Saturday, December 29, 2012

Keeping a New Year's Commitment

Keeping a New Year’s Commitment

Many people make a resolution as the new year is rung in to try something new, to do something better, to  improve themselves in some way. Most people actually commit for a while, then about the time January has passed, the old habits take over and the resolution is forgotten for yet another year.

I used to be one of those people. Year after year my resolution was to lose weight and get fit. Every year I’d start off with a bang and then by the end of January I’d find myself a pound heavier.

Not last year, 2012 was a different year for me. For starters I didn’t make a 2012 resolution. I didn’t make a change on January first. One year ago today, December 29, I made a decision, a commitment. I decided that I was going to do Spartan Race’s WOD (workout of the day) every single day no matter what from now until my very first Spartan Race on March 9. Two and a half months of exercise and training. Two and a half months was not as overwhelming as twelve months.

So with March 9 circled on my calendar, I developed a plan. I’d go to bed after I read the next day’s WOD, after I had a plan of what the training would be and where and how I’d do it. I decided to start on Dec. 30 as it wouldn’t really be a new year’s resolution then.

Day after day I trudged through those workouts. Each week the exercises got easier in the sense that they were becoming part of my routine and my body was headed in the direction of my goals.

March 9 came and went. I was pleased with my accomplishments and decided to commit even longer.  I am still doing WODs every day, now often twice a day. I no longer have to plan the night before. My body and mind are always ready for another WOD. I now have to plan to REST and NOT exercise.

You too, can find success in your goals for the New Year. Set a short term goal and DECIDE you are going to do it. Find people, websites, programs that will be of encouragement to you.  Happy 2013, you CAN accomplish your goals.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Things I Learned From Spartan Race 2012

1.    Stay on course
I have gone off the course this year more than I have stayed on course. These deviations have cost me quite a bit. Valuable time was lost, extra placement, and in Vermont, this cost me the opportunity to complete the Ultra Beast. When running a Spartan race, if you don’t see the Spartan tape, you’re not on course. It’s that simple. From what I can tell, there are only two races where I stayed on course the entire race, Malibu and Mississippi. Thanks to my Weeples in Malibu for yelling at me when I went the wrong way. :)

2.    Learn how to do a pull-up
When I started my Spartan season this year, I couldn’t do a pull-up. I also couldn’t climb a rope, and it was pretty tough to get over walls. My arms were completely gone by the end of a race from penalty burpees. If you can’t do a pull up, start practicing. I hung a pull-up bar in my bedroom doorway. Every time I walked through the door, I’d try to do one. Eventually, I learned to do a few. I’m still working on it, they only get “easier” with practice. 

3.    Burpess are your friend
You’ll have to do them, learn to do them. A set or two of burpees (30 burpees is the penalty for missing an obstacle in a Spartan race,) can really wear out your arms. Do burpees often and it will hurt less. It will still hurt, it will just hurt a little less. Well, maybe not. 

4.    Love your competition
I stood at the start line at the Temecula Spartan Super in January 2012 in a crowd full of strangers. I stood at the start line at the Glen Rose Spartan Beast in December 2012 in a group of my closest friends. Everyone can use some encoragement, and throughout the course in Texas my friends were cheering for me, as I was cheering for them. At the finish, we congratulate each other and hug. It’s great to have a group of friends to race with, (see #5).

5.    Race with friends
It’s always more fun to run with a group. Your friends will help encourage you along the way, and penalty burpeees suck less when you’re in good company. Running with friends also gives you the support you’ll need to make it through your first Spartan race. 

6.    Spartan is a “runners race”
If you can’t run, (or walk) for a while, start practicing. I often hear, “That was a runner’s course.” In fact, most Spartan races are running races. You’ll need the ability to sustain yourself for a while on a walk/run. Start training one step at a time. 

7.    Anything is possible
Never underestimate your abilities. The finish line is not easy to reach, but will bring you a sense of accomplishment like you have never felt before. Good luck!

Click here to sign up for a Spartan race:

To run with the Weeple Army, (voted best running group in Los Angeles) check out our FB page at:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Saying Goodbye to 2012

It is tough to summarize the end of my racing season. With three races in the last four weeks, my weekends have been packed with the air of Sparta. The Sac Beast was cold and rainy with relentless wind, pitted mud, and straw thick under foot. My hometown race, the Malibu Sprint, was rainy as well. When typically dry Southern California was drenched with rain for days prior to the race, a muddy course was easily delivered. The tough hills in Calamigos Ranch were slick and unforgiving as I trudged through two more cold wet days of racing. Four days later I boarded a flight to Texas to be reunited with many friends I had not seen since my wayward weekend in Killington Vermont. 

