“You have got to be kidding me.” I heard someone ahead of me groan.
My lungs were burning as I rounded a slight uphill grade out of a dense growth of pines and laid my eyes on what had elicited the shuddering sound. The trail stretched upward at such a steep incline that my heart sank to my sweaty crotchal zone. I slowed to what felt like a crawl and when the traffic in front of me bulged up like an unexpected erection when you are wearing track pants I did the only thing I could.
I grabbed the twenty something year old Asian girl who had come to a dead stop and tossed her over the fallen tree in the path and jumped over it myself. My calves screamed as I pushed as hard as I could down on my feet and tried to push my duck foot walk into a stumbling jog up the ski hill.
From the time I crossed the hay-field that had been converted into a parking lot until stepping up to the starting line at the base of the ski hill hosting the event, I was astounded by the rock concert atmosphere of the Spartan Sprint. Athletic bodies as far as the eye could see mingled with children running as wild as mongrel dogs. I had been training for this moment for months. Along with my own personal Yoda, my best friend Rob, we had set our sights on the finish line and resounding glory of finishing a Spartan race. Months of training and planning and running had led to the moment where we would bolt through the starting gate and hammer our way through the course. We would cross the finish line hand in hand like a non homosexual but still surprisingly fashionable couple.
We wandered around with the rest of our teams and families in awe of the spectacle. Thousands of people all clamouring for the chance to hurl themselves at the mountainous course. I was ready and pacing like a donkey trying not to step on his elongated scrotum. We had watched the previous heat leave the starting gate and of the hundreds that left not one had managed to maintain even a jogging pace at the top of the first treacherously long hill. I was determined to make it out to the front of the pack and maintain my pace. I had been killing my times running miles and had been jogging up the ski hill not four minutes from my house over the past few weeks. My training regimen alone should have given me an advantage.
“You ready?” Rob asked as we approached the massing bodies at the starting gate.
“Fuck yeah.” I answered boldly as I pulled my headband up from around my neck and put my number in place.
“Shirts off?” Rob further questioned as I was already yanking my compression shirt over my sweat damp head.
“Only way to do it,brother.” I answered as he pulled his Batman shirt off. We stood like gladiators waiting to be fed to the lions or at least the raging herd of cats I was sure the super fit Amazon near the front of the pack had in her apartment but had been neglecting to feed for the past month. The event announcer dressed in full Spartan regalia counted down the time as we tensed at the gate. His Andy Frost radio voice was infinitely distracting but as he reached zero, we took off like a used condom.
The angle of the first incline rose quickly and it was nearly impossible to maintain a running pace. We slowed to a jog which rapidly devolved into a wide legged rapid walk. The same one most people get when they fart and aren’t really sure if anything came out so you hobble to the bathroom. My calves were sore by the time we reached the top which I thought was odd but made my way to the first obstacle. The wall traverse was one on the more difficult things to get over and I was glad it was out-of-the-way early in the race.
Side by side, my sun browned skin and his musician’s pasty white, Rob and I descended the first hill and I knew I wasn’t feeling right. I crushed my way through the next obstacle, climbing a spider web style rope triangle before pulling a hundred pound propane tank on a rope twenty-five feet into the air and turned to see yet another steeply rising hill. The sun was beating down on us and we shouted encouraging grunts at each other before heading back up.
Around the top of the hill and through more fiendishly designed objectives we raced before chasing each other down a steeply banked hill. At the bottom rested a set of gymnastics style rings that had to be crossed before advancing. The penalty for not making it through was the same as every other failure. A series of thirty burpees which for the uninformed are a combination of push ups and trying not to vomit.
Rob traversed quickly with his monkey like strength and much slighter build. I saw him standing at the end waiting for me when my hand slipped off and it dropped to the sodden ground below. I saw his chin dip a bit. I wanted him to run the best race he could not hindered by waiting for me.
“Go.” I yelled out to him.
“You sure?” Rob asked back as he turned his body towards the next set of hellish events.
“I will catch up.” I said determinedly as I dropped to the ground and forced my self through the penalty. I saw him scamper through the set of adult monkey bars and start the long trek up as I made my way towards the childs play structure. My hands carried my stiffening legs across the span only to have my hands slip just as I reached the bell that needed to be run in order to advance. My fingers grazed it just enough to make as much sound as an orgasm in church.
I bolted out of the area as more runners filled in behind me. I saw Rob as short way up the incline and jogged to catch up. I was less than a few hundred yards behind him when a feeling came over me I hadn’t expected.
I was just over half way through the race and I was completely out of gas. I had committed the cardinal sin of racing. If there is no fuel in the tank, the engine shuts off. I had listened to a few people who had run the Sprint before and said to eat a huge meal the night before but had paid very little attention to my own body. Caught up in the hype and fever of it all, I hadn’t eaten a thing that day.
I slowly forced myself to keep moving. The climb seemed to take an eternity. All around me, people from all different heats and levels of fitness were sitting off to the sides of the track in the cooling shade. I paused long enough to dunk my head under a cooling jet of water normally reserved for snow making before grinding out another long section of the course. I knew that no matter how long it took me I was going to finish the course.
Uphill and down. Over and under wooden walls. I ground out each section of the course with the grim determination of not finishing as fast as I had planned but finishing none the less. My dehydrated brain carried my body past the point I wanted to just sit down. I forced myself to crawl through dark,sticky mud covered by barbed wire until the crowds began to gather. I knew I had to be close. I saw dozens of people waiting at the last obstacle, an uphill rope climb slick from the muddy boots of hundreds of feet. I saw Rob with his medal for finishing already around his neck yelling encouraging things that to my fried egg brain sounded like someone farting into a pillow and blaming their dog. It spurred me on to claw my way up then slide down a rope before making the final dash over a roaring fire that traditionally you would make some grand leaping mid-air pose for the cameras. I leapt over it on numb calves and barely avoided burning the hair off my bikini line.
A medal was placed around my neck by a smiling blond in Spartan wear. She congratulated me and my rational mind came up with a line about mixing my chocolate with her peanut butter but what came out was a half-hearted joke about rubbing a Reese’s on my junk. I wandered away looking for some water before she could respond.
“We did it.” Rob yelled as I made my way out of the finish area “I was only a little bit ahead of you at the end.”
“That last hill took forever to get up.” I groaned and tried wiping some of the accumulated mud from my bald head.
“But you made it,” Rob laughed “Let’s hit the showers.”
The showers if they were to be called that was a crude system of hoses shooting water colder than a mother-in-laws kiss over the grime crusted masses. We made our way over to the line and were trying to sneak in before we saw that more than a few people had mud in orifices not normally designed to hold it. One young woman was hosing out her shorts and giving herself what must have been an arctic enema based on the flow of water gushing out the ass cheek holders on her yoga shorts. Another late fifties male runner with a chest of hair thicker than the sweater my aunt knit me for one Christmas that some how ended up as the bedding for a litter of piglets at a petting zoo had his shorts pulled out with one hand and the hose in the other was washing the underside of his dangling testicles with the care normally reserved for washing a newborns hair.
Enema Girl handed the hose off to Rob and he quickly washed down his arms before trying to rinse out his hair. I took the hose from him and tried to generate enough water pressure to get the thick coating off to no avail.
“Turn around.” I said to Rob. I started rinsing his back off and laughed when I looked around and saw at least three more couples of men doing the same. I had figured he and I would cross the finish line together hand in hand and yet at the end of the day we simply ended up in the shower together.