My final OCR events for 2016 occurred at Mountain Creek in Vernon, NJ over two days (October 22 & 23). I had registered for the NJ Super early on in the year as I have done this race every year since 2012, only this time it was in October instead of September. As the year progressed, I shifted some of my focus to more endurance type events and in order to complete my first ever Spartan Endurance Trifecta, I would still need to successfully complete the Spartan HH12HR, a 12 hour endurance event that consisted of both team and individual challenges that was happening the next day and this was the only event I like this I could attend before the end of the season. The other events included in this Endurance Trifecta that I had already completed were the NJ Ultra Beast in April and the Palmerton Hurricane Heat in July so if I didn’t make it, then I would not have achieved my goal.
With an injury to both my hands and my knee at the OCRWC, the bitter cold/windy forecast, mommy duty, and HH12HR becoming my main focus, I initially decided not to do the Super on Saturday since I had already completed my double trifecta and had no intention to do a third. While I never officially transferred the race prior to that day, I knew that I would be credited by Spartan if I didn’t actually show up so I just kept my registration in case I changed my mind. The actual date of the Super was my friends birthday and she was doing this race as a team that included some friends and her family so I didn’t feel too bad not doing it with them, although I did struggle with the thought of not doing this particular race when I had done it every year and it was so close to home.
As the time grew closer to the race, more of the team decided not to run and ultimately it was just going to be my friend and her family. After thinking about what to do, on Friday, October 21st I decided that she has done so much to support me that I wanted to be there for her on that course on her special day. Just before 10:00 pm I texted her to tell her that I would be running with her, but because my son had a baseball game and my husband had to leave for work I would need to arrive at the field in town by 2:00 so I let her know that I may need to run ahead since our start time was 9:45. Then it was time to get everything ready for the race the next day, but luckily I keep most of my OCR items packed so this wasn’t too time consuming. Then I set my alarm and was off to bed.
When I woke up the next morning, since I was not running elite and the venue is about 5 minutes from my house I had a chance to sleep in a little bit. I bundled up by wearing my Under Armor Cold Gear, Frogskin top, and brought gloves (which I typically don’t wear gloves). I knew that during this race I was going to take it easy and run it “open” and ask for assistance if I felt like I needed it in order to reserve my energy and not aggravate my knee any more than it was or risk hurting my hands. I met my friend and her family at the venue entrance and we took some pictures, checked our bags and headed to the start line. When waiting in the corral, they played Dropkick Murphy’s “Shipping Up to Boston”, which they have not done in a very long time. That song used to play at the beginning of all of the Spartan races I did early on and it always gets me pumped up for a race. With a speech and AROO, AROO, AROO! We were off!
While running on the course “open” I enjoyed helping others and even ran into a few more familiar faces out there. I walked some parts and waited at others, helped some that were cramping, cheered on my team as well as complete strangers, and just had fun out there! The “Ball Shrinker” was so cold but I knew I couldn’t skip it and just hoped that I wouldn’t freeze too badly. After the sandbag carry I looked at my watch and realized that it was about 6.3 miles and it was 1:00, which meant that I had only one hour to run the remaining 3.7 miles, gather my bags, head back to my car and get to my sons game so I gave out hugs to my team and took off.
As I ran through the woods, I tried not to overdo it as I did have a very big event the next day, but I was running out of time. It was very cold, raining on and off, and slippery. As I approached the bucket carry I seriously contemplated not doing it because it would take too long, but I couldn’t not do an obstacle no matter what heat I was in so I filled my bucket to cover the holes, ran up the hill and then back down, dumped the rocks and raced to the monkey bars. I hopped up and grabbed the first bar and then swung to the second, then the third, and then my hands felt like they were on fire and since the bars were wet it made it difficult as is to hold on, so I dropped and headed over to do my 30 burpees.
Next was the rope climb and with sore hands I was worried I would fail this one too, but I didn’t. I breezed up the rope, hit the bell, then descended back down, ran to the dunk wall, jumped the fire and received my medal. After that I took a quick finisher photo, raced to get my bag from bag check, then over to the tent to get my finisher shirt, ran to the hoses and rinsed my legs, ran to the shuttle bus (muddy and soaked) and then hopped in my car and headed home because I received a text that my son’s game was cancelled. I arrived at my house by 2:10! I showered and made sure everything was ready for my big event the next day.
