One Month At A Time

Spartan Race –People of Target

I was at Target, picking out a fitness tracker to help me keep up with my mileage, when I spotted Travis and Hannah, a couple both sporting Spartan Race t-shirts.

This was reason enough to amble over and say, “Hi. I couldn’t help but notice your t-shirts. So, you’ve done a Spartan Race?”

The couple looked at each other. I don’t think I was the first person to walk up to them to ask.

We talked for probably 10 minutes. Last year, they’d run a couple of Spartan Races, but had also done Tough Mudder races (A different brand of obstacle race). Both looked like they were in ok shape, but didn’t look like the people I keep seeing in Spartan Race promotions.

It’s looking more and more like they hired a few models or actors, which is fine. Not everybody is photogenic. Doing all the crunches in the world can’t fix it if you look like a velociraptor.

They told me:

  1. They like the Tough Mudder races better.

“It’s more of a community,” Hanna said. “People will help you, if you need them, too. It’s about everyone getting across the finish line.”

2. Spartan Races have better swag.

“You get a better head band and it’s a good t-shirt,” Travis said.

3. The mile markers at Spartan Races might become scarce.

Hannah told me, “We stopped seeing them after a while and when you’d ask the volunteers, ‘How much farther? They’d always say, just another couple of miles.”

And the miles just rolled on.

4. Bring water, snacks and mustard.

I didn’t know this, but, apparently, you can wear a Camelback water bottle and take race refreshments with you –like Gatorade chews, Gu packs and even Cliff bars. This was also not apparent in the photos I’d seen of races.

I knew about Gu packs –they’re basically sugar and electolytes, sometimes with caffeine and protein. Long distance runners, cyclists and triathletes use them. I’d seen Gatorade chews at the grocery store and I eat Cliff Bars regularly (My fave is the Peanut Butter crunch).

Mustard was new, but Travis said, “Yeah, you see empty mustard packs all over the place. People will carry them.”

“Uh, why?” I asked. Eating mustard straight out of the packet seemed gross.

“It helps with cramps,” Travis said.

According to a couple of websites, yeah, that’s what it does. Mustard contains properties which will help prevent or ease cramps in the case of dehydration.

5. They believed I could handle the race.

“I’m not much of a runner,” Travis said. “But that’s not all that important.”

You never run that far, he explained. There is always another obstacle to get to. The obstacles are the thing, not the distance.

His wife didn’t entirely agree.

“Some of the obstacles are the running,” she said. “You might run straight up a mountain for a mile and a half.”

But it could be done –as long as I paced myself and kept my head.

“You can do this,” she said. “And there’s beer afterwards. It’s the best beer you’ve ever had.”

Spartan Race: nothing runs like a deer

I parked the car near the swimming pool, but almost had the lot to myself.

At 7:30 in the morning, not many people were out at Coonskin Park –just a handful of men on mowers, a few others driving around in beat up county trucks and whoever had been banished from the civilized world to sit behind the lonely desk inside the building by the tennis courts.

Stretching was modest, but more than usual. I’m working on stretching before exercising. Not stretching, not warming up is an old, stupid habit. So, I did ten air squats, bent and twisted my spine, held on to my car with one hand and one after another, tried to wake up my thighs and hamstrings.

I hate running.

As a teenager, I’d been a distance runner –not a good or really competitive distance runner, but I’d run some races. I’d earned a couple of t-shirts. I’d sat in the bus after and eaten the french fries.

I needed to get my legs back. I needed to get my lungs back, and I needed to dump 30 pounds of weight.

Running is the only way I know how to do that inside of a couple of months –along with a tedious diet.

As stretched as I was going to get, I plugged my earbuds into the iPod strapped to my arm and chose something fun as my morning workout soundtrack.

What I listen to varies from day to day –a lot of the time I will go with aggressive or up tempo rock stuff. Heavy metal is great for lifting heavy weight, example, but for a run, I wanted something that would distract me from the basic unhappiness of having to do it at all.

Today’s run was accompanied by music from the Broadway musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Agreed, kind of a weird thing to listen to while you run, but the struggles of Tevye and his family in late Czarist Russia soothed me as I hacked my way through about three miles of some running and a lot of brisk walking.

Along the way, a deer stumbled out of the woods like a drunk fraternity pledge lost during homecoming weekend. It looked at me, watched me struggle to maintain a trot for a few moments. Then, as if to mock me, the beast pranced away at full speed across the road and toward the golf course.

The “run” took me about 40 minutes, but it was good to get it out of the way.

I’ll do it again tomorrow, same course. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll run a little more, walk a little less and think to bring a rock to throw at smug forest animals.