This post is not sponsored, and I entered the race the plebian way (I paid) but I will be offering a free race entry to a Spartan Sprint later this week in an upcoming post. Check back and be cool and muddy like me.
If you don’t like to read (you should probably find another blog if that’s true then, maybe one with rainbow text and more chocolate Chobani) I offer you the upfront, immediate, Cliff’s Notes upshot of it all:
As expected, I am good at brute suffering, and bad at gym class.
The long version starts with the most challenging of all obstacles faced over our weekend: Traveling with my baby who hates the car.
That was 1,000 times more difficult than the race. Obviously. I guess I should start with an overall recap though.
The race: Spartan Sprint, Blue Mountain, PA. Five mile obstacle race.
The team: Me, sister Jess, husband Walt, sister’s boyfriend Alex
The time: 2:23. So at some point it became clear we didn’t care about our time any longer. I tried to do the monkey bars three times for instance. Other times we watched people try to do things like the javelin before we tried, hoping to benefit from hive mind. My good Samaritan husband held the net climb for like ten people after us. Stuff like that. At one point, Walt and Jess spent five minutes trying to open a packet of electrolyte thingies. I yelled “What is this, brunch at Sarabeth’s on the Upper West Side?!” to the amusement of people who probably didn’t know what I was talking about, as we were in the middle of BumbleCowMountain, Pennsylvania. Maybe they were politely laughing at the crazy lady in the muddy sports bra who was breastfeeding her baby at the starting line earlier.
I figured I could make up for agility and coordination with jokes. A crowd favorite was my quip that the cement pull was like being married (well the one person in the vicinity who was over the age of thirty laughed). I thought Take My Wife Please jokes were apropos as were in the Poconos in some deranged summer camp for the slow. Moving. Slow moving people.
The burpees: Alex was the no burpee champ. He didn’t do a single burpee the whole race. Go 25-year-old good at sports guy! You rock. This was made for you. And also you’re a good athlete. I hate you. Except for the part with the hills (we will get to that).
I did the most burpees: monkey bars (this really disappointed me), the rope climb, the javelin, the transverse rock climb wall, and the stumps. Yes, that’s right, I couldn’t do five obstacles. Not impressive.
Jess missed the rope climb, the javelin and the transverse rock climb. Walt also missed the javelin, the stumps, and the transverse walls. So they did 30 x 30 burpees and I did 5 x 30 burpees. That’s 150. 150% suckage.
The training: We just did whatever we normally did. My husband was inspired to do some monkeying around at the playground a few times and was following some silly man Navy Seals YouTube workout with pushups, pullups, burpees and squats but since I’m giving him the award for the Best All Around Spartan Sprint Performance, it must have paid off. Alex and Jess ran once or twice. I just ran and did my normal stuff. I thought I was golden because I can do a pullup now again! Wooo! Shouldn’t I be strong enough to do any obstacle? (No.)
The hard: The hardest part of the race in terms of exertion was definitely the first half hour or so, as we ascended the double black bunny star death star diamond rattleback snake hill or ski slope thing.
You can see it kind of in the photo above. It’s where the ski lifts end. So first we hike up a steep hill and it’s a decent hill. No one can run. We were behind some guys who were kind of huffing it already and they thought they had jokes. They need to take it to the Catskills, buddy, because you ain’t got jokes. Also, they were blocking me. Because, you see, I was ONLY good at the hill part. I needed to keep booking it. My husband called up, slow down, pace yourself, since we didn’t know what we were in for. Now that we did the whole thing, we know we should have went WAY WAY WAY FASTER. Nothing after the top of the hill was aerobically very taxing. Yes, it taxed my embarrassment muscles, as I had to do burpees like a little nerd girl that I am, since I couldn’t even do the damn monkey bars, but no, I did not end the race feeling exerted like I sprinted a 5K or something. Walt did 50 pushups at the end to make it a workout. I see why people did it twice. Once you knew what it all was, you knew where to go fast and how to pace it.
