Back to Sparta

Just because I can, doesn’t mean I have to.

Seriously.  Yesterday absolutely lit my fire, but maybe with some pause and distance from the high, it’ll be to simply continue doing what I’ve been doing.  Lifting with intention and purpose under carefully structured programming, running a few days per week for joy, not a requirement.

I am the strongest and most competent I have ever been physically, and I should be!  I’ve tacked on almost three more years of purposeful training, lifting, and perhaps the most important of all: consistent eating and nourishing.

Back at the end of 2019, I won the Tahoe Spartan Ultra and then a month later broke my leg.  Most of you know this, but for those that don’t, it created a seismic shift.  I was hell bent on returning to the Ultra scene because winning meant that I could contend if I wanted, and because I could, that translated to must in my brain.  Black and white.  All or nothing.  But upon trying to make my comeback, I fried myself.  Breaking your leg, having surgery, and starting over from literal scratch is a lot.  I got my mileage back up in time and my mobility, but not my stability or symmetry.  I was hurting physically, and mentally I was tired.  I wasn’t having fun – at all, and it was taking its toll.

The pursuit of longer distance running is isolating.  Not many people have any interest in running for hours at a time, let alone competitively.  I have friends that do this, but nobody that lives next door and nobody on the same schedule.  Long distance running is attractive to many of us because it is isolating, but for me at this point in my life, I really want to be working on the quality of my relationships and the quantity of time I can spend with those people.  And those people aren’t running for hours with me.

So, instead of continuing to slam my head against the wall, I stopped.  I went the other way – no more running at all, and almost only lifting.  I started swimming and biking instead, and that filled my aerobic cup.  I got intentional about my weightlifting and was reminded of how much I missed the gym and the iron and the power I feel when I can lift heavy shit and put it down.  Fast forward a year, and I landed on the programming I am on now: the perfect combination of heavy lifting, bodybuilding, conditioning, gymnastics, and variety.  Exactly what I was looking for – and haven’t thought about leaving since.

I have balance now, not only in the gym and with my fitness, but in my life.  I have more time to spend with the people I love, more time to go places, more time to focus on work, and more time to do whatever I want to do.  I can shift my workouts around and go away for the weekend.  I can vacation.  I can hang out.  I can also show up and literally do anything I want to do: hike, bike, swim, kayak, run a race, lift stuff, help you – anything.  And that is all I want.

Yesterday’s Spartan race reminded me of why I love the sport so much: it tests your physical and mental fitness in a way I have yet to find anywhere else.  Running for miles on end on steep terrain is one thing, but to combine that with obstacles that require strength, technical ability, capacity, and thinking is another.  And that is obstacle course racing.  If you fail, you must run a penalty loop or do 30 burpees – every time.  If you fail, you must learn how to move the fuck on, so you don’t trip on a rock in the woods and bust your knee.  If you fail, you must recognize the fact that you showed up and tried, and failure is part of the experience.

And if you succeed?  Hell – I haven’t experienced a high higher, and that was yesterday – I succeeded.  I nailed every single obstacle but one.  I did zero burpees – I have never done zero burpees!  Years away from the course, and years training in the gym with my brain and not just my body taught me how to slow down out there and apply my strength and ability and relax.  Years away from beating myself up over shit that literally doesn’t fucking matter helped me to have fun and to be more present.  Years away from trying to beat my inner demons after facing real life demons made yesterday a piece of cake.  I’m not saying it wasn’t really hard and that I didn’t have to really work, but I’m saying that I finally recognized that this was a day that was intended to be fun, full of grace and gratitude, and nothing to be anything other than stoked about being able to even do.

That’s what I’ve learned.  I don’t want to go back to pursuing long distance races or regularly scheduled events.  I don’t want to change what I’m doing, that I’ve finally found works.  I don’t want to become imbalanced, busy, or deluded.  I am already enough without beating obstacles on a course.  Obstacles on a course may have taught me that I already possess everything inside of me that I’ll ever need in life, but I no longer need to prove that to myself.

