We all face our demons at some point. Mine was waiting for me at the dunk wall. Back in April 2019 at the Spartan Super in Seattle, this obstacle unexpectedly held me in its grip.
I made it through the first two sections just fine but when my body hit the cold water at the dunk wall I froze up both literally and figuratively. My team had already made it through and was waiting for me on the other side. But I was paralyzed. The war in my mind was blazing. I could not get myself under that wall.
And here we were again.
Five months later I faced it again. And I was terrified. My body language says it all. Eyes closed, head up, shoulders tight, neck tense. What you can’t see are the tears in my eyes.
You can’t hear the quiver in my voice as I talk the fear away.
You can’t see my hands shaking or feel the knot in my stomach.
As racer after racer got into the water, the world became a blur. It became harder to breathe and somehow I knew the fear was irrational. But it held me like a hungry snake, patiently squeezing the air out of me until I surrendered.
Everything in me wanted to quit. But I knew this moment was coming. I’d already completed it in my mind. Practiced my breathing and chosen my mantra. I was packed with words of encouragement and faith. It seems silly. It’s just a simple dunk wall. Go in the water, go under the wall. Come out. Three easy steps.
But on this day it was so much more. The last time I faced this wall was the one year anniversary of my mom's death. I raced that day for her, for the weight of her illness, for the days I wasn't there. For the moments I could never get back. For the stupid things I said as a teenager. For the pain I caused her. For the years I lived far away. For all the moments I'd missed.
I had to get in that water to wash away the guilt I was carrying that weighed me down.
I had to go under the wall in the dark water to submerge and come out new again.
In a very real and strange way, it was a lot like my childhood baptism but with a much deeper understanding of life, love, pain, fear, and redemption. This has become the reason I do Spartan races; To face the things I didn’t know I feared.
And it doesn't matter what race length it is or what obstacle I'm facing. There will be something that stops me each race. I just don't know what it will be until we get there. This time, it was the dunk wall and with the help of the volunteer by my side, I got in the water and went under that wall like a pro.