Yesterday I completed my second Spartan race in 3 months! If you don’t know what a Spartan race is picture running 5 miles, mostly uphill, while taking a “break” to do excruciating obstacles like carrying an 85 pound rock ball through sand…
Now, I am not an uber athlete. I am someone who only started working out regularly a year ago. I turned 47 in September and I broke both wrists 3 years ago so there are some moves my wrists really don’t like to do and they tell me so. These races require a lot of arm and grip strength which I don’t have in spades. And, if you don’t complete an obstacle you have to do 30 burpees before you can move on.
The first race took place in September just a few days after the 3rd anniversary of the “big fall” which resulted in the aforementioned wrist breakage. My dear friend Andrew (actor, trainer and writer extraordinaire) somehow used magic on 7 of his friends to get us to do a Spartan race with him. I thought it would be a nice way to prove to myself that I can still do tough physical things even though my right wrist is not 100%, and some of the obstacles scare the crap out of me. And, I also think he totally bewitched us.
We did extra training for a few months prior and rented a van so we could travel to the race together which was 3 hours away in Mars like terrain.
Right before we started the race Andrew gave a moving speech about how we were all going to stay together as a team and help each other through the race as a united team, all together. Not leaving anyone (me) behind. I had been counting on a few of the teammates to hoist, pull, and generally manhandle me through most of the obstacles as I knew there would be a lot I could not do on my own.
“Yay! Rawr! All together!” we yelled.
Within the first 10 minutes the entire team was nowhere in sight, except for Andrew.
We were stumbling in 100 degree heat. No shade. Anywhere. Within the first 15 minutes I was certain I would perish.
Something you should know about Andrew, he is an uber athlete. And, a really great guy.
I knew that by staying with me he was sacrificing the race he could have run. He was letting go of truly testing his mettle. He was going down with the ship, my ship.
As I started to feel the first tingling of heat exhaustion I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to complete the race. I was debating walking the course in a leisurely fashion (even more leisurely than I was already going which at that point would have meant crawling), not even attempting obstacles, shunning punishment burpees and forfeiting my finishers medal – or just catching a ride in a rescue golf cart.
Then we arrived at the first big obstacle, an inverted monster wall. And there, waiting for us, were 3 of our teammates! While I waited for my face to stop buzzing and my soul to return to my body, they were patient. It took Andrew and another big strong friend, Jones, to get me over that wall.
After that, somehow, my body accepted what I was doing to it and I started to feel better. Not great, but not perish-y either.
I labored along with Andrew at my side. At nearly every obstacle we would see a teammate waiting for us. It started to become… a little bit fun.
My gorgeous friend Kendra and I danced in the water they sprayed on us as we went past. I had a lovely conversation with Adam as we carried buckets of rocks uphill. Scott made me laugh. John gave me a well timed hug. Bo inspired me.
And then we got to the rope climb.
The rope climb was the ONE obstacle I had wanted to complete on my own. It entails climbing about 25 feet up and ringing a bell and then shimmying back down. It is hard. In our training I was able to climb the rope by myself but our rope was not as high and you only get one chance to do it right during the race. A race in which you are already completely exhausted.
Jones and Andrew were ready to help me though. I grabbed the rope and Jones put his hand under my foot to act like a knot I could rest on. I started to climb. He moved his hand up. I got higher and higher with my friends helping the whole way until they couldn’t reach any higher and then I had to do the last bit on my own.
I rang that bell!
When my feet touched the ground I was elated, proud, and overwhelmed with emotion.
We all finished that race together and it was marvelous.
Then, a few weeks later, Andrew used his “magic” again and got me to sign up for another one! He is a powerful sorcerer.
The second race was a completely different beast from the first. Harder obstacles, but not blistering hot. A new and much smaller crew to run with.
I was not excited.
I had ultimately enjoyed the first race so much (minus the death march part) I did not see how the second could compare. The biggest difference…I wouldn’t have Andrew, or any big strong friends, to help me through. Andrew was running this race competitively, as well he should.
So I resigned myself to just get through it and hope not to have a terrible time. There were only four of us participating with Andrew and Belinda running more ambitious races. That left my buddy, Meredith, and I to do the race together. (It made introductions so easy, “Hi, we are Meredith/Meredyth.”)
It turns out the Meredith/yths were perfectly matched! We kept the same pace. Had easy fun conversation, when we weren’t out of breath. And, we ended up getting help from another group of racers when we hit an obstacle we couldn’t handle between the two of us.
The people who helped us were Jason, Dara, and Luis. They were all young, early 20’s, of varying levels of athleticism. Luis was tall and lanky and super talented on the obstacles. He flew through them not having to do any burpees. (The Meredith/yths ended up doing 120 burpees each on this race, fyi.)
Everything changed for Luis when we got to the rope climb, however. He lost all confidence and looked deflated.
Luis: I’m not going to be able to do this one. This is the obstacle I’ve been dreading.
Me: Yes, you can do it. I will help you.
I told him how my friends had helped me. Showed him how to wrap the rope around his leg. We watched other people climb for a few minutes and then he tried it. I kept my hand under his foot. I moved it up when he moved up. He accidentally kicked me in the face. I held the rope as steady as I could and then Luis rang that bell!
When his feet hit the ground he was elated, grateful and proud. I was overjoyed!
Even though I was not able to successfully climb the rope this time it still felt like a victory helping Luis do it and getting to feel what my friends must have felt when they helped me.
The Meredith/yths finished the race strong, dirt covered, and happy.
It was another great experience.
Letting go of my preconceived notions of the race and instead being open to what this race had to offer turned it into another wonderful day.
And Andrew, well… he finished 4th in his age group. I think he used his magic.