You probably read the title of this post and thought, “yeah right, how could one race change someone’s life??”. Well I’m here to tell you it can. It was one of those races that sparked a passion in me that I didn’t know I had. It made me believe I could do the things I thought I couldn’t do. That race was my first Spartan race, the Calgary Sprint in August 2014.
We first heard about the Spartan race from a friend at Bootcamp the previous summer who was doing it with her husband’s work. She said it was challenging but a lot of fun. I still remember sitting in my living room having coffee with my bestie in January 2014 and her saying “we should do that Spartan Race thing”. I said no way, I’m not ready for that and brushed it off. But she planted that seed and I was curious…what was a Spartan Race and why was it so different from a typical 5k road race? It seemed like something that only super fit athletes could do. But the more I read about it the more I realized that the Spartan Race is meant for everyone and anyone, that’s why there are three race levels to choose from, the Sprint, Super and the Beast (or if you’re really crazy the Ultra Beast). The more blog posts I read and youtube videos I watched the more I came to realize that maybe it was a good idea to give it a try. What’s the worst that could happen?
So we signed up in February and decided to join Kristi’s brother in law’s team so we didn’t have to do it alone. I trained over the summer although I really had no idea what I was getting myself into, I ran and did a few burpees and push ups and felt somewhat ready by August.
The morning of the race I was so nervous, our heat wasn’t until 2 pm but we headed to the BMX park early to watch the race. I remember walking into the festival area, it was crowded with muddy smiling people proudly wearing red medals around their neck. We signed our death waiver (seriously you have to sign one and it does say chance of death), marked our numbers on our arms and found a good spot on the hill to watch the action. We had no idea what we were getting into. You could see some of the track and the last few obstacles but we had no idea there was a huge section of the race outside of our line of sight.
At 1:45 pm we headed to the start line. After a few AROO’s we were off. It was a cloudy day and it had rained but the track was still very dusty and there were a lot of rolling hills and grooves from bike tires, very different from running on a bike path. We all got separated after the first obstacle but Kristi and I stuck together for the remainder of the race. After some over, under and through walls we hit the hills, they were steep up and down and seemed to never end. That’s when I started thinking “what the heck am I doing? I’m never doing this again!”. At the top of one hill was the tractor pull, you pull a cement block behind you along a track. At the top of another hill was the sandbag carry, you had to carry the 20lb sandbag down the hill and back up…it was very challenging for me. I’ve come a long way with the heavy carries, they’re still hard but are not nearly as challenging as that first sandbag was.
At the top of another hill was the monkey bars, standing on the bench I couldn’t even reach them they were so high. This was before we knew we could help each other across. After watching my best friend fall off the monkey bars and hurt her knee we both went to do our 30 penalty burpees. Burpees in the dusty dirt are not fun!
Many of the obstacles were challenging but fun, the slanted walls and tire flip was fun. The barbed wire crawl was high enough you could crawl under it instead of army crawl or roll, which was good because the water was pretty high. The 8 foot wall was a challenge but another racer helped us over and the paramedic and volunteer helped us with the inverted wall. I was blown away by the amount of help total strangers offered me, I was pulled up hills and boosted over walls and given words of encouragement. It’s one of my favourite things about the OCR community, you’re never alone out there on the race course.
By the time we got to the traverse wall it was so muddy and slippery they had decided to make it a team obstacle. Your partner basically piggy backed you through while you kept your feet and hands on the wall. There was no way I could have made it across that one by myself. The rope climb was our last obstacle…it was very slippery and muddy and over a pit of water that went up to our chest. We both didn’t make it up so 30 more burpees for us right at the finish line.
The last obstacle was the fire jump. I can’t even say how great it felt to cross that finish line with my best friend after 1 hr 27 min on the course. After collecting our well earned medals and finisher shirts we hosed ourselves down, changed and enjoyed our free beer.
As we sat in the beer gardens and talked about our favourite parts of the race we all agreed we would definitely do it again. Little did I know that race would change my life for the better. Because of that race and wanting to improve for the next one I got up the courage to try a CrossFit class and have done things that I never thought I would ever do but that race made me believe that I could. I race because I love it and it pushes me out of my comfort zone, I don’t race to win, my only goal is to finish and to have fun. If you’ve ever wanted to try an OCR (obstacle course race), I highly recommend that you do, you won’t regret it. If I can do it, anyone can.