Monday, January 27, 2014

I am a Spartan!!!

I completed a Spartan Sprint Race this weekend!!!  The husband (hereafter, "G")got talked into this insanity about 6 months ago by a friend. Since it got him inspired to start working out again, I was totally supportive. I agreed to do it with them, figured it couldn't be all that bad since it is advertised as "3+ Miles and 15+ Obstacles". I ran occasionally at that point, though usually only 2-3 miles at a time. But I put together a plan to increase my distance, and was confident I'd be able to handle whatever "3+" meant to them.

Admittedly, I didn't train for the obstacles portion at all. I mean, I'm reasonably strong and fit, though I've never really done any weight training, and I make it to boot camp at least once or twice a month. How bad could some mud and a couple of walls be?! Obviously, I didn't do any real research on what they meant by 'obstacles'.

Holy Crap.

(*Note this might not all be exact, it's to the best of my recollection as to the order of events, but I think I might have been delusional at parts.) 

Race starts. Immediately through some netting stuff low to the ground. I'm the mama to small children. I am a master of the bear crawl. This is no problem. Then we're crisscrossing a stream bed. Scratchy shrubbery on the sides. Fallen trees to get over. Lots of slick mud. (The husband loses his shoe at one point - thankfully he found it right away.)

Up a steep hill and over a series of not too high walls. I'm okay with this.

Down a hill to a water crossing. Just across a finger of the lake. Not a big deal til you're into it, and realize there is no bottom, just a vast sucking cesspool of primordial slime that grabs hold and won't let go. I was sunk in up to just below my knees and managing to slog along until I tried to help a guy off to my right who was really stuck. He used my shoulder as a leverage point to push himself up out of the goo... And pushed me down til I was stuck in mud up to my mid-thighs, with the water at armpit level. At that point, I gave serious thought to panicking. (Did I mention I had gotten separated from G - and the rest of my team - at this point?) Thankfully, some guy reached out a hand from where he had gotten a foothold on solid land, and I was able to use his arm to drag myself out of the muck. I helped another few people out myself, and then was on my way.

I was pretty sure that my husband and one of our other team members was a bit ahead of me, so I was running as fast as I could in order to catch them - I know I'm a faster runner than he is, and figured I would be able to catch him in less than a mile. (The other two guys had gotten ahead of us at the lost shoe incident, and they're serious runners, so I had no expectation of catching them again!)

Over a big bridge. Climb up, ladder style, across on 2x4s with large spaces between them, climb down, ladder style. Not bad at all, though I was wondering how the hubby did, since he's not really a fan of heights.

More running, more hills. Now, instead of mud and water, it's chokingly dusty. Blech. No water stations.

Crawl under barbed wire, over rocky ground pocked with holes full of water and random bumps that bring you dangerously close to the barbs. Made it through easily (other than a few feet to the head from other racers), one of the few obstacles where being smaller is a great advantage - lots of the bigger guys were getting really torn up!

Monkey bars. Almost fell off with 3 to go, fingers were so tired and cramping, but pulled through. I was really very proud of myself on that one - I had to gut it out. Many, many people were falling. I was kinda sad that G wasn't there to see me!

Ah hah! Finally caught up to G and our friend. Turns out they thought that I had gotten ahead of them, and were pushing to catch up... I think we somehow took different twists & turns in the stream bed area. I caught them because the sandbag carry had a big ol' line. You had to grab a sandbag, walk up a super steep section of single track, and then back down the other side to deposit your sandbag for the next folks. There were plenty of bags, but the going was so slow on the hill that racers were backing up. (Wasn't too hard, though - think of carrying your too large toddler around when he decides he's tired and won't walk anymore at the zoo/amusement park/etc.)

The traverse wall. We practiced this in the morning where they had some test obstacles set up. I got advice from a guy who has done the race before. Worked perfectly in practice. Didn't factor in the wet hands, the mud-covered shoes, the shaking of the wall from having some 6 or 7 other racers jumping around on it at the same time as I was... I made it to the second to last block, and my hands slipped and I fell off. Dammit. 30 burpees. Then G fell off right behind me, so we were able to share our misery. (But not as much misery as the guy who fell off and broke his ankle while we were doing burpees. That was not fun to watch.)

And running again... Then the spear throw. G and our friend both actually stuck it, which rumor says never happens. So I was alone in my burpees, since my spear barely hit the wooden frame. But they are awesome guys, and they each did 10 so I only had to do 10!

