Are You Willing to Suffer More Than Your Competition?
There was a time not long ago when being able to run 1 mile without stopping felt like a challenge. Eventually running 5 miles became the goal, then 10, and onto 13. Eventually, during quarantine, I even ran 35 miles for a virtual ultra because I was lost without racing.
My running journey has been ever-evolving. Once I was able to run long distances without stopping, and even more importantly, without hurting, I wanted to run the miles faster. I wanted to challenge myself every time I ran. If I was not competing against other people from my gym I was competing against the stats on my Garmin.
I signed up for my first competitive (age group) Spartan race in 2018 after doing only two open races before because I simply was worried about being able to finish a 10-mile race in Utah in the middle of July due to the heat. I never intended to actually compete. I just wanted to finish and to do so by following the rule book and doing all obstacles unassisted and completing penalties if I could not do so. That race took me 3 hours and 8 minutes. It was a miserable time. I cried when I finished. I was shocked, and proud, to see that I had finished in 11th place out of 27 females in my age group. Not being last was a great accomplishment for me. Out of all competitive females, I finished 115/199. This race in 2018 lit my competitive fire and there was no going back.
I had my ups and downs from then until now. I honestly never dreamed of being one of the girls on the podium but I was okay with the fact that I could never be that good. I was proud that I had lost 100 pounds and found this new sport, that was enough. There was a 1 hour plus time difference between me and the podium finishers in that race.
The following race season I found myself on the podium three times for the 5k sprint distance but honestly, I felt like luck had gotten me there. I assumed that I must not have had much competition, imposter syndrome at its finest. As the 2019 season ended, I knew in 2020 I would move up to a new age group that would be much more competitive and I initially accepted that I would find myself at the bottom of the pack. After getting crushed at the World Championship race in 2019 I decided that rather than accepting that I would be at the bottom of my new age group pack I would step it up and make sure that did not happen.
In 2020 I was able to race 4 times before the world paused and during those races, I placed in the top 7 each time but never was on the podium. That brings me to the present. I placed third in the 5k sprint distance at a Las Vegas Spartan race in March 2021 which was a great feeling but I was extremely disappointed in my 10k super distance performance.
I beat myself up over it for a couple of weeks. So, when I arrived in Big Fork, Montana the first weekend of May 2021 to compete in my first 21k beast distance Spartan race followed by the 10k super distance and 5k sprint distance the next day (known as a Spartan Trifecta weekend), I was fired up and ready. I was ready to stop making silly mistakes and stop wondering what if. I was ready to suffer and earn my place. I was convinced that I would be willing to work harder and suffer more than anyone else. Although I was ready to do this, for some reason the idea of first place or multiple podiums that weekend did not seem to be something I was thinking about.
So, imagine my dismay when I finished 3rd, 4th, and 1st. I made mistakes. I failed obstacles that resulted in penalty loops and burpees. But I ran HARD. I did not let up and in my mind, I kept telling myself, “You are willing to work harder than your competition.” I truly believed that to be the case. Sometimes it feels like in order to win I have to suffer more than my competition, sometimes it feels like I may not have a natural talent for this sport, but what I do have are drive and determination. I wanted so badly to prove my own self-doubts wrong. I was focused on leaving it all out there and would have been happy with whatever result I got as long as I knew I truly worked my hardest and did not have anything left to give.
Placing 3rd in the 21k beast distance race was a great accomplishment. My race was 14.40 miles after accounting for penalty loops, 60 burpees, and 3400 ft of elevation gain. My body hurt, I was mentally and physically fatigued by the end of the race. The next day I showed up at the same course to complete the 10k super distance first on wrecked legs and a depleted body. I started the race up the big hill once again as if I had not done it the previous day. I went hard. Again, I told myself, “You are willing to suffer more than your competition.” It was a bit harder to believe myself this time but eventually, I did.
I had small moments of panic throughout the race that caused me to slow my pace a bit and think about my breathing so that I would not find myself unable to breathe. Anxiety sometimes finds a way to surface physically mid-race for me but rather than letting this control my race I try to get ahead of it and focus on me being in control instead. For this race I found myself doing 30 burpees and 3 penalty loops and finishing in 4th place, just 1 minute and 42 seconds behind the 3rd place winner. My race came out to 6.95 miles with penalty loops and about 1700 ft of elevation gain. I was disappointed to barely miss the podium but at the same time thrilled because that was my best 10k super distance finish so far this season.
I was full of adrenaline post-race this second day and initially excited to go back out two hours later to complete the 5k sprint distance race. As time went on my energy began to wear off, I forced myself to eat a couple of hundred calories but began to feel nauseated and overall exhausted. I questioned if I should head up the mountain yet again. I eventually convinced myself that just finishing would be enough, that my placement did not matter. The longer I waited to start the next race the sicker I began to feel but I was ready to do it anyways. The moment we were sent off my attitude changed, I again told myself, “You MUST be willing to suffer more than your competitors.” I charged up the start line hill, I felt fast but looking back at my Garmin stats I certainly was slower than the two previous starts.
I was constantly thinking about how I needed to work as hard as I could to gap my competitors as much as I could as early as I could in order to keep my confidence up because this race was going to be completed purely through mental capacity as I felt my physical ability dwindling away with every step. Not even 10 minutes in I began to feel dizzy, I was running downhill with whatever speed gravity would give me, and my baby deer feeling legs. As I looked ahead everything was a blur. I pulled a gel from my pocket and choked it down hoping it would stay down and give me the energy I needed for the next 30 plus minutes.
The rest of the race is somewhat of a blur. I drifted through the woods passing whoever I could whenever I could. I threw myself over some obstacles and under others. I carried my body across rigs and through the mud. I just ran. I had no penalties and no competition within sight. As I crossed the finish line, I was honestly just thankful it was over. Even though I was pretty sure I was in 1st place, I was prouder of the fact that I had just accomplished so much in one weekend. Being handed my very first 1st place medal ever in my life was something I am not sure I ever felt allowed to hope for. It felt unreachable. I always knew I was willing to work hard but I was unsure if hard work and desire alone could pay off.
I never imagined I would stand on a podium twice in a weekend. I knew I wanted it, I liked to think maybe it could happen, but I am not sure I actually believe it could. I am so excited for what is to come. I will continue to believe that I will work harder than my competition. My confidence, hard work, and determination will pay off. Yours can too!