As we stood at the starting line on Saturday morning, facing a course that Mike promised would deliver Spartan’s best; I looked at the faces that surrounded me. A little over a year ago I ran my first Spartan race. A little over a year ago all of these people were strangers to me. Now, as I looked to the Spartans on my left, and the Spartans on my right, we ran into our battle united as a team.

I remembered the first time I spoke with Andi Hardy on the phone, inviting her to spend the weekend with my family in Utah for the Beast. I remembered the first time I met Corinne Kohlen, volunteering at the Spartan Super in Arizona. 

I looked further to each side and saw more familiar faces. These were the people that were my greatest competitors. The people that I wanted to beat to the finish line at the end of the day, but also the people that I shared my days and nights with. We had stayed out many a night, and slept late into the morning. We had jumped in lakes, stood around fires, and huddled together in the pouring rain to warm our bodies. We had helped each other limp across the finish and wipe the blood off our broken and bruised bodies. We shared some of the roughest times in our lives and but also in each other’s greatest joys. 
After less than a year I was innately connected to each and every one of these individuals in some way, having shared so much more than just a race. We had not only raced together, but to also encouraged each other along the way, through our strong moments, and at our worst. The racers that stood beside me were my family, and for the last time racing in 2012, I was reminded how lucky I was to be a part of the Spartan community. I have gained not only everlasting friendships, but also a family that runs thicker than blood. A family that will continue to love and support me through so much more than just racing. -Ang

Monday, December 10, 2012

I am not the World's Toughest Mudder!!

The time has come, the time is now, to move beyond, to race again…..

You have to have a few “bad” races to appreciate the good ones.  You have to be beat down to really appreciate how tall you can stand… here it goes….


There is so much to say about Worlds Toughest Mudder (WTM) that this will have to be a multipart write up. This is the raw, emotional part of my WTM experience. It is a long read and kinda sorry but it’s what happened. The next installments will be much better, and educational as I will talk about all my new friends I met along the way, the awesome athletes I saw on the course, my amazing support both on course and online, my gear, and the good, bad, and the uglies :)

So here it goes.

Last year I was too traumatized to write about my experiences. This year I am not. I have already let go of the night, the dream, the pain, the glory, the cold, and the isolation. Letting go of it all so easily leads me to think it wasn't really as meaningful to me as I had imagined it would be, feared it would be, and thought it was.


If you haven't heard the news I am not the worlds toughest mudder and dropped out at my favorite spot - the 4.5 lap mark. In many ways it was almost a complete deja vu of last year. I choose to drop out, I could have waited out the night, could have pushed through the cold and the pain but I simply didn't want it bad enough. I had come to WTM 2012 to win, not to "finish" as many others had. I think I may have been able to add a total of 3 more laps during the night and likely long after the 24th hour but that would not have been enough, not even close!

In some ways the decision to drop out was easy, but in some ways it was very painful. My demise started about mile 8 of the 4th lap (38 miles total), probably somewhere around 11pm, on the "lake side" of the course. I had finished swimming across the lake, hopping across the floating islands, swimming under the barrels, and climbing up the ever so difficult and treacherous cargo net with numb hands. The obstacles were beginning to ice over, the "mud mile" was ridiculously slimy and I seemed to be the only one sliding in and out of the mud trenches. My legs didn't want to bend anymore and I was getting stuck in each mud trench. After about 11 hours of fighting the resistance of a compression 5mm wetsuit my joints were jello. I lifted knees instead of feet, literally crawled and rolled between the trenches. I felt alone. I started getting frustrated. Frustrated that I was cold, frustrated that I wasn't even close to the leader, frustrated that my hands were swollen (again), frustrated that I wasn't keeping it together mentally. I started making animalistic grunting noises in attempts to avoid an all out scream or cry. I grunted, signed, groaned with each step. I tried to turn off my meltdown button and thought of all the people that inspire me, I pictured the poster in my tent. I thought about my dad and began saying out loud "Padre", "Padre", "Padre". Before the race I imagined that thinking of him looking down on me and being proud of me would give me strength...but it only made me sad and I cried more and more each time I said his name. Clearly that strategy wasn't working and so I blocked him out of my mind. I emerged from the mud mile defeated, crawled my way under electroshock therapy without getting shocked and ran the mile to the "finish line".


