Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spartan Sprint Race Recap!

Pre-Race Prep

Before the race started I did my normal race day prep; I ate my EnergyBits and not 1 but 2 bananas. The banana was really important, I think, because the day before I saw so many people jump over the wall of fire and, if they fell, not be able to get up because their muscles were cramping so badly. Needless to say I was going to get enough potassium for that not to happen. Of course because I was worried about food I didn't spray on any sunscreen. I am usually really conscientious about this, because skin cancer runs in the family.
Walking to Registration
The Ninja (my boyfriend if you missed that nickname designation in the previous post) and I got there about an hour before our start time. We were in the last wave of the day which started at 2:30, which had most of the volunteers in it. Picking up our race packet went really smoothly. Before we started we wondered around the festival and wrote our numbers on our arms and legs.
Here I am all marked up!

The Race!

So the first obstacle was before we even got to the start line! The start line was corralled behind an opening that was blocked with a 5 ft wall. I know that doesn't seem too high for most, but I am 5'4'' and there were no foot holes, or spaces in the wall where you could get a leg up. The finish line never seemed so far away as it felt in that moment. There were people passing me and catapulting over the wall around me. I tried pulling myself up and over the wall a few times, before a volunteer took pity on me and told me to use the posts on the side of the wall as a foot hold.
Me finally getting over the wall
Finally I got over the wall. As I stood at the starting line I was surrounded by people who looked like they weighed maybe 120 pounds and were tone and fit, and I just thought. . .what on earth am I doing? At this point I just thought about all of the people on the Neon Princesses Facebook page who had given me support and motivation, and I just couldn't turn back. Plus turning back would mean going over that wall again, which was not going to happen! As I heard other people talking about taking it slow with a 8 min/mile I just had to tune them out. So ahead of time I knew I was probably going to be the last person to cross the finish line, but that was okay, I was going to be a SPARTAN!

The "official" first obstacle were hurdles with shallow mud pits afterwards. Since I had hurt my knee the week before, I just hopped over the hurdle and jumped into the mud pit instead of taking them both on in one leaping bound. They just wanted to get straight to the muddy part, in case you had any illusions about making in through the Spartan Race without getting muddy!

Me making my way over the 5 ft. wall
The next obstacle was a series of three 5 foot walls, and after each wall there was a net that you need to get under. At this point I had a method to get up the walls. I would put a foot on the post that was holding up the wall and catapulted over the wall.
Under the nets I went!
By this time I was already tired! I couldn't believe it, we were barely into the course at all. At this point there was a long portion of trail between this obstacle and the next. The trail was beautiful. It was a sunny, warm day.
A nice creek where I got to wash some mud off my shoes!
We walked up and through the trails of the horse park. I have been in the horse park where the race was held and I knew there were a lot of hills that could really kick my butt if they were in the course. Thankfully we didn't get those larger hills. There were a few smaller hills, but overall the run portion of the race was easy and chill. I have to say that most of the difficulty occurred with the mud that was created after obstacles with water or if the course crossed or went along the creek. Even small molehills created sliding problems when they were COVERED in mud.

At this point in the course I really had to go to the restroom, but I was holding out for a port-a-potty somewhere along the course. I trekked on and went to the next obstacle. The following obstacle was a platform that was about 6 feet tall, and you had to climb the wall onto the platform, walk across it, and drop down the other side feet first.
Not a flattering picture, but it is what it is!
There was a volunteer at the obstacle that saw I was having problems pulling myself over the wall. He promptly asked if he could give me a hand, and as I really did need the help, I accepted. He bent down on a knee and let me use his knee as leverage to pull myself up the wall. 

Continuing to the run! Well, to be fair I decided that I would walk, to garner my strength. (Which I am really glad I did, I needed it in the home stretch later!). As the Ninja and I walked on the trail we could start hearing someone coming down the trail behind us. . .The SWEEPER!! I was so afraid that this person would come and kick me off the course because we were going too slow. During this portion of the course I was practically waddling the course because I had to use the restroom. I have to be honest here. . . I walked a little off trail and used the restroom. Well there is a first time for everything. Yeaaa. . . it was awkward but since the Ninja and I were alone on the trail, he was the lookout for me.  I don't know what would have happened if we were in the middle of the pack. Lets not dwell on that though.

