As the aches and pains made themselves at home in my body on Saturday evening, I was determined to care for myself in such a way that would allow me to complete the final run – the 13+ mile Beast – at 08:00 the next day. By the time we arrived home it was after 18:00 and we were exhausted. I drank a lot of water and I ate what I could stomach (I tend to lose my appetite after hard workouts which I’m sure is a bad thing). I used some essential oils and Icy Hot on my legs, took a lot of amino acids and drank a protein shake to help my muscles repair.
Once the kids were in bed, I tried to sleep, but my mind was occupied thinking about how I had made it through the day with this ridiculous injury and about the people we had met along the way. Everyone we came across on the trail showed so much aloha – they were kind, encouraging and, though it was unspoken, they all seemed to have a story to tell. I’ve been a runner for a few years now and it still strikes me how a race brings a mass of strangers together, who all have a common goal of finishing – some for time others to simply cross the finish line – and yet we’re on our own journeys with our own purpose and drive.
The next morning we arrived on the Ranch in time for the National Anthem and our state song, Hawa’i Pono’i. The crowd was much smaller on this overcast day, and a quiet intensity lingered in the air. As we walked further onto the grounds, most everyone seemed relaxed but eager to get on the course. I certainly was. My left leg wasn’t doing so well, but mentally I was determined to get through the day “even if I had to cross the finish line on my hands” I told Brad. My body was in pain, but my heart and my head were ready to complete the last part of the journey.
The first section of the Super trail went well. We were making good time, all things considered, but once we hit the start of “the Beast loop”, it was like entering the Land of the Lost. The first obstacle was remembering a code posted on a board that correlated with the last 2 digits of your race number. Mine was 91 = Zulu 877 1251. Already, this plays into your psyche because the expectation is that the course ahead is so brutal you’ll lose your ability for mental recall. Remembering my number was easy, though, and it was a great distraction for the near straight vertical ascent up the face of the mountain to the top of the ridge and down to the other side of the valley. During the climb my knee suddenly started to throb. My leg started getting stiff but I kept moving because stillness would not have been good.
We hiked for what seemed to be forever up and down the valley anxiously awaiting the start of the creek everyone had told us about. For a little while, we hiked alongside two women from the Australian team that we’d met the day before and I was grateful they were there for the conversation and the laughs. We talked (again) about the lack of beer at this race and I daydreamed about getting myself a Toohey’s Old. I’m sure Brad was thinking of Victoria Bitters or Toohey’s New though I’m sure a Bud Light would have done him just fine.
We passed the memory game station where a volunteer was supposed to make sure you knew your code. When we got there, the volunteer said “I don’t need your code don’t worry about it” but Brad and I were quick to blurt them out anyway. This was perhaps the only volunteer I was not a fan of all weekend – I made sure to profusely thank the others. There was a medic and a water station just beyond that checkpoint and I considered taking myself off the course for a moment. I was losing mobility in my leg and I feared getting back out of the loop in time to finish. It was already late and we had a long way to go. Having Brad there helped me refocus on the task ahead, though, and I didn’t want to let US down. I was already the weak one on the team, the least I owed him was that last medal. So I kept going.
When we finally reached the start of what would be a 1.5 mile climb up stream, we started to encounter other injured racers. Bad shoes and muscle cramps were rampant. This is the part of the course where I truly started to come unraveled. The rocks in the stream were absolute HELL to climb. At that point I could barely lift my left leg higher than 6 inches and I had to use my arms to pick my leg up and move it over much of the terrain there. Every bottled up emotion I carried in me came out at that moment. So much rage and disappointment in the last year dealing with family issues and body issues and it all released in that stream. Other women racers came by to comfort and reassure me letting me know they too had been having their quiet breakdowns along the way. One woman offered to sing songs to distract me. Another woman ahead just screamed ana cussed and cried. A man passing by stopped, locked in to me and reminded me that it was all mental and to keep pushing. It calmed me down. ALL of us just wanted to get the hell out of that loop and back to the other side of the mountain. And eventually we did.
Once we returned to the Super course after having to slide our way back down a very muddy mountainside, we flew through the last 4.5 or 5 miles. I realized as we hurried along that Brad and I had run this race much like we live our lives – together but in parallel. He hardly reached out a hand to help me on the trail, even when I was in pain. He didn’t coddle me when I broke down. He simply let me live it and supported me with his words. Some people might think this was harsh or ungentlemanly but he knows me well enough to know that I will ask for a hand when I REALLY need it (which I did) and that I’d have violently refused his help if he’d offered it (which at one point I did) because, like our 3 year old son, I live in a permanent state of “I WANT TO DO IT!”
When we crossed that finish line over 8 hours after the time we started, there was a huge moment of disbelief and then relief, and the race photographer caught it on film. Brad and I had achieved something neither one of us was certain we could. We pushed ourselves beyond the reasonable limit. We proved that as a team and as individuals we are unbreakable. We met amazing souls along the way and we struggled and celebrated with them. In the days that followed, I have had the chance to talk to some of my friends who were there and it has been inspiring to hear their stories. From my brave friend Nicole having to leave the course because she’d had the stomach flu the 2 days before (BEAST MODE!), to my amazingly strong friend Tracy who SMOKED the Super in the age/gender categories and has the bruises to prove it, to my new friend, fellow mother runner and former Marine, Angel, who suffered a tragic accident that led her doctors to believe she couldn’t do this series but who CRUSHED the Trifecta in a major way. I am humbled and honored to have been among the hundreds that attempted to do the impossible last weekend.
I realize I am not the female Spartan racer most people want to see. I’m not an athletically built glamazon. I don’t have fat free abs. I’m not bounding over walls and flying around the course like I’m on fire. I AM a wonderfully smart, snarky, unique yet totally average housewife with 3 kids who sneaks bites of their mac and cheese when she really shouldn’t and tries to keep up with her diet and exercise as best as she can who wanted to prove to herself and to her family that all of us are capable of so much more than the opinions of others, and certainly of ourselves, allow us to believe we’re capable of. This wasn’t about proving myself to be the best and the fastest, it was about proving that I am not a quitter, that I am stronger than many people, including myself, have believed me to be, and that I am worthy of MORE – more goals, more successes, more happiness than I ever thought I deserved.
I am so RIDICULOUSLY proud that I can say Brad and I became one weekend “Trifecta Spartans”. We will never be the same.