Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.
That right there pretty much sums up everything that went through my head during the Spartan World Championship Beast.
Somehow our whole house has been down with some flu/cold/plague for weeks. I was glad when it hit last week since I thought it would be long gone. It got better and then it got worse. Such is living in a house with two little germ sponges that wipe their adorable little noses on you and stick things in their mouths that are still dripping with other kids drool.
I know from experience that altitude does not good for me. I developed sleep apnea, gasped for air through slurred speech and pretty much was dizzy, sick and tired for the duration of our trip to Peru and Bolivia. On one hike up a glacier, I remarked about how terrible another hiker looked. He was literally blue and totally incoherent. John just stared back blankly at me, clearly at a loss for words. Apparently dude looked far better than I did. At this point, our tiny but sturdy guide was yanking me up the hill by a chain affixed to both our waists nonchalantly as he stuffed handfuls of cocoa leaves into his mouth and cracked jokes like this was something he did every day. Because he probably did. We had to turn around not 400m from the top since I couldn’t muster another step.
I tried to put that out of my head. “My the air is fresh” became my mantra. It would carry me to the top like a zippy little mountain goat. That worked for about a minute. Until a familiar feeling clutched my entire being. My ribs all of a sudden became two sizes too small and all the muscles in my torso contracted in unison. Everything got heavy.
Now I don’t run uncomfortably fast often, which is probably why altitude crushes my body and soul as it does. That, along with grip strength gives me plenty of homework for next year. You want to define your weaknesses? Do an OCR. I think that’s what makes them so addictive. You can always become a better person and athelete. Not that I didn’t recognize my short comings before but this race certainly highlighted them with a big fat red pen for me.
Back to the buzzy, cramps sensation.
It was the bell lap on a mile. The bell lap, although I was hardly even jogging.
I slowed to a power hike. On everything… I suck at technical stuff and am if anything a switchback runner. But every time I tried to pick up a jog my whole body stiffened.
I was pretty ok power hiking, although occasionally someone would talk to me and I could hardly respond back. I usually stay cheery through races by chatting it up with the volunteers and other racers. For me that’s when I know I’m having a bad day. No bad jokes.
As for obstacles, they had the fat up and down monkey bars with a big gap – only they spun. When the person next to you came off, it spun the whole bar all the way around. You’ve gotta move fast – something I definitely need to work on. So many people came off it was hard to find space to do burpees but after knocking a set out, it was right back up the mountain.
This was an unusual course for Spartan, 7 miles up, 7 miles down.
I don’t know that the carries were that heavy but they sure felt nearly impossible to me. Even the sandbell carry slowed me to a waver. Two steps sideways, one step up.
I regretted wearing thick pants. The sun was hot.
Until the swim.
The water was probably just a few degrees away from being ice. It was so cold I couldn’t stop gasping.
I was relieved to be out of the water and the wind hit me. Thank goodness for my windbreaker!
And pants. Thank you pants. I’m sorry I ever doubted you.
I would not however carry a pack next time. There were more than enough well spaced water stations.
Some time after this there was a crazy series of barb wire crawls to walls. I can’t remember how many because there were too many to count.
Roll through sharp rocks, stammer up to wall, pull self over, attempt to land on feet. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Contemplate re-entering icy water, dunk wall, slip wall, rope climb.
The other signature obstacle that laid waste was the double long rig with traverse poles, Tarzan ropes and rings right at the finish. Almost no one made it across… even the athletes that make this stuff look easy. I made it about halfway and missed the transition from the Tarzan ropes to the traverse pole. So the race ended with 30 burpees and a sprint to the finish.
I was momentarily disappointed with myself. Spartan had put on a great course and I had failed to do it justice.
Then I saw my family leaning over the fence. John smiling. Ama looking through binoculars at me, not twenty feet away. Seren yelling “banana” above the noise of the crowd, and motioning me to the food table.
It was the greatest morning, but it was about to be a great day. My team mate Faye had come in top ten. There were two Canadians on the female podium and one on the men’s.
The next day I decided to head out and do the sprint. I was prepared for it to suck and it didn’t. It was actually fun.
I still had to powerhike the hills but we cut off and went back down the mountain before things got real ugly. Yesterday’s double long bucket carry was almost a snap in comparison. I was able to catch up to Rose, the American Ninja Warrior and Spartan dominator (who was taking it pretty easy the day after the beast), on the traverse wall just before the crazy rig.
I did burpees as she flew across like Spider-Man and I stumbled over the finish 30 seconds later.
Thankfully the staff let me head right back out and try the rig. And thankfully Rose was there cheering and guiding me through right to the bell.
The world championship weekend is about racing. Of course it is. But more than that it is about celebrating this amazing community of crazy people who are living life to the fullest. The hard, the easy, the highs, the lows.
I feel like some of the people closest to my heart I have hardly shared a word with outside of a grunt of encouragement here or there on the side of a mountain, covered in mud, and chalk full of bruises and life.