Day 61… You just got Chicked!
After sixty days of training for the Spartan Beast it is finally here! Even with getting home late I couldn’t sleep and was up early staring up at the mountain wondering just what the mountain had in store for us. The Spartan Beast is not like many of its counterparts, you don’t get a map, you don’t know all the obstacles, I had an awareness of where we might be going but that was it. I had been offered up a map by a friend earlier in the week and respectfully declined, that’s cheating and I didn’t want to start the race knowing I didn’t really get the whole experience.
Leading up to this race I was feeling a fair amount of pressure, being the “local factor.” Before the race had even started I had been interviewed for a local television show, spoke at Rotary about the race, and gotten the Fire Department to volunteer at the race not to mention people living and working in the town cheering me on. I was intimidated by some of the women on my team, as they are fierce competitors, Grace Cuomo Durfee, had not only just come off winning the Death Race for females but also had crushed me at the original Spartan Race in Burlington last year. I had never run a race longer than ten miles and that was in May.
Mocean Mate, had added me to their Tribe as a sponsored athlete on Friday, the owners themselves were racing in the Beast. Had to represent them well as it was my first race as a sponsored athlete for them. I also am the first female they have added to their tribe. The stakes felt high, I wanted to make everyone proud. After rolling around in bed for about an hour. I finally got up around 5:30am. I walked out on my porch and said a little self affirmation and prayed for all the training to have worked. It was finally time to show up and do it. As one of my friends says, you are either trained or untrained. I trained for this race, I was as ready as I would ever be, now it was time to put the hammer down.
I checked in on all the ladies around 6:30am as we had to be up at the start at 7:00am to do pre-race interviews with the Spartan Race TV. We pulled to the parking lot around 7:00, me forgetting one thing, my bib and timing chip. Luckily, I live 1 mile from the start and my friend Bradley was running parking and saved my spot for me. Being a local has it’s benefits! The next couple of hours was a blur, being interviewed by the Spartan Crew, and two local crews, catching up with other friends competing, warming up and meeting with my newly acquired sponsor, Mocean Mate. It really was a blur. At one point I looked up between interviews and saw two of my athletes I coached over seven years ago at Skidmore College, they were freshman then. It was all surreal. All of a sudden it was 30 minutes from the race. I hadn’t had any water all morning and had been running around like a maniac in Team Manager mode.
Around 8:45am the Spartan Chicked Team got in line for the first heat of the first ever Spartan Beast. I started out with Katy, Carrie, Maurya, Alyssa, and Monica, quickly Carrie informed me I would not be running with them and had to take my place at the front of the line up next to Grace Cuomo Durfee, Jason Jaksetic, Hobie Call, Joe Desena (Spartan Race Founder!) and a few other heavy hitters in the Spartan Race world, many winners of past Spartan Races. So if I wasn’t intimidated before, now I really was! Carrie basically had to push me towards the front of the line. She knew I trained for this and wouldn’t let me settle for anything less than my best. I remember looking back and thinking, I hope I can do this, I feel like I had the sad puppy moment as I walked away. Grace was great at the start and Jason totally assured me I would be fine and gave me a few last minute tips. Then the countdown happened, everyone got ready to start their watches, it was go time. I had trained now it was time to perform.
As the gun went off and we ran through the smoke, thus began a journey. At this point much of the race is now a blur in my brain and the race report will do it full justice. Here you will only get the highlights. We started off and I was psyched I knew these trails, still doubting what would happen I was at ease knowing I knew where I was going for at least the moment. Before we ducked into the woods just above the bottom of Superstar, I passed Grace, who was suffering from an early cramp. On the hike up Skylarke, Irene Call, a new favorite person (Hobie’s wife) and I bonded about one of her brother-in-laws and told the boys off when they complained about the speed up the mountain. She told them to just make their own path like the front-runners did if they didn’t like the pace. Love Irene!
More highlights, not falling off the balance beams. I did a happy dance there as I passed people doing burpees! High fiving all the members of the my fire department just before the three-mile mark. Having my fire department family there supporting me meant a ton. I thank them for spending the day working so we could all have a great race! I did a happy dance there as I passed people doing burpees! Passing Joe Desena before tackling the Stash. Making it up the rope off of the old Devil’s Fiddle Trail. In truth I sucked at this in PE in elementary school. Sandbag carry, I actually liked having 50-60lbs of sand on my back up the side of Outer Limits. Sick right, nope fun. At this point I passed Jason, the conversation here was pretty funny, not to be repeated. The volunteer which let me drink her Gatorade after the sled pull, I owe you! ALPHA 603-8864 – no burpees on the memorization for me. I think I have been brainwashed by this phrase. Thank you as well to the local rotary for manning this station.
