I went for my first run yesterday, and while I was sore, it felt strong. I can walk pretty comfortably today. I’m getting my mandatory post-race “you’re-an-idiot-for-being-out-in-the-sun-for-hours” cold sore, but can walk comfortably. Back to business, I guess.
I left you with a sandbag, didn’t I? Yes, yes, developing mental fortitude a quarter mile at a time.
The 60+ pound sandbag is actually pretty heavy to operate, as I hoist it onto my shoulders. Fortunately, while it’s there, it’s pretty comfortable (I clearly have very twisted notion of comfortable). Now for comparison, Norm could have had us dragging some God-ugly tree stump with roots poking your eyes out.
As I take the first few steps, the mountain is absolutely daunting – the incline goes up, and then up. And then up some more. I don’t think I can actually see the turnaround point – just racers slowly creeping up the mountain, like ants. “Wow, this is going to take a while”, I realize. “Come on,” I remind myself, “carrying heavy shit – this is what you are good at, remember?”. Ugh, I can piggyback a 230-lb guy on my back, but this stupid incline is really killing my buzz.
I decide not to set the sandbag down until I reach the stop. Notice how a longer obstacle race is practically made up of these arbitrary tasks you set for yourself. “Ok, I’m gonna run for five minutes, and then I will rest for one”. “Once I reach the top of the mountain, I will have a Clif bar.” “Once I finish this freaking race, I will never do another race again”.
It was just me and my arbitrarity (it’s a word, coz I say it is) on the tire drag, just minutes before. As I jog up to the tire, the task is to drag the monster up the wet grass by the rope. While the best method for me is usually to sit, and to use my core and arms to pull, this time around, the damn thing does not even move. A woman beside me is having the exact same problem. “I’ll help you, if you help me”, she says. I drop my rope, and we start pulling her tire up together. When we are finished, and she heads to pick up the rope to my tire, I shake my head. “Go ahead”, I say. She seems puzzled, “Are you sure?”. “Yes, I want to do it by myself”. It’s an arbitrary task, you see. But I drag it up by myself. Inch by inch.
Meanwhile, I’m still carrying the sandbag. Slow steps. And I mean, slow. A third of the way up, I set the bag down. The turnaround point seems even further away than when I started.
Racers are resting often. A fellow female racer is doubling over in pain. “Are you ok?”, I ask. Stupid question, really, because she clearly is not. “My stomach really hurts”, she says, her face contorted in pain. “Do you want me to get the medic?”, I ask. “No”, she shakes her head. Of course, she doesn’t. The toughest Spartan races seem to attract individuals who would rather drop dead on a mountain than ask for help. I remind her to drink water, and keep going.
We get some additional entertainment, as huge rocks get dislodged under the racers’ feet, and start rolling down the sharp hill, accelerating rapidly. “Rock!”, racers at the stop scream. “Rock! ROCK!”. The rock a size of my head is now flying down the hill, as people scatter away. It’s going straight for one racer’s feet, it’s going to hit him… but he hears the warning screams, and jumps over it at the last second.
Great adrenaline rush. Fucking hell, really?
Half of the way up. Can it really be only half way up? I notice a commotion just ahead. Something is happening. The racers are being turned around halfway up the mountain. What? I mean, seriously? You just had dozens (hundreds?) of people complete this obstacle, and now it’s being cut in half?
One of the course marshals signals that I can turn around. I look up. The racers in front of me are still crawling up the hill. They have a long way to go. I pretend not to hear the course marshal. We are back to setting arbitrary tasks and aiming to complete them. I’m dragging this sandbag all the way to the top, if this is going to be the last thing I do. I’m here to do the Vermont Beast. Not the Verm. Bst. I’ll do without the abbreviations , thank you very much.
Now, sitting at my desk, wearing one of my million Spartan t-shirts, and sipping on coffee, I realize that safety was probably one of the main drivers for shortening that obstacle. But in the moment, I’m freaking pissed. This sandbag carry is ridiculous. It’s ridiculously heavy, and ridiculously long for most. In the moment, I feel that if you (hi, Norm! :)) are going to come up with a ridiculous obstacle, you should also have the balls to see it through to the end. To see people struggle, and fail, and throw up. This is why they are here.
Right there and then, I’m angry. I’m angry because the race just became arbitrary. I’m angry because my stubborn nature does not allow me to cut corners. Because yet again, it’s not a race, it’s a challenge. I hope we get a headband at the finish.
Mark Twain said: “When angry, count to four; when very angry, swear”.
1… 2… 3… 4…
*(&*&$ %^^%# (&*(&*(# $#%^%&$ *&^*&^@#@ @#@()* #$!#!*(
A little better.
I stop more and more frequently. The (lack of) progress is disheartening. Part of me starts to believe that I will never get off this freaking mountain. From this day forward, I will have to live here and forage for food. I start mentally rationing the remaining food in my pack. “I wonder how many days I could last before I would have to start hunting wild game?”.
Finally, I’m almost there. Just another 50 feet or so. A strange feeling washes over me, as I sit on my sandbag. I don’t think I can do it. It’s completely unreasonable, but I feel like I will never actually reach that turnaround. Fifty feet may very well be five hundred.
Couple of guys who have been struggling up the mountain by my side the whole time, notice my defeated dog impersonation and holler at me to get up. I do so unwillingly. But I get up. And few minutes later, I reach the turnaround.
I really do. I do! HA! Suck it, mountain!
Ok, we actually have to get down now. I carry my bag across my shoulders yet again, as I step down. Then I drag it by the end behind me. I push it forward with my hands. I turn it, and toss it. I lie on top of it. I ride it. The whole thing is really starting to resemble cheap porn.
Finally, I figure out the most efficient way – face up the hill, step backwards, pulling onto the sandbag with my hands. It definitely looks strange. But it works. A fellow racer suggests an alternative method. I look up and without a hint of a smile say: “Don’t tell me how to make love to MY sandbag!”. He looks a little taken aback. Spectators cheer.
When we finally get to the bottom of the hill, the very next thing we have to do is… drum roll, please! Yes, get up the freaking hill again. What did you think was going to happen? But my sandy lover is no longer with me, so it goes much faster. I can still smell her. Feel her on my skin. She was an animal.
Signing off, Solo