Saturday I woke up too early, a full hour before my alarm and then I couldn’t go back to sleep because my brain couldn’t stop wondering about what, exactly, was awaiting me in Leesburg, this year’s home of the Mid-Atlantic Super Spartan, an obstacle, mud and adventure race I’ve been talking about since I first heard about it last year. It’s been looming over me all summer, this race, pushing me forward at the gym and on the treadmill and on dog walks and every other moment in between. It’s been this huge THING, this massive test of mental and physical fitness waiting, patiently, at the end of the summer and I’ve alternated between absolute terror at the thought of running this thing, to pure elation at the thought of actually finishing the damn thing and getting to spend time with one of my oldest friends along the way.
The long and the short of it is this: we did it. We ran the nine or ten miles, we crossed the 75 jumps, we overcame the 20-something obstacles most of the time and when we couldn’t we did burpees instead, because that’s what you do when you can’t throw a fucking spear, or when you fall off the monkey bars halfway through, or when your stupid calf muscles decide to seize up on you as you attempt to walk sideways across a wall – you don’t get a pass or a chance to try again, you hit the dirt and you do 30 burpees and then you get on with your bad self. We climbed cargo nets and mountains, rolled endlessly through a massive mud puddle, topped with barbed wire, and decked with a fire-hose wielding bystander with delightful and bone-chilling accuracy. We bunny hopped, and regular hopped, dragged a cement block around, ran through the woods with a sand bag baby, and flipped some tires. We waded through mud puddles, climbed and jumped and stepped over horse jumps and dodged pugil stick-wielding Spartans at the finish line, but best of all, we did it.
It’s amazing how clean you are when you start a race like this. Even if you didn’t shower or forgot to put on deodorant, you’re still clean. Your clothes are clean, your hair doesn’t have parts of forest or swamp in it and your socks are dry. You don’t smell like a barn or a hen house or an earthworm.
And then there’s the end, the very end, after you’ve left the site of the race and gone back to your house or hotel room and you go to take a shower, peeling off your race clothes piece by piece, watching as clumps of mud fall from your underpants and you finally notice that there’s a whole pile of mud inside your shirt and your sports bra and that half the hair on the left side of your head is stuck to your neck with mud, straw and and who knows what else and because you paid to roll in the mud, you’re not even grossed out by it. Instead, you gain an appreciation for the ingenuity of people in third world countries who build their fucking houses out of hair and mud and straw because, based on the fight you had peeling the clump off your neck, you realize that hair and mud and straw, when combined together, are similar in strength and sturdiness to steel and concrete and all that other tough shit we in the first world build our houses out of.
All this to say, when you cross the finish line you’re not clean. You’ve got mud in places you’ve probably never had mud before and you do smell like a swamp and a barn and a hen house, and your feet are probably pruned from wearing wet shoes for multiple hours and you might be covered in a few cuts and scrapes and bruises and you’ll probably have mud in your ears and your eyes and your ass and your teeth and you’ll probably be damn tired, but you’ll also probably be feeling like a fucking rock star, albeit an exhausted one, because you just did a crazy, crazy thing.
Later on Saturday, after we’d showered and snacked and nursed our wounds, while we were waiting for a table at which to eat ALL OF THE FOOD and ALL OF THE BEERS, I got an email for 40% off the registration fee of next year’s race and after about only two seconds of thought my friend, who ran this year’s race with a fucked up knee (LIKE A BOSS!), declared that she’d be doing it again next year, no matter what and so then I figured WHY THE FUCK NOT, because no matter how much I hurt or sweat or bleed or curse about it all, this shit is fun. And so on Sunday, we woke up and registered for it because paying for punishment is apparently something we’re into.