Monday, May 23, 2011

Spartan vs Warrior

On April 30 I endured through the Spartan Race in Conyers, GA, and
when I say endured I mean I barely made it out alive. There were
moments of weakness, pain, exhaustion and several times when I thought
to myself, "I just cannot do this." But somehow I pulled my leg over
the wall, I dragged my body through the mud and I ran up and down the
hills through the woods.

After becoming a Spartan I thought I would challenge myself to the
"Craziest Frickin' Day of Your Life" and enter the Warrior Dash. The
obstacles were available for preview online and I had several friends
who had "dashed" the year before, all saying it was "a joke" of a
course, so I wasn't too scared. Any race that involves mud and hills
is going to be difficult no matter what your physical capability is,
it was just a matter of how hard in comparison to Spartan Race would
it be? Would I end up in the hospital like I did at the Spartan Race?
Would I still be covered in bruises and scratches two weeks after the
race? I wondered if my body could physically handle both of these
races in less than 15 days. Could I be a Spartan and a Warrior? Which
title did I have to work harder for?

On May 14 I got my answer: Spartans are way more bad ass than Warriors.

Yes, both Warrior Dash and Spartan Race involved hills, and mud, and
wading through water, and cargo nets and climbing over walls. However,
there was something about the two courses that differed so drastically
in physical and mental toughness that made Warriors look like pussies
and Spartans look like Gods.

First of all, there's no way Warrior Dash was "3.1 miles" because
people finished in under 25 minutes. Either they are sprinters and
avoided all of the obstacles, or the race was really only a couple of
miles long. I have a feeling Spartan Race was more at 4 miles than 3
miles as well because it took me more than 1:30 to get through the
race and I ran a majority of the course (don't judge me for walking,
those hills sucked). Also, the hills and trails were covered in mud to
a degree that you were completely unable to run on a majority of the
terrain. It wasn't just a little bit wet or a little bit muddy, it was
completely "lose your shoe in the mud" thick and at times I slipped
just walking along the edge. What was the point? I thought this was a
DASH, not a "take your time" kind of race.

I guess the true "First of All" would be the race came to a standstill
in the first 100 feet when all of the racers had to squeeze on to a
sidewalk to begin the course. People yelled in mockery, "Yay I did
it!" or "Wow that was so hard!" after running a few seconds before
coming to a standstill and waiting their turn to walk. If the racer in
front of you decided to start walking, you were subsequently forced to
start walking until the opportunity arose that you could pass them.
Back-ups occurred frequently during the course and at certain

I'll give Warrior Dash the water element: you had to swim across a
lake to get to your next obstacle. During Spartan Race you were maybe
50 percent wet during the hose-off, the mud crawl (if you chose the
wet side) and wading through the water. During Warrior Dash you had no
other choice than to get your whole body soaked as you doggy-paddled
across. Why doggy-paddle? There are people all around you so you can't
necessarily butterfly or breaststroke your way across the lake.

Climbing over abandoned cars was kind of cool as well, except you also
had the option to crawl across the front seat and not have to climb on
top of anything. Did the Spartan Race offer an "easier" way to do
something? Nope. Unless you count the really hot guy who boosted me up
the 8-foot wall, but that was more embarrassing than "taking the easy
way out."

I don't want to hate all over Warrior Dash just because it is
physically subservient to Spartan Race (even though it really is).
There is one element to Warrior Dash that I admire, and that's making
the course easy and fun so anyone can enjoy racing. I saw old men in
tutus climbing up the cargo net, I saw gaggles of overweight women
maneuvering through the bungee-cord maze and I saw children racing
alongside their parents. Most people were in a jovial mood and weren't
taking the race too seriously. Some people even began the race with a
beer in their hand. Costumes were more plentiful and more elaborate,
including the group of men in bridal gowns... with trains and veils
and everything. For a majority of the racers the event was more about
having fun with your friends than getting your ass handed to you by
Mother Nature. Enjoy the food, the booze, the live music and
everything else involved with the festival instead of being concerned
with your shin splints and bleeding all over your clothes.

In summary: the Spartan Race tests you - mentally and physically. The
course will break you down, scratch you up and spit you out. You're
going to prove to yourself that you can get over that wall no matter
how hard you think you can't and you come out of the race with a smile
on your face and bragging rights in your heart. After the Warrior
Dash? It just gets you ready for your Turkey Leg and a shower.

Will I do Warrior Dash again? Yeah probably. Will I do Spartan Race
again? Abso-f'ing-lutely.Only I hope next time to make Conyers, GA my

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"I'm sorry it took me so long..."

Sorry for the elusive Title for the blog, I've been listening to Taking Back Sunday all day today and their lyrics bring out the best and most random in me.

Have you ever had a day when you're looking back at your life, or at least at the last week of your life, and realized that you're doing pretty damn good, but not good enough? You're not in a bad mood, you're actually content bordering on happy, maybe full of too much caffeine, and excited about what's ahead? That's me today and why this blog is chock-full of hopeful goals.

The gym is having a "spring cleaning" theme this month for everyone to purge themselves of bad habits, whether they're dietary, lazy or just trying to improve themselves. What are my goals? I'm glad you asked!

1.) Eat Paleo/Primal.
2.) Don't drink.
3.) Start going to church again.
4.) WOD in the morning and run at night.
5.) Spend less money!
6.) Start practicing the drums again.
7.) Making Spanish and Italian flash cards.

