Sunday, November 17, 2013

Fenway Sprint- How do we measure success anyway? Also another chance for you to win free US Spartan race!

Dad and Yaz. As a kid, I never could pronounce his name.
"Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light." Dylan Thomas.

Rather than braving the World's Toughest Mudder this year- a race that promised to be cold, miserable, and grueling- I opted to return from my injury at the Fenway Park Spartan Sprint. Just two weeks after the Red Sox World Series win, this was guaranteed to be a more pleasant return to the sport of self-inflicted punishment that I have missed so much for the last 2.5 months.
yeah, that is the World Series trophy. Bummed I missed that.

What I love so much about the Fenway race is the energy. Rex Sox fans and huge masses of people flooding into Fenway Park from the city of Boston (over 8,000 competitors in one day) guarantee a day of people-watching like no other. Men in Superman thongs,

While it might appear that the dude on the left is... well.. inappropriate- 
I am pretty sure this is a case of a misplaced, synthetic Red Sox beard. Photo Laura Messner
bearded ladies, superhero outfits and disguised superstars
(Andy Weinberg's daughter
 caught up with  Red Sox 3rd baseman
in his Spartan debut disguised in
body paint- Photo Sloan Weinberg) 
all guarantee that the day can never be boring. The race is FAST. Up stadium stairs jumping over dozens and dozens of rows of bungy cords suspended 12 inches off the floor, dozens of plyometric exercises squeezed between traditional Spartan monkey bars, rope climbs, sandbag carrys and wall ascents provide a high intensity frenzy that takes the athlete over every inch of the stadium in under an hour.

Additionally, this year was something special for me. My dad, who had planned to come to the World Championships in Vermont back in September before I had to bag out, finally got a chance to tag along with me to witness the madness. To add to the coolness of it all, dad has been a huge Red Sox fan as long as I can remember but has not been to Fenway Park in over 30 years. This event was one for the history books as far as I was concerned.

The race was as perfect as I had hoped. Even though I am still recovering from my injury, I made up for any lack in fitness with determination. After ball slams, water carries, stairs, walls, and more stadium stairs... I nailed the erg (rowing machine) that plagued me last year. Last year, this obstacle seemed unsurmountable to me. What I have learned since then is that simply rowing back and forth quickly does nothing to make the machine "row" faster. To row faster, you have to pull harder. Forcibly. While I suspect I was probably pretty close to the 2 minute/500 meters limit, I'll never know as I did not receive the 30 burpee penalty at this obstacle. I did miss the spear throw, but somehow I have come to expect that. Self-fulfilling prophecy, I suppose.

I finished the race feeling great. A perfect end to a perfect day. Oh, wait, it was still before 8am. But a perfect ending anyway... until I made the only mistake I made all day. I checked the results before I left.

When I entered my name and bib number hoping for a top-10 finish, the computer screen came back with a placing of 18th elite female. Eighteenth? How could this be? I replayed my race in my head. I ran as fast as I could. I nailed every obstacle save the spear toss. I executed each of the plyometric exercises with precision and strong form. Eighteenth place? This was my worst placing EVER in a Spartan Race. For a moment, I felt like the day had been a failure.

I shook it off and dad and I went about our business of being tourists. Pictures on the Red Sox dugout. Dad imitating Yaz outside of Fenway Park. Being with one of my favorite people on our own adventure together unlike any we had had in years quickly brought me back to my happiest place and we enjoyed our day together as if I had won. But I didn't want to think about the race.
Red Sox fans out in full force

But didn't I win? I mean, I ran my best, nailed the strength part of the contest, and kept my focus in an all-out-sprint effort, which is always my kryptonite. I was SEVEN minutes faster than I was last year (in which I placed 7th place in the event). It may be that this year's course was shorter? Likely, it was. However, my effort was nearly 2 1/2 minutes faster per mile than last year, so clearly, I HAD improved (last year I took two penalties since I failed the erg challenge). In comparison, the winner of last year's event was only about 2.5 minutes faster or 40 sec/mile faster this year. Clearly, my impression that I had improved was not totally misguided.

But why did I allow myself to determine my own success relative to the competition? Is being beaten a failure if you have improved? This begs the question, would I rather win a race because the competition never made it to the starting line or have a PR and be beaten? Which progresses me more as an athlete?

Well, I wasn't prepared to answer that myself until the following day. One of my favorite OCR friends and 2X reigning World's Toughest Mudder, Junyong Pak, was beaten for the first time in 3 years at his title event. He didn't fall short, in fact, he went further than he ever had on a course that was arguably harder. He simply was bettered by someone who either had better training, a better plan, or was just better for the day. It was as simple as that.

Do I respect Junyong less because someone out there beat him? Absolutely not. His athletic endeavor is no less impressive to me than if he had been untouchable.  I know him well enough to know that his concessions to the winner after the event are genuine and honest. His sportsmanship, however, is one that may be unmatched in the sport and for that I am in awe.
Junyong, conceding the win.

So, it looks like if I am going to be in the top 10, I am going to need to step up my game as more athletes rise to the challenge. But really, I have no one to answer to but me.

And I killed it this weekend.

So, if you haven't raced a Spartan Race, or are totally hooked already, don't miss the airing of the World Championships on NBC Dec 7 from 4-5 pm. Also, enter here for my free giveaway for any US Spartan Race in 2013 or 2014 @

Spartan Race giveaway raffle

Giveaway ends Sat Nov 23, 2013.


  1. I loved this race! So much fun. Since I will never win a race, I am always happy with PR's :)

  2. As much as I would love to win a race as long as I have given my best that is all that matters. A PR is just as good as podium finish in my books

  3. I would rather win a race than PR. Because I started racing pretty slowly, I've had some PR's, but a win would be sweet. I've had some 3rds and 2nds (not in Spartan Races), but never a first.

  4. I would rather win a race at this point in my OCR addition so I can get more races under my belt while trying to get those close to me actively involved along the way so that we can complete OCRs as a team. Ideally after a few more OCRs then I will be ready for a PR.

  5. I'd much rather PR. A win at a small local race didn't mean half as much to me as a PR where I took 3rd Master! Spartans are so tough to compare year to year - the courses are different, etc. Placement seems to matter the most - but I'd also rather have a lower placement with fantastic athletes then be in the top 5 because everyone was slow. Ultimately YOU are the one who knows if your race was good, great or just eh. My best marathon finish made me very happy - and people asked me "how'd you place?" I have no idea!!! (That obviously tells you that I'm not out there winning any marathons, lol!)

  6. Would you rather have a PR or win a race? Why?

    I would MUCH rather PR than win a race. By no stretch of the imagination - I will probably never see a podium finish in OCR or road racing. But I can always try to beat my previous time. This year, the same day I scored a PR in a 5K , I also placed 3rd in my age group. However, for Fenway, I was most proud that I sliced 45 minutes off my finish time from last year. I can't even believe it. As long as I'm challenging myself, then I'm happy.

  7. I would rather win a race because I've never experienced the glory, and often there are monetary prizes for the top finishers as well.

  8. I would take a PR than a win any day. To me, a PR is a win against myself!!