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What Running Gave Me in 2018

I’m not an emotional person.  However, as my husband broke off from me for the last two miles of the Charlotte half marathon, I found myself starting to tear up.  As I crossed the finish line, I cried.  I have run a few half marathons.  I have even run a marathon.  What made this race different?  A lot of things.  Mostly being the impact my children have had on my life.  Being a good mom, a mom my kids are proud of, ensures a different level of love that will always be in my life.

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When I saw the Charlotte Marathon was looking for ambassadors to represent the city’s race, I felt a calling.  This was something I wanted to be a part of.  I have preached that I am someone who keeps a very diverse training plan.  I am ready to do all types of things during any given week – ride an indoor bike, do an obstacle course race, crush a 5k or finish the competitive wave of beers and burpees.  How could I challenge those who considered themselves “non-runners” to get off a bike, treadmill or out of a crossfit studio to support this event?  I kept my same training regimen and showed up week in and week out at several local running races.

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I ran some of the fastest races of my life.  Will I remember that? Sure.  However, what  I will remember most about running all these races, rather participating in all of these fitness events, is the community. It gave me inclusion.  Access to a new group of inspiring friends that showed me a whole new side of Charlotte.

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Let’s talk race day.  I had been sick for several days leading up to the Saturday race.  I spent most of Thursday and Friday laying on the couch with a low grade fever.  I didn’t intend to dwell on it, which is why most people didn’t even know I was feeling under the weather as race day approached.  I woke up Saturday with the intention that I would run my half marathon without music, without expectation and with the intention of seeing my city.

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I parked in a parking deck that I didn’t plan to park in due to road closures.  I wore shorts based on advice from my husband and other ambassadors and I did less than a half mile warm up.  Nothing went as planned.  I met fellow Flywheel instructor, Abbie Cooper, and the Charlotte Marathon ambassadors at the finish line to take some pre-race pictures.

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Whatever nerves I may have had were released through the ambassador’s version of a 90’s boy band photo op and a short jog over to the start line where I met fellow FiA (Females in Action) friends for a group picture.  I had every intention of starting with the 8:00 min/mile pacer, until I couldn’t find him.  That’s where I was supposed to meet Abbie too.  Couldn’t find her either.

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I did find Katie Gregory (another Charlotte Marathon Ambassador).  We had already talked about trying to run a majority of the race together, so I felt good about having someone who I knew wanted to run an 8:00 min/mile pace near me.  As quick as the national anthem was played, the race started.  We walked across the start line.  There were a TON of people.  The first mile was slow.  Over the course of the mile, Katie and I picked up Alejandro (another Charlotte Marathon Ambassador).  He was running the full marathon, with a goal of sub 3:30.  GREAT.  Someone else who would pace with us.

The energy at the start of the race was fire.  Katie, Alejandro and I chatted, said hello to friends and before we knew it we were done with the first mile (8:10 pace).  Shoutout to all my FiAs we touched that first mile (Lindsey, Natalie, Katharine).  Katie and I joked about giving and getting high fives.  I ran past a group of police officers running down fourth and high fived each one of them.  It was after the first mile that we also passed a man who eventually completed the half with crutches.  SO inspiring.  There truly are no excuses.

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Somewhere in between the transition from mile 2-3, we lost Katie.  Alejandro and I chatted as we rolled down Randolph at the Colville intersection where I saw Shane.  Shane.  His smile so big, his arms extended up in the air, his voice echoing from 100m away.  He jumped in with us.  He documented on Instagram.  He entertained us.  These are the moments you will never know unless you run without music and technology.  Shane followed my pace as we ran with a man wearing American flag running shorts and a camelback.  He typically doesn’t do races on the road, but rather on the trails. We made the turn on to Providence in the midst of a huge crowd of runners (the first relay exchange zone).

We talked about how I was now in my home.  My neighborhood.  The roads that I knew and had trained well on.  We crushed the hills.  I took my first water.  I ran into so many people on this stretch.  Mary Merlin and her jogging stroller, a former co-worker Danny Weiland (I know his wife, Allison, was out there running) and the Lululemon crew! (Lynn and Allyson).

