Last year I accomplished a big goal of mine – earning my Spartan Trifecta. For those who aren’t familiar a Spartan Race is an Obstacle Course Race (OCR). The Trifecta consists of three races:
- Sprint – 3-5 miles
- Super – 8-10 miles
- Beast – 12-15 miles
I completed my Beast last year on my 45th birthday. I made a crucial mistake after that race. I didn’t rest and recovery enough. Because of that it set off 10 months of health issues and injuries.
The first few months I dealt with horrible asthma and breathing issues. I finally got checked by an asthma doctor and found out I had really bad allergies to basically everything I’m around daily. She asked me to stop working out because of the stress on my heart from the laborious breathing. Finally, the meds starting working and I was given the okay to workout.
10 days later I fell running a trail and sprained my ankle. As I sat there and cried I felt a lot of frustrations. I wondered just how long it would be before I could workout again. I got myself up, found a stick, and hobbled 1.5 miles back to my car. Six weeks recovery ordered by my physical therapist.
Almost six weeks to the day I was out walking and stepped on a wet rock. And there goes my knee. I knew it was bad. It was the worst pain I had experienced in a long time. I, again, had to get back to my car. I was worried I would need surgery but thankfully the MRI showed nothing was torn. So off to physical therapy I went. It was slow-going. I felt like it would never get better. It was a month before I could even turn over in bed without pain. I asked them about my upcoming Spartan Sprint – the only one I had registered for this year – and they were confident they could get me there. 2x a week I went and endured the pain. When I would complain the response was, “You’ll thank me when you’re running!” Finally, they gave me the okay to start running. But even that was slow as I kept having pain.
Just two weeks ago, doing a kettle bell swing, my knee hurt tremendously. I stopped, did a different exercise, and more pain. I stopped all workouts. I almost decided to not run the race. But I was determined. I love goals. And just went ahead with it. I would be racing alone. That doesn’t bother me anymore. I didn’t want anyone holding me back or pushing me too hard.
Now all of these things are physical issues. But through the past ten months I had personal set backs as well. I won’t go into deep details but I was in a lot of personal pain. Anxiety. Depression. And, at times, wondering if anyone cared at all. I was ready to quietly exit people’s lives knowing they wouldn’t miss me. And then came the realization that someone important in my life had some mental issues that caused them to hurt me repeatedly. I had to cut them out to save myself. Cutting someone out of your life isn’t easy. Especially when they are the one you rely on to encourage you, support you, and you do the same for them. But when they aren’t capable of being that way without causing you pain you have to make the hard decisions. As I look back over the past 10 months, as much physical pain I endured, this was worse. I never shared how close I was to just wanting to die.
Yesterday I drove to the race. I wasn’t nervous. I had a plan: to walk the race. I figured I would take it easy. As the race started I jogged. And I felt good. I walked up the hills. I ran down the ones I could. I ran when it was flat. I made it through all the non-grip strength obstacles. And I did modified burpees. And I finished faster than I ever have. When I crossed that line I felt amazing. I knew that I could put the past 10 months behind me and have a fresh, new start. I feel like I can move forward with my fitness and get back to where I was last year.
One of the ideas promoted by Spartan Race is that the body is stronger than we think. And that if we can train our minds to get past the immediate pain or uncomfortabless we can do amazing things. I tested that yesterday and it was true. As I trudged up the hill holding the bucket, breathing harder than ever, my mind took over and I didn’t stop. I made it to the dumping of the rocks and it felt like I dumped the past 10 months with it. It can be done.
So now I push forward and start a new story!
Two down, one to go. I have completed a Spartan Sprint and a Spartan Super. I only have the Spartan Beast to complete so I can earn my Trifecta for 2016. I remember the moment I decided to embark on this journey. It came from a dark place but gave me hope. It encouraged me that I was something more…something special.
I don’t want to say that the Sprint was easy but it was certainly easy compared to the Super. It was 4.75 miles and I completed it in 2:35. That was slower than I had in my mind. However, I stayed with some members of our gym to encourage and help if needed. In the beginning they looked out for me. I was anticipating problems with breathing due to the heat but as we progressed through the first mile I realized I was fine. Strong and fine.
I think if I had just ran the race on my own I would have finished quite a bit faster. I would have ran a few more hills and I wouldn’t have had to wait for anyone to finish burpees. I guess it is in my nature to want to be encouraging and helpful. And so I am. I am not very selfish in races but I definitely will be next year. I will want to see if I can shatter that 2:35 time and really shine. Or at least come in the top 10% in my age group.
I am still a work in progress. I will need to improve heavily in my upper-body strength. I have come a long ways but will feel successful when I can climb a rope or do the monkey bars.
Still – I’m pretty proud of myself. I had been feeling pretty dejected about my fitness and my progress. I had been second-thinking my training and wondering, daily, if I had been doing enough. I guess I have been and that makes me feel pretty good.