Pennsylvania Spartan Sprint 2016

If you’ve noticed my lack of new content on here congratulations. That means I’m doing something right. Considering that it feels like I’ve been consistently failing since my last race in June for the Bone Frog Challenge, this “race” was a complete and total success.

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No, not in terms of my time or placing. In fact, this was my worst race ever. Even compared to my miserable half-marathon appearances, this Sprint takes the cake as far as letting myself down. But the best part was that I didn’t. I’ve never felt better. And all of that goes out to you. Yes, you. If you’re reading this, you are why I race. To help, to inspire, to create lifelong friendships where the only thing standing between us is the wall when it comes time to jump over it or dunk under it.

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(Shout out to my new friend Tony, who’s arm is the only thing in the picture, for really pushing me to actually run the last stretch of that brutal Bucket Brigade. My advice may have helped you but your words inspired me to give it everything I had.)

I managed to get so incredibly soaked up into the competitive spirit that I managed to forget why I race. What makes things even more ironic was the Sprint on Sunday wasn’t even my only event for the weekend.

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(I may not be the focal point of this picture but it’s definitely my favorite. I’m on the far left with my new brother Tony showing him how to avoid wasting energy by putting down and picking up the bucket. Glad to say it worked out for him and he killed the rest of it!)

On Saturday night, I joined with 145 fellow Spartans for an endurance event known as the Hurricane Heat. It’s not a race but a team bonding event meant to break down selfish barriers and bring people together to work with each other and solve the problems at hand. So when I received the list of items to bring to the Heat I focused the most on the bucket at the bottom of the list. In it we were to write why we raced. Why we would put ourselves through as much pain and torment as we did. In mine it read “I race for everyone who said I couldn’t.” What I didn’t say and didn’t need to, because it really only mattered to me, was that the everyone I was referring to was only myself. I don’t care what others think. I’ve always been my biggest critic. Never accomplishing enough, never giving anything all I had, always looking for an excuse or an easy way out. That problem plagued me for years. It still does at times but only when I drop my guard. But that’s exactly why I was participating in the Hurricane Heat. Because the old Tom, that guy, would have never done it, or looked for a way out, or said he would have and bailed, using some lame hacked up excuse such as a shoulder injury or whatever. That Tom could’ve not slept long enough and used that as enough of a reason to skip out on something remotely difficult.

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(“F#$% your standards!)

So when I went to sign up for the Palmerton races I could’ve done the Super, Hurricane Heat, and Sprint. I could’ve done it all for me, to say “look what I accomplished” but instead I found myself praising others for everything they’ve done. This was my first race having a friend join in the fun with me. For awhile I didn’t think it would happen. Most of the responses I get involve the belief that they can’t do it more than anything. More than just not wanting to or thinking it’s disgusting swimming through mud or crawling under barbed wire. I thought it was a miracle when I got the text from a friend saying they signed up. It helped believing this was someone who was in shape based on the eye-test and thought could keep up or at least I could help push to come close to where I myself am comfortable. But come race day I learned that would be far from the case. Now granted, he doesn’t have the greatest of knees but neither do (or should I say did) I. But for a race that plays to my strengths with tons of steep inclines, I knew I could compete and push for a solid top 5% finish which would have me in the less than 2 hour range at least. The reality was just about double my expectation. And it’s that expectation I’m glad I left on the table because hanging back with my friend, not leaving him like I promised, made my weekend what it was… A solid and enjoyable weekend of growth and enlightenment. With three more races on tap for the rest of the year I have an opportunity to complete my goal of qualifying for the OCR World Championships. While that goal will never change with whatever steps forward or back I take, I’ll enjoy the journey and use my experience and knowledge to lend a helping hand to others along the way.

For my first home-state race, Palmerton was everything I hoped for and more. I finally received my wish of a hot and sunny day and amazingly managed to not get burnt. Course layout was simply fantastic, which is absolutely no surprise thanks to Norm Koch. I’ve done two of his courses so far and while I can say my favorite was the one he didn’t have a hand in (Colorado Super 2016) that’s mainly because while it wasn’t easy it wasn’t as insanely brutal as a Norm course. The race started right up a nice incline and early on it pretty much remained that way. Obstacles were sparse to start, which is fine, except the biggest obstacle for most everyone was the ridiculous climbs that Blue Mountain offered. Norm made sure everyone’s calves were nice and worked up early and often. Every time that there looked to be a break in the inclines you were greeted by another. It wasn’t until after the spear throw that it finally started to really taper off a bit. Of course, the minute you get all the way back down to the festival area, Norm had a little present waiting for everyone in the form of an uphill barbed-wire crawl. If you did this on Saturday for the Super or even the Hurricane Heat the night before it wasn’t terrible. Sunday’s Sprint offered up the hill with a nice shower and made gaining any traction nigh impossible. I found rolling to even be more difficult than usual since it seemed like the wire was lower hanging than usual. Where the race really got interesting was the latest and greatest obstacle Spartan has invented as of yet… the Apehanger. Start with one serving rope climb, followed with a course of unstable and wet monkey bars, all served over nice muddy water and you get one hell of a tough but fun time. One day, I will conquer it. Overall the race couldn’t have been set up any better. Parking, registration, showers, medals, shirts, all were handled as cleanly as any Spartan I’ve done. I’m proud to say this is my home race.

These races mean the world to me but I also understand what they mean to others and I will never take that away from anyone. One person’s “why” means no more than another’s. We’re all in this together and together we can conquer anything.

 

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