With a Warrior Dash and last year’s PNW Spartan Race under my belt, I trained confidently for this year’s race. I knew what to expect, more or less, and knew what I was in for.
Matching team outfits had been made months in advance, (Thank you Aim High Academy for helping to make that happen) and fire socks delivered just hours before our last training session. We were geared up, training hard and — hopefully — ready to go.
Last year I struggled a little bit with strength and I didn’t want that to slow me down this year. So, for the last month I’ve been wearing a heavy weighted vest to crossfit consistently. The theory being that if I suddenly weighed 16lbs less come race day, everything would be easier. That sooorta worked. All the strength was easier, but I had less cardio conditioning this year which made the increased amount of uphill running that much worse. My Spartan partner, Josh, rocked the hills and was waiting for me at the top of nearly every one of them.
After getting situated with our bibs, headbands, and sharpie’d body numbers, we made our way to the already-forming line for our heat. Anxiously we chattered, awaiting the send-off speech. “Who am I?!”, he would yell. “I am a Spartan!” The crowd exclaimed vibrantly. “Who am I?! I am a Spartan!” “Spartans look to your left. Spartans look to your right. These are your fellow Spartans. Give them a high five!…” and a sea of high-fives from strangers commences. Then, in a puff a blue smoke we were off.
As with every OCR race I’ve done, the first bit is uphill, presumably to thin the herd before the obstacles. We ended up too far back and spent much of our time and energy picking our way through the lollygaggers.
First thing I noticed is that they ran the beginning of the course backwards from the year before. We were running up the hill we ran down at the end last year. I was expecting a one mile uphill run to the first obstacle. But at just after the half mile mark the military walls appeared. Just 4 foot bunny walls in succession, pretty easy to jump right over, though the taller and stronger were having an easier go of it.
The hill then turned decidedly downward. Loose dirt and rocks made for a precarious decent. I could hear another runner close on my heels. I just hoped that he didn’t biff it and take me out with him.
About a half mile later, we hit the big walls early in the race. Over-under-through. Over a five foot wall, under a wall, then through a hole about 3-4 feet off the ground. I gave that first 5 foot wall my best Spartan try but it wasn’t in the cards this year. Too muddy to get a foot grip and I didn’t see the safety step I was looking for. My Spartan partner Josh gave me a leg up and I popped right over. He muscled himself over no problems. The walls seemed to get progressively higher. Afterwards, a welcomed site. A water station! There was only one last year. They remedied that this year by adding several along the course.
Tire flip was next. Different sized tires for the men a women. They were relatively easy. Glad I had reviewed tire-flipping technique just days prior. Burpie free! High-fives were shared and on we ran.
More hills! Both up and down. There were so many more hills this year, and they were dry and dusty, making it decidedly more treacherous.
Finally at the bottom I spotted an obstacle I had been training this year due to a massive struggle with it last year — a cinder block dragged by a chain. I was confident and excited, then I saw the kicker… a four or five foot post that we had to carry over our shoulder at the same time. “Duuuddddeee….” I breathed, gearing up for the added challenge. The weight was not the issue at this point. It was the balancing act between the log and the uncomfortable grip on the chain. Somehow I managed to collect a heap of hay behind my block, adding to the awkwardness.
More hills! Josh sprinted up to wait ever-so-patiently for me at the top. Then offered me a piggy back ride. (We actually trained this) But, if I had stopped moving at that point I might have started hyperventilating, plus I could totally see a sprained ankle happening. I could tell he was being patient with my lack of uphill fortitude but wanted to go faster. I love him for the amazing partner he was though. Encouraging me up every hill with a smile for the entire race. “You got this Ninja!”
Next up, the Hercules Hoist. Buckets of cement hitched up to a rope and pully. The object was to heave the bucket to the top of the rope, then lower it down without dropping it. In case you were tempted to cheat, there was a row of loudly yelling men in army fatigues reminding you otherwise. I already had the technique for this down. Grab, sit, climb, grab, sit. Up my bucket went, no big deal. The men’s buckets were heavier and Josh took a bit longer to counter the weight of it, though successfully finishing burpie free.
Just around the next corner we came to the Vertical Cargo. I made a smart comment to the volunteer sitting in the grass next to the sign. Already knowing it’s the most stable next to the trees, we made it over smoothly. Done, and done.
Run run run run run run run run, through a tunnel, and out to discover the Atlas Lift. I remember somewhere that the girls blocks were something like 60 lbs. Thank you deadlifts! Squat, pick up the precarious round mass of concrete, carry it to the next flag. Do 5 burpies, then carry it back. Boom.
With high confidence we continued. We’ve made it half way with no penalties.
Popping up over the next hill I saw it… my mental nemesis. The “Slip & Slide”. I put this in quotes because that makes it sound like a fun breezy horizontal game… no, this is a very steep, very tall, VERY FAST slide down wet plastic into a very cold pool of water. I don’t like water in my face, I don’t like cold, and I don’t like being out of control. But, there was no option, and I didn’t come this far to be a baby. So, there we sat at the top of the slide counting down together and off we went. I screamed, we SPOOOSHHHED into the freezing water and reemerged seconds later. Josh released some choice vocabulary and I just gasped is shock. Then I let out a cathartic scream, removed my shorts from my neither-regions, and got out of there as fast as possible.
Immediately, with frozen leg muscles we grabbed our sand-filled pancakes and hauled them up and back down a hill. I was amused that mine jokingly said “gluten free”. By the bottom I had adopted the “mom” technique, resting it on my hip like a small child.
