by Carrie Adams
Spartan Race has some of the best sponsors on the planet. Many of them don’t just support Spartan Race as a brand, they come out and take on the courses themselves. A perfect example is the well-known CrossFit brand Life as Rx that has some of the coolest apparel in the sport. With such taglines as “Do More, Suck Less” and “Buck Furpees” and “WODKilla” their gear is not only creative and tongue-in-cheek but high quality and very functional. In 2012, one of the founders, Marcus Dedina came out to Southern California to take on the Super Spartan with some friends. He sent us he recount of the day and how he got through it, however painfully, to find his Spartan finish line.
Here is his story in his own words:
“Why the hell am I doing this?” I thought to myself. I was laying face down in the dirt, chest heaving, and completely exhausted. I had just finished climbing through what can only be described as Mother Nature’s Tunnel of Torture, a natural, narrow canal carved out of sticker bushes that was about 25 yards long. I was ready to stop the madness and I was spent…but that wasn’t even the worst part. I was still 4.5 miles from the finish line.
I’m not a person who is unfamiliar with asking myself what I’ve gotten myself into.. in fact, I ask myself “why the hell am I doing this” almost every day. It usually occurs about 5-10 minutes in to my WOD (workout of the day). I have been a part of the sport/cult known as CrossFit for the past six years, so I’m not a stranger to physical challenges. For those of you who don’t know what CrossFit is, it is a sport and a strength and conditioning program that has a focus on utilizing functional movement at high intensity to achieve maximum results in multiple fitness arenas. Don’t get me wrong, CrossFit is a scalable system that anyone can (and in my opinion should) do to become fit and healthy. But, for those of us that have that unique type of obsessive personality that leads us to want to torture ourselves for the sake of strength and speed gains, CrossFit is the perfect drug for us to abuse. The deeper our kind go in to that pain cave caused by the overwhelming desire to achieve maximum physical results, the more we need to push ourselves beyond our limits no matter how bad the suck…
So, here I lay in familiar pain territory, but in an unfamiliar environment. No one was yelling at me to pick up the bar, there was no music blaring in the background, and there was no one in sight for me to keep up with. I was alone. Well, not completely alone, I had Mother Nature as company. It was surreal actually. Birds were chirping, there was a light breeze, and the sun was shining. Most would say this was a perfect day is Southern California. But for me, with my shins bleeding, knees aching, covered in sweat, lungs burning from exhaustion and raw from breathing in dust for the past few hours, it was my own personal hell. A hell of which I had put myself into voluntarily only a short few hours before. In this moment, I was beginning to re-think that decision.
Having been a part of the CrossFit community for a few years, I had fallen prey to a common tendency of other CrossFitters: We tend to believe we can handle just about any physical chalenge thrown at us with limited or zero specific training for that challenge, aside from standard CrossFit. This was true of my “preparation” for the Spartan Race I was currently running. In other words, I did not specifically train for the Spartan Race at all aside from doing standard CrossFit workouts.
In my defense, I had done a few mud runs in the past. They had been far less serious and so in my naive perception that was what I was about to face in Southern California with the Super Spartan. At the races I went to prior, people were dressed up in costumes, drinking beer, and most looked as though you would more likely see them sitting at the bar on a regular bases than taking the time to pick one up. On top of that, I myself am typically no stranger to jumping in to things without a whole lot of preparation and have almost always come out unscathed, despite my lack of planning. This runs a full gamut of situations, from drinking 20 shots of fish oil for a Youtube video (side effects involve a lot of throwing up) or deciding on a whim to row a marathon on a Concept2 stationary rower to get the free mug that the company offers to anyone who completes it. I felt like this would be another similar outcome and despite the warnings from my Spartan race friends and my overconfident attitude I signed up along with my girlfriend, a couple of my best friends, and a some of my co-workers to the Super Spartan in Temecula CA.
I wasn’t always lying face down in the mud. In fact, everything started out awesome. The event was very well organized, our heat started on time, and the build up prior with the announcer and music got us all really amped. The race began and I felt good. Our pack stayed together and it seemed like it this was going to be like a fun run in the mountains. That didn’t last long. After what seemed like a good amount of running we still hadn’t hit any obstacles and I began to remember somebody saying that there was at least twenty of them. I started thinking that maybe there were going grouped together or something and maybe that was why it was taking so long to get to one. But I was wrong. The truth was that the obstacles were so far apart because the course was almost ten miles long and I swear that the entire thing was entirely up or down hill. (Downhill is worse in my opinion). Up and down, up and down, we ran on and on, and still no obstacles. Obstacles materialized but I was beginning to realize that this wasn’t a fun run but an intense trail run in some of the gnarliest trails So Cal had to offer. Slowly but surely we lost each other. Some fell away because we had different running speeds and some got behind because of the penalties for not completing the obstacles (30 burpees… yeah…WTF?). Then, finally, I was alone.
So, here I was… laying in the dirt asking why the hell I was doing this. I truly wanted to quit. My knees hurt so bad from all the hill climbing but I knew I couldn’t quit. I would regret it forever, and besides, if I quit I had nowhere to go and I was alone? I was in the middle of the woods, I had no choice but to keep going. I faced rivers, rocks, sand, dirt, mud, stickers bushes, logs, boulders… I saw everything the SoCal foothills had to offer. And I wasn’t suffering alone. I passed a guy on the trail sitting down and as I passed I said encouragingly, “you got this, brother!” His only reply was, “cramp!” I saw him again, about ten minutes later, as he passed me while I was doubled over in pain clutching my quad. He smiled and said, “hurts doesn’t it?”
To alleviate the cramp and my knees aching, I walked backwards for awhile. This was was not only humbling but also downright embarrassing. I could see the pity in peoples eyes as the passed me by. I finally got my second wind and started to run again for what seemed like an eternity until the finish line was in sight. I had just a few more obstacles to go. At this point, my two best friends caught up to me and I could see that they were nearly as broken as I was. The three of us waited for each other and crossed the finish line at the same time giving each other high fives, and then immediately collapsed on the ground with relief it was over. ”Thank god,” I thought to myself, “it’s over.” Chest heaving, I lay there thinking about how badly I misjudged this challenge and how I should have heeded the warnings given to me.
Needless to say, I am still very much a CrossFitter and nearly every second of my everyday life revolves around the sport and the community of CrossFit. But, after that day in Temecula I can say that along with being a CrossFitter, I am a Spartan too. I am happy to have found a second pain cave to enter to satisfy my obsession and help me realize much, like CrossFit did when I started, that you should ALWAYS be humble, and can never be to prepared for the unknown and unknowable.
[Editor's Note: Marcus "Badger" Dedina is the co-founder of Southern California based company Life AsRx Apparel and is a Level 2 CrossFit Coach that has been involved in the CrossFit Community for over six years.]