Spartan Race Hawai’i 2016 – Mud, Turtles, and Norm

REVIEW: A formal assessment or examination of something with the possibility or intention of instituting change if necessary

This is supposed to be a “review” of the Hawai’i Spartan Beast, but since I clearly cannot institute change, any intention to do so is irrelevant so I will instead share my experience with the Hawai’i Spartan Beast.

Firstly, however, let me provide some backstory. In 2013, I was in good enough physical condition to run elite heats of Spartan races. Back in those days, there were no age group trophies, and I never hit the podium but I did well enough to earn a season pass for 2014. Life circumstances changed yada yada, elite physical condition went away yada yada, Joe and Andy broke up yada yada, and I stopped doing Spartan races, for a variety of reasons. Since then, I’ve discovered that I’m not an OCR addict but rather an accomplishment addict. I’ve gone on to do well in longer events like Death Race, World’s Toughest Mudder, and SISU Iron. (full disclosure: I only technically “finished” one of those events, but the long slog was accomplishment enough)

I thought I had some unfinished business with Spartan races, however, and that business looks suspiciously like a block of wood. It irks me even now that I don’t have one and there are people with multiple blocks out there that I HAVE BEATEN IN RACES. I can’t believe I don’t have a block of wood.

So…my oldest son had graduated high school and was readying to launch into the world and I thought a nice little trip to Hawai’i would be just the thing and oh hey, grab a block of wood while I’m there.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHLSDFJLASDFALSHFDLASHDFLKHASDFHOMGLOLHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

But I digress, aka collapse on the floor in fits of laughter at my pre-trip delusions of grandeur.

We arrived in Honolulu, went straight to Snorkel Bob’s to rent gear and proceeded to snorkel for ten hours, sans sunblock. [Btw, I’ve never been sunburnt like this before. I have new compassion for white people because now I get it. I’m sorry melanin-deficient folk for what you have to go through every summer. I’ll never scoff again.]

It was amazing!! I saw beautiful angelfish and needlefish and shrimp. I SWAM WITH SEA TURTLES. We had four days of this:

Spartan Race Hawaii Sand

IT REALLY LOOKS LIKE THAT. It really is paradise on earth. Save up, sell an organ, do whatever you have to do, but get yourself to Hawai’i before you die.
So I get to the race late. No one that knows me is surprised by this. I register for open heat Beast Sunday morning. I head out, back and legs all crispy and warm. I’m wearing long-sleeve heat gear, brand new CW-X tights, compression socks over Injinjis with properly lubed toes, Inov-8 Mudclaws, a cooling neckband and my lucky white visor that I always wear. I’m ready for unfinished business, or at least, I look ready.

I’m not doing a blow-by-blow because no, but here’s a pic of the course:

Spartan Race Hawaii Course

Now, I have done a lot of damn races. I have NEVER seen mud like that. Even in my Mudclaws, the only way to get up those hills during those mud climbs was by hanging onto the trees for dear life. Did you hear about this? IT WAS REAL. Because I had Mudclaws; I was able to pass hella people on the way up but I still slipped and struggled a lot. I have no idea how long those mud climbs were but that shit seemed like HOURS.  Dave Huckle, founder of Weeple Army, captured the slog on his GoPro when he wasn’t using both hands to not wipeout in the mud.

Spartan Race Hawaii Beast Mud

Then I saw Norm Koch. I pointed at him. He pointed at me. Suddenly it all made sense. What I thought was gonna be a run through the woods leading to a nice block of wood for me to enjoy looking at was, in fact, A NORM COURSE. Those of you unfamiliar with Norm courses need to realize that this is not your regular Spartan race. This is some next level shit.

Norm was the 9,347,509,234 person to tell me my pants were ripped. I had ripped at ~mile 4. We laughed.

Here is some really important info to take away from this article. If you see someone on course with ripped pants:

1. They know about it. Or
2. They don’t really need to know about it, because
3. What the fuck can they do about it, really?

Eventually, a few people were spared looking at my ass because I ran into a friend who graciously let me borrow his shorts. I ran into said friend ~2 miles from the end however, so basically this is how I did the Hawai’i Spartan Beast.

Majestic, isn’t it? What started out as a tiny hole was enhanced by burpees, squatting to pick up the atlas rock and so on. I have close friends that don’t know me as well as the strangers behind me during the barbed wire crawls.

So…did I enjoy the Hawai’i Beast? I’m still not sure. A few weeks earlier I had been telling another friend that I’m considering stopping OCR altogether after this year. Every morning my ankles hurt when I get out of bed. I don’t get the thrill anymore. When the Beast was all over and done with, I was all “meh”, even though it was REALLY. FUCKING. HARD.