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Before we knew it, we were on to mile 6.  A steady downhill in which I saw my husband all geared up on the side of the road.  I yelled, “HUBS” and the man beside me looked over and said “huh?”.  I said again, “HUBS”.  He jumped in with Shane and I.  It was at that point that we made one of the most important turns of the day.  Queen Road West.  I knew I would see my kids. The most important people out on the course that day.

Y’all Queens Road West was MAGIC.  There were people lining both sides of the street.  Cow bells. Posters.  Cheers.  I saw my girls and ran by giving high fives and smiles.  I was proud of them as I hoped they were proud of me.  Thank you to all my friends and neighbors that we passed through this stretch.   Kelsey, Shelby, Cody.  The FiA station at the bottom of the hill.  If I didn’t say something or wave, it’s because I didn’t see you.  For that I apologize.  I am truly grateful for the warm showing of people out to support the every day runner.  Shane dropped us at this point, and the hubs (Jeff) took the task of leading me to the 10 mile marker.

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I took my first Gu pack as we cruised down Queens. I actually stopped to walk to make sure I got everything in and drank enough water too.  We picked things back up at a quicker pace as such I wouldn’t lose time.  That’s when we got in a fight.  As we cruised down Kings Drive, I told my husband I wanted to slow down to conserve energy for the big hill coming (Morehead).  He offered his advice, which I did not agree with and we stopped talking.  Sometimes big mama needs a time out.

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So I took one.  As I ran straight up Morehead with a chip on my shoulder, I saw one person standing at the top of the hill out cheering people on.  Allison.  She has been riding with me for over four years at Flywheel.  Allison has been through so much in the past year.  I can’t begin to explain to you how special it was for me to hear her yell, “Let’s go Jen” as I pushed to the top.  Just months ago this girl was admitted to the ER for blood clots in her lungs (from birth control, nonetheless).  She and her doctors attribute her ability to survive at her state to her level of fitness.  Read that again.  Her ability to survive.  Allison, thank you for being my inspiration.

We hit Latta park and found the people.  Charlotte Running Company had a set up.  We ran by the Fillnows.  As we passed the Charlotte Hornets painted basketball court in the park, we ran by Jeff’s friend, Scott Williams and his two boys.  He was as surprised to see us as we were to see him.  I walked through yet another water station before I headed to the home stretch.

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As we approached the point of the race that I knew Jeff would drop me to meet me at the finish line, he said to me “Jennifer, your girls were so excited to come cheer for you this morning.  They are proud of you.”  Mind you, we hadn’t said much since I got mad at him on Kings.  I didn’t say much, but I heard him.  I told him that.  I was listening.  So he kept talking to me.  This is why I love this man so much.

We split as I headed to SouthEnd and he headed uptown. By myself.  I had run the entire race with someone else.  I was finally alone.  Fatigue was setting in.  I was no longer distracted by someone  or something else.  I got sad.  Ha. Weird.  I felt like I was going to cry.  People say running is mental.  I kept trying to figure out why I was getting sad.  I was so close to the finish line.  I saw Scott Williams and his two boys again and I was reminded to embrace the experience and just have fun.

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I cruised by the turn into Panthers stadium fulfilled and slow moving, also alone.  I felt emotional again.  This whole season.  This whole experience.  It was almost over.  I wasn’t ready for it.  It was in these last moments that everything came full circle.  Abbie pulled up beside me and said, “Let’s go girl.  WE got this.” WE.  She didn’t say you.  She said we.  We, two moms, would finish together.  Not out to beat each other.  Not worried about time.  Just there to support each other as we finished.  This amazing feeling swept over me.  The end.  End of an incredible season.  End of this race I had been training for for what seemed like forever.  Regardless of time, I felt so loved as I crossed the finish line.  No matter how fast or slow I ran, I felt loved.  What a feeling.  Running gave me that.

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Don’t get me wrong, I feel loved by the ones who love me, but being a mom is hard.  There are a lot of days that go by unappreciated (especially with kids my age).  At my job in corporate America it was often that I was rewarded and recognized for my hard work.  The days are few and far between in my line of work these days.  My kids (and most people) don’t see me working during the hours they are sleeping.  Moving my whole day around to spend a little bit of extra time doing something for someone else.  Working out on a full stomach, when I’m run down or when I really just don’t feel like it.

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To Abbie.  To my moms and dads that work day in and day out.  To my friends and family who made me feel loved on this day.  I’m proud.  Proud of you.  Aim High.  Dream Big. Never settle.

Week 23 – Round 3

Size of Baby (per “What To Expect”) – Size of a small doll.

Weight Gain – 16 pounds.  Check out the difference that a baggy shirt makes in hiding baby bump.  I also included a picture of what my bump looked like during pregnancy number two.

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My second pregnancy at 23 Weeks.

Movement – I have continued to feel more and more movement, some days more than others.  Mostly at night when I lay down.

Sleep – When it rains it pours at our house (quite literally).  It seems like something is always leaking.  The thought of water damage can keep you up at night.  We are still waiting to finalize repairs on a roof leak.  To my surprise, I got in my car Sunday only to realize that my car roof was leaking through a broken seal on my XM antenna.  I felt water dripping onto my leg.

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Maybe being a mom has prepared me for dealing with unexpected situation like this.  Ten years ago I would have had a temper tantrum and thought my life was over.  On this day, I weighed my alternatives and managed to rearrange my schedule a little bit until I can get the car repaired once the rain passes.

What I miss – I have reiterated how much I miss sushi.  Well, this weekend my husband and I went on a date night to CO Sushi where I was able to find not one, but two, fully cooked, low mercury fish rolls.

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One of the menu features is a Wagyu beef roll.  One of my favorites.  I also opted for an eel based roll.  The last time that we went to this restaurant I was not pregnant.  As such, I had never even looked at the non alcoholic section of the menu.  Surprisingly, the menu offers non alcoholic “coolers” that are INCREDIBLE.  I tried the cucumber mint cooler, which was a little sweet, but resembled the flavors of a mojito. Definitely worth checking out.

Best Moments this Week – This week was BUSY!  Not only am I still teaching my full Flywheel class load, but obstacle course training started back up again and I stopped by Myers Park High School to coach the pole vaulters at a home meet.

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Take me back in time.  I think I had just as much anxiety being on the other side of the event (this time not the competitor, but the coach).  The improvements these kids have made in a few short weeks has been amazing.  I am so proud of them.

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Following the track meet, I headed home to prepare for my husband’s birthday celebration.  He is not into social media and definitely not into big birthday blowouts.  As such, we had a family get together at the house.  I picked up chicken and eggplant parmesan, fresh pasta, and kale salad from Pasta & Provisions.  I also ordered him our first donut cake from Suarez Bakery.

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Go ahead and drool.  It was better than it looks.  He is not a fan of cake.  Just donuts.  I am the opposite (I prefer cake over donuts).  I have to admit this cake changed my mind.  Something about the textures and flavors works and it works in an incredible way.  For less than $20 you can get a cake that fed us for up to a week.  The value is there!

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The girls loved helping their dad celebrate his birthday.  My oldest passed him his cards as my youngest attempted on several occasions to unwrap his gifts before he had a chance to get to them.  There is no keeping secrets in our family.  Unfortunately, the baseball game that we were supposed to attend got rained out.  We will go to another one later in the year.

Looking forward to – The month of May!  We are planning some special events to celebrate my husband and I’s anniversary, Mother’s Day and the start of summer.  We will be taking our last trip before baby number three arrives to Isle of Palms later in the month.

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Cravings – No real cravings at this point.  I’m back to eating the foods I enjoyed pre-pregnancy (just a lot more quantity).

Symptoms – I have had mild low back pain on my right side.  I admit that I have had this worked on by a bodywork therapist who I have seen regularly since before I was pregnant at Performance Rehab Associates.  I feel very fortunate that I haven’t had significant symptoms yet.

Workouts – I’m as busy as ever with training others and I still feel good enough to maintain my own regular workout schedule.  I am logging less running miles and spending more time doing strength, riding at Flywheel and jump roping!

