Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Spartan Ultra Beast 2014. Third Time's the Charm?

Do you want race recaps that really tell the story of the actual race? Here you go. These will give you specifics, pictures, try to help you understand what the Ultra Beast really is.




My race recap is going to be a little different.

Spartan Ultra Beast, 2014, Killington VT. This is an event that is very very difficult to describe. It's hard to describe the difficulty, it's hard to describe the event itself, it's even harder to describe the mystique around this event if you've never done it. Or never done a Spartan race at Killington. Or never done a Spartan race at all. But if you do mud runs, you know how important this event was to me.  Yes, because everyone does mud runs, everyone does 5k marathons (ugh. Seriously, people say this). Everyone does this stuff, right? Everyone spends months and months, training and preparing. Thinking about one specific event every single time you hit the road to run. Every single time you get up at 5am to get your training in before life happens and you take second place to everything else. Honestly, there are very very few people who actually understand just what this race means. 

Three years ago I applied for the very first Ultra Beast. Stood on the line, ready for the hardest thing I had ever done. I was not fast enough, and there is no "Awww, you tried really hard, forget the strict cut offs, go ahead and finish the course!" None of that. Went back year 2. Struggled through some injury and taking on care of my mom. Failed again. Year 3 comes along. Life is tougher. Work hard, fit it all in. I could go on for hours about this, but who really cares. No one gets it, no one understands, except a very select few. And one very select person, my husband Tim. 

It's been a rough year. Actually, a shitty year. My mom has Alzheiner's. Dementia that has slowly eaten away at who she is, that has left a shell of my mom. Three and a half years I have been her sole caregiver. Taking her everywhere with me, cleaning her and her house, staying on top of her Dr's appt and medicines, etc etc. The last year it's been overwhelming. If you have not been the sole caretaker of a dementia patient, you simply have no idea what it's like. None. My mom could not turn the tv on without help. Would not change her clothes, bathe, eat properly, even know how to throw garbage in a can without me helping. I cried every single day. I could not sleep, I worried about her, my kids, how I was neglecting everyone. My husband would go help her in the evenings so I could take the kids to their TKD classes. Her neighbors would bring her home when she wandered or cried to them, needing help. I started keeping her at my house to help calm her (she always thought she was at work, or needed to go to work, or had to go home - home being the apartment she lived in 75 years ago in NY). It wouldn't calm her. She would stand at my front door crying and yelling to go home. She'd walk out at 1am and knock on neighbors doors. I cannot describe how it feels. I did not talk about it. What good would it do? Why burden everyone else, my sister, my aunts, etc? No one can do anything from a distance, except worry. It overwhelmed my life. 

But I had the Ultra Beast. I had a goal, I had a purpose to get out there at 5am. I had moments of sanity where it could be about ME. Yes I felt guilty no matter what I did. I felt guilty being tired at night from getting up at 5am, I felt guilty when mom cried, I felt guilty when I left my 11 yr old in the driveway because "Grandma is crying, I have to get to her!!" and drove off. I had a husband who, from Sept 22 2013 said "You 're going back". We planned out the 2014 trip, made all our arrangements way too early. It didn't matter. We were going back. It gave me something else to focus on, other than the complete despair of Alzheimer's. 

He built training walls for me. Ropes strung across part trees to practice on. Pushed me to get up and out early mornings and get running. Drove me to the hills and made me carry sandbags and buckets full of rocks (well, a 40lb bag of pool salt but whatever). 10 mile runs with 1000 lunges. Check marks on the calendar. He would not let me forget that I was important too, that the goals I had were important. He let me cry and scream and complain about my frustrating days with mom. He (and the kids) lived with a very stressed mom for too long. I could not wait to get back to Vermont for this event. I loved the people I see there, I love the mountains, I simply love everything about being there. Tim made sure it happened. I gave up on a lot of things this year, but Tim would not allow missing the Ultra Beast to be one of them. I will never ever forget how he stood by me. 

