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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

i AM spartan

it's over!  and i survived, with the help of my friends kelley and mr. lilcee.  i never knew doing a spartan race was on my list of things to accomplish before i die until i crossed that finish line.  i have a ton of other stuff to share with you that came first, but i really want to get this down while the memories are still fresh in my mind.  old age, you know - i forget stuff pretty quickly nowadays.

also, today?  wan-niversary 7.0.  don't worry.  i'll share my gown twirl later in the week.  you know you can't wait.

oh, and a disclaimer or two:  i've never uttered so many curse words in the span of a couple of hours as i did during this race.  and to keep it authentic...well, i'm likely going to drop 'em here too.  consider yourself warned.  also, this post?  suuuuuuper long and full of photos that are mostly shitty, plus a few i swiped straight from the race website.

so, way back when i volunteered at the ragnar race, i met a really nice guy who told me all about the spartan race, a super awesome obstacle run that he just knew i could totally conquer.  piece o'cake.  he was really pumped up about it, and his enthusiasm was pretty infectious.  i shoved it in the back of my mind until somewhere around may.  that's when i came across a living social deal that offered entry into the race, plus an unlimited hot soup bar for not much more than i usually fork out for a 5K.  so i hit "buy" and then blasted the link out via facebook, making sure to tag kelley and mr. lilcee (who'd done it before)in the hopes that i could rope 'em into the madness along with me.  obviously, i was successful.  yay!

now, between may and this weekend i totally waffled on this whole thing probably a bazillion times.  and kelley was in the same boat - particularly during the last few weeks leading up to race day, we'd both watched videos and looked at the website that scared the living shit out of both of us.  she actually uttered the words "i don't want to do this, i think i'm going to back out," while i begged and pleaded and wheedled.  "please do not leave me stranded.  i promise you we'll take it slowly, and it doesn't matter how long it takes us to finish, let's just do it!"  i was relentless.

in the week before the big day, we received probably half a dozen different e-mails about what to expect and getting prepared for the race.  one of them highly recommended that we bring a headlamp if we expected to be out on the course after 3:00.  and since our registration got a little wonky, i was listed  in the 2:30 wave, kelley at 3:00, and mr. lilcee wasn't even listed at all.  ugh.  so i headed to target and picked up a little something for just in case.

race day dawned gloomy and wet.  damn.  i was already worried about this whole mud business without adding to it, dang it!  the whole way to malibu in lilcee's parents' minivan, we chattered about what to expect for the day.  there was a whole lotta OMGWTFBBQLOLZ and nervous giggling in there, man.  well, but not from mr. lilcee, who'd done a spartan race once before.

we were lucky enough to find a pretty good parking space close to the entrance, which we all took as an omen.  hey, at that point, we were gonna take whatever we could get.  and as we trudged through the light rain, we came across these signs:

comforting, yes?  um, no.  hell no.

registration was simple, and as we suspected, it was easy to adjust our race time to the 1:00 start we'd been promised by living social.

we're so excited!  we're so excited!  we're so...SCARED!

especially when we got a gander at the text on our timing chip packet.  i mean, seriously - "you may die, or become catastrophically injured"? in all caps, bold and red?  what. the. fuck.

the timing chip itself was different from any i'd ever used before.

with our start time less than half an hour away, we proceeded into the festival area.  "festival."  makes it sound so...festive, right?  like we weren't heading towards a death trap and a half.  psh.

i'd read about this beforehand - because there's a good chance of losing your bib despite being pinned down on all four corners, they brand you with your bib number with a sharpie.  on your forehead.  yup.  i went first, and then despite her disdain for ink on skin, kelley stepped up, followed by mr. lilcee.

the whole area was jam-packed with muddy, sweaty racers, warmly-dressed spectators, and a ton of others like us who were getting ready for our turns.

bag drop-off.

look at this shit, man.  it was everywhere, and there was no escaping it.  we were grimy even before we could start.

we found the living social tent with the soup bar and checked in.

poor kitty.

over at the finish line, we got a sneak peek at what we'd encounter before receiving our finisher's medal.  as promised, there was a fire jump - although after the initial "holy shit" knee-jerk reaction and a closer look, we realized it wasn't that bad.  with a decent running start, it looked pretty easy to clear.  and then there were armed gladiators to run through.  they seemed to take a lot of pleasure in beating the crap out of the guys and simply tapping and high-fiving the girls.

finally, we sucked it up and made our way over to the start line, where the 1:00 wave folks were beginning to gather.  this is when my heart started pounding like mad.

