Tag Archives: charlotte fitness

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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Being Inclusive

I recently read a blog post on SweatNet by Tom Gallagher that really pulled at me. A post about the word “inclusive”. It seems to be a standard word thrown around in the Charlotte fitness industry these days. How can you appeal to the mass? Be inclusive. As a former college athlete and now personal trainer, I would say feeling included at a workout is easier for me than the average person. I am good at most things that someone will ask me to do even if I haven’t done it in awhile. When it isn’t easy, my natural competitive nature drives me to engage and figure out how to at least fake that I can keep up with people.

I train a wide variety of people that come to me individually or in small groups because feeling included isn’t easy for them. When I first started to hear that people didn’t feel included at these self described “inclusive” workouts, I didn’t pay much attention to it. Maybe they were overexaggerating? Maybe they were just having a bad day? Maybe if they went back again it would be better? I like to give things the benefit of the doubt.


I decided to go with some of my athletes individually to workouts. Something we both agreed we wanted to try. We both would go in with an open mind and a friend. No solo anxiety going on here. I saw it first hand. I saw the feeling like “Charlotte fitness is SO inclusive, yet so exclusive.” My heart dropped. I’m a mom. I feel such empathy for everyone. Every adult was once a child. Every human should be treated with the same respect.


So, what are some examples of what I saw?

  • “We welcome all pace levels” on a group run. In my mind that means the person organizing the event should be in the back. No one but the person that asked people to be there should be in last. How inclusive is it to say we welcome all pace levels? Yet, how exclusive is it for you to run off and leave the slowest person behind?


  • “All exercises can be modified”. But does anyone in the upper tier of fitness ever stop to do the easiest modification? I’m a victim of this when I participate in class. I tend to push pace to keep up only to watch my form deteriorate. When someone new comes to a workout, why don’t I ever consider slowing down to work out at their pace to make them feel included? Again, how exclusive is it for us all to be doing the hardest version of an exercise while the new person struggles with the easiest modification.


  • “Let’s stick around and socialize after a workout” or “Let’s meet this week to go to XYZ workout”. Sticking around to socialize is a great idea as long as you make a conscience effort to engage with said new person. Invite them to sit down with you. Ask questions about them. Follow through with your promise to meet up at another workout. How can you feel included when there is a private group text/WhatsApp message/email chain that you haven’t been added to?


These examples are not things you have to do. Some gyms/trainers want to be exclusive. They have no problem saying that. I commend them for that. At least they are honest. However, as we evolve, we must consider our actions as it relates to our words. Thank you Tom and various clients of mine for opening my eyes to this. It has been way too easy for me to coast along with a blind eye, not even paying attention to this. I know I’m not perfect, but I am aware. The first step to change is awareness.

2016 Spartan World Championship Recap

Let me take a deep breath. I’m actually drinking a glass of wine as I sit down to write this post.  I underestimated Spartan on this one.  I am pretty tough.  I fight very hard on the course.  I will be the first to admit, I was not prepared for what happened on Saturday, October 1st at Squaw Valley and because of that I am still feeling extremely exhausted both physically and mentally from the entire event.  When Joe Desena, the CEO and co-founder of Spartan, said this was going to be hard (it’s world championships), I figured it would be comparable to Asheville.  That was hard and also part of the US Championship Series at over 10 miles with over 3,000 feet of elevation gain.


You see that’s the Spartan way.  You know.  STFU (Spartan The F* Up). Have you ever read the Spartan words to live by?

  • Spartans push their minds and bodies to their limits.
  • Spartans master their emotions.
  • Spartans learn continuously.
  • Spartans give generously.
  • Spartans lead.
  • Spartans stand up for their beliefs, no matter the cost.
  • Spartans know their flaws as well as their strengths.
  • Spartans prove themselves through actions, not words.
  • Spartans live every day as if it were their last.

I should have known better.  I mean read the last bullet point.  Leaders own their shit.  Spartan is certainly not afraid to do that.  They essentially push you to your breaking point so that when you cross the finish line you have a renewed sense of purpose.   It’s actually pretty overwhelming.  This was an emotional race to say the least for me.


Let me start from square 1.  I’m a full time mom.  A beast is really not up my alley.  I don’t have time to invest 3-4 hours a day to training.  At best, 2 hours.  I am already at a disadvantage.  When I stepped on to the starting line at the Asheville Super (just 8 weeks ago), I had no intention of doing the Lake Tahoe Beast.   In fact, it wasn’t until a fellow racer informed me that I earned a coin at Asheville that I even had a thought about going.