We theoretically could have ran down the hill for the second half but I was slipping and sliding just trotting. My Saucony Mirages were kind of slippery. Maybe trail sneakers would help me run? I also tittered like a lady when I started slipping and my sister and I refused to run down the steep slopes, turn an ankle, only to stop at the next obstacle and wait in line. It made no sense. During the little mud lake we all swam instead of walked to try to pick up the pace.
But back to the first hill. I was kind of passing people on the hill part and feeling good. It was heart pounding in a good way. Then we picked up our sandbags for the final ascent. Men had 40 pounds and women 20 although some of the women were doing MAN BAGS BABY. I considered doing a man bag but I figured I only weigh 125 or so, it’s only fair for me to hoist a delicate ladybag. I stuck that sucker on my belly like a baby and leaned forward so I wouldn’t fall down the slippery grass and gravel. People were falling and stuff so it was legitimately dangerous. So here comes my moment of glory. Don’t worry, it was all downhill after this, literally and figuratively. I was kicking ass on the sandbags. 250-pound muscle dudes were stopping and resting, Alex was dying somewhere halfway down the hill and I just kept going. My strategy was not to stop and it worked. Little clumps of guy teams were like Okay, now let’s rest for ten seconds and then take three steps! Only three steps and then we rest again! And so on. And they weren’t muddy so it’s not like they did it already. Maybe the 40 pounds for guys was exceptionally harder even if you were 200 pounds than my 20 pounds of baby stand-in? Or MAYBE I JUST HOLD A TWENTY POUND BABY EVERY DAY FOR A YEAR? AND BEFORE THAT ROCKED A BIG ASS BABY IN MY BODY? Yay for being good at something.
So I got to the top and generously waited for my husband who did great. Then waited. And waited for the rest of our team. We were all team-like and yelling you can do it! If I was alone I would have been way down the hill by that point and then karma would have come kicked my ass when I needed help on the one hard wall climb and no one would have been there. So it all evened out in the end, but it’s interesting that my favorite part was the part everyone hated? I could have done that like three times in a row. It was awesome.
But the bad thing was that we thought there was MORE stuff like that later in the race, like a bucket carry I had heard about, but there wasn’t and so we were pacing ourselves for no reason.
Other hard things were sports.
I don’t know how anyone did the transverse wall rock climb. This was post mud-pits, post-lake swim, post everything wet and slimy and muddy. I couldn’t even grip one foot on the first nub. Some bearded mountain man appeared (I think he lived there and emerged once a year for the Spartan race) and wisely advised us to pull a clump of grass out of the ground and use it as a glove grip. This helped Alex get across, but none of the rest of us could manage. This seemed to be the hardest of all the obstacles, as 85% of men and women couldn’t do it.
The javelin was also hard…maybe 35% of the people got it? It was kind of a crap shoot. I mean, it’s a target. You either get it or not.
I was really, really bummed I couldn’t do the monkey bars. All the guys could and probably half the women. I just could not for the life of me reach the third bar. It was so far away. I think it was in Pittsburgh. My sister is shorter than me and she did it. She is a monkey-like hominid though, so she had an advantage. Just kidding, she’s just really strong, like if we are in a dark alley and strangers accost us she will flex her biceps and they will run screaming. But I still didn’t GET why I couldn’t do it. I made my team wait as I tried again and again and then did my first burpees of the day. It was a bad moment because I kind of realized once I did the first set of burpees, I wasn’t going to conquer the rope climb, and who knows what else.
The easy: The tires were way too easy. Maybe I accidentally picked a way too light one? There were several of different weights but no way to tell what was what.
The barbed wire crawls were easy. I could have done that all day. I developed a (patent to come) half drag, half crawl method, similar to that weird-crawling baby you know, and it worked well. I didn’t get scratched up badly.
The walls weren’t as bad as I thought. I did the girl versions (used the notches) and the one hard wall was tilted toward us, above a semi-deep mud pit. So you had to scramble over it, leaning sort of backwards, with wet hands. Some girls were falling off and landing underwater in the mud. Jess and I did it the girl way, using the brackets holding it up and a boost to the butt from our significant others. That’s the real world in action, folks. Do you think in a real zombie apocalypse I’m not attaching myself to a capable man and eating his underground bunker baked beans?
