Something to Prove by Heather Grover

Cheers of spectators, dust, straw, and flying spears fill the air of the arena. I focus, I throw, I miss. I head to the burpee pit to complete my 30-burpee penalty. As I drop to the ground, the dust now conspicuously highlights my previous refusal to stop and at least attempt a nature squat along the trail when my bladder began to protest.

Yes, I peed myself. On purpose. So with my face hot and my hands sweating and a distinct burning against my thighs, I run hard away from the crowded field. And now I’m alone in the woods, climbing, scrambling, and reaching my legs along that trail with my mantra pounding in my head:

“Live and die on this day. Live and die on this day.”

Many people do obstacle racing for fun. In fact, as a Spartan coach and brand ambassador I TELL people to do it for fun. “Get a team! Just get out there! Have fun!”

But every morning as I get ready for the day, I see this close-up photo of me and my mom resting on my bathroom counter. Her face- proud, sweet, young , motherly love as she looks down at her new baby.

And mine- staring dead ahead into the lens of that camera with an old woman’s furrow already formed on my brow.

I’ve never been here for a good time. I’ve always had have something to prove.

Sounds re-emerge, the crowds come into view, and the finish line is only a handful of obstacles away. I rejoin my fellow mud-and-blood-laden comrades as we haul 5-gallon buckets of gravel. I notice that I’m not seeing many women. Have I fallen so far behind? Anxiety is taking hold, but I remember what my success coach told me- “Visualize your finish.” I have been rehearsing it for months in my mind as I train. The fire blazing over the finish line. My body reaching through it, lean and powerful and agile. And my son, with joy and awe on his sweet little 3-year-old face as he watches his mama complete that goal that scared her.

Race day is Mother’s Day 2016, and today, when I cross that finish with my family gathered around me, I 1 will earn the coveted Spartan Trifecta medal.

I’m not here for a good time. I have something to prove.

I fall off the final obstacle. Eyes blurry from exhaustion and frustration I start my burpees and fight the urge to just stay down in the cool dirt. As I stagger back up I watch the last woman I’ve seen from my heat cross the finish line. Disappointment sticks in my gut.

With everything I have left and literally I’ll admit- a growl- I leap over that fire and cross the line. No I don’t need water.

No I don’t need a banana, or a photo. I need my boy. I’m hungry to see him. I search the sidelines for his face. Up and down the crowd I go, surely I’ve just missed him somehow.

He’s not here. No one is here.

How could they? Didn’t they know? I collapse by the finisher’s tent and just lose it. I don’t care that I am covered in blood and sweat and mud and, urine. I don’t care that I am ugly crying in front of hundreds of people.

I don’t care that they are all here for a good time. I had something to prove.

Someone shakes my shoulder and asks, “Hey, are you ok?” Much like my toddler in the midst of a tantrum, I just shake my head and refuse to make eye contact. “Have you checked your time yet? What was your time?” Blessedly, I refrain from spouting off with “Why do YOU care?” and I reluctantly follow him to the timing tent, and punch in my name.

First. First female in my age group. Second female overall.

I am stunned still. And I remember.

I remember how I entered the day of my son’s birth. At the hospital early, IV in, Pitocin dripping, motivational playlist in my headphones. No, thank you, I do NOT need an epidural. I was ready for battle.

I’m not here for a good time. I have something to prove.

I remember 12 hours and a whole universe of pain later, lying on the hospital bed, every fiber of my body shaking, pushing with everything I think I have, and my boy won’t come. Halfway between worlds, he is 2 solidly stuck. Helpless. Panicked. I can see nothing but the look that passes between my nurse and my doctor. “Now Heather. We must do this now.” PUSH! My son is born on our final feat of desperation, and we wait. We wait forever. We wait like the end of everything, to finally hear his cry.

You’re here for a short time, Mama. And you have nothing to prove.

This piece was written and performed for Listen To Your Mother, a spoken word performance event celebrating our experiences of motherhood in its many forms

Heather Grover
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