Morning….Starbucks Barista Dan the Man hands me my coffee as I barely kiss the brakes on the drive-thru window line. I hear “Have a good day Karennnnnnnnnn”. I mutter thanks and hope he hears me as I shimmy my way out of the lot into traffic. The sun is coming up and I settle into another drive into work. Texts start appearing on my phone. Siri acts as my secretary with my girls as we chat about what Boot Camp classes we will take and what is driving us nuts at the moment (right girls?). Howard Stern is boring today so I turn to my iTunes playlists to get me going. Bethpage to Massapequa traffic was extra “special” and challenging this morning. I digress. That is another Blog topic for another day.
I thought about which class I was taking at Boot Camp tonight. It is a strength class that I absolutely love. Let’s be honest, there aren’t many classes I don’t love when it comes to Boot Camp. For those who are not familiar with my world, the gym has become my home. It has given me a new outlook on life and a new sense of strength that I haven’t felt in years. Quite frankly I don’t know if I ever felt this level of strength.
My mind jumps to what I’m training for. I set foot on this path to hopefully become healthy and finally look good in a pair of jeans. One class a week turned into two…three…then to five. I was hooked. My gym team asked me to join the Spartan team. In 2015 I declined the offer thinking that my sister’s wedding was immediately following the first race and how would my sister react if her Matron of Honor was hobbling down the aisle on crutches and with gashes all over my face. I continued to train with the team. I regretted not running Spartan that year but decided to commit to it the following year. I volunteered for a Spartan race at Citifield in April 2016 where I met many new friends from the Spartan community. I was hooked on the energy. I drew from their enthusiasm and training tips. If you asked Ernie, I started to become obsessed with the lifestyle. Little did I know how this enthusiasm would help me in the months to come. In June 2016, I became a Spartan when I jumped fire and crossed the finish line. My life changed forever as they placed the medal around my neck. That fire had reignited a force in me that I had forgotten about. I was 50 years old and felt like I could do anything. I was bruised, banged up, full of mud, and covered in cuts from head to toe. I didn’t care. I knew that I was never going back to the old Karen. She didn’t exist anymore.
Training sessions increased over the next few weeks. I was on a food plan that allowed me to drop weight and body fat while gaining muscle. I felt stronger and even more empowered. I ran a Tough Mudder and a Spartan Super. There were so many moments in that Super where I could feel myself changing. Was there fear? Of course there was fear. I grabbed a rope to climb the slip wall at the end of the race and pulled myself over. I saw the fire ahead of me and the finish line beyond the fire. I just had to make it over the fire. I charged forward and right before I was about leap, I froze. Froze. I attempted to hop over it and froze again. My teammates were cheering me on but I was frozen. Fear? I don’t know. Dammit I was a badass and I couldn’t do it. Suddenly there was a hand on my shoulder. This voice said “You are going over. Hold my hand and I will take you with me.” I said to this person I did not know “What if I fall?” He looked straight into my eyes and said “Then we fall together. We are Spartans.” I held his hand and we jumped. The tears started mid jump. I could feel them. I wondered if I was sobbing when my feet hit the ground. I was alive and not on in flames. I looked around for him and he was gone. I ran to the finish line and received my medal. I looked back. My friend said to me “You made it”. I said I have to go back and thank that guy. I was shaking as I said “I need to thank him”. I looked for him. I knew he was a volunteer based on what he was wearing. Everyone working there said they never saw anyone matching his description. I left there knowing that an angel had helped me and I was forever grateful.
I went on to finish the season by completing the Spartan Beast which turned out to be a 15.2 mile course in South Carolina. I had already been changed by this path I was on but that race. That race…I’m still trying to process what it did to me. When I returned home I realized that my life would never be the same. My outlook was different. My house was different. My outlook at work was different. I sliced friendships that just didn’t support me anymore. I started to realize that I don’t need certain people to make me feel special or important. I have the power to do that on my own. It was suggested that I leave this new lifestyle behind now that I accomplished my goal. I won’t do that. The old Karen was living in a very comfortable world…in a very comfortable house…in a very comfortable lifestyle. Comfort was no longer an option.
Traffic started to move and I tuned into the song that was on. It was “Believe in Yourself” from The Wiz. I heard these words…
If you believe
Within your heart you’ll know
That no one can change
The path that you must go
Believe what you feel
And know you’re right, because
The time will come around
When you say it’s yours
Believe there’s a reason to be
Believe you can make time stand still
You know from the moment you try
If you believe
I know you will
Believe in yourself, right from the start
I don’t care at what point you are at in your life. You CAN do anything you set your mind to. The fire within you can reignite any goal or dream you have. It is NEVER too late to accomplish something. There will be people to help you get there – angels who you just never expected to walk into your life and make a difference. Forever friends who can change your whole day with one word or look. Hopefully one day maybe just one person can see that if I can do this, that they can do it too. You just need to believe in yourself.