Monday, March 31, 2014

I am “Spartan”


On the afternoon of March 23, the term “Spartan” was attached to my name. I knew of these races but really never thought much about doing them. Their reputation alone was enough to keep me away. After all, runners are not known for their upper body strength. These races appeared to require a lot of it.

First, I have to thank TrySports and Reebok for hooking me up with some great gear and the opportunity to do a Spartan race. The Cross Fit top and board shorts worked well. The cleat shoes grabbed a little extra mud but they also drained well when submerged in muddy water. They also helped me crawl out multiple thick muddy water pits.

If you read my blog, you know that I put in 8 miles during the Montrail demo run on this same morning. Rather than head home to clean up and drive to the Spartan Run, I hit the Siski Y for a shower. Lord only knows why I thought that I needed one. I knew that later in the afternoon I would be covered in mud.

Runners in the afternoon session were asked to park at the Concord Speedway. Then, there would be a 20 minute or so ride to the actual event location.

After parking and getting the bus ride over, there was a 10 minute walk into one of the fields on Porter Farm which was well out into the country side.

At the registration table, they asked me for my id. I always find this rather comical. Usually when I pick up my marathon bib or here my Spartan bib, they want to see if I am the correct person to receive the bib. As if any normal person would drive way out here, take a bus ride for another 20 minutes, and walk another 10 minute all to get a bib that would allow them to be challenged physically like they had never been challenged before.

In some warp sense, I just find it funny when they ask.

My start time was another hour or so away which was a good thing. Having never been to a Spartan race, there was so much to check out.

The first thing that I noticed there was mud everywhere, and pretty much everyone was covered in it.

The early waves are finishing and covered in mud. I do mean covered. The pit my stomach told me that I am both excited and anxious at the same time. I was also starting to wonder why I let Chris talk me into it.

I watched the people navigate the ladder climb, the Herc Hoist, the horizontal wall, and oh, yes, the rope climb.

Going in to the event, I knew there would be a rope climb. This worried me the most because I was probably 10 or 12 years old the last time I had to climb a rope. And, I surely wasn’t covered in mud or climbing some 30 feet into the air to do it.

I meet Michael, Alex, and Andrew. We hang out near the start and talk about our preparation for this race.

At 2:50 PM, they tell us that the 3 PM can load. To enter the starting corral, I have to climb over a 4ft wall, and I am struggling to do. What will the rest of the run be like?

They start with the whole “I am Spartan” speech. What they don’t know is in the back of my mind I am looking for the courage to not climb out of the starting corral.

I settle in to the middle of the 200 runners in my wave. There are several veteran Spartans but there are just as many if not more “newbies”. At least I wasn’t  alone for my baptism.

Finally, we are sent off through the smoke. There are lots of runners surging forward. I settle in to a nice slow jog.

There is no turning back now.

We run maybe ¾ of mile before we hit a series of walls. They are about 3 to 5 feet in height. Some of the walls, we have to crawl under. While others, we have to crawl over or through the opening in the wall. Between each wall is nothing but mud. My brand spanking new shoes are now a dark brown.

The mud is so sticky that I just try to walk through it. People are already walking so I pass a few of them.

The walls are not difficult so I navigate them easily and didn’t have to do any Burpees. We hit some field sections, trails, and then back to field which leads back to the main area where I watch the rope climb, walls, and hoist.

Watching the people climb the rope, it looked tough. Now crawling down in the pit of muddy water to find a rope to climb, it looked daunting. I find it best not to think too much and just react.  

I seize on a good rope and start climbing. I wrap my legs around and work my way up from one knot to the next. I am nearly at the top. The next bell is just out my reach and I don’t have any more knots to hold on to which would get me any higher. I keep trying but I am slipping back. Finally after multiple efforts, I give in and climb down.

 Failure to complete an obstacle results in 30 burpees. This seems to take forever. After all, I have only been practicing Burpees for the last week and never did more than 10 at any one time.

Finally, I finish my Burpees and head for the inverted wall. This looked a whole lot easier in the YouTube videos that I watched. A couple of guys came up behind me and gave me a boost to get over it.

Being a Spartan is both an individual and team sport. Participates are encouraged to help one another complete challenges.

So once over the top, turned and helped pull them over. Turnabout is fair play in my book. I climbed the wall tower, walked over the beam bridge, and climbed down the other side.

Next, I had the horizontal wall. I basically had to step from one tiny block to another long this wall. The blocks were really tiny so it was easy to slip off.

