Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Camas woman races to 50 with intensity

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Mindy Schleif never thought that crawling under barbed wire would be a fitting way to celebrate her 50th birthday — until she tried it.

Schleif, of Camas, decided to ring in her 50s by participating in the Spartan Race on Dec. 5 in Malibu, Calif.

The extreme-race series, which hosts events all over the world, includes a variety of grueling challenges like a fire pit, freezing ice bath, gladiator fight and crawling under a field of barbed wire.

The first Pacific Northwest Spartan Race was June 16 in Washougal, which is where Schleif and her husband, Arlen, first heard of it.

“We saw it last year, and my husband wanted to do it, and I thought that was the stupidest thing,” she said. “But then I kept thinking about it.”

Schleif had considered running a half-marathon for her 50th birthday, but when she discovered there was a Spartan Race on the exact date near where her children live, she made up her mind to go for it.

And her sister, husband, son, son-in-law, grandsons and niece all joined the race with her.

“I was thinking I was going to have a really hard time, but I really surprised myself,” Schleif said. “I was able to do a lot of the challenges without much effort.”

And things got even more interesting when she struck up a casual conversation while crawling under the barbed wire, she said.

“So I met this guy under the wire, and he said he was from New York and he was writing an article on races,” Schleif said. “We kept talking and he just kind of interviewed me under the barbed wire for a while.”

It turns out the man who interviewed her worked for Showtime’s new series, “60 Minutes Sports.” Her conversation was included in the third episode, which is airing again at 11:45 p.m. March 30, according to the show’s website.

It’s a thrill to be on the show, but the most fun part of the race was participating with her family, Schleif added.

“They were such great support,” Schleif said. “I mean that literally. My husband had to hold me up against a wall at one point.”

Her daughter, Erin Clancy, watched the family in the race but couldn’t participate because she is fighting cancer and her doctor advised against it. She has the same birthday as her mother and turned 29 on race day, Schleif said.

“She couldn’t do it under doctor’s orders, so her husband went in her place,” she said.

Schleif enjoyed the race so much that she and her husband want to participate in the Pacific Northwest Spartan Race on Aug. 4, when it returns to Washougal.

“My husband has ants in his pants to do it again,” Schleif said. “If anyone thinks that they can’t do it — just go ahead and do it. It’s fun and it really is an accomplished feeling.”– Sue Vorenberg

Bits ‘n’ Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you’d like to share, email bits@columbian.com.