Sept. 26, 2015 | Spartan Race: SoCal Beast #2
The sun is not going to be my friend, I remember thinking to myself as I looked out from the tent where I was waiting for my temperature to cool down. It was about 8 A.M. and I had just finished pre-running and rabbit-ing part of the course. I had been up since 4:30 A.M. and had watched the sun rise faster than I remember it ever doing so. I cringed. It wasn’t even close to noon and the sun had already taken up the responsibility of bearing down on the race course, with no cloud in sight to shield anything from its rays. This temperature might have been fine for a beach outing, but to many of the racers today — in the desert, no less — it was not welcome weather.
My official heat was to start in the early afternoon. While it meant racing in hotter weather, it meant I wouldn’t be on the course when the sun was at its peak. I hadn’t done any heat acclimation training, or much training at all, for this race. None of that really mattered now, though, because I was here in the desert and going to race — ready or not. Though I wasn’t particularly worried about course itself. I was worried about the heat. I had been scheduled to run this race last year but it had been cancelled due to extreme heat conditions that resulted in runners getting hauled to medical tents in waves.
I don’t like taking anything with me on the race course. Once, at my first Beast, I took a small backpack with me and I hated running with it the entire 13+ miles. This time, in an effort to make sure I wouldn’t die on the course, I brought a small waist pack with a water bottle attached to it. Again, the fact that I brought anything on the course with me was a sure sign that I was actually worried. Excited, but worried. About an hour before my heat, I had already overheard countless reports of people being taken off the course to medical. Some of the reasons included: heat stroke, heat exhaustion, cramping, asthma attacks, sprained ankles. I stood at the start line, surrounded by the other racers in my heat.
Well. Here we go.
Mile One was hilly right out of the gate. Most people were eager to separate themselves from the group, but for the most part, everyone stayed together. I made the decision to stay toward the middle of the pack. I knew I had at least 12 miles of these treacherous trails and with the relentless heat beating down on us. Call me timid, but I wanted to be conservative with my capabilities. I continued to trot, patiently climbing the hills as others passed me.
Funnily enough, despite being a little concerned that I would be at the bottom of my heat, I wound up catching up to the other racers at the top of the first big hill. The racers who tried to separate themselves from the rest of the heat were stuck behind a runner from a previous heat. The trails were narrow, making single file formation the only way to progress through the course. Everyone was at the mercy of the person in front of the line. It was reminiscent of the 405 freeway. Suckers! The voice in my head cackled.
The outside obstacles began to show up. I scaled through the first set of moats, eager to throw my legs in water even though the mud would make my shoes heavier. If I could have dunked my whole body in the water, I would have. Based on the faces of others, I could tell I was not the only one thinking this.
The Plate Drag came next. No matter what anyone says, this obstacle was really more of a lottery. While the weights were the same, the uneven terrain made some plates harder to drag than others. But I saw some shade further down the course, past the Plate Drag, and decided I didn’t care which one I got. Shade was near and I wanted it. Whether I was just stronger since I last raced or fueled by the prospect of shade, I pulled that plate in record time and took off.
At this point, my heat had started to taper off. I started to pace myself in a jog, throwing myself over the hurdles and walls that came up. The hurdles were higher than I remembered, but I launched myself over all the same — although I did hit my crotch going over the last hurdle. No biggie. Girls’ crotches are strong.
Several obstacles and a few miles later, I arrived at what I call the Mud Pits of Doom. Seemingly harmless and straightforward upon first glance, these pits were filled with water and soft mud that clung to everything like glue. Whatever traction my shoes had was rendered useless. I looked up at the first mud wall and threw myself at it, only to slide back down into the water. There was no way to get any grip on the wall; it was thick and hard as cement despite being made of dirt. And so slippery! I looked around. Thankfully, everyone else was having trouble too. I searched the wall with my eyes, trying to find some section to get a decent footing or something. There wasn’t much. This must be what bugs feel like when they’re trapped in the bathtub.
After what felt like minutes, I started to get frustrated. How the heck was I going to get over this? In an act of what was definitely a combination of stupidity and desperation, I rocketed myself at the wall again and jammed whatever appendage I could into the wall. Needless to say, it hurt. But for some reason, it worked. I gleefully and frantically wriggled my way up and over the wall, like a demon gecko-human. I was almost pleased with myself until I saw that I had two more pits just like the first. DANG IT.
I continued to make my way through the course, knees and elbows hurting from the last obstacle. It seemed to be nothing but hills for the next few miles, with a few other obstacles mixed in. The sand was getting hotter and as I approached the fifth mile, I realized that the terrain was going to be an obstacle itself. As racers skidded down the hills, the soft dirt beneath them flew up in thick clouds that would almost attack anything behind them. Several racers were pelted in the face by dust clouds, unable to see and unable to breathe. I pulled my headband over my nose. Hopefully it would be enough to keep me from inhaling the earth.
