Over the last couple weeks, I’d spoken to some pretty influential people in the likes of Sarah Pozdol, Anthony Matesi, and Amie Meyer about racing the elite women’s heat at the Spartan Sprint. I’m not an elite athlete. Never have nor never will be. The thought about being in the same corral as all of the other elite women sends waves of fear down my spine. But when John Shue triple dog dared me to do it by posting a poll about it on the Corn Fed page, I figured I would venture into the unknown. My team and my friends had my back.
When I arrived on site this morning, I was visibly rattled. Enough that people were asking if I was okay and offering advice (and I appreciated all of it). Having done the course twice the day before and generally lacking sleep from the long drive from Illinois, I was sore and tired. I knew I was in for a less than stellar performance, but I vowed to do my best.
I jumped the wall into the start corral and watched the other women join me. There were around 15 of us, give or take. And I was by far the biggest one there. Taller by several inches and heavier by at least 30 pounds in most instances. I looked like Gigantor in one of the pics that were taken of me and some of the other girls. My only advantage was strength by comparison, and I knew that wasn’t going to help me on a course that heavily favored runners.
I was scared. Plain and simple. That being said I was urged by one of my friends to push to the front of the start line. “Let them know you’re here.” She said. So I toed the line and prayed to God I would
survive what was about to come.
Off we went at the announcement of the start. The fleetest of them sailed over the ground while I lumbered along to keep them in sight. I made up some time on the first of the obstacles, but by the 1 mile mark the leader was already out of sight. So much for that. I heard my good friend of mine mumble the same thoughts to me and I laughed. “Positive thoughts” was my response. I didn’t believe my own words though.
A few of us jockeyed for position through the woods, and when we exited I was in a solid 5th place right behind my friend. My hope was to keep her in my sights for the duration of the race. We both got cheers from Rick, Kevin and Paul as we passed by them in the spectator zone. We hit the rope climb together and I watched as she started making her way up. I took two pulls up the rope and felt a sharp pain in my shoulder. Down I went into the freezing cold water. I struggled to climb out and was numb as I did my penalty burpees. I saw my friend go by as she made her way to the next set of obstacles. I was happy to see her pressing on.
It took me three attempts to make the reverse wall because my fingers were numb and I couldn’t grip. I cleared that wall handily the day before. And then I biffed the traverse wall for the same reason. 30 more burpees for me. I’m fortunate in that I’m fairly quick at them, but my confidence was shaken. I didn’t belong here.
I ran up the hill and towards the first water station. As I neared it I saw a few people huddled around a downed racer. My heart sank when I recognized the clothing as those that my friend was wearing. I knelt next to her and recognized that she was having an asthma attack. No inhaler was available. The volunteers were trying to calm her but I knew that if
she wasn’t forced to straighten up from her hunched position she was going to faint. I tried to get her to sit up, but it was too late. She passed out.
I instructed the others to help me lay her flat on her back. I checked her eyes and pulse and ensured that she was still breathing. She came to after a few moments and I attempted to keep her calm while the medics tried to locate her drop bag that had her inhaler in it. Fortunately GORMR member Tony Ferrante located her bag. I found her inhaler and held it so she could take a couple of puffs. I knew she was going to be okay,
but I stayed with her until she was able to stand. As the medics took over, she asked me to continue racing.
I don’t know how long I was there with her, and I didn’t care. The race was no longer about the competition. It was simply about completion at this point. I caught up to a man in one of the open waves and started chatting with him. It was his first Spartan race ever, and he was there alone. We talked for the next mile of so and I gave him pointers on tractor pull technique, and helped him over the 7 and 10 foot walls. I gave him a CFS bracelet before pressing on. One obstacle after another, I checked them off.
And then came the spear throw. I had missed in my last 3 attempts and it frustrated me to no end. As I trotted up to the line I bowed my head and felt the guidance of my grandfather there with me. I picked up a spear and lined up with some hay bales held onto the frame with blue
bungees. His favorite color.
The spear left my hand as if I wasn’t the one controlling it. It struck dead center of the target. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I pointed to the sky and thanked my Grandpa as I headed back to the course and the final 1/2 mile of the race. I caught up to another young man who was walking and having trouble breathing, so I stopped to walk with him for a bit until he regained his breath. As I rounded the turn back into the woods, I saw my friend’s husband. He smiled at me and asked me where his wife was.
I stopped and told him what had happened to her and walked with him back to the finish area. I crossed the creek and yelled to him that I was going to finish and then find the both of them. Into the water, under the submerged wall, up the slip wall and over the fire jump I went. I didn’t even notice the gladiators trying to beat me with the pugil sticks. I wanted to find my friend, and that’s just what I did. We hugged and proceeded to hang out for the next several hours, chatting with other friends and watching other racers go by. We watched as Rick, Kevin, Paul, and Mathieu Lo joined with Team Ilene Boyar and More Heart than Scars for a while. My fellow Corn Feds learned how to carry a person on a stretcher while they were with those teams. My heart swelled with respect and pride for my racing family.
Everything happens for a reason. I was not meant to be on the podium in Spartan Race. Today showed me that I am meant to be there to help others when they need it most. And while I will probably attempt an elite run again, my heart belongs with assisting others on the course.
I’ve been hearing rumblings of people calling me a hero.
I am not a hero. I am Corn Fed.