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Spartan Beast Ohio 2019

What a difference a year makes


There was a time when I never thought I’d feel quite like I do right now.

Let me rephrase that.

There was a time when I never thought I’d feel quite as good as I feel right now.


Tomorrow morning I will be running Spartan Beast number three and I am night and day different than this time last year when I ran the same Spartan Beast.


Last year, Em was broken. Her body and mind were hurting and over trained, but she pushed and kept going because that’s what she had to do. Well. That’s what she told herself she had to do.


I will always enjoy training. Always have and always will. Working out, pushing myself, putting myself through crazy workouts. It’s fun for me. But last year, I stopped thinking about or even acknowledging the fun and just focused on the, you-will-not-rest, do-not-be-weak part.


I was in a constant state of fight or flight. Truly fighting through each day. Working, walking, moving, training, doing anything not to stop. Running from what I knew very well, running towards what didn’t matter. “You cannot stop” was my only mentality.


Just keep swimming.


The difference a year can make can be tremendous. And even though I knew I wasn’t myself, I did know that she was there and I wasn’t going to give up getting her back. Sounds quite dramatic. And to get even deeper here, naturally when that race of a year ago came and went, I was left broken and sick as a dog. My body shut down. I was fighting to get to the thing. I got through the thing. Pretty well, might I add. And then I was left defeated with a now what mindset. A classic example that the “thing” is never ever the solution. An unfortunate lesson that we all can only ever learn from experience.


Seems shitty though, right? You train and work and train and work for something. Then it happens. And you don’t feel what you thought or hoped you’d feel. Instead, you get a raging fever.


Expectations shattered.


Because you misplaced the expectations. And now you have to force yourself to ask the painful questions and take the time and energy to really think through and articulate the even more painful answers to, “why?”, and “for what?”, and even more painfully, “for who?”


At that point I quite frankly had no choice but to keep looking at my life and my choices and deal with the pain in different ways.  Reflecting on the process and protocol that got me there and what I had to do not to go back. At least not to go back with that same mindset.


This time last year was also a transition time for me, a time we all come across in life. I’ve found myself in many of these. New job, or jobs, new people, new place, new circumstances overall.  Anyone who has made a change in their lives understands the general stress and anxiety that comes with lack of normalcy and routine. So in addition to dealing with the already every-present and ever-pressing mental and physical angst, I was finding a new normal in literally every area of my life. Oh, and I got totally scammed by a craigslist ass hole which really shattered my already fragile lil willpower. (And budget).


Let’s pause here for a second, though, shall we? Simply to point out something that I’m still trying to learn and recognize. I’m typing away all these things that were happening in my life last year. All the crap that was adding to an already negative mental state. But here’s the thing. These are excuses. External excuses that were adding up and weighing down. External things that I was letting add up and weigh down.


But here’s the kicker. It’s not about any of that. It was and always will be about my reactions. My choices. How I chose to respond to all of these “things”. My ownership of my life at that point. Owning my choices and decisions that got me to that state, understanding that I could not control the choices or decisions of others, and that the really hard work was accepting this and working to redirect my mindset and mentality.


Had all of these things happened now, I would be telling a different story. Because my mind is stronger. I’m able to recognize when the waves are coming, feel when they hit, and know how to ride them out and get past them. Or at least I’m trying. I’m not as blind sighted by them as I used to be.


I’m more willing to feel these waves. Not to run away from them but to let them happen. Because we all have crap going on in life. We all experience pain. For a long time I was yelling at myself, telling myself that my pain was nothing in comparison to what others may or may not be going through. But that’s irrelevant. We all have a right to our own pain. If it affects us, it matters. A lesson I learned from my mom. That she had to learn when she tried to minimize her pain and situation as she went through chemo.


To all of you who say to yourself or to others,

“It’s fine, I know you’re going through a lot more right now.” Or,

“I’m fine.”

“It’s nothing compared to…”


Stop comparing. Stop minimizing. And stop listening to anyone who tells you your pain doesn’t matter. Especially if that voice is your own. Cut it out.


So here we are. A day out. And the world looks a lot differently to me.

Quite literally. I’m staring around a (very minimal, slightly messy) place I’ve made my own that I did not have this time a year ago. With an 11 year old one eyed cat named, Jerry not far from me.


And my mind is calm. Well, calmer than it was. In full transparency I started getting the small anxious waves yesterday. Little ripples that I chose to let come through. But. While I’m not feeling quite as on top of the world as I was a couple days ago, I’ll take this as a good sign. A sign that the nerves are real. A sign that I care and am excited for what’s to come tomorrow.


