Alysa Rabel, 29, is a little too hard-core for simple marathons or triathlons. The Buffalo hair dresser has discovered a new and exciting style of extreme sports that utilizes her love for exercise and sense of adventure.
“I get to get muddy and run around – how do you beat that?” she said. “I love to work out. I feel like this is a way for me to use a lot of different workouts. I love to run, but I love strength as well. This is a way for me to get both, and I might as well get something for all of the work that I do.”
Rabel competed in her second Spartan Race in Las Vegas on April 5, finishing first out of 568 women in her age group and in the top 1 percent of all competitors – male and female – with a time of 1 hour, 52 minutes, 19 seconds. The Vegas competition, known as a “Super Spartan,” is an 8-10 mile race and includes more difficult obstacles, normally only attempted by experienced competitors.
Spartan racing is not like normal races. There are not set trails, only rugged terrain with obstacles along the way. Race organizers pick a start and end location, then place climbing ropes, wall climbs, tire flips and pulls, sandbag carries and seemingly any barrier imaginable. The Vegas race even included a fire pit the competitors leaped over.
Races like the “tough mudder” allow participants to chose whether to complete the obstacle or simply bypass it. Spartan races require all participants attempt each obstacle, and failure to complete one results in 30 burpees – a type of jumping jack, pushup combination.
“I didn’t play in sports in high school,” Rabel said. “After my son was born, I really got into exercising to lose weight and just get into shape. And then it just became an obsession.”
Rabel began her fitness campaign eight years ago. Along the way, she’s competed in various cardio events. Four years ago, she attempted to incorporate strength into her training and began seeking alternatives to 5Ks and half-marathons.
Her first Spartan Race was the Utah Spartan Beast June 2013, finishing the 13-mile race in 3:31:30.
“I wasn’t really happy with my time,” Rabel said. “I was working way too hard and wasn’t listening to my body. I started eating better and listening to my body, and it worked. When I set this one in Vegas I just set a time – 2 hours – that I wanted to beat.
“I didn’t realize I was going to do that well. I just felt amazing that day, and I knew I was passing a lot of other runners, but I was shocked when I saw the results.”
Surrounded by tired, dirty exhausted faces, her husband, Matt found a beaming but equally dirty one.
“After the race I looked like the happiest person in the world,” she said. “I had the biggest smile on my face, and you could tell I just loved it. I was sore, but I just wanted to do it again – run it again. It just felt that good.
“I usually take a little time off to relax and recover. But I’m ready to get going again.”
Rabel was running six to eight miles a day last year and was dealing with a plethora of injuries from head to toe as a result. She said the change in strategy clearly worked. Her next race will be on May 10, her second of three this year. Athletes who run three Super Spartans in a calendar year, known as a trifecta, are put on a “Spartan Wall of Fame.”
“I’m going to approach it the exact same way I did this last one,” she said. “Why mess with a good thing?”
For more information on Spartan Races, check out spartanrace.com.