“I just want to sit down and cry.” -Random Spartan Racer Mile 12
My asthma doc on Monday had given me (sort of) clearance to run on Saturday. Ok, really, she didn’t say no nor did I ask. She did give me several rules regarding any future races (no burpees, no sticking my face in the grass, no full throttle for at least 2 months, etc). So, with those rules in mind I headed towards Ohio to run the Spartan Beast. Hey, she didn’t say NO….
Up to this point the entire weekend was already a shit show. First, because I got wicked sick after the Austin Super my lungs are not exactly where they need to be (Doc said it would take 3 months for them to return to normal) and then my running partner massively twisted her ankle two days prior. What that translated to was me doing this race completely on my own. Mentally, physically and emotionally I was fried before I even toed the line on Saturday morning. I actually called ShooterGirl crying Friday. She gave me the following piece of advice, “There is absolutely nothing wrong with a DNF. You need to go, you need to try, but if you get out there and your lungs give out don’t be stubborn and try to power through, walk off course.”
Friday I left work early and drove out to Ohio. As I was checking into the hotel there was someone traveling through who was trying to get a room. They were told, “Oh sir, there are no hotel rooms for at least the next three exits, Spartan is in town.” I don’t know why but that made me chuckle.
Saturday I got up and was so just not feeling it. My goal for the race was to just survive. I barely being held together by duct tape and bailing twine physically. I choked down hardly any breakfast which is a absolutely awful thing when you are headed into any race let alone a 14.5 mile Spartan Race. I think the only reason why I got anything into me at all was that I was seeing it as fuel and not as food (yes, there is a distinction.)
I texted Dad and told him I was nervous. His first response was, “What for?”
“This is an obstacle race, like what I did with Cindy only 14.5 miles.”
“Go with God as your copilot”
There may have been an eyeroll on my part. Ugh, of course he would say that.
“Wait, I thought Perry was my copilot.” I retorted.
Pretty sure there was an eyeroll on his part with that snarky response.
As I drove to the race site I used my new Airial nebulizer. Hey, I may be an asthmatic, but I’m not a stupid asthmatic. Probably the only way I wasn’t going to get sick or die on course (a real possibility) was if I actually was a “good girl” and take my extra medicine. The great thing and horrible thing is that now I have no excuse whatsoever to not take my medicine. Hm, perhaps I should have rethought my whole “let’s get a neb machine that I can use anywhere” plan.
Getting my number and getting everything situated was much easier when your car isn’t that far from the festival area. I had an 0845 start time and as I watched the 0830 wave take off there was a super nice lady who was “pit crew” for her husband. We started to chat a bit and she offered to take my picture and send it to me. Considering my phone had been purposely left in the car I said thank you. So to that random lady, thank you very very much. It’s the only clean picture of me.
I stood in the corral next to a nice 32 year Vietnam Era Marine. He and I started to chat about the race. His plan was just to survive too. I like knowing that I’m not the only one out there whose sole goal is survival not competition. He looked a bit like Santa. Hm, wonder if it WAS Santa. I digress. Like clockwork they released us right at 0845.
This course was most definitely NOT easy. As I slowly chipped away at the terrain and the obstacles I kept leap frogging with a very cool group of girls; Finn, Ella, and Lilly. They were friends doing it together. Ella was having some allergy issues (she sounded like she had exercise induced asthma to me). Those three girls kept me going for more miles than I can count. Just listening to them banter back and forth, checking on each other, and just being around took my mind off of my own pain. We traveled together so long that by the time we got to the finish line we had to take a group selfie. To Finn, Ella, and Lilly wherever you are, you guys rock, thank you.
The first 7 or so miles of the course was where the largest thwack obstacles were. After the spear throw (where we could see the finish line) they turned us away from the festival area and into the woods. Gee, thanks, way to screw with our heads. Oh God, the woods. Now, you would think with all the trail running I do that I would have loved this part of the course. Yes, there were parts of it that were amazing. However, the hills, for the love of God, the hills. These weren’t just ANY hills. No, no, these were straight up mud slicks. No real trail. Just up and down and up and down.
Now, I was smart. I knew that the course was around 14 miles. When everyone around me was whooping at mile 5 that we were “half way” I knew we weren’t. Being out in the woods, though, sucked every ounce of mental strength out of me. There was a small group of us that just kept going up and down together. “Oh dear, God ANOTHER one.” “Please, no more.” “I just want to sit down and cry.” I should probably mention that these are comments made by folks who have run multiple Spartans. The “this is worse than (fill in other Spartan Beast here)” was probably the most prevalent recurring comment.
My personal opinion is that Spartan doesn’t do anyone any favors by saying it’s 11+ miles. People aren’t properly planning for fuel. Granted, they have a couple of aid stations out on course, but in this nearly 5+ mile slog through the woods there wasn’t any aid stations. I wound up giving out my back up fuel to a couple of guys who were bonking on course. Out on course I managed to consume; 1 Tailwind (in my water), 2 Picky Bars, Mama Chia, Justin’s Maple PB, Justin’s Hazelnut Butter, and a Honey Stinger. All of that fuel just to keep me from bonking.
Just about the point, in this back woods portion of the course, as I was ready to sit down and give up/loose my mind I met April. Nothing bonds two middle aged women more closely than hills peppered with slogging up, over, and through mud. We dreamt of wine, naps, and baths. She told me how this was her 17th Spartan and how running a marathon was easier. We mentally propped each other up along the way pulling and pushing each other. That crazy woman was not only doing the Beast, but the Hurricane Heat and I think the Sprint on Sunday. Secretly she told me that she was hoping and praying for lightening so they would cancel it because it was her teenage son that wanted to do the Hurricane Heat not her. April, you rock. Thank you for being there when I needed you the most.
Somewhere the back woods we all became demoralized. Running got harder. One guy said it best, “I’m just trying to keep moving because if I sit down I’m done.” Yeah, I’m with you man. My legs would go forward and back, but every log I stepped over was a searing sensation of absolute pain. April and I kept trying to “run”, ok it wasn’t a run as it was more of a fast shuffle.
As we approached the slip wall there were Finn, Lilly, and Ella. I was excited to see them. Finn scamped up the slip wall first. After sliding down the wall a couple of times Ella just said, “screw it I’ll take the burpees.” Finn offered to split them with her. Lilly, God bless Lilly, she kept trying and trying and finally got over it. I started up the slip wall and got within 3 inches of the top and was struggling to sling my leg over. This really nice guy next to me grabbed my leg and slung it over for me. To that random guy, thank you.
Four more obstacles and April and I continued to stick together all the way through the fire jump. I know that if it wasn’t for her I mentally would have lost my shit somewhere out there. It wasn’t the running, it was the sheer demoralization. We crossed the fire jump together. I finished. I finished in one piece. I was sore. I was beat up, but I finished. The little asthmatic that could.
As I got in the car (post incredibly cold rinse off) I fired up the nebulizer machine. I always know when I really needed the neb treatment when I start to get the tingling sensation in my fingers and face, and boy did I get that in spades as I drove down the road. Guess me being a smart asthmatic isn’t such a bad thing.
1876 feet in elevation gain
Average HR: 140
Highest HR: 173
Calories burned: 2721