I had been waiting for this race since last year when I first registered. There was no denying that this Founders race would be tough – with past races closing in on 15 miles and over 5,000 feet elevation climb. And although this race (at least according to my GPS) was closer to 14 miles and just over 4,000 ft elevation climb, this race was still a monster, not quite eating its young like the Barkley, but one of the toughest Spartan races available for sure.
Yes, tough…like the 100+ yard barbed wire crawl that still couldn’t steal that smile from my face:
First I’ll start with the victory. You’ll see in this video my joy in knocking out the multi-rig – which has become my favorite obstacle.
I can’t always claim success as I recently failed it at the Las Vegas Super (darn you Spartan for putting that last ring so high after the last two Tarzan ropes!), but love the challenge and how they change it up each time. Always located at the end of the race after battling a number of other obstacles to weaken your grip strength, this rig has handed many Spartans the golden ticket to their last, shaming 30 burpees in front of all the spectators waiting for their loved ones and friends.
But the victory for this race was larger than conquering the multi-rig. My victory was nailing all but one of the 37+ obstacles for this race. Yes, only one obstacle defeated me. Spartans – can you guess which one? If you said the burpee maker (aka, the spear throw) then you win the prize. Otherwise, drop and give me 30 burpees…
So where does the agony come in? With about 3 miles left in the race, there was a downhill section that was technically challenging (did I mention the undergrowth was unbelievable?). Knowing that my IT Band in my left leg was a bit questionable, my run to that point had been hard but not all out as I wanted to make it through the race. But then it happened…
I had someone coming down hard behind me and there wasn’t much room for me to get out of the way. So I did what I thought was reasonable – I bombed the hill with technical prowess, even impressing myself with my footwork the rest of the way down. But soon after the debilitating pain began, making me realize my few strides I had just boasted were soon to result in a slow, tearful finish to the race.
Yes – I could barely walk. And each step was filled with excruciating pain, anguish (this wasn’t going to be the race I was hoping for!) and disappointment. But I knew one thing – there were only two ways off that course. One would be on a stretcher against my will. The other on my own two feet. And although an hour longer than I was hoping, I did cross that finish line.
Now take a look at the image again at the top of this post. Do you see the success and victory? Look at my face a bit closer and you can see some of my pain. Success just means conquering the pain – not the lack of it.
You can probably get a sense of some of what I felt from one of my posts on Instagram (@livehealthrun) just after the race:
“Daddy, are you ok?” He knew I was in pain coming down the hill to the bucket brigade. Sure, there wasn’t much denying it in my limp and shuffle in my steps, but his voice displayed his concern. “I’m hurt, but I’ll be fine son” was my reply. He stood there, focused as in this picture, watching me as I loaded the bucket and somehow carried it up and down the hill – in pain with every step. But it was him, standing there and watching my every step that gave me the strength and fortitude to press on. I hugged him like nothing else afterwards – so grateful for his love and his presence. I can’t explain it, but he was with me the whole rest of that race. And because of that – I finished. Love you son!
But it was in this anguish that I discovered something I hadn’t noticed before – the camaraderie and brotherhood/sisterhood of Spartans.
I can’t tell you how many fellow Spartans asked if I was ok. The number of Spartans that asked if they could help. The number of Spartans that would give me words of encouragement as they passed. And even the Spartans that would take a minute to slow down, chat for just a bit and then run on.
It was in these moments that I realized that the Spartan Race was larger than just a trail race with a bunch of obstacles. Don’t get me wrong. I knew that – at least intellectually. I had even offered many of those words in past races to others that were experiencing the same turmoil and pain that I knew that day. But it was in those moments that I knew it – all the way to the depths of my being – because I experienced it.
And it pushed me on – all the way through to the end.
Spartan is more than just a race. Spartan is more than just a way to push your limits and make you a stronger person in all areas of life. Spartan is about community, camaraderie and brother/sisterhood. And for that, I will always cherish Spartan – and specifically this race for teaching me these lessons – throughout the miles.
Until next year Montana – I plan to be there to conquer you!
Running for Life…