  • Monday – I taught my normal 6:30 AM Flywheel class
  • Tuesday – Strength work in the garage before teaching my 3:30 PM Flywheel class.
  • Wednesday – I logged some time on feet (ran) and did some strength work while I was out a local park.
    • 1 mile run
    • Find a grassy hill  – run to top of hill, do 10 burpees (I did squat thrusts), run to bottom of hill do 1 pushup.
    • Repeat decreasing total burpees each round and increasing pushups (9,2 – 8,3, etc).
    • 10 minute EMOM (every minute on the minute) grip strength work on pull up bar:
      • Odd minute – 30 second dead hang
      • Even minute – 5 Pull Ups
    • Run 1.5 miles home
  • Thursday – I joined my running group Thursday morning.  I started the workout feeling okay, but certainly slower.  See workout below:
    • Run 1.5 mile progressive warm up (they ran 1.5, I dropped in and ran 1 mile)
    • 3 x 1 mile (10 minutes to run and rest) – see my stats below.  My warm up mile was an 8:49 pace.  My first mile of the workout was 8:26.  My second mile was 8:55.  As I started mile three I decided I was done.  I felt tired and unmotivated.  I cheered them on as they finished the rest of the workout.
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  • I went on to teach my 3:30 PM Flywheel class that afternoon.
  • Friday – I have adjusted my strength work by listening to what my body needs.  With some lower back pain and a slight anterior tilt in my shoulders due to frontal weight I am working more on posterior strength and mobility/balance.
    • 2 Rounds
      • Jump Rope 2 minutes
      • Band Crossover work x 10
      • Turkish Get Up x 5 each side
      • Miniband around thighs squat to side leg raise x 15 each side
    • 4 Rounds
      • Driveway suicide x 2
      • Unilateral kettlebell carry length of driveway x 1
      • Lunge to kettlebell overhead press x 10 each
      • TRX rows x 15
      • Side plank x 45 seconds each
    • Rig and ring transition work in garage.
  • Saturday – 4 miles EASY run!
  • Sunday – I taught my usual 7:30 AM Flywheel class.

 

Working Out With Purpose

Let’s talk about purpose.  The reason for which something is done.  The intention we set.  I have to admit, when I left college athletics, I was left without a coach for the first time in my life and didn’t really know the direction that I wanted to go with my fitness.  Surely I didn’t need to be in pole vault shape to be healthy in the “real world” while also being able to feel good about the way I looked.  I spent at least two years wandering around gyms all over the United States just going through the motions of exercise.  You know, going to work out because it was something I just did every day.  I didn’t know why I was doing any exercise other than I felt like I needed to each day to feel good about getting on with the rest of my day (it was essentially a routine).

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After taking almost five years off from real competition, I got married and found Flywheel.  It was the first technology driven competition workout that I could do as cross training to my running.  It was in the first year of riding, that I got my competitive edge back.  I also got back into incredible shape.   The biggest advantages of the workout were that I could get numerical information to tell me whether or not I was getting better over time, I could see the impact on my running speed off the bike, and I was in and out in less than 45 minutes. Money can’t buy time.  Time is everything.

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It was over the next 3 years that I had two children and I lost all concept of time.  Fortunately, I was able to exercise through the birth of both of my children, however, the birth of my second daughter had wreaked havoc on my body.  I now had a reason to begin to exercise with purpose.  I always work better under pressure.  My husband suggested that I sign up for a Spartan Race.  With three months to prepare, I opted to completely revise the way I worked out (solely for the purpose of competing in the race).  I focused on strength, only because that was something I had focused less on since leaving the Virginia Tech Strength and Conditioning Room.

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For the first time in my post-collegiate life, I started doing less cardio exercise and picked up some weights.  With the purpose of regaining strength, it came back quick.  I started with just doing 1 pull up.  Over the next few months, I could do 10.  Some days, I couldn’t do any.  You see finding a fulfilling purpose requires having setbacks.  You learn from each setback.  I sure did.

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I did great in my first competitive race post baby number two.  However, I still hadn’t mastered mobility, stretching and recovery.  As such, I found myself at the end of 2015 sitting mostly immobile in my upper body after a freak partial shoulder dislocation doing an obstacle race.  I renewed my purpose.

