Colin Bellavance ’09 recently took part in the Killington, Vt., Spartan Ultra Race to recognize the sacrifices made by first responders, military members and their families. The following is a narrative written by Colin describing his incredible experience.
The race was everything I thought it was going to be: grueling, mentally exhausting, punishing at times, exciting, fun — so many things. I’m still on an emotional high from the experience, but my body is certainly reminding me how tiring it was. Altogether, it was just incredible.
Physically: This race was the most physically demanding experience I’ve ever had. While I felt prepared going into the race, the mountain had a way of politely reminding me it was not to be taken lightly. It was incredibly humbling. The total elevation gain over the course of the race was over 14,400 ft. There were some sections hovering right around a 50% grade, which meant I was on my hands and knees, “bear” crawling to maintain my footing. While the uphill portions were challenging, coming back down the mountain proved to be more excruciating. There were several sections of the course that were no wider than a goat path and, technically speaking, required an immense amount of concentration to avoid serious injury. I did have one slip early in the race which landed my left hip directly on a boulder. That is turning out to be several beautiful shades of purple currently. That being said, if I were to separate my muscular endurance from my cardiovascular endurance, at no point in the race did I feel tired. I knew my muscles were exhausted and certainly pushed to the limit, but I managed to maintain my target heart rate, and at no point did I feel like I couldn’t catch my breath. Knowing that, I knew I could keep pushing the muscles.
Mentally: As I mentioned, the technicality on some of the trails required an intense amount of focus for the duration of the course. Any misstep could have been the end of my race. I would say this was the one thing that was a little unexpected and I felt slightly unprepared for. Fortunately, I grew up in the Green Mountains hiking, exploring and hunting, and I felt very comfortable in my ability to adapt to the trail conditions. I knew when I needed to slow down and when I could make up some time, but it still required intense concentration. I had done an extensive amount of visualization work prior to race day. I stuck to my plan and before each obstacle, I stopped, took three deep breaths, visualized my plan of attack and then executed. Out of 72 possible obstacles, I only missed two. I was more than pleased with those results.
Spiritually: I know I lost a significant amount of time on the course stopping to appreciate where I was. You have to understand, Vermont will always feel like home, no matter where I live. Having not been back in almost two years, this trip was special. At several points throughout the course, I simply stopped, looked north to the amazing rolling green hills and mountains, and felt a certain calmness come over me. I met several people along the way, from all over the country, who would ask, “What mountain is that?” or “Which mountains are those?” I can’t tell you how many times I heard people say, “This is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.” Hearing that was very special, and every time I heard it, I was quietly saying to myself, “I know.”
The Big Picture: I did this to honor the sacrifices of our first responders, military members and their families. The fundraising effort over the last few months has reached hundreds of people — people from all walks of life and from different parts of the world. And people who now, hopefully, have taken at least a moment of their day to stop and reflect on how they might be able to make a difference in the life of another person. From the very beginning, this race was about spreading the message of an incredible organization and an ethos that we can apply in our daily lives to make our communities, our states, our country, our world a little bit better. “If not me, then who?” It has been a remarkably humbling experience to share that message.