My shoes were covered in mud which made it even more difficult. I slipped off and headed to do my 30 Burpees. Participants only get one shot to complete a task.

This was followed by Herc Hoist. I set down in a puddle of muddy water and started my effort. Really, I didn’t give it much effort and gave up. The bag was really heavy. I headed to do the 30 burpees. While doing my burgees, I watched the others doing their hoist and realized that I was trying to pull it all with my arms. I really need to use my body wait to move it. I made a mental note and filed it way.

I finished my Burpees and headed off.

Andrew had caught up to me during the challenge, and I caught up on the run.

Some obstacles were close together while others were spread out with lots of running between them.

The barb wire was just plan awful. I was on my stomach pulling myself along. Going through the cold muddy water just gave me extra incentive to go as fast as possible. Although we did take the time to pose for a picture at the end of the obstacle.   

We did the sand bag carry down and up a hill. We climbed over several 8 foot walls. There was the tractor pull where I had to pull a 30 pound cement block.  There was tractor tire drag and return. I did much better on this one. This time, I used my body weight rather than just trying to use just my arms. The tire was still heavy to carry back.

We run along trails and over muddy fields to three huge mud holes. Each was easily over my waist.

Andrew must be part mountain goat and part pig because he just seemed to fly through this stuff.

One of the toughest challenges for me was the 100 pound Atlas ball. Picking the darn thing up was hard and I couldn’t have done it without Andrew’s help. Making things even tougher, I had to carry it about 20 yards, put it down, do 5 burpees, and pick it up, and carry it back. Boy, it was all I could do. When I finished, I promised myself that I would never do it again. Burpees are easer. I cannot believe that I am saying but they are.

The last challenge before heading toward the finish was the spear throw. Andrew suggested throwing high which sounded good me. I don’t get to throw a lot spears. His spear stuck in the hay bale, but my spear fell out. Ugh, another 30 Burpees needed to be done. I waved to Andrew to run on. There was no sense in him waiting me.

Finishing my burpees, I followed the crowd. Some people were running but most were walking. I don’t know how many I passed.

I could hear the music so I knew we were getting close to the finish. I passed more people on the trail where I could. Sometimes the trail was so narrow that all I could do is walk behind them.

I climbed through a ditch and made ready for the last 3 obstacles.

The first was a mud hole filled with water in which you had to pass under the wall. Meaning, I had to completely submerge myself in the water to pass under the wall.

I made my way into the water and got up close to wall. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and dove under. I could feel myself passing under the wall and headed for the surface. When I came out of the water, I tried to wipe the mud from my eyes, but I all could see was this brown haze. 3 or 4 more wipes were needed before I could see anything.

The slick wall was next but with the help of the rope, I was over it in no time.

I jumped over the fire and ran through the gladiators banging into us.

I crossed the finish line and became a “Spartan”.

They handed my medal, a banana, and bottle of milk. Andrew came up and we chatted for a few minutes before heading over to pick up our shirts.  

Andrew, then, headed off to get his camera and I headed into the tent to towel off the mud and change cloths.

Andrew and I had our picture taken at the Spartan banner.

Shortly thereafter, I headed back to the buses and my car. Setting on the bus, it finally hit me just how tired that I really was. I just rested my head against the window and waited.

My shower took about 45 minutes before I started to feel anywhere remotely near being clean. I had to wash my cloths 3 times before they were any color other than brown.

I knew this workout was a good one because even walking back to the buses my arms were already feeling sore.

In fact, through Thursday my arms, back, and neck are still plenty sore.

This is in contrast to most of my races where it is my legs that are sore. Other than one blister on my foot, my legs felt great. In fact, each time I took a dip in the cold muddy water, my legs even better during the run.

One of the common questions that I have been asked this week is would you ever do another one? In fact, Chris already said something about wanting to do another one later this year.

Going into it, I was expecting to have an obstacle every quarter mile or so. I am sure that different races have different layouts, but they were certainly a lot more running than I expected. Most of the challenges were not too difficult. I finished and only performed 120 burpees which I thought was excellent considering my total lack of training.

Completing this event, I was happy, tired, and dirty all at the same time. More than anything, I had an extreme sense of satisfaction. Spartan races are tough and they are meant to make you fail. Completing one is a great accomplishment because they definitely pushed me outside my norm.

I might consider doing another one. But one thing is for sure, I will be adding Burpees to my daily workout regimen.


Sharing on thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner










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