Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hitting the Wall

In running, we have a term called hitting the wall. It is when you've maxed yourself so far out that you can't seem to get yourself to go anywhere near your capacity. I don't know where the term started from but while I've hit the wall in road race, it means a whole other thing when I get to do a Spartan race.
I hadn't done one since the championship in Vermont but I was definitely trying to be a little better prepared. I rarely do trail running so I tried to do that a few more times. Once I started subscribing to the Spartan work out of the day, every time I did one it reminded me that I do/don't have upper body muscles. Still, I was determined to be better prepared and more aggressive than I had ever done it before. There were friends and family there this time around that I knew a lot better and that helped. Unlike the first time, I had awareness of the rules and some clue about the obstacles.

Unlike road races where I preprogram playlists... I have no clue how the spartan is going to playout so I just put it on random. Which is exactly how the Spartan plays out for me. Which terrain is going to be what at which point, which obstacle is coming period much less when. And while it didn't apply to the elite heat (there may be events I belong with the elites but I question why that's the one I sign up for in the Spartan), there was even a new thing called the gamble where you had to choose obstacle. Of all the songs to be playing for pre race warm up on shuffle, I got Frank Sinatra's all the way. In my ever cheesy mind, I modified it Spartanly...

Taller than the tall rope climb
That's how it's gonna feel
Deeper than the murky sea
That's how deep it goes if it's real
Who knows where the road will lead us
Only a fool would say
But if you let me Spartan
It's no good unless you spartan all the way

If nothing else it helped me start the race with a smile on my face and we were off. The guy in the lead took off like there was no tomorrow and less than half a mile into it, I didn't see him again and I'm not sure anyone else did. But I hung out further ahead with the pack than I ever had since the first chunk was not much more than running.

In marathons, the wall usually comes late in the game. In the Spartan less than a mile into it there was a wall to climb under, there was a wall to jump over, there was a wall to crawl through. There would be other obstacles like barbed wire... which I took more aggressively than I ever had and my legs and ankles reflect it (chicks dig scars right? And the first thing they check out about you is whether or not you have a really cool one near your ankle right? someone please tell me this was worth it :)...). There was a place where your legs were tied together and you had to hop up and down a hill. There were sandbags to carry, balance logs to walk across, lakes to swim across, gigantic atlas balls to figure out how to grip and carry. Yet the wall was what felt the most prevalent. Later there would be a taller 8 foot wall to jump over (let's just say that on that one I had more conviction than I realized and landed in a way that makes it unlikely that I'll have any more children). There would be an inverse wall to climb over using mostly just your upper body. There would be a balance beam wall to climb across and ring a bell if you'd managed to not fall off. There would be a muddy 45 degree angle wall to climb with a rope after you'd gone under an underwater wall...

Still, when the Super was all said and done, I had hit many walls but hit them all with conviction and success, it was the first time ever I'd not missed an obstacle. And while comparing this is not quite the same as comparing road races, it was the fastest I'd ever done a Super spartan and the highest I'd ever placed (27th in the elite heat, 23rd in the males which as the Spartan culture likes to say means I got chicked 4 times). 

I would chat with some "pure runners" afterwards who it was the first time they signed up. One guy was literally much faster than me. To give you an idea, the pace I can keep for one mile is just barely sub 5 when on a good day when going out with full conviction, he can do it for a 5k and has broken 15 minute 5ks. He was amazed at how different and hard it was and like me he had been inspired by a post Spartan once put up, if at first you do succeed, try something harder. As we finished, in his first one, he had come in behind me because of burpees and missed obstacles. 

But when it was all said and done, there were people ahead of me and behind me. The walls were all still standing but I'd hit them with enough conviction to where all of me was too. Or should I say I was aroo?


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