When it all finally goes right!
After a few days of letting reality set in I am still at a loss for words to describe how overcome I am with all kinds of emotion after the Spartan Race World Championships and Ultra Beast. I guess if I start from the very beginning it would be best since my story was years in the making.
My first Spartan Race was the 2011 World Championship race in Texas. I had won an entry by placing at at small local mud run. I showed up in a glittery gold costume because I had no idea what Spartan races were really about and I love dressing up. I had just come off of a Boston qualifying marathon and figured 9 miles with some obstacles would be a breeze. I received a wildcard entry into the cash prize heat, where we were competing for $10,000 to the first male and female finishers. Long story short, that course nearly killed me and I had to dig so deep into parts of me that I didn’t even know existed, just to finish the race. I came in second place and earned myself a trip to the next World Championships in Vermont.
I trained relentlessly for the next 9 months. Coming in second place to $10,000 dollars is motivation that not many can understand. I trained so hard, in fact, that a week and a half before the race I hurt myself. I pinched a nerve in my back and I was barely able to stand up straight, let alone walk. I took the rest of the week and a half to do nothing except try and heal up. I knew at the starting line that I would not place, but I was at least going to finish. The race started and as I jumped the very first moat my back went out again. I barely made it a quarter of a mile into the race before being the first person to drop out. I had never dropped out of a race in my entire life and it devastated me so much that I said a part of me died on the mountain that day.
For the next year I battled obstacles off the course with everyday life. I was squeezing in my training in the early hours of the morning and learning to survive on just my Husband’s income so that I could stay home and raise our two young children. I was sacrificing time with my friends and family to build up my endurance. I was blessed with many small miracles throughout the year. I am incredibly fortunate to train with some of the greatest Spartans in the country Sue Luck and Shawn Feiock. They helped to keep me motivated even when it seemed that giving up on my dream made more sense. I was chosen as an Ambassador for Dirt In Your Skirt and even managed to make it to the first Dirt In Your Skirt Camp. That camp was a saving grace in so many ways and that is where I made up my mind that I would do whatever it takes to get back to Vermont in September. I also knew that if I made it to Vermont I would follow in the footsteps of my incredible training partners and run both the Beast and Ultra Beast.
As I pulled up to Killington Resort this year and looked at that mountain I had such a flood of emotions, most of which was fear. On race morning I tried to keep my head in a positive place. There were many perfectly timed hugs from my Spartan family and just before the race started I spotted my Husband. Just knowing that he was there gave me the boost of confidence that I needed before starting up that brutal mountain. The race started and we immediately came upon a ridiculous climb straight up one of the ski slopes. I could see the leaders of men’s heat, who had started 20 minutes before us. They were tiny dots way up on the mountain and I could not believe how sick the Spartan race course designers were!
This was a race where every step was a small victory. Some of the most memorable moments in the race were the sand bag carry, where both men and women had to haul the same size sand bag (rumored between 60 and 85 pounds) up an unforgiving half mile incline and then back down. The water obstacles were placed in the middle of the course and the water was so cold that it immediately seized up my muscles. It takes a great amount of bravery to continually climb into water knowing that your muscles are already cramped up! The bucket brigade also stood out in my mind as one of the very hardest obstacles. My bucket was so heavy and the incline was nearly unbearable. After way too many ascents and descents to count, I knew I was approximately one mile from the finish line. I came upon a racer that I had met only the day before, Laura Messner, and she was really struggling. She needed fluids but I had just finished mine off. I offered her gels but she said she didn’t need them, just fluids. I encouraged her to keep with me because we were just about to the finish line. I listened as she struggled and it inspired me how much strength she had by battling on. Her strength motivated me so much that I had a sudden boost of energy. I offered a few more words of encouragement and told her I would see her at the finish line. I knew I was near 10th place and that I was running short on time to catch other female racers. I blew through one final sand bag carry, and up over the slippery wall. I heard my Husband cheering for me and I jumped over the fire with the joy of so much accomplishment. I had come back to face that mountain and my fears. I later learned that not only had I finished, but I placed 11th out of all of the females. I am incredibly proud of my placing considering that these were world class athletes and Olympians! It took me 5 hours and 10 minutes to complete the course. That nearly explains how brutal this course was considering I can easily finish a half marathon in less than 2 hours. I only had to do two sets of burpees. One for the Tarzan swing (which I had actually been training for and had gotten pretty good at)
and one for forgetting one number in a memorization test. I immediately began fueling myself because I knew the next day would be something I could never imagine. After what I had just been through, I questioned my sanity and began to wonder if I could really complete the famed Ultra Beast the next day! It had been said, that those who raced on Saturday would not be able to complete the Ultra Beast the next day. The course designer even pledged 100 burpees for any athlete that was able to accomplish such a feat. Time would tell… To Be Continued!