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.

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