Spartan Reminiscence

Someone came up to me today and told me they heard that I was doing the Spartan race again this year. Well, I have no such intentions, but then again, neither did I last fall. What follows is a summery of my Spartan experience last year.

This is an email I wrote to one of the website techs at Spartan a few weeks after my completion of the race. We were working towards a donate page for me over there that in the end never came to fruition but I am glad I typed this up in any case. It made me smile.

Read on, it is quite entertaining.

-Tucker

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My name is Tucker Marshall and I am shooting to become the fourth professional alpine ski racer my parents have raised. All of my sibling have been on the US Ski Team and all have competed at the World Cup level. My sister also represented the United States in the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. I am 22 years old and it has been my dream to follow in my siblings footsteps. It is a goal that I have been working towards my entire life. This dream of mine is also, unfortunately, very finically demanding. In order to get to the right races and lower my world ranking I have to train and travel across the world which drains my funds faster than I can raise them.

That being the case, in the off season I do a lot of fund raising for my upcoming season. One of the people I approached this summer lives in my home town and as I heard it is the head of some super crazy endurance challenge series. We were put in touch by a mutual friend and a meeting was set. At 5AM. Figuring he is a busy guy, and also that we were having an actual sit down meeting, I show up wearing nice pants, a long sleeve shirt and (thank god) sneakers.

  His name is Joe DeSena, and while I knew he was the head honcho of some big ultra racing organization, I had no idea that he practiced what he preached. For the next two hours I ran up a hill with Joe and a few of his clients with a 100LBS sandbag and 50LBS sandbag between us. After this short little jaunt we went back to his place for the famed “1,500” workout which is 100 reps of pull-ups, lunge jumps, box jumps, leg kicks, whatever, up until you reach your 1,500 reps. All of this was less than stellar in my rad attire but sure enough I finished it and got home before the sunrise. Without talking to Joe about what I actually, really needed. Money.
 He invited me to his office later that day, so another meeting was set, and this time I showed up in full running gear with power bars and a few gallons of water in the back of my car. I discussed with Joe the finical strains of my career path and asked him for help, if not directly, then in some other way. He recommended I attempt this new division they have for the Spartan race, dubbed the “Spartan Ultra Beast”. The Ultra Beast consists of two laps around a roughly 14 mile obstacle course track that would take place on Killington Mountain in Vermont. Whosoever wins the first Ultra Beast would take home a winners pot of $5,000.
 The most elite alpine athletes in the world usually need somewhere in the neighborhood of $25,000 to survive a season on snow but for me, who is still fighting his way to the top and competing mostly in the US or Canada, my budget is roughly between $10,000-$13,000 for the winter. The majority of that comes through fund raising and $5,000 is by no means an amount of money to laugh at. I eagerly agreed this Ultra Beast challenge that Joe had set forth, because even if I didn’t win I would know I was doing something, anything, I could do to make my dream come true. Sounds cliché, I know.
There was one serious flaw to this plan. The Ultra Beast was to take place in 12 days. There are people who train everyday for months and years, who’s sole purpose is to run these races. And here I was, 12 days out, jumping under Joe’s wing to make my competitive ski season happen. When he asked me, yes or no, I immediately said yes and that I’d give it my all to win. Did I believe I could? Well that wasn’t really important, I knew I sure as hell wouldn’t leave anything to regret, money or no.
We started training the next day. Four to five intensive days, which left us a week for tapering. That first day I logged 28 miles. It involved carrying a 100LBS sandbag up and down a mountain for 13 miles, running up and down another mountain for another 10 miles, and then a leisurely 5 mile hike. I had woken up at 430AM and gotten back home for dinner at 830PM. I ate, set my alarm for 4:30, and quickly passed out, all to get up and do another series of pain filled tasks the next day.
  I say all of this like you should be impressed but really, talking and training with Joe and his staff, I was humbled by what great athletes they all are and came to realize just how far untapped human potential really is. I logged 28 miles, big whoop. When talking with one of the Spartan staff he casually asked me, “Would you like to go on a run with me? I plan on going 36 (miles) sometime this afternoon.” No sir, no thanks. I’ll stick to carrying the sandbag, thank you.
The rest of the week went mostly like that, and as you could imagine my body broke down a bit. I had some knee issues that were worrying me. I couldn’t really walk without grimacing but the intensive training came to an end and when the tapering began all I had to focus on was getting recovered and ready for the 28 mile course of hell. I remember one of those days I tried jogging 30 feet to my car after taking it easy for a few days but my right knee was not psyched on it. 20 feet later I came to a halt and limped the rest of the way, silently brooding, and wanting pain killers. For skiers, knees are you livelihood. If your knees don’t work, you might as well hang your skis up. It concerned me more than I let on and when Joe asked my how my knee was doing I replied, “Great! I will definitely be ready for the race!” (Sorry Joe). It wasn’t the smartest thing to put the race before my health but I committed to something and I am very stubborn. If I backed out of the race it would look like I didn’t believe in myself and, worse, I would be at square one with not enough funding for my season.
When race day finally came I felt decent enough. I hadn’t tried running more than a mile but like I said, I am stubborn. When I commit to something it is nigh impossible to steer me off that path. I see it through to conclusion and when I ran the Spartan Ultra Beast, that is exactly what I did. I put my head down, gave it everything I had, and then gave some more. I finished the first lap in roughly 4 and a half hours, took a seven minute break and then headed out again for another 5 hours of grueling challenges that tested you at every turn. Five minutes into that lap my legs cramped. Badly. I stopped, took a mental check, willed my legs to work again, and for the next 4 hours and 55 minutes they cooperated with me. Pushing me towards the finish line no matter what task I compelled them to do. If you were wondering about my knee, well that only seriously hurt when I went downhill. There was a lot of downhill so I developed a loping style where I locked my knee out and swung my hip around to keep my momentum going.
I finished the race in 9 hours, 25 minutes, and 10 seconds. The winner had somewhere just over 7 hours. I had placed 16th overall for the men and unfortunately I was not closer to the $5,000 then I was 12 days ago. Shortly after I crossed the finish line, my body shut down and it took me 45 minutes to walk to my car, 100 yards away. (Not a dramatization.) To get into my car I had to lift my leg with my arms since my hip was so out of whack from the downhill running and even though that night I was more physically exhausted then I have even been, I could not sleep because I was in so much pain.
Pain. It teaches you things. I had my fill of it those two weeks with Joe and even though I did not come to the finish line first that day I have no regrets for how I ran the race or what I had to go through to prepare for it. The Spartan race changed me as a person, not only physically but mentally too. The first lap of that race comes from the strength you have in your body. The second from your strength of character; the strength of your will. If you flag for an instant you will lose. I am so grateful for the opportunity Joe gave me because it made me strong. It made me ready for my race season of ups and downs. In the end, I know I will succeed and I know I will eventually cross that finish line first. I asked Joe to help, in one way or another. Now, all I have to say is thank you Joe, and thank you Spartan!
I currently reside in Colorado, training for my upcoming season. My first race is one week away and I feel stronger, and better prepared than I ever have in my life. My skiing is stronger, faster, and more technically sound then ever before. I am grateful for everything up till this point and I would’t change a thing about how I got here. I do not have enough funds currently to support me through this season. But I take on odd jobs and sell odd things, ever the optimist, anything to keep my dream alive and keep on walking the path I love. It would have been nice to win that race though…
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