there was an announcer to our right, yelling out encouragement and pumping up the crowd into a crazed frenzy.  in answer to his "who are you?"  we all shouted "i am spartan!"  it helped ease my nervousness a little.  just a little, mind you.

when the crowd was finally released, we broke into an easy jog.  this only lasted for a little while before we reached our first obstacle:  a fucking cold ass lake of muddy, freezing water of questionable depth.  remember - i'm not a very strong swimmer.  so i tried to squelch my initial paralyzing fear and decided to just go for it.  i jumped in, and just about lost my shit - i couldn't breathe, and i thought i was literally going to die.  that was it, i was totally a goner.  the shock of that incredibly cold water was damn near too much for me, and as i waded through and reached the point where i couldn't touch the ground anymore, i panicked.  thank god for kelley - she never left my side and grabbed me by the arm to pull me along as best as she could.  she herself was getting a little help from a random dude behind her, and she turned to him and said "don't worry about me, but push her, would you?"  i tell you, if not for her and random good samaritan...i was toast.

when we finally reached the end, my head was throbbing with a headache that pounded instantly from that cold ass water.  ouch.  i honestly thought i was going to cry from relief, but i didn't have time for that shit - that was only the first of 15 promised obstacles to overcome.  i was just praying with all i had that the water was the worst of it.  i figured after that bullshit, the rest had to be a snap...right?

next was a fairly steep incline in that thick, gooey mud.  there would be no more running by our little group for the rest of the day.  as we walked along, some gung-ho dude came up behind us heaving and panting in our ears.  so disturbing.  from then on, we called all the runners who approached us "zombies."  i'm not sure they appreciated their titles, but we didn't give a shit.

our next obstacle was waiting for us at the top of the hill.  the cargo net wasn't that hard to climb.  the trickiest part was just timing it so that we didn't get kicked in the face by the muddy ass shoes worn by the climbers ahead of us.  easy peasy.

next up was the o-u-t:  over, under, through.  instead of relying on my upper body strength to get me over the wall, i cheated a bit and used the stands at the ends of the walls for a boost.

more climbing.  it was kind of a blessing to have had so many other spartans go ahead of us, because they created perfect footholds that made the climb easy-ish.

we'd been warned about the monkey bars from a girl we encountered as we were getting our stuff out of the car.  since i'd promised myself i'd try every obstacle and not just go straight for the burpee punishment, i stepped up and grabbed onto the first bar.  but my wet, muddy hands couldn't hold on and i slipped right off.  damn.

oh, i didn't explain the burpee penalties?  watch this:

if you failed any of the obstacles on the course, your punishment was to drop and do 30 of those things.  THIRTY.  fuck that noise, yo.  kelley and i did maybe a third of them before we looked around, shrugged, and got the hell outta dodge.  of course, the only way out was down a hill via this rope.  no biggie, though.

by the way, my pictures get a lot fuzzier from here on out.  i was toting my phone very carefully in a waterproof case i'd bought on amazon that i wore around my neck, and while it served its purpose nicely the water and mud got harder and harder to clean off.

here, ten box jumps.  again, the mud kept us from being able to do our thing properly.  so kelley and i reverted back to step class and pulled ourselves up and down one foot at a time.  oh, and yeah - there were lots of shirtless boys around.

while climbing up the hills was no picnic, i was more concerned about getting down them.  i knew the area was full of loose gravel, and just being in unknown terrain was nervewracking.  for once, though, the mud worked in our favor and kept us from eating shit.

i think i may have some of the obstacles out of order - i wasn't exactly in my right mind, ya dig? - but do you really care?  probably not.  hell, if you've made it this far, you deserve a medal too.  but you can't have mine.  i earned that shit.

anyway, according to my phone our next challenge was grabbing one of these heavy bags - pink (and lighter weight) for the girls, red for the guys.  we crawled through the wall, trekked down, around, and up the hill, back through the wall, and returned the bag before moving on.

the one and only water stop.  mr. lilcee had brought a water backpack that he generously stocked for all three of us, although kelley and i never did take advantage.  we sipped from one of the cups here, and that was all the agua we drank for the duration.

after we conquered yet another muddy hill, i think the next obstacle was the one where we were given a resistance band to wear around our ankles and told to bunny-hop our way up and down.  when that was over, at the bottom of another hill was the wall.  we were to make our way across the whole wall without holding on top or falling down.

did i mention the wet and mud and cold?  yeah.  this was the site of burpee punishment #2.

i don't even think we did more than five burpees before we got up and took off again.  the javelin throw was next, and the goal was to hurl that thing into the bale of hay and make it stick - even for a second - otherwise, burpee time.  i'm sure you can guess how that went.