At the finish to my 4th lap the medic asked me how I was doing. I could barely speak. Partly because I had just tried to push back about an hour of crying, partly because I had two wetsuit hoods literally compressing my jawline upward into my face and forcing my mouth shut. I told him I was OK but my feet were cold. "What are you going to do about it" he so condescendingly asked. I asked if there was hot water and he directed me to a med tent which the prior year I had spent many hours in. The med tent sent me away, told me I couldn't come in without being disqualified and that there was hot water in the middle of the tent pit area. I felt a small burst of energy and headed through the "pit" to my tent. I had a plan. I would pour hot water on my feet and shoes until I could feel them, pour water on my gloves until they were clean enough to take off and add another layer of neoprene. There was no hot water anywhere, no one had any idea what I was talking about, 5 empty thermos’s sat on a folding table, and people started to get rude. At this moment I was keeping it together. I grabbed a Tupperware from my tent, filled it with water and went to heat it up in the one microwave. No go. Three other mudders huddled around the ONE pint size microwave and watched it countdown from 5 minutes as it heated up a chef boy or dee noodle cup. I started to get cold. I didn't have time to stand around and wait for the microwave. Time standing meant time freezing. I made a decision. I needed more layers.

In order to put on more layers I had to take off some that I was wearing. I ripped off my last muddy pair of gloves, took off my windbreaker and tried to take of my wetsuit vest so I could change the battery in my deeply buried electric rash guard. My arms twisted around my shoulders and I tugged at the vest with all my strength but couldn't get it off... fail. The vest would stay on and I would continue the next lap with a dead battery in my rash guard.

I grabbed my final layer which was a shorty suit, and changed out my windbreaker for a warmer one. My layers now consisted of a 4/5 compression full wetsuit plus 4mm hood, a polypropylene farmer john style battery operated heated rash guard with a dead battery, a 3mm vest/hood combo, a 2/3mm shorty suit, a windbreaker, and my bib. It was clear that my gloves were no longer going to fit as I had barely got them on for the last lap, and they were now caked with mud. I grabbed a pair of wool socks, put them on my hands like gloves so that my thumb was in the heal part of the sock, and my fingers were in the foot part. For a minute I felt proud of my innovation and my hands were relatively warm and dry for the first time in hours. I tried to eat some of my food by my mouth didn't want to chew with my jaws wired shut by neoprene. I drank a Frappuccino and headed out. This time my friend Jeff headed out with me, hobbling along with his hurt ankle and attempting to be whatever "legal" emotional support Tough Mudder would allow.

I did great for about a mile. I don't know what exactly happened but the brief high of crossing the 4 lap finish line ended quickly and by mile 2 of the 5th lap I was melting down again. This time I couldn't hold back the tears. I felt like I was failing. I felt so badly that I wanted to quit and I knew how easy it would be to quit. I knew that at any time all I had to do was ask for a ride back to the medic tent and I would be done. I wouldn't even have to walk off the course. I wanted to quit so badly but I didn't want to quit. I didn't want to be the same quitter that I was last year. Besides the mileage difference I was at almost the identical point this year to last year. Stuck somewhere between the 4th and 5th lap. If I quit now I felt like it meant that I hadn't learned a thing. I felt like if I were to quit I was no better of an athlete physically or mentally than I had been in 2011 and how pathetic was that??? I cursed myself for being so weak mentally. I cursed myself for not being able to hold it together. I walked so slow, I cried, I whimpered, I walked on. I bent over, hyperventilated, cried, walked some more. I wasn't going to give into the fear of the cold, I wasn't going to let knowing what was to come stop me from moving forward, I wasn't going to be that girl I was last year. I wished Margaret was there with me and I shouted for her out loud. Eventually I covered some distance, I made it over the berlin walls, I carried the cinder block that felt so heavy, I climbed up cliffhanger, I came to the monkey bars. I sat at the top of the hill before the monkey bars contemplating if I could even go down there. I looked at the volunteers and Jeff hoping they would see deep into my eyes and into my soul and see my pain and somehow pluck me off of that hill and rescue me. I sat there for what seemed like an eternity. The volunteers didn't see into my soul, no one rescued me from my own pity.

