Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Spartan Sprint Part II: Stronger than my Fears

For the next 3+ hours I'm in the woods, frequently alone. I love hiking and walking in parks so this just feels comfortable. My only competitors are myself and nature, and the hippie in me sees this part of the competition as working with nature, not against it; I don't fight it. I honestly love every part of it. At least 80% of the course is comprised of hills, mud and muck covered hills. Every time I reach the top or bottom of a hill I feel a sense of accomplishment. "I just need to get from here to there, and eventually 'there' will be the finish line."

This is where the camaraderie comes in with other racers. A man running past me said, "Good job!" and I thanked him. I was surprised every time someone encouraged me or congratulated me on my efforts. What surprised me more was the help I received at the first man-made obstacle, the cargo net. Two people who had already made it to the other side took it upon themselves to stick around and talk me through it. They held the net down (making it shorter and pulling it taught) to make the climb easier and offered advice on how to maneuver myself over the top. Throughout the rest of the course, other racers helped me when I needed whether I asked for it or not. I then found myself comfortable offering help to others and offering them words of encouragement as well. I've read about the camaraderie of these races and everyone is right--Spartans are a special breed. :-D

I survived almost all of the 50+ (yes, I counted) obstacles unscathed, but I did get a 5-6" cut on my back from the barbed wire, and I ended up seriously spraining my ankle when I stupidly attempted to jump across a 5' pit. I say stupidly because I knew there was no way to do it without doing more damage to myself. I was so hurt that it became my moment at the crossroads: get medical assistance now or wait until after I finish? I sat on the ground with my head hanging down and eyes closed. I teared up but didn't lose control enough to really cry. People came by and asked if I was O.K. and I could only nod my head. I wasn't O.K. but I didn't want any help. I had to work through this on my own. I could have walked around the obstacle, there weren't any volunteers to make me do burpees, but I believe that if I had, I would have failed and the medal would have been received under false pretenses. Isn't that the Spartan Race mantra? "You'll know at the finish line." I was not going to accept a medal without pushing myself to earn it, and that's what I did. I hobbled the rest of the way, took even smaller steps than before the botched jump. I climbed over bales of (what was that stuff?), swam across a pond, carried more wood, and climbed over posts. 

When I finished, there wasn't any applause, no one waiting for me, and I didn't even get a medal. I was stopped by someone who retrieved the chip from my shoe, someone else gave me a silver blanket to wrap up in, and another person stopped me to take my picture. I asked about the T-shirts and then where I was supposed to get a medal. That's when I realized I had really done this.

I walked up the hill and wished racers for the upcoming heat "Good luck." I checked in with Shaon, the volunteer coordinator, to let her know I had just finished and had to clean up and get my injuries treated before starting my shift. With pride I told the medics that I needed their help. They congratulated me and commented on my swollen ankle and the cut on my back. I smiled because these are my first battle scars, evidence that, not only did I make it, but I overcame the toughest obstacles of all: my own fears.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
And as we let our own light shine
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same
As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

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