This race was everything to me leading up to it. Previously, my only other Spartan Race was at Citizen’s Bank Park in November 2015. That was a Sprint, and likely measured out to close to 3 miles. Flash-forward six months and I’m staring straight at the Beast. Measured by most racers on the previous day at somewhere between 15.5 to 15.8 miles, this would be the longest and farthest race I have ever even attempted. Leading up to race day I monitored the weather closely. Out loud, I would tell myself and those close to me that I welcomed the frigid temperatures and more than likely rain. I would proclaim I wanted it to be as difficult as possible.
Arrival was a breeze. Having stayed less than five minutes down the road, finding the venue, where to park, and where to check-in for registration couldn’t have been more streamlined. That’s when it all begins as you walk up to the venue and see the first ascent staring back at you. This being my first Spartan outside of the confines of a stadium I really didn’t know what to expect. Let me say that going into this Beast with the positive and all-conquering attitude I did made me more prepared for the mental challenge than anything.
It was only a brief wait before my heat began. I made my way over the first wall and stood towards of the front of the corral with my fellow Spartans. Sociability this early in the morning for me doesn’t come naturally but somehow being with all of these men and women who have the same passion as me opened up a realization that I finally found my calling, my niche. Dustin led us off with a great speech and just like that, we were on our way up the first descent. One of the greatest realizations for me came in learning I really do have a strength when it comes to this sport. I may not be the quickest runner and I certainly lack the upper-body strength for a multitude of obstacles, but fortunately my 8 months of training allowed me to destroy the uphills. Not only did my legs carry me up the steep mountains faster than anyone, it provided the mental boost that even after a failed obstacle followed by the burpee penalty, I could catch up to everyone when it came time for inclines. Slick mud didn’t matter. Nor did loose rocks. Not even coming within 50 feet of Norma Bear and her cubs. I kept moving forward. Not even bashing my shin bone on a rock around mile 11 was enough to stop me for more than a few seconds. Even seeing people running ahead of me early since they skipped about 29 burpees out of the 30 wasn’t enough to bring me down. I know for every one of those that cheats, there’s another like me that would do anything to get their fellow Spartan across the finish line at the end with honor and respect. That’s something no one can take away from me.
While part of my success may have been from my shoes, Salomon Speedcross 3’s (the grip truly is otherworldly), I know a lot of it had to do with listening to professionals like Matt “The Bear” Novakovich and those in my training group, The Philly Spartans. (A side shout-out to Alex Schwab, Ryan Fleming, Jay Sherman and the rest of the group for pushing me to be the greatest I can be). On a side note, the shoes, while phenomenal on grip and definitely a future staple for me, are terrible at draining out water. That may not be news to most obstacle course racers but you really don’t know how important that is until you’re facing a Beast like the one at Mount Vernon containing as many water obstacles as it did.
It wouldn’t be a Beast without serious doubts of finishing. Around halfway my knee started to throb with pain after a brutal stretch of downhill in slippery mud, and with the steady flow of rain towards the back half of the race, it’s not all surprising people were dropping like flies from injury and hypothermia. I’ve learned always come prepared, even if it means potentially falling out of your comfort zone. I’m not a fan of carrying a lot of weight on me as my speed and agility are my greatest strength, but I would rather carry and back-mounted hydration pack with room for a thermal blanket or poncho than freeze to death in the middle of nowhere North Jersey. These are the times you really learn about your true self, when there is no mental filter. It was during this race that my motivation and inspiration to succeed really shined through and I learned something I always knew deep down but just needed confirmation on… seeing my loved ones succeed and being the inspiration they need to get out and conquer their own dreams and aspirations.
Getting to meet some great Spartans, crossing the finish line with my unbelievably supportive and amazing girlfriend there to embrace me, hearing from my mother about her getting out and striving for bigger and better goals, this is why I race. I am a Spartan!