Yup. Day #2. Second one in two days. For a middle aged, marginally fit guy pushing to find his limits, this was an expression of that journey. Guess what? I found the limits. I have to say that of some 130 races over the last 2 and a half years or so, this is the most humbling…no humiliating I have felt.
First the course specifics and details. Sunday clocked in at 14.1 miles – just about a mile shorter than Saturday’s course. I haven’t looked at the maps of both to know if there was actually a mile less or if my watch was inaccurate or what – actually it would be more than a mile less because on Sunday, I missed the spear throw that I made Saturday and had to take a penalty loop. More on penalties later, because they play a substantial role in my story of Sunday. Elevation gain Sunday was up over 5200′ compared with 5000′ Saturday which would definitely be reflected in that spear penalty as it was just straight up…forever…or so it seemed.
I missed obstacles I got on Saturday, I got one Sunday that I had missed Saturday which felt good. The lesson of the day, though, is that Spartan races are more than physical challenges – they’re mental challenges. I pushed through this race, and was physically compromised to be sure, but I did it. My mental acuity though, my mental acuity failed. I failed 3 obstacles with a burpee penalty – 30 burpees and a time penalty. When I crossed the finish line – I actually took some time to pull myself together before jumping over the fire at the finish – I felt like I had crushed the race.
I later found that I had been disqualified. It seems I had failed to complete the requisite 30 burpees on ALL 3 failures. ALL of completing progressively fewer – including the penultimate obstacle on the course – which is the one I apparently didn’t put in the minimum. I KNOW I counted 30, but knowing you counted 30 clearly doesn’t mean you completed 30. So, I failed. And while I finished, and not technically a DNF, I was disqualified. Rules violation and rules are rules. I’m beside myself upset, all that time and effort to blow it on the last one.
At first I was frustrated because I thought it was glitch or misunderstanding at one station. I was firmly convinced of it. Then I was angry. But while I could argue one station, I can’t argue with three. I blew it. Perhaps at some point I’ll be able to look at a bright side, but I don’t see a bright side right now. I’m hurt. I’m angry. I’m humiliated. You’ve got to play by the rules and if you don’t you have to pay the consequences.
Mental exhaustion. Physical exhaustion. Whatever. Fact of the matter is that I pushed my limits and found that I’m not where I thought I am. Perhaps that’s the bright side – knowing how exertion affects my mental acuity will help me down the road. Perhaps. Right now, I just feel defeated. “Disqualified.” Basically says “cheat.”
When I decided to start recapping each race this year, it was an accountability instrument. I wanted to see my progress through the year, and I wanted to see my opportunities to improve. I honestly never thought I would fail or at least fail for these reasons. I thought I was better than that, but now that I know I’m not, I never ever want to be here again. Failing is one thing – its human – but “disqualification,” damn. I never want to feel this way again. In failing I know I’m pushing, growing, becoming better. I’m trying hard to see this in that way. I desperately want to see it that way. That’s all just framing – what matters is what I do with it. The story you tell yourself is irrelevant if you don’t do something to improve from it.