To earn a coin, you have to finish top 5 in the elite field at any given race.  That top 5 is rolling.  If 1-5 already have a coin, then the next best 5 who don’t have a coin, get one.  Yes.  I came in 34th at Asheville.  That many people in front of me already had coins.  That’s how competitive that race was.  It was through this same fellow racer that I learned I had earned a coin the year before (but was never told by Spartan).  Either way, I reached out to customer service to confirm that I had in fact earned a coin and inquired about having this piece of hardware sent to me.  I still wasn’t sure if I would go.


I went on vacation to New York.  I thought about it a lot.  I didn’t really train much.  I ate a lot.  I took a break.  It was during that break that I decided I would go for it.  It couldn’t be that bad, right?  I signed up!  I trained specific skills for the next 6 weeks.  With only a few weeks out there wasn’t much else I could do about my endurance level.  I was just going to have to gut out the distance.


We flew in Friday. That was our first mistake.  I underestimated the altitude  effect on my body.  We went to Squaw Valley directly from the airport.  I wanted to pick up my bib and scout out the festival area obstacles before heading to the cabin that we were staying in.  Spartan has gotten into a habit of posting course maps the day before a race.  The maps typically have a few “Classified” obstacles. If I can check out the course, I try to figure out what some of these are to aid me in determining my race plan.


Yes, I said race plan.  Over the longer races, these maps provide insight into when it is best to fuel and how hard I want to go out.  As the race increases in length a strategy can help you survive.  I typically share tips pre-race with anyone on my team based on what I see.


This race was no exception.  I used the back of my airline ticket to jot down notes based on the elevation profile, mileage and obstacles that I knew were missing.  Visualizing the race is my way of meditating.  Picturing myself completing the race.  Relieving my anxiety.  It was through this process that I determined my fuel for the race and leading up to the race would be as follows:

  • 400 calorie breakfast by 5:45 AM – whole wheat bagel with peanut butter
  • Balance Bar for ride to venue (approximately 6:15 AM)
  • RSP Fast Fuel with 16 oz of water 30 minutes prior to race
  • My hydration pack had a powder BCAA mix with water (approximately 50 oz of water)
  • Drink at least 1 cup of water at all water stations
  • Three Gu Packs walking through water stations – mile 4, mile 7, mile 11 (I packed one extra just in case)

We left the venue just shy of 3:00 PM Pacific Time – 6:00 PM Eastern time.  We were hungry.  We decided to grab an early dinner at a local restaurant  a few miles south of Tahoe City.  Since we were still on east coast time, eating dinner so early and didn’t eat much of a lunch, I went big.  I ordered the chicken parmesan.


I ate every last bite of that bowl along with two or three slices of garlic bread.  Our plan was to stay on east coast time as best we could.  At that rate, my bed time would be 7 PM and I would get up around 3:30 AM.  We also ordered a pizza to take back to our cabin so that we could have a “snack” before we went to bed.  There was no way I was going to make this race off of a dinner that I ate so early the day before.


Don’t judge.  I have issues with my digestive system.  I have to be very careful with what I eat the night before and morning of a long distance race.  Calories and carbs are an important part of preventing me from needing to find a bathroom.


We took some time to review the course map yet again before heading to bed around 7 PM. I had trouble sleeping.  I was already dreading a slew of new obstacles that Spartan had announced in the 24 hours leading up to the race.  I was also dabbling in the idea that I might DNF (Did Not Finish) because of the swim.  The weather in Lake Tahoe was high thirties with strong winds due to a snow storm that was headed our way.



I woke up at 2:40 AM Pacific time.  That’s 5:40 AM Eastern time.  Pretty consistent with my normal routine.  There was nothing to do and I didn’t want to eat breakfast until it got closer to race time.  We settled on watching Saved By The Bell for almost an hour and a half  before we both took showers and started to get dressed.


Aside from the course, Squaw Valley has almost a dozen trails that were open on the day of the race.  In a last minute effort to get into the elite heat, my husband found out there were no more spots until the afternoon session.  He didn’t want to go all the way out there to not do anything while everyone was racing.  That said, he plotted out a trail run that would essentially drop him in on the top of the mountain where a majority of the obstacles were (so he could watch me) before descending and meeting me at the finish line.  He was essentially dressed for race day as well.


