Tale of Two Races – Spartan Race PA – Day 2
“For it is in giving that we receive.”
― St. Francis of Assisi
Admittedly after one and a half times on the Spartan Race course in Pennsylvania on Saturday, running it again on Sunday was a little daunting. I was staying at a friends two hours away from the race and the house, lake, and SUP were enticing me to stay. Earlier in the week Chris Davis had been over at my house for a raw veggie dinner and I came up with the idea, let’s run the race on Sunday. Chris hadn’t run a Spartan Race since Atlanta and is in training for the Ultra Beast. I figured (not knowing this would be the hardest sprint) that a mountain sprint would be a good taste of what the Ultra Beast would be like. Little did I know I picked the race Mike Morris (Race Director) would call “mini-Killington”. Chris and I messaged Saturday night and he asked if I was up for it still, I was sore but knew this would be something special and could not let sore muscles and an urge to sleep in for a day deter me. Of course I was still in, I replied, and gave some words of encouragement.
Sunday morning came early and the alarm went off at 5:00am. I met Chris at the race about an hour before we were to start. Chris Davis, if you are not familiar is here in Vermont with one goal, to get his life back and get healthy. Just over two years ago he weighed in at 696lbs, Sunday when he raced he was just under 300lbs. I first met Chris about three months ago and he was about 100lbs heavier. How has he lost this weight
through a raw diet and intensive exercise routine. We have become friends since he arrived and I try to help support him in his journey when I am able. I know when training for a big race day after day it’s tough to keep moral high and keep plugging along, so I told Chris we would race, and race at his pace.
As the 9:00am Competitive Heat lined up for the start we gathered water and food to take out on course and got ready to begin our adventure. Before the wave took off Billiethe MC called Chris and I to the stage, a few words were said and Chris’s story told. I knew Chris could do the race but deep down I was a little worried something would happen along the way and it would be on my hands. I smiled for the crowd, did last minute preps and we lined up in the back of the pack. Next thing I knew we were off.
The pace was a bit different than the day before but today was not about me it was about Chris and I was determined to do everything I could to help him complete a successful race. We both were going to do the whole course together. In the beginning we were joined by Tommy Mac who stayed with us and took a couple pictures. Tommy and I helped Chris to successfully navigate a few of the beginning obstacles. As we went along I pushed Chris to go further than he thought he could while at all times monitoring his health.
Up the steep inclines we set small goals to reach along the way. We worked in small incrimants a lesson taught to me by a Death Racer last year. When we broke down the race into pieces it all seemed more manageable. Chris pressed on with determination rarely seen in today’s world. There was only one goal, finishing.
At the rope climb we encountered the first burpees, knowing several were probably to come we split his burpees. I would do 15 and he would do 15. If I failed an obstacle I would do 45. I took the rope next to him and waited about half way up for him as he attempted to climb. He was able to pull himself out of the water but not able to get the foothold on the rope so we did burpees together. Then set off for some of the hardest terrain of the course. As we made our way up the mountain we took it in pieces. Chris pushed himself harder than I have seen before. The whole way me nagging him to keep drinking water in the near 90 degree heat.
It was amazing and rewarding not only what Chris was doing and how far he has come but to also hear the people on course talking to him about how he has motivated them. At times it was almost overwhelming the support he had. I held back a tear or two more than once. For any obstacle we encountered Chris couldn’t do yet we did our burpees and moved on. At one of the walls a group of women actually stopped after successfully completing the wall and did burpees with us.
As we hit the apex of the mountain I heard a familiar voice, that of Hobie Call of Conquer Any Course and Obstacle Racing legend. He had taken the chair lift up and met us at a key point of the race. We were just before the sandbag carry, a half mile long trudge down and up two double black diamond trails. Norm Koch, an employee of Spartan and two time Death Race finisher, joined us for this trudge as well, along with Chris Irving a familiar face in Hurricane Heats. As we headed back up the trail Chris Davis, Norm and I carrying sandbags the others there for encouragement. Hobie was jumping from place to place to take photos.
As we trudged up the mountain slowly a couple times Chris lost his foot hold and was face to face with the dirt. At this point I innerly worried, but quitting was not an option. He pushed himself so hard on the carry that well he puked. I only say this because in all his killer workouts with Joe here in Vermont he had yet to puke. As we reached the top a wave of accomplishment came over the group. Hobie helped Chris refuel with his Wheatgrass drink and we pressed on. As we were about to descend the mountain Hobie bid us goodbye and said he would meet us at the bottom for the last part of the course.
Several times Chris commented how obstacles like the bucket carry, herculean pull, and tractor pull were much easier when he had more body weight behind him. We laughed together along the course, I told bad jokes, then worse jokes, they might have gotten even worse. I tried my best to keep his spirits up as I could see he was visually in pain and struggling through some sections. We talked about the difference between male and female lobsters and plans for the future races. The whole time telling him to drink and take in some bananas for the sugar to keep going. At times I don’t know what was worse doing the course or listening to my humor for almost five hours.
As we went along my respect for Chris and others like him who choose to tackle Spartan Races as part of a plan to reclaim their lives increased. Often times racing only with the best it’s easy to get in your little bubble and forget what it is like for those just starting out. I have had tons of respect for these people before but it exponentially went up over the weekend.
As we approached the log hop we were joined again by Hobie as well by Andi Hardy (3rd for women the day before). They both were there to walk with us to the finish. If any a moment ever almost brought me to tears on the course it was hands down Chris on the log hop. He successfully completed the log hop with the help of Chris Irving and Andi on either side for support. It was an amazing feat, remember Chris still weighs almost 300lbs! He rolled his way through the barbed wire as the weather started to turn.
We made it through the last couple of obstacles and jumped the fire together and tackled the gladiators, finishing the race in just under 5 hours. I cannot begin to explain the emotions I had as we hugged going through the finish. Chris had done it! Completed the hardest Spartan Race Sprint to date. He had pushed himself to the brink several times throughout the race. I was honored to be able to be there with him and share the experience. To me the weight of earning the second medal was so much more than that of the first.
As I drove Chris and an intern back to Vermont that evening we saw some of the comments left by those on the Spartan Race site. It was overwhelming the amount of support he received. Neither one of us knew how it would ripple when we were on the course. I am profoundly grateful to be able to experience this with him. Thanks to all the kind words from everyone on and off the course during the day. It was amazing! I arrived home after midnight exhausted, sore from the weekend, 2.5 times on the course, and drive but feeling great mentally. I hope to be able to give back to more people at future races and run with them as it is one of the most rewarding things we can do is give back. Thanks to Hobie Call for the photos.
“Give, but give until it hurts.”
― Mother Teresa
“As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher