FIT>50: Challenge: Obstacle race vs. nutrition.

All challenges are not created equally.


Some challenges are tougher than others. That’s what I learned a couple weeks ago when I attempted my first obstacle race, the Spartan Sprint, and that’s what I’ve learned with this nutrition experiment I’m attempting as well.

Spartan Sprint - Snow Crawl

Why so negative?

Having grown tired and frustrated of my negative thinking, decreased energy level and poor nutritional choices, I embarked on a journey a couple weeks ago to see if making better nutritional choices could positively impact my outlook and athletic performance. The answer is complicated and not at all dissimilar to what I experienced in the race.
There was a three foot wall I had to clear to even get into the starting corral of the race.

I was seriously worried I wouldn’t clear it even though everyone else made it look easy. I made it over, but it was on the second attempt.

All about approach.

It wasn’t hard; I just didn’t know how to approach it at first. The same can be said of my nutrition adventure. Giving up processed sugar and wheat sounds easy enough until you try and figure out what to grab for breakfast on the run. I learned very quickly that eating well requires pre-planning, determination and a bit of creativity.

Perspective, as usual.

I also learned a bit about perspective in both experiences. There was one point fairly early on in the race when I became discouraged. I had just successfully made it across the icy cold lake and was starting back up the mountain at a slow jog. I looked behind me and realized that I was pretty much the last of the pack.


How could that be? I really thought I was doing better than that!


Had I slowed down that much since last summer?


I had to get a bit farther up the hill and see things from a different angle to realize that I was at the back of a pack alright, but it was the group in the heat that started before mine. My group had apparently decided to linger down by the pond a bit. When it comes to my nutrition and fitness goals I find that I often make the same mistake. Frequently, I’m making gains that I don’t always see on the scale right away; Instead of getting discouraged, I have to be willing to look at things in a different way and give it some time.

Spartan Finish Line

Attitude of success.

Success breeds success and attitude is everything. The first three days were hard, but a slight move of the dial on the scale and my much improved mood and vitality made the lack of sugar, potato chips and bread worth it; I was encouraged to keep going…. just like that eight foot wall, a quick boost and it was up and over, quite exhilarating! Until it wasn’t..

Things got real hard, real fast. I carried my dirt like a champion and shouldered my log without complaining, but then I just crashed; epic fail.

Keep pushing.

In the race this meant dropping off the monkey bars, waiting in line only to miss the target with the spear and not even attempting the rope climb.


It meant a lot of burpees. It meant a bit of misery. An epic fail with my nutrition plan, on the other hand, meant a complete melt down. Around the beginning of week two I was a mess, irritable beyond belief and super sensitive.


I cried at everything. I needed some damn chocolate. It got so bad that I felt I had to take a break for a few days, and I did. I’ve read that sugar is more addictive than cocaine; now I believe it. This is no joke; the physiological and emotional obstacles that I’m going to have to overcome are huge and will take strength.

Spartan Wall Climb

The plan was to eliminate processed sugar and wheat and eat more lean protein and vegetables, and I didn’t make it past my second week. But I’m in this for the long haul, and I won’t give up because the rewards are too great.


I finished the race and, in spite of my stumbles, took first place in my age group. What I know for sure is that picking yourself up when you fall is an expected part of the journey. In fact, learning to do that is crucial to long term success. I’ll be anxious to share with you what the next few weeks entail.


Karen Adler is…

An educator by trade, runner, hiker and adventure-seeking fitness enthusiast by passion. She explores what it means to be fit after fifty along with the multiple joys and trials that come with age. She is truly an Athlete On Fire!