Godmama Says…
a buncha stuff.

The Sufferfest Beast, a pilgrimage

Countdown to the Spartan Beast in Vermont.
Flight leaves tomorrow morning, I’ve got my race gear all laid out and accounted for, and I am feeling something like… scared?

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the explosion of the popularity of obstacle racing as a sport.  I’m particularly interested in a documentary that’s being made called Rise of the Sufferfests which asks (and I imagine, attempts to answer) why exactly people need to put themselves through hell… rather expensive hell… as weekend entertainment, sport, addiction, or way of life.
“Sufferfest”.  Brilliant.

I have been asked “why” many times myself.  The easy answer for most people is that it’s crazy fun.   You crawl in mud and leap over fire and test your limits in ways you’d never do otherwise without joining the military.   (By the way, joining the military: not “fun”)
I read a piece recently in which one of the pro OCR athletes said she had a hard time describing obstacle racing to people who were unfamiliar with the concept without making it sound silly.   I have had the opposite experience-  I have a hard time describing it without making it seem soul-shakingly intense.  I think it’s a matter of who is describing the experience and what exactly their personal “why” is.

For a trained and skilled athlete who does this sort of thing all the time,  of course it’s fun.   “Wheee! Monkey bars and mud! Yay I won another thousand dollars!”   For jocks and crossfit strongbodies,  it’s a messy day at the amusement park with a beer at the end.   For teams who laugh their way through the whole thing in matching tutus,  it’s silly awesome dress-up fun (although, you don’t see quite as many tutus and silly hats at a Spartan Race as you do at other ‘fun-runs’.  Warpaint, yes… clown wigs, not so much).   I’ve done two Spartan Races so far.  Both have been Sprints:  the “easy” ones.   At the finish line,  people are excited for you and they congratulate you and the first thing they say is, “So?  Was it FUN?”   My response both times has been to weep uncontrollably for at least five solid minutes.

So what’s my problem?
Is the Spartan Race fun?  Well… no.  Not for me.  Not yet.   Do I enjoy it?  Hell yes…. only, not necessarily while it’s happening.  It’s like a tattoo… or natural childbirth… or getting a tattoo while you’re giving birth.
For some it may be a hysterical reclaiming of lost warrior-machismo, or a desperate attempt to feel anything at all in our  over-saturated disconnected facebook world as I have read it suggested recently… and I think that is all good stuff, I just don’t relate to any of  that.  For me it is something else.  For me it is primarily a reaction to (and maybe, it has occurred to me recently, even penance for?) the death of my son.   For me it is a literalized expression of my journey to healing and redemption.  For me it is a battle against defeat itself.   It is functional, therapeutic, cathartic, and spiritual.   It is a rite of passage;  a cleansing ritual.   In geekspeak: It is Luke Skywalker going into the swamp-cave to battle his own self and learn his Real Truth.

I am exponentially stronger than I was a year ago, yes- but I know when I am surrounded by the Spartan “elites” that I am still no athlete.    While a year of obsessive martial arts training has kicked my ass into relatively good shape, I am still new to successful push-ups for god’s sake.   The Spartan Race wants me to climb ropes, scale walls,  drag cement blocks, carry sandbags uphill,  swing on muddy monkey bars,  climb some more ropes,  climb some more walls,  and be punished with 30 burpees each time I fail.
At this point I’m not in it for the fun of it.  I’m in it for the challenge,  the trial,  and the fight against my own fear.
Also, being tested in such a grueling way for so long in relative isolation has a way of stripping away all your bullshit and  leaving you completely raw and spiritually naked.  I often hear people talk about the comaraderie factor of events like this,  and while the people there are all very kind and helpful,  I tend to feel extremely isolated during the race- and for me that’s actually part of what I’m looking for– I think.   The Spartan race tagline is “You’ll Know At The Finish Line”.   Sounds corny,  but it’s a real thing.   It’s why the first person to speak to me after I jump over the fire will be greeted with noisy ugly crying.  I do not feel like a tough guy or superhero when I finish the Race, I feel like a vulnerable newborn baby.

This one in Vermont is the Spartan Beast.  Rumored to be at least 14 miles (they never tell you exactly how long the course is),  up and down a mountain,  with at least 2 icy cold ponds to swim through.   The “pros” are expected to finish in around 4 hours, “everyone else” is expected to finish in between 5 and 8 hours.  That’s a long fucking time, you guys.   I have never climbed a mountain.  I have certainly never climbed a mountain riddled with exhausting obstacles, freezing cold water, and penalties.
Oh, and the forecast for Saturday in Killington?  Thunderstorms.

So yes, I am scared.   And no, it will not be “fun”,  but yes I am looking forward to it more than I can remember ever looking forward to anything.
It’s just that I also want to throw up when I think about  for it too long.

Here’s me expressing how much ‘fun’ I had and what a bad-ass I am  (sobbing like a baby and running to Adam) after my first Spartan Race in May:



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