Godmama Says…
a buncha stuff.

the afterbeast: Glen Rose 2013 edition

Down here in Austin, we’re generally pretty sheltered from crappy weather.  It gets cold in the winter, but not for long.  Like, not even for the whole day.  The week leading up to the Glen Rose Spartan Beast was different.  Most of Central Texas was being treated to a frosty holiday surprise, complete with things like ice pellet storms and city-wide school closings.  Austin didn’t get all that,  but 3 hours north all my friends and family in the Dallas area were frozen into their homes with streets iced over and temperatures dangerously low for at least a solid week.  But it is Texas after all, so the way it’s supposed to work is that when it’s cold and crappy one weekend it should be unseasonably gorgeous the next.  By my not-very-scientific calculations, the weather for the Spartan Race should have been perfect.

I was off by a day.  Glen Rose, Texas was perfectly gorgeous on Sunday.  My race was Saturday.
The high that day was around 41 degrees.  Not terrible…. til the cold front came around mile three.  Biting 20mph winds pushed back against us as we ran, and stole function and feeling from cold fingers.  We climbed up higher…  I didn’t realize Texas hills could offer such climbing.  I figured this race would be an actual walk in the park after the mountain in Vermont, but of course they found tricky steep hills for us to climb and sent us up and down them in the most treacherous possible ways- much of the time while carrying sandbags, dragging cement blocks, or lifting buckets filled with gravel.
It had rained all day and night the day before, so everything was a mudslide… and icy.   There was ice and snow along the trail as we slipped and slid up and down slick hills of mud and rocks and occasional snow.   It was perfectly crappy.  The weather and mud were creating extra obstacles for us like Mother Nature was in on the joke.
This shitty weather has been brought to you by Reebok!
I was layered like an onion: 3 tops, 2 pairs of pants, hat and gloves… but none of that mattered too much when we reached our first water obstacle.
Mercifully,  they decided to cut out the main swimming obstacle from the course for safety reasons.  It was THAT COLD.  But we still had to get in the water several times… we just didn’t have to swim.  There was a lot of wading in water that was so cold it somehow burned.  And then more running to heat those cold muscles back up again.

Yeah, so my calves did not appreciate that particular back and forth on top of all the other effort, and they let me know with the most extreme charlie horse pain I have ever felt in my life… in both legs at once.
At one point, maybe about half way through the race, I went down in so much pain it looked like I was done for the day.   All I know is that I had started jogging a little faster and suddenly I was on the ground screaming bloody murder in a most undignified manner.   When I opened my eyes, five or six other runners and two staff guys with walkie-talkies were surrounding me asking what happened.
When I held my calf it was spasming so hard I could actually feel the muscle thumping against my hand like an alien was trying to bust out of there.   One of the guys was on his walkie-talkie calling for a “pick-up with medic”.

Let me rewind a bit for a minute…

One of the first obstacles anyone has to deal with when facing a major challenge of any kind is doubt.  Even when you think you  have dealt with your own there is often someone else standing by waiting to share theirs with you.   I had plenty of anxiety and nerves going into the race of course, but once I made up my mind to do it I didn’t doubt that I’d finish.   I did need some encouragement at one point, though, so I asked a friend for some uplifting words.  Instead I got a list of all the reasons I shouldn’t be doing it.  What may have come from a place of loving concern ended up being a straight up insulting bummer:

Do you really think you’re still in good enough shape for something like this?
Have you even thought about how cold the water is and how dangerous that could be?
You haven’t been training like you used to.  This is going to be a lot harder than you realize.
What if you get too cold?  What will you do if you get hurt?  What would make you quit?

That little pep rally actually made me cry.  I was already an emotional landmine this weekend as it is the anniversary of my son’s birth (and passing), which is why that race on that date was so important to me in the first place.  So while the majority of people who care about me were either cheerleading, you-go-girling, or keeping their mouths shut,  there had to be one last ‘voice of reason’ to try to burst my bubble and throw me off course.   Just another obstacle.  It was a disappointing moment, but I realized that if I couldn’t get over a few disappointing words I probably couldn’t get over a mud covered 9 foot wall, or much else.
When you start to float up too high out of the realm of what others understand, they want to pull you back down into their comfy world of can’ts and shouldn’ts.   I have never belonged in that world.

Fast forward back to the middle of the Spartan Beast.  The temperature is dropping,  my hands are numb even in my gloves,  and I’m in fetal position in the dirt while someone calls for a medic to come pick me up and wheel me away to safety and warmth and told-ya-so’s.   I remembered the words of my doubtcaster from before:  What if you get too cold?  What will you do if you get hurt?
What will I do?  Exactly what I have always done and exactly what the hell I came here to do:
OVERCOME IT, and keep moving.