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Seeing a trend in obstacle racing towards the “runner”, I changed my purpose to getting better at my run.  I have never described myself as a runner.  Sure, I have run every distance up to a marathon, but I spent most of my life building strength to run as fast as possible over less than 90 feet and being able to jump as high off my left leg as possible.  The goals was to build fast twitch muscles. Definitely not slow.

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Prior to this year, my average mile pace during runs or races was somewhere in the 8-9 minute range.  With a renewed, focus on running, I spent 2-3 days a week doing cross conditioning workouts.  What is now my OCR (obstacle course racing) program.  I ran just 2 days a week and I rode the bike at Flywheel 3-4 days a week.  That’s right, even with my renewed focus on running, I didn’t run a lot.  When I did run, I ran with purpose.  One day a week I focused on interval workouts (think speed or hill training) with a group.  I was consistent.  On the other day, I ran longer and slower.  Instead of paying attention to pace, I watched my heart rate.  Always trying to keep it below 160 beats per minute.  I was always trying to keep it aerobic.

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My 2016 race season is officially OVER.  What a ride.  I set several goals at the beginning of the year (see post here).  That said, I could never have imagined how the year would play out for me athletically.  As a recap, see results below:

  • April 2nd – Cooper River Bridge Run (10K) – 46:18 (7:20/mile) PR
  • April 9th – Charlotte Spartan Sprint Race – 14th overall women’s elite
  • June 4 – Charlotte Warrior Dash – 4th overall woman
  • August 6 – Asheville Spartan Super Race – 34th overall women’s elite
  • August 27th – Yiassou Greek Fest 5k -22:12 (7:08/mile) PR
  • October 1 – Lake Tahoe Spartan World Championship Beast – 100 overall women’s elite
  • November 23 – Charlotte Turkey Trot (8K) – 35:34 (7:10/mile) PR

The biggest takeaway?  I didn’t get injured.  I also began sharing my purpose with others.  I guess you could say the biggest things I learned are:

  • Setting a purpose is the first step to achieving a goal.
  • You are never too old to set a goal.
  • Your purpose will almost always change.  Embrace that and enjoy the ride.

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Your reason doesn’t have to be a quantitative.  Let me list a few things that my clients are striving for today:

  • I want to be healthy.
  • I want to look good in a bikini.
  • I want to do a push-up.
  • I want to do a pull-up.
  • I want to lose weight.
  • I want to complete a Spartan Trifecta.
  • I want to live longer.

So what is your purpose?

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Asheville Super Spartan Race Recap 2016

Let me take a deep breath.  I haven’t posted in awhile.  For various reasons. The summer has been busy.  I haven’t really had much to say.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure if anyone cared to hear what I was saying.  Clearly these are excuses.  In the moments leading up to and following last weekend’s Spartan Race in Asheville, NC, I felt so much support.  While I will likely never find myself on the podium in the elite section of a Spartan Race, I am not ashamed to put myself in contention with some of the best athletes in the world (and let the public see it).

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I had done several obstacle races before I actually began my Spartan journey in 2015.  The transition from full time, corporate America to a mom of two girls was very hard for me.  I spent all of college and my first few years in Charlotte building self efficacy through climbing up the corporate ladder and traveling all over the United States.  After the birth of my second child and when I ultimately left work full time, I almost had to find myself again.  I had to find a way to get a piece of me back from before I had kids.  That came in the spirit of competition through obstacle racing.

This year’s Asheville Super was and will be one of the hardest and most competitive races of the 2016 race series.  After competing in last year’s event, I thought I had my hands around any and everything that the course director might throw at us.  Boy was I wrong.  Last year’s course consisted of 8 miles over an 1,800 foot elevation climb.  I finished it in a mere 2 hours and 5 minutes.  This year’s course on the other hand was over 10 miles over a 3,000 foot elevation climb.  It took me exactly 3 hours.  Plenty of racers have gone on to to post images of the differences in elevation and difficulty year over year and it really is mind blowing.

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A lot of things have changed since last year.  The biggest being that Spartan will post the course map with obstacles prior to racers arriving on site the day of the race.  It’s interesting to me.  Last year we showed up the day of the race and crowded around the race map trying to see what was in store for us.  This year, Spartan posted the course map the day before the race giving us a chance to set a race plan over night.

