As you may know, last Sunday I ran in a race called the Spartan Beast with my husband, Ryan, and his sister, Kristin. We had a bunch of friends also running, but most of the group ran on Saturday morning, and another friend ran Sunday at a different heat (time released over the starting line). The race is listed as being 13+ miles and 25+ obstacles… well, that 13+ miles actually ended up being 15. Not exaggerating, this race was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life as far as physical endurance. It was also the most rewarding experience ever to cross that finish line (I definitely told the guy who hung my medal around my neck that he is my favorite person… he had the best job of the day).
Ryan and Kristin both started cramping up around mile 5. When that happened, we all knew it was going to be a long race, haha. They are champs for finishing strong despite the constant pain. I trained pretty hard in the running aspect, which is why I think I didn’t cramp up much. The only time I did was when we had to climb over some walls. I pointed my toe hard, trying to reach for the top of the wall, and my right calf went crazy. Then, when I swung my leg around the top the glute on the same leg started cramping, too. Let me tell you, it’s quite an experience to cramp up at the top of a 10ft wall made out of 2x4s. Not a whole lot of places to go up there, haha.
The most difficult thing for me during this race was how unbelievably cold the water was. There were at least 5 obstacles with water, the first being only about a mile into the race. After that first dunk, I was literally shivering for the rest of the day. Could not get warm. They told us the water was somewhere around 17 degrees, and when the breeze blew through that was pretty miserable. One obstacle was to walk thigh deep (which we all know means hip deep to me, really) through 150 yards of water. I made it maybe 30 yards and had to get out because I felt pain everywhere, even in my teeth! It was almost paralyzing. The penalty for any obstacle you don’t complete on the first try is 30 burpees, and at that point, I was looking forward to the burpees just to warm up a bit (that was probably about 10 miles in).
A close runner up on difficulty was the bucket carry. We did this twice – once at mile 4, and again at mile 13ish. The first bucket carry was pretty rough. Please do not think I’m exaggerating one bit, haha. We had to fill up a paint bucket with little rocks and carry it up a steep, rocky hill, and back down. It was so heavy and so steep that people were catching each other from falling on the way up. The girls’ buckets weighed 50-60lbs and the guys’ weighed about 70lbs. I’m glad I didn’t know that while we were doing this obstacle… that is more than half my weight, y’all. The buckets were so awkward to carry, and my fingers felt like they were going to fall off. One of the volunteers told me that since the first bucket carry was so difficult, a lot of people quit – a mile and a half from the finish line – when they saw the second bucket carry. The second was not as steep, but you’re also pretty tired at that point. We made the mistake of not bringing any snacks with us, so we were STARVING half way through the race. I think that’s mostly why we were so tired. I felt as light as a feather. At the very end I couldn’t even grip the rope to complete the final rope climb. I did get the first rope climb, which was a thinner rope, meaning more difficult grip, so I’m ok with that. :)
My favorite parts of the race were obstacles like the tire flip. I don’t even know how much that thing weighed, but it was up to my shoulders when standing on its tread (which is about 4ft, haha). It’s actually easier than you think it is going to be, making you feel pretty bad (bad = awesome). We had to flip the tire several times to cross a line, and then flip it back. Another obstacle I’m proud of is the uneven monkey bars. When we did the Sprint, I wore gloves when I attempted and slipped because everything is so muddy and wet. This time, I was determined to make it, and I’m proud to say I did. It’s kind of empowering when you complete an obstacle that military men twice your size are struggling on. The team dynamic was so great, too. It’s funny because you’re all suffering together, so everyone helps each other and encourages each other. Even during the bucket carry, I got up to the top only to be greeted by smiles from strangers who had made it up before me and were taking a rest. I also was caught many times by people while sliding downhill in the mud and unable to stop, haha. We were all so proud of each other and so determined to keep each other moving forward. Just a small whisper of, “don’t stop, you’ve got this” as you pass someone on the trail helps them believe they can do it.
Well, this turns out to have been somewhat of a complaining fest, but in all honesty, I’m glad I did it. That’s the farthest I’ve ever run in one day, and the farthest I’ve ever pushed myself to the limits. Climbing over the very last wall to see the finish line was one of the best things I’ve ever laid eyes on. At this point, I don’t see myself ever signing up for a Beast again, but we’ll see as time passes. :) The Sprint (5 miles) and Super (8+ miles) sound so much better. I think I’ll stick with those for now.
I’m running the Chevron Houston Half Marathon in January, and I’m looking forward to flat surfaces, 13 ACTUAL miles, and not having to carry any extra weight with me. Unless it pours down rain like last year’s marathon, it should be pretty fun. :)
Even though during the race there were some points where I felt so miserable and questioned my choice to take on the challenge, finishing was THE best feeling ever. No pain lasts forever, and I surprised myself with how much I could endure and how far my mind can take me even after my body gives out (it definitely became a mental battle towards the end).
What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done? It doesn’t have to be physical exertion. But challenge yourself. Stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone, and push yourself beyond your limits. You’ll be better for it. :)