In February 2015, as I crossed the finish line at the Arizona Spartan Sprint, I remember channeling my inner-Apollo Creed – from the original Rocky movie – symbolically raising my arms and saying “Ain’t gonna be no rematch.”
I had just finished about 4.8 miles of hell in the desert with about 23 obstacles. I was bruised, in pain, a little sun burned and it wasn’t very fun. Yeah, the goal was completed and I was certainly proud of the accomplishment, but at the time I saw no reason to ever do it again.
Yet this past weekend, as early onset Alzheimer’s had apparently kicked in, I found myself once again at the starting line at the Southern California Spartan Sprint screaming “I am Spartan!” waiting for the starter to send me off on another tour of hell.
This time, however, was different.
Colby and the Trifecta
This time I ran with Colby, a 14-year old who had already ran the Spartan Super (8+ miles) and if that wasn’t enough, just the day before, the 14-mile Spartan Beast. By finishing the Sprint that day, he was completing what’s simply known in the OCR world as the “Trifecta”. In many ways I was in awe of this kid.Not many racers earn the coveted Trifecta and certainly not many 14-year olds. Yet here he was was accomplishing what I still consider near-impossible while feeling fortunate enough to be along for part of the ride.
I took away three important things from running with Colby: One. I liked listening to his stories from the 14-mile, 5+ hour, Beast. I mean, if I’m ever to earn my own Trifecta I need to know what I’d be getting myself into, right? Two, the noticeable swelling of pride as he got closer to the finish line knowing his Trifecta was truly within reach. And three, witnessing a wonderful father-son moment as his dad was there at the finish line to hand him his third, and final, medal.
Later, watching him pull out his Super and Beast medals – and combining them with his newly earned Sprint medal to form the Trifecta – I have to admit, I was a little jealous. He had done, at age 14, something I don’t think I could’ve done at that age and something I’m not so sure I can do at 45.
“Respect” doesn’t begin to describe what Colby has earned. Not only from me but from the whole OCR community. Aroo, kid!
The Twins and the Spartan Kids Race
This day also marked the second Spartan Kids Race the twins ran this year; their third overall. Yet this time they stepped up from the half-mile race and conquered the full mile course running over walls, through mud, up and down a few hills, the spear throw, a sand bag carry and a few more I’m sure I’m forgetting.
Unfortunately, they went off at the same time as Colby and I so I missed it. Yet I’m told that Twin #1 was in his element; my wife said that he seemed to have a look of pure joy flying down the hills despite gravity doing everything it could to take him out.
And in a moment that truly makes me proud, I was told how Son #2 immediately went to the aid of a young girl who had fallen; asking if she was ok and if there was anything he could do to help her out. This is very common at obstacle course races but I’m not sure how common it is coming from an 8-year old. As parents, that might be the number one lesson we try to teach our kids: to put others ahead of yourself. Our son did it that day proving that, perhaps, we are doing something right with this whole raising-a-kid thing…
True Grit at the Finish
Spartan Race – and obstacle course racing in general, I guess – seems to focus a lot on teamwork, community, grit, determination, etc. It’s a sport where people of all shapes, sizes, abilities and backgrounds come together to achieve, essentially, the same goal. It’s not about winning; it’s about accomplishment.
It’s not uncommon to hear of amputees, cancer survivors, recovering addicts, overweight people – all of us essentially – using OCR as a means to let the world know we won’t be beat; that no matter what life throws at us – we’ll simply wad it up and throw it right back.
That’s sort of what we do; a mind-set where throwing in the towel really isn’t an option.
As I stood at the finish line with my wife, twins, Colby and his parents regaling stories of weekend – we heard a crescendo of applause as a woman was being carried across the finish line by medical personnel and a few other racers. She was immediately put on the ground, worked on and then carried off on a stretcher.
Upon further review, it turns out she had broken her leg.
Obviously I don’t know where on the course or when, exactly, she got hurt but I can easily envision the conversation that took place:
Man: “What happened!?!”
Woman: “I don’t know. I think I broke my foot!”
Man: “Alright. Hold on. Let me get the medic.”
Medic: “It’s broke alright. Let’s get you off the course and get this looked at.”
Woman: “Fuck that! I didn’t come all this way to quit.”
Medic: “Ma’am. Your foot is broken. We have to address this now.”
Woman: “Listen lady! I’m going to cross that finish line if I have to hop, crawl or be carried. Now (looking around at the others), you can either help me or get the hell out of my way.”
And you know what? She has a point. Her leg is going to be broken whether she crosses the finish line or not. Why not finish the race?
And the final verdict…
As of right now, both my mind and body are in full agreement: Apollo Creed had it right. There will be no rematch. It just seems asinine to want to climb a mountain, carry a heavy bucket of rocks up and down a hill, and do burpees. Maybe I should just stick to the easier OCR options.
Then again, we all know Sylvester Stallone should’ve stopped at Rocky II. Or Rocky III. Or Rocky IV. Or Rocky V. Or Balboa. Or Creed.
Hmmmm. Maybe there are a few more sequels in me yet…