I wasn't ready to quit. I approached the monkey bars, socks hanging limply off the ends of my hands and I grabbed the first bar. I anticipated that I would immediately fall into the cold water and feel the pain of the night. I didn't. I grabbed the second bar, the third, wholly F I was doing the monkey bars!! My momentum grew and I made it all the way across. Not only had I done this with socks for gloves on lap 5 but by crossing the monkey bars I avoided falling in the water and a 1/8th mile additional walk of shame. I was so high!!! I screamed "That’s how its done!" and walked on. I made it about another 5 minutes before I had to cross the monkey bars again, this time with muddy sock hands, and this time not so successfully. Big downer and the whimpering resumed. I would walk about 20 feet, lean over put my hands on my knees and want to quit. I wanted to shout but didn't have the energy. I cried myself into a coughing fit. I started hacking up mucous so bright green I could see it in the darkness. I felt my lungs burning and could barely catch my breath. I looked at Jeff hoping he would give me some encouraging words, tell me to fight through the pain, tell me I could do it, tell me to go on, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t watch what he was witnessing any longer. I don't blame him.
I walked a little further, my feet numb and frozen, my body shivering.  I came to the devil’s beard. In the daytime this obstacle is easy. At night, alone, it is a pain in the ass. It’s pretty much the equivalent of a human gill net. If there are a lot of people under it, you can push it up and crawl below. If it’s just you, it is heavy, and each knit square of it grabs you and pins you down. I got so tangled. It grabbed my headlamp, my strobe, the stupid bandanas they made me wear, my bib, my shoe. I lied flat under it like a pancake. I felt so defeated. At this time I was really letting the little things get to me. I was getting totally beat by a piece of net, I was acting pathetic! I started breathing hard(er) I moved inches at a time. Finally a group of three passed through the net and helped me out. I rolled out from the net and lay in the dirt looking up at the sky feeling sorry for myself. Oh the negative things that go through my head in these times.... they are like no other.

Again I tried to say the things I said I would say to myself when I wanted to quit: "Its only 24 hours, 1 day of your life, that’s nothing, you don't want the shame of last year, its only cold, its only mud, you can do it, don't quit, be strong, think of all the strong people you know" It didn't work. It didn’t work because I think deep down inside I knew I didn't want it to work. I didn't want to go on. I didn't want to be strong or brave anymore, my heart wasn't in it. I got up from the ground and could see ahead of me "walk the plank", an obstacle that would have me jumping about 15 feet into the water and guarantee that I would be fully submerged. I didn't want to be wet again but knew I couldn't let the water beat me. The fear of, and knowing of, an upcoming water obstacle caused my downward spiral last year. At this moment I had 100% decided that I was leaving this race, but I couldn't let the same "fear" beat me, eat me up, and haunt me like it had last year. I so pathetically approached "walk the plank". I stood at the base of it for minutes just looking at it. I had to do it. I had to jump before I could let myself tap out. I looked at the lifeguard at the base of the water and wondered if they would save me if I didn’t surface.... I wondered if it even mattered. I climbed one knee, then one foot, then one knee, and one foot up the back of the platform. I stood at the edge. All the emotions of the night flooded my mind. All the emotions of 2011 flooded my heart. I took a step back and jumped!

I emerged from the water proud that I had jumped and ready to leave the race. I was done, I didn't love it anymore, I didn't want it anymore, I gave it a solid 14 hours and that was all I had to give. I waived down a volunteer, he cut off my timing chip, and drove me back to the start.....

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Spartan Race Relay Experience

