Pushing myself to the Limit (Sporty Dad 109)

In mid-June I did something that I did not think I would ever do: I ran the Spartan Super and Spartan Sprint on the same weekend. Completing these two races is a big deal for me because there was a few times during the Super that I just wanted to stop and not do it anymore, but I had a goal for myself and that was to finish no matter what. Not only was finishing these races important to me, but I felt I had to prove something to myself.

Let’s go back a little before we talk about the Spartan Races. You see, when I was younger I was not the athletic type. I was the kid that would be inside reading or playing with my Atari 2600 while the other kids would be outside playing games. Now, I am not saying that I spent my entire days inside, but I enjoyed doing that more than being outside. I remember when I was younger the summer days were usually spent outdoors all day. I would play with my friends and neighbors and we were always getting into adventures until it was time to go home.

When I was younger I was usually picked last or second to last whenever a team-type game came about. I was not the best at basketball. I was extremely lucky when it came time to play and nine times out of ten the ball would bounce off the rim. Basketball was not the sport for me. I played football for the park district for one season and did not get that much play time there, too.

I thought high school would have been a different experience, but it felt the same. I played football and wrestled. I wish I could say I was good at those, but I think I had more losses than wins in my wrestling career and I never played in one game during my year on the football team.  Wait, I think I went in for one play, yeah I think that is all I did.

Ok, so why am I boring you with all these stories about how I never got to play? Well, for years it made me feel like I was not “man” enough because I was not good at sports. I had friends who would make it all seem so easy and I would wonder to myself, “What is wrong with me that I can not do that?” So I veered away from playing sports and started keeping myself busy with comic books, video games and watching sports on television.

Obviously all of these years of not being “athletically gifted” made me wonder what kind of parent I would be for my children when they wanted to play sports or wanted me to teach them how to throw a baseball or dribble a basketball. I knew that I would want them to do something that would make them happy and I would have to be in some type of shape to play with them. I know I have told the story a million times about show I started running and doing obstacle races because I wanted to be in shape for my daughter and how that blossomed into my love/hate relationship with these type of races.

Now let’s get back to the Spartan Weekend. This year I decided to sign up for both days and run the Super and the Sprint. The Super is a 7 mile course with 24-29 obstacles and the Sprint is a 3 mile course with 20-23. I have done the Sprint a few times and the first time I tried the Super I cramped up to the point where I could not continue. My mission this year was to complete both races with minimal burpees. I also had a checklist of things I wanted to accomplish too: climb the rope, hit the spear throw and not give up. I was not able to climb the rope this year and my spear throw was too high on both days, but I did not give up.

As always I try to run with a group when I do these races and this year I was on my own for the Spartan Super. I drove to the race myself and even though I connected with some people on the Spartan Facebook page, it was hard to find people once you got there. My wife and children stayed home because I knew this race would take me a while and I wanted them to stay home and not sit under the sun waiting for me. I always mention the great community that is here and as I ran I met people who were doing this for their first time, to people that have been doing this for a long time. I would cheer others on as we were waiting for our turn for certain obstacles and helped people when it looked as if they were ready to give up. It’s a great experience and these people helped me push myself to keep moving.

As I got to the end of the race I started feeling drained. I took a knee near the multi-rig and a paramedic asked me if I was ok. I asked her if she had some water and she offered me some Gatorade. While I knelt on the ground I started feeling lightheaded and thought to myself, “No, you have three obstacles left. You can’t give up here!” The paramedic asked me if I was done for the day and I told her no. I asked her to hold my cup of Gatorade and started throwing up. As gross as that sounds, I actually felt better after I let it all out. They asked me again if I was ok and I stood up and said I am going to finish. They looked at me and said “If you’re going to do this, make sure you give us a big jump over the fire.” I gathered myself, knocked out the last two obstacles and jumped as high as I could over the fire to complete the race. One goal done.

On Sunday I returned with my family to complete my second goal of the weekend: The Spartan Sprint. We got stuck in traffic that we arrived a little late for my daughter to run in her wave of the kids Spartan Race. We noticed that the mile wave was going to begin, so I asked my daughter if she wanted to do it and she said yes. (We originally signed her up for the half-mile wave). Watching my daughter run through the course was amazing for me. Half way through the course one of her braids became untangled and without stopping her run she pulled the rubber band off the other braid and kept running. She had no time to deal with hair issues while she ran.

My daughter finished the race and was happy that there was not that much mud like previous years and she was happy about getting another medal to add to her collection. Watching her run these courses gives me the feeling that all the times I tell her she can accomplish anything is finally getting through. She did not ask for as much help as she has done in the previous years and that shows me her independence. I hope I am able to run a Spartan Race with her when she gets older, but I will have to see how my body is by that time.

The Sprint was pretty easy since I have already done the obstacles the day before. This time I knew how to conquer certain ones and give tips to the group I ran with. Yeah, this time I ran with my friend Eric and his friends and it was great to have that group cheer and help each other as we ran the course.

I always talk about the community at these events and all the interesting people I meet. On Saturday I met a guy who was a few years older than me and was running it for the first time with his wife. They had plans to travel to different cities to do the other races and make mini-trips out of them. I met two brothers who were running this for the first time and we talked about our love for Filipino food.

About the most interesting guy I met was on Sunday during the Sprint. We ran together talking about how great it felt to be out here testing ourselves and he told me he was approaching his 50th birthday. I told him that was awesome and he responded that he was glad to make it that far. When I asked what he meant, he told me he was a recovering drug addict and was many times on the verge of death. He started going to rehab to take care of himself and be around for his children. He told me of friends he lost from drug overdoses and those deaths were wake up calls to him.

He started exercising and then heard about the Spartan races. I guess you could say he went from one addiction to another, but this one keeps him healthy and motivates him to keep pushing through the hard times. He told me how he runs into his friends from his old days every now and then who do not believe that he has changed so much. He volunteers at the Spartan races to get a free entry and that he is going to try to get his first Trifecta (completing the Sprint, Super and Beast in one year) before he turns 50. As we got to the next obstacle I shook his hand and wished him luck on his goal. He just smiled at me and wished me luck too.

I always talk about even the most prepared athlete can be taken out by this race and that sadly happened to my friend Eric. He was the team leader that was helping everyone out and motivating us to keep moving forward. It seems that as we approached the final five obstacles his body just stopped cooperating with him and he could not continue on. It was sad that this happened to him, but he was happy to hear that we all crossed that finish line.

The Spartan Race is a great event to help me remember the days of playing outside with my friends and getting dirty. It is also a great way to prove to myself and show my children that a little obstacle in front of you can be conquered. It’s a great metaphor for life: if there is something in front of you, find a way around it and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

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