The Fire at the Finish Line.

A few days ago I wrote about bucket lists and decided to make my own. One of the things that made my list was completing the Spartan Trifecta in one weekend. For those of you that don’t know, a Spartan Race is an obstacle course race, usually out in the country somewhere. They consist of varying lengths and difficulties with a wide variety of obstacles such as rope climbs, tire drags, log flips, swims through cold lakes, carrying objects up and over mountains and many other crazy things. A Trifecta is when you complete one each of the three different length races in the same calendar year. The Beast is 13+ miles and 25+ obstacles. The Super is 8-10 miles with 20-25 obstacles. And the Sprint is 3-5 miles with 20 obstacles.

Two years ago I actually completed the Beast. I had been trying to get someone to run one with me for a couple years, but nobody would actually pull the trigger and sign up. So finally, I signed up for one by myself, bought some obstacle course shoes, Trail Toes foot cream and got to training. (The trail toes was a God send! Absolute must if you ever run any race similar to this!) Now admittedly,  I didn’t train nearly as much as I should have and was definitely not ready come race day. But I figured how bad could it really be?So I tightened up my classic red and yellow Hulkamania bandanna around my head and got to the starting line.

Thats when I realized just how bad of an idea this was. Or at least how bad of an idea it was to underestimate the training or not bring a friend for motivation. The very first obstacle runs you right through this shallow river/deep creek. The water was about belly high after you sunk knee deep into the mud below. And after trudging through that for about 60 or so yards, you finally get to climb out and start running. That was the last time i was dry until the drive home. The next several hours was filled with cycles of get muddy > carry or climb something > get wet > run > get muddy > carry or climb something > get wet > run…over and over and over again. And if you failed to complete an obstacle, you had to do 30 burpees before moving on. If you don’t know what that is, youtube burpees, do 30 and you’ll see how that could start to suck really fast. I felt like i was doing pretty good and still had some left in the tank until about mile 9. But mile 9 is where the race really goes for the jugular. First its a lake you have to swim across. It was only about 60-70 yards, but this is in November so the water wasn’t exactly warm by any means, and I had just ran 9 miles through mountains and much and rope cli….well you get the point. So for the lucky ones who make it across that, when you have nearly nothing left, they hand you a five gallon bucket full of gravel and point to the mountain. They tallest and steepest mountain of the course. Object is to get the bucket up the mountain and down the other side without losing any gravel, or its thirty more fucking burpees!! The trail up was all loose gravel and rocks constantly sliding out from under your feet, and down onto you from the people above. Looking around, it was a wasteland of bodies just laying in the dirt heaving and puking and red-faced, obviously regretting this decision as much as I was at this point.  At the top it was more of the same. The people who had made it up and spilled none of their gravel yet, but needing a break to do their own heaving, puking and regretting. I stopped to partake. After probably 5ish minutes I got back at it. The trip down was even worse.. having to constantly lean back with all the weight of the bucket as you more or less slide down the side of this side of the mountain. Once at the bottom you have to carry your bucket to one of the judges to decide if you retained enough of the gravel to skip the burpees. I barely passed this test with the gravel going up to about four and a half inches from the top of the bucket, which was about as close to a fail as you can get. I didn’t give a shit, no damn burpees! But It didn’t matter. As I got back on the trail towards the next obstacle, i quickly realized that my tank was running on E. The swim followed by the mountain had completely demolished me. Honestly I really didn’t think I was going to be able to finish at that point.    Roughly 5 more miles through hills and mud, and who knows how many more obstacles.

Luckily the remaining obstacles were less difficult and the final miles were more running than anything. Finally there it was…the fire at the finish line. Just a long strip of burning wood. Make the jump and its over. One free beer, t-shirt, and nifty metal. Thats all they give you. Five and half hours, 15 miles, 25 obstacles and 150 burpees and all they give you’re sorry ass (who willing signed up and asked for this) is basically a pat on the back.? Truthfully, it gave me much more than that.

Now before doing this race, I read the book that founder of Spartan Race Joe De Sena wrote. It basically outlines the whole point behind race. To not only physically challenge yourself to do something that is undoubtably going to be difficult, but to put yourself in that scenario where mentally you aren’t sure if you can go on. Its at the that point that you can really take away from this race. You’re going to dig deeper than you thought you could, and you’re going to push yourself further than you thought possible. That point of no return where you just have to say “fuck it, its got to get done”. Most people don’t get to that point nearly enough in their lives, me included. But when you do, as i did that day, its a great feeling. Even through the cramping calves, stomach ache, migraine and bleeding hands and feet, you almost immediately feel joy. Because even if you don’t realize it consciously at that moment, your body and mind recognized that experiences like that stretch you to new dimensions, and there is no going back.

Looking back, this whole experience reminds me of another Tony Robbins quote that I love. Tony says “If you want to conquer an Island, when you get there, burn the fucking boats.” He then goes on to point out that more times than not, when people are put in a situation where its either succeed or die, they tend to succeed. Thats exactly what I took away from my Spartan Race experience (obviously on a much less dramatic scale) and thats why i can’t wait for the even bigger challenge of completing three in a single weekend! Wish me luck!!


P.S.  I highly recommend reading Joe De Sena’s book “Spartan Up” regardless of if you plan to run a race or not. Just a great all round book about how to tackle life.

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