Saturday, October 26, 2014. I ended a four-month journey that was preparing and racing a full marathon. In early June, I decided that this being the last year of my 20's, I was ready to take on this challenge. I had completed 5 half marathons in my past, and raced the Vermont Beast (Spartan Race) for 3 straight years and figured if I executed the training properly, I could take on 26.2.
This was after I had said publicly on many occasions, "I don't think I will ever feel the need to run a full marathon. It's not for me." But something in me decided that this was the time, and even if I only do it once, I was going to give it a shot.
So I thought about signing up for the early October Hartford Marathon. As it turned out, if I did so I would literally have had to start training that very day! So I decided to look for marathons nearby, later in the month of October. I then stumbled upon the Cape Cod Marathon website and it seemed a perfect match. First of all, it was in the town we often visit for a week in the summer. Secondly, it was one big loop which was appealing to me. Third of all, it was a small marathon, run by a local track club. After giving it a couple days of thought, I signed up.
Yesterday, I completed the Spartan Beast during the Spartan World Championship weekend in Killington, Vermont. This was a race I did last year, so I went into it thinking I would know what to expect, but that wasn't exactly the case. The course was possibly the same length, if not a little shorter, but was a totally different animal than the year before. Basically, within about 3 miles of the course I changed my priorities of going for the best time I could to simply just finishing and not getting injured. The sense of accomplishment when I finished was great, but there was a shred of dissapointment as this was the first time I had signed up for an elite heat, and I really performed worse than I thought I was capable of. I had come off the New Jersey Super a few weeks before where I really felt fast and tough, but felt broken for much of the Vermont race. That being said, I'm glad I accepted the challenge, made a few friends on the course, and did finish, somewhere around the 50th percentile among the elites.
I had every intention in the world to run the Hartford half marathon in October of 2010. However, in February of 2010, I slipped on some ice in Philadelphia and hurt my knee. I first noticed it days after the fall, while on a treadmill, and figured it must have been the treadmill. I starting putting some mileage in my training, but by June I wasn't able to even run 4 miles before the pain set in and I was forced to stop. I had to make a tough decision, to stop my training. This ended up being a wise decision - I got married in July, and wasn't far enough in my training anyway to worry about 13.1 in October. I had only run 5k's in my life, I wasn't ready. Even before the knee got really bad, I would run 7.5 flat miles and come home winded and beat.
I prescribed myself on 6 months running rest. During this time, I did a series of P90X and Insanity hybrids, which ironically had no negative effects on my knee. The winter was long, cold, and broke records with snow, so 6 months rest turned into 9 months rest.
I participated, and completed the Spartan Beast, a 14 mile obstacle race on Killington Mountain in Vermont this past weekend. The course contained 38 obstacles and I've heard reports of 6000 feet of total vertical climb, depending on how one measures vertical climb. The mountain was the "39th" and ever present obstacle that was the course itself. This event took me just over 5 hours, and I was in the top 8% of all finishers, and 25% of the people registered either didn't show up or didn't finish. Not knowing the course, I put in my head a goal of not only finishing, but finishing under 5:30:00, and I reached my goal!
Three years ago, this would have seemed impossible. A once varsity high school athlete that ran 19 minute 5k's, I could barely complete a 5k in under 30 minutes three years ago and though my BMI was barely under 25, I had a good 20 pounds to lose, and had lost all my athleticism and competitiveness. I started the DVD program P90X not necessarily obese, but certainly out of shape and on my way to being obese by the time I was 35 or 40.
P90X gave me the strength (literally) and confidence to start thinking like a competitive runner again. When I use the word "competitive," I mean competing against myself - really trying to achieve the best my body can do when I go out there. Long story short, it was 3 years in the making but I progressed from 5k's to extreme trail runs, from trail runs to a half marathon, and then I found Spartan Race. Spartan Race is unlike any other obstacle racing company out there, they push you to your limits as an athlete and as a human being, and there is no question why there is such a big following. Last September, I ran an 8 mile Spartan Race and the following week, set my big goal: sign-up for and complete the Vermont Beast next year. I signed up almost, to the day, a year ago, but really kicked up the training in the past couple of months.
I recently put my training to the test by running my first obstacle/mud run, a Super Spartan Race, on the southern portion of Staten Island in Wofle Pond Park. It was an amazing experience for many reasons, primarily because it was a REAL event to put my recent cross training to the test. Additionally, I met some amazing people that had similar interests to me, and have been introduced to what I can only call "Spartan Culture," which is a whole world unto itself. These people are a new level of extreme, as you will soon see. They enjoy pain and getting dirty, and will go to extreme levels to meet up and run their race.
"So, this Saturday I'm going to get up at 4:00 a.m. and drive three hours so that I can spend 5+ hours on Mt. Killington, running a 13.1 mile obstacle course. I don't know the course map, the layout, and really anything about the course, and there is only one aid station and no mile markers. They say you have to climb the mountain 4 or 5 times, meaning there is probably at least 5000 ft of vertical climb. I do know there is a tyrolean traverse over a body of water, a swim, and some of the usual suspects - fire jumps, wall scaling, horizontal climbing wall, cargo net, barbed wire mud crawl...etc. It'll be fun."
If you are visiting my blog, you know that about three years ago, I made a commitment to my health and fitness. I was 25 and was in fine health, but had a vision of what I'd look like at 30...and 35, and 45...if I kept up what was an enjoyable, but sedentary and unfocused life. I bought P90X off the infomercial, lost 20+ pounds I didn't even think I needed to lose, and increased my pull-up number from 1 fake pull-up to 15 real ones in just 90 days. After the 90 days, I was, for the first time since High School, able to focus on something I once loved but had lost serious ground on - running.
I've since completed several 5k's and a half marathon. Not to brag, but my 5k's are close to my High School times, in the 20's and I ran the half at 7:30 pace. Last year, I ran my first Spartan Race - twice. I showed up for the 5 am "Hurricane Heat" on Staten Island, which included the normal 8 mile course with some other fun body resistance exercises thrown in, including completing every obstacle, AND doing the 30-burpee punishment afterward. I then ran the course again for my normal heat, leaving Staten Island that afternoon muddy, happy, and exhausted.