I took a deep breath (or two or three… or twenty) and told the nice men with the walkie talkies that I did not need a pick-up.  I was staying, I just needed to roll around screaming and swearing for a minute.   There were two guys on a team together who were running the race in full wetsuits to guard against the elements.   Their wise wardrobe choices made them look a little like superheros…which they were.  They stayed with me and tried to get me to flex my feet the right way to calm my calves down.  When I was ready they stood me up and fed me salt tablets and added electrolytes to my hydration pack.  This was a race we were running, but these two dudes cut at least 10 minutes off their time to babysit me and make sure I was going to be alright on my own again.  They held my arms and made me walk on my heels for a while, to keep my calves stretched and happy.  I know I asked their names at some point, but I think they answered when I was still screaming and crying so I don’t remember.  One of them was Justin, I think…. (Thanks, Super-dudes!)

A few miles later I was jogging again and a guy said, “Hey!  Aren’t you the girl who went down with a leg injury back there?”  “Yeah, that was me.”  “So then how are you passing me right now?”

The rest of the race remained brutal… and they added distance to it since they took out a swimming obstacle, so all told it was around 15 miles.  Oh, and if there’s a hell, I bet they’d make you carry 5 gallon buckets full of gravel up and down a steep muddy ice covered hill.  But even in hell you’d probably only be forced to do that crap once.   We did it twice.
I did lots of burpees that day. (For the uninitiated,  30 burpees is the price you pay for any obstacle you fail in the Spartan Race.)
Lots of people were doing lots of burpees due to the cold.   A lot of the obstacles like the monkey bars and the rope climbs require grip strength, or at the very least the ability to feel your fingers, which a lot of us could not.  I surprised myself by what I did accomplish as much as by what I didn’t though, so all in all it was still satisfying.   And even though my legs started seizing up again toward the end and I was fully limping by the time I jumped the fire,  I jumped that fire.
I did it.

Stats-wise my time of 5hr 56min was pretty average.  I was right at about the 50% mark across the board (Overall, Gender, and Age Group finish times), but that’s pretty good for a Beast.  Pretty good for the girl they wanted to cart off the course at the half way mark.  Pretty good for a lazy winter Saturday morning. Pretty damn good.
One of the things I love about Spartan Races is that they show you very clearly what all your weaknesses are (physical and otherwise).   You can be bummed out when you see all your own weaknesses, or you can go, “Awesome!  Now I know what to work on next!”

I definitely feel stronger after every race.  Well,  alright let me be honest:   first I feel like exhausted crap-sandwiches for a couple weeks and then I feel stronger.   I’ll give my legs a little break to recover, but when I do start running again I will be faster.  It has happened every time.
And my mind and spirit get stronger too.  Big dirty obstacles on the race course make little pesky worries of day-to-day life so much smaller.  The amount of crap I am willing to take gets smaller, too.  And the list of things I think are impossible is disappearing faster all the time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it seems I have a movie to make….

17 Responses to “the afterbeast: Glen Rose 2013 edition”

  1. I passed you when you went down but you were not screaming yet. I passed a lot of people that day in the same condition as you so I elected to just go ahead. After a few seconds I heard you screaming and I looked back and saw people stop and help you. I’m really sorry if I did not go back to help, there was nothing I could do that the people surrounding were doing.

    A few miles back, I asked one of the guys that help you who was wearing a wet suit, “are you warm under the wet suit?” He just nodded his head and said yeap. I just said, “you are a smart man.” He was the one that help you.

    I’m not even sure where we were at the race but when I say you pass me, I was like “what the fuck!!!” That’s when I asked you. You also told me that you did take some salt tablets and electrolytes.

    I was behind you when you finished and you gave this person a hug and a kiss. I have met a lot of hardcore/badass people in the Marines, I’m going to add you to my list.

    Yeah, that day was very cold. I only had shorts on and 2 layered top and I regretted going light weight. But it’s over now.

    • Thank you so much and Cheers to you!
      No worries at all for not stopping. No reason for the whole race to shut down just because i forgot to eat a banana 😉
      I think I kept saying “I’m fine” to everybody who passed me anyway~ See you at the next one 😀

  2. Real cold was World’s Toughest Mudder 2011 imo

  3. “This shitty weather has been brought to you by Reebok!” Love it! I’m gonna do my first Spartan in a few months! Glad to know that you survived!

  4. JK, you are probably right. World’s Toughest Mudder in 2011 was cold, in the 20s. But most of the runners where wearing wet suits, the sun was shinning, there was no wind and they run at Raceway Park.

    Spartan Race Glen Rose, Saturday race was in the 40s, with 20-25 MPH wind, hardly any sun, and wearing cloths not fit for the weather.

    Cold it relative – that day, it was cold and I’ve been to some cold weather while with the Marines.