A Spartan Race Relay Experience
New to Spartan Race is the Spartan Race Relay. The first relay of this sort was offered at the Carolina Beast in October of 2012. Injured and sore, I had to refrain from the temptation to earn the yellow medal. A few of my friends gave it a try and had a blast. I was going to make sure I didn’t miss out on the next opportunity.
That opportunity came when I made the difficult decision to run the Sacramento Beast instead of the Fenway Park Time Trials. I was going to Sac to improve my beast score as well as spend time with some of my dearest Spartan friends. Before I even signed up for my individual elite racing heat at 8 AM, I contacted Ang Reynolds and Shane McKay to see it they were up for a relay event together.  It didn’t take long for both of them to reply, “I’m in.” Okay so that was easy.
Now for a name.  Ang and I tossed around a few things, she insisted we have the word “green” in our name in honor of my electrifying favorite color (and the fact that I raced in a color non-other than that.) Ha, that was it Electrifying Green. We just really needed a noun to complete the phrase. In honor of a term my friend Joe had given to me, “Queen of Green,” I had the name figured out. A quick text to Ang, “How about Electrifying Green Royalty?” “That’s it, awesome,” was her reply.  We agreed that we would wear electrifying green clothing and crowns on our heads. We informed Shane of the name and mandatory gear. He was fine with the name and the green gear, but a bit skeptical of the crown.
 I reassured him that these two chicks, particularly Barb Wire 4 Breakfast chicks, don’t go for the usual tiaras with bling. Why we were going to race in none other than Barb Wire Crowns, yes, real barb wire crowns. Shane asked where we would get these and how would we wear them to not bleed our heads. We’d make them of course and we’d wear my signature lime green bandanas underneath them.
We were in for an adventure for sure. Our good friend Joe Kauder was working on putting together a three-person team of his own. However, he decided that he would rather join the Electrifying Green Royalty Team and run the whole three legs supporting, helping, and encouraging us. So, even though this beast offered a three-person relay team, we formed the first four-person relay team.
For two weeks prior to the Sacramento Beast the four of us planned, bent barb wire, and gathered our green. We measured our heads and snipped and tucked barbs. Finally the night before the race, the crowns were revealed. Proudly we each set a shiny silvery, lime ribbon clad halo on our heads admiring the ingenious creative fun which would symbolize our friendship and commitment to our passion of OCR the next day.
All four of us raced our hearts out in the 8 AM elite heat. We finished with pride and full of mud, shivering and soaked we headed to our vehicles to rest and recover for our 1 PM relay calling.  We changed into dry, green clothes and put on our crowns and were off with the smoke bombs. Joe and I started the relay for the first leg. I was ready and biting at the chomp for the heavy obstacles of the first section of the course. We weren’t the fastest runners of the heat, but we sure looked the best, and were probably the happiest because not only were we racing this awesome course in beautiful California again, but we were racing with the dearest of friends. My knees ached; my calves and hips were stiff. I was cold to the core, and the course was nothing but slop, but this was a highlight of the 20 or so races I had competed in this year. Joe encouraged me and stayed with me each step of the way. He didn’t complain about a thing. He held up the tarp of the first obstacle we had to crawl under so our crowns wouldn’t catch. We aroo-d together through the awesome muddy barb wire crawl. He scampered up the rope right with me kicking the bell as I did. How awesome to have a best friend by your side. 
Our teammates, Ang and Shane were yelling encouraging words to us at the top of the mound as we crawled out of the murky water and approached the relay exchange. Ang was ready to go out for her leg of the course. Joe and I traded crowns and made a quick adjustment to head gear and he was off with her. What a great sight. Electrifying green dots made their way through the muck and out of our sight.  Shane and I hung together stretching and keeping warm while we waited for the other half of our team to come back into vision. After about 45 minutes here they were, hopping down a very slick, no longer grassy decline into the traverse wall area. Both Joe and Ang quickly jumped onto the now soaking wet, mud topped wood blocks.
Unfortunately neither could hang on. In fact, I cannot recall one person who could at this point. Burpees for our team. I held the dry clothes and camera while Shane so kindly jumped in on the 30-count. Cold and wet, Ang and Joe faithfully pounded out their penalties. Once number 30 was hit, Shane and Joe were off for the final leg, the longest leg, of the relay.  They helped many a racer on that last leg, stopping when they were needed.
Ang threw on warm dry clothes and we hung out discussing how awesome the course was a second time. We headed to the sandbag hill as I was going to jump in and help either teammate, if need be, to finish the race. The sun finally appeared although the wind had picked up and the temperature had dropped. What a gorgeous place to be on this November day!
We watched racers grab sandbags and gruelingly lug them to the top of the steep hill that no longer supported long golden grasses. Racers in costumes, racers in groups, racers with faces of misery, and even a few racers with half-hearted smiles came and left the area. We yelled and encouraged as we knew how incredibly difficult this last insane incline was while carrying that heavy, wet pancake.  Finally, there they were, our Electrifying Green Royalty princes. Ang grabbed my warm clothes and gear as I stripped down to my racing greens. I nabbed a pancake and joined my teammates for one last climb of glory. The sky was an amazing shade of blue, the clouds hung so heavy, our barb wire crowns sported muck and stray clumps of grass, but each one of us had a huge smile upon our
faces. Even Joe, who was about to complete his 28th mile of the day, cracked a smile. Up and then down that monster of a hill we went with our pancakes. We were quite happy to toss them into the pile at the bottom of the descent as we turned the left hand corner toward the final obstacles.
The three of us finished together with Ang waiting enthusiastically at the finishing mat with our warm clothes. We all hugged in joy and happiness right there in the pig-sty of a finishing corral.
Perhaps for each of us this relay meant different things. For me it was not about winning, or about an insignificant yellow medal to add to my collection but much, more importantly this relay experience meant what Spartan Race has symbolized to me all season: honest, sincere, giving friendships with people who live their lives with true passion, care, and unselfishness for others and this incredible sport.
Thank you Ang, Shane, and Joe for helping me once again live and enjoy my life to the fullest. (And a special thank you to Scott Gregory for being our hidden cheerleader and photographer the whole damn cold, wet, muddy day.)