Mom is now living in a Memory Care facility. Like a nursing home, but only for Alzheimer's patients. She does not cry anymore. She has a few lady friends who she sticks close to. She plays bingo (who knew?) and loves the dining room (three meals, served to you with no clean up? She loves it). I know she's confused. She was confused no matter where she was. She does not know who I am anymore. I always say "Hi mom!" when I visit (at least twice a week) but she could not tell you my name. She doesn't know how many children she has, how old she is, what year it is, what happened 10 minutes ago.  But she's safe. She told me that she feels safe there. Does she really feel safe? Is she happier having a lot of people around her all the time? It's hard to really know. I think so. She's sleeping good, eating well, and always looks good when I get there. I'm sleeping better at night. It's the best option out of crappy options. There is nothing good about any of this, but it's the best I can do right now. Her Doctors have been telling em for a long time, that it was time. The nurses and social workers at my support group said it's time. It's just hard emotionally to get there. 
Mom checking on the flowers at her new home

No one understands this race. The importance I place on it. How huge it really is. To ME. How huge it is to ME. A few people understand. Tim does. That's all that matters. 

(Want to hear about the actual race? It was amazing. Ridiculously hard. The uphill climbs were torturous. Downhill sections were crazy - jumping over roots, rocks, bushes. The obstacles were long and hard and rough. Carrying sandbags, and buckets filled with rocks, and logs, multiple times. Always uphill. Yet we smiled. Tim waited for me when I fell off monkey bars (and the traverse wall, and the tarzan swings, and the log hop. Oh yes, and the 'Big Rig'. I waited for him a grand total of two times. The sandbag carry (he had to carry two 60ish lb sandbags, while gals only had to carry one) and the barbed wire crawl. I'm a good crawler/roller). We held hands and encouraged each other. I only yelled at him once, at the tire drag. The tires were hanging down a hill tied to long ropes, and you had to drag them up. Guys had longer ropes, but Tim got his up pretty quickly. Mine, I could not budge. Not one inch. I was sweating and yelling , popping veins in my neck straining so hard. I could not believe I couldn't move this tire! Tim comes over and starts trying to 'help' me, telling  me what to try, etc. I could not listen to him and I lost it, screaming away. The volunteer finally walks over, kicks my tire a bit and dislodges it from a rock it was caught on. Then I got it up in maybe 5 pulls. Ugh, soon frustrating! But I got it! We mage it through 17 miles and were back down at the bin drop (the half way point). We knew we could make the first few cutoffs. We were ok on time for those - but the final cutoffs.....there was no way. Simply no way we could be FASTER on lap 2 than we were on lap one. We were not going to make it. So we stopped. We decided to end the race on a good note - we were not injured, we did not get hurt, we were still smiling. We ran together for the first time in 20 plus years. It was a win. It was the greatest day. How could I be so happy, knowing that ONCE AGAIN, I was a big fat DNF? It just didn't matter. What mattered was showing up, trying my hardest, and being with Tim. Being there was the win. Enjoying the experience, instead of being disappointed by it was a win. Seeing friends was a win. My very first, and very last, Ultra Beast pictures truly say it all. I went to to it so happy and excited, and I finished it the same way.)
My first Ultra Beast 

2014 Ultra Beast

Want to see pictures? Here are a few. This was the crazy hanging bar that was directly after the barbed wire crawl, rolling hills (you went into hip deep water, climbed over a dirt mound, more water, another mound, then back to the barbed wire crawl)
Not Tim, not me. If I was in the picture, I would be in the corner on the left doing my 30 burpees.
Look how happy I am - this is right before I attempted that crazy hanging bar. 

Swim to the ladder, climb, go across the tarzan ropes hanging under the bridge, then swim to shore. In 59 degree water. 

Brrrr, you had to walk in the cold water (59 degrees). No walking on shore!
Arriving at the top of the mountain, through the mist. 
You can't do justice to how impossible this was. Not too bad for the gals, but the poor guys.....

I like carrying logs. Again, I'm pretty happy!

This one I made!! All the way across!!!!