Make My Heart Race

I had been in love with Mack since I was 17 and had kicked my family out of my mother’s house so I could make her Kraft Mac & Cheese for dinner on our first date. That first date nor any of our other dates have ever resulted in a happy-ever-after love story. Instead we are the best of friends and she is my healthiest relationship to date. We have a (revised) pact to get married if we are both single at 40. But this post is not about that. It’s about my dumb-ass trying to impress Mack and the results of said failed attempt.

In April of last year, I was traveling to New York City for work and asked Mack if I could stay with her. She obliged and then added that she and her favorite client ever (she’s a personal trainer) would be running a fun obstacle course race while I was in town. She said that I should join them. Thinking that this was like a 5k mud run, I said “Sure, sounds fun!” I had been working out with a personal trainer and was feeling in-shape and ready to show off a bit. This was a perfect way to impress Mack. I quickly registered, so I could be in the same time block.

Then the confirmation email came, greeting me with an image of a muddy and sweaty woman jumping over blazing fire. I think I made a mistake. I read the race description and to my horror realized I had signed up for the Spartan Beast Race, a 13+ mile race with 30 obstacles. If you failed an obstacle you couldn’t move on until you did 30 burpees. Up until this point I had only run a 5k mud run. What I had I done? But, I couldn’t back out now (I mean, I could, but that would not impress Mack.)  I began training. I had a little over 30 days.

The morning of the race finally came and we hit some snags that delayed us. By some miracle we made it to the race site, 15 minutes before our start time. We quickly stretched and approached the start line. It’s probably for the best that I didn’t have a lot of time to consider what I was about to begin.

The start line was on a steep hill, which was less than inspiring. A mile in we met our first obstacle, a log carry. I grabbed a log in the pile and couldn’t wrap my tiny t-rex arms around it. I got my grip and started jogging up another hill with this 50 pound hunk of tree. I rounded a corner to go down the hill and slipped on mud, I lost grip of the log and it rolled over my leg and then started tumbling towards more athletic runners. I sprinted down the hill and jumped on top of the runaway log. My leg was bleeding from the log and I still had 12 more miles and 29 more obstacles. The only plus is that Mack had not seen this fiasco.

Miles and obstacles passed. We ran through forests and rivers and mud. Over walls and under branches. Mack turned back at around mile 6 and smiled “Ask me if I’m in heaven right now!” I didn’t need to ask, it was apparent, she was feeling pure bliss. I was questioning my life choices. Right before mile 8 came the dreaded “bucket brigade” obstacle. Where in you fill up your own torture device (a bucket) with rocks and then carry it in front of you all the way up a steep hill and back down. This obstacle had huge muscular dudes stopping in their tracks for breaks. I was pretty sure I was going to die right then and there. Either the bucket would crush me or I would go into cardiac arrest or have to quit and die of the embarrassment. A woman in front of me started crying to her friend that she couldn’t make it. I wanted to cry with her. Maybe we could bond over our misery and it would be the beginning of an epic love story; the two of us would be athletes quit the race but started a new challenge: falling in love. Instead, I heard Mack call from the bottom of the hill “You got this Jay!” And I mustered all my strength and baby step by baby step made it down to her.

The next mile was all incline up the damn mountain. No one talked and in the silence you could hear heavy exhales that sounded like regret. After that mile I realized we only had 3ish miles left. That was basically a 5k—which I had done. I could do this! Then at mile 12 a man with a staff vest yelled “At 6:30 if you have not completed the race and you do not have a head lamp, we will pull you from the course. It is 6pm and you have about 3 miles left!” I did the math—12+3 did not equal 13. It equaled 15…15 miles, what the actual frick!? I thought 13+ had meant more than 13 but less than 14. I knew one thing, there was no way they were pulling me from the course. I picked up the sand bag and started passing other people. Mack had been kind and patient, sticking by me the entire race. She smiled and said “Good luck!” and I swear to you she disappeared in a cloud of dust, like a speedy magician!

I kept running through side stitches and my body insisting I should stop, curl into a fetal position and wait to be carried off course. I got to the point in the course where I could see the finish line. I was going to finish! I was going to actually complete this insane thing. Then, I arrived at the sandbag challenge, which they called the “Hercules Hoist” For men the sandbag weighed 150 pounds, which is more than I weigh. I approached the rope and jumped, putting my entire body weight on the rope. The sand bag jumped a 744C3BA4-E067-44D7-85E6-504293C8A49Dcentimeter and hit the ground. Realizing this was impossible for me, I went to the burpee station and began the required 30 burpees. I was depleted and in a complete blur I made my way to the finish line, which was a line of fire that you had to jump over. I wasn’t fully confident that my legs would carry me another step, let alone a jump. I suddenly envisioned me falling into the burning finish line and catching on fire. Would they still give me a medal and a shirt? Would it still count? I took a deep breath and jumped. I made it!

I collected my medal, my t-shirt, my banana, and some stranger handed me an energy drink of some sort. I looked around for Mack, there she came smiling and looking like she had just come from a spa day. Meanwhile, I was pretty sure I looked like death soaked in muddy water.

When we got back to Mack’s place, we ate tacos and had a couple of the most delicious beers. Then we climbed into bed (ouch) and I had the best sleep of my life. When I woke up the next morning I crawled out of bed, my legs gave out and I disappeared behind the bed, collapsing to the floor in a puddle. My legs hurt. My whole body hurt. I grabbed my suitcase, put the medal around my neck and headed to the airport, limping the whole way with a metal clinking sound accenting every step.

I don’t know if I impressed Mack in the way I had hoped. But I got a sweet medal and a t-shirt. And I’ll do almost anything for a t-shirt or a medal. E67E9E01-D104-4115-87F8-090D4C658217

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