Yesterday, Drew went and competed in The Spartan Race. I tagged along as the photographer and general supporter. He's had to play that role for a lot of my races, I figured it was the very least I could do for him! I had a great time spectating and taking photos, but I'm quite glad that I didn't have to participate. I think I'll just stick to triathlons and running races! Here's his race report:
I didn't really know what to expect, but I knew I could run three miles and I figured I was either fit enough to make it over the obstacles or smart enough to weasel my way around them.
While I love not having a car, sometimes it's a hassle, and this was one of those times. Amy got a Zipcar membership and we rented a car for the day. We only made one wrong turn and got to the race start about 90 minutes before my wave. A couple of our friends, including Laura, had registered for the race and their wave went off just a few minutes after we got there. It was pretty hard to see much of the race, as they went up and over a small dirt hill, but they sure kicked up a lot of dust and sand.
After seeing Laura's wave start, I got in line. Where I stayed for a long time. Like an hour. I know this isn't a "regular" race, but it's pretty crazy that it took an hour to check in. And it seemed like there were no more than 30 people in front of me. My wave started at 11:30. I almost always work out in the morning, starting sometime around 6 or 6:30. I'm not used to starting so late, so nutrition was a bit of a question mark for me. I had a Clif bar when I work up, then a Balance bar in the car. I snagged a free Raw Revolution mini bar in line and Amy grabbed a Muscle Milk. I wasn't sure that would be enough, but I also knew that I didn't want to eat a lot before the race. I wasn't really worried about it though, as it was only three miles.
I lined up a few minutes before my wave and we all got the proper pre-battle speech from the head Spartan. I'm not sure how it worked in Sparta, but in Brooklyn it's sort of hard to hear when the microphone was cutting in and out. We all yelled "A-rooo" a couple of times the head Spartan flashed his sword and we were off.
I didn't really have much of a plan for the race, so I just took off toward the first obstacle. We had to go up and over a sand hill that was maybe 15 feet tall or so. I heard someone say that the best plan was to hit all the obstacles as fast as possible, so that's what I tried.
There were a bunch of people and they all slowed down when they hit the hill, which made it a little tough. I didn't really have much trouble getting up and over, but my heart rate spiked like crazy. It might have been the change from a dead stop just a few moments ago, but I'm guessing that I was well into the 95% heart rate range. I sort of scrambled down each of the hills, which probably wasn't the fastest method. I should have tried to run down, but I was a little uncertain of the people that were in front of me and I didn't want to tumble onto someone just 90 seconds into the race.
After snaking up and over the hill three or four times we turned to a series of a dozen or so low hurdles. They really weren't hard at all, but my heart was racing and I tried to focus on calming down and relaxing a bit. A lot of people were already walking and I decided right there that my goal was to finish the race without walking between the obstacles. We finished the hurdles and then started on a fairly long, straight run. About a third of the way into that stretch there was a trailer filled with hay and covered by a blue tarp. We had to climb onto and scramble over the hay and underneath the tarp. Not too tough, but I did get slowed down a bit by the guys in front of me.
After that I really focused on slowing my heart and finding a good pace. There were a couple firefighters in front of me that I used for pacing. We reached a turn and a pair of walls that were about five feet tall. I'm 6-3, so the walls weren't too high for me, though I did get my foot caught on one for half a second. One of the firefighters hopped it really easily, though. I chalked it up to firefighter training, like Billy Baldwin from Backdraft.
As soon as we cleared the five footers, we turned to another long run and could see a much taller wall in the distance. That one didn't look like a lot of fun, and I figured it was in the eight to ten foot range. I thought about the advice to hit the obstacles with speed, and I pictured myself just running straight into it and going "splat!" I wasn't sure how fast I should (or could) be going when I got there, so I tried to not think about it and just keep running.
With all the obstacles, one of the most important keys was to pick the right spot. There was enough room for three or four people on the wall, and I saw one guy really struggling to make it over. Everyone else had moved to avoid him, but I calculated that he would either (a) make it over, or (b) give up and do his push-ups, by the time I got there. (If you can't complete an obstacle you have to do push-ups). I was right, and the guy gave up just as I was getting to the wall, which gave me a nice open spot.
I hit the wall at a medium speed and easily got my hands to the top. I stopped for a second with my forearms on the top of the wall while my legs scrambled and my arms and shoulders hoisted me over. I'm sure I wasn't the most graceful wall-climber, but I did make it in one try and it didn't take me too long.
By that point my entire body was pretty exhausted. It's sort of amazing, because the obstacles had not been super difficult, but the constant running meant my muscles didn't have the time to fully recharge with oxygen. Thankfully, there weren't too many obstacles for the next mile or two. The next obstacle was a fairly short, angled cargo net. This wasn't too tough at all and was about half as tall as the net we climbed in fourth grade gym class. So, thanks Mr. Coulsen for preparing me for the Spartan Race!
After that, we ran some more, finally getting off the concrete and into the woods. We had to crawl through the dirt under some ropes right as we entered the woods. It wasn't too tough, though my hands got really, really dirty. I saw other competitors that didn't have any dirt on their hands and I just didn't understand how they did it.
The run through the woods was pretty meandering, and I kept hoping that the next turn would be the last. We had to jump through a small "web" of barbed wire that was about two feet off the ground and there was a small pile of tree limbs and branches we had to clear. That reminded me that the Spartan Race website showed a fire jump, so at least I had something to look forward to.
