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Jul 15 / Jane

PA Spartan Sprint 2013

Yesterday Alex and I completed our first Spartan Race.  Friends, Issy and Dan, convinced me to sign up when a Living Social deal came around in the winter.  I convinced Alex to join me by agreeing to go to the shooting range with him if he raced with me.  (I have not gone to the range yet, but I plan to uphold my end!)  Together we recruited more friends and family and ended up with a team of 10 at the starting line: Issy, Dan, Alex, myself, my sister Kate, her friends, Megan, Erica and Tommy, our friend Scuba Steve, and Issy’s friend, Andrew.

We arrived at Blue Mountain around 9am, checked in and geared up.  By 10:30am we were in the starting chute being reminded to be careful, but no matter what we encounter, we’d signed [several] waivers.  We did a head count, and decided that we would wait for the team after each obstacle, minus Tommy, who wanted to compete on his own.

Alex and I before our first Spartan Race!

Alex and I before our first Spartan Race!

Team Swindon Mallets (minus one!)

Team Swindon Mallets (minus one!) Alex, myself, Issy, Megan, Kate, Erica, Tommy, Dan and Scuba

The first part of the race ran us up a green trail, then we switched over to a black, straight up.  We got a breather at the top before the first obstacle, a set of walls we had to go over, under, then through.  As agreed upon, we waited for our team members, and Scuba was having some trouble.  When Scuba made it through the last wall and we headed into a wooded goat path up to a water station at mile 1 (all straight uphill).  In the woods, the next wave was passing us by while we tried to stay as a team, and we decided to split at the water station.  Kate and her friends headed off first, then Issy and Dan, then Alex, myself, Scuba and Andrew; three groups.

We continued to climb up under the ski lift (black trail), until near the summit we hit the next obstacle, The Sandbag Carry.  I got a 20lb sandbag, while the men carried 40lbs up a double-black trail. Then we looped back down on the other side, a longer, less-steep double-black.  It was not easy!  But after that I felt quite accomplished; I didn’t even need to stop on the uphill, yay!  We saw Scuba and Andrew on the way down from their carry, in good spirits and split from them then.

The next portion was more uphill.  There was a rope to assist in the steepest portion, then we finally crested the top.  The next obstacle was what they called the “Tractor Pull,” a cinder block on a chain that you had to drag up and around a certain point back to the start.  This was fairly easy after the last obstacle, mine kept flipping and pulling on my arms, but it was not so heavy overall.  We headed around the corner to a line of obstacles next.

The first was the Tire Flip, men and women’s specific, where we flipped a truck and tractor tire, respectively, one way and back.  I found the women’s a little too easy, but I think the men’s would have been too challenging for me.  Then we headed to the Spear Throw, one shot to hit the hay bail.  Alex and I both failed and had to do 30 burpees in punishment.  Up next was the Monkey Bars.  They were Ninja Warrior style with differing distances and heights, but maybe only 10 bars in total.  I had no confidence going into this one, but surprisingly made it through no problem.  Alex, on the other hand, failed pretty early on.  I watched as he did his burpees then we stopped at our two mile mark, another water station!

There was one more obstacle before heading back downhill.  I can’t recall the name, but it was a pully, men and women’s specific, were you raised a cement block to the top of the system, then back down slowly.  Issy and Dan had mentioned this obstacle the night before and we’d discussed strategy.  Neither of theirs worked for me.  I had no leverage to move backwards and pull the block up.  So I stayed in place and used my body weight to bring the rope down until I made it to the top.  It was difficult, but again, manageable so I felt accomplished.

We headed back into the woods and it was all downhill from there.  It was slower going due to the footing, but a nice reprieve from the steep uphills.  It was awhile before we hit the next obstacle, a cargo net, just a simple up and over, but there was a bottle neck of participants.  There was a confrontation on the side between two men who were trying to run up to the front and a woman who stood up and said what we were all thinking, that we were all in the same boat and to get back in line…  It was like we were in traffic and they were trying to bypass in the shoulder.  Yes, it’s a competition, but it’s still annoying.  She ended up watching them do burpees in punishment for not completing the obstacle.  While we continued to wait, I saw Issy go over the top and got her attention.  Alex and I hooked up with them after the net (where I nearly slipped over the top, see what I get for calling the obstacle simple?).

