My journey with obstacle course racing (OCR) started with my very first race in June 2017. I had signed up to run a Spartan Super in Monterey with my CrossFit team. I decided to do it for a couple of reasons: to test my fitness outside of the gym, to do something I’ve never done before, and most importantly to celebrate my one-year anniversary to a fit life.
That one-year anniversary represented my weight loss journey of 130 lbs. I was morbidly obese weighing in at 287 lbs. suffering from prediabetes wearing a snug size 22. I was insecure and afraid of what the future ahead of me had in store. In a year, I dropped my excuses and lost the weight. Today, I weigh in at 157 lbs. and fit into a size 2 as a beast. Remarkably and more importantly, my weight loss and fitness lifestyle have allowed me to successfully turn off certain genetic markers that threatened my health when I was obese and as a result, I am no longer on the path of prediabetes.
** Please click here to read my transformation story and watch the video for more background.**
I want to celebrate my accomplishments in a way that supports all the hard work that I went through to achieve my goals – both physically and mentally. My one-year journey was full of obstacles. By signing up for my Spartan race, I challenged myself to reach the next level of fitness. In many ways, the physical obstacles presented in the race draw parallels to my former obstacles in life. I experienced a cathartic feeling that gave me the ability and strength to relive my struggles and conquer them once again.
Spartan Super Monterey (June 2017)
I was terrified in the weeks leading up to the race. At Crossfit, my training included additional time with trail running and strength training to build upper body strength for the obstacles. My goal for that race was to test and push myself harder. On race day, I had the pleasure to run the race with an incredible team, and formed new friendships. Naturally and due to different fitness levels among the racers, we did split up during the race but, ultimately, we started off as a team and finished the race as a team. Looking back, the Spartan Super Monterey was a tough race. The course was just a little over 10 miles with lots of hills and rough terrain. In addition, the obstacles were very challenging, but, with the help of my team, I was able to successfully navigate and complete all the obstacles.
After the race, I felt amazing and I wanted more! Just 8 days after my Spartan Super Monterey race, I completed a Tough Mudder Full race in Sacramento, CA and had a blast! Still I wanted more…. And at the time, I knew that I only completed 1 of the 3 Spartan races to earn a Trifecta. So, I went on and signed up for the Spartan Beast in Tahoe (Sep 2017) and Spartan Sprint in AT&T Park (Nov 2017). As I signed up for these upcoming two races, my hands were shaking in excitement and fear. Still, I was up for this challenge!
Spartan Beast Lake Tahoe (September 2017)
I knew Spartan Beast was going to be extremely tough. Everyone told me that Tahoe was one of the most challenging terrains. Not to mention, it carries an impressive length of 16 miles making it one of the longest races of all Spartan races. Oh.. and did I forget to mention that I had never trained or raced in high altitude before? Frankly, other than being on location, there is no way to truly prepare one’s body for high altitude physical activity. But, I tried my best to prepare myself and attended OCR workshops at O2 BodyFit (Daly City) and obstacle training at ObstaCourse (Redwood City). I needed to improve on my wall climbs (over 5ft), spear throw, traverse wall, and much more. The obstacle training I engaged in was in addition to my CrossFit and trail runs at Sweeney Ridge and Mission Peak.
The team experience and ability to witness Mother Nature’s glory was the most amazing part of Spartan Beast that day. We stayed together from start to end and did not split up like we did on my first race. I got to witness my dear friend, Mon, face her biggest fears. We pushed through together. The race was long and it took us 10 hours and well into the evening with our headlamps on to finish the race. For me the hardest part of that race was the swim. I’m a strong swimmer, but the cold plunge into a 42 degree ice melt mid-race shocked my system and my body felt like a moving vehicle with no gas in the tank for the remaining 8-10 miles. I remember telling myself to not give up and to finish strong. The race humbled me. We couldn’t have made it through without the amazing help of our team captain Jeff. He’s my Spartan inspiration!
Spartan Sprint AT&T Park (November 2017)
After Spartan Beast, I was very much looking forward to running the stadium sprint at AT&T Park to complete the Trifecta. I wasn’t nervous like the last two races at all! I knew the race wouldn’t be as hard as a Spartan Beast race and I was right. My goal for this last race was just to have fun and celebrate every feeling and memory that day. I was overcome with excitement and the most amazing part of that race, believe it or not, was nearly completing the multi-rig. There was something that happened at that obstacle that will forever leave an imprint in my memory and change the way I face obstacles. Up to that point, I worked hard to get better at wall climbs, rope climbs, hoist pulls, and much more. The multi-rig at the sprint had 6 rings that led to a baseball and one last ring that led to a cow bell. I remember stepping up to the box and thinking “you can’t do this … you won’t make it”.
Bellona’s Epic Battle
I grabbed a hold of that first ring and reached for the second ring. Great! I had it. With one tug I pulled and released to grab the third ring. My inner voice of doubt surfaced again, “you can’t reach it …you won’t’ be able to do it”. Who the hell was this person talking to me like this? After all, how can this person tell me I can’t after I’d already won a weight loss battle and had accomplished so much. Bellona with a mighty strike pulled an extra tug and reached for the next ring, got it! She persisted! This vicious battle between my self-doubt and Bellona was constant and consistent, screw it … it was war in my head! I made it to the end where for the first time I grabbed a hold of the baseball “what do I do now?” I remember thinking that I’d never been able to reach so far in this type of obstacle. I didn’t quite have a full grip and with a leap of faith tried to hold on, but I slipped off.
