The hardest Test of my physical and mental endurance to date. The Spartan Race Beast.
Here’s the story of the Sunpeaks Spartan Beast and how it went down for me.
Last year I ran this race in the extreme conditions of snow and rain but that didn’t compare to the extra KM’s of this year.
My goal was to just keep running, as much running as possible, and as always to finish burpee free.
So I was off! I ran, or jogged, whatever you call it but it was my pace and I planned on keeping it as much as possible.
The first sets of obstacles are ‘easy’ and are some of my favorite because I find they are pretty fun to throw myself through, and they don’t really slow you down… The Over-Under-Through obstacle. Done and fun, onto more running and some walking while on the steeper technical inclines through the trees. The line up of other Spartans trying to make their way up this mountain also kept the pace at the beginning under control to not burn myself out too quickly.
Then I got to the Caber Carry, check, more running and then the Hercules hoist, which was pretty light for what it could be.
That was an ‘easy’ first 4km…
Run some more to find the lookout of the chair lift and some very friendly faces of my wife and children there to cheer me on. A much needed boost! A few high fives and I continue on.
Hammer through the traverse wall like I owned it. I thought ‘man I feel like I am so on my game today!’
The Hobbie Hop right after that was a pretty brutal little hopping course of bear/cow shit, hay bales, and pits to hop in and out of, pretty hard and fairly taxing but I make it through successfully.
Run around the corner to the one obstacle that always blows my quads up, the 40lbs Sand Bag carry. It more technical terrain and a long way around but it’s doable, and I throw a thumbs up to the camera gal, because after all this is fun to me!
Run, run, walk, run all the way to the tractor pull it’s a ways up there; about 2 km up hill, but not really steep, it did take some energy to plow up the traverse. I look to my right and it’s a ways down to the base where we started, and its not even the top yet.
At the Tractor Pull it’s no problem really, jog it through and coach the gal in front not to give up approximately 10 feet from the end of the obstacle! ‘Go, go! Push, you’re there in just a few feet, you got this!’ A much needed chat to get her to the end, which I later could have used for myself.
Finally get to head downhill a bit and next up is the tire flip
When I got to the tire flip the volunteer told us all “gal’s tires over here, men grab one from this side… Or the big ones in the middle…”
So I grabbed the largest one, because apparently I don’t ‘F’ around with tire flips and figure ‘Hey I am here for a challenge, why take the easy route?’ I am sure the volunteer thought I was crazy.
Bam 4 flips, I feel like a champion, but it wasn’t easy, using my leg and hips to help push it upright on the third and final flip would make my hips cramp up early in the race and we were only about half way there.
A quick short and fairly light Atlas Carry and I kept running (Read: jogging).
Crawl through some Mud Unders and I’m on the way again.
But then it started to a little sideways…
I got to the 8 Foot Wall and it seems at every race when I flip my foot onto the top, my calf balls up in a crazy cramp that would bring me to my knees if I wasn’t on top of a large wall… I stay there on top, the photographer and volunteer tell me to take my time, and I do.
I fear if I jump down and land and stretch it out too fast catastrophic injury would occur.
I wait there and stretch it out on the back side of the wall, when I am satisfied it won’t tear on the way down I step down ever so gently.
Good to go.
I walk around the next corner chatting with a couple Spartans and they too are all cramped up… I jog down and through the next trail
Around the bend and see it again. The ‘Trenches’.
Last year all snowy and a little stream running through it, this year no water and sun shining I get down low and make my way under, sometimes on my belly sometimes on my hip sideways. It’s low and gritty and definitely cuts up the knees. I pop out put on my pack and again jog away down the hill.
Next Up was the Tire Pull up hill and back down. They’re just tires I thought so I grabbed again the ‘largest’ one I tried to pull it once and it didn’t budge.. I thought WTF did I get myself into. Fellow Spartan next to me says ‘Lets do this!!’ Counts out ‘ONE TWO THREE, PULL’ and we work our way up the hill, BAM my calf cramps again, my fellow Spartan continue on as I stretch my calf again, inside I am talking negatively to myself the rest of the way up and back frustrated with my performance on this obstacle all the way through until I completed it.
Although now looking back it was the hardest obstacle for me of this race, so far… Until…
The Bucket Brigade.
Fill a bucket and carry it. Sounds easy right? Until the dirt is wet and heavy and the course you trek around is long and steep and very technical terrain. Spartans are dropping buckets, screaming and cussing this obstacle trying to make it around. No one believes it’s happening and that it’s as hard as it was… (Makes me wonder about the Vermont one…)
But I trudge through it adjusting my bucket multiple times and no where feels right; finally at the end it was a triumph to empty it back into the pit. Success and it feels sweet!
Walking now, off to the next obstacle and it’s a quick little Mud Crawl.
Bring on the next one, a ‘little’ 7 Foot Wall. Pssshhhhhh that’s no problem…
Cramp in my right hip drops me. I lay there stretching it out, the volunteer ask if I need medic… Nope just YOGA… A quick yoga session on the course and I’m over and on the way… Close call though because that hurt!
I pass a friend and she is on her way back up, I think if I don’t have to go down far I could catch up to her… WRONG!
All the way down to the bottom! A small Cargo Net, and then the dreaded Spear Throw.
Up to here I’ve actually been pretty satisfied with my performance mostly, I’ve ran a lot and we are around 16km or so.
But one of my goals is failed right here when I miss the spear throw and hit up some oh so fun burpees. My form is off, but I’m down and up again 30 times. It’s a long walk up to that Inverse wall, but I’m up and over it no problem.
I continue to walk when it’s steep and jog when it’s flat-ish.
