Growing up all sports that I competed in were individual sports. The closest I ever got to a team sport was doubles tennis. It was not until high school that I first played a team sport and even then I was a goalie off in my own crease. Team sports have not always come easily to me. Just ask my younger sisters who would often say “it’s not always about you.” So it’s safe to say running as a team in the first obstacle racing team event was a new challenge personally for me.
When I was invited to be on the Spartan Women’s Team for the Superhero Scramble in Waldo, Florida I jumped on the opportunity, having been with the sport from the beginning I was honored to be invited. However, I knew traveling and racing as a team is not my strongest point. It is actually one of the things I love most about running is the solo effort. Never one to backdown from a challenge I swept aside my rest period and stepped up to the plate.
I arrived in Tampa just after lunchtime on Friday afternoon. Ang Reynolds and Corrine Kohlen were at the gate ready to meet me after their red-eye from LA. These two women are currently one and two in the World Points for Obstacle Racing. I knew Corrine, as we had that fateful meeting in the World’s Toughest Mudder medical tent last December and had just seen each other in Utah. Ang on the other hand I had never met but only heard of her by her reputation of being a fast runner and multiple Boston Marathon Qualifier. All three of us are fiercely independent people so traveling as a group would be a new experience and luckily one of the most fun weekends I had experienced with a group of women since I had been in college. We boarded the rental car shuttle which seemed to take us in circles around the airport, finally getting into our Ford Escape we were on our way. I could write a whole blog post about the places we stopped over the weekend but I think I will wait for the next post for that.
We arrived at our hotel dropped our bags and headed out to the race venue and met our final teammate Andi Hardy. The first thing that hit me was the heat! The second thing was the humidity. The temps in Waldo, FL on Friday afternoon were in the high 90’s. I had just come from Vermont were the high the day before was in the low 70’s. It was the least to say it was a culture shock. I had purposely been avoiding races in climates like this for years after spending every spring break in college playing lacrosse in full goalie gear each spring in Florida. My hydration had started days earlier and knew I still had more to go. I was walking around the venue and the sweat was rolling down my arms and legs, and this was only a walk. I definitely was not in Vermont anymore!
As we checked out the course two things hit me the first was the lack of terrain. (Not that Florida is known for it’s mountains) I knew this was going to be a fast race and well suited for the runners in our group. The second thing was they still seemed to be building obstacles the day before the race was to begin. I had grown accustomed to races where the obstacles are set up days before the race. Luckily, everything was done by the time we arrived in the morning, a strong last push from the build crew made this happen!
The team now together we headed back to the hotel. I have never loved A/C as much as I do when I am in Florida. A quick pizza shared by a few of us and we were all off to bed to the glow of the opening ceremonies.
Morning came early and we were on our way to the race. Remember how I said before I am not the best with teams, traveling with four extremely competitive athletes who all have different pre-race rituals is a test in ones flexibility. By a test and different pre-race rituals basically I am referring to myself, I am use to it being all about me on race day and not having to worry about anyone else. But racing and traveling as a team it’s no longer all about you but the whole. (I had been out of practice for seven years on this matter).
We arrived at the race, I picked up my packet and we headed over to the unofficial Spartan Team hang out aka the Blemis’s campsite, nicely situated in the shade next to the leap of faith obstacle (15 foot jump). I warmed up and next thing I knew we were at the starting line. A glitch in a obstacle delayed our start by over forty minutes, then we were off.
I think it was about 500 yards or so before I lost the rest of my teammates. The blistering pace of the runners, heat and humidity had me quickly feeling off my game. I pushed and pushed rolling an ankle or two along the course. I kept hoping for the hill to slow the pace but knew it was states away. As with most of my races this season as the obstacles started to stack up was when I made some moves and passed many women along the way. I knew I was behind my teammates but not sure how far. As the race was coming close to the end I looked behind and could no see any women and looked ahead and none were around. I had found myself in that place once again where your position is locked in.
As I ran into the finish there were my three teammates. Feeling a sense of defeat and letting them down the first thing I said was, “I’m sorry” with my head down followed by another “sorry for being so slow and letting you down.” The feeling inside of me was great that I had let the team down. However, the reactions from them were the exact opposite, they greeted me with words of encouragement and congratulations. This is the essence of team racing.
Once our official results were in we knew it was true, the Spartan Women’s Team had clinched the title of Women’s Team Champions, with Andi’s 3rd place finish, Ang’s 4th place, and Corinne’s 5th place, I rounded out the team finishing in 14th place. (OK so I didn’t do that poorly overall still top 15) Many have asked if I would do it again and race as a team. I would be honored to race with these women. I do still have to practice the whole being on a team thing again, but we all have our weaknesses. Congratulations to all the women I was honored to share a team with this past weekend. Truly the highlights of the weekend had nothing to do with the race and almost everything to do with eating!
To many at the race I did not get to see, I apologize after the race I spent the rest of the day downing water, electrolytes, and staying in the shade. The heat and sun did a number on me and I was hiding away trying to recover quickly as the next race is less than two weeks away.