Wednesday, September 19, 2012

After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. - Nelson Mandela

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 427:

There's only one thing on my mind right now, BlogLand: The Beast. That's it. I try and focus on other things, but my thoughts just keep circling back around to what I'm going to be tackling in four more days. A 13+ mile obstacle race, up and down (and up and down, and up and down and up and down....) Killington Mountain ("The Beast of the East").

I'm nervous. I've talked a really good game all year (haven't I? no? hehe), but now I'm all in to the Grand Finale of the season and this is a place I've never been before. I have no idea what to expect from my body, this course, the obstacles, my time... I am second guessing all my choices in fueling, hydration, clothing options, travel plans... the works. I am a barely contained ball of Crazy right now. This is similar to what I felt before my first Spartan Race, way back in May... only I've got lots more experience under my belt now. I have a rough idea as to just how difficult this is going to be.

Having said that... I'm excited. I keep trying to imagine what it's going to feel like to cross that finish line, receive a green medal, inhale a banana and a ridiculous amount of rehydrating liquid, while going to find my Trifecta Medal. I can't even picture it. I can in a vague sense, but my brain is having a hard time really wrapping itself around this idea.

The 2011 Beast is what really started it all for me. I had sort of started to tip toe into my fitness journey, but on a weird whim, the GT and I volunteered at the 2011 Beast, passing out water and spotting the vertical wall on top of the mountain... which happened to be at mile 2 (water) and mile 8 (wall, and water). I remember squeezing into the unisex Large volunteer shirt (I was nervous, because they didn't have any XL left) and getting trucked to the top of the mountain. All day long I passed out water to wet, smiling, sweaty, muddy racers who, although tired, mostly looked like they were having the time of their lives. I remember looking at them in envy, because I "could never" do something like that. I'd never be able to be in good enough shape to do that. I'd never run in my life, never really lifted weights, never been sporty... Spartan Race was not ever going to be in my realm of possibility. It was for those "other" people. You know. The "fit" people.

Then something happened. The community effected me. The enthusiasm and drive crawled under my skin. The "Aroo!'s" of the masses echoed in my head.... and the next thing I knew, the GT and I were sitting down and making a plan. Simply to get me through a Spartan Sprint (3-5 miles) a year in the distance.

Instead... I find myself here. Single-Digit days away from toeing the start line of the very race that I'd classified for "extreme" people, but had inspired my steps towards self improvement. Holy Shit.

Spartan Race has proven it's motto true... At the end of each race, I really do "know at the finish line." With each race it's something a little different. In Amesbury, I learned that sometimes you have to make the tough call and DNF for your health... and that maybe sometimes that happens for a reason. In Montreal, finishing the Super I ran quite unprepared and impromptu, I found that my body was capable of much more than I ever believed, and I hadn't yet reached its limits. Recently, in New Jersey, I saw what fruits the determination of consistent training can bring you - conquering the monkey bars for the first time was HUGE for a T-Rex like myself.
I can't WAIT to see what revelations run through my head as I case down that green medal.

It's also going to be a really interesting race for me, because it will be the first time that I'm going to have quite a few people there for me as spectators, waiting for me to finish. My indestructible Running Buddy, Stacey, will be volunteering on-course and promises to cheer me on; my wonderful CG will be waiting at the finish (bearing cold recovery drinks and tasty noms!). Even more awesome, my DAD and step mom will be coming to check out their first Spartan. My Dad saw me race in my first 5K many moons ago and has followed, but not quite believed, or understood my Spartan path. Sure, he's seen the pictures, but it's just not quite the same as seeing you're only daughter actually roll under the barbed wire, heave a sandbag, or jump the flames (Hmm. I'm thinking I'm going to have to get the Paternal Unit to do a guest blog for Whatabeautifulwreck, post-Beast). I think he is still in some sort of state of blissful disbelief... I'm glad that he will get to experience Spartan Nation at it's finest, first hand. Maybe then, he'll understand the pull of long road trips, steep mountains, muddy sneakers, and the camaraderie of the Spartan family.

 Speaking of Spartan Family, here's a picture that I'm using for inspiration this week. This one was taken moments from the finish at the 11.2 mile NJ Super a couple weeks ago.

This is my favorite race picture to date, because I look empowered, muddy, capable and like I'm having a damn good time.

Stacey (pictured), sent me this today:
"My school laptop background cycles through Spartan photos, in a little slide show. Today in math, I minimized the screen that I had up on the projector, and the kids saw our epic tornado picture. The following happened:
"Is that your running friend?" 
("yep, that's us at the last race.")
"whoa. She looks strong!"
(trying to get back on track...) 
"do you always run in mud?""

This totally cracked me up, but I took it as an epic compliment. 5th graders don't lie. At 30 years old, I'll take the "she looks strong!" compliment any day.

So, I'm thinking, if I look strong... I've been feeling good... I've done well at all the previous races.... I'm ready. As much as any one person CAN be ready for The Beast. I'm in.

I've done my last long run for the week, I've been hydrating and stretching, I'm foam rolling, eating right and hydrating some more. I've got one more easy 5K to run this week, then my only job is to rest up.

I've signed up. I'm showing up, and I don't intend to give up. STFU.

"Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it."
~ Bill Cosby


  1. I friggin' love you Aja. You inspire me and in my little alternate universe in my head I chase you and am trying to catchup. I congratulate you ahead of time for the amazing successes I just know you will achieve this weekend. Have fun, be safe, get dirty and rock it out!!! Aroooooooo! Coral

  2. You are a rockstar!