This past Sunday, I completed my 11th Spartan Race. Every race – from Spartan to Rugged Maniac – seems to have a story to tell; memories that stay with you forever.
You always remember your first. Then there was the time I sort of shadowed a special needs adult with this family. Last year I witnessed the Spartan Para Championships. And I will never forget the countless times strangers came together on the course to help a fellow athlete (including my own 8-year old son.)
Sunday, however, is a day that immediately shot its way near the top of the list. That day, my wife did her first Spartan Race and indeed, there is a story to tell.
I do not say this to invoke sympathy or to put unneeded attention on my wife. She would not want that. However, it is important to understand the big-picture situation. My wife has psoriatic arthritis and, unfortunately, she just happened to be in a rare flare up at the time of the Spartan. For the past week or so, her hands have been swollen and painful. Her grip strength almost non-existent. To add to that, she was being asked to hike close to four miles in the desert while climbing and carrying stuff.
She had asked about deferring to a future race but in the end it was decided to just STFU (Spartan the Fuck Up).
“Remember, getting to the starting line is harder that getting to the finish line.”
– Joe DeSena (Spartan Race founder)
I must say, when she climbed over the 5′ wall – just to get to the starting line – I was about as close to giddy as one could get without actually crossing the line of being giddy. To quote comedian Ron White, “It’s gonna be a good day, Tater!”
The Spartan Sprint is billed as a 3.1 mile course with 20+ obstacles (though Sunday was 3.97 miles). On that day, I knew she was not going to be able to do any obstacle that required grip strength (i.e. the monkey bars, inverted wall, z-walls, etc.) and that was totally fine.
Like a boss, however, she carried the sandbag, completed that bucket carry, came damn close to hitting her spear throw, crawled under barbed wire, completed the A-frame cargo climb and flipped a big-ass tire.
Spartan Race’s tagline is “You’ll know at the finish line.” It is a great answer to a lot of the questions about why people do these types of races.
After jumping the fire and crossing that line – along with the inevitable selfie of her smile and finishers medal – I think my wife knew.
Any of us (then again maybe it is just me) who have done a Spartan or just about any other OCR have had moments where we question why, the hell, are we doing this? Why would anyone pay good money to spend a Sunday afternoon trekking through hills and desert terrain and climb over obstacles when napping on the couch seems much more preferable? I do it just about every race though I have to admit, it is quite amusing when it comes from others.
“No fucking way! Another hill? What the hell are they trying to do to us?”
“Seriously. I hate rocks. When we get home we’re pulling all the rocks out of the yard and are putting in grass!”
“Uh uh. You told me we were almost done a half hour ago! This is bull shit.”
…and so it went. And that does not includes the whining afterwards, as the soreness kicked in, the groans while getting out of the car, walking around the house, going up the stairs and waking up the next morning. Though to be fair and balanced (cough, cough), I was complaining just as much.
I asked her after the race what she thought of it all and received a near-death glare and was told “Don’t ask me that until at least Wednesday.”
Nevertheless, the 2020 Arizona Spartan Sprint was a shared experience that neither one of us will forget. To say that I was proud of what she accomplished is an understatement.
Will she do another one? I do not know. Though I suspect that is another question I cannot ask until “…at least Wednesday”. If not next month. Or maybe next year.