My first Spartan Race. My first podium finish.

5 years ago ….My life was in shambles.  I was absolutely miserable.  What more can I say.  I signed up for this obstacle race as a distraction and temporary escape from my life.  I had been putting in the training.  For the 3 months leading up to that Atlanta Sprint I ran, I worked out twice a day/six days a week.  I was learning to eat cleaner than I had ever before.  All of this kept me sane for everything else in my life was a mess.  For years I had been suffering from extreme knee pain caused by zero cartilage and constant bone rubbing bone.  Arthritis had also set in.  Doctors advised not to run/jump/move in ways that caused impact.  I had just come off of losing a business I helped to build, a business I had poured every dollar I had ever earned and every waking moment into – and now lost, gone, nothing left.  It was heart-breaking, embarrassing, and exhausting.  On top of that my only child, age 16, was off being a freshman at college and my only relatives had just moved back to Minnesota. And then to add the sprinkles of misery, my relationship of 14 years was well let’s just say a nightmare.  Anyway, you get the picture.

So the few hours of training each day were the escape.  The destination was the March 10 Spartan Race Sprint in Conyers, Georgia.

I arrived to the race venue the Friday afternoon prior and received my bib.  I spotted Hobie Call, an icon and the best of the best of obstacle racing.  I watched from a distance and finally got up enough nerve to approach him.  Star-struck I was!  Hobie kindly invited me to look at a few obstacles.  He took me to the barbwire crawl, which terrified the life out of me.  He gave me some pointers and after asking me some personal questions about my training, said, “You’ll be fine. You’ve going to love this race.”  I told him I’d see him in the morning as I was also going to be racing in the elite heat.  Then it hit me.  I had no business racing elite.  Who did I think I was anyway?  I had never been a stand-out athlete.  Oh, yes, I received praise from being a “scrapper,” a “hard-worker,” “the most determined,” etc. but I never won awards or was recognized for my athletic talents.  And now I was a 42 year old with destroyed knees.

I showed up to the start line with more fear than I’d ever had before.  My stomach was in knots and I couldn’t eat a thing.  I watched the elite athletes warming up.  I had no clue how to warm up so just did what my body told me to do, I jogged around, jumped a bit, did some burpees and stretched things out.  The nerves wouldn’t let me sit still.

Next thing I know I’m in the white fenced starting corral. I took a glance around and started to exit.  I found a staff member and stated that I needed to delay my start to another heat.  He told me NO.  So it was start with the elites or not race.  I wasn’t quite ready to completely quit.  So when the smoke bombs went off, so did I.  I was the last to cross the timing mat at the start.  I ran and ran and tried to avoid the fireman’s hose at the first obstacle, the hurdles.  Soaking wet on the freezing morning, I shook off the shock and ran on passing a few people.  Down into the trenches we were turned.  Running on this terrain was my favorite and a smile swept my face.  This was FUN!  I kept moving at a comfortable pace.  I remembered one of my goals … don’t be last … so I picked up the pace.

With each mile I relaxed more and just took in the moments.  Each was pure joy. I was going after goal number two: have fun. I came to the cold water of the chest-deep swamp and didn’t think twice.  In I went and I caught up to Jason Moss, who not only gave me much needed words of encouragement, but remains a great friend to this day.  We chatted for a moment and on I went.  Out of the water we came only to face two 8 foot walls.  I had no clue what to do!  I was quite grateful Jason was right behind me.  I was up and over and was on my way again.  I remember the heavy sandbag carry.  So many people were struggling, but somehow I found this to not be difficult so I ran with my bag encouraging every person out there.  That energy carried me through the next obstacles right to the finish line.  I was so relieved to see those finish flags, though something sad took over knowing my destination was soon to be reached and real life would be as usual all too soon.  As exhausted, beat up, and shredded by barbwire I was, I didn’t want this to end.

As I crossed the finish line staggering, but smiling from ear to ear and head to toe, the guy who greeted me with a medal said, “Congratulations,  see you at the awards ceremony.”  Well, I had planned to stick around and watch the top men and women finishers receive their cool awards, but I didn’t know how he knew that.  So like a blonde I asked, “What do you mean?”  He replied,  “Well the top 3 women get an award, and you are in the top three.”  Still confused I asked, “How do you know?”  “Easy,” he said,” Woman one crossed a few seconds ago and now there is you, number two.”  I was dumb-founded.  I just couldn’t comprehend how me, with all my non-athleticism, all my troubles, all my pain, all my inexperience could finish 2nd of all the women.

I stuck around.  And sure enough my name was called to the podium to receive that Spartan Sword.  I stood next to Alec Blenis and had my picture taken with Hobie, and not as only a fan, but as a winner.  That sword though.  I couldn’t put it down.  I hugged it, I kissed it, I slept with it.  That sword ….. was a life changer.

The destination was over and my so-called life was back in full force two days later.  But I had that sword to hold and to bring a smile to my soul.  But my brain couldn’t stop wondering if it was a fluke that I came in second place.  I also thought that a sword wasn’t much good if you didn’t have a helmet to go with it.  So ….. the next chapter of my life was being set into motion.  The next Spartan Race would start my journey.  Destinations end, journeys do not.