Incline wall. I was worried, but no problem. Rope climb - also no problem in our morning practice session, but with wet, muddy rope and wet, muddy hands and tired arms, I only made it halfway up before I slipped back down. Buck Furpees! 3 sets in a row!

More running, the rope wall. We had heard this was hellish because of how slick with mud it got. Somehow, I made it over with ease! Then a tire flip (pretty easy, would totally trade a few more rounds of that for some of the other obstacles!), some uneven height logs you had to walk across the tops of - that most of the guys ran across and required me to jump from one to the next, catching my balance on one foot on each - before finally getting to the second water station. I actually had a dehydration headache by then, not to speak of the amount of dirt between my teeth!

Then the most hellish obstacle of all. These cinder blocks (like what you use as a footer for a deck?), with a length of chain attached. Drag it up a hill that is all soft dirt. You can't get a good foothold, and the weight of the block keeps causing it to bury itself in the dirt as you drag it. Oh, and the air is just full of dust that everyone is kicking up. Awful. It might have taken me 20 minutes just to get the block up the hill by myself. G totally saved me and came back down when I was only halfway up - he had already gotten his block to the top, and came back to help me drag mine. I was able to get it back down by myself, though heaving it back into the box for the next racers almost did me in!

Okay. Up a ridiculously steep, long, monster hill. Single track. People stopped all along, sucking wind, puking, sitting. Saw a guy standing off to the side with his foot all torn up - he had lost a shoe in one of the earlier sections and had been running since with only one shoe one. Wow.

Top of the hill, 8 ft wooden wall to clear. They pointed out a couple of blocks off to one side that they said women were allowed to use. Normally I refuse concessions to my gender, but we were far past being so principled. I used the blocks and got over. The husband (who is not a particularly tall guy) actually ran, jumped, caught hold of the top with his fingertips, and managed to pull himself over. I was totally impressed.

A bit more than a mile more of running - including a very painful, steep, dusty downhill that almost killed what was left of my knees - and we were into the finish area. Had to use a pulley and rope to pull another of those cinder blocks up in the air, that was actually pretty easy. Then a section of muddy berms with water in between. Excessively cold water - I think they were pumping it in, since the earlier stream/lake water wasn't nearly as cold. Really cold. And you didn't know how many there were, so you'd get across (seriously, I basically jumped from the berm to the middle of the water and then swam the remainder each time because it was fairly deep) and scratch your way up the mud to be horrified to see yet another one in front of you... The final one required that you duck under a wooden wall that went down into the water. I had to put my face in that nasty foul dirty water (it was totally brown, no visibility), and that was no fun.

But then all that was left was the fire jump (great photo opp, but not really a challenge) and the gladiator guys with those padded stick things. They were pretty nice, probably after taking one look at us they decided not to push us over the edge!

We think it ended up being about 5 miles and some 18ish obstacles. Way harder than I expected. Way more than I had prepared myself for. And tons of fun, and we're looking forward to doing another one! In fact, G wants to do the Super next time - I think that's supposedly 8+ miles and 20+ obstacles - ugh!

The bodily damage wasn't nearly as bad as I feared. A little stiff in the shoulders and arms the day after, mostly gone today (the second day). Legs feel fine... I mean, outside of the loss of some skin on my left shin and a nasty bruise on my right knee.  (These pictures don't do it justice, but they'll give you an idea.) Oh, and lots of little cuts all over my hands & fingers. Those probably hurt the most!!!

I was really pretty happy with what I chose to wear: running shoes (though those minimalist toe ones might be great, I don't have any); capri running tights (definitely saved my legs, especially my knees, further damage; a sports bra and then a fitted spaghetti strap lycra style top. If we do another one, I will definitely try out wearing gloves - for grip, mostly, though protection from some of the cuts and scrapes would be nice, too! But my biggest learning... upper body training. Good lord, hauling my own ass up and over things is hard work!

Have you done a Spartan? Any other obstacle race? What was your experience? Want to do another one? What are your lessons learned?


  1. First of all Oh.My.Goodness. Congratulations!! I have wanted to do one of these type races. I thought about the Tough Mudder, but it is VERY long and has electrical shocks (yeah, not sure about that) I also can't imagine the 12 miles. I have run a 10k before but 12 plus obstacles. The spartan seems doable. We shall see. Good for you!!

    1. Thank you!

      You should definitely do it!!! It's a great way to challenge yourself - I bet you do better than you think you would, if you're capable of running at a 10k level. Go for the Sprint, and let me know how it works out!