I'm not sure how long we were in the woods, but it had to be a mile or so. There were several people that took short walking breaks, but I kept jogging along. I only passed a handful of people on the run, but I don't think anyone passed me. For most of the time in the woods I was sort of bored. Maybe they should have had some Huns jump out and attack us or something. If not that, maybe another wall to climb over. Something.
When we finally got out of the woods we had another six or eight short hurdles. They weren't any higher than the first set, but we all moved over them just a little bit slower. The guy in front of me had much better hurdle form than I did, but I decided that I didn't really care.
After the hurdles there was another run to a big dirt/rock/log pile that was maybe 20 feet tall. Remember what I said about picking the right spot? Well, apparently I didn't, as I picked the wrong spot and got stuck behind a girl that sort of stopped half way up. The guy I was running with flew past me and opened up a 15 foot lead on me. I actually caught him on the run to the next obstacle and he said that he had never run three miles before. I looked at my watch and we were at almost exactly 30 minutes with only a few more obstacles to go. I thought that was pretty good, as I knew we were just about to the home stretch.
The next obstacle was a rock climbing wall that we had to cross left-to-right. It was maybe 20 or 25 feet long and had wooden blocks nailed to it at random. If you touch the ground or the top of the wall you had to do 30 push-ups.
I didn't quite understand the instructions about how to successfully complete and "dismount" the wall, but I thought you had to go under the support beam and end up on the other side.
I got on the wall and seemed to be doing OK. I made sure to use my feet more than my hands and made steady progress, even thought it may have been a little bit slow. With about two steps left I sort of got stuck. I knew that I needed to take a step that I wasn't fully comfortable with, but I was also so close to the end that I figured I could make it. I took that step, and the next and I was right next to the end. That was when I lost it. I'm not sure what happened, but I found myself standing on the ground chanting "f$*%, f$*%, f$*%, f$*%, f$*% ." I moved to the end of the wall, dropped to the ground and did my push-ups.
Thinking about it now, I was so close to the end that I probably could have just jumped off the wall and assumed that I completed it successfully. There were Spartan Race officials there, but I doubt any would have made a big deal of it. I never even considered that, as I instantly knew that I didn't feel like I completed it, so I did the push-ups and got on my way.
Oh, this is probably a good time to say that I've been talking about taking a rock climbing class for a couple months now. I guess I should have gotten off my butt and signed up, huh?
After the wall I knew I was almost done. I jogged to the home stretch and saw about half a dozen people doing push-ups. Then I looked closer and saw some more trying in vain to throw a spear into a hula hoop about 20 feet away. I walked up, selected my weapon and gave it a heave.
Most people were coming up well short, so I put a lot of air under my spear. When I played golf we'd often say "never up, never in" and I made sure my spear would get to the target, whether or not it hit the target. Of course, my aim was way off and my spear fluttered to the ground. I dropped and did 20 more push-ups. In all honesty, these weren't the finest push-ups I've ever done, but I thought they were pretty good under the circumstances.
The second to last obstacle was a dirt crawl under some barbed wire. I guess my butt was a little high, as I caught my shorts and shirt on the first wire. Oh well. Next time I wear those I'll have a little reminder of the Spartan Race. I got a little lower and got to the end and made my way to the angled wall.
That wall was the one obstacle I got a good look at before my wave started. It was angled at about 45 degrees and had ropes that reached about half way down. Lots of people struggled with it, as it was coated in some sort of grease or oil. Others seemed to hit it at top speed and run right to the top. At this point I was pretty exhausted, but I knew it was better to go all-out for one try than to half-ass it two or three times. So, I took a wide turn and started running. I took a few steps on the wall without even thinking about the rope.
I thought I was going to make it to the top without needing to use the rope and then I sort of stopped moving. I quickly reached to grab the rope and hung on for a split second to reset myself. After that I was able to scramble over the other side and start the run to the finish.
Somehow I had forgotten about the two gladiators with pugil sticks. I had watched dozens of people make their run through the gladiators. Some were strong and took them head on while others made the run with more than a little reservation. I decided that I wanted to end strong so I found that last bit of energy and made my charge. I tried to juke the first guy a little bit, going from my right to left before sprinting to the finish. I guess my juke wasn't all that good and I caught his pugil stick straight in the chest.
It was a good shot, but I kept my feet and ran to the finish.
I was a little surprised at how exhausted I was at the finish. I collapsed in a chair and took off my timing chip. Amy came and gave me a big kiss and a hug and we found some coconut water to rehydrate.
I was muddy, banged up, exhausted and even bleeding just a tiny bit. I pulled a bit of skin off my left palm about 90 seconds into the race. I sprained my left pinky somewhere near the end (well, that's when I felt it, at least). I ripped my shorts and shirt. My shoes were a muddy disaster. My hands, knees and shins were black with mud and dirt. As I'm typing this the next day, my right forearm sort of hurts, so I'm assuming there's a bruise there, too. With all of that, I had a great time and would do the race again in a second. I was proud that I never had to walk and that I gave it my all at each of the challenges.
It was only after I finished that I realized there was no fire jump. I guess the site in Brooklyn didn't let the race organizers make any mud or fire pits. Oh well. I guess that means I'll have a reason to do the race again.
I think my time was about 35 minutes, which I think is pretty good. Amazingly, the overall winner was a sixteen year old kid. I'm not sure if that makes me feel old or slow. Probably both.
Either way, I know one thing:
I AM SPARTAN.