Was that a failure? HELL NO! I had gone the FARTHEST I’d ever gone in the multi-rig. And well … for me, this was a victory and the BIGGEST victory because this was my journey to the Trifecta and I faced my inner voice of self-doubt and crushed it with Bellona’s will to conquer. Of course, my inner voice of self-doubt will always be here, and Bellona will stand fast and always be ready for the battle. Sure I obviously have told myself plenty of times that “I can do this … I’m strong” – whatever I needed to hear to believe in myself. However, the way the battle played out in my head was different, it was EPIC because for the first time I could see it; I visualized it! It was amazing!
Spartan Trifecta Tribe 2017
I earned my very first Spartan Trifecta in 2017! As the expression says, “we’ll live to fight another day” … so will Bellona in her fight to hunt and vanquish that inner voice of self-doubt. We don’t grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges. I’m addicted to facing an obstacle and failing, I am reprogramming my mind to undo the default voice of “I can’t” to the new voice of “I can”. The mind is our biggest tool and it can either work for us or against us. That’s what we are at battle with at the end of the day.
OCR is a physical challenge and represents to me our inner battles with our mind. My goal is VERY CLEAR when I face an obstacle; it is to overcome the challenge.
I dedicate this first Spartan Trifecta to my old self, to the girl who nearly tipped the scales too close to 300lbs who thought she couldn't do it - any of it! I also dedicate this first Spartan Trifecta to my son Gabriel. My love, you face obstacles on a daily basis with your diagnosis and yet you amaze me how you are able to overcome them. Together, we will get over any obstacle on our path together. You are amazing, my son! I cannot wait for the day that we can run a race together, side by side!
First and foremost, I want to thank my husband and family for supporting me throughout this journey. I want to thank my CrossFit Race Team for the encouragement, training, and comradery: Coach James, Captain Jeff (congrats on achieving your 6X Trifecta!!), Sieg (my fellow Spartan brother who achieved his very first Spartan Trifecta as well, congrats!!), Mon, and Bernice.
I want to thank the other coaches and CFBG lions for cheering me on! I want to thank Coach Allen, Katherine, and Jake from the O2 BodyFit team for their tips and support during the workshop.
I want to thank Coach Keith and his OCR training at his new ObstaCourse facility. I want to thank my former Coach and good friend Gracie, you are the epitome of a badass Spartan warrior and I’ve always admired your strength and ability out on the course.
I want to thank my good friend Jennie who has been with me and has been one of my biggest supporters throughout my fitness journey, so fun to have you be there in my first race and then be inspired to run the last one with me.
I want to thank my circle of FFL friends – you know who you are! Thank you to my Spartan Family, whether I’ve run with you or not, I’ve had the pleasure of crossing paths with you on this journey and for that I’m grateful –Linh Lu, Jessica Calhoun, Lauren Moss, David Sum, Howard Duff, West Coast Spartans and Spartan 4-0, and so many more. I want to thank all my friends and coworkers who have cheered me on! There are too many to name so please forgive me – you know who you are and I’m genuinely grateful! Lastly, I want to thank all my followers on Instagram and Facebook for sharing this journey with me.
11/28/2017 11:53:01 am
Great Job on the transformation! I too am on the journey. I weighed in at 360 lbs. last October and am now down to 255 lbs. I am eyeing the trifecta myself as my 2018 goal to keep my transformation going. Hoping to try and lock myself in to the commitment by buying the trifecta pass after Christmas. I know that sounds like an excuse, but as a single dad with 3 kids, their Christmas comes first. Nonetheless, CONGRATULATIONS on your journey and accomplishments. It is inspiring to see that the goals I have set for myself have been accomplished by others, so thank you for that! Hopefully I will be joining you in the trifecta tribe as of November 2018 (that's when the last of the three, the Beast race, I intend to take on will occur in SC)
Jeanely Hunt (aka Bellona Rising)
11/28/2017 02:41:43 pm
Hi A.J!!! Thank you so much for your kind words! Congratulations on your progress so far and I'm so excited for you and your journey to a fit life and for your 2018 Trifecta! You can do this! You have the goals and all you need to do now is taking it one day at a time, keep pushing, and most importantly, never give up! Celebrate everything along the way! The journey is really the prize here! Please keep me posted on your progress and road to your first 2018 Spartan Trifecta! The most amazing part of the journey is the support you receive and I love to give back where I can, cheer and support others on! Thank you!! Aroo!! Aroo!! Aroo!!
12/19/2018 03:29:01 pm
This blog of yours reminds of the show American Ninja Warrior. I rarely watch television, however, American Ninja Warrior is one of those shows that I watch. The sheer amount of entertainment that I get from it is really amazing. I can watch it for a whole day and not get bored by it. What interests me the most about the show, is the contestants who enter it. They all seem physically gifted and they use this to complete difficult tasks.
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3/31/2023 02:33:22 pm
Loved reeading this thanks
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Hi! I’m Bellona! Welcome to Bellona Rising.