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When I say set a race plan, I had time to determine where I would take fuel (as it relates to water stations), how fast I wanted to get out depending on the terrain and how I would tackle the ridiculous clumps of obstacles scattered around the start/finish line.

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Before heading out from Charlotte, we hit our favorite pre-race dinner spot, Roasting Company.  See picture above -pulled chicken with rice, squash casserole and stewed okra.  I eat a lot the night before a long race because I do not eat a lot before the actual race.

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Rather than stay at a ridiculously priced hotel (or even motel) in downtown Asheville, we found a bed and breakfast just outside of the town  and rented a room.  I used to have thousands of hotel and airline points, which made trips like this easy.  The transition to finding more creative places to stay has been interesting.  Needless to say, I absolutely loved The North Lodge on Oakland.  I enjoyed coffee in my room with a cookie before going to bed.  We didn’t hear a thing all night, and we both woke up feeling like we had slept in our own bed.  We will be back.  Next time for fun, not a race.

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We woke up Saturday at 5:00 AM.  I had a Luna Bar, a bite of bagel and a cup of water.  We were at the race location by 6:15 AM.  We checked in, warmed up and grabbed everything we needed to start.  Since it was an NBC sanctioned race, things moved a little slower loading the elites into the starting corral.  The top 10 elite racers were announced and allowed to run to the front of the line.

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After pre-race instructions and some “AROO’s” we were off.  We were fast.  I had no doubt that it would be that way.  After a short trail run, we hit the first obstacle.

Obstacle 1 – Over Walls – Jump over 2 four foot walls.  Easy.

After that, we found ourselves in the creek.  Everyone still had that beginning of race anxiety.  There were people literally flailing trying to find their footing and still move as fast as possible (including myself).

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After hitting mile 1, we made our way out of the creek only to hit obstacle number 2.

Obstacle 2 – Hurdles – These are beams suspended about 4 feet off the ground.  This obstacle is more difficult for shorter people like myself.  Two in a row and we were off into the woods.

Thick woods.  Hilly woods.  Extremely steep woods.  At one point they even had a rope suspended off the side of a steep cliff to guide individuals safely down.  I literally bear crawled on my hands and my knees up the steep ridges.  The terrain was rough and everyone was forced to slow down.  See picture below.

Obstacle 3 – 6 Foot Wall – As the name implies jump over a 6 foot wall.  These are easy at this point for me.  After jumping the wall, we proceeded through more thick terrain and mile marker two.

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Obstacle 4- Plate Drag – In the midst of the thick woods, was the plate drag (along with a water station).  Participants were asked to drag a weighted sled about 10 yards across a muddy path.  You then had to drag it back to start.  No problems here.

We ran quite a ways on more even and open terrain before we arrived at the next obstacle.

Obstacle 5 – Barbed Wire Crawl – This was much easier than prior races I have done.  The wire was higher than usual.  I could crawl without rolling.  The biggest issue was how ROCKY it was.  I think the majority of the cuts and bruises on my knees came from this obstacle. What looked like smooth mud was actually mirky water covering sharp rocks.  I was passed by two women here.

Obstacle 6 – Atlas Carry – Things were quite wet here.  I was smart about which line I chose to carry my atlas.  Racers are asked to pick up a stone that weighs over 50 pounds, carry it about 15 feet, put it down, do 5 burpees, pick it up and walk it back to start.  The last thing I wanted to do was drop my atlas into a muddy hole making it more difficult to pick back up.  I did my first set of burpees here – the 5 that are required to complete the obstacle.

From there we took another open terrain path back to the festival area where we hit several difficult obstacles in a row.

Obstacle 7 – 7 Foot Wall – This obstacle typically gives me no trouble.  That said, I ran at the wall on my first try only to miss and land back on my feet.  I got a great reaction from spectators.  My second try I used the kicker that the women are allowed to use and had no problem hoisting myself over.

Obstacle 8 – Z- Walls – This is one of my least favorite obstacles.  I just can’t figure it out. I looked at several different paths I could take before I opted on the first wall facing the crowd.  I made it half way across before I fell off trying to reach around the corner of a wall.  This was my first failed obstacle. Burpee count = 30.