A short jaunt down the trail we came upon a staple of the PNW Spartan Race — the big barbed wire hill. I paused to pull my socks over my knees and my compression sleeves over my forearms and elbows, suddenly glad to have made the last minute choice to wear them. This is the one obstacle that my lack of verticality is a huge advantage. I am able to crawl on my hands and knees longer than those of a lanky disposition. I quickly adopted the technique of keeping as much surface area on the mud as possible in order to keep from slipping backwards. This obstacle is my favorite. Not because of the challenge level, but because it requires every one to rely on the random Spartans around them. Eventually you will get stuck. You will need help and it’s typically the person below you who gives it. Partly because it’s the only way they can keep moving forward, and partially because they quickly realize that the favor is promptly returned as the Spartan they helped up is reaching back a stable hand for them to hold on to.
Half way down the next trail we took a minute to switch the GoPro to Josh for a new POV. Just in time for the Inverted Wall. This was new to me and I took a second to analyze it in my head. I saw most everyone being pushed over by their team mates but I decided I was stronger than that. I grabbed the first brace and jumped on, took a little froggy squat and propelled myself up to the next level. All of a sudden the angle felt more drastic but, determined, I swung a little and grabbed for the top of the wall. It took a little wiggling but I got myself over. Proudly, I descended to the other side.
On the way down the next hill, distracted by a line of kids looking for muddy high fives, I almost overshot the next obstacle. About-face! And on to the barbed wire crawl. Last year I was disciplined for attempting to roll over the bunny hills, but it was allowed this time with fewer people on the course at this moment. Roll up, slide down, repeat. A little hose-spraying from the volunteers was welcomed in the slowly increasing morning heat.
Rolling Mud was next. In and out of waist deep mud pits. We paused to help a woman who had gotten her foot stuck in a quicksand-esque spot.
Rope Climb. My nemesis from last year. I have been training this for months and approached it with unenthusiastic optimism. I ended up getting stuck for the same reason as last year. The knots were too far apart to be usable for my shortness, but obscured the use of a foot lock. Frustrated, I had to give up just feet from the bell. My first set of penalty burpies. In true team fashion, Josh performed them all with me, even though he passed this challenge with flying colors.
We spotted my hubby following us around the course with a second camera and stopped to have him rinse off the GoPro lens. Then, another staple of the Race, the spear throw. We had not practiced for this but had reviewed some pointers such as keeping your hand near your shoulder and pointing at the target. I got mine to the hay-person, dead center, but it glanced off another spear. Josh’s spear stuck but only for a couple seconds. Didn’t count. Down we went for burpies.
Nearing the end, it was time for the wall traverse. Either I got shorter or they made this harder. Or maybe just differently difficult. Either way, I made it slowly and carefully to the last handholds and got stuck. Foiled by my lack of wing-span once again. I leaped for the bell in a last ditch effort but fell short. Very short. I think I cursed, and proceeded to push dirt again.
A new obstacle this year. The tire pull. This one required a volunteer’s explanation. I chose a line and looked around to survey the most efficient method. Choosing physics as my tool, I decided friction would be the determining factor so I picked my tired up and dragged it by one end as the others left it flat on the ground. Apparently, this was impressive. I heard a stranger’s voice yell “That girl’s going beast mode! Everyone look at her!…” and then gave credit to my agreeably awesome flame socks. That sooorta made my day.
We made our way down to the next set of barbed wire crawl as a particularly entertaining song came over the loud speakers and I almost grooved myself into some pointy wire. Lots of people saw. I owned it and moved on. Rolling under the wires, and over a hill to see a less-than-appealing obstacle. Another water pit, but with a wall in the middle forcing you to completely submerge to go under it. Well, when in Sparta…
Directly after, dripping in mud, we approached an angled wall with ropes. Another score for my nerdy physics mind. I quickly discerned that keeping my feet in front of me would provide the best resistance and grip. Challenge completed, easy peasy.
Suddenly we found ourselves at the end of the race. We took a moment to be disappointed that there was no epic fire jump and that the gauntlet of pugil stick-weilding “Spartan’s” were not dressed in costumed attire. I shrugged it off and ran full bore, battle cry blairing, straight into the padded arena and across the finish line.
With muddy fingers, we gingerly picked out our T-shirts and consumed our bananas, as Spartans!
In addition to my review and the giveaway below, I would like to pass along the following information which is near and dear to me, being a military spouse of 5 years:
Through GovX, Spartan Race will offer a special $30 discount off all U.S. race registrations to verified active, reserve and veteran U.S. Military service members along with active first responders. This is the first time Spartan Race will be offering this level of discount, as well as including first responders in such a special offer! READ MORE HERE
WANT TO WIN A FREE SPARTAN RACE ENTRY?! (I’m giving away TWO)
1. Comment below with “AROO!” = One(1) Entry
2. Tweet this post with “I want to be a Spartan! WIN a FREE race entry to @SpartanRace from @FunkyFitnessPDX” and make sure to include the URL to this post. Leave a separate blog comment stating that you did this with a link to the tweet. = One(1) Entry
3. Share this post on Facebook and leave a blog comment stating that you did this with a link to the post. = One(1) Entry.
I will choose one winner using random.org after contest closing on
Wednesday, September 18th Friday, September 20th 2013. Race entry will be good for any remaining Spartan Race in 2013 or 2014!