This past Saturday, I started the journey to completing my first Spartan Trifecta. For the people that don’t enjoy putting themselves through physical and existential hell, a Trifecta is when you run the 3.1 mile Spartan Sprint, the 8.1 Spartan Super, and the 13.1 Spartan Beast in the same calendar year. I knew going for the Spartan Trifecta would be a tough proposition. 3 races, with increasing distances and a bevy of ridiculous obstacles is a daunting task in and of itself. But with the training for the Mudders, half marathons, the Philly Full in November, and my usual strength training I thought it would be enough to conquer any challenge I would face on the course. I was naive then, full of optimism and vigor. And then I met that mountain, and nothing has been the same since that first hill.
I’ve never been good at running up hills. They have always been the bane of my existence and I’ve tried to avoid dealing with them by utilizing the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Now, I did run some hills in preparation for the Palmerton Super. I figured that I’d be able to handle the straightaways and then power through the hills. What I didn’t realize was how difficult the Palmerton Super was going to be. Palmerton starts out like every other Spartan race, you have to clear a short wall before you even get to the starting line. The second obstacle is starring you right in the face as soon as you get over that wall; you are standing face to face with one of the steepest hills I have ever seen. That first hill set the tone for the rest of 6 1/2 hours I would spend on that course.
No, that wasn’t a typo. Six and One Half Hours. That’s how long I spent on that mountain, questioning every decision I had ever made that led me to lugging a 75 pound sandbag up one of Palmerton’s many obnoxiously steep hills. Spartan veterans would tell you that not only would the course level out after the 4 mile mark, but I cannot tell you how many times I was told that the hill I was currently suffering through was the last hill. It was most definitely nowhere near the last hill and now I have even deeper seeded trust issues with people now. Both of my quads right above my knees started cramping, the only other time I faced that kind of cramping was during the last 2 miles of the Rocky Run Italian Stallion Challenge.
I took a lot of breaks on that mountain, it was the only way to work out the cramps, gather my will to not let the mountain win, and catch a breather from another obnoxious hill that I just rode the struggle bus through. I flipped that mountain off, cursed like a sailor, hopped my way through the woods, and questioned the entirety of existence along the way. And you know what dear reader? I wouldn’t change a second of those 6 1/2 hours. I stared adversity in the face, and while that mountain got more than it’s fair share of licks in and I did not complete or attempt as many obstacles I intended to, it was an experience I will never forget.
I’m still thinking about those hills, the people I met along the way, and how even though I swore up and down that I would never step foot on that mountain ever again (yes that included during the winter), I fully intend to go back to Palmerton next year and get back the little piece of my soul I left on that mountain. Bring. It. On.