Get comfortable, ladies and gentlemen. This might be a long one. I contemplated splitting this into a multi-post series, but didn’t know how to divide this epic adventure properly.
On Saturday, September 8, 2012, I participated in the longest, most intense obstacle race that I have ever, ever, EVER done. It was the Tri-State Super Spartan at Mountain Creek Water Park/Ski Resort and part 2 of my quest for the Spartan Trifecta medal. 11.3 Miles and over 3000 ft of elevation change brought me and my crew to the edge (literally) and back.
The day started with a 45 minute drive to the venue, followed by 10 minutes of panic when there was no sign of Spartan anything in the parking lot that the GPS plopped us at. After Jay, Matt, Derek, and I floundered around on our cell phones trying to find information and checking and re-checking dates and locations, one of us noticed a teensy weensy little sign pointing to parking for the Spartan Race. Shortly thereafter, we were on line to get our bibs and timing chips. We waited around by the tents waiting for our new team member, Ty, to arrive. This was going to be his first ever OCR and, oh my, what a way to start!
While we waited, we tied lime green bandanas to our packs/arms/heads and I strapped a stuffed cow to my Camelbak, both in support of my little sister who sits in a hospital room in Westchester, NY after a car accident a week and a half earlier. Team Dirty Water Dogs transformed into Team Monkey Moo (her nickname.) Once united with the team, Ty did the same, even though he has never met my sister and barely even knows me. That was the first of many instances of the Spartan family unity of the day.
At the starting line, my nerves (which were already a ball of live wires) hit extra hard. The furthest I had ever run was 6.7 miles and this was going to nearly double it. I had heard rumors of obstacles that scared the ever-loving shit out of me. I was such a mental wreck that I didn’t even hear the “We are Spartans” speech that begins every heat. I just saw the crowd start to move and followed suit. I signed up for this, I am starting this, I will finish this, ran through my head over and over as we started up the mountain.
I am used to Sparta throwing huge steep ascents right at the beginning. I anticipated that. But I did not think it was going to be this intense. The slopes just kept going on and on and on, all the while getting steeper and steeper. There would be the occasional leveling out that would lead us to believe that we might have made it to the top, only to turn a corner to see the land rise again. I have this theory that Spartan course designers have some kind of mountain-extending treadmill contraption because these slopes never end. My tiny inner geologist is convinced that mountains like that only exist in the Himalayas- not friggin’ New Jersey.
As much as I hate that slope, I thank my lucky stars that it was there because without it, I would have never met the Spartan and Sparkle that turned our 5 member group into a 7 member team. As the steep incline and strong sunshine (which was supposed to be clouds and drizzle) began taking victims, we found Emily and Julie. I’ll be honest, I don’t remember how Emily was pulled in. I do remember turning around to see Julie and recognized the need for water. I called to Jay to give her one of the extra water bottles that he was carrying for just such and occasion. Both Emily and Julie had started the run with teams of their own, but they were going to finish with us. As we entered the woods, Emily found one of her former team members, Belinda. Seeing as she came with her own flask of whiskey, she stayed on with us as we entered our first water obstacle.
The obstacle was small lake that we had to swim across, going underneath 2 canoes, and then over a floating platform. A few of us were not strong swimmers. I am practically a midget, so climbing onto the platform while treading water was difficult. 3 of the guys were carrying giant GoRucks that weighed them down once sopping wet. Separately, we’d have all been drowned rats. Together, we pulled along the weaker swimmers, grabbed the packs out of the water, hauled the shorties onto the platform, and became each other’s cheering section. By the time the last person scrambled out of the water, we had become the 8-person Team Misfit.
With the Misfits, I conquered an obstacle that I’ve lost against 3 times before- walking across the line of vertical logs. I even opted to use the line of slightly wobbly logs that I was advised not to use. I used it anyway because, wobbly or no, they seemed to be the most tightly spaced for my stubby little legs. I jumped from log to log, losing my momentum for a second, and landed at the end with zero burpees to do.
With the Misfits, I did better on my arch-nemesis, the monkey bars, that I’ve ever done before. I still got burpees, but instead of dangling like a worm on a hook off the first bar while my fingers reached pathetically for the next, I passed the halfway point before missing a grab and dropping to the ground.