For every race however we all have our personal low moments. Mine I learned are very vocal. I did well on nutrition until just before I hit the water at snowshed pond. This is where I started to go down hill. My levels in my body were out of whack and I hadn’t experienced this level of suck before. The swim I looked like a drowned rat at times, at least I felt like one. Thankfully, one of my athletes was the lifeguarding and encouraged me. For the rest of the race I was not exactly camera ready with my language. I have learned that of all the things that go when my nutrition is off its my language. I develop turrets, I think I used the word eff, the full word that is, more times from the water to the finish than I have in my life. I do think my decision to drop from the rope over the water was hasty. I probably could have made it, but can’t look back. I still can’t throw a spear. Finally, I think I psyched out the gladiators as I was saying out loud to myself as I passed them, “F***ing hit me, I don’t care! Oh now you are going to F***ing hit me, yup now its your turn, F***ing hit me do it!” I can tell you they didn’t hit me very hard, sound like a lunatic and they take it easy on you, I guess.
I was asked in the interview before we started what is the worst injury that would prevent me from finishing, I said nothing! I would have crawled across the finish line with two broken legs if I had to. DNF was not an option, extreme yes, but the stakes were high. This is the first race I have ever done in my life where, SH*T GOT REAL. Spartan Race is amazing, Mike the course director truly built a beast to expose weaknesses and rip you to your core in a very short period of time. Even as I had lost control of my vocabulary, I did keep a smile on my face because in the end I enjoyed every moment of pain. It was worth it to not take any short cuts. I know what I accomplished out on the mountains Saturday. I have walked off the mountain a different person. I lived in the raw moments of life for about four hours on Saturday. Not many people can say they have really lived.
I pinned it, gave it my all. I told my body to STFU several times and pushed through the pain. The camaraderie on the course was second to none. I heard over and over again, I just got chicked, while at the same time these guys around me pushed me to go harder! Some have asked how I did it well no secret, one step at a time, one foot in front of another. I am not exceedingly fast, but I am consistent. I will go and go until you tell me I am done. If they had said I needed to do another lap to be a finisher, I would have done it swearing the whole way with a smile on my face. Why? Joe told me to and Mike built the course therefore I have to finish it! You came to my backyard, I had to prove something. When Carrie pushed me away at the start she knew something, I couldn’t and didn’t. Those moments in time remind you how important having a strong support group and team are. I am so grateful they saw in me what I could not imagine. I had set three goals for myself finish in under four hours, finish in the top 25% for women and keep up with my teammates.
So for those that don’t already know how this story ends, I finished in 3:57 just under the four hour mark. As I crossed the finish, it all became a blur. Somehow my timing chip was cut off my wrist. I do not recall this happening. Next thing you know I have a t-shirt and towel in my hand, two glasses of water and Chase (a friend who works at the mountain) is telling me I reached my goals. He told me my time then told me I finished third for women. I had known I was in 4th for most of the race and my initial reaction was I was being lied to, sorry Chase but I didn’t believe you. Apparently, one of the other women ahead of me had stopped and dropped out of the race or something.
When I realized I came in 3rd for women not forth. I walked over to a grassy spot in the finish area and laid down on the ground for a minute to process this. Not only had I just completed the hardest race of my life, learned that when pressed I just keep going, but accomplished something I didn’t think possible. I lay on the ground trying to figure out what just happened and all I could say is F**K, NO F**KING WAY. When pushed this time, I pushed back and pushed back hard!
I am still in shock over what transpired on the mountain, I have to look at my sword to realize it all happened. I didn’t win the race, but I didn’t have to, I ran MY race in doing that I won. I beat past champions, but in the end that didn’t really matter, I had trained and I did what I had trained to do. This third place finish I can safely saw is the biggest accomplishment I have had in my athletic career, surpassing all the moments in high school and college athletics. I was “in the sh*t” (my race day mantra) and emerged clean.
I am still grasping at what this all means. Where this all takes me. I think at times it’s just a race, and kind of a silly one at that. For the naysayers who think these races are a passing fad or a joke, believe me they are raw and this is real. This is not a passing fad. Take each task one by one and they are silly, put them together on this course and it becomes a breeding ground to test your fortitude. Some may describe it better than I can here, I don’t have to explain it. I lived it and in the end that’s all that counts for me. I took a glimpse down the rabbit hole and know I have a lot further to go until I hit the bottom. As some described, the race was like a compressed mini Death Race.
Thank you to everyone who pushed me along the way and didn’t let me settle for anything less than running my race. It was the best birthday gift I could have given myself, and I own a sweet sword now. Lastly, ALPHA 603-8864!