. Each one of us on our team recited the name and number and we all got it correct! We all high fived each other saying “YEAH! WE’RE SMART!” Overcoming mental challenges was enough to pump us up.
I hear the music and I see the party at the finish line. We’re almost done. NOPE, just kidding! we’re gonna go back UP the mountains. We had to crawl uphill, under barbed wire on snow and ice. I was wearing a tank and long pants so the pants definitely saved me, but did no good for my arms. I’m crawling up the ice and my arms start to go numb. Lovely. I look down and I start to see the pink turn red. It was at that moment that I thought “maybe I’ll roll over to the mud on the side.” I talked to a few other Spartans to stop and allow me roll across to the mud only to realize that the mud was slippery. Fantastic. Red arms from the ice, or slip back downhill from the mud. I stayed and struggled through the mud. Then, I saw ahead. Is that a ditch?! You have got to be kidding me. Time to roll back onto the ice. I was on the ice for a little bit more when the ice turned to ROCK. Not even mud, just rocks with a little bit of mud. I felt the little rocks poke into my already bruised and cut up arms. After quite some time, we made it out of the uphill barbed wire.
It was in that moment that the volunteer said “You just have the rope swing and the fire pit and you are DONE!” Two more obstacles?! That’s it! It was SO close. I could feel it. Until, I find myself staring at the steepest uphill in the distance. “Are you kidding me?! We still have to go up THAT?! How many more miles?!” Cramping really set in and it was a struggle but we eventually made it to the top where I saw a mile marker 13 sign. Well, so much for the race being 12 miles. We still have to go DOWN the mountain. Everything started to blur after that. Every bone in my body, every muscle was aching. All I could focus on was being done. I saw the sun setting and we had started at 11:30. Oh, did I even want to know what time it was?
Rope swing was at the bottom of the mountain. I saw people wipe out and crash into poles and I was terrified. One of my teammates swung across. Another one went and hesitated. He ended up doing the burpees instead. I was up and I saw the person next to me crash. Crap, I don’t want to crash, I just gotta go. It was crazy, after all these climbs, jumps and crazy obstacles, I couldn’t swing across? Was it because I was scared of falling? Or scared of getting hurt this close to the finish line? Either way, I swung across, let go of the rope and cheered in victory. A quick mental psyche out was enough to shake me for a bit, but I accomplished it.
I see the crowd, I see the finish line. All three of us are facing this fire pit and we’re like “Let’s do this.” JUMP over fire. NBD! It was awesome. Few more bits of mud and water and then we crossed the finish line!
It was such an incredible feeling of accomplishment. They handed me that medal and I just thought “Holy sh*t. I just did that. That was insane.”
It took us 7 hours. I got sunburned on my shoulders and tan lines on my arms in the shape of my bib numbers (They wrote your number on your arms in Sharpie. Apparently being out for 7 hours in 75 degree heat makes you learn that sharpie is apparently sunscreen…). I got bruises and cuts all over my body but it was so worth it. I still question my sanity, but the adrenaline from the Spartan Beast is unforgettable.