The thought of being woken up at any moment kept me awake most of the night so when the alarm went off at 4:30am I realized I had only slept about two hours. I took a quick shower to wake me up as I often do on early mornings got dressed and got ready to run to the yoga studio. I was joined by Steve Power, a trainer and Spartan enthusiast from Georgia and Matthew Willis a Parkour Trainer from Austin, Texas. As we were running were joined by Joe Desena part way and ran all together. It just felt like a normal morning in Vermont.
Bikram Yoga, also referred to as Hot Yoga is the same series of moves each time in a room that is heated to 100 or so degrees. I like yoga, however I haven’t fully embraced Bikram yet, I am more an Anusara woman. As we transitioned from move to move the sweat balled up and started to drip off my half naked body. I was only in a sports bra and tiny shorts. As the ninety minutes came to an end, I was so happy I was able to hop in a car instead of the cold morning air for the run back.
We returned to Trailside and breakfast was waiting. I have learned when food is presented to you when it involves Spartan Race you eat because you never know when you might be able to eat again. Soon after breakfast we started the next exam, this one was essay base. I am more comfortable writing and found this one more relaxing, if you can call a test relaxing. We were given five pieces of paper to answer five essays questions. We had two hours in which to do so. These essays challenged our knowledge and decision making skills. Sorry I can’t divulge the actual questions. I happened to finish with time to spare. Joe had gotten the round table of experts to chop wood in the back of the lodge. I joined them in helping stack the wood. Nothing like stacking wood on a Saturday morning. When the test time was over we were instructed to pack our backpacks with everything we would need for the rest of the day. This is when I knew it was about to get interesting. I packed enough for two days including lots of snacks!
When we finished packing we were informed it was time to take another two hour test. This one was a case study test. We have another two hours to write up the answers to three case studies. This for me was the easiest part of the three tests. I got to actually write up workout plans, however it is yet to be seen if I wrote them up in the proper form wanted but I did the best with what I knew. Finishing with time to spare again, I got to go clean up from where the wood had been chopped earlier. More of the candidates finished before the allotted time and we enjoyed the yard work together. It was great learning more about one another out while in the yard.
After this test was over we were broken up into two groups and told we had just under an hour to create a four hour workout together to run the examiners through over at the Amee Farm (home of the Death Race). Quickly in this time we got lunch and devised a workout in which it highlighted all of our strengths and allowed each member of the team to lead. This was probably one of my favorite parts of the weekend. Each person brought their speciality. We finished up the practical exam around 8pm the sun was disappearing for the day, and yet we were about to get started.
IT ALL CHANGED
It was at this point the tone of the weekend changed. Up until this point it was a pretty routine certification and testing weekend no surprises and everything was going exactly to the plan we were sent out. Then it all changed. Our sleeping bags were brought to the Amee Farm and we were told that we could not return to Trailside for the night and would have to sleep on the mountain. This was the type of Spartan testing I was waiting for. Then Joe was kind enough to bring us MRE’s for dinner. Having just lived through Hurricane Irene I knew which packs tasted better than others and was fine with this twist.
At was at this point I was informed that myself and one of the other candidates was in charge of leading the group to the top of the mountain. We were told that we would need to bring up wood to start a fire at the top. I attached two logs to my pack and started to head up the mountain. One wrong turn, along the way so we ended up taking the scenic route to the top. We made it to the top of the mountain sometime after 11:00pm. The group got a lesson in how to eat MRE’s. Everyone was in good spirits as we started a bonfire and played a game of trivial pursuit (thanks Jeff for keeping us up longer). The temps were in the high 20′s and luckily it wasn’t a very windy night. Finally after 1am we were permitted to sleep. Jeff kept telling us Bikram had been moved back to 9am so we could sleep until 8am. Somehow I didn’t believe him.
I stripped down in my sleeping bag to my underwear and bra keeping the rest of my clothing close by. You never know when someone will come any relieve you of it in the middle of the night. I fell into a sleep quickly out in the open under the stars, we weren’t sleeping in the cabin at the top. I love sleeping outside and found it much more restful than the night before. It was no surprise to me when I felt a nudge and heard the voice of Joe Desena around 3:40am. He told us we had three minutes to pack up and be ready to get our of there. I quickly pulled some clothing on and stuffed my sleeping bag in my pack. I pulled some dried fruit into a pocket and we were off hiking back down off the mountain. When we hit the road that changed to a jog and we ran fully packed down about 2 miles to the yoga studio. A nice warm-up. We began yoga around 4:15am. As we were finishing the sun was up and a new day had begun.
After Yoga, Andy Weinberg showed up and let us the scenic route (2 miles instead of 1 mile) from the Yoga studio to the Amee Farm. We jogged part of the way and did a paced walk the rest. While in Yoga I had to pinch myself to stay awake now out in the Sunday morning air I felt alive again. When we reached back to Amee Farm some of the examiners were there to put us through another series of workouts. The first was some American Pankration Fighting techniques. This to me brought back the days of gymnastics and I had tons of fun with. The other station was a circuit workout which was all out for 10 minutes. Cleans with a log, into burpees, into sprints. This was my sort of workout. Even fatigued I felt myself get into the rhythm of this one. Happy to say I did as many rounds as the CrossFit Trainer.
Finally the end was drawing near only a one more critical task, the interview. I sat with three of the examiners for about thirty minutes, completely sleep deprived, fatigued and was asked a series of intense questions which tested you for sure. I enjoy interviewing people and being interviewed but at times it was hard to clear the fog to answer the questions. After about 20 or so questions it was over and I was dismissed to farm chores. For us that Sunday morning it meant moving a couple cords of wood around the farm then cleaning up some timber and pulling rocks out of the garden.
It was around 1pm when we returned to Trailside Lodge to pack up eat lunch and say our goodbyes. Still even back at the Lodge you never knew if it was really over. Jeff told us as he had said at the beginning of the weekend the bar was set high we all performed well but few will actually make the cut.
So for now I wait and see how it all will pan out. This weekend taught me for as much as I think I know from my nearly a decade of coaching I truly have a much to learn and know every little. I had the opportunity to work with and get to know and exceptional group of people who I am forever bonded to. Whether I pass and get the certification or not at this point the important part was the experience and the people I met along the way and for that no badge or amount of money can equal that.
To those who end up with the certification they will be an elite few, maybe I will be one of them but until I find out either way I have some of my own races to start to focus on. The first being the Peaks Ultra in two weeks!