For the HH12HR there is a required gear list. Forget something on that list and you will not be well liked by the other participants as everyone will have to suffer. I checked my list over and over again and made sure I had exactly what I needed. Some of what I was required to bring was a rucksack with a specific amount of weight in it that I will be expected to carry with me most of the 12 hours. I needed standard items for all events like this such as chem lights, fuel, and a headlamp to name just a few. About a week prior to the event you are also sent a video with specific gear items, for our class of HH12HR-024 we were required to also bring with us a pumpkin of a specific minimum weight. We were told to arrive by 5:55 am and be prepared to get warmed up and started immediately.
It was so cold that morning. On my way to the event, there was a pole down and so I had to go a completely different way to the venue and I was a little nervous I would be late, but I made it in time. So far I was not feeling very confident about this even, but I pushed those feeling aside, parked my car and headed over to where I saw others that appeared to be participating in this event. Introduced myself to some of the other participants and saw a friend of mine that was volunteering at registration and said hello. After freezing for about 30 minutes, the Krypteia came over and it was time to begin. We started by taking roll call to see who was still missing. There were 78 names on that list and 41 of us showed up that morning.
After warming up, we headed over to the main festival area, headed up the mountain and set up our base camp, where we had to empty our rucks and show we had everything required. Any fuel and any items not instructed to go in our rucks were to be left behind in the box. We were given instructions and then headed up the mountain to our next point in the event. Here we did a series of exercises while wearing our weighted rucks, such as planks and push-ups, and other exercises with our rucks and pumpkins, such as squats and static holds.
Next up it was time to head to our next destination, the beach. The sand was cold and the water was colder. Here we had to do a series of exercises that included items like 8-count body builders, skull crawls, and rolling downwards toward the water just to name a few. Next we were instructed to get into the water in a line of locking arms and squat. We also had to lie on the sand on our backs and do flutter kicks which splashed the water all around. After being in the water for what felt like forever, were we came back on the sand and lined up into teams. My feet were so cold I felt like I was walking on broken glass!
While standing in these lines my body began to shiver so much. The pain in my feet and hands was growing unbearable. My hands were white and blue and I could hardly move my fingers. The wind would pick up and my body would start to shake uncontrollably. When they announced it was time to go pumpkin dunking I literally had tears in my eyes thinking if I had to go back in that water I would definitely become full blown hypothermia. My mind was breaking. I was freezing. In my mind I kept hearing voices telling me to quit, that this isn’t worth it. You have Reynaud’s and your body can not function in this cold. The words “I quit” were on the tip of my tongue, which I shared with the man standing in front of me but he reminded me that I was not a quitter and to hold on, we will be moving shortly.
When Krypteia tea asked for 4 volunteers, my team luckily had 6 and they decided to keep me out of the water and the man in front of me started to rub my arms to help generate some heat and one of the volunteers came over and asked if I wanted medic. I paused and then said “no, I want to stop freezing” and smiled. She stood next to me and they both helped block the wind as we cheered on our teammates. Shortly afterwards we took a photo, lined up and tethered ourselves to our teammates and then headed to our next location.
Walking helped me warm up a bit, but I was still cold and unsure I could make it since we were only a few hours into the event. It was so cold and windy and my wet clothes were making it worse. When we arrived at the next task, we were told that we had to do the sandbag carry, tethered, holding our pumpkins too the entire time. The most difficult part of that was climbing up some of the rock areas being tethered to the person in front of you with no use of y our hands because one had a pumpkin, one had a sandbag and on your back you have a weighted rucksack! It was difficult but I WILL ALWAYS PLACE THE MISSION FIRST!
