Another day, another challenge.
The morning started out with a heavy sense of déjà vu—wake up at 5:00, get ready and leave the hotel by 6:00, show up to the race site by 6:30, get through registration by 6:45, warm up and get ready, hop into the starting corral at 7:15. Fifteen minutes until go time. Having gone through the very same routine yesterday, all I could do was hope that the similarities would end once our heat took off come 7:30—yesterday had been an off-day, but today I was hoping to redeem myself.
Matt Willis, Yancy Culp, Lee Thompson, Steve Marlon, Kevin Donoghue, Christian Scherf, Chris Acuff, Van Tran, Isaiah Vidal, and many other racers joined me at the starting line, ready to take on our second race of the weekend—a course that would mirror Saturday’s race almost exactly except for the four miles and five obstacles removed from the middle half of the course, providing us with a 5.2 mile, 29-obstacle course that would prove to be much faster-paced than its predecessor the day before, as the shorter-distance races typically are. Other familiar faces such as Greg Sexton, Victor Sanchez, Alan Lewis, and Luke Halterman—all of whom had not raced the day before—also found their way into the starting corral to join in on the fun.
As is typical, the national anthem was sung and the racing rules stipulated, then the climactic pump-up speech sent us on our way, AROO-ing across the starting line as we darted across the dirt path that, in no time, bottlenecked into a thin path of unlevel ground and loose stones. Having planned on taking off a bit slower today than the day before, I soon found myself immersed in the middle of the pack—further back then I had originally planned on.
It took me about a half mile to get my legs working properly (still a bit fatigued from the race before), but once they started working, they started working. The group of us winded through the thin, wooded path, and as soon as I found my opening, I burst into a full-out sprint—I needed to pass some people, and I needed to do it before we hit any obstacles, before everybody got all spread out. I darted past one person after another, and within about a tenth of a mile I had made some pretty good ground, so I settled back into my typical pace, satisfied with my placement for the time being. We crossed the first few obstacles—O-U-T, hurdles, a six-foot wall, and some monkey bars, and still I was feeling good. My body tried to convince me to break into another fit of coughing as I ran, but I didn’t have time to be sick today—today, I needed to be healthy. I held the coughs back and continued pounding throughout the course, being a little more daring as I made my way across the loose stones and trying to maintain a steady pace and neither over-exert or under-exert. I was at a Goldilocks pace. We hit the barbed-wire crawl—which, as I forgot to mention yesterday, was high enough to run under if you were hunched over in a near-crawl position or in a low crouch, which made things interesting as you watched racers use different methods to get through it quickly—and then continued along the course, which shortly after hit the transition point which cut off those back four miles from the previous day’s race. So, instead of going back and doing the Atlas Carry and sandbag carries of the Spartan Super, we found ourselves quickly approaching the Z-wall, which had been at around mile 7 the day before.
I made it across the Z-wall with just a little bit of effort—there was a moment, as I reached around the edge of the wall, when I found myself nearly unable to reach the next block—but then rang the bell and continued on to the Stairway to Sparta. Seeing a bunch of people off in the burpee zone knocking out some burpees, I realized that this was my chance to gain some major ground. I picked up my pace a bit. Two and a half miles left.
When I reached the spear throw, I nailed it. Pumping my fist in happiness, I took back off, passing a few more racers doing burpees off to my right.
The next half-mile or so found me racing all by myself—something that had never happened in yesterday’s race, in which I was pretty much always with another runner—and the alone time gave me some time to think. I was getting a bit tired, and for a moment, I considered slowing down, knowing that I had a pretty decent gap on the guy behind me. But then a Bible verse came to mind: Isaiah 40:31 – But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
It wasn’t time to slow down. It was time to speed up.
It was at this point that I surprised myself the most: as I winded through the woods, I found myself leaping from rock to rock, not simply picking my way across them as I typically would have. I was motivated to gain some ground, hungry to redeem myself due to yesterday’s race. I soon found myself trailing Kevin Donoghue, and together we entered the culverts, with him just a bit ahead of me.
Lucky for me, this time there was an empty culvert waiting for me, so I didn’t have to worry about getting stuck behind someone. I crawled through it as fast as possible, using my size to my advantage and trying to crawl through in about 45 seconds. I succeeded in doing so, but Kevin still managed to beat me out of it. I followed him up a steep embankment and we proceeded to run the trails, scaling the cargo wall together and then moving on to the tire flip.
