Last Sunday, I participated in my first ever Spartan Sprint. And now I’m hooked.
For awhile now, I’ve been wanting to do some sort of mud run/obstacle course race, simply because it looked fun. Also, I figured if these bitches could do it, then I surely could. For those who don’t know, Spartan is one of the most popular obstacle course race series in the country, if not the world. The races are usually held on mountainous and/or hilly terrain (the Central Florida race was on a giant cow farm out in BFE) with obstacles designed to test you both physically and mentally. By the time you jump over the fire pit and cross the finish line, you feel like a badass because you know you definitely WORKED for that finisher’s medal. People wanting to participate in a Spartan race have several to choose from:
- The Stadion – held in sports stadiums (think Fenway Park); 3 miles, 20 obstacles
- The Sprint – 3 miles, 20 obstacles
- The Super – 8 miles, 25 obstacles
- The Beast – 13 miles, 30 obstacles
- The Ultra – 30 miles, 60 obstacles
If you complete a Sprint, a Super, and a Beast within one calendar year, you receive a coveted Trifecta medal. I’m pretty new to the Spartan community, but already I can tell that many participants make it their mission to earn one or multiple trifectas. They chase after it with the same vigor and enthusiasm as an unneutered male dog chasing after a lay.
I myself didn’t want to bite off more than I could chew, so I signed up for the Sprint. I figured I could at least do three miles, and have a decent chance at the obstacles thanks to my CrossFit training. These races can get pricey, but I signed up way back in April, when Spartan was having its “spring cleaning” sale, which waived the registration fee. All I had to pay were insurance fees and taxes, which came to a whopping $16. A bitch likes a deal.
Here were all the obstacles in my race:
- Hay Wall
- Monkey Bars
- Multi Rig
- Sandbag Carry #2 (the first sandbag carry was only available in the longer races)
- Inverted Wall
- Atlas Carry
- Spear Throw
- Rolling Mud Dunk Wall
- Barbed Wire
- Slip Wall
- Herc Hoist
- Clif Bucket Brigade (because Clif protein bars are the official bars of Spartan, GET IT?)
- Rope Climb
- Vertical Cargo
- Craft A-Frame
- Fire Jump
With Spartan, you get one try at an obstacle. If you fail, then you have to complete 30 Burpees before moving onto the next obstacle. After I signed up, I did a little research on how strict Spartan was with that rule, and it seemed to vary per race, and depended on the volunteers manning the obstacles (for the open waves, which are the regular folk – elites competing for money are strictly held to that rule, and for good reason). At my race, the volunteers weren’t anal about it at all. If you wanted to, you could have a couple of gos at an obstacle before accepting your burpee fate, and nobody was really paying attention to how many burpees you were actually doing. It was more of an honor system type of situation. Full disclosure: while my friend and I DID do burpees for each failed obstacle, we didn’t do the full 30. We did 20 the first time, then just did 15 each time thereafter. There are some hard-core Spartans who will nit-pick and say we didn’t really “earn” our medals because we didn’t do the full amount of burpees each time, but those people can suck mah bawls. The bruises and bug bites covering my body say otherwise.
Since a lot of these obstacles were strength-based, I felt more confident going into this race thanks to CrossFit. I even went to the Open House that Friday before and tested the Herc Hoist, and was pleased when I could pull the sandbag up to the top. But, as I found out on Sunday, by the time you get to a lot of these obstacles, you’re covered in mud, which adds even more of a challenge. You’re tired, you’re wet, and getting a good grip and decent footing is hard.
While we here in Florida have been blessed with nice weather for the better part of the last month and a half, on Sunday Mother Nature decided to give us the big ol’ finger and piss all over everything – literally. The skies opened up, and it was raining non-stop all morning and in the early part of the afternoon. My friend and I were signed up for the 12:15 p.m. heat, and had to wait around 45 minutes before we could actually start, as Spartan had to briefly postpone the event because of the lightning that was waaay too close for comfort. Here’s super exciting footage of us waiting out the storm in my car:
FINALLY the lightning went away, and the rain cleared up long enough for us to complete the race. The hay wall, overwalls, and hurdles were a nice warmup and confidence booster, as they weren’t too difficult to complete. The hay wall and overwalls I could do by myself, and my friend gave me a boost for the hurdles. The monkey bars and the multi-rig, however – yeah, right. My ass hasn’t been on a set of monkey bars since I was maybe 9, so my body was NOT EQUIPPED to be-bop itself down them now that it was 35 and weighing considerably more. I burpeed these out.