not far from the javelin throw was another rope climb with a ladder down the back side.

right after that was a bunch of weights on pulleys, again with a lighter option for the girls.  you had to pull the rope to bring the weight up to the very top and then control the drop and keep the weight from creating a muddy splash at the bottom.  i managed this one fairly easily.

from the moment i'd pulled myself out of that frigid lake at the very start, i'd sworn that i wouldn't even attempt another water obstacle despite my promise to try every one.  no way was i going to risk drowning again, fuck that.  and of course, what was the next thing?  yup - another swim through the lake.  kelley was ready to go for it, but mr. lilcee knew it wasn't even a consideration for me.  we told her we'd wait at the other end for her, but she changed her mind and just walked through with us.  i felt bad for holding them back, but nothing could've swayed me.  and so we encountered the obstacle that kelley and i had been dreading the most:

not only were we to crawl underneath crisscrossed strips of sharp barbed wire that was just a few feet above the ground, but we were to do it uphill.  and it was broken up into two sections.  twice the fun.  not.

at first, we toughed it out and crawled on our hands and knees.  but after listening to the couple behind us who'd drop to the ground and rolled their way through, we followed their lead.  it truly was the easier way to do it, despite the hard-packed rocky ground beneath us.

halfway through the second stretch of wire, i looked up and noticed the photographer snapping away.

i don't know what came over me, but i somehow pushed and pulled and grabbed and yanked my way up that hill and out from under that wire at the top.  maybe it was a rush of adrenaline knowing that the end was near at last.  who knows?  all i know is, i got through without so much as a nick or scrape from the sharp points of the barbed wire.

i felt really bad for kelley, who was clearly struggling.  the barbed wire for her was as difficult as the water had been for me.  i tried to help the only way i could:  by shouting out encouragement for her and telling her how close she was to the end.  i was so proud of her when she finally emerged, triumphant and exhausted.

it was a relatively short descent back down towards the finish line, and we knew we were almost there when we could hear the music and the shouts of the crowd not far from us.  it was exactly the motivation we needed, and one by one we took off running to leap over the fire wall.

the gladiators gave us a few halfhearted smacks as we breezed through, and just beyond the last timing mat we accepted our medals, muddy bodies and all.

our t-shirts were handed to us here as well, which kind of sucked because we were all pretty much the filthiest we've ever been in our lives and those shirts ended up slightly grubby before we had the chance to wear them.  and when i draped mine over a partition to take this, i giggled at how the folds created a more appropriate title for this race:

even though we knew the water would be cold as ice, we didn't care - by then, we just wanted to wash off some of that caked-on mud.  people, i had dirt and sand and mud in places where things like that should NEVER touch your body.  unspeakable.

because we didn't want to change into our clean clothes and then have to trek through the mud again, we headed over to the living social tent for some hot soup.  i tell you, campbell's has never tasted so damn good.  we're talking like four cups' worth good.

hammin' it up with my hard-earned prize.

bonded for life!

when we'd gotten our fill of soup, our last stop was at the merchandise tent to see if there was anything good.  on our way, i smirked at this tent.  because, duh.  never ever ever ever doing that again.  like, ever.

of course i couldn't resist this "spartan chick" tee in my very favorite color.  come on now.


after some contortionist-style maneuvering on the side of the road, we toweled off and managed to change into clean, dry clothing.  my teeth were chattering and i couldn't feel my hands anymore, and fresh underwear and pants never felt so good.  and in the car on the way home, with the heater on full blast and my limbs coming back to life, i popped open the mirror on the visor for a little inspection.  sex-hay, yes?

but, still:  who am i?

I AM SPARTAN.  fuck yeah.


  1. You made me exhausted and breathless reading about your exploits- you're a good candidate for Survivor with all the stuff you went through! Congratulations, and Happy Anniversary!

  2. We did it! We did it!! What a day. So proud of us and so glad we are friends...and all that sappy stuff! Happy Anniversary!

  3. Like I commented on Kelley's post, this looked some serious Hunger Games shit. I am still picking my jaw up off the floor. Seriously so proud of you guys.

  4. Wow, congratulations! That race looks brutal. Good for you, though.

    Also, congrats on your anniversary. =)

  5. Happy Anniversary! I was thinking of doing this but it fell on my best friend's birthday. Now I'm not so bummed about missing it, those burpees are WAY out of my league. Go you for rocking the shit out of this though!

  6. wow! you rock! Congrats on finishing the race and your Anniversary. :)


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