If you remember my post about the Asheville Super, I essentially started as close to the front as I could with the intent to push as hard and as long as I could.  My plan for this race was quite the opposite.  As my anxiety level rose during the days leading up to the race, I had to keep reminding myself that I was invited to compete in the Championship heat.  However, I’m not going to lie, the venue and the women that were there intimidated me.  My ultimate goal was to do me.  In other words, start at a steady pace towards the back, do my best not to worry about everyone around me, and essentially finish.


When I stepped up to the start line, I began to see familiar faces.  My friends.  Someone even yelled out, “Hey, you’re FlyJenDuf!” I began talking to the women around me.  I found out where they were from.  I found out how they qualified.  I began to realize that they had the same insecurities about this race as I did.  I began to do what I do best.  Coach.



If you check out the course map, there were essentially two mountains to crest.  I will walk you through the obstacles and my journey as best I can based on this.  Mile 1 was essentially a blur.  It wasn’t until I watched my husband’s video of the start that I realized how far back I actually was.  Definitely the last 25%.  I wore my watch for the first time in a race.  That would later go on to help me again with figuring out fueling and when to expect obstacles.

Obstacle 1 – Over, Under, Through – After a short run through the ski village, we hopped a parking barrier and went over a short wall, under a wall, and through a wall.  Easy stuff.

Obstacle 2 – “Classified” – Moats – I should have walked over to see what this classified obstacles was the day before, but I didn’t.  Leave it to Spartan to throw you in the water less than a mile into the race. It was here that shit got real.  No longer could I feel my feet. I heard women around me shout, “I don’t think I can do the swim if it’s this cold”.  I sucked it up and moved on.

Obstacle 3 – Over Walls – We again had to jump over several short walls before beginning our climb up the first peak.


Thank goodness for this peak.  Everyone immediately slowed down.  I am a climber.  I hustled.  I knew there were a lot of good descenders in this group.  My heart rate climbed as I climbed, allowing my feet to warm back up again.  It was during this climb that I encouraged those around me.  We actually talked.  Every 20 or so steps I would run 20 or so steps but for the most part I did my best to conserve energy for the rest of the race.

Obstacle 4 – 6 Foot Wall – Couldn’t have been easier.  Lots of jumping walls on the first mountain and steep climbs. My tip – Instead of stopping to rest, turn around and walk backwards ten steps.  This will keep you moving while taking the weight off your quads.  When you turn around, you will feel golden. Aside from heavy carries, I did not stop one time on a hill to rest.

Obstacle 5 – Monkey Bars – The start of Mile 2  – essentially the top of the first mountain!  I was a little nervous going into this.  I failed at Asheville due to wet equipment from early morning fog and bad storms.  There were at least 10 people in the burpee zone when I got there and people failing all around me.  Well, I crushed the monkey bars.  I kicked the shit out of that bell.

Obstacle 6 – Hurdles (2) – I say two, because we saw hurdles later in the race and a lot more of them.  I couldn’t get over all of the women having trouble with the hurdles.  I jumped over the first one so excited and full of energy that I yelled, “I’m just so excited I didn’t have to do burpees for the monkey bars!”

We were down hill from there.  My weakness.  I ran slower down hill.  All of the people I had passed in the burpee zone and the steady climb came running down on me.  That’s okay.  Again, I’m doing my race.  I let them pass along the narrow switchback trails.

Obstacle 7/8 – one was the 7 Foot Wall, one was the “Dip Walk” – I didn’t see the Dip Walk.  Or I blacked out.  The next thing I knew I was at the bottom of the mountain in the spectator zone.

Already at 4 miles, I looked at my watch and realized I was coming in at just under 50 minutes.  I was actually coasting this course with so much speed that I knew I would miss my husband through this round of obstacles.  I had anticipated it might take me 90 minutes to get this far.  Festival zone obstacles were short.


Obstacle 9 – Thighmaster – One of 5 new obstacles released in this race.  Over a rig system, 5 punching bags were lined in a row, in which you had to wrap your legs around each bag while holding the top of the bag to maneuver down the line.  I was worried about this obstacle.  Surprisingly, I had not problem.  Too bad my husband wasn’t there to see that. I rang the bell and proceeded to the next obstacle.