I’m good with that, it’s part of the plan, and I am executing it.
We get to the Log Jam and there was a lot of walking through the tree’d section of trails up to here.
And this is a cool new obstacle I haven’t seen, get through it, over or under it however you can, just don’t walk along the sides or its burpee heaven for you.
I get through and it’s pretty fun. Grab a water, as always half in my mouth half on my head.
I run/jog but something’s not right.
It hurts, and not just an ‘I-can-run-through-this’ kind of pain. Like it F’ing hurts my knee so bad. I try to SPARTAN UP and keep running, it doesn’t work.
So just then all this great work I am proud of just disappears and I turn to negative self talk…
‘Just run you wussy’ I think to myself. So I try again here and there and it’s not happening, I’m not prepared to further injure myself to a place where I can’t finish, where I can’t go for that hike to that water fall with my family tomorrow, it’s just too important to me.
So I walk, cursing myself the whole way, beating myself up emotionally.
And the walk isn’t easy, the course designer was ‘genius’ and put in a fairly steep hike that seemed to just keep going and going. Spartans stopped here and there, yoga, water, stretching, resting, but just enough to continue on.
Awesome! It’s all downhill from here.
But Spartans run past; I think ‘I’ve got that energy still, just run’!
All this energy I feel I have, why does my body ‘break’ before I do.
But that’s when I come to realize maybe I’ve been broken.
Spartan Race wins this time…
I make it to and across the Balance Beam, walking, so of course I’m singing a song like the Volunteer said I had too… It’s not a song though I can think of a song right now… I sing ‘La la la la, that’s a song right now…’ He said it was perfect and I carry on walking/limping.
Make it to the barbed wire crawl and it too is fairly ‘easy’ compared to last year. Complete it no problem.
And I walk again.
It’s a long walk this time, still down.
I know it’s getting ‘Late’ so since I am walking I text Jenn to let her know why it’s taking ‘so’ long.
There’s a time on this downward stretch where I feel like I could just sit down for a rest and cry, feeling beaten, broken like I’d already lost before I even finished.
Thankfully I talk myself out of that because I know I want to finish this, I want it badly!
I don’t quit. I keep going. Down to the Monkey Bars.
The volunteer there also asks me if I am alright and if a medic was needed as my limp way pretty good by this point.
“Three obstacles left! I’m not getting a DNF now!” I carry on.
Monkey Bars have never been a problem for me but when I lose my grip on my first swing and barely hang on with one hand, I remember to not take any obstacle lightly. You never know!
It’s not far down now and the finish line (Read: Victory) is a Slippery Wall, Rope Climb and Fire Jump away.
Slippery Wall is a little challenging with Sunlight soap and a bum knee but I make it over, my family there cheering me on, they run over to watch at the Rope Climb as I walk/hobble my way there.
Recently I stop and take a second before I jump into that water and see which rope is calling my name and has a bell, one time the rope I climbed had no bell and it was a stretch to reach over to the other rope to ring that one.
This time it’s the farthest to the left. It’s clean-ish. Using my trusty foot hold technique I make it up and ring the bell!
That feels amazing, every time!!
A quick walk to the fire and I realize I don’t want to land on my left foot and impact my knee again so I one leg jump over, sure can’t wait to see how ridiculous I look in that picture.
I hobble over the Finish line and gain my Beast Medal to complete my Trifecta for the second year in a row there in Sunpeaks.
I don’t really celebrate though because right now I feel disappointed in my performance, almost ashamed of the doubt I had in myself and my abilities. Disappointed that I got hurt, disappointed that I feel I let my family down, they came so far with me, to see me so broken, I don’t feel good about it. I feel slightly embarrassed. I apologize for my performance.
But they see it another way…
They are proud; they are excited to see me finish, accomplishing something so grand, an achievement so far beyond my children’s reach right now.
To them I may look like a super hero.
So why do I feel the opposite, when I was happy with the majority of the race? Why does one small set back bring so much drama and negativity to my mind?
I am searching for the reason to that and I’m sure I won’t know truly why anytime soon, but I do know I am very happy to say I quickly got passed those feelings of failure, because looking back I didn’t fail, I got injured. And to prevent further injury I made the decision to do what was best at the time. Just walk.
On that note I did finish!
I did finish! I finished this year and I finished last year. I am not afraid to try again, and I will finish next year too. I will finish stronger not only because I will prepare harder but because I finished as strong as I could that day, failing only one of 28 obstacles and persevering through the pain I endured later in that course. It is no small feat to complete that Race, it was a tough grind.
I am proud of myself, very proud, because I won that day, not Spartan Race. I have nothing to be embarrassed about, nothing to apologize for; I won when I crossed that finish line. I won when my family was there to congratulate me; I won when I made the choice to finish what I started and not sit down and give up.
I am proud that my wife and children saw me push through until the end, a lesson I hope my children can take something away from.
Because I took a lot away from that myself: I learned what I am capable of when in pain, so only I know the possibilities when I am at 100%, I learned that in the face of defeat I won’t back down and give in, that I will press on and finish what I started. When it comes down to it I am willing to take risks, get hurt, or possibly fail to get what I want. No miracles just hard work and determination. With every bit of effort and pain it was and is still worth it to me, because looking back I know I succeeded!
If you want it you can make it happen even if it hurts a little and sometimes it hurts a lot.
The reward is almost always worth the suffering.
Thanks Spartan Race, for making me Spartan the F Up, and for all the great memories so far, this journey we are on together will continue on!
And also a huge thank you to the guys at Fleetbrake Parts and Service, with out their ongoing support this race season may not have happened!