I am not a runner.  I sprint very well but long distances haven’t really been my favorite choice of exercise.  This year I decided to break out of my comfort zone, be a lot more daring and go have more adventures.  For some odd reason, a good friend of mine convinced me to sign for the Spartan Race.  For those of you that don’t know what it is, The Spartan Race is an 8+ mile obstacle race through the hills of Temecula.  My longest distance ran had been 7 miles over flat land with NO obstacles.  So I’m figuring, why not? I stay in very good shape due to the Boot Camp that we run during the week but this would be a challenge.   I had a team of people say that they were going to do it and one by one, they fell out.  One person, Bryan Calo, took the leap of crazy faith and joined me in the mud run.

As the day approached, the butterflies were going crazy in the old gut.  We committed, paid our entrance fee and we were going to do this and we were going to finish strong!  About 3,000 others nuts signed up to this race.  Race day arrived!  Bryan and I drove up together and we agreed that even though we signed up as individuals we would finish the race together.  We had to walk about 1.25 miles from the parking lot to the race start.  We collected our timing chips, pinned our bibs on, wrote our bib numbers on our shoulder/foreheads and arms and hydrated up.  We watched the first wave of racers come down the mountain, mud covered, sweating, and looking miserable.  I thought to myself, “what the hell did I get myself into?” It was too late to back now because it was our turn to join the queue.  The smoke bomb dropped, the siren blared and off we went! The first 2.5 miles was all hill running.

When you have a line of 250 people running over the mountains it’s truly a sight to see.  Just when my lungs wanted to give out we hit the first series of obstacles; hay bales, log jumps, cargo net climbs and running in a dry creek bed.  My lungs got a breather and we pressed on.  We hit the mud crawl next.  Going through mud over rocks, sticks and water is lovely but when real barbed wire is a few inches over your butt and back it goes to another level! We made it through unscathed and thankful for the water station ahead.  We jumped through some walls and hit the balance beam walk.  Rules of the course, you get one chance to complete the obstacle or you get to do 30 burpees as punishment for failing.  As if my lungs needed that!  Successfully negotiated we moved on.  The first of MANY steep hills was upon us.

At the foot of the ridiculous hill lay a fellow runner flat on his back suffering from hamstring cramps.  Several people stopped to render assistance and then we pressed on.  This hill was so steep that only a mountain goat could run up it!  We made it up and had the joy of running back down the mountain to the monkey bars.  Whoever carved this trail of hell needs serious psychiatric help!  One side is scrub brush, the other side is steep drop and the ground is loose dirt, gravel and dust.  Foot placement was critical.  We hit the monkey bars and made it across.  As Bryan came down he informed me that he felt a little tweak in his left calf.  We made it to the halfway point where the first aid/water station was.  We got him some salt, hydrated, stretched his calf and mobilized his ankle.  Next two obstacles were the javelin throw and wall traverse.  I failed on both and had the pleasure of doing 60 burpees after 4 miles of joy and happiness.  From that point on, NO MORE BURPEES!

We vaulted 2 -8 foot walls and went for the second half of the course.  Bryan’s calf locked up whenever he pushed off to jump.  Our paced slowed way down but we were determined to finish.  We had to fill a 5 gallon bucket with sand and carry up and back down a hill, run more hills, carry tires up and down another hill and run some more.  We stretched his calf whenever we needed to, slowed down the pace on the inclines and walked when necessary.   We made it down a particularly long decline and hit the riverbed.  Running through cold water and mud up to our knees never felt so good.  Then we hit the hill from HELL!  This thing was soo long and brutal all we could do was think, “don’t look up, one foot in front of the other.”  We passed people by, heard all the complaining, whining, bellyaching and drama.  We finally crested Satan’s spawn and had to climb cargo nets and run back down.  We hit a few more cargo nets, ran some more and finally were able to see the finish line.  Down to the last few obstacles, I started thinking, “Finish strong.”  Bryan and I were going to finish this thing!  We had to pull a cement block around a mud track, and then sprint to the rope climb.  Again, 30 burpees if you didn’t ring the bell at the top.  I went first, jumped half way up, pulled and clanged that raggedy bell!  Bryan went next.  He was struggling with his technique but I saw his face and there was no way he was doing burpees!  He hung on for what seemed like an eternity when I suggested that he use the knots as a leverage spot and push with his feet.  He listened and sure enough, rang the bell!  We bumped fists and went through the mud pits.  After emerging wet, dirty, and smiling, we had to crawl under barbed wire through the sand.  Four obstacles left!  We jumped over the fire pit, scaled the slippery wall, do 200 yards on the concept 2 skier machine and fight our way through the gladiator pit.  3 hours and 19 minutes after we started our journey, we finished and emerged as Spartans!

The Lessons I learned are as follows:

1)   Leadership:  Whenever you undertake a goal whether it be a race, a business or parenthood, you need a leader.  A leader should always lead by example and never leave their teammates behind.  I could have left Bryan at the half way point as he suggested I do but what kind of leadership would that be?  We started this race together and we were going to finish it together.  If I had to piggyback him across the finish line then so be it!

2)   Teamwork:   All throughout the course we heard people yelling at each other, fighting, complaining and being miserable.  They choose to accept this journey; no one forced them to do it.  You are only as strong as your weakest link.  In this case it was Bryan calf.  He had the mental toughness to keep going when the going got tough.  Working together to overcome the challenges we faced helped us both to exceed what we thought we were capable of doing.

3)   Commitment:  When we first signed up to do this race, we thought how hard could it really be?  Once we arrived at the starting gate and saw the looks of anguish on some of the earlier racers faces, I thought, “ What did I just get myself into?” After a 30 second mental breakdown, I recommitted myself to doing the very best I could.  I may not win, but I was going to do my very best!  Committing to your stated goals gives you clarity because you have a clear path to follow.  A start line and a finish line. If I could do that in the race, I can certainly do that in life!

4)   Overcoming Obstacles:  This was the biggest challenge but also the greatest joy.  Whenever we approached a new obstacle, I thought, “How am I going to overcome this?” If I had to crawl under, jump over, swing over, push through or whatever, I was going to find a way through.  We all have obstacles to overcome in business and in life.  If we adopt the same mindset as I did on the racecourse, we will have NO limits!  Do whatever you have to, to achieve your goals.

5)   Risk:  Life is about taking a certain amount of risk. If you stay in your comfort zone, you will never grow as a person.  Pushing yourself physically can also lead to greater mental strength.  After we crossed the finish line, I thought, “If I can do this, I can do anything.”  Nothing feels better than making a goal, achieving that goal and setting new ones to master.  As soon as we cleaned up, had some BBQ and coconut water, we were hooked.  So we signed up for the Tough Mudder this February.  It’s a longer course filled with new challenges to master and new memories to be made.

I ask you to join me in going outside your comfort zone, setting goals, overcoming obstacles, being a leader and living, truly living, your best life ever!

Post discussion

One Response to “Lessons Learned from the Spartan Race”

  • Bea April 30, 2013

    Well…I just committed to do Spartan 2014 in Miami. I will be 49 and this is somthing that I have wanted to do in my lifetime. I am starting to train for the race. Any suggestions.

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