With the Misfits, I spat in the face of my fear of heights. The obstacle rumor that scared me the most was an 18 or 23 foot jump off a cliff into a pool. I don’t do well with heights- especially when I have to jump from them. I panicked at the top of some of my first cargo net climbs because I had to drop 6 feet into a stunt bag, so tripling that distance and putting a swimming pool on the bottom was just not going to happen.
But the Misfits were not going to let me chicken out. We took the 18foot path because the 23foot path was longer. Matt, Emily, Ty, Belinda, and Julie beckoned me from the pool below after their non-swimming, sprained-ankled, also-petrified-of-heights selves took the plunge. I heard their words and saw their faces and I just couldn’t disappoint them. I chucked my Camelbak and stuffed cow down into the water, knowing that I would now have to jump because my stuff was down there. I shouldn’t have done that, though, because as I peered over the edge to make sure that the cow didn’t sink into oblivion, the full depth of the situation smacked me in the face and I started to cry and do that hand-flappy thing that girls do when they don’t want tears to ruin their makeup. Realizing that I looked like an idiot, I took a deep breath, held my nose, closed my eyes, and jumped. And fell. And fell.. And fell…. And wondered if I had died during the fall because this was taking way too long… and finally splashed into the water and swam to the edge of the pool to be greeted with hugs and ‘I love you’s from people I had just met.
Through fears, panic attacks, heat exhaustion, twisted ankles, small avalanches, and about 10 miles of trails, inclines, rocks, and obstacles we kept moving as a unit.
Then Sparta did something it really shouldn’t have. It tried to stop us. You see, that bright sunshine that killed everyone on that initial ascent switched over to thunderstorms and a tornado alert just about when we reached the vertical cargo net climb. As we began to run to the next obstacle, other runner shot ahead saying that they were closing down and pulling people off the course. We just kept going, hoping that we could finish before then. It then began to pour big heavy rain drops, but that wasn’t going to deter us. With event staff beginning to tell runners not do anymore obstacles and proceed to the bottom of the mountain, we slid down the muddy slip’n’slide and climbed the slippery wall. We were now Rebel Misfit Spartans!
We tried to get to the next obstacle, the spear toss, which I was sure I was going to stick this time. There was no one there to hand us our spears. We were directed around the wall traverse and the rope climb and the barbed wire crawl and through the side of the t-shirt tent where we were given our banana, our Spartan Race shirt, and our shiny blue medals. A volunteer cut our timing chips off and gave us some dry socks. It was over and the Misfits rejoiced that we had done it. We may have missed a few obstacles because of the storm, but as far as we were considered we had done it- in a storm, no less! Just like the original Hurricane Heat. We hugged and took pictures and exchanged information because it had been such an incredible experience that we couldn’t imagine not staying in touch and meeting up for the next race – The Beast. We said our good-byes, made sure everyone had their ride back home, and the original 4 Dirty Water Dogs headed home.
The next night, results were posted. And the Misfits were not on the list of finishers. Panic set in all over again because we were not getting credited for completing the Super. Most of us have dreams of completing the Trifecta this year. That final lost mile or so of race was going to cost us what we had all worked so hard for. Still protecting each other like we did on the mountain and without knowing it, we each contacted Spartan Race reps to find out what was going to become of us. We didn’t ask if ‘I’ would get credit. It was ‘we.’ Will we still have our chance to become part of the Trifecta Tribe? Did our Sparkle become a full-fledged Spartan Chick? As of right now, it is still unknown, but we have promises from a Spartan Queen that we will be taken care of.
Even if I don’t get credit, I wouldn’t trade my experience with the Misfits for any Spartan Helmet, tri-color medal, or cash prize. That race was the best one yet and I love love love my new team.
Moral of the story: Whether it is at the Hot Gates or in Vernon, NJ, Spartans working together are unstoppable.
Oh, and the cow survived it all and is now sitting with my sister in the hospital. Now they’ve both been through hell.
****UPDATE***** The NJ Super will count towards my Trifecta!!!! Woohoo!!! Knew the Spartan Race series wouldn’t let me down! AND they are giving us a second crack at the TriState Super next year, on their tab. The Trifecta will continue on Sept 22!