It’s become predictable. You’re gonna go far, carry heavy things, do a bunch of burpees, climb some ropes blah blah blah. When I know I can do something, there’s not a real accomplishment there. I don’t have to be in “elite” physical condition to be able to do the crazy long stuff that provides more outlet for me. I just need to be able to do for a couple of days straight. When the Beast was over, I COULD HAVE KEPT GOING, and would have preferred to do so, especially if I didn’t know what was still coming. That’s really what my jam is now.

I still feel like I have that unfinished business, though, so I don’t know. I could burn all this fat off and go for it again. We’ll just have to see what happens. Love and respect to all of you and major apologies to those who received a face full of my butt.

Spartan Race Hawaii Flaunt It

Photo Credits: Leah Erickson and A.J. Jaeger Photography

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The SISU Iron 2016 aka: The Best DNF Ever

I have a list of DNFs going. I’m the one that survived all the time hacks and went 51 hours in 2014 Death Race Year of the Explorer and just kind of…drifted away. I’m the one that didn’t take the time hacks seriously enough at 2015 SISU Iron and missed Victoria’s Challenge by 7 minutes. I was so depressed and disappointed with myself that my vest got flung into the closet where it remains today.

This year I was NOT GOING TO MISS A TIME HACK, DAMMIT. Marion Powell and I even bought scooters in an attempt to garner every possible advantage. But, unfortunately several critical mistakes were made.
SISU Iron Secret Weapon

Mistake #1:
I didn’t check my watch battery. I missed a time hack last year because of forgetting my watch. This time, I had my watch, but the damn thing started beeping and annoying everyone during the bottom sample challenge and that was the end of that.

Mistake #2:
I assumed the weather would be hot as hell because that’s how it was last year, and that’s what the weather channel predicted. Did I bring any cold gear? No, I did not. To that volunteer who asked me if I had any cold weather gear and received hella snark in return: I’M SORRY. I was really cold most of the time. I’m pretty sure I was hypothermic at the end because I was no longer even shivering.

Mistake #3:
Being disorganized and missing my flight. Despite getting a ton of shit done that day after missing my plane, I needed that time to get my pack organized. Instead, I raced from the airport to Dave & Buster’s, threw shit out of my suitcase and into the pack and ran upstairs to be LAST to the party. Ouch!. Then, they took our packs and I never got a chance to reconfigure. I spent the entire event disorganized, barely aware of where necessary items were located. This lack of preparation led to overall chaos from which I would never emerge.

SISU Iron - Gear

Mistake #4:
Inadequate nutrition and hydration intake plagued my entire event. This is the first time this has ever happened to me.  I estimate I took in no more than 2000 calories during my entire 34.5 hours. This probably stems from mistake #3.

Mistake #5:
After last year’s run with Janice Ferguson and our subsequent failure, I read her blog and I was too emotional to really take in the lesson she was trying to share. She said, “YOU CAN’T DO THE IRON ALONE.” Because I’d been with her, I didn’t really get the message. Plus, I was never alone last year.

This year, I did substantial parts of both night hikes alone. I was with Kayla and Amber for a little while during the Waterfall hike but ended up doing the bulk of it by myself. Then, I was one of the last people to head out for the Commitment/Burden hike to the top, and I was shivering, wrapped up in a space blanket. We had to get to the top by 4:30 or we’d be cut. I was alone. Countless times I stopped and stood, staring at the ground, fantasizing about wrapping myself up like a burrito and just falling asleep right there. “They’ll find me,” I’d think to myself. And then somehow, I’d get my feet moving again. If I’d been with a buddy, I probably wouldn’t have been doing that. Having someone else to encourage and receive encouragement from is CRUCIAL. During the particularly savage inclines, I was literally yelling at myself, “GIRD YOUR LOINS!” I’d holler and then tighten everything and will my poor glutes to shove my feet up that hill. I ran into Daniel Brown and together we made the top by 4:25 a.m. I’ve never been prouder of myself because it took everything I had to make it on time.

Heading back down, I shared some of these insights with my new friend Le Roux, who saved me from sleepwalking off a cliff many times. We agreed to be battle buddies for 2017 SISU Iron. Unlike last year, I’m not ashamed of this DNF. My vest is already up on my wall of accomplishments, and I’ve decided to use last year’s vest for next year’s race.

Redemption will be mine!SISU Iron - Leah's Vest
SISU Iron - Challenges