Unlike yesterday, today we had to flip the tire six times rather than four, and [also, unlike yesterday] I managed to pick out a very, very heavy tire. I squatted down and, making sure to lift with my legs, managed to flip it over once, but for every one flip I did, Kevin did two. He was getting further ahead.
In the end, I succeeded in flipping the tire six times, but both Kevin and another runner had managed to gain some ground on me, so I needed to pick up the pace. Not too long afterwards—literally a thirty yard run after the tire flip—we found ourselves at the multi-rig, which I wasted no time shuffling across, shaking my arms out for a moment or two before grasping the angled pole and crossing the rig as quickly as possible. After ringing the bell, I took off again, ready to take on the last mile and a half. Some winding trails, some small creeks to jump—it was fairly quick-paced, and as I made my way through the mud mounds, Mr. Cory Acuff—Chris Acuff’s father—informed me that I was currently in 9th place. After the mounds, I made my way over the inverted wall and across the beautiful-looking bridge that spanned the lake on which Reveille Peak Ranch is located. After experiencing a motivational boost from some volunteers just beyond the bridge, I sped up and made my way to the Bucket Brigade.
Now I’ve got to admit to ya, the bucket carry was a lot harder for me today than it had been yesterday, and that’s saying something, because yesterday wasn’t too easy either. As I filled my bucket to the very brim, the volunteers informed me that I could throw some of the rocks out (the bucket only needs to be filled up past a certain point), but—me being the cautious person I am, considering that the rocks might settle—I picked up the filled-up bucket and went on my way.
The loop was a bit longer today, having been modified to be more oval-shaped now than the U-shape (out-and-back) it had taken in previous years and even yesterday. I had to set the bucket down on multiple occasions, costing me a few extra spots. My buddy Christian Scherf passed me at this point, and that in itself was motivation in itself: he beat me yesterday, so I couldn’t let him beat me today (if you couldn’t tell, I love me some friendly competition). He deposited his bucket shortly before I did, and then we made our way through the winding trails that led back to the festival area. My arms were still fatigued from the tire flip—my elbow joints beginning to ache, for some reason—so I shook them out as we went, praying to God for the strength to pump out these last few obstacles as quickly as possible.
Christian stayed ahead of me on the Slip Wall.
I passed him on the rope climb.
He passed me on the overhead wooden bridge.
I passed him on the Herc hoist.
Here’s another thing I’ve got to admit: that Herc hoist took a lot out of me. In the race on the previous day, it hadn’t seemed too bad and hadn’t really slowed me down at all, but today, it exhausted me. My arms were dead and joints aching for some reason, but I struggled to move as quickly as possible, determined to pass a few people on the Herc hoist and sprint my way to the finish line. With what little upper body strength I had left, I pulled on the rope and pushed against the fence, hefted the sandbag up to the top of the metal rigging, and then lowered it down. Looking around, I saw that a bunch of people were still working at it. Now was my chance.
I’ve also got to say this: I’m not a sprinter, but boy did I try my best to sprint. Christian has longer legs than me, so I was afraid he’d try to catch me in the final burst to the finish, so I ran as hard as I could, jumping into the ditch of mud, wading my way through, and doing the same at the Dunk Wall, which I swam under and continued swimming until I could heave myself from the muddy pit. I jumped the fire, splashed into the last remaining mud pit, and, going as fast as I could, crossed the finish line and accepted my medal.
As I turned around, I saw Christian right behind me, crossing the finish line and accepting a medal of his own. We clasped hands and embraced. Gotta love those stressful finishes.
In the end, I placed 12th overall—not my best, but not my worst. On a personal note, I mentally succeeded in redeeming myself from yesterday’s race, and once again I want to compliment Spartan Race on the fantastic venue and lively festivities they provided after the race. The course was marked perfectly and I can proudly say I didn’t get lost this time around, and it was just grace to get back out there and race against all my friends and just have another grand ole time. Well done, Spartan Race; you’ve done it again.
Now, it’s time to go out and train hard, run faster, and set some goals. Let’s do this.