We increased the pace and tried to make it to the next obstacle before the sweeper caught up to us. The next challenge was the inverted wall.
What I am calling the "inverted wall"
So I promptly grabbed the wall and attempted to pull myself over the wall. I just couldn't get my upper body to pull myself over the top. This was the first obstacle that I had to burpee out of. I knew that I was unprepared for this race, but I had no idea how difficult this was going to be. By the time I was done, the sweeper caught up to the Ninja and I. She introduced herself as Andy, but she said that she wasn't here to rush us, just to make sure that no one got hurt or left behind on the course.

Well that alleviated my fears. I didn't want to be stranded on the course, and little did I know that Andy would be an amazing help to me in crossing that finish line.

So I am going to take a small break in the race recap to tell you about Andy. She is an Elite Spartan Racer. I asked her about how long it would take her to race this course in Atlanta, and she guessed it would take about 45 min. 45 MINUTES!!! This course took me about 2.5 to 3 hours!! Yea so long story short she was in amazing shape. Not only was she super fit, she was really kind. About halfway through the race I just broke down and started crying. She encouraged me and offered support. Needless to say she went above and beyond her "job" throughout the course. She also writes blog posts on the Spartan Race Blog, if you want to know more about what she does!

Okay, back to the race recap.  Talking with Andy and the Ninja was a great past time as we made our way to the next obstacle.
Trench filled with Georgia Red Clay water
The following challenge was a series of trenches filled with water and mud hills that you had to pull yourself up. This was just a dirty and muddy obstacle but it was fairly easy and fun! You got mud everywhere, and yes I really do mean EVERYWHERE. WHOO MUD! It did feel nice and cool!
Muddy hill, there was a rope!
Then we slowly but surely made our way to the water station! YEAA!! I don't know if you all know this about me, but I only like drinking water when I workout. (Yes, I know this isn't healthy. I am trying to do better). As a result I drink a LOT of water during a run. I am the crazy person who brings a water bottle to a 5k, finish it before the first water station, fill it up, drink extra at the water station, and then finish the second bottle before the finish. I look forward to water stations. It was nice to be the last people of the last wave of the day. We got to wash our hands in the water that was being dumped out after we finished.
Spear/Javelin toss
Andy demonstrated a few different methods of throwing the spear/javelin. The Ninja got the spear to hit and stick the straw target on the first try. I was not that lucky and had to do 30 burpees.
Sorry for the bad quality picture. This is the sandbag pull.
We then made our way to sandbag pull. There was a 'girl' side and a 'guy' side, and the sandbag was attached to a rope and looped over one pulley. The Ninja said that the 'guy' side's sandbag was pretty heavy and that the bag almost lifted him off the ground! I didn't seem to have any problems with the 'girl' side.
The lattice platform
Next there was the lattice platform that you climb up and walked over and climb down the other side. Another easy one, to get you confident before the next obstacle which was more difficult.

The Ninja and I after the horizontal wall climb
The ninja went first and needed a little help at the end of the wall with foot placement. Of course I ended up needed help with foot placement and making sure I didn't fall backwards off the wall, which the ninja and Andy thankfully helped with.
Keeping myself on the wall was the hardest part!
After the past few obstacles to build confidence, we hit a series of 3 - 7 foot walls. I needed a boost on these as well, if you didn't already guess! But it was okay, even with the help I didn't give up and kept on going. We walked through the course and got to the previous 6 foot platform and went under it this time.
Under the platform I went!
At this point I was out of water and slowing dragging. I fueled before the race but at this time we were already about 2 hours into the course (yes, I know that I was slow). While there were no huge hills, there were some climbs off trail, at which point I felt like I just wanted to sit down and not move for hours.The next obstacle were cylindrical posts in the ground at varying heights where you hopped from one to another. Think Mulan without the water.
Thankfully there was a water station right afterward, which helped me get to my second wind. The sandbag carry was after this. I carried a 25 lb. sandbag up and around a hill, which wasn't difficult. Afterwards we went to the cargo net cliff climb. Now I have never been scared of heights. Well . . .I found out that I just trust mechanical things. Which makes sense because I am an engineer.

Cargo Net
Needless to say about halfway up the cargo net I looked down. Big mistake, then I looked up. Neither of the options looked good. I just knew that if my arms gave out that I would fall and it would not be pretty. I