How My Wife Ruined the 2015 Asheville Spartan Super

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Man do I look like a ray of sunshine!

The Asheville Spartan Super was supposed to be my race, my first Spartan race. Because I belong to a family though, sometimes things don’t always go according to plan.

Background

My wife Heather and I made the 4 1/2 drive to Asheville, NC and volunteered as “packet stuffers” the Thursday prior to race Saturday. The mission was simple: we stuff race bib packets for a few hours, I earn my free Asheville race, Heather earns two free races she can transfer to me, and we have a weekend getaway in Asheville. Free races, food and fun, what could go wrong?

“How would you feel about me doing this race with you?” Heather said pensively as we filled packets.

“What do you mean, with me?”

She glanced back at the mountain quarry behind us. “I think I want to try this, but only if we can do it together. Would you help me? Could we stay together?”

 

 

Together? As in me not running alone, at the front of the pack, adrenaline coursing through my veins like liquid flames, me ripping through the mountain trails and destroying obstacles only to collapse at the finish line of my first Spartan Race in a draped in glory only to discover that I’ve finished in the top 10 of my age group because that’s what I train for and dream of EVERY SINGLE DAY?

Yes, please.

Yes, please.

Dammit.

So I relented. Why couldn’t Heather simply continue her selfless streak? She had surrendered half a week to volunteer and watch my triumphant introduction to the Spartan world. We could have received TWO free races! She had to be curious. She had to look upon the mountain and say to herself, “I can face my fears and current limitations. I can challenge myself. I can do this. All I need is my husband by my side to help me through.”

So selfish. Am I right?

The Race–I mean, event.

Because it was a race, but then…never mind.

We began with me helping her over staging corral wall for the 8:15 AM heat. I already zoned out, naturally shifting into race mode, even though there would be no racing that day. It was all about “finishing.” Heather asked me questions about proper stretching, strategy, and sharing how she was about to puke because of nerves.

Didn’t she know there’s no talking while transitioning into beast mode?

“Sprint out of the gate, find your pace, and settle in,” I said dismissively.

“So walking…”

“Challenge yourself.”

“Walking really fast. Got it.”

Obstacles

My legs, my feet, my soul ignited from muscle memory. I was a savage course killer, trained for battle, now thrust into…walking–walking!–through water pits, climbing steep mountain trails, marching through creeks, scaling walls, all while pulling, pushing, assisting, and encouraging Heather.

But it wasn’t just the two of us performing this dance, dozens of participants assisted and encouraged one another throughout the course. What the what?! Spartans don’t need help. Get it done or do burpees!

I felt like a crippled race horse, a de-clawed lion, a soldier without a war. I performed high knees as we moved along, just to keep my heart rate up, but it wasn’t enough. We pushed through bottleneck after bottleneck of open wave participants, a veritable herd of sludge-covered zombies. Hundreds of people, all shapes, sizes, and fitness levels, laughing and having a blast. None of them cared about time; just wallowed in the jovial atmosphere of grit, mud, camaraderie, and adventure–including Heather.

Why are you laughing? It's a race!

Why are you laughing? It’s a race!

So we walked, about 95% of the way. Heather attempted every obstacle. I pushed her over walls, she rode my shoulders during the Cliff Multi-Rig, and I held her hand on steep inclines. Many runners passed us. I grit my teeth as the hunter within craved the chase, but I looked back and saw Heather, fighting with every labored breath and heavy step up the steady incline of the mountain quarry road. We had visited every water station and I hadn’t even broken a sweat.

But then, about half way through, I began to see things in a new light, and my heart and mind softened.

Enlightenment

We met strangers along the way, like the man who remained behind and let six women step on his thigh, shoulder, and even his head to scale a wall. There was the human chain of people pulling one another up one of the mountain trails. People shared energy gels and water, thanked the water station volunteers, took time to witness the mountain view after a tough obstacle.

Amputees, veterans, overweight, underweight, young, old, fast and slow, emotionally broken, pridefully ignorant. Everyone converged upon Black Mountain for different reasons and with various baggage, but in the mud, sweat, gravel, and dust, we were all the same. That was primal humanity: joining as a group, trekking toward a common goal through peril and fear.

Heather wanted to quit, a lot. She even invited me to run ahead, but I couldn’t leave, not after witnessing her resolve. She and others like her who put so much on the line deserved more than that. My wife, and the hundreds like her who stare limitations and doubt in the face and stay the course are the substance of OCR. Sure, there are superstars out there, and I’m training to be one, but folks like us don’t own the road; OCR isn’t the exclusive playground for those battling for the dubious title of “elite.” OCR is our shared endeavor, our common crucible, the fires of which yield stronger, more united humans once we summon the courage and cross the finish line.

 

Did Heather really ruin the Asheville Super? Yes, but sometimes we need a fire, a hurricane, a strategic wound to reveal weaknesses from which to grow. Truth is, I want to slay giants, I want to be the best, but sometimes we must sheath the sword and open our hands to our comrades. We should never allow our ambition to sever our shared humanity.

It was a day which deepened my marriage, and even ignited a drive in my wife toward fitness and OCR. She now understands the why behind my intense training regimen. She now throws spears and trains under my watch. We now have a passion to share. All I had to do is give up a little pride and ambition and reach back with a helping hand, and for that, the dividends have given so much more.

Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your story! I really enjoyed reading your mind shift 🙂 And next time, you can always run elite then do the second lap with your wife. Great story 🙂

  2. Good story, man. You did the right thing. And picked up some good perspective along the way.

  3. Awesome 🙂 Congrats Heather. And Kudos to you, Andrew! Great post!

  4. Damn bro! This is the best review I’ve read! Great job!!!

  5. Wonderful post. I can relate completely. One of the bad things about “running” with my wife is that I feel like I am on my feet for twice as long as normal. In some ways it is more exhausting than really running through the course. Hell, I am out so damn long that I even need to reapply sunscreen. That said, I love soaking up the spirit of those around me. Helping others. Watching people overcome whatever it is that holds them back. And I will be walking through Temecula when my wife earns her first trifecta and I will be proud as hell. One suggestion…at least for the Sprints…run it yourself early in the morning and then do a second lap with her. It allows you to get your racr on and then you cam be free to be the attentive, unselfish husband on lap two. Best of both worlds! Aroo!

    • Andrew Bowen says:

      Thanks Robert! We are considering purchasing a Season Pass for me so that I can complete both rounds for that very reason.

  6. SpartanDave says:

    Your story and mindset had me come to the realization that YOU are the brother I never had! You speak as though it is coming out of my mind, instead of yours. Everything you say hit a nerve with me, because that’s actually how I feel about myself wanting to become “elite”, Masters division mind you. You had me laughing and just shaking my head at how so many other Spartan men are going or have gone thru what you have.
    I will be going thru what you have with your wife, with mine this December at SoCal Sprint. The only difference is I am going to do my 1st elite race ever on my one year anniversary of doing a Spartan Race, then assisting my wife with her first race afterwards. I too will then enjoy the scenery, the vision of so many others giving their all and helping strangers reach their goal of finishing.
    Awesome story!!!

  7. I have no idea why, but I nearly teared up reading this. Absolutely amazing view point and I am glad you got to the “beauty” in the open heat. It is amazing what running as a couple can do for your relationship! Awesome awesome write-up!!!

  8. What a beautiful story!

  9. This is really, truly beautiful. Thank you for sharing the heart behind what OCR is really all about.

  10. Gritty Kitty says:

    Great read, and yes, it is FAB as we participate in the race with a #backofthpack perspective!!

  11. thank you thank you thank you! This was my husband And I at Wintergreen-except it was the opposite. I wanted to do my race but now look back on the how much I love my husband wanting to spend time with me and my desire of OCR. Our marriage is about just this “being there for each other” in the struggles and joys of life.
    We now are preparing for Tahoe and again I will wait and encourage him as he has done for me the past 14 years of marriage.

  12. Wow!!!. Best article on Spartan races I had read in a while. You writing hit everyone of my opinions/feelings on Spartan races. I salute you for standing for and writing for what REALLY is like to run a Spartan race. It’s not all about the competition. It’s not all about the few elite runners. It shouldn’t be. Its really about your own (yours, mines, your awesome wife’s)resolve…the crazy idea, that crazy believe in ourselves that we can too amd so we show up and we find out what we capable of at that finish line. Loved it. You and your wife should be featured on televised race.

  13. Sounds like you two would be perfect to try out a Tough Mudder! It’s all about teamwork and working together to finish.

  14. And this is exactly why I want my wife to ruin my race one day.

  15. What a great story! I loved your enlightenment and how even though it may not have been what you wanted going into the race your eyes were opened to a whole other side to Spartan racing. My husband is running his first race with me this weekend at the Killington Sprint and even though our group is large with lots of newbies I can’t wait to share my love of Spartan with him.

  16. Despite you being a complete douche and not wanting to race with your wife, this story basically goes against everything you have to say in your latest post. You state that out-of shape people running OCR’s is ruining the sport; however, you talk about how great it was to see all these people out there having a good time and you were all equal. I also find it funny how you claim these people are hurting your sport, yet without them there wouldn’t be a sport, unless you would pay an outrageous sign-up fee to race. No one would come pay to watch you race and jump over a 2-foot fire pit, it’s just not going to happen. So stop saying that out-of-shape people are hurting your career of OCR racing… Get a real job like the rest of us and stop pretending you are some Olympian out there, because you’re not!

    • Andrew Bowen says:

      Hi Ron,

      Most folks reading (the entire article) and who catch the nuances from careful reading know this is satire. Don’t worry, you’ll recover from this, I’m sure.

      • Timothy Clark says:

        Ron he wasn’t serious when he said out of shape people were ruining the sport. He was being sarcastic (satire). If you read the whole article the point was how OCR is the “perfect sport.” He highlighted how OCR has the best of both worlds. Elite athletes that crush records or win world championships and regular individuals that overcome great odds to compete and bust their ass.
        ANDREW great job love reading your posts. Especially the Ft. Bragg Sprint review. Hopefully see you at Carolina Beast. I’ll be running with a client that I train and we’ll both be accomplishing the trifecta together.

        • Andrew Bowen says:

          Thanks Timothy. I was supposed to run the Carolina Beast, however injury has me out the rest of the season. Best of luck to you and your client!

      • He he he! I thought it was a GREAT ARTICLE! I got it!

  17. Mark bowles says:

    Awesome read I can relate !

Trackbacks

  1. […] be warned: the OCR bug is contagious. Curiosity might get the better of your conscripted labor, and like my wife, may just sign up for a race […]

  2. […] In Asheville I felt restricted by her presence, and now I held her back. I demanded she continue without me, that she must push herself. I would not become her excuse, and so she left and performed with great courage. All the while I limped through the dust and sludge as dozens passed me on the trail. So many asked if they could help, offering everything from mustard packs and Ibuprofen. Some volunteers asked if I needed a medical pickup off the course. […]

  3. […] friends and family during the Spartan Super in Asheville, NC when instead of racing for myself, I ran with my wife, who was new to […]

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