This weekend, I finished the race that completed my Spartan Trifecta.
For those not in the know, the Trifecta is a series offered by the fine folks at Spartan. They
run three basic race lengths: the Sprint (3-5 miles with obstacles); the Super (6-8 miles with obstacles) and the Beast (10+ miles with obstacles). When you complete each race, you are given a finisher’s medal and a wedge of a second medal; one third of the Trifecta medal. To complete your Trifecta, you must complete one race of each type within one calendar year.
I ran my first Spartan race in 2014. It was a Sprint at Mohegan Sun (therefore a “stadium Sprint” and slightly less tough than your standard issue Sprint). I prepared hard for it. This race was the impetus to finally begin and finish my couch to 5K program. I cross-trained with an aerial acrobatic course to build strength. I thought I was ready.
Turns out, I pretty much was. I finished with plenty of gas in the tank and really excited to try it again. One of my compatriots had caught a massive cramp midway through the race, causing us to slow down dramatically. I was frustrated that I couldn’t perform to what I knew was my fullest, and really eager to try again and see where my limits actually were. At that point, I thought I might someday have a Super in me. I never thought I could complete the Beast.
By 2015, I had hit a point where I was flirting with the idea of a Trifecta. I was running regularly, I was set to complete my first half marathon midway through the season, and I was in pretty decent shape. I was still nervous about the Beast, and an injury sustained over the winter of 2015 (fractured clavicle) pretty much ruled out intense upper body work for the season. I had to rehab my shoulder before I could even consider something so grueling as training for the Beast. Trifecta 2015 was out; but I still completed a Sprint and a Super. The Super was grueling; 6 and change miles in driving rain up and down a ski slope. The mud was ankle deep over about 70% of the course. Obstacles were closed or modified due to safety issues. I hit the finish line of that race without much left, and was pretty glad I had made the choice not to push for Trifecta.
By November of 2015, I was re-examining my fitness goals. I had completed 4 half marathons between May and November of that year, and showed no sign in slowing down. I had discovered Crossfit and was attending classes regularly, seeing massive improvements in strength and general athletic ability. I was trying to figure out what the next step was.
It was pretty obvious at the time; it made me a little nervous, but I was reasonably sure that I was finally in good enough shape to begin training (and that I had the proper support to do so). I decided that 2016 was going to be Trifecta year.
I trained for my Beast all winter, and ran it in New Jersey on April 30th. It was grueling. 14 miles (the longest I had traveled in one clip to that date); up and down a ski slope. I hit the finish line mentally and physically exhausted. To make matters worse, I had chosen to run it alone. I have a very small number of fitness friends; and of those most are runners. There wasn’t really anyone who was crazy enough to do it with me; so I did it myself. It took me eight hours to complete, but I came off the mountain with the utmost certainty that if I could handle this, I could handle pretty much anything.
Since I completed the Beast first, the Super and Sprint were not really taxing at all mentally. My Sprint was over Father’s day weekend and I was set to run it with my fiancée, my sister, and my dad. We had run this race the year before and my dad had broken his ankle at about mile 2. We all rushed off the course to get him to the hospital and DNFed (my only DNF to date). As a result, my dad had a vendetta with the mountain. We arrived to find out that it was going to be a long one; 5.8 miles; almost a Super. Once again at about mile 2, tragedy struck; my fiancée twisted his ankle coming down off the 7-foot wall. When he
realized he wouldn’t be able to finish the race, he encouraged us to go on ahead. Since we were pretty sure that this wasn’t going to be a hospital trip, we did. My dad was a champ and finished strong; successfully beating that mountain into submission.
My Super was out in Barre, Massachusetts. This was a completely different race from any Spartan I’ve run before. I’m used to these courses being on ski slopes – hilly to the extreme. The course in Barre is on a dairy farm; it’s flat. The biggest ground hazard is from pockmarks in the field that can easily be ankle twisters if you’re not careful. Due to the aforementioned ankle injury, my fiancée couldn’t run this one; so we took it slow and walked. I’m not going to say that any Spartan race is “easy,” but compared to others I have run this one was a breeze. For that, the weather was against us. It was forecast to be 90 degrees with a heat advisory, and since the course is basically just running through fields there was minimal shade. Luckily, it didn’t quite get that hot; it was only around 82 (“only” being relative here).
Finishing this series means the accumulation of my first ever fitness “super goal.” It’s the first thing I’ve found that I once though “I could never do that” and then proved myself wrong. It’s the most challenging physical thing I’ve ever done, and the second most challenging thing I’ve ever done (the first being getting my Ph.D.). I’m really proud of it, and I will probably be blogging more about it in the weeks to come because there’s a lot I’d love to gush about (and a lot I think would be helpful to other Spartans). But for now, I’m going to sign off and drink some more water or roll out my lats or something. Until next time!