The honest truth is that I never really wanted to do a “mud run.” Most people know that I am a girly girl. A simple peak at my website or into my closet will attest to the fact that I like a feminine assortment of colors and things. I have always balanced my athleticism and femininity by doing road races or triathlons, which I find appeals to the best of both worlds for me, allowing me to be sporty and to bling out on fun colors along the way. My tri bike is custom painted pepto bismal pink and I have all the gear to match, making me a flying dash of pinkness on the road. Getting muddy simply hadn’t been in the books for me, despite the pleadings of various friends to join them for a selection of adventure races.
Then, a few months ago, Matt B. Davis of Obstacle Racing Media interviewed me on his podcast show Matt B. Davis Runs. As any great show host does, Matt did his research on me and knew that I pride myself on always doing what I say I am going to do. On the air he popped the question. Trish, you should do an obstacle race sometime. Will do you one if I help arrange the details? To which I casually answered, Sure, Matt!, to be countered by a follow up reminder by him right there on the air that I always do what I say I’m going to do. The deal was sealed. He had me. I do always do what I say I’m going to do, and I had casually said I would do an obstacle race, and so I had to follow through.
My husband Brandon and I picked the Spartan Race in Wintergreen, Virginia mostly because it was close by and because we were familiar with Wintergreen from wintertime snowboarding. We met up with Matt and a great crew of Spartan racers the night before our Sunday race to be bombarded with horror tales of just how steep and brutal the course was from their own experience that day. Matt even apologized for introducing me to obstacle racing with a course like this. It was going to be abnormally challenging, so I went to bed after three glasses of wine to quell my nerves.
Since I was plunging into the unknowns of a new sport, I needed to stick to my traditional race day uniform. I lined up in the starting shoot in pink shorts, a purple top, pink CEP compression socks and purple Nikes. When I crossed the finish line some 2 hours and 41 minutes later, I was completely brown. The makeup I had put on ran down my face and didn’t make it to the finish. Between the barbwire crawl, mud pits, log carries and water obstacles along the way, looking pretty wasn’t to be cards for me. All of the other elite girls I lined up with for the start looked tough. They had trail shoes, cool body markings, camelback hydration backpacks and determination in their eyes. Feeling out of place I swallowed my nerves and let my body take over when the race gun went off.
It was a race for billy goats. Up and down, up and down, up and down we went, climbing well over 8,000 feet in elevation for what seemed like hours on end. The trails were technical and steep, and the uphills felt endless. The black diamond slopes I had so often admired while snowboarding showed me a new type of pain as I crawled and pushed my body up them over and over again. It was a pain fest. Eight and half miles has never taken me so long in my life, and I loved it.
At the point when I thought my body was done, my willpower kept me moving. When the downhills went from steep slopes to dangerously steep rock laden trails, my fellow racers kept me balanced and gave me a hand up when I fell. Finally, when I wanted to give up, I remembered something else Matt B. Davis told me and it ignited a fire in my heart. Previously in the week when discussing race strategy with him, he told me that it would be highly unlikely for me to podium. Even though I am fiercely competitive by nature, he told me how tough other Spartan girls are and to count myself lucky if I place in the top ten.
In total, the Spartan Race had over 20 obstacles One of the ways Spartan distinguishes themselves from other brands of obstacle racing is that they take their obstacles seriously. If you fail an obstacle, even upon first attempt, you must complete 30 burpees, observed by referees, before moving on. The really great racers complete the course without doing any burpees. Not me though, but thus is the price you pay for being a virgin at the sport. Even worse though is that I failed at what are considered three of the easiest obstacles: the monkey bars, the spear throw and the transverse wall. I paid the price of 90 burpees. Luckily I’ve lied to myself enough over the years to believe that I love burpees, so I embraced them and kept my eye on staying as competitive on the course as possible.
Matt’s unintentional challenge about the podium was the juice that I needed to get me through the rest of the course and when I eventually found myself within eyesight of the finish, I had just passed the 2nd place elite female. Jumping over a fire pit to launch myself towards the finish line, I claimed the 2nd place spot and promptly found a resting spot on the ground to recover. Brandon crossed shortly thereafter and we hobbled our way off the mountain top to celebrate and refuel ourselves at a local brewery.
My Spartan experience refreshed my spirit. It gave my heart the opportunity to engage and ignite the willpower needed to prove to yourself that your body can always do more than you think it can. Push yourself and give your heart the opportunity to follow through on adventure, because I promise, you won’t ever regret it.
PPS: If you’re a Spartan Competitor yourself, I’d love to hear what your favorite courses are and why YOU love being a Spartan! Congrats to everyone who finished the course in Wintergreen, it was no joke!