Sacramento Beast

Which Spartan Race to attend??

Saturday, November 17

I was registered for Spartan Race’s first ever Fenway Park Time Trials in Boston. I had been training on stadium steps, and working hard on upper body strength. I had been preparing for this short, but heavy obstacle race for months. It was MY kind of race, I felt confident that I had a great chance of finishing on the podium. I had my accommodations prepared and plane ticket almost bought. Many of my Spartan friends & family were going to be at Fenway, in fact most of them. But something pulled me to California instead. Beasts aren’t my favorite distance; in fact, I don’t like to run long distances at all. California was a long way from my home in Atlanta, twice the time on a plane, and twice the price for a ticket. It certainly was not driving distance.

What exactly was calling my name? Well…yes, some very special Spartan friends were going to be in Sacramento, Ang Reynolds, Shane McKay, Joe Kauder, Juliana Sproles, and Rosie Jarry to name a few were all going to Sac.  I needed a good performance in a beast for the SR point standings; perhaps this could be my chance. The biggest pull of all was that Thanksgiving holidays fell the following week and I had an opportunity to spend the week with Spartans rather than go back home and spend the week alone.  So one day just a few weeks before the races I found myself with a one way ticket to California.  I was committed to the Beast. I changed my training a bit, although there wasn’t much time to prepare. I would have to count on my previous months of training and racing to pull me through. My previous two beast performances were not exactly to my satisfaction.

I couldn’t take much time off work, most of my vacation and sick days had already been taken for Spartan Races. So my flight was booked for late Friday afternoon. I had the three hour time zone difference in my favor. I’d land in Sacramento at 9 PM, just in time to get to the hotel, get my racing gear lined up, and myself into bed. 

Saturday morning came all too quickly. I was a nervous ball of butterflies and I hadn’t even seen the Spartan flags yet. I managed to swallow a few bites of oatmeal and fruit. I couldn’t decide what gear to wear given the cool morning temperatures and the pouring rain. I threw on several layers and my leaky hydration pack stuffed full of nutrition bars and GU chews. I don’t like to eat while running, but you never know.  I even had a dry shirt packed in a zip-lock bag just in case.

I was thankful that Shane was driving to the venue. I stretched and massaged my tight calves and legs on the way. In my last race and training runs my calves had cramped up. This was just one of my worries about today’s race.