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Obstacle 9 – Dunk Wall/Rolling Mud – I hope you aren’t afraid to get dirty.  Just a few yards away from completing my burpees, I dove right into the muddy water only to submerge my face under a wall and go through a series of muddy pits.

Obstacle 10 – Rope Climb – Wow.  All I can say is wow.  This obstacle singlehandly threw off the entire race for many elite runners.  The ropes were ridiculously slick because of the rain and mud from the night before.  Women were given two tries to get up while men only had one chance.  Good thing because my hands slid right down the first rope I tried before I moved to another rope with no problem.

I went on to learn that two top 10 finishers for the men were disqualified here for doing the same thing I did and not completing burpees.  That is huge for point standings and money.  As the day went on, this obstacle cleared up.

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Obstacle 11 – Spear Throw – Another one of my worst obstacles.  I have been practicing.  I wound up only to have the right distance and miss merely to the left.  Fail.  Burpee count – 60.

In a matter of a few feet, I had now done 60 burpees.  I was feeling gassed.  However, I had made up time on several women with my speed in burpees.  I was headed back into the woods feeling good about things.

Obstacle 12 – Memory Chart (omitted) – Elite are not required to perform this obstacle. 

We began our trek up the mountain on a gravel road.  The grade was not as steep as we had already seen.  I opted to follow a pattern of run 20 steps, walk 10 steps so that I would not wear myself out too soon.  It was during this time that I went back and forth with several women. One of whom actually offered me fuel as she consumed it up the hill.  Really, a very generous offer given the circumstances.

Obstacle 13 – 8 Foot Wall – At the clearing of the top of the hill was the tallest wall we would encounter the entire race.  I definitely had help from the kicker here.  We were off into the woods yet again from there.

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Yet another clearing and we were at Mile 4.  What?  We weren’t even half way and I felt like I had been put through the ringer already.

Obstacle 14 – A-Frame Cargo – At the quarry clearing was the A-Frame Cargo net.  I am definitely more cautious on this than most elite athletes. Take the path up the sides of the middle where it is tightest to the bar.  I made my way over before taking my only other fuel for the rest of the race as we hit the water station.

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Obstacle 15 – Bucket Carry – SUPRISE!  This was a “classified” on the obstacle map.  We had no idea what to expect.  What came next was one of the hardest parts of the entire race.  The fog covered the side of the mountain as we approached the start (and finish of the bucket carry).  Go ahead.  Load it up to the designated line.  Carry it up very muddy 45 degree incline hill.  Walk back down. Then walk back up without the bucket.  I NEVER put my bucket down.  I did several times in this instance.  I could barely take 10 steps without feeling like I needed to rest.  As I walked down the hill, I saw my husband for the first time.  I yelled at him.  SERIOUSLY?  He had already caught up to me even with a 15 minute head start?

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The picture below so accurately depicts the feeling that I experienced as I made my way back up that hill without the bucket.  It was BRUTAL.

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What came next was just plain mean.  We ran a little bit more.  I couldn’t tell you how much, but it wasn’t long.  Then I saw the monkey bars.  Soaking wet.  My forearms were still quivering from the carry and I literally looked at the guy beside and said, “Of course they would do the monkey bars after a heavy forearm carry.”

Obstacle 16 – Monkey Bars – I couldn’t find a path that wasn’t wet.  There were at least 15 people in the burpee zone already.  I went for it.  Again, an obstacle I never fail.  I made it three quarters of the way and fell.  I yelled an explicit word. I went to the burpee zone.  Burpee count = 90.

Obstacle 17 – Stairway to Sparta – Let’s climb/walk/jog.  I was exhausted going into the woods for the start of the climb up the backside of the mountain.  The Stairway of Sparta was fun last year because it was at the top of the mountain.  You grab the top of a 5 foot wall then climb up the 2×4’s of an A-frame.

Obstacle 18 – Sandbag Carry – When I got to the sandbag carry the bags were saturated and filled with wet sand.  They were heavier than usual.  They pointed us in the direction that we were to follow.  It was ridiculously steep and again muddy.  One girl ran by me and I never saw her again.  More power to her.  I set my bag down over and over and walked the entire way.  Going back up that hill, I didn’t know if I would make it. Every time I set my bag down and heaved it over my back I wished away the leaking sand that was falling out of the bag.