The ugly: I ate mud. Yup, I bit it on the rope climb. Made it a few notches and slipped right down, no way to break my fall, face under mudwater. Mud on the teeth, and a mouth full of grit. I think my sports bra may have even migrated. I hope there are no race action shots of that moment. Hopefully someone at Sparta HQ will take mercy on me if so.
After my spectacular rope climb attempt, my sister tried it, made it pretty high (halfway maybe?) and then…yup, slid down, huge splash, face under water. I think I jinxed her. We both thought we could have done it strength wise and yet our skillz were a fail. If we ever do this again, I am training on ropes and monkey bars while it’s raining. It’s the only way.
The deep thoughts:
Okay, so from what I understand, the Spartan is the only timed obstacle race. It seems more serious, and I think it is, and it’s definitely a fun, well-made race. It’s challenging, it’s varied in the fitness demands it makes on runners, and I like that there are penalties for obstacles.
But. I don’t think it 100% makes sense for it to be timed, the way it’s set up now. The only way timing makes sense is for there to be a time penalty for obstacles. Otherwise, there’s really no way to know if running to obstacles and doing 30 burpees is faster than waiting in line and doing the obstacle. If you’re running for time, it might make sense to do the former, but then what the heck is the point of that? The 30 burpees were faster than many of the bottlenecks. Besides the elite racers I’m not sure timing means anything. People stay and help people get over the rope climb, there are lines, there are places you can’t pass people, there is no real monitoring of burpees. People could totally cheat and just not do burpees (why one would do that escapes me, but still).
The sleeping: Henry wasn’t horrible. He slept decently (woke up three times or so between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.) out of apparent solidarity with our team. So I didn’t feel extremely tired or anything.
Other obstacles: The cement pull was pretty easy. The net climb scared me at first but was easy. The other walls weren’t bad. Oh, the stumps. Those stupid, stupid stumps.
They were slippery. I have pretty good balance. But slipping was almost like the luck of the draw (or sneaker). The pulley weight was pretty easy but I was so paranoid about being such a spaz that I went really slow so it wouldn’t slide out of my grip. The gloves we wore were so helpful for this one.
One part of the uphill was so vertical that we had to use a rope to climb up. That was fun, especially because the bigger people below me holding it were making me sway side to side. I was riding it instead of climbing it. The lake swim was no big deal, and felt really good. There were two or three water stations and one had electrolyte packs. The slip and slide down the mountain into the lake was fun but Alex got a little hurt on a rock under the slide. The mud pits were fun, getting muddy overall was fun. Our weather was really great. 70s and overcast, no rain. Free beer.
Overall, I liked it, and doing a race as a team was a new experience for me. I don’t truly feel like I raced though. I didn’t feel like I pushed myself to really see what I could do. Now that I have one of these under my sports bra, I think it would be easier to know how to push it. I would practice the skills a lot more before the next one. Rope climbing (while wearing Crisco) and monkey bars.
Me and the monkey bars have a grudge match. And I’m glad to know if push came to shove, I can cart my children up mountains, while the frat boys play their paintball games. Just kidding. It wasn’t like a bunch of guys playing games in the woods. Well, it kind of was. I’m making my team do a straight race next time. One of those pump and runs. Bench press and then run.
I’m a crotchety old racer. I will even demand we run in 1970s running sneakers and cotton. Give me an old fashioned foot race, and perhaps a fisticuffs showdown. It was a great day, and I would do another one, but doing the triathlon I did felt much harder. Much harder to sustain a true effort across three sports and the mental challenge of the open water swim felt like I truly accomplished something difficult and comprehensive fitness-oriented. Take this with the concession that we went really slowly and should have probably pushed it more, but we didn’t particularly know what the hell we were doing. And also, I would have broke a leg going downhill any faster. I need my legs to carry my real life sandbags.