Day 180… Part 2 – The Race
Posted on December 5, 2011 by Margaret Schlachter
As with most races when they happen, I black out, the actualrace is always a blur. I struggle after the fact to recall all the obstacles inthe correct order. I go into what I call “go mode” when I slip into this statethere is no before, there is no after, there is only the moment, and one footin front of another. I will try to recall all 36 elements of this race or at least as many as I can.
As we took off, people bolted out of the start, many I would see later on. I took off running my race, as the mud from my competitors kicked up into my face and eyes I pressed forward at my pace. I truly don’t remember the beginning part of the race, all I remember doing was watching my pace and staying at a speed I knew I could sustain. We ran through a few steams, up andover rocks, into some muddy water and more ankle deep mud. This was the first race I had done where I was starting at the end of the day on a deteriorated course. It is a whole different ball game then from when you are in the first heat, everything slows down, the easiest obstacles become a little bit harder. We did the typical 4-foot walls, over, under, through somewhere in the firstpart. I remember running taking it a little gingerly through the slippery rocks for fear of rolling my ankle again. At some point in the mud, Isaid, eff this, and decided to go. As I passed people in the thick mud, therace was on. Soon their after I reached one of my favorites, the pulley, basically you pull a cement block to the top of a pulley then bring it downgently.
The first real part of the course that sticks out in my mind was themud bumps. These we had at the BEAST although when I ran there they were easy to get up and over, today they were slick, like really slick, I had to claw my way up them. Right after them came the swimming section, the water was a littlechilly but not terrible and it was soon over. This point we were about 3 miles in, a bunch of obstacles were stacked together for the spectators, as I came into the rope climb I heard a sea of encouragement from those spectating around me. Although I did not acknowledge it, the voices encouraged me and pumped meup. It was an indescribable feeling to hear so many people wanting you tosucceed. Next was the spear throw, I missed it again! Still have yet to hit this. I believe this was the first set of 30 burpees many more were to come later (120 in total). Behind me as I did each burpee was Carrie screaming and encouraging me along with many others. I pulled myself over the slippery wall,which at this point was covered in mud and the ropes were best described as slimmy. I was soon back off into the plains of ranch, back into the solitude of the course and the run. Yes, we went under a very long section of barbed wire. We got to carry a sandbag up a hill; we also carried a bucket full of gravel, monkey bars, climbed over some hay bails, a second barbed wire section with tires, dragged a cement block. All these obstacles are my equalizers, for what I don’t have in speed for the run I make up for with obstacles.
I played a cat and mouse game with a couple women along thecourse in and in the end as they slowed I sped up. During the long stretches ofrunning between obstacles the brain has time to go through many things. Attimes, I wondered how I would apologize for not finishing in the top 3 for overhalf way through the race it was apparent I would not reach these women. Then came the calf cramps and visions of crawling across the finish line popped intomy brain. Then another emotion took over, that of realizing just how far I havecome this year. I was taken back to other races that got me to this point, as I carried the sandbag up the steep hill and down, I thought of my hike with Joe afew weeks ago. When I carried the bucket I thought of the Beast and was so thankful they checked how much gravel was in each bucket. As I navigated a narrow section through trees, I was brought back to my first ever Spartan Race in Burlington almost two years ago, the start of it all. The race transformed somewhere along the way from just trying to win money into the culmination of all I have achieved. At times it was as if the movie montage was playing in myhead.
So it was at that time when instead of worrying about aplace finish I silently celebrated all I had achieved just to get to this point. I was running with some of the best women in this sport and some of thebest women in their other sports as well. I was surrounded by marathon runners,ultra marathoners, professional triathletes, and former division 1 crosscountry and track athletes. Here I was not only there but competing with and beating many of these women. I had in a short period of time become one ofthem, no longer the outsider looking in. I am on the inside and at was at thismoment that I finally felt it. I was right where I am suppose to be and meant to be in that moment.
As I approached the last real challenge of the race, the Tyrolean Traverse, I knew this would be a defining moment of the race, but not how much it would end up meaning. At this point dusk was setting in and as Race Director Mike Morris had stated before we began we had to complete this obstacle or else face disqualification. We had three chances to get it right, if we failed three times, we were out of the race. I had not flown across the country to let 20 meters of rope get the best of me. I took the advice of friends and for the first time ever tried to traverse on top of the rope. I quickly lost my balance, and was quickly hanging struggling across the rope. It was in this moment, I let the weakness in, I dropped. I did have two more chances. I swamto the other end walked around and got ready for attempt two. It was at this time that my friend Forest Call, brother of the famous Hobie Call chimed in; he was filming this part of the race as he had asked before if he could shoot some footage of me. He talked me around the walk and I was off to try attempt two. I am so thankful he was there in that moment and a friendly face. This time I wason top of the rope and within two feet, really one or two pulls from the end when my anchor foot slipped. There I was hanging again half in the water, my second attempt only feet away from the end, I had failed. Now I was pissed, atthe same time a bit defeated, but I still had one more chance, one more chance to see it through. As they say it’s not about how many times you get knocked down, it’s about how many times you get back up. I had one more chance.
I walked around the pond again, a bit defeated feeling. Before attempting this again. I needed to change my attitude if I was going tomake it across. I took in my last gel stored away in my tights. I took the extrafew minutes to re-center and focus. As I grabbed the rope for the last time I knew what must be done, there was no later, was no before. It was the rope and I. As I tugged I felt the rope burn across my body, it hurt, each pulled rubbed more and the pain increased, I took in the pain with my eye on the finish. The single rope I had to tug as I felt myself getting closer, I knew I had it, butunlike my second attempt I didn’t celebrate until I reached that rope. I didn’t waiver my focus, I couldn’t afford to mess this up again, or it was all over. For the task was not over until it was really over. As I made the last pull and extended my arm for that dangling rope, as I pulled it emotions ran high, itwas at this moment I realized I didn’t retreat didn’t let fear and defeat overcome me. It was truly at this point my finish place didn’t matter anymore. The fact I overcome my own mental demonsand that carried me through the wall traverse (which I ended up doing my last 30 burpees on) and the last obstacle jumping over the fire. As I crossed the finish line, it was dark, no fan fair at the end. The band had left and the tents were starting to come down, many racers were left behind me still on the course others in front of me already finished. All that were left at the venue were some ofthe championship heat racers, Spartan Race officials, and the camera crew. I congratulated friends, they congratulated me it was as it was meant to be, a small group of us whom this is truly become a sport. Something about it seemed so right, it was as it was meant to be. I watched a few more women and men finish up in the dark as I had each one part of a small group who are able to say there were in the first championship heat.
Something about it seemed so right, the calm and quiet ofthe beginning, the female top five finishers were handed their prizes and lastpicture was taken. I finished up the race as it had begun with the Spartan Racecamera crew. In the end I didn’t win, I wasn’t close. The time I spent on thetraverse was at least twenty plus minutes. I was told I finished in the top 10 for women, official results have no been posted as I write this. That evening several of my fellow Championship Heat racers celebrated together, and talked of our upcoming races in a small restaurant/bar in Glen Rose, Texas. We truly have created our own family, it’s a bound that is impossible to describe to those outside the community.
Many have tried to describe this as a mini-Beast. I don’t think you can compare any race to the Beast. This race was difficult and challenging, but it was not a Beast. My hats off to Mike Morris who continuesto create racecourses that are not only unique but challenge both the mind and body. Thank you to all those who made this course possible and those who stuck around to cheer me on into the afternoon. As I drove off the race site in the quiet of the night, I called a few key people to talk about how I did, and then took some time quietly to myself in the car to soak it all in.