I usually spend weekends with my family and friends – long walks in the forest or little romantic getaways. But sometimes I like breaking routine, and for a long time now I’ve been having the urge to “do something extreme”.
Why? Here are the 4 reasons why I chose to do the Spartan Race:
1 – to share a fun and crazy experience with my son whom I don’t get to see as much these days now that he’s in university. It was intense. It was fun. It was crazy!
2 – to prove to myself that with good training and high morale, I can overcome (almost) anything
3 – October marked a special anniversary…my ankle operation…a pretty intense surgery that left its mark in a fair share of pain even years later. So I wanted to push myself past that almost chronic pain
4 – Lastly, I had my first rheumatoid flare when I was about 5 years old (yes I was very precocious) and let’s just say I always have pain in one area or another which compels me to kick myself in the butt. Like when, one minute into this challenge (before the race even actually started), I suddenly had crazy knife-like pain in my wrists every time I put my weight on them, and the challenge was a way to regain control of my body. Somehow the spirit is even stronger than the body.
3 weeks before the Spartan Race, our registration is complete and it’s time to start preparing for this race whose online photos are impressive and sometimes frightening. Thankfully I found an amazing fitness coach. I’ve tried tons of trainers in the past, and I have to say that Mike absolutely tops them all. His resume is very impressive, as he has completed 3 World’s Toughest Mudder, finished 2nd Masters at the Spartan Race 2015 Monterey Super and 2nd again at the Gladiator Rock n’Run 2015! It’s never monotonous or repetitive with him; he always has a new move up his sleeve. No squats or other common exercises that have been done to death. Mike had the surprise factor. Again and again and again. He pushed me past my own expectations and showed me that I could do much more than I thought. In short, a real coach! So for 3 weeks, almost every day (with or without him), I was sprinting, jogging, flipping tires that weigh 250 lbs (115 kg), climbing nets, climbing barehanded, spear throwing, carrying buckets that weigh a ton after walking a quarter of a mile, rope climbing, wall climbing, and so on. The reward? Aches all over my body!
At night, my son who is doing an internship right now follows the same training routine as me so that he can be at the top of his game.
Our excitement is mounting…
2 days before the race, I cut my nails nice and short (thanks Shellac!), drink electrolytes, do some good stretching and “alea iacta est” (the die is cast)…hey, if you’re not ready 48 hours before, it’s a bit late to start working on it!
The morning of the race, we get up at 7am and head out at 8am for the 2.5 hour drive. A fun ride spent chatting with my son who loves driving which means I get to relax!
We arrive to a perfectly organized situation – classic American. Giant parking. We are not alone! By now, the beautiful morning sun that accompanied us on the drive is giving way to threatening clouds. We sign a legal document (hey, this is America) which basically says “you can die, this activity is very dangerous and can have serious consequences”. Yikes. But our adrenaline takes over! We put our chronometer on our wrist (though to be honest, I don’t really give a damn about how long I take to do this, what matters is that I finish it and have a blast with my son), our race numbers, and then the rain comes down in buckets! We run to the car for refuge and watch mud-covered zombie-like people passing by with huge smiles on their faces. The atmosphere is amazing.
12:15pm: there’s no going back. The rain continues and everything is super muddy. Yay…we head to the starting line. In order to gain access to the start of the race, you have to scale a wall about 5 feet 7 inches high. Eh, a trifle after my training. But in all the excitement, I move my wrist awkwardly and baaaam! Serious pain. And we haven’t even started!
A dramatic start and we’re ready for the worst. Everyone is shouting, “I’m Spartan!, aroo aroo aroo!”… all of this under torrents of rain!
It’s slippery, it’s marshy, and there are little ditches all over the place. The rain continues. It’s a virtual festival of falling and uncontrollable skidding, but we push on!
First obstacle: a piece of cake! 3 walls, nearly 6-feet high, one to jump over, one to crawl under, and the last to go through a hole in the middle. The race has officially started.
I silently thank my coach for preparing me so well!
So here I am, the one who experiences vertigo symptoms at an ascent of just 5-feet, at the top of a slippery wall, trying to climb through nets stretched over a gorge…and then I hear my son screaming, “Go Mom, you can do it!”, “I believe in you!”…that’s worth all the gold in the world!
We hit a huge marsh full of mud, teeming with moving creatures which are making me itchy, not to mention the mud up to my waist! Arghh…we push through…I actually grab onto someone next to me while my son pushes on as if nothing significant has happened. This is followed by a crawl through mud under barbed wire – we’re on our knees and elbows and the gravel in the mud only makes being on all fours all the more painful. And all this while a Spartan volunteer is yelling out at us, “Spa day!” Phew, what a relief and joy to make it through and revel in our progress!
Overcoming an obstacle that seemed unconquerable 3 weeks ago? You can’t put a price tag on that. With the bonus of my son at my side? Unforgettable! Tires that once seemed impossibly heavy? Now I pull one up in 10 seconds flat and find myself saying “wait, that’s it?” Thanks Mike!!!
Just imagine carrying huge sacks of rocks that weigh 66 lbs (30 kg) – while climbing. And if you don’t successfully complete an obstacle? The penalty is 30 “burpees” (which for wrists like mine is real torture). So we make sure to do everything to avoid the undesired consequences! We press on!
And finally…we finish! We’re overwhelmed with an intense feeling of having truly exceeded our limits…the little Spartan medals hanging on our necks…we shower fully dressed in cold water to get all the mud off….it’s freezing! We’re so frozen, we literally can’t feel our fingers.
And while we’re almost losing it from the cold and our aching bodies, we’re asking ourselves, “When is the next race…?” My son: “Mom, let’s do the longer one, ok?”, “yes, there’s one on December 5th in Los Angeles, let’s do it,” I tell him, “Okay, but only if we double the distance!” to which I reply, “We’re on!”
See you at the next race!
PS. On our way back, no “clean-eating” for us, but a big burger and fries ;). And here we are, in a fast-food joint with a group of Spartans, holding on to this amazing feeling of camaraderie just a little bit longer as we share our highlights of the day.