  5. I ran this race with my sister on Saturday (we even had the same start time as I recognized your hat from the picture). It was truly insane. I thought the course was a bit below average in terms of difficulty and originality (PA Spartan Sprint and NJ Super Spartan prior in the year had me expecting the worst), but the weather more then made up for the course.

    A little more than 1/3 of the way through I was getting disappointed as it just seemed too easy and then the water obstacle came up. Like you (and probably most of the people that ran it) the leg cramping was indescribable. I’ve had cramps before in races/training, but nothing before that literally would leave me almost unable to stand. The slightest use of the muscle 1, 5, or 30minutes later would immediately cause the cramp to return. Today is Tuesday and my right calf is still shot causing me to hobble around.

    The worst for me was the “trifecta” of memory game, pulley lift (concrete on a rope), and inverted rope over the water. That almost broke me. I memorized perfectly the code for the last number on my bib, after being told I was wrong, then realized it was the last TWO numbers on my bib. So 30 burpees. Seconds later I tried the pulley lift and immediately cramped up. I don’t know how I actually finished it (probably fear of death by burpee), but then came the literal hell of the inverted rope.

    I had heard people say you can get leg cramps from this obstacle but never expected for me to get caught. I stepped up, inverted on the rope, took my FIRST pull, and BLAM!, my entire left leg locked up in a vise-grip of pain. I almost fell off just from that shock. I was able to change legs and start dragging my mostly unusable lower body across the rope before BAM!, other leg locks up. At this point it was drop into the water and meet my burpees, or find some way to stay attached to the rope. I threw my upper thigh over the rope and proceeded to drag/scrape my way to the bell and into the water. I am now the proud owner of a softball-sized bruise on that spot that has all the colors of the trifecta medal.

    Congrats on soldiering through the hardest race I’ve ever finished!

    • Cheers to you ,too, Justin for finishing that beast!
      Did you get a photo of your trifecta bruise?
      I am definitely going to be in recovery mode for a while…. epsom salt baths and wandering around the yard with mny cat are about as much working out as I can do right now

    • Yeah, how could you forget the hat. 🙂

      My wife said that I should have worm something that stood out so that she could have seen me while she was at the Spa at Rough Creek. LOL And here I am worried that she was cold and bored while waiting for me to finish.

      BUT, she was nice enough to reserve me a massage at Rough Creek 30 minutes after I ended my race. The hot shower alone was worth the $130 they charge for a massage.

      Around 6PM while eating dinner, I still saw people running around the lake just before the Tyrolean Traverse. I said to my wife. “they need to pull those guys out.” They were not even halfway through the course.

      • Nice!
        I think I was even too sore for a massage. I’m sure it would have been helpful but the thought of somebody squeezing my muscles at that point … *shudder*

  6. Well put. Ran it on Sunday.My foot cramp up and I have never seen toes curl like that before. It was my first race. I finished

  7. Maya, just curious since you run at Killington, on the scale of 1 to 10, where do you rate Killington and Glen Rose?

    • Interested as well on this question. I will be doing Killington this year and my hunch is that VT will be tougher due to the elevation, but likely not as physically damaging as the cold water…but that’s just a hunch. 🙂

    • A couple people have asked me that, or “which one was harder” and I don’t really have a straight answer yet.
      I’ve done 4 Spartan Races so far- 2 Sprints and 2 Beasts, and each of them have been challenging in their own ways.
      Without the frigid water and bad weather at Glen Rose, I think it would be easier to say Vermont was harder. That one took me almost 9 hours to complete (which wasn’t unusual), and the relentless climbing was NO JOKE. People were dropping out of the Killington race like flies by mile 4…
      Also it was the World Championship, and NBC was there, and the prize money was bigger than ever, so they had to make it extra obnoxious….
      The water in Vermont was pretty damn cold, too… and there were 3 major water obstacles with swimming involved… Glen Rose only had the Tyrolean Traverse and the water was kept very low.
      Because of the mountain there seemed to be a lot more injuries as well, broken ankles and at least one broken leg that I heard of… I saw a girl crack her hip bone on the log hop. I brought home a cracked tailbone from Vermont from falling on my butt during a tricky descent.
      Killington was exhausting and endless…. but still…. I have never experienced anything like the calf cramps I had in Glen Rose. I was rolling on the ground in tears… and the more i read about it , it seems like a lot of runners went out like that in Glen Rose….
      I think the layout of the Glen Rose Beast would rate about a 6 or 7 in difficulty compared to the layout and design of Killington, which I’d rate a 10…
      but with that freakin’ hell-water added in, Glen Rose ends up being a 10 as well.

      If you’re planning to do Vermont, my advice to you is to TRAIN ON STEEP HILLS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE! I’m here in Austin, so there’s not much climbing to do, but I wish I would have done more of it. Find a hill and go up and down it –carrying weight if you can– til your legs can’t take it anymore.
      And if you’re doing one anywhere cold, wear a wetsuit! 😉

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