When I ran Spartan Race World Championships in 2017, it was vicious. The altitude, the double ascent course and the sheer insanity of the amply amped-up obstacles for the occasion all contributed to the very worst performance of any race I’ve ever run. Lately I keep thinking of this one moment during the race.
The Herc Hoist is this tall metal frame with a bunch of pulleys. Each pulley has a rope attached to a big weight. You grab a rope and pull until the weight reaches a bell at the top and then hoist it back down without dropping it. This obstacle has never been a problem for me so I ran up, grabbed a rope and started pulling. I got the weight to the bell with no issue and then began to feel the fatigue of the altitude, the time on my feet, and having gone catabolic at some point for my failure to bring enough fuel on the course. As I felt my muscles give out I stepped onto the rope so I wouldn’t drop the weight, paused a moment and kept going. My grip failed and I began to lose the rope. It slid through my hands, burning my flesh painfully. A normal person would let go. I screamed and grabbed the rope hard in my raw, bleeding hands, stood on it again and ultimately got the weight to the ground.
My therapist encourages me when I express anger toward Kevin. I feel how that anger is appropriate and how it energizes me. I understand how it’s the next phase of grief. It also feels like failure. Our relationship was so important to me, I wanted to set it down gently and kindly with honor and compassion. I don’t mind so much being angry at the situation, but I really mind being angry at him in a way that I know will ultimately devalue a person I love. My anger feels like a moral injury–like one more heinous, painful failure. Even though my self-esteem likely hangs in the balance, all my emotional energy is tied to that heavy thing which is painful and impossible to keep holding up. Yet here I am tired, dirty and alone, muscles trembling, exhausted, holding that fucking rope though it’s burning my hands and I’m bleeding.
If you fail an obstacle during a race, you do 30 burpees. No matter how bad the obstacle is, the burpees are worse. They blow through your glycogen stores, they’re demanding and demoralizing. Worst of all, they show you where you’ve failed.
It isn’t so offensive to have had a relationship that wasn’t able to survive. It’s painful, it’s tragic, and it hurts. What is completely intolerable to me is one more in a long line of brutally painful, dysfunctional endings. It is intolerable to let go of someone I love with stabbing anger and cutting resentment, with cruel feelings that burn bridges and sever ties. I long for the divine, sacred gift of one respectful ending where we tend our wounds together while parting ways and emerge from the dark as friends rather than strangers.