It has now been a full 4 days since the Beast and I’ve spent a vast amount of my free time thinking about how to describe my experience. I came to the conclusion this afternoon that there are some things that I can describe well and other things that I can’t describe at all. One thing that I absolutely cannot do is retrace the route. I have a vague idea of parts of the sequence of obstacles, but there is a lot of fuzziness due to the numerous trips up and down Mount Killington. For a description of the route and the obstacles, I’ll refer you to this post by a fellow Spartan at AdventureRun.net. He does a great job of outlining the course and also has several photos of the obstacles. Others have also written about their experiences with the race and I suggest you find some time to read them as well. The stories are compelling and each of us battled to meet some type of personal goal. I’m going to take a different approach simply because I don’t think I can do the race justice like they did. So, here is my third account of the race presented in my own unique way.
THINGS I CAN’T DESCRIBE
How can you possibly describe a march through shoulder-high foliage up Killington Mountain; a steep ascent up a mountain that seemingly did not have a summit? Is it adequate to say that when you finally reach the top you are so high that you can actually smell what God was cooking for lunch? It was macaroni and cheese, by the way. That was just the first time up it. How about all the other times? How about the miles trekking through the woods on very technical terrain where you had to watch every single foot placement? Can you truly describe the difficulty in the downhill hikes through the woods where no path previously existed? Brush, undergrowth, logs, and mossy stones don’t sound like a deterrent, so I don’t know how to explain that it really was. How do you adequately describe what a 75 yard crawl through mud under barbed wire sitting a mere18 inches off the ground is like? Furthermore, how much more difficult is it when someone has a fireman’s hose spraying cold water all over you when lying prone in the mud and rocks?
Can you depict with accuracy the individuals you pass who are sitting along the way, head in hands, in almost virtual despair? The looks on their faces tell you they were in over the heads…..does that suffice? How about the anticipation of the next obstacle that is unknown, but awaiting you at a moment when you are fatigued from climbing? Can you characterize your thoughts when faced with obstacles that you have never done before…like climb up 15 feet of rope or swim 300 yards across a lake after running/climbing/hiking for 10 miles? Can you describe the mental toughness that you must have to complete an obstacle course so rugged that EVERYONE who completed it said it was the toughest thing they had ever done….surpassing ironmans, triathalons, tough mudders, etc…? When someone who has run a 29 mile race in the elevation of Peru tells you that the Beast was much harder……does that give you an indication of the difficulty? Did I mention that the participants went up and down Killington Mountain several times? Did I say that there was very little running on ground that could even be considered remotely even? How do you describe that there is no pain-free way to carry a 5-gallon bucket filled with rocks and dirt up uneven terrain. Maybe even more difficult to describe is toting a 50 pound bag of sand up, over, and across a half mile of a mountain in which every step must be chosen with care. Does the word “cramp” adequately characterize the pain shooting through almost everyone’s legs at various points throughout? When you see super-fit athletes dropping to the side with grimaces while they grasp their calves, does that tell you anything? Is the sheer brutality of the course depicted with the example of a fellow racer who tells you the morning after the race that he spent the last 7 hours in the emergency room where he almost died of kidney failure and cardiac arrest?
Can you really convey the image of the outstanding athletic ability of many of the racers – male and female alike? The bonding and brotherhood that occurred among complete strangers on the course can’t be put into words. Seeing the exhausted smiles at the finish line…..does that tell you anything? When does an event with nearly 2000 determined athletes become one in which competitors help others at their own expense? Does seeing the elated smiles of children, wives, fathers, mothers, husbands, when their relative finally crosses the finish line tell you anything? What words do you use to tell someone about the pride of signing the Wall of Valor upon completing the race? What if your finish time was in the upper 15 to 20% of all racers, when you hoped to just be in the upper half? What’s it like to re-live moments of the race over and over and over again? Even though it was the most difficult challenge you ever completed, how do you tell someone that you can’t wait to do it again and that it was one of the highlights of your life??
I can’t adequately describe any of those aforementioned experiences. However, there are some people who really could describe it. Please read their posts.
Spartan Race blog (you’ll also find links to videos and other blogs about the race here)
My next post will detail some things that I CAN describe. Stay tuned!