As I placed my bag down to finish the carry, I asked the volunteer if we were close to the top and she kind of laughed, kind of joked, then said we had another 1.7 miles to the top.  WHAT. I started walking.

I walked sideways 10 steps, switched sides, 50 steps forward, turned around.  Rested 10 seconds.  Passed a bunch of people.  Talked to a girl who was on the Spartan TV show.  I thought a lot about Flywheel. The people I train.  My husband.  I saw these mushrooms on the ground.  My one year old loves to try to pick mushrooms.  Every time I saw one, I thought of her.  Then I kept walking.  I had a lot of time to think as I walked by myself.

We reached a clearing that seemed like a down hill before we were forced back up hill.  I broke.  I bent over and I couldn’t breathe.  As I stood hunched over on the side of the mountain, my husband found me.  He inspired me.  He got me going.  It was in this moment that this race became more about us doing something together than me trying to beat the person in front of me.

Obstacle 19 – Vertical Cargo – We finally hit the downhill.  I’m talking a 1,000 foot drop over 1 mile.  He stayed with me.  He had decided to do the race because of me. He wasn’t really happy with where he was at.  He wanted to push me.  That he did. He helped me manage obstacles and terrain the rest of the way.  We cleared the vertical cargo no problem.

Obstacle 20 – I have no idea.  I still can’t figure it out.

Upon hitting the final clearing of the woods before the final set of obstacles, we were forced back in the creek.  My husband took the lead.  As I followed, in what seemed like slow motion, he slipped on a rock and landed flat on his back.  I thought it was all over. He told me to press on but how could I?  I stopped.  We slowed. We let people pass us.  We would finish this together.

Obstacle 21 – Barb Wire – Another easy obstacle.

Obstacle 22 – Slip Wall – As I approached the slip wall I told my husband I felt delirious, I felt weak.  He helped me figure out the best route to take up the wall.  We cleared it no problem.

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Obstacle 23 – Tyrolean Traverse – My first time.  LOVED it!  My husband went first and fast.  He prepped me up and yelled at me the entire way.  I opted to hand upside down and walk my opposite hand with opposite foot until I hit the bell.

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Obstacle 24 – Hercules Hoist – I feel ill saying this, but I FAILED.  My first time ever failing this obstacle.  I had literally given everything I had to this race.  When I went to pick the bag up I pulled it down and just had nothing left.  I went to the burpee zone.  Burpee count = 120.

Obstacle 25 – Bridge – Seriously?  Can I just be done.  Climb up a ladder, walk over, climb back down.  I am going through the motions at this point.  My husband, who finished the hercules hoist, went on to run through the finish line only to circle back up with me at the bottom of the bridge.

This picture.  Terrible.  I look awful.  I am sharing it because I feel it really shows what I felt in this moment.  Terrible.  Awful.  I am covered in grass.  Ashamed from the burpees I had just put myself through.  Over it.

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Obstacle 26 – Rig – Within 200 yards we were doing obstacle after obstacle after obstacle. The rig.  You know that circus looking thing.  Within 50 feet of the finish. I made it half way across.  I fell.  I failed.  My husband watched in shock as I walked to the burpee zone and did 30 more.  Burpee count = 150.

Obstacle 27 – Fire Jump – I had nothing left.  Maybe Spartan knew that.  They didn’t take my fire jump picture.  Thanks.  I’m sure it was awful too.  Thankfully, I have the one below.

Defeated. Yet not broken.  As we sped down the mountain together, we talked terribly about how hard this course was and how we would never do it again. Spartan had gone too far this time.  It is in the moments after that you truly appreciate what the human body is capable of. Regardless of what a picture looks like or what size you are, you feel incredibly satisfied with yourself.  You feel strong.  You feel confident.

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I had a team this year in the mountain with me.  I thought about them a lot.  I worried for them.  I felt their strength.  I am more proud of them than ever.  I underestimate their strength, and I am so proud that each and every one of them walked across the finish line. They are why I love doing what I do.

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