Monday, August 15, 2016

This Is Sparta!...Everything Hurts

Lately, I've been between books (that I write, that is). I am waiting for responses from readers on one book, and I am brainstorming a new story. However, though these are still a writer's work, I feel like right now my main task is having life experiences that I can later use in my writing.

Like the experience of being so sore that turning over in bed requires me to wake up, gather my courage, and ignore how my muscles feel one sharp move away from snapping like a broken rubber band. Where's that when the main character in a story has just done some great and uncharacteristic feat of strength, I ask you?

What brought this on? As I've said before, this past week I competed in a Spartan Super race with my brother. For those who want to learn more about this kind of race, see the link here.

Anyway, I spent months preparing as best I could (spoiler alert: it wasn't enough) to race with my brother. The race itself would be 7.6 miles and would have 24 obstacles. The obstacles differ from race to race, and some are surprises for the racers. Here are some pictures that should give you an idea of what kind of race it is:



An obstacle race. A hard-core obstacle race. If you fail an obstacle, you have to do 30 burpees. I preferred the obstacles.

My brother loves these races, and this year I agreed to do one with him. Like I said, I spent a lot of time preparing, but the day of the race came and I wasn't able to do a pull-up yet. I knew there'd be walls, so how would I manage to get over them?

The race day was nice. It was a sunny day, warm but not sweltering, in Eden, UT. David, my brother, and I got to the race area early, where we watched the elites (the best of the best) finish. Our heat would start later. While there, we saw that the Tyro (crawling along a rope) and the rope climb itself were the last 2 obstacles. They're also two of the hardest. Joy.

The race itself is typically wet and muddy, but perhaps because of the venue (mountains in Utah), there wasn't much water. I mean that; in the last mile, we had our last water station before having to complete 10-11 more obstacles, and the hardest at that. I was parched before we finished three of them, with no water coming except some we had to wade through (not fit for drinking).

Most of the race was spent hiking/running up and down the ski mountain we were on. The trails were shady, overall, but layered with either long grass that became slippery when flattened or at least an inch of loose brown dirt that filled the air when stepped in and coated every inch of us in dirt. So, overall, it was dry, dusty, full of changes in elevation and incline, and while we had plenty of water at the beginning of the race, the end had almost nothing when, I felt, we needed it most.

Seriously, I can't remember being as thirsty as I was when the race ended. It had gone beyond "dry mouth, dry throat" and had become an urge I felt down to my soul. I felt like I couldn't get enough water, even when my mouth felt moistened again.

Here are the obstacles we completed, as my brother and I remember them:

* - I needed my brother's help to finish this one
# - Failed this one, did 30 burpees

*Climbing over a wall into corral - This comes before the race even starts
Climbing over hurdles - Hurdles are about 5-6 feet high.
Over-Under-Through - Over a wall (5-6'), under a wall, through a hole.
Two shorter walls - 5-6'
*7' wall - David boosted me over this wall.
Memorizing word and numbers - This was an intellectual challenge, but you still had to do burpees if you failed it. David and I helped each other
Inverted wall - Wall leans toward you. It had handholds, so I was fine.
A-frame (with nets on top of mountain) - High, but not hard. Basically climbing up and down a big net.
Plate drag - Sit down and haul a plate with a weight toward you with a rope. Then drag the plate back to position.
Traverse wall - Rock wall, but you go sideways and the wall bends.
Uneven monkey bars - I can say confidently that I was good at this one. A worker said I had perfect form.
Sandbag carry - Carry a sandbag a distance. We went down a part of the mountain and back up.
Barbed wire uphill - Crawl under barbed wire. This one hurt. I have scratches all over my arms and knees from this. At least I didn't get a gash from the wire (some elites did, and they were bleeding pretty good.)
Bucket carry - Fill a bucket to a set level with rocks. Carry it a distance.
[Last water station]
#Javelin throw - One shot to hit a dummy with a spear. Most people fail this one.
#Rings - Like the monkey bars, but with rings, knotted rope, softballs, and bars. It was uphill. A lot of people failed this one too.
-Recited memorized code-
Atlas carry - Carry a heavy rock a distance, do 5 burpees, and carry it back. I struggled with this one.
"Slippery" rope wall - Go through mud, grab a rope and use it to help you climb up a slanted wall.
Barbed wire downhill - Same as the other, but downhill. I rolled most of it, but some wires were so low I had to shimmy under on my back.
In mud water, going under wall, then briefly wading through more mud water - This was nice. We were in water, and the wall was easy to go under.
Herc hoist - Sit down and use a rope and pulley to lift and lower a weight to a certain height.
*A-frame with wall and slats - Slanted wall, then slats up and down. David helped me over the wall part.
*Tyro - Hang from a rope and slide along it to reach a bell. I fell off twice before David helped me stay on.
#Rope climb - Exactly what it sounds like. We both had to sit and gather energy before we could consider this one, but we were both so spent we ended up doing burpees.
Logs - Races traditionally end with racers jumping over fire, but since this one was so dry, it was probably a fire hazard. So we jumped over cold logs.
So, that was the race. We finished tired, thirsty, and dirty, but pleased with ourselves.


I'm not that tan. That's dirt. It took me a while to fully wash it all off.
And once I did? I discovered all kinds of bruises and scratches I didn't realize I was getting.
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Yep, that's all from the race. I don't know if they're from the barbed wire crawl or climbing over walls or from the Atlas rock. Probably all combined.
But, as hard as it was, and as tiring and dry and painful, I kind of enjoyed the Spartan. I don't know if I'll do it again (ask me again when I'm rested), but I feel like I put myself to the test and came out proving that I was strong and capable. The hurt is a good hurt.

My favorite thing about this race was the lack of ugly competition. The elites race first, and they are eligible to win prizes. All other heats are normal people who just want to complete the race. So it doesn't matter who comes in before you. This leads to a super friendly race where, if the obstacle allows it, you can help others or get help from others.

It was a very positive experience. No one rushes past others in a competitive way; everyone is there to compete against themselves. So, you have perfect strangers giving and asking for help. I see it as a metaphor for how life is and should be. Everyone finishes at their own pace and the prize is the same for everyone. The race itself is about being your best self and about helping those around you on their way. For that, I can see myself racing this again.

Better heal up first, though. It hurts to move my arms. It hurts to straighten them.

Before I end, lots of love and gratitude to my brother David for getting me to compete with him and for helping me through all the obstacles. I couldn't have done it without you!

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