The sandbag carry I could do, and I actually completed the Inverted Wall, with the help of a couple of Good Samaritans. I thought I might shit myself from the fear of heights (even though it wasn’t that high), but all was well. My pants weren’t destined to be filled with mud until later in the race.
I completed the Atlas Carry, and figured the only way I would make the Spear Throw would be because of dumb luck, which, of course, didn’t happen – I burpeed it out. The Rolling Mud Dunk Wall and the Barbed Wire Crawl were next, and these two obstacles were where we got the muddiest – but they were hella fun. For the barbed wire, I started to do the Army Crawl, but then I saw others were rolling themselves like a pencil, so I started to do that. It worked like a charm, AND conserved my energy. Then came the Slip Wall. I remember walking over to this obstacle and saying to Stacey, “I’m not sure about this one.” The wall was slick with mud, and, while I was wearing trail shoes, they were trash when it came to obstacle course racing. I lost my footing and slid on more than one occasion while completing previous obstacles, and I figured it probably wasn’t the best to tempt fate and try to ascend.
But then I was like, “Fuck that” and just went for it.
I ALMOST made it. Just a few more steps, and I would have been able to swing one leg over the top and pull myself over, but I ended up losing my footing and sliding back down the wall. Luckily, I remembered to lightly grip the rope so as to avoid rope burn. I thought about another attempt, but my hands were sore and I knew I needed them for later obstacles, so I passed. As disappointed as I was that I wasn’t able to complete this obstacle, I was SUPER impressed with myself for at least trying, and doing better than I expected.
Following the Slip Wall was Twister, and I KNEW I wouldn’t be able to do that one, especially since my hands were all slippery from the mud. HOWEVER, a Good Samaritan wearing a kilt and a Santa Claus hat had me brace against him and I was able to complete it. Thanks, Kind Stranger!
Herc Hoist was next, and while I was able to do it just fine during the open house, I was not able to complete it by myself during the race. I was pretty spent, my hands were still muddy and sore, and my grip was all but shot. However, we were allowed to work together to complete this obstacle, so I helped Stacey hoist her sandbag when she got stuck halfway up and lower it slowly to the ground (which was worse than hoisting it up, to be honest). Then came the Clif Bucket Brigade:
I completed it, but not without a struggle. The path on which we had to carry our buckets was hilly, and covered in mud, which posed a challenge for me due to the aforementioned crap trail shoes I was wearing. I had to set down my bucket multiple times on the path, and Stacey had to help me carry it up the final hill. I also may have accidentally anally fisted a complete stranger in the guise of trying to stabilize him. He was right in front of me and slipped, and had he fallen, he would have taken me down with him. No bueno.
I am also pretty sure I anally fisted Stacey while trying to help her complete Olympus (burpeed out of the rope climb, because who am I trying to kid?). But she was a good sport about it, and said, “That’s what friends are for, right?” THAT’S RIGHT, STACEY. If your friends aren’t willing to risk an appendage up the pooper while trying to help each other complete an obstacle race, what good are they?
The last two obstacles before the fire pit and finish were the vertical and A-Frame cargo nets. I made two good-faith attempts to scale the vertical cargo net before throwing in the towel. I think a lot of it was mental on my part. That wall was high, and the netting wasn’t stable. During one of my attempts I climbed a foot or two, and then just held on, swaying in the breeze like a fucking loser as others hopped on and began to scale, shaking both the net and my ability to move. The A-Frame net, though, I completed like a GODDAMN CHAMPION. And then Stacey and I held hands and jumped over the fire pit together and ran across the finish line, completing the 3.5 miles in 2 hours and 4 minutes:
And that was how I ended my first Spartan race. The high I felt when I crossed the finish line and collected my medal was something I hadn’t experienced from a race in awhile. It was a high that came from putting in the work, facing your fears, and realizing that you can do a whole bunch of shit you didn’t think you could do. Spartan is coming back to Central Florida next December, and I signed up as soon as I saw the Facebook announcement.
And next year, I WILL complete those monkey bars. And how!