I completed the Spartan Super at Wintergreen Resort in Virginia on August 24. More on that later…
March 9, 2013 – Arlington, VA
My first race ever. And no, not the Non-Athletic Sport Centered Around Rednecks. Racing with my feets.
I felt sure of myself, somehow. It was a little chilly that morning. So I wore my new set of compression shorts under my normal shorts (which are actually soccer shorts) and a poly base-layer and another poly shirt under a light track jacket. I figured I could take the jacket off if I got too hot.
The race was in Arlington, starting right outside Ireland’s Four Courts pub. The place my Chelsea FC group meets to watch games together. That was my original motivation to participate, was to support the Four Courts. I met my friends Chris and Kate and watched some of the Everton v. Wigan match (Wigan destroyed Everton 3-0, but anyway…) inside while waiting for the race line up to happen. We eventually all gathered outside (there were several hundred of us), and did our stretching and warm-ups. Many folks were dressed in green for St. Patty’s day the next week, and others, like us, were in normal athletic gear.
I was a little anxious when the race started, as I didn’t exactly know what to expect, but as I got going, I just kind of chugged along.
The course at the start, is all downhill. For about a mile or more, you wind down Wilson Blvd until you get to the Rossayln Spectrum area and then turn onto a highway, which is flat. Mile two marks the halfway point obviously, and we made a U-turn around a person who made sure there weren’t any cheaters and was motivating folks at the same time. Along the way, both Kate and myself (Chris is way faster) slowed a couple times, but eventually Kate waved me on and told me not to wait for her. So I went…I had to slow a couple times as it was quite taxing for my first time out, but I carried on. And then, the hill.
The same hill that we all descended at the start was now in front for the last mile. I’m not sure what the elevation change is, but it’s fairly significant over the course of a little less than a mile. Definitely had to slow down a couple times to catch my breath.
But I finished! At the top of the hill, outside Four Courts, where we started, was also the finish. I came through with a time of 41’20”. Not bad for a rookie, I’d say. We found another friend, Mario, afterwards and the four of us enjoyed some beer and the camaraderie of several hundred runners crammed into our pub.
One race down!
I was never an athlete when I was young. When I was a kid, I was more often found in the woods behind my parents’ house damming up the creek with rocks or playing video games. I was terrible at sports and Phys-Ed at school and got the usual childhood grief from other kids who were better. I had asthma, used an inhaler and when I tried to run the mile in high school once, my douchebag of a Phys-Ed teacher wanted me to do it over because I ran it too slow. Meanwhile I was gasping for air and not exactly enthusiastic about running (or attempting to run) in the first place.
I participated in marching band in high school and at college at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which was the closest thing to athletic activity I’d ever done. In college I wasn’t fat per se, but I wasn’t skinny either. (Chicken wings are DELICIOUS) After college, I really started to take notice of my weight. I’m reasonably tall at 6’1″ and have an average, if gangly build. And then, weighed about 200-210 pounds. Which doesn’t’ sound like a lot, if you’re a football player. I wore extra large shirts, size 36 jeans, etc. Once again, not fat/obese per se, but there came a point where I was too chubby for my own liking.
So I took my health into my own hands. I began (in 2006) with a drastic change in my diet. No sugar. Whatsoever. Not even ketchup, which has normal sugar (dextrose) as well as high fructose corn syrup. I stopped drinking soda altogether. I worked for Starbucks then, which as we all know, has many different sugary offerings which I could get for free while working, so I had to be disciplined. Overall I was. I also started exercising as best I could. I would take walks around the neighborhood, and sometimes I’d sprint up the hills or try to jog some of it. I hated every moment of it, but got this strange exhilaration afterwards which I later discovered to be an endorphin high.
So for more than a month, I nixed the sugar and exercised. I could’ve done better, but it was better than nothing. For my entire life up until that time, I had never cared what I ate and in general, ate hearty portions. My drastic diet change with no sugar completely changed how my body processed food, even if I still ate big portions, and I started losing weight. I didn’t track how much weight I lost over a certain span of time, but when I started noticing my normal size 36 pants were much too big, I began to notice.
Over time, I had lost upwards of 30 pounds. I weighed 170ish and wore a size 32 and medium T-shirts. Even dress shirts, I went from a 16 1/2-17 to a 15-15 1/2. My mom always fretted that I was losing too much weight and wasn’t eating, etc, which was nonsense, I was eating. The thing was that I was simply burned a bunch of fat that had been there for a long time, she and everyone else was used to how I looked before and now I looked rather gaunt in comparison, though not unhealthy.
The difference was, that I was skinnier, but not necessarily fit.
After I moved to my current residence in 2008, I took advantage of their gym. Used the machines and the treadmills, but it was very sporadic and not regimented in the least bit. I still couldn’t do a mile without slowing to walk and while I was over my asthma, I still was so out of shape it didn’t matter. I slowly got better and eventually could do a 5k on the treadmill in about 40 minutes. Steadily my body got more acclimated to exercising and I got in better shape.
In February of this year, one of my Chelsea FC buddies posted on facebook about a race him and his gf were going to do in Arlington, which was sponsored by the pub we all go to. I figured, I love that pub, so I’ll support them by participating. So I registered. And it was two weeks away. Me, who had never liked running was going to run a race that not only was my first, but a longer distance than I’d ever even attempted (4 miles). The dweeb I was in high school, not being able to run a whole mile, was long gone. (It only took 15 years)
So I took the occasion of the race and I actually trained for it. I made the distinct effort to put my mind to it and charge in. I ran on the treadmills in the gym and did my best to run as long as I could without stopping. After a couple attempts, I was able to do an entire 5k distance without slowing to walk. There was something in me that was beginning to emerge. Perhaps I had a hidden athletic talent that had long been ignored or unrealized until now. Or perhaps I was a budding endorphin junkie.
In any case, I ran several times a week until race day and I figured I was as ready as I could be.
(Holy shit this is long, I’ll do each race and thoughts individually!)