Nothing ever goes as planned.
I’m going to say that again. Nothing ever goes as planned.
This summer, and particularly the past couple of months, were supposed to be concentrated on training for this insane, crazy race: the 2014 Spartan Race World Championship Beast in Killington, VT. (Even the place name sounds intimidating.) And don’t get me wrong, I spent a lot of long hours in the gym, lifting things (I can finally bench 100 pounds! Check that off the list.) and getting stronger. But in the grand scheme of things, I’m going into this race two days from now not in the “absolute best shape of my life” like I have been saying I would need to be. But for once… I’m not completely blaming myself.
The saying goes that life happens while you’re making other plans. Sometimes those other plans involve three reading intensive classes (oops) and a new job (hello, personal training!). Sometimes, those other plans involve the aforementioned, plus a few doctor’s appointments and tests and a new diagnosis and new medication and generally trying not to feel like crap. Crazy schedules happen; sometimes health things happen on top of them. I’m not super thrilled about it, understandably. But it means that sometimes running makes me want to vomit more than running ordinarily makes me want to vomit. So I haven’t been running as much as I should.
And this is me, in print, forgiving myself for that.
I’m learning things, through trial and tribulation and error. One of those things is that sometimes, there’s only so much you can do. I’ve been beating myself up for skipping that one long run because I wasn’t feeling good and not making it to that second session of the day because I wanted to watch Netflix and to come right down to it, I’ve been hard on myself for not posting on my blog because how hard is it to write the occasional blog post? But at a certain point, you can’t do absolutely everything, and sometimes you have to cut yourself some slack. It’s not about making excuses, it’s about not expecting yourself to be a superhero.
I also realize that I haven’t really, truly, let myself relax in a long time because every time I have a day where I don’t have to do anything, I fill it with more things to do. I have had conversations with so many people recently, degrees of closeness varying from my relationship to my best friends to my parents to my coworkers to my favorite lady in the dining hall about how I need to relax. And unwind. And stop working so goddamn hard. There’s only so long you can have your nose to the grindstone before something breaks. (Hopefully not your nose? I don’t know. I may have to withdraw that metaphor.)
This is me realizing that at the end of the day, you can only do what you can do. And sometimes, taking a breath is just as important as running 12 miles if it’s what your body needs. (I know there are at least two of you shaking your heads right now and saying finally. I know. Thank you for telling me consistently until you finally beat it through my thick skull.)
I’m sharing all this with all of you because I am a competitor. I don’t know how to take no for an answer. My mother always says that there’s a thin line between perseverance and stupidity… and I think, genetically, I’m predisposed to take an active foray into the Land of Stupidity when it comes to testing my limits. I’m here saying: it is OKAY to take care of yourself. In fact, it’s recommended.
So here I am, on the Eve of the craziest thing I have yet to do in my life. I will not win this race. I know this. My goal is to finish: finish strong, finish with the least amount of burpees possible (Oh God of Burpees, hear my prayer) and finish knowing that I’ve accomplished a goal that I set for myself years ago. My other goal is to not temper a victory–a success in completing a crazy insane awesome adventure–with could haves and should haves.
Because sometimes life gets in the way, and at this point, I’ve done everything I can do.
The more press I see about tomorrow, the more scared I get; the temperatures are a variable, it could take me up to six (seven? eight?! nine!?!?) hours, the mountain is hell. I talked to someone after the NJ Super who said that last year on the Killington course she stopped about halfway through, sat down on a rock, cried her eyes out, ate a sandwich, and kept going. I don’t think I’ve ever envisioned a more hilarious, more Spartan image. It’s gonna be rough.
BUT I AM SO EXCITED. Despite the adversity and all the circumstances, and not feeling like I’m in the best shape I could be, I have to remember why I’m doing this. I have to remember that I was so tired after my first Spartan Race that I couldn’t even stay standing on the T, but I immediately said: “I NEED to do this again.” (To which my mother responded: can you just recover from this one, first?) It had been years, since I stopped doing Taekwondo, since I was doing a sport that I was in butterflies kind of love with. Chills. Borderline obsession. (Yes, okay, friends and family, more than borderline.) This is the pinnacle of the sport that I love, and I’ll be sharing the mountain with the best in the business. Given, I won’t be anywhere near them, but c’est la vie.
Tomorrow is the World Championships. Tomorrow is green flags, and hills, and carries and sore arms and more sore legs. Tomorrow is hoping I brought enough fuel and probably wanting to quit and cursing Mother Nature for creating massively huge obstacles to put the manmade ones on. Tomorrow is running a race with one of my oldest friends and having three of the best people in the world waiting for us at the finish line. Tomorrow is getting the last piece of a trifecta: something I’ve wanted since I did my first Spartan Race almost two years ago. Tomorrow, as the people closest to me remind me, is redemption: a reminder to everyone who said I would never be able to work out again. “Start by walking up and down your driveway once a day,” he said.
Tomorrow I think I’ll start by walking up a mountain.
I’ve been an underdog for my entire life.
There’s something magical about being the underdog.