Obstacle 10 – Inverted Wall – Old school obstacle. No problem.  Done and done.  As I headed back up the mountain, I took my first gu pack, drank out of my hydration pack and gave myself a pat on the back for making it through the first third of obstacles with no penalty.

And so began the trek to the next peak.  I knew I wouldn’t get to the top until mile 9.  That’s right, about 3-4 miles of straight climbing.  The only advantage was that for the most part the terrain was pretty even.  We weren’t “bushwhacking” like we were in Asheville.


Obstacle 11 – “Classified” – A-Frame Cargo Net – Just before we hit mile 6, we ran into this obstacle.  Pretty simple.  The catch was, we had a clear view of the bucket carry, which we wouldn’t encounter until mile 13 (see picture above).  We will talk about that more later. It was empty at the time. The World Championship males had not made it there yet. It was intimidating to say the least.

I continued my walk up the mountain.  I continued to pass and make gains on people.  It was during this time that I came up on a girl from Texas. I can’t remember her name, but she asked who I was.  She was wearing a tank top and shorts.  She explained to me that she blacked out during the first 2 miles.  She also told me several times that she was just so mad because she knew she was in shape and she didn’t feel like she was doing well.  I reminded her the same things I reminded myself.  One, she was invited to be here, so she should remember that.  Two, she could do it.  Finally, I offered her the one extra Gu pack I had in my pack.  I told her my husband would be waiting on the top of the mountain for me.  I told her to let us help if we could.  Note, I went on without her before seeing her pass me again well into the race.  I may never see her or talk to her again, but I will remember this moment for a life time.  She probably will too.  That’s the OCR way. I know several of you reading this can relate.

Obstacle 12 – Vertical Cargo – The volunteer was singing the “Hokey Pokey” when I got there. I should have known that was a good sign.  I told her, “I’m a Hokie, I can dig that”.  She probably didn’t understand.  The wind was so strong, I thought the whole thing was going to blow over.  Either way, I did the obstacle and kept climbing.

Obstacle 13 – “Classified” – Spear Throw – Just before hitting mile 7, we got to the spear throw.  With ridiculous wind gusts, rarely was someone making this.  I threw it underhand for the first time ever in competition. I barely missed and with that I failed my first obstacle.  I was in the burpee zone.  I guess I still had a chance of winning money because they asked my bib number to count my burpees.


I took my second Gu pouch as I crossed mile 7 and ran into my husband sitting on the side of the mountain.  He didn’t recognize me at first. I yelled “Jeff!” several times before I got his attention.  I couldn’t wait to tell him that I had made it this far in the race and only failed one obstacle – I have to admit, after seeing all of the new obstacles and failing 5 obstacles in Asheville, my goal was to fail 7 or less.  I was on track.

The top of the mountain was where it was at.  My husband was able to see me complete at least 12 obstacles. Too bad it was too cold for many people to get up there.  I was told they actually closed the top of the mountain the next day because the wind was so strong they were afraid the obstacles might fall down.  Here we go though.

Obstacle 14 – Olympus – Yet Another “New” obstacle. There was NO Z-Wall at the race, but there was the Olympus.  Essentially an inverted Z-wall that you had to use varying hand grips to traverse across.  I actually loved it.  I hope they throw the Z-wall out and use this going forward.


Obstacle 15 – Plate Drag – Just steps away was the plate drag.  For those of you unfamiliar with the race, you pull a weighted plate towards you over several yards before pulling it back to start.


Obstacle 16 – “Classified” – Atlas Stone – Again, just steps away.  Women and men carry varying weights of sphere shaped stones back and forth while doing 5 burpees in between. See the flags going straight out.  There was a constant strong wind.  Sorry for the clarity of the images.  You get the picture.


Obstacle 17 – Spartan Ladder – NEW – Athletes were required to climb up the inside of a pyramid structure before descending on the other side.  Bells had to be rung with hands.  My time spent rock climbing helped here.  I found this obstacle very easy while people around me were yelling expletives and asking to “burpee out”.


Obstacle 18 – Tyrolean Traverse – This obstacle just requires patience.  Again, my husband was there to coach me through this.  I had done this before.  The wind was a brand new factor.  I pretty much competed these obstacles with a girl named “Faye”.  Her friend was cheering her on at the top of the mountain.  I remembered her name because one of the top female OCR athletes is Faye Stenning.