The rain had let up to a sprinkle by the time we arrived at the venue. However the grassy ranch was now one big mucky, mushy mud pit. There wasn’t a dry spot to stretch. Our shoes had an inch of muck caked on the bottom just walking to the start line.  The wind came up and the chill of the overcast day set in. I was already shivering.  I looked at the time, ten minutes to eight.  The first several heats of Fenway would have been over, “Why didn’t I just stick to my original plan?” I asked myself. I would have been finished and changed into warm clothes by now if I had gone to Boston. It was so windy in Sac that a
speaker blew off the stand (and hit me in the head, knocking me off my feet.) The entire sound system went down and therefore our pre-race hype was cut to a minimal shout, “Aroo, Aroo, Aroo, GOOOO.” And we were off, mud splattering and feet slipping everywhere. 14 long miles lay ahead of me. I decided to settle into a comfortable pace that I could maintain throughout, but yet not fall too far behind some of the top women racers. Splat, squish, plop went the muck. I had to stop several times to peel inches of mud from the bottoms of my shoes. I found the heavy clumps to be weighing me down as if I had weights on my ankles. The obstacles were spread out nicely; there was a good mix of steep inclines, muddy declines, and well-marked trails. Most of the race was through grassy ranch land, we were either dodging cow pies or holes in the clay-like terrain. Rain came and stopped, but the wind continued.  It was awesome to race with my best friend, Ang. She encouraged me the whole race. She’d outrun me to an obstacle, where I’d catch her, then she was off out ahead again. As hard as I tried I just couldn’t keep up to her running pace. There is nothing like having a built in cheerleader right on the course with you, though. Ang was so awesome at picking me up when I had thought I’d had enough.
By mile twelve the volunteers began saying, “Almost done, not much left.” Yeah, right. It seemed like forever, like the running would never end. Where was that sandbag carry that I so much looked forward to? Not only was I ready to kill the huge hill, but it was very near the finish line.
As I approached the final turn of the race, I saw Ang doing burpees. She screamed out to me to nail my spear throw and finish strong. The pain of burpees at the end of a race on her face was all I needed to make my spear throw count and jump into the last barb wire mud pit to the slippery wall and gladiators. Only seconds after I finished Ang was right there too. We embraced in one very long happy hug of success! One more race where we had helped each other through the pain and misery. Also waiting at the finish line was Shane, all cleaned up, but ready for a muddy embrace of congratulations and kind words.  Joe and Rosie were there, too, giving us support and showing their loyalty of friendship.  There was no doubt in my mind that I had chosen the right race, I had accomplished my goal to finish a beast in the top five. And there is nothing like finishing one tough physical and mental challenge and having some of your very best friends waiting at the end for you just because they care. What a great Thanksgiving week this was going to be.

~ Andi

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gulf Coast Spartan Race

Andi and I are currently sitting on the couch. I am lucky to have her in L.A. with me for Thanksgiving. We are tired, but several blogs behind, so I am willing my eyes open to write one. My bedroom looks like Kermit the frog exploded in it and I am happy. :) Andi and I spent last weekend in Sacramento racing and the weekend before that in Mississippi. You can read all about the first part of our road trip at: Chris kindly came along to experience all the action and excitement of what we like to call "Ang & Andi's Adventure."

The Gulf Coast was a really amazing race. It was the first time I had ever experienced the culture of the deep south, the first time I ever had a chance to meet my friend Janice in person, and the first time we had ever burned an 8 ft. wall after a race. :) The people of Mississippi were incredibly welcoming. Amazingly, it was also the first time I had an entire weekend with Andi. Something that I had been looking forward to since we met. It was so exciting to go to a "no pressure" race and have fun with no expectations or "need" to win.

This was a Founder's Race which meant "back to Spartan basics" as far as the course: a ton of hay bales, some water, a lot of sand, forest, and swamp. I really loved the course and found that it was incredibly runner friendly. In my training recently I have lost a bit of my endurance base but gained quite a bit of speed. This helped me immensely in the running sections of the course.

I was lucky enough to win G.C. Lucky, because it could have gone either way and probably should have gone to Janice. She is a FIERCE competitor and was in her hometown killing the course. Though I really love all the gear that I won, I am still chasing a Spartan win for a helmet.

Thanksgiving is a "rest" weekend for Andi, Corinne, and myself. Next weekend we'll head to Malibu and then Glen Rose for the season closer. It's been a busy couple of months for all of us and Mississippi was no exception. We're excited to head into the end of the year and look forward to meeting many of you at races in 2013. Until then! -Ang

Saturday, October 27, 2012

My Spartan Family

Most of you that know me have already heard about the misstep that cost myself and several other racers a chance at elite placement at the Spartan World Championships in Vermont last September. Since that race, I have spent countless hours wondering what would have happened if Nick, Melinda, Alec, and myself hadn't followed the wrong path that day. There isn't a blog that I could pen that could express my immense disappointment at the way everything played out that morning. During this race, following the path ahead of me was a mistake that not only marked me ineligible for the championship, but also meant that I couldn't head up and complete a second lap; Spartan's first Ultra Beast had slipped from my grasp. The rest of my weekend was a whirlwind that culminated with an unexpected turn of events that left me reeling.