I used to think I was proving it to you.  I used to think you cared about how I did, how many burpees I had to do, why I fell off the bars when maybe I could’ve hung on – but you never did.  I did.  I cared.  I needed proof that I could do it.  And yesterday was that.  Tahoe was definitely that too – I can’t articulate what it meant to apologize to my body in the shower after learning I had won the hardest event of my life, but yesterday was different.  Yesterday I helped Jeremy and waited.  Yesterday I took a break when I needed to.  Yesterday I took my time on the obstacles and was able to push myself.  Yesterday I was detached emotionally from my performance, so I was actually able to perform – how ironic!  I could notice my thumb not wrapped under the bar and change it; I could notice my hand slipping and change the angle; I could notice my hips swinging enough or not; I could see where I needed to move next; I could feel that I had more to go and didn’t let go; I could feel my power.

I had fun.  I taught some girls how to climb the rope.  I passed everyone on the sandbag carry – literally.  I saw friends and pumped fists and swapped hugs.  I sported short tight shorts and was so happy I was comfortable.  I turned around and noticed the gorgeous backdrop for maybe the first time – I slowed down.  I slowed everything down.  Sure, I could’ve gone an hour faster on my own, but I don’t ever want to be that girl again – if I came to run with you, I’m going to run with you.  I know how to run by myself and yesterday was not the time for that.  This was Jeremy’s first Spartan, and it meant a lot to both of us to do it entirely together.

And again – food.  I cannot express how grateful I am to be able to feed myself enough fucking food to perform today, intuitively.  We packed snacks and dinner and found appropriate foods (for me) for breakfast and snacks after.  I know what works, and I know what I need.  I took gels on course just in case and guess what?  Just in case is exactly what happened!  I never bonked or felt depleted or unable.  I had what I needed after, then a few hours later lunch.  And a good dinner.  And today I am still eating, normally for me.  And I feel great – that is consistency.  That is showing up even when I haven’t felt like it.  That is eating enough the night before and the morning of and every day my body needs food – not after the race, or after the feat, or after I think I look OK to eat.

Because “after” doesn’t come.  “After” is a delusion.  “After” is a trap.  We deserve food now.  We deserve food today.  My body is a magical Queen.  She takes me wherever I want to go.  She carries me around with minimal complaints, and never quits on me. She tells me exactly what she needs, and when she needs it.  She’s sensitive – she can’t eat like other people, or things that other people like to have.  She can’t handle a lot of fat at once, or lactose containing dairy, or garlic, or too much fiber.  She just can’t.  And I’m finally learning to respect her instead of question her because she knows best.  My brain does not.

I started saying at the beginning that just because I can … because, I have been researching World’s Toughest Mudder, a 24-hour obstacle course race.  Because I know I can.  And other people know I can.  But before now, only other people knew I could, and I would’ve been doing it for my ego and not because it was right for me to do or because I found joy in doing it.  So now?  After writing and pausing and processing?  I know I don’t need to do it – I don’t want to change what I’m doing right now, and that would require a tremendous amount of change to do well and to stay safe.  And I have no interest.  Sure, I’ll go out again with my man and try to beat up some more mountains, but not overnight.  Not for an entire day.  Not because somebody else wants me to.

If I do ever do it, it’ll be because it’s what I really, sincerely, genuinely fucking want to do.  And today?  At 37 in a new relationship where I feel like I can finally be met where I am?  I think I just want to stay here.

Who am I?  Thanks for reading … again.

1 thought on “Back to Sparta”

  1. Wow!! Boy Alison, I really needed to read your entry today! You gave me so much to think about and process forward. I know that someday I’ll be exactly where I want to be. Just for Today, I am where I am supposed to be. Doing the things I need to, to get to my Euphoria place. One day at a time. It’s been a long hard year for you and I think about you often and how no matter what happened, even though the pain was excruciating, you still got up and did what was best for your body and mind on any given day. That helps me a lot!! I’m seeing my patterns with sugar and how it affects me all over. Throwing it all out today!
    Calling a friend to watch me dump it all in the trash!
    I need to start taking better care of my little girl and my adult by practicing Good Orderly Direction for my health and well being. Setting boundaries for myself, setting a sleep time before 2 am, setting a schedule I can live with everyday after my meditations and stay being more mindful.
    Can I do it? One thing at a time. One day at a time.
    Working toward enjoying my goals instead of sabotaging my suxcesses. Thanks for letting me share. Love you ?

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