My heart was beginning to sink because I was still thinking how in the world am I going to make it the rest of the day, I am freezing! Then, I hear a voice call my name and it was a girl that I train at the gym. She looked at me and could tell I was freezing and we exchanged words of encouragement and kept going. A few minutes later, I heard another friendly voice and it was a friend of mine cheering me on, saying “go girl, you got this!” I started thinking to myself “You can’t quit, you are not a quitter! What kind of example are you setting to these people if you quit?” With this going on in my head as I try to climb a rock while tethered to 5 people in front of me I almost dropped my pumpkin and fell and pulled my whole team down. After successfully completing the task, as I waited for all other teams to finish the task, I heard another familiar voice cheer me on. At that moment I knew that if I was not going to finish this event, it was because medics pulled me off, NOT because I quit. I am NOT a quitter, even if my body was borderline hypothermia! I WILL NEVER QUIT!
Shortly after this task, we were headed back into water. Now I began to panic because I had finally stopped shaking and now I was going to have to go in water all over again. How was I going to be able to get wet and recover again? As we stood at the bank of what looked like a swamp, we headed in one by one, around the set of rocks, then back to shore and had to run up and around our volunteer and back down. My feet were in so much pain running, like I was running on broken glass again. This time, the temperature had risen and the wind began to die down and I was only wet from my chest down so I didn’t feel as cold as before. Once we began moving again, I was able to warm up and so thankful that I decided not to give up! I WILL NEVER ACCEPT DEFEAT!
After a few more tasks we headed back up to base camp to fuel up. We didn’t know how much time we would have to eat, so we just ate what we could as fast as we could. It was crucial to pick the right food as this was probably the last time I would get a chance to eat anything until the race was over. After eating we headed down the mountain for towards the festival area where we were to perform with our gear and pumpkins in front of everyone. I was able to see another one of my friends and she got a video of me dancing with my pumpkin to “Hip Hop Hooray”. We were laughing and having fun and at that point I forgot just how cold I was earlier. We headed up to a hill close to the rope climb and monkey bars and chanted the Warriors Ethos. Then it was time to head up to START line of the Super and we would begin our individual challenge.
We were told we had to run up the mountain with our ruck and pumpkin through a set of trails, then run down the mountain and pass the rig and return to the START. We had to roll a die and that would determine how many burpees we would have to do times 5, with our weighted ruck on. We had no idea how long the loop was or how many laps we had to do or the time we had to complete this task in. We just had to get out there and go until we were told to stop. This portion took place approximately 9 hours in.
After 3 laps and completing my last set of burpees I was told to take a seat until further instruction. I had no idea at that point if I had made the cut off or not I just took advantage of being able to sit down and rest. A few minutes later we were informed that everyone sitting in that area made it and were allowed to head back to base camp. As we came up the mountain, we saw others still running the laps not knowing that they had not made it but we still cheered them on. Some were cramping and limping. Out of 39 people that made it to the individual challenge portion, only 23 had met the time cutoff. Those that didn’t make it were sent up to gather their belongings and leave. To see these people push so hard and to be such great teammates have to leave because they didn’t make the time cut was very emotional.
It was time to move on and we were given a team challenge that had us running a portion of the Super course. During this challenge, two teammates were injured and so we took turns helping them. Some of the guys took turns carrying not only their weighted rucksacks, but the injured teammates as well on the front of them. Some of us took turns carrying the pumpkins, which I carried both his pumpkin and mine for quite a long time. We stuck together as a team, even when we were told if we didn’t make a time cut off all of us would receive DNF’s but we knew that I WILL NEVER LEAVE A FALLEN COMRADE!
As the sun began to set, it was time to put on our headlamps and crack the chem lights. We headed up the mountain for one last time to the Stairway to Sparta obstacle, only we had to climb up through the mountain and not necessarily on trails. When we arrived at the top, it was pitch black at this point in time. Here we were given one more task and once we finished that we would have successfully completed HH12HR-024. We took one final group photo and headed down the mountain.
As we made our way into the festival area for the last time, I had a few friends that waited for me to finish. None of them raced that day; they all came just to see me achieve MY goal. I was so overwhelmed with emotions, not only to have completed my first ever Endurance Trifecta, but that part of my amazing support system was there waiting for me cheering me on! We headed to the Spartan trucks to receive our pie pieces and HH12HR patches and I felt very proud of myself at that moment, especially since I had to fight so hard through the pain my body was feeling. And while looking back I am mad at myself for even having the thought of quitting in my head, it really taught me how strong I really am. I WILL NEVER QUIT!