(the Lattice Bridge - combination obstacle and entrance)
Spartan races are like shorter road races on steroids. The marathon is still unique and in a class of its own. But after this weekend, I really appreciate the big “festival” atmosphere of the Spartan events. You get to spectate as people tackle the obstacles that are in the viewing area, people emerge from the course all muddy and happy and ready to take pictures and shower off, and there’s a bunch of merchandise that people get to celebrate their accomplishment and the lifestyle. People are starting and finishing all day, so it’s a constant stream of excitement.
I went into the race with less-than-ideal training leading up. I didn’t end up doing a bunch of strength training this year, like I had envisioned. I always ended up just doing my usual running plus maintenance strength. My running has been in maintenance mode, too, with no marathons this year. With lots of work travel, getting in any kind of exercise was an accomplishment. I was ready to see how I’d do, though.
I had been in Brazil (which is moving into Spring), so I was surprised to find 47 degree temps at the starting line in Winnsboro, SC. It wasn’t bad, though. I was glad to be starting in the Elite heat, so that I could get finished before the sun got too high. The men started 15 min earlier. There were a lot of them. After watching them start, I dropped off my gear bag with my warm clothes.
(the Mens' start)
It’s funny how they make you go over a wall, just to get to the starting line. I was a bit clumsy on it – yikes! I hadn’t even started. Once we started off, it felt like a trail race, with the wide dirt road. The first obstacle was a warm-up over/under/over/under. Next, the 6 foot wall, which went well. It was a few miles, it felt, until we got our first taste of mud, in a barbed wire crawl, which I had only seen at the ends of races in the past. This is when it’s good to be short.
At the balance beam, the volunteers warned “fall, and do 30 burpees”, but I thought “fall and break your legs”, since it was maybe 4 feet above a ditch with a mix of tall grass and large hidden rocks. It was short, though, and pretty wide.
The tractor pull was ok…. Downhill, then uphill… I went slow on the uphill. Men and women used the same cinder blocks, so I had more trouble than most. The course had lots of uphill and downhill on dirt trails, plus cut-throughs through forest – sometimes fairly flat but narrow and windy, and other times up and down very steep banks. During the run, it would be kind of a boost to pass guys, because you know that they got a 10-15 min head start. There was one odd “spider web” obstacle, where the instructions weren’t entirely clear.
I fell on the log hop. After making it about 60% of the way through, I lost my balance. Bother… burpees. Next, the tire drag… pretty straightforward.
More running, then, through speedbumps of hills and muddy pits… got you muddy. Then over-under-through. Monkey bars were next… I spent a lot of time trying to dry my hands, which were muddy from the mud pits. I did all of that drying, only to find that the monkey bars were not your average bars. Instead, they were staggered, so that you have a level one, then up, then level, then up, etc, and they were far apart, too! I couldn’t even make it to the second (an up) one, since it kind of requires great pull-up strength to get the distance plus the upward movement. I later watched men beasting it, and their legs were swinging like crazy. It’s supposedly easier to under-arm grab the up-bar, but there was no way. Burpees for me.
Next, the Traverse Wall. This thing was so easy pre-race, at my first Spartan Sprint, in the festival area. Doing it muddy and fatigued is a completely different story, though. I might’ve made it over one set of holds before slipping. Bother. More burpees. I wished that I hadn’t made that mistake.
Next spear throw. This time, they had ropes tied to the end, so that volunteers didn’t have to risk their lives to retrieve the spears. Smart move. It supposedly makes the flight of the spear harder, though, and people have to aim a bit higher. Had even less of a chance than in the past. 30 more burpees… that’s pretty much 90 in a row.
Then, I think next was the Atlas carry. There were concrete balls, maybe 1.5-2x the volume of a basketball. It was near the limit of what I could lift up from the ground, then carry for maybe 20 feet, drop, do 30 burpees, then pick up and carry back. It gives you a sense of satisfaction to accomplish something that you’re barely able to do. If it was a pound heavier, I don’t know if I would’ve been able to pick it up.
Big Cargo net was next – NBD. One of the volunteers said that one guy had been doing the race with one broken arm, forcing him to do all of the obstacles one-armed… wow. 7ft wall, with the helper step. It took a couple of tries, but I told myself “you can do this” and made it up – I was so proud. Don’t remember what was next, but after that was the 8-ft wall, which I was also able to get up. Sandbag carry - I put the sandbag on one of my shoulders going down, and another one going up... I learn a much more efficient method the next day, though.
Bucket brigade was extremely difficult. You filled up a bucket with rocks, then carried it up then down a significantly steep and length hill. To rest, I would put the bucket on my hip for a while, before carrying on. It was tempting to put it down, but I figured that it would be more taxing to have to pick it back up, than to put up with resting it on my quads. Made it back down, then I had to lift it up pretty high to empty it over a wall. Phew, that was rough.
A small swim, which is really just wading. Then, the Herculean Hoist, which was NBD. Rope climb – as usual, not much of a chance, as slippery as it is, when you’re starting waist-deep in mud. Burpees. Lattice bridge, which I guess is about conquering fear of heights, similar to the cargo net, as opposed to taxing your body. Barbed wire, dive into water under a wall. Slip wall… I tried running up it and then grabbing the rope, at first, but no need, and it didn’t work. It was simple enough just to pull myself up. Finally, the fire jump.
Afterwards, I picked up my gear bag and took pics. Bought my trifecta patch, in anticipation of the next day’s activities, along with some shorts. Showered, changed. Ate, watched people do various obstacles from the spectator areas.
(Spear Throw = burpee maker)
(Barbed Wire Crawl)
Made my mark on the Wall of Valor:
I stuck around for the awards ceremony, since it was the East Coast Age Group Championships, but it wasn’t my day. It was a fun day, though… 1 down, 1 to go.
It was a nice change to get to “travel” (all 2 hours of driving of it) and stay at a hotel, not for work. I checked into the Holiday Inn, with tons of bags for a 2-hr / overnight trip, for all my food, gear, and other comforts. It was nice to just relax and recover. I had originally envisioned walking around downtown Colombia to explore and maybe try a local vegan restaurant, but I didn’t feel like going back out.
Part 2 coming up… the Sunday Spartan Beast