Winning isn’t everything, even in Sparta

 

Joe Desena designed and built the Spartan Race as a mirror for challenges in life. Something like, we’ve gotten so used to being comfortable that any type of discomfort seems magnified. His thinking is that with enough exposure to discomfort, little things will be put back into their rightful place and become, well… little.

On Mother’s Day I somehow rolled my ankle running down a steep trail. I didn’t notice it at the time, but the next day while running hill reps, it didn’t feel right. But of course, I kept running on it. The next day, I couldn’t walk… or the next… or the next. In fact, I had to walk backwards down the stairs in our house for a few weeks.

I missed a marathon that I signed up for in May but was optimistic about my chances to heal before the Spartan Sprint in North Vancouver.

Not so. I jog very gingerly at Crossfit the two days ago – not 400m – and as I was being passed by a man built like a truck, I knew I had to throw the run towel in.

I was still kind of hoping through some awesome miracle of Sparta it would pop back into place or whatever at the start line. This is not entirely misplaced. I once hobbled to the start of an 8k only to blast off instinctively to the gun and somehow pop my sacrum back into place with too big a stride, finishing strong and injury free.

I “ran” about 25m in this case and settled into my peg leg hobble. Darn.

Being toward the back of the pack at the first obstacle wasn’t so bad, but… like in my old cross country days, get caught in the back at a hill and – you soon realize how having a strong run off the gate sets you up for a good race in OCR.

I was lucky to have my brother out there with me. He took the year off running and is not in top form so we ended up leap frogging a bit.

I did more burpees than I would have liked today. Not surprisingly at the wall… all elites had to take the side without the board and I couldn’t run up to it. The one legged hopping just wasn’t doing it. I also fell off the balance beam and missed the spear throw. I was surprised by my fall off the balance beam despite my wonky ankle but would have been more surprised had I actually made the spear throw. I never seem to get it on the first try even in training.

The rope climb at the end was hard. The knots really get me when the weather is cold and my grip fails. I kept trying to get around that top knot and kept slipping back down. I’m not quite in the shape I have been… but even last year I remember having used some not so ladylike language when I hit this one. Thank goodness the crowd rallied for me. I wanted to hug each and everyone of them after… but that would be weird… and I was REALLY muddy.

The crowd also loved my one leg fire hop (even though it was strategic for not all the way snapping my ankle tendons) – I might just keep it as a signature.

My goal for the day was to finish in one piece physically and mentally. I’m not going to lie, I do not like losing. I know, serious character flaw – but let’s face it – that’s what makes racers racers. We like to win and we hate to lose. Otherwise, we just wouldn’t push ourselves so hard we wanted to fall down, puke or die.

On the way up to the mountain my three-year-old asked if I was going to win. I told her that I probably wouldn’t but I would try my best to get to the finish line.

That really kept me going out there. Like my run was going to be some glorious lesson in taking life in stride… trying your best… being a good loser.

When I came in though she had only three questions for me. Did my leg hurt? Did I get my watch muddy? And, did I crawl in the mud?

She didn’t care if I won or lost. My four-month-old still cooed and made googley eyes at me while I pealed the mucky compression gear off. My three-year-old wanted pancakes. My husband said, “good job” – and I think he even meant it.

So there it was, my kids and husband teaching me a lesson yet again. It doesn’t matter. We’re all just lucky to be out there: crawling through the mud and getting our watches dirty – even if our leg hurts.

Whether intentional or not, Spartan Racing really does teach you how to be a better and happier person. You can’t change how high the wall is or if the weather cooperates, you have no control over your injuries come race day after you’ve done everything possible to heal them. You do your best anyways and you be grateful for the ability to confront yet another challenge.

Still, I’m looking forward to racing hard on two legs.

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