There is some solid logic each of us receives when told to focus on our strengths, utilizing what the universe has been kind enough to hand you to do so. But life has been kind enough to expose me to some of my weaknesses some in my body and some literally in my mind.
So when it came time to do my second Spartan Beast in Monterey, CA I remembered that I do these challenges for many reasons like the great people I've met along this Spartan path. Still, the one main physical reason: because it challenges my weaknesses and it gives me a chance to do them better. PR's aren't as significant here because in trail running much less when obstacles vary, speed isn't the issue. Plus if how quickly I can put one foot in front of the other was the main goal... well I'd get on the easier road courses or on a bike. Here, while it's called technical running, to me, this is natural running. Oddly enough the song I was using as my pre race pump up the 7 lions born 2 run was because of the following lyrics:
If the sky turns black, it don't matter
We know the sun, is coming up
Built so strong, it won't shatter
But somehow just as the race was about to start I noticed lyrics that I'd never realized were there even though they are the opening to the song:
Y'all know what it is
You gotta push though all your obstacles
Nah’ I mean?
No matter what the options are
There is no lose, there is no fail
So as has been the goal with every spartan, I wanted to fail no obstacles (something I have achieved only once despite having missed only 1 in 3, 2 in 2, and 4 in my first one. But because in Austin I had finally managed to nail them all, I had been seduced by the videos of some people who seem to do to the obstacles more aggressively, more quickly. There is a fair and valid argument that slowing down to not risk the 30 burpee penalty is important but hey when you're racing in Monterey, which translate as King of the Mountain and you're trying to earn the title of Spartan Beast, go big or go home.
So I started running, trying to learn how to do the technical side of running smoother, better where those hills made you wonder whether you were stepping or steeping your game up or down. The beauty of spartans is that I do it infrequently enough and they're creative enough to where there are always new obstacles. One of them was
taking a cargo net and using it to get over a river. I nearly slipped because there was metal in the middle of it and I hadn't thought of the fact that the grip there should be "handled" differently. If you look at the picture of when we're about to get on the cargo
net... you could see immediately behind me why while I do road races
with a shirt and the ones with spartan with the make him work for it... it's because it's such a great looking shirt ;). I got all the way across, trying something I'd seen in pictures and video of hitting the bell with your foot to hit it quicker and then letting yourself go. I was proud when I landed it's arguable whether the look on my face is happiness or smugness.
Perhaps adding to the old adage that pride comes before a fall, not too soon after that was the obstacle of the balance beams. I'd never missed that one, not even come close so I took it quickly and most of the way through lost focus and fell off. I went over and did my 30 burpees (the thought going through my head during those starts with I hate burpees and by the time my brain has been up and down that much it's I burp hatees). Still, there was enough clarity of mind to where after I asked the person running the obstacle if I could try again after I did my burpees, even offering to do more if I failed again. She said I wouldn't have to do more but I could only try once. I did and got it.
There'd be more running, carrying buckets full of rocks, bags full of sands and places where it was really more climbing than running or even walking. The rope climb was the easiest and fastest I'd done it showing I could at least hold up my own weight. At the water stop there were some volunteers who were enthusiastically handing water bottles picking runners and others who were just waiting for a thicker crowd. Let's just say I might have taken the water from the enthusiastic ones and splashed some enthusiasm into the ones sitting around. We both left from that water stop smiling.
The running and obstacles continued where I was told that the sand I'd pulled up a pulley, I had not let gently down enough. 30 burpees, repeat till I did it right. The obstacle I've missed the most consistently (I'm just under 50/50 at it) is the spear throw since for some reason I don't have a spear sitting around at home and so that was 30 more burpees. And very near the end there was a 4 tire swing where you were supposed to swing over tires... this one wouldn't have been a problem except neither I nor the person next to me had ever done it before and when we crashed into each other on the second to last tire, it killed both of our momentum... we both tried to get it going but when they gave up on it and they looked more experience and dropped down and did burpees, I did as well. The second time with the tire swing I approached it with a lot faster of a run and swing and did it without issues. There are things in life you only get one chance at. But the Spartans both because they only happen 3 times in Texas per year and because the obstacles aren't available for me to train on anywhere, I wanted to assume that it was like life. I may not have another chance at that day. With each of the obstacles I got to do do again, I took the penalty, took a second shot and got it. On some of those, it required a short wait to make sure I wasn't in anyone's way who had not messed up, making sure to not slow anyone down. I've long called the post cancer area of my life, Life Part II but it wasn't till my 9th spartan race where that idea occurred to me.
As I shared the approach I'd taken to become an honest beast, there were those who question whether it was noble, creative, or dumb. Those are all words that were used about me running road races with a stroller so at least I'm consistent. There were someone who said I killed their buzz of finally having beaten me in a spartan and I told them they had beat me honestly... No one had told me to do it my way and add time and effort to my penalties. Still, while PR's are kind of less relevant in spartans