Saturday, November 24, 2012

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

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