If you would have told me in January that I’d be running my first Spartan Race in August I would have thought you were crazy. The thought of mud, a touch (or more) of blood and tears from 20-25 obstacles while running almost 5 miles just wouldn’t have been even remotely close on my radar screen.
But now after the race, remembering back to the mud, the insane obstacles testing and taxing my upper body strength and mental rigidity and all the while running a beautiful 4.76 mile course – well, lets just say that I’ve caught a bug that has no cure except to register for my upcoming Savage Race near Houston, TX in November, complete my Spartan Trifecta in 2016, and maybe even sneak in a Tough Mudder next year as well.
Yes – I’ve changed as a person – both physically and mentally – and am finding myself obsessed with the challenges ahead.
But let’s get back to the Pac West Spartan Sprint in Washougal. If you remember, my lovely wife encouraged me to sign up for this race happening while on our anniversary trip to Portland. And boy, am I glad she did!
When we arrived, I was struck by the sheer number of participants and spectators – all there to enjoy one huge party in the mud. The number of people I met both on the course and off was amazing, the electricity and excitement high, all the while either anticipating – or recovering – from one tough race.
And tough race was right. The course was demanding and not designed to simply hand out participant medals without a fight. In both the map above and video below, you can see that the first 2-3 miles were there to remind us that this was not only an obstacle course but a run as well. The trails were beautifully groomed (there were a couple sections of nothing but dust limiting visibility like nothing else) which made running them a blast.
But it was just a couple of obstacles in that I knew they were going to test our strength and stamina while pushing us to the limits. It was after completing the sandbag carry and heading to the log carry that I could sense the exertion on my body from the prior obstacles starting to affect my performance on the next – only to be followed quickly by the Uneven Monkey Bars, the Atlas Carry and the Plate Drag immediately after.
But I was up for the challenge.
It wasn’t long after that I met up with the dreaded Wall Series. To this point, I hadn’t trained once how to climb over the walls – other than watch a couple of great videos giving tips. But even with the lack of training, I have to say that I was probably most proud of this obstacle. I pulled myself up and over my first attempt on all three walls using my upper body strength and brute determination. I know these walls serve as a metaphor for many lessons I’ve learned in both my training and my life – all to be discussed in another post.
It was at the Spear Throw (a.k.a. The Burpee Maker) where I met my first match. Yes, the Burpee Maker had the best of me and I succumbed to a set of 30 penalty burpees. I will say though that I did them with pride and sense of accomplishment – knowing that it took the ultimate burpee-obstacle to give me my first penalty.
The grueling display of obstacles continued to reveal themselves one after another. The Slip Wall (pictured above from the opposite side) with huge puddle of mud before it made it that much more fun. Why? Just think huge incline, muddy feet, muddy wall, muddy rope and tons of fun!
Oh, and did I mention mud (the above picture of me crawling out of the mud gives me flashbacks from a 60’s horror movie)? There was no holding back on the sheer tonnage of mud used for this race between the moats, the barbed wire crawl, and even the Dunk Wall. The picture above is the Dunk Wall – with successful completion only happening by fully submerging under that lake of muddy water and emerging on the other side. Don’t let that wall fool you though, it went down another foot below the water level, just to make you work for it. Let’s just say that my flamboyantly-colored shorts matched everyone else’s at the end – a dark, caked-mud color.
Finally, the rest of the course never let up. I let out a bit of a hesitant sigh when I saw the upcoming Bucket Brigade (fill up a bucket with rock and carry it up and down a muddy mountain) and a cheer when approaching the Herc Hoist (pulling an extremely heavy bean bag up 30 feet into the air via rope and pulley) as I had been looking forward to every last minute of that challenge. Let’s just say it was even harder than expected.
The last two obstacles were pretty hard on me. The Clif Multi-Bar (rings and bars) were a bit more difficult. To this day I’m not sure if my grip just gave out or if I truly slipped off due to muddy hands. Honestly I’m sure it was my grip – which is why I’m adding a ton of training to improve. The Rope Climb was going well until I realized how high I was. I let that fear overcome me and wound up falling halfway down into the mud pit. Let’s just say that won’t happen again. The next time I face that obstacle will result in a successful cow bell ring!
Finally – the above picture was taking at the end of the race. As I mentioned just a few short paragraphs ago, the old me wouldn’t have ever dreamed – or desired – to have been at this race, whether as a spectator and especially as a participant. But the new me relishes this picture and craves to go back. Its the sheer joy of the adventure, of pushing myself past barriers and through to new heights that makes me want to keep going.
Spartan promises with their trademark saying, “You’ll Know at the Finish Line”. Out of the thousand words the picture above states, I know it says at least five:
I know…I’m a Spartan!
Don’t miss the video below with access to the full race – all in just 27 minutes. I hope you enjoy it even a small portion of how much I enjoyed it.