The Tyrolean came next. It is, by no surprise, one of my favorite obstacles. I was so excited that it was part of the course that I threw caution to the wind and clamored up onto the first rope I saw. Success. I was starting to feel some of energy coming in (finally) and with a stronger spring in my step, pranced onward.
Shortly after the Tyrolean, I met a fellow racer by the name of Simon. The heats had definitely merged and thinned out at this point, and there were few racers near us. We decided to pace each other for the remainder of the race. In retrospect, it was the smartest thing we did. Mostly for our sanity.
We continued along our way, completing hill after hill and obstacle after obstacle. Two miles later, we had knocked through the Herculean Hoist, Cargo Net, A-Wall, Bucket Brigade, and even the Multi-rig (or, as I not-so-fondly call it, the Forearm Killer). At this point, we were more than ready for the next obstacle: the Lake Swim. I jumped into the lake, and was overtaken with a great sense of relief as I could feel my body cooling down in the cold water. I was so happy that I started to cry internally.
When we reached the end of the lake, we arrived at the highest hill the course had to offer. With what was definitely at least a 60º incline and a 85º decline, “hill” was describing it lightly; it was more of a mountain than anything. I crawled my way up steadily, feeling the burn in my legs getting worse and worse with every step. The voice in my head started to growl. Don’t stop. Don’t stop. Think about In-N-Out. Think about that 3×3. Think about In-N-Out. Don’t stop.
I should also mention that I had unwisely not eaten anything other than a granola bar and a slice of turkey. I take consolation in that I wasn’t stupid enough to deprive myself of hydration, but my stomach was still mad at me.
Tire flips came after the mountain. People had been cramping up left and right. The drive to finish faster was getting stronger. Simon and I made our way through the forest portion of the course, dodging roots and branches. The trails were getting narrow again. Patience was wearing thin as I started to run past the racers in front of us. My legs were starting to feel heavy. This race was definitely testing my patience. The longer we ran, the more anxious I was starting to get.
The Wall Series marked the last mile and a half. The walls were significantly taller this time around, Thankfully, I didn’t hit my crotch like I did with the hurdles when I scaled them. Although I did pinch my boob on the last one. What is with me and hurting my lady parts?! I looked up at the next part of the course. Another mountain. I could hear people around me coming to the same realization as I did as profanities and screams of “NOOOOO!” escaped some of the other racers. I was also getting upset. The voice in my head was no longer thinking about food. It had turned from a positive motivator to an angry brain-hulk. YOU ARE NOT GETTING F-ING FIVE SHADES DARKER AND RIDICULOUS F-ING TAN LINES TO GIVE UP AT THIS F-ING MOUNTAIN. YOU SCALE THAT F-ING THING RIGHT NOW.
Simon and I clearly had the same idea and had the unspoken agreement to run up the mountain as fast as we could before our legs decided to stop listening to our brains. We ran, legs cramping and burning, until finally we sped to the top. VICTORY WAS OURS.
With one mile left, it was time to gun it. There was no point in trying to conserve our energy now. I slid down the mountain and grabbed a cup of water at the last water station to pour on my legs. Adrenaline was pumping through my veins. My heart was racing faster than ever, although it was probably from the constant lack of oxygen from the heights. I ran. Twist. Turn. Up this one last incline. And at last:
The last barbed wire obstacle.
I dived to the ground and began to roll and slide myself under the wires. Freezing cold water was being blasted from a hose, pummeling the racers crawling through the obstacle. I cursed myself. I would have more than welcomed the water any time until about half a mile ago and now that I had a full blast of it, it was making it difficult for me to get through the barbed wire. No doubt that was the point, but it was chilling and the sudden wind made it a complete shock to the system. The voice in my head kept blaring a single word in my head. FINISH. FINISH. FINISH. The mud on the ground was hard and rough, scratching and biting my skin. As soft as I’m sure the dirt was making my skin with its gritty exfoliation, I was too busy trying to practically swim my way through to relish the moment.
After literally crawling my way to freedom from the barbed wire, three obstacles stood between me and the finish line. The Slip Wall, relative to the mud pits from earlier, was a walk in the park. I rolled over and climbed down. Rope Climbs were next. The ropes were wet and muddy with very little grip. Rope burns be darned! I ran up the haystack and jumped onto a rope. I clenched the rope between my legs as an extra precaution. I punched the bell and swung down the rope to wait for Simon to finish his climb. “Let’s go, Simon! We’re there! We’re there!”
And finally, the last obstacle: the Fire Jump. I ran full force into the fire and jumped. It was not a pretty jump, but I didn’t care. A smile and a yell of glee roared out of me as I sprinted toward the finish line. I CAN HAVE FOOD NOW. I was done. We were done.
…and I’ll (probably) never pre-run a Beast again.
Age Group: 8th/240