Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Finish Line

For the past 11 weeks or so I have been training a group of women who set a goal of participating in the Spartan Super - an 8+ mile race with 21+ obstacles. It involves climbing ropes, lifting heavy objects uphill, climbing up multiple black diamond hills, pulling your body through mud and a number of other obstacles that require both physical and mental strength

We spent 11 weeks training in a local park doing things I was cursed for, such as partner hill runs

While they hated some of the training, I knew there was a reason behind the madness. When they were really struggling, they would glare at me, calling me out for the smile spread across my face. I'm notorious for becoming giddy when my clients are on the verge of quitting. Or cursing. I have even been called sadistic before! It's hard for me to explain why I am overcome with glee in these situations, but let me attempt to explain

So Sunday July 19, the 11 of us geared up for the 3 hour drive to the Spartan location (only 10 of us competed because unfortunately 1 of the girls got injured a couple weeks prior). So what happens with 2 carloads of nervous women? 3 pee breaks along the way! Lots of laughs too of course. We finally got to our location where we packed our check-in bag, duct taped a few hydration packs (hint: if you're going to purchase one, just spend some extra money and buy a Camelbak), fueled up and off we went to check in. We tried standing in the shade as the sun was scorching hot (the announcer later said it was 43 degrees out!) Our heat was beginning to line up about 45 minutes of arriving so we joined along, trying to dance out the nerves (or was that just me?!)After a quick pep talk from the Spartan guy, off we went...straight up a black diamond!

We inevitably ended up branching off from one another, though I told the girls I didn't want anyone alone, so we stayed in groups of 2-5 the entire race. The first third of the race consisted of all black diamond climbing...and descending but that happened far too quickly to remember! At one point we were discussing how we must be halfway through when a girl at the water station announced we were 4.5K in....and at it for an hour and a half already! I think all of us felt defeated at that point, but the hills had been slow. Even from the first hill people were pulling over to the side to either heave, rest their fired up quads or cry as half my group apparently witnessed.

One of the first obstacles was the rope climb. Luckily we had practiced at circus school, but at 30 feet high with slippery hands, it was TOUGH

(there I am at the top trying not to look down or panic). One of my girls climbed that rope like nobody's business, she killed it

The final two thirds of the race required some mental grit. By then our bodies were exhausted from the hills and we were all feeling the effects of full on sun and high humidity. The long walk through ankle and knee deep thick mud through the forest became a welcome relief. We carried, pushed and pulled heavy objects up, down and around hills

We crawled through incredibly smelly mud (full of worms I might add) under barbed wire

(and I won't name names but there are a couple girls in my group who avoid getting dirty at all costs - they killed it!)

Several curse words later (not by my group but apparently one of my groups was seriously cursing my name), we finally approached the end. We just had to crawl in some more mud, attempt a crazy contraption with ropes, bars and rings (no deal, 30 burpees awaited every failed obstacle), climb a wall and scale it over, and the final obstacle: a (small) fire jump

My partner Leasanne and I finished in 3:30. We grabbed our shirts, claimed our medals and headed on to the shower area to clean off as much as we could. We hobbled back over to the finish line to cheer on the next group of 3 who finished about 20 minutes later. The final 5 came in as we were yelling for them.

I knew I wanted to finish the race first, or close to first. It was important to me to witness all my girls cross that line, and this is part of the "why" behind my uncontrollable smiling during tough workouts.

I have been there. I have struggled through workouts while I cried, too tired to move my body but needing to in order to reach a goal I had set. My muscles too have ached to a point I would crawl the stairs. I have pushed myself so hard cardiovascular wise that my breath felt like it was days away from catching up to me (okay so I don't typically recommend workouts like this but this was when I trained for my bikini competition back in 2012)

As I stood there waiting for everyone to come through, the pride I had for each of them overtook me and the tears came. Those moments they cursed me in class led them to this. The times they wanted to give up, this was their reward. The late nights and early mornings they committed to a workout brought them this moment. And as they finally crossed that finish line, the sense of pride shone on their faces and it was such a beautiful and amazing moment to witness. It isn't often we allow a heavy flow of pride or self love flood ourselves, but moments such as this, it's inevitable and warranted. Being a small part in someone's journey to this moment is such a blessing to me.

So the times I can be found smirking in my gym while the girls are pouring in sweat with aching muscles feeling annoyed with me? I know this secret. Just like in life, we cannot grow unless we are willing to be uncomfortable. Those times they are hovering on the edge of anger and despair....they are changing, and growing. They can't see it but I can. I talk them into a few more reps, or convince them they have more burpees left in them. They resist and I gently push because I KNOW that we all are capable of more than we believe, and I push enough to allow them a glimpse into that knowledge. It's a glorious sight, for them to climb over that hurdle and redefine their impossible.

My girls spent a good 11 weeks outside their comfort zone and their progress showed - the rope climbs, the monkey bar successes, the choosing men's weights rather than women's at the race, carrying 50 pounds around like it was, so, so unbelievably amazing, and I am so beyond lucky to be a part of their transformation.

Cheers to my girls, and all the women who set lofty goals for themselves regardless of the doubt. Work your ass off and you can do anything. You all inspire me more than you'll ever know

xo Rachel

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