The four of us continued downhill, including a steep portion where we needed a rope to assist us, until we happened upon the next obstacle, a row of small hills each flanked by water pits.  So we headed into thigh-deep water, up over a small mound, then back into a water pit, and over another mound, three or four times before continuing downhill.

Finally nearing the bottom, we hit my favorite obstacle of the day, the slip and slide.  We jumped onto a slide into one of the man-made lakes and swam across (and under some floating tubes for added challenge).  It was awesome.  And the coolness of the water was very welcome given the heat and humidity, but it did wash away whatever was left of my sunscreen…

The next obstacle out of the water was the Log Hop, a series of tree stumps you had to navigate across.  Thankfully, the buddy system was allowed, so holding Alex’s hand I made it right across.  While Issy was completing the set I’d done, I assisted Alex on the next one over, not knowing in the middle we would encounter an especially short log, further away than the others.  Needless to say, he didn’t make it, even with my assistance.  Him and Issy ended up doing burpees while Dan and I swatted away horse flies.

The mile 3 water station awaited us, then another bottle neck at a barbed wire crawl.  The wire wasn’t too low, so I was able to squat-walk it, avoiding the need to put my knees down.  A lot of people army-crawled or rolled through, but there were a lot of rocks.  The end of the barbed wire brought us to an inverted wall and water to mid-thigh.  We jumped into the water pit then I got up on the wall.  I got my arms over and laid with my stomach over the top wondering how to get over…  I swung my legs up and made it, impressive!  I nearly lost my race bib though.  (I wonder why a race like this even needs them?  We had headbands with our numbers and timing chips on our wrists…  Must just be for show and people like me who save them on a bib-wall!)  Alex followed me, grateful I didn’t need assistance (although he did get some mud in his face in the process when I jumped up, oops?).

The obstacles were getting closer together at this point, a sign of the end.  We came upon the “Traverse Wall” next, a rock wall of pegs, top and bottom, you had to move along, one shot.  After the mud in the last obstacle, the pegs were all slippery and I got about halfway before I lost my balance.  I did half a set of burpees for that, I really felt I gave enough effort on the obstacle not to punish myself with all 30.

We headed over a wall next (steps for the ladies), then to the rope climb.  I attempted it, but knew I was going very far, I really went nowhere…  So I did my 30 burpees.  Alex made it most of the way up but couldn’t grip in his Vibrams, so he joined me.  Kate and her friends were on the sidelines then.  And talked us through the very low barded wire, where we were on our forearms and bellies.  At the end of this, there was a slanted wall with rope.  A very muddy slanted wall and rope, that I got over on the first try!

The last two obstacles awaited: the fire pit (run and jump over), and the Gladiators (two men with foam q-tip thingies who were hitting participants right before the finish).  A woman in front of us face-planted over the fire pit and had to be carried off (oops? I think she tripped on a log on the opposite side).  Alex and I ran over together and through the Gladiators’ attack to our medals and a banana!

My gigantic leap over fire!

My gigantic leap over fire!

Our finish time was 3:22:15.  But with all the stopping and waiting in the beginning, it’s not indicative of the course or our performance.  The course was definitely difficult, 4 miles up and down a mountain, 17ish obstacles.  It was hard, but it was not impossible.  It was challenging and fun.  It was hot.  I am grateful Alex decided to bring his Camelbak.  We needed it!

We refueled at the finish and took some “after” shots before heading to the shower area and hosing off.  There were literally a line a hoses and changing tents (male & female), it was so fast and easy.  It felt good to get into dry clothes.

The "after" shot (minus two!)

The “after” shot (minus two!)

With the team back together (Scuba and Andrew had finished about 25min behind us), we redeemed our free beer and hats (from our Living Social deal) and picked a lunch spot.  We said goodbye to our first Spartan and headed into town for a much deserved late lunch/early dinner.

It was certainly something different.  It’s not comparable with the Warrior Dash I ran last year, it’s really on it’s own level.  It was challenging, but everything was doable.  Some things are more doable with some training or practice.  I can see how these things could get addicting.  I am already signed up for the next level Spartan race in September…  It will be longer but hopefully cooler!  There’s still time to sign up and join me for that one (Alex has had his fill, so I need a new buddy)!

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