“What the hell am I doing? I can’t even pick these things up.”
That is what Jana Eastus was thinking at one point in the Lake Tahoe Spartan Beast World Championship race last September. Eastus was carrying two heavy sandbags up a mountain in rainy and muddy conditions when she thought of quitting.
“There was a lady behind me, and we told each other that we had to keep going,” said Eastus, a Gilroy resident of 23 years. “It was the middle of the race, and we still had six, seven miles to go.”
The 51-year-old Eastus managed to finish the race in 4 hours, 42 minutes and 42 seconds, taking second place in her age group, 74th among all women and 361st overall. Given the nature and scope of the challenges the course presented, it was perhaps the seminal moment in Eastus’ athletic career.
“They had the big screen up an hour or two later (to show results in my age group), and my name popped up second,” Eastus said. “I couldn’t believe it, and it was the best feeling ever because I trained so hard for that moment.”
A Spartan Beast is a half-marathon (13.1 miles) with 30 obstacles that tests even the most well-conditioned athletes. The Lake Tahoe Beast featured steep climbs, tricky descents, heavy carries and a swim in frigid waters.
“We had to swim in this man-made lake which had obstacles in it,” she said. “My hands were frozen, and fortunately the wetsuit I had on saved my butt. Going into 35-degree water, people were quitting. Oh my gosh, it was nutty.”
If you’re in Gilroy and notice a woman carrying heavy dumbbells and doing Farmer’s Walks on a neighborhood street or carrying buckets of rocks up a trail at Christmas Hill Park, it’s a good bet that would be Eastus.
“She is crazy in a good way,” said Maddie Eastus, who is Jana’s daughter and a standout player on the Gilroy High girls soccer team. “She always does the hard Spartan races I could never do. She is crazy. She works two jobs, does Spartan races and goes to my soccer matches.”
Jana Eastus works in the emergency room at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, is a trainer at CrossFit Gilroy and works out twice a day—sometimes three. She does a CrossFit type workout in the morning and some type of aerobic activity in the afternoon. Eastus works out six days a week—taking only Sunday off—though she has to summon all of her strength to actually take it easy that day.
“I force myself to take a day off,” she said. “I know it’s good for me to rest or go into work or watch Maddie at a game. I try to take recovery days because if not, my joints get pissed at me. I have to say I have an obsession with fitness.”
Part of what drives Eastus to work out in a maniacal manner includes wanting to show others that getting fit is not as difficult as it seems.
“I want to inspire women that at any age, anything is possible,” said Eastus, who isn’t the least bit shy in revealing her age to people and was a competitive gymnast in her teen and college years. “It’s fun to inspire others and your family.”
Said Maddie: “I like how she is super hard working and a really good motivator for all ages. She inspires me because she works really hard, and that drives me to work out and be the best I can be.”
Eastus credited Kassi Lieberman, Mike King and Secret Ninja Training Camp (SNTC) for helping her maximize her abilities. Lieberman is the owner and coach at CrossFit Gilroy, King is the owner of Kings Camp, a pro Spartan racing team that Eastus trains with; and SNTC works with athletes like Eastus in obstacle training.
Even though Eastus experiences an adrenaline rush every time she competes in a race, her work in the ER is no less exhilarating. What is the craziest thing she’s seen in her 20 years of working in the ER?
“People put things in places where they’re not supposed to go,” she said. “We have a whole slideshow of foreign objects in the body. The craziest stuff usually happens between 2:30, 3am; that is the magic hour. The bars close, but we’re still open.”
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Eastus said the media reports of hospitals being overrun are accurate.
“We’re running out of supplies, gurneys, ventilators, which is just awful,” she said. “It’s sad. The other day we had a Code 3 where someone is in respiratory arrest. But we didn’t have a gurney because all the gurneys were taken. It’s just crazy.”
The 2019 season was one to remember for Eastus, who finished first or second in her age group in every Spartan race she entered. Eastus does enter CrossFit competitions on occasion, but she said those events work against her since she is 5-foot-3 and 108 pounds. Granted, Eastus is still stronger than most people twice her size, but in CrossFit events, everyone is taller and heavier than Eastus. Every Memorial Day, Eastus and her CrossFit Gilroy team does the Murph Workout of the Day, which involves a 1-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats and a second 1-mile run—all while wearing a 20-pound vest.
This gives you a sense of the type of training Eastus does on a regular basis, and the strength, endurance, speed and agility one must have to excel in Spartan or CrossFit races. Eastus has a gym in her garage, which serves her well as every fitness center has closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. So what advice would Eastus give to someone who wants to work out, but doesn’t have the financial means to buy gym equipment?
“Pick up a big rock and roll it,” she said. “Or just pick up a weight that challenges you. Really, you’ll get a great workout in a short amount of time if you challenge yourself enough.”