After the race on Sunday, Corinne Kohlen, Jeff Bent, and I drove from Killington to New York City to spend a final night together as friends before our chaotic weekend came to a close. Somewhere around 2:00 A.M. we headed back to New Jersey so I could catch an early flight back to Los Angeles. As we pulled our luggage from the car to the hotel, Jeff snagged the handle of my racing bag. "You don't need to bring that in. It's just my bag of muddy, wet racing clothes." I consider offering that sentence as one of the biggest mistakes that I made that weekend. Jeff threw my bag back in the back of his SUV and we walked into the hotel, crashing as soon as we hit the beds. Early the next morning we packed up and headed out to the car. As we approached the car we noticed that all of the windows were rolled down. We looked at each other confused and wondered whether we had somehow forgotten to roll up the windows? When we neared the car, it was clear that the driver's side lock had been broken and was lying in pieces on the ground. Upon opening the car we realized that several items were missing from the car including Jeff's headphones, a backpack, and my racing bag. The bag that had seemed unimportant enough to leave in the car was gone. My mind instantly started racing and going over the contents of the bag as Jeff walked into get the hotel manager. The manager of the hotel was unhelpful and assured us that the police would not come out for such a trivial crime. He suggested that we call when we had time and file a report. I needed to catch a flight, and it seemed that the three of us were in some sort of stupor. We headed to the airport, I checked my only remaining belongings, and wandered to the gate. I sat down alone waiting for my flight, and began to revisit the contents of my bag again. As processed everything that was in the bag, I started to cry. I cried in the airport that day for over an hour. After leaving my friends and having my bag taken, I was emotionally overwhelmed at the thought of everything that I had lost.

I returned to L.A. that day disheartened. Not only had my race gone awry, but now all of my racing gear was gone. I couldn't do anything but wait for a police report and insurance money, I assumed the waiting game would be long, and I would have to work with the gear was left, replacing a few key pieces until I had enough gear to race again. I was so disheartened that I had to try to forget about everything until more information about how to replace my gear had presented itself. In the meantime I e-mailed Jason at Spartan and he contacted Inov-8 and iTab to get the process of replacing my gear moving. After a week had passed, Jeff called to let me know that the advice that the hotel manager had given us that day was incorrect. The police wouldn't file a report over the phone, and there wouldn't be any insurance money to replace my gear. I had another good cry that day and Jeff assured me that he would do everything he could to help me out.

Jeff posted on the Spartan 300, an elite racer Facebook group and let everyone know that I needed some help. Allowing him to do this was incredibly tough for me. I pride myself on struggling through life on my own and typically find it hard to accept help when it is offered. Living life on my own with three kids for the last five years has taught me that the struggle is often part of the reward, and few things come without hardship. I had already turned down help from a few individuals that had offered it in the week immediately following Killington, hoping that I would receive money from the insurance company. At this point, I knew that replacing all the gear on my own would be impossible.

Within seconds of Jeff's post, both Jeff and I began to receive messages, texts, and e-mails with offers to help. I begrudgingly provided Jeff with my Paypal address and financial help started pouring in. I was shocked that much of this help came from individuals in the Spartan 300 group that I had never met. To say that I am incredibly thankful to these people is an understatement. My gratitude is overwhelming. I have never felt so loved by a group of people. Even though my "thanks" may never seem like enough, I want to thank my Spartan family. You are amazing and wonderful. I wouldn't be able to race again without you. Though so many offered to help, I feel like I need to recognize several by name. Thank you (in no particular order) to Junyoung Pack, Shane McKay, Janice Marie Ferguson, Melinda Branch, Eric Matta, Leslie St. Louis, Shawn Feiock, Sue Luck, Leslie St. Louis, Jeff Cain, Shannon Hulme, Kevin Brodsky, Jeffrey Bent, Jason Rita, Caitlin at Inov-8, iTab, and Spartan Race. Each and every one of you are my personal hero's. :) -Ang

*** While most of these pictures are in no way a representation of this blog content, I couldn't miss a chance to post a few of my favorites from my weekend in Killington. Special thanks to Eric and Andrew for getting me through day #2. Without your humor and support, I'm not sure I would have fared so well. :) ***