The funny thing is too, I’ve been training very similarly this time around. I use that term very lightly, by the way. Training. That term makes it sound like there’s real structure around what I have done to get ready for this race. But the workouts have been on par with the workouts I was doing last year. However, this time around, I feel stronger. I feel less burdened. And I feel excited.


To give a general overview of what I’ve been doing to prepare, I break it down like this:

  1. Something long and easy. I’ve started being extra mindful of my heart rate in the last few months. Keeping my beats per minute at or below a certain number to maintain a certain training zone and hold it for longer 90 minute to 2 hour sessions. These are mostly long runs or a long CrossFit workout followed by a run.
  2. High intensity. Something 2-3 per week that gets my max heart UP. A combination of cardio and power lifts to really elevate my heart rate and hit more anaerobic training.
  3. Weights. Anything and everything on a rig that requires grip strength, hanging, swinging, and pulling. Spartan races like to make us swing from things and carry a lot of crap.
  4. Experimenting and getting smarter with fuel. Cycling days of lower carb and intermittent fasting before a long run with higher carb days around the lifting and high intensity workouts.
  5. Recovery. Rest. Physical Therapy. Listening to my body for once. And giving it a damn break.


I plan to give you more information and craft a post around the nutrition experiments I’ve tried on myself another time. But for purposes of race preparation and performance optimization overall, I’ve done a couple different things. I intentionally went on a super low carb diet for a few weeks about a month ago to see how I felt and see if I could get my body more fat adapted, using it’s fat stores as fuel while I was adding in more steady state endurance efforts.


But after those few weeks, I brought back in more fruit, rice, and potatoes to fuel me for the high intensity work I love to do. Since then, I’ve been cycling these two types of diets.


The only supplements I ever take are amino acids and collagen. In the last two months I’ve started taking these essential amino acids. I cut out BCAAs for a while because they do nothing but taste yummy and give me an unneeded hit of sugar. But I must say that I feel a noticeable difference with the essential aminos. I’ve been taking two of these pre workout. And it has made a difference without questions.


Thank you Ben Greenfield for enlightening me on the role of amino acids and more so what essential amino acids can do.


I also put collagen in my coffee every day. Now, has this helped my performance? No idea. Are my nails really strong? You bet they are. I’ve been on the collagen train for a couple years now and I don’t plan on hopping off. Whether it’s making a big difference or not, it doesn’t hurt to have a little extra collagen swirling around these joints. Vital Proteins will always be my brand of choice.


I am not an expert here. I listen to a lot of podcasts and read a lot of books on food, nutrition, and performance. And I experiment on myself to see how I feel, sleep, and perform. I rarely, if ever, try any sort of supplementation and do not know if I’ve created a fat-adapted body like I hope I have. All I know is how I feel. And overall, I feel really damn good. Cutting carbs improved my sleep and digestion incredibly. But I should be clear around what I define as carbs. I eat 80% paleo with the rare addition of white rice or some goat or sheep milk based cheeses and dairy. So when I refer to carbs, I’m referring primarily to fruit, vegetables, and starches. But as a female and as active as I am, I know how important carbs are. For me, I need them to get through a high intensity, strength, or CrossFit workout.

(dead here. please let it be over.)

And now here I sit. At my little round kitchen table on my blue chair typing away before I hit the road.


I’ll be heading to Warren, Ohio shortly. I got myself a hotel for the night that’s about 30 minutes from the course. Just me, myself, and I. And it’s about a 3 hour drive to get there from where I sit now. I’m borrowing my lovely friend’s jeep because I’m genuinely concerned about the road conditions that we were warned about as of yesterday and bless her heart, but I don’t think my little civic would handle it well. That warning email played a decent role in my ensuing anxious waves yesterday. Apparently the rains up there have been particularly  brutal and the mud situation is not ideal.


In my very minimal Spartan race experience, the most challenging part has been the location itself. Dealing with the course and whatever elements nature itself will throw at you. I remember this Ohio route being very messy. There was a lot of mud and swamp that we had to trek through. I’m talking quicksand type mud. The kind you don’t know if you’ll be able to get out of.


This realization and memory sent my mind in a tizzy a little bit. But. Let it in. Let it ride. And let it go. What will be will be.


What’s a little mud.


With that, I need to get to packing. Clothes, towels, more towels, food, the works.


Whatever happens tomorrow will happen. But I know I’m going to enjoy every second of it.






  • Margie lasko

    You’re so strong, Em and you’ve worked through so much! So proud to be your mother!

    June 8, 2019
  • I love this post Em! it was a great way for me to mentally reset and you are such an inspiration for obstacle course racing. I am 5 month out of surgery now and have been cleared to race again in November so I am about to get after it with training and love your nutrition posts. stay golden!

    July 10, 2019

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