Training for a Spartan Race (or 3)

A year ago, I ran my first-ever Spartan Race. It was a life-changing experience. Training for the race forced me to commit to my own strength and flexibility, and I haven’t found that level of inspiration since.

Now, after struggling to recover my fitness equilibrium for the last 6+ months, I’ve decided to commit myself to a Spartan Trifecta. What better to get my body into shape than to prepare for three times the effort I put in last year, especially when I know how hard the obstacles were last time?

So, get ready to hear about burpees, nutrition, running, monkey bars. And get ready to hear about how my brother and my Sherpa from last year might be joining in the training of our lives. I’ll be checking in more regularly to keep myself accountable and hopefully help the people around me be more accountable, too.

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2014, Here I Come!

Tis the season to declare what we expect from ourselves in the coming year. Some call them resolutions, others call them goals. Whatever you want to call it, here are the things I intend to accomplish in 2014.

Suck Less. I know, this seems like a negative way to start my planning. Here’s the deal: You know how we all have an inner voice who is incredibly nasty to us? Well, mine tells me I suck. All the time. So, this intention is twofold. On one hand, I will do everything in my life with more dedication, which means I will accomplish everything more fully. On the other, I will accept the idea that I suck less often. Which leads me to… 

Observe the voices in my head the way I do everyone else. I am the type of person who hears not just what people around me say, but the motivations and emotions behind what they say. But when it comes to the voices inside my head, I’m not as discerning. The voice who jumps to negative conclusions, the one who thinks I’m terrible at life, the one who tells me I’m not enough? That tailhole I take at face value. Well, no more. I’m giving myself (and my voices) the same examination I’ve given everyone else for all these years.

Run a Spartan Race. I signed up for a Super Spartan on April 5, my dad’s birthday. I can think of no better way to honor dad’s life than to live out loud.

Run 50 miles in races. This includes the Spartan Race, of course, but mostly I’ll be just running. I have the Tinker Bell Half Marathon in January, the Glass Slipper Challenge (10k on Saturday, half marathon on Sunday) in February and the Spartan Race in April. After that, I will need about 10 more miles of races through the end of the year.

Learn to swim. This is tied to the Spartan Race as well. I’m short, by Spartan standards, so I need to know I can make it across water elements the taller Spartans could walk or bob across. Don’t get me wrong — I won’t drown or anything. But I really don’t know how to swim freestyle consistently, and it’s time to learn.

Let go of superstitions. As long as I can remember, I’ve lived with superstition. When I spill salt, I toss some over my shoulder. When I split the pole with a friend, I always say “bread and butter.” When someone says something amazing is going to happen (or something bad will stop happening), I knock on wood. I put my right shoe on first, hate to land on my left foot at the bottom of the stairs. You get the picture. Well, it’s time for all this to stop. Like the voices in my head who run me down, superstitions add anxiety to life. I have enough anxiety — I won’t let arbitrary rules from generations ago pile on anymore.

Visit a new place. This is an intention I set for myself every year. In 2013, I managed this in spades, and I hope to do more of the same in 2014.

There you have it. I wish you a wonderful 2014 full of intention, determination and fun.

Come back with your shield. Or on it.

This weekend, I was a spectator at a race for the first time. And it was no ordinary race — it was a Spartan Race, and a Beast at that.

If you’ve never heard of a Spartan Race, first I have to ask how that’s possible. But basically, a Spartan Race is a dirty, muddy, wet, nasty obstacle course. Runners get no course map ahead of time, no heads up about the types of obstacles they’ll face. Heck, they don’t even know how long their particular course is going to be — they just know whether they signed up for 3+ miles (a Spartan Sprint), 8+ miles (a Super Spartan) or 13+ miles (a Spartan Beast). They added an Ultra Beast this year, which is a marathon with obstacles and is so tough you have to apply to enter. It all started with the Spartan Death Race, which was/is just… wow.

Runners can participate on their own or in teams. People in teams don’t have to stick together the entire race. But from what I can see, the attitude is simple: No dude or chick left behind.

As a spectator, I was happy to carry a change of clothes around, follow my Spartan For a Day around taking pictures and put in about 10 miles of walking on my own. The Sacramento Spartan Race group made a spectators course, which was awesome even though it was poorly marked and left us non-Spartans For a Day wandering around lost a lot. (Thus the 10 miles of walking.) We didn’t get muddy, but we got dusty and sunburned. And we made quick friends, wandering together on this farm in the middle of nowhere.

Of course, the idea of being a Spartan for a Day is a heady one. When I saw my Spartan climb over the wall to the starting line (yep, you have to climb a wall to be able to START this race), I couldn’t help but think of the famous quotes from 300, and in that moment I think I even said, “Spartan, come back with your shield. Or on it.” The emcee at the starting line quoted (and misquoted) 300 as well, and there were plenty of runners in costume — I saw Leonidas and Gorgo leave the starting gate with my Spartan.

I had a lot of time to think during the 5 hours from that starting line until my Spartan crossed the finish. First, I thought about the oddity of this event. This is a race based on a movie that was based on a comic book that was based on a movie that was based on a historical event. (Go ahead, think that one through.)

Then, I thought about what was making these people put themselves through this. And as I watched them trudge through mud, climb ropes and hills and all sorts of things, I realized — I wanted to join them.

Maybe it was the men and women in far worse shape than me, trudging their way under barbed wire through mud and over slippery walls. Maybe it was knowing I am capable now of the running part of the beast, which means I could keep up my running and train for something new. Maybe it was the primal nature of the thing — these people were risking real barbed wire, real mud, real water that was, in some cases, 6 feet deep and full of mud, even real fire.

Whatever it was, I knew I wanted it. Well, I wanted SOME of it. I didn’t want the beast, not yet. But I realized that I want to train for a sprint. I want to find out what it’s like to be a Spartan For a Day, not just a Spartan Spectator.