When Callie Bundy and I decided to run the Spartan Beast at the Spartan World Championships in lake Tahoe against the boys from Barbell Shrugged, I thought we were kind of crazy.
Don’t get me wrong, I like these adventure races. I’ve done plenty of Tough Mudder and obstacle races in the past, but this race started getting in my head. Was it the hype of racing against two seasoned athletes in Anders and Doug? Was it competing with Callie, a total badass? Was it the altitude, or the 13+ miles? Was it the swim in 45-degree water?
One night when I couldn’t sleep, something that happens all too often as a Single Daddy Daily, I started reading people’s accounts of Spartan Races. Like binge watching Netflix, I went quickly went down the rabbit hole of reading others horror stories from their time on the mountain. Finally, at about 2 AM, I got up from my computer, went into the bathroom and looked my tired mug in the mirror and did what all athletes do. “You got this,” were the words a uttered to myself. I walked back out of the bathroom, went to bed and quickly forgot about what other people did or did not do on their Spartan race. This was my race.
And so I trained. I ran, something I’ve never been fond of. I did weighted pullups until I couldn’t lift my arms or type an email. I added HIIT, I cut back on alcohol and made sure to eat clean. I loaded up on my Omax Max Recovery, which paired perfectly with my BCAA, so I could recover faster and train harder. During conference calls I would hop on the stationary bike in my office and grind out a few miles. I lost myself in the preparation for this race. And in losing myself, I did something most athletes do when they train. I found myself.
I found I was more productive at work during the days. I found that I was more present with my daughter. I found that I was less distracted and more focused in all areas in my life. Why does training do this? I once read that the secret to happiness is something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to. We all get so caught up in the details of day to day life that we forget to find that thing that challenges us, gives us something to look forward to and something to do. Training, for most athletes checks two boxes on that list. And training for the Spartan with my partner Callie did just that.
Then We Race:
Race morning began with Callie telling me she was really feeling the effects of high altitude at Lake Tahoe. If you’ve never had altitude sickness, it can feel like the flu, mixed with an inner ear problem and a huge dose of motion sickness. Not fun at all. My first thought was we should cancel, and we can always do the next one and right before I was about to say that, Callie said in typical badass fashion, “No worries, let’s do this.”
After breakfast with the boys at Barbell Shrugged, we headed to Squaw for pre-race interviews and to warm up. Starting temp was 58 °F according to Siri.
Our heat crowded into a pen where the announcer went over rules, made some jokes and then got serious.
“We are Spartan,” the group bellowed in unison. This was a signal that race was about to begin. But it was also so much more. People traveled from all over the world to be here at this event, to proclaim in unison that we are not content to sit idly by and let life steam roll past. We are not willing to let last night’s “Must See TV” be the driving force in our conversations. We are not our clothes, our cars our station in life. We are the sum of our experiences, the choices we make and the goals we continue to set and eventually crush. “We are Spartan.”
And we were off.
We ran up hills, threw spears, carried heavy buckets of rocks, swam in bitter cold water. We climbed ropes and lifted big tires and then we ran. We jumped in mud, and carried sand bags and climbed things, and then we ran. We lost Anders around mile 4.
It was tough, it was challenging, and it pushed us to do more than we normally would. And through it all, we smiled, we cracked jokes, we told stories and we bonded. If there was a perfect metaphor for life, this Spartan Race would be it. The value of our experiences is tied to the people we share them with. Had I done that race by myself, I most likely would have finished, jumped in my car and said “That was fun,” never doing that again. But being with Callie, Doug and Anders (at least for part of the race), made the experience what it was.
The Finish Line
We crossed the finish line after 5 and half hours. We hugged, we high fived strangers, we finally found Anders. Check out the post-race podcast on Barbell Shrugged for a great recap of the race. “Final” was the title of this blog when I first started typing it but then I realized I don’t want this to be final. We are just getting started. WE ARE SPARTAN!