Obstacle 19/20 – “Classified” – Barbwire Crawl – Back to back.  I have never done a barb wire crawl with a camelbak on.  I tried to crawl under at first.  I took my pack off and tried to pull it.  Eventually, I slid through like a sideways crab walk.  The wind was ridiculous.  Dirt kept getting in my eyes.  Let’s just face it. I am not good at this obstacle.


Obstacle 21 – Ape Hanger – (see video on Instagram) Oh the Ape Hanger.  I never thought I would see this in Tahoe.  This was a new obstacle introduced at Palmerton this year.  It is a permanent structure there. I never thought Spartan would try to recreate it somewhere else.  Well, they did.  It was my understanding prior to starting that I would not have to get wet if I made it all the way across.  WRONG.  I surprised myself when I was able to maneuver all the way across without falling.  I was even more surprised when the official told me to drop into the water.  EXCUSE ME?  I hung for at least 30 seconds arguing with him about how I didn’t want to get wet.  Shouldn’t you get rewarded for completing?  It was game over when I hit that water.  I had tucked my gloves (and hand warmers) into my pants waist band through these obstacles.  When I hit the water, my gloves, pants, shoes and socks were soaked.  And I was now freezing.


Obstacle 22 – Log Carry – My husband ran with me to the log carry.  I began shaking.  My saturated hand warmers were garbage.  At this point, some of the elite guys that had started in the wave behind me were catching up to me.  My husband watched as I picked up a log and began my descent/ascent with my log.  I walked the loop with a man from San Francisco.  He was able to slowly carry his log all the way around without putting it down.  Essentially, I would power several steps ahead, put mine down while he caught up and repeat.  He told me how this was his first trifecta.  His first beast.  I told him the same.  We stuck together for the next few obstacles.  We watched as someone dropped their log just before reaching the finish.  The log rolled fast down the hill as athletes screamed for people to get out of the way.  Kind of like when someone hits a golf ball towards someone by accident.



Obstacle 23 – “Classified” – Double Sandbag Carry – My husband encouraged me as I finished the log carry and proceeded through mile 9 onto the next obstacle.  A heavy carry yet again.  Yes, that says “Double”.  I could see the swim as I grabbed my bags.  It didn’t even register to me how heavy they were.  Carrying the bags was like carrying my kids around.  Since it was an out and back obstacle, I had a chance to see who was behind me.  My fellow North Carolina racers came up the hill as I went down.  We smiled, we laughed, we said good job.  While my gloves were on, I still couldn’t feel my hands.


Obstacle 24 – Cormax Flip – At the Sandbag drop off was yet one more obstacle before the swim.  This was dumb.  I’m all for Spartan, but this obstacle was a disaster.  There were cylinder type weights that were supposed to resemble a tire flip.  You had to flip them twice down and twice back.  The issue was, since they were rounded, they were rolling all over.  I stayed out of people’s way and grabbed a “Cormax” on the end.


Obstacle 25 – Swim – Wow.  This I will never forget.  I had a plan going into the swim to take my shirt and gloves off and put them in a ziplock in my camelbak.  My husband watched as I stripped down and struggled to even zip up the bag because my body was already shaking so much.  I asked if I could leave my pack on the side of the water and the official said only if it couldn’t fit under my life jacket.  Well hell.  I’m a small person.  I was stuck taking my pack.  I couldn’t find a way to get my stuff in and zip my bag all the way up.  As I type this, I feel a pit in my throat.  This swim.  While the pictures look beautiful.  It was cold.  I watched as others dove in around me.   I looked at the Starbucks on the top of the mountain and thought about calling it.  I repeated, “You can do this.” I got in.


I started to panic.  I swam breaststroke without putting my head under around two buoys.  When I got around the second buoy I stated to hyperventilate.  I was out of breath and I was freezing.  I remembered my friend Shane saying, “You can swim on your side”.  I rolled on to one side.  I switched sides.  I got out of the water trembling.  I could see my husband was scared for me.  I pulled my shirt out of my bag with my teeth chattering.  I literally could not get it on.  I took deep gasping breaths as I said to my husband, “I can do this”.  He told me he couldn’t help me (since I was in the World Championship heat), but if I wanted to drop out to do it.  I’m still not sure how I made myself move.  My mind will be forever changed in this moment.  I still kind of wonder if something is wrong with me to ask my body to keep going after this.


