Ten months ago a friend asked me if I wanted to participate in a race called the Spartan Super with her. It sounded fun, so I said sure. Afterward I went online and read what the race consisted of — 7.5 miles and 27 obstacles. I was like C**P what did I get myself in to?!? We spent the months leading up to the race training, which involved mixing conditioning classes, weekly runs in increasing increments, and hikes of various lengths and difficulty levels on local trails.
Fast-forward to race day. It was a foggy, rainy, cool morning at Wintergreen Resort located on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We picked up our race packets, handed over our backpacks at the bag check tent, and hung out stretching until it was time for our 9 a.m. slot. The thick fog caused the start times to be delayed. When they called our group we gathered in front of a mini wall that we had to hop over to access the starting line. At the starting line our entertaining announcer T.C. advised us, “Don’t slip, trip or fall or you will become a speed bump.” I had no idea at the time how true his words were!
While running and hiking through the Blue Ridge Mountains some of the intermittently disbursed obstacles we came across included:
wall jump / RUN / out-over-through wall / HIKE / cargo net / angled wall / HIKE / sandbag carry (20 lbs.) / tractor pull aka cement block on chain pull / swim under tubes and climb over wall / carry cement stone 2xs / climb up and down wall-plank / monkey bars (I had to do the 30 burpees penalty) / sandbag pulley 3xs (52 lbs.) / bucket of rocks carry (70 lbs. of rocks) / spear throw (I had to do the 30 burpees penalty) / A-frame cargo net / log flip 2xs / death march aka zombie: 23% grade for .8 miles at 1,000 elevation / pull tire by chain up hill and back down / log carry up and down hill / traverse wall / roll under barbed wire: 16% grade for 800 feet / swim under wall / rope climb (I had to do the 30 burpees penalty) / fire jump
The cargo net toward the beginning of the race was hanging by clips at the top and secured by racers who would take turns holding it down. I reached the top of the net OK, but while I was climbing down the other side someone had let go of anchoring the net. My right arm got stuck, but my body continued in a downward motion — it felt like my arm had been ripped off. I sucked up the pain and kept going.
I have an aversion to water and while trudging through the woods about three hours into the race I declared, “I would pay $100 for a glass of tea or juice right now.” This guy came over and handed me a packet of energy gel and said, “I believe you said something about $100.” I replied, “Sure, my bag number is 249 you are welcome to go to bag check and claim your money.” He laughed and continued on his way. About five hours in my dehydration became severe. I spotted a big blue Gatorade up on a ledge at a water station. I shouted, “Who’s Gatorade is that?” One of the volunteers replied that it was hers. I asked her if she would please fill one of the cone paper cups with some of the Gatorade and she kindly obliged. It was only about 4 ounces of liquid, but it was glorious!
During the roughest points of the course I kept telling myself to remain focused and tackle one challenge at a time. Spartan is known as a sport, a community and a philosophy. The camaraderie I witnessed among the teams and between strangers was a powerful motivator throughout the day.
Seven plus hours later when I finally reached the finish line, a woman placed a medal around my neck and I began to tear up from a mix of exhaustion and pride. In the end it was one of the most physically challenging days of my life and also one of the most rewarding accomplishments! I wrote-off the cuts and bruises I collected along the way as temporary souvenirs.
There are three types of Spartan Races:
- Sprint = 3+ miles/15+ obstacles
- Super = 8+ miles/20+ obstacles — This is the one I participated in and finished. Keep in mind that I only competed in three traditional 5K races prior to Spartan. Careful what you agree to do. 😉
- Beast = 12+ miles/25+ obstacles