Friday, February 1, 2013

Adventure: Super Spartan Race

"Anything that gets your blood racing is probably worth doing."
- Hunter S. Thompson

Hills? Check. Mud? Check. Obstacles? Check. Blood racing? Check. Was it worth it? Double Check. 

This past weekend I took the first steps towards one of my goals for the year. I ran (and completed) the first of three spartan race events that I must complete in order to achieve the Spartan Trifecta. 

The Spartan Trifecta is completing the three different distances for the Spartan race in one calander year. The Spartan Beast is 10+ miles. The Super Spartan is 8-10 miles and the Spartan Sprint is 5k. The distances are estimate because no two courses are the same. The race I completed was the Super Spartan. The course was at Vail Lake Resort in Temecula, CA. 

Upon registering for the run you select start times. I registered somewhat late so the earliest time I could get was 3 pm. I didn't think much of it. I knew the longest the course could be was 10 miles. I figured I would be able to easily finish that within 2 hours even with the obstacles. My only concern because the rules stated that anyone on the course when it got dark needed a headlamp or they would be pulled off the course and not be allowed to finish. Since I figured I would be done with plenty of time to spare, I didn't even bring mine. However, I didn't expect the intensity of the hills. 

My heat started pretty much exactly at 3. There were roughly 45 people when we started. But due to the length of the course (and hills) and obstacles, people very quickly slowed themselves to a sustainable pace. The first obstacle presented itself pretty quickly. About 200 yards from the start.

A series of over and under with the wall about 4 feet high at this point. I remember thinking that this was too easy. There had to be may more challenging things to do. Little did I know I was more correct than I wanted to be. 

After the first obstacle, the course brought us straight up a hill. I found this to be a common theme. We would go up the hill, come down, obstacle. Repeat. 

Next up was the Monkey Bars. I was shocked when I saw people fall here. Perhaps they were tired from something earlier in the day. (Side Note: You had one attempt at the obstacles. Failure would result in 30 burpees before you were able to continue.) I got across these and went on to the first downhill. At the bottom I came to my first encounter with mud.

These were back to back. Sloshing through the mud was fun. I mean I signed up for a mud run, what else was I expecting? The next obstacle though, was a bit more exhausting. 

They gave us a large rubber band to put on around our legs and tie them together. We then had to bunny hop down and back through the mud and over the hay bales. This was when I first realized the idea behind these obstacles. They are going to be testing functional strength and determination.

That was confirmed by the next several obstacles. After the next series running up and down the hills, I came across this tire pull. We had to pull the tire out and then back in. Girls doing the race had the same size tire but only had to pull it about 2/3 of the distance. I did this rather quickly compared to some of the other people that were there. However I was still weary about the obstacles to come. 

Before all the obstacles, there was a sign saying what the obstacle was and what you were supposed to do. With the barbwire crawl, there was one addition - a sign that warned against danger and death. I had a good laugh at that sign just thinking what would have to happen for someone to die in this obstacle.

After 50 mud crawling/ rolling under the barbwire yards later, this is what I looked like. I was caked in mud, slightly shivering but I had a huge smile on my face. I wasn't even 4 miles into the race yet. However, I still had at least another 4 miles to go. As we headed back into the hills for more running, things began to change.

As you can see, a fog bank rolled in. This was pretty cool in a way because the Spartan race organizers kind of pride themselves in keeping the layout and obstacles of the course a mystery until the day of. This just added to the stigma. We had no clue what could be ahead.

Again focusing on functional strength, this obstacle involved carrying a cement block, doing 5 burpees and then carrying it back. Simple enough. However I started to have a bigger worry. I was only 6 miles into the race and the race organizers began asking people to turn on their headlamps. The fog made it much darker than it should have been at 4:45 pm. I would be very upset with myself if I wasn't allowed to finish due to the head lamp. I was suddenly in a race against the daylight.

As I picked up my pace, my already tired muscles resisted at first. Or perhaps it was the crazy vertical climb we had. I don't recall much at this point other than "Gotta keep moving." I pass the mile 7 marker going up this hill only to find more walls sitting at the top. And of course these would be the tallest ones we've faced yet. Despite some struggle and cramping calves, I managed to make it over and continued on my trek still keeping up my pace in order to finish.

Another half mile or so alone the tops of the hills, I came across this angled rope wall. While it didn't appear like it was going to be much of a challenge, actually doing it proved otherwise. I'm sure part of it was the 7+ miles already ran but also it was somewhat difficult with the slack of the rope and the way it  was set up. In the end though I managed to make it over. The rumor was that this was the last of the obstacles in the hills. So from here on out it was literally, all down hill. 

The best part about knowing that the end was near was that I was able to relax mentally that I'd be able (allowed) to finish the run despite no headlamp. But while the finish was close, they decided to save a nice little chunk of obstacles all within the last half mile, starting with a nice dip in the lake. 

After going through the lake. There were a couple more mud pits to get through followed my another short run of barbed wire followed by another crawl up a angled wall. There was on where you had to pull a cement block up to the top of a pulley system, throw a spear into a hay bale, and climb a rope all one after another. After running over 8 miles everyone was getting tired, myself included. I struggled with the rope climb but managed to make it through all those without missing anything. 

I could hear the music. I could see the finish. I only had two things left. A jump over the fire (can you say cramping calves) and a run by the gladiators, and I was home free

Man did it feel so good to run through that. We received our medals and an awesome T-shirt. I thought it was pretty cool that they had computer screens which we could enter our bib number (which I had lost long ago) or last name and it would show your time right then and there. While this was over the two hours I thought I would take, it turned out to still be above the average time. Beyond that, I also managed to finish in the top 25% for the three categories (Overall, Age, Gender). So overall I was quite pleased with myself. 

While I did prepare somewhat, I focused my training on more of the strength aspect thinking I would be able to get by on the running (probably because I've always been a decent runner). Boy was that a mistake. I breezed through all but one of the obstacles (need to work on my rock climbing) while my running suffered. That could be attributed to the ridiculous hills as well but I'll still take it upon myself to train harder for my next run... a little over a week from now on February 9... at this same location.. except longer. Will it be worth it? It will surely get my blood racing so you can bet your sweet socks it will be worth it.


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