Yesterday I found myself in Charlotte, North Carolina at the US National Whitewater Center to participate in a Spartan Race. What is a Spartan Race you might ask? You might. Google it.
Last year a friend participated in the Spartan Run at the same location and after she regaled me with her exploits, I thought, “hey, I can do that”. Apparently I also said it out loud. I really need to be more careful.
The forecast for the day was rainy and in the mid to high 30’s. Why did the weather forecasters pick yesterday to be right?
I had a start time of 9am and we arrived at the USNWC well before 8 to check in and get suited up. We collected our race bibs and timing chips and got marked. This last part was new to me. It simply involved having your bib number written on your body with Sharpie so your body could be identified in the event your bib fell off. Mine did. I choose the back of my left calf and my face. Sharpie ink is hard to wash off, I still have the numbers on my leg.
I joined my wave at the starting line about 15 minutes prior to the start. It was interesting to see the choices my fellow runners made regarding their kits. We had everything from soldiers in full BDUs and gas masks to a couple of idiots in just running shorts. More on them later. I choose shorts with base layer long sleeve under my Rush running jersey along with my trusty Adidas trail shoes. I also had on my cotton beanie, the one I bought for the Inauguration Day parade but didn’t wear.
The first mile was really fun, a nice trail run through the woods – I could’ve done that for many miles. Many.
Near the end of mile one was the big “OUT” sign, right before the first obstacle. If you wanted out, now was your last chance. Well, that or on a stretcher…
Obstacle number one was a mud pit. Well, a big hole filled with muddy water. Did I mention that it was cold? One of the other runners just about lost his shoes to the mud’s suction. I decided a dog paddle was the easier way.
From there they put us in the river. Really. The Catawba river runs adjacent to the facility. The water was actually a bit warmer than the mud pit. This was the last time I would feel clean until my post race shower.
Upon exiting the river we came upon a couple of the aforementioned shirtless idiots being rescued by the EMTs. From the looks of things it was for hypothermia. They were wrapped up in space blankets, shivering in the back of an all-terrain vehicle.
The next obstacles were walls that had to be scaled. 7 and 8 feet. Have I ever mentioned that I have no vertical leaping ability? I hit the wall running and jumped to get ahold of the top. I felt like a fly hitting a windshield.
One of the great things about this race was the instant camaraderie among the runners. I got a boost over the 7 foot wall and worked with a team of Aussies to get all of us over the 8 footer. I joked with a fellow male runner about how “shrinkage” caused by the cold water was very helpful when straddling these walls .
The rain was unrelenting. Many of the Spartan Race obstacles always involve mud. Yesterday they all did. Thanks to my trusty trail shoes, I never lost my footing or traction. That meant that every time I hit the deck, it was on purpose. Many of my fellow runners could not say the same thing. How’d that tree feel, dude?
Burpees? Really? 30 burpees? What’s a burpee, you might ask. It’s a form of torture that should be banned under the Geneva Convention. Seriously. It was also the penalty for failing to complete an obstacle. 30. We used to call them squat thrusts in PE class. They suck. I did 120 of them, give or take. In the mud. With rocks. It really sucked and my knees bare the evidence. I was, however, never alone. Misery truly does love company.
I did great on the “feats of strength” obstacles. These included pulling a rain soaked rope attached to a weight, dragging a concrete block up a muddy hill and back down, flipping a tractor tire over four times, and carrying a rain soaked – did I mention it was raining? – sand bag down a hill and back up again.
The obstacles that involved balance and/or climbing gave me the most trouble. The rain certainly didnt help, but neither did not having the proper upper body strength to body weight ratio. I knew this would be an issue going in, so I was prepared to struggle.
The final hurdle was a fire pit. I thought every stop should have had fire. Man, it was miserably cold. I didn’t stop shivering until I was in the car and well on my way back to Salisbury. That’s with a bowl of chili, two cups of coffee and a milk stout!
Why? Why, you might ask, would I – do people, do these events. I can’t speak for others. I did this because I was afraid I couldn’t and I needed to prove to myself that I could. I have found that at every race there is always someone older than me, fatter than me and slower than me. This tells me two things. One, that I have no excuses and two, that others hear the same voice that I hear. Get up, don’t die sorry.
Oh, and I did it for the medal – it’s pretty bad ass!
P.S. “Spartan the F*ck Up!”
P.P.S. Thanks to Beth and Cecilia for being our cheering section.