My first introduction to obstacle racing was daunting. I had lost 75 lbs of fat, gotten heavily into cycling, and yet was becoming bored by a lack of challenge in it. Obstacle course racing presented new challenges, things I had never done, I wanted to find out if I had it in me.
From my first event to this day I have been excited about the prospect of pushing my limits and the limits of the obstacle course racing events. The end of the line for the two largest events in our country are the Worlds Toughest Mudder and the Spartan Death Race. Having participated in WTM in 2013 I am now about to take on the Death Race and find out if I have what it takes. The two events have chosen vastly different atmospheres and different challenges to apply to its participants.
The Death Race is meant not just to push someone to give their best. It is meant to find their participants breaking point, from a physical, mental, and emotional standpoint. There is almost no way to train specifically for this event as there is no way of knowing what is in store, so the goal is to make ones self as ready as possible for everything.
This year is what Spartan HQ is referring to as the year of the explorer, meaning there will be orienteering, survival skills, and plenty of trudging. With the gear list being released only a week before the event and containing a handful of specific gear we must have on course at all times. The challenge to obtaining this gear with limited time only makes me feel like the race has already begun!
Now I find myself about to take on this event which can take days to finish, getting together a gear list, and not sure exactly what I'm getting myself into. All I can do is decide to not quit. I could get injured, I could get disqualified, but I will not quit.
My OCR journey all started back on October 20th, 2012 in Kentucky. The temperature was in the low 40s and all I was wearing was a pair of spandex shorts and a heat gear top, thinking that since I will be constantly moving, less was better.
As my boyfriend at the time and I stepped up to the start line I felt my chest tighten and my nerves rising with fear because I have no idea what I was about to get myself into. The countdown began, “3, 2, 1” and we were off straight down a steep hill. Once we got to the bottom of it there was a slight incline back up. I tried to jog up and soon realized, I was out of breath already! I pushed my way to the first obstacle and crawled my way through. Next, was ice water and then the first wall to climb over. I got to the wall and started to panic and tear up knowing that we were only about 1 mile in and I wish it was over. I knew I couldn't do it and there was no way I was going to make it the next 11 miles. Looking at my boyfriend for comfort, he just reminded me that I was the one that wanted to do this in the “I told you so” tone. All of the sudden, a random guy stepped up that saw me freaking out and told me, “you got this, you can do it” as he held his hands out to give me a boost. At this point, I needed to hear that little confidence talk and I hopped right up.
After I got over the wall I realized, I had fallen out of shape and was nowhere near where I used to be. Overall, it took me 6.5 freezing hours to get through the course and I had failed just about every obstacle and I mean, failed every obstacle. My boyfriend at this time was still unsupportive and I started to really feel down about myself and where I was at that time.
When I got home, I looked online to read more about these obstacle courses and when the next one was. I wanted to get in shape and go to another one at some point in warmer weather and try again. That’s when I found a number of events for 2013 and kept the idea in the back of my head. The next day, I went for a run and kept going until I couldn't breathe anymore. I thought I made it pretty far and looked down at my phone, I only made it a quarter of a mile! I couldn't believe it and did every girls favorite thing and got on the scale. I had gained WAY more weight than I thought I did, I was overweight.
Right away, I started to change my eating habits and looked for healthier alternatives to the foods that I loved, that way I didn't go cold turkey and was able to wean myself off of them over time. Before I knew it, it was already January and the count down to my second OCR that April was approaching a lot sooner than I was ready for!
I kept going to the gym and pushing myself to keep moving, running/jogging/walking, I didn't care; I just wanted to keep moving and fight through the pain. I would watch people at the gym while on the treadmill to mimic their strength training movements after I was done with cardio. I was still too embarrassed to ask for help and really wasn't sure what I was doing but, I kept pushing with small weights so I wouldn't cause any damage to myself.
Before I knew it, I was running an OCR just about every other weekend in 2013 and completed a total of 26 courses. I had lost the weight and became in the best shape of my life. So far in 2014, I have doubled my racing events since last year and have been doing one just about every weekend. I knew this year I wanted to do something different, I wanted a new challenge, I wanted something that would break me and push me to my ultimate limits, I wanted to find something that would make me want to walk away during and mentally just keep fighting through, so I signed up for the Summer Spartan Death Race.
“The Death Race is the ultimate challenge, designed to present you with the unexpected and the completely insane! Nothing else on earth will challenge you like The Death Race, both mentally and physically.
Every Death Race is its own uniquely brutal challenge, no two races are alike. The race, created by Ultra athletes Joe Desena and Andy Weinberg, was developed as a way for athletes to test themselves both mentally and physically. The Death Races take place in the unexpectedly challenging terrain of the Green Mountains in and around Pittsfield, Vermont and have lasted over 70 hours. We provide no support. We don’t tell you when it starts. We don’t tell you when it ends. We don’t tell you what it will entail. We want you to fail and encourage you to quit at any time.”
Will I hate life during this face? Probably. Will I cry on the course when no one’s looking? Most likely. Will I want to quit? Most definitely. Will I give up during the race? Not a chance. I want to fight my way through my own challenges. I want Joe Desena and Andy Weinberg to teach me things about myself that I haven’t discovered about myself yet. I have heard from seasoned vets of the Spartan Death Race that’s what you walk away with, learning a new things about yourself. Well, I’m ready to become a Spartan Death Racer!