It's definitely a very random list of things to keep up with and if you've been following the blog it's actually a little redundant from my original goals. Forgive me for falling off the wagon, I have been going through a lot!! But now I feel like good things are on the horizon and I'm ready to take a new step forward.

The biggest step will be getting me back in to my Size 8 Citizen Jeans and Lacoste polos...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I Am Sparta

On Sunday afternoon I was standing at the registration table for a Bert's Big Adventure fundraiser and my co-pilot and I were discussing what we had done that weekend, particularly my race through the woods the day before. We'd only been speaking for five minutes and he goes, "I didn't peg you for an outdoors girl."

A year ago, a week ago or even a day ago, no one would have pegged me for an "outdoors girl" and hell neither would I! I greatly dislike being outdoors, especially when it's hot, sunny, buggy, dirty and anything else that doesn't really translate to indoors or a restaurant patio. Yet here I was at 12:45PM on Saturday April 30 climbing over a wall, splashing in to the mud, being doused with water and looking ahead of me to the entrance of my 3.5-4 mile run through the woods. And by woods, I mean hilly, barely marked trails and being whipped in the face by branches.

Months ago Becka asked me to volunteer for the Spartan Race, an outdoor obstacle course for the "elite" athletes in the woods of Conyers, GA. I would get $50 for my work and a free race ticket. I was more excited about the money and t-shirt and staring at cute boys all day long, not the free race entry. However, against all odds I decided I would actually participate in the race. I had big ambitions to start training through running and WODing to make sure I could get over that 8-foot wall all by myself. Then life happened, I got this internship, and I haven't run since it was still cold outside and I did less than 10 WOD's in a month. As race day approached I realized I didn't have a chance in Hell to complete this race and would probably end up crying in a creekbed somewhere along the race course.

The day before the volunteers headed out to the horse park to learn more about the course. I only got a glimpse of a few of the obstacles and already I was scared. We were stuck in the back end of the woods with lots of mosquitos and what looked like the scene to a straight-to-DVD horror flick. I made jokes the whole time to cover up how nervous and honestly scared-sh*tless I was.

The next day I woke up and headed back to Conyers. Luckily I woke up an hour late so I didn't have a chance to really think about what I was getting in to on the way down the road; I was more focused on staying above 75mph. My dreams came true and I did spend the morning staring at the studly Spartan men as they attempted to run across the balance beams or had to stick their butts in the air for the modified burpees, much to my delight.

Finally after a three hour work shift we were picked up and taken to the starting line to prepare for our race. It wasn't until I got back to base camp did the horror sink in and I couldn't focus. I lost my race ticket, I lost my meal ticket, I couldn't find anything that I needed, I was a wreck. A group of girls during my heat gathered to discuss the upcoming race and we headed to the starting line. There were only 88 in our wave, the final one for the day and of course the smallest. I made idle chit chat and really went back and forth between the Fight or Flight feelings and sadly Flight was winning the battle. Before I had a chance to actually step away they started announcing it was time for us to begin. Everyone cheered in excitement and anticipation, I tried not to pee my pants.

Finally they released us and we raced through a cloud of smoke...

Our first obstacle approached quickly and wasn't hard at all. Climb over a few 3-foot tall walls. Oh but jump down in to mud pits and be doused with a fire hose. No better way to start a 4-mile jog through the woods than soaking wet and your shoes are already sticky. Terrifico.

The rest is somewhat of a blur, from exhaustion, pain or just mentally checking out. I climbed through a mud pit while dodging barbed wire, I climbed over walls and cargo nets, dragged cinder blocks, did burpees, waded through water and ran a lot. I fell twice: once when climbing an especially muddy hill and slid back down in to the creek. The other I tripped over a tree root and landed awkwardly on my shoulder.

The highlights of the event include being boosted in the air by an attractive man, which sucked because he basically had to push press my 175lb ass in to the air and get me up over the wall. Luckily he ran to the other side and caught me or I would have landed ass-first on to the ground below. I also suffered the bite of an insufferable insect, likely a spider, that caused an emergency doctor's appointment yesterday and a shot in the ass plus a week's worth of steroids and antibiotics. Thanks Mother Nature!

The part I think I will always remember was the last obstacle: the slippery wall. Run as fast as you can about two feet up the wall, grab the rope and pull yourself to the top and scale down the ladder on the other side. It was the last obstacle. I was exhausted. I had just run 4 miles, climbed through the second mud pit that was really horse manure not mud and done 60 burpees because I couldn't throw a spear or traverse a rock wall. I fell during the first attempt and had to try again. I grabbed the rope and pulled myself to the top, and was mentally stuck. I didn't know how to maneuver my body to get over the lip of the wall. If I let go, I'd slide down the rugged black wall and have to try again, and be possibly the only athlete who fell off the stupid thing.

I lay flat on the wall and tried to swing my right leg over to the other side. I got my toes over and could not find the strength to get my knee over the wall. I was as stuck as you could be. Hands on the rope, ass in the air, foot over the rail and the other leg laying idly by, waiting to get its turn over the wall. I screamed for the volunteer to help me and he proved useless and not encouraging. As he stood there and said in a limp attempt, "you can do it" I managed to shimmy my foot over the wall, giving me enough strength and grace to finally get to an upright position and down the ladder. I trudged haphazardly toward the "spartan" guards who tapped me with their American Gladiators jousts and limped across the finish line. I was covered in mud, I was hungry, thirsty, bloody and fucking excited.

In 1:35:52 I became a Spartan.