Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Spartan Sprint Part I: I am not an Athlete

I couldn’t sleep much the night before and was anxious to get there as early as I could. My brother went with me but was upset because it was only 40 degrees. We were scheduled for the second heat of the day, and after watching the first heat take off we went to the bag check to drop off our stuff. As we were taking off our jackets I could see he wasn’t excited like I was. “You don’t have to do this,” I said. “I’m not doing it,” was his response. Instantly I was terrified. I thought I had a partner but now I was on my own.

As you can see, my poor brother is miserable, and it's the last time I'll be clean

The walk down to the starting line was surreal. “I’m a spectator, not a participant. Certainly the people around me must know that I don’t belong here. I’m not a runner yet. Everyone will see that as I fall behind.” As these thoughts slammed into my brain, I quietly and calmly countered them with “It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. I’m here. That qualifies me.” People were jumping around, to keep warm, to deal with the excitement and nervousness. I didn’t do that very much, but I did accept a few high-fives and good luck wishes. “I belong here. I belong here.”

The crowd at the starting line

The wait lasted forever but the time came too soon. The cannon went off and so did the crowd, me along with it. I jogged as much as I could, but up a hill? I slowed down. Racers passed me. I just kept telling myself that it didn’t matter. I refused to look at the spectators and just kept my eyes on the ground ahead of me. “I’ve never done anything athletic. Why am I here? What if I embarrass myself?” I’m sliding under a blockade and then making my way down a hill to a pile of logs. I pick one up and start moving around a hilly track. “Just keep moving, one foot in front of the other, that’s all it takes.” I am already panting and my legs are telling me it’s time for a break. I work with a personal trainer twice a week, and when it gets tough, I take breaks. I don’t know how to keep moving when it becomes difficult. “You cannot stop. That’s worse than going slow and falling into last place.” I pushed and finally made it to where I could drop the log. Next obstacle was to climb a rope with the “help” of a wooden frame. It was challenging and scary (I’m not afraid of heights, just falling).

We then go through the basement of a building, and when we come out we have to run down a hill, jump over fire and into a water-filled pit. I stopped in front of the fire, building myself up for the jump. You see, I don’t jump. I’m not tiny and it can hurt to land with extra weight on the body. Unfortunately my only other option was to do 30 burpees, and I went into this with the attitude that I would do the least amount of burpees possible, so I jumped and made temporary contact with the ground before falling into the water. At about this time I realize that one of my fears had come true: I had hurt my ankle. 

At the end of the promo video for Spartan Race, there is a guy limping around after finishing the race. For two months I said that I didn’t want that to be me. The powers-that-be have quite the sense of humor. I take a moment to see if the pain will subside and it does, but it never completely goes away. I don’t care. I’m going to do this, one step at a time.

I walk to the edge of the woods and the fear is leaving me. From here on I am on my own, it’s just me and the course. I didn’t come to race other Spartans, I came to challenge myself. Let the competition begin . . .

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