Obstacle 26 – 8 Foot Wall – We were on our descent at this point.  My husband ran to the 8 foot wall with me before looking at me and asking if I would be okay if he left me.  He was no longer allowed to continue on the course as we hit narrow trails to the bottom.  He was genuinely concerned for me.  I told him to go.  He didn’t see me attempt the 8 foot wall. Had he seen me, I might not have finished.  I failed.  Over and over and over.  I went to the burpee zone.  I have never failed this obstacle but in this moment, my shaking hands could not grasp the top of the wall.  I probably needed those burpees to warm me up.  I watched my North Carolina girls pass me as I counted out my burpees.  Remember, this was my race.  I just had to finish.


Obstacle 27 – Modified Stairway to Sparta –  The wheels started falling off the bus on the descent.  My body  was well aware that I had not trained to be moving this hard for over 4 hours.  I struggled between walking because my knees hurt so bad on the descent and continuing to run to fight hypothermia.  At mile 11, we ran into the Stairway to Sparta.  I say modified because they have changed this obstacle in that you must use a rope to climb up a wall to get to the ladder to the top.  I actually got my first cramp ever in a race as I stepped over the top of the obstacle.  Lucky for me, the calf cramp subsided quickly.

Obstacle 28 – Bucket Carry – We crossed mile 12 before hitting the bucket carry.  People can talk all day about how this was the longest and hardest bucket carry in Spartan history.  I can tell you right now, this carry gave me life. It was a protected carry.  As such, there was sunshine and no wind.  It was the first time that I wasn’t shaking in almost one hour.  I took my time.  Hell, I put that bucket down several times.  I listened to the open people play their music as they climbed the A-frame.  Remember, I said you could see it earlier in the race?  A little Macarena, some Rockey theme music.  I saw my friend Faye from the top of the mountain.  I saw my North Carolina girls.  I reminded myself that I would simile through this.  The picture below is what the carry looked like on Sunday.


Obstacle 29 – Hurdles (6) – The last obstacle before the spectator zone.  We are now past mile 13.  Hurdles again.  Six of them.  This was no joke.  Up and over.  Up and over.  Up and over.

Obstacle 30 – Balance Beam – This was a piece of the memorization test only required for “open” athletes.  I was allowed to pass.

Obstacle 31 – Hercules Hoist – We hit mile 14 as we passed through the last few obstacles.  At this point I had only failed two obstacles.  High five!  I got to the hercules hoist and gave it my best effort.  I got it about half way up before my hands started to slide and I gave up.  I was warm again.  I was almost done.  I went to the burpee zone.  My husband watched me in disappointment.


Obstacle 32 – Dunk Wall – My cockiness for being warm was short-lived.  We waded back into a second pool of water before we submerged underwater for the dunk wall.  Now my clothes were soaked.   


Obstacle 33 – Slip Wall – The slip wall was not so slippery.  In fact, most of the water obstacles had protected sheeting between the water and ground which prevented things from getting super muddy.  Not sure why that was.


Obstacle 34 – Spartan Bridge – My Spartan Bridge obstacle from Asheville was god awful.  As I peaked to the top, I saw the cameraman, I looked right at him and I said, “I’m going to smile through this.”  I feel so lucky to be a part of such a cool event.  Regardless of how I finished, I want others to know how happy I am to be here.  Such an honor.



Obstacle 35 – Rope Climb – Piece of cake.  This is one obstacle that I look forward to.

Obstacle 36 – Multi-Rig – My hands were still wet from the slip wall when I reached the multi-rig.  I heard my husband yell, “Just like the garage”.  I tried to wipe my wet hands off on the dirt which just made it worse.  I slipped on the first set of rings.  Someone behind my husband said, “I guess that isn’t like the garage.”  He laughed.  I talked to a fellow racer, who I would later find out finished in 100th as we completed our burpees and crossed the finish.



With that, I had finished.  101st overall.  28th in my age group.  4 failures.  4 hours and 44 minutes.  I was nearly brought to tears.  As I sit and write this post, I have so many thoughts running through my mind.  I guess the strongest emotion that I have is how incredible this ride as been.  My transition to “coach” has opened so many doors for me to see the potential in others.  The fact that I can inspire someone to do something good for themselves is a gift that is irreplaceable.  Having my husband turn around as we walked to the car in the airport and say, “I’m proud of you” is everything to me.  Taking a step back and smiling as I crossed the finish line instead of being so serious is turning a new leaf for me.  In fact, it’s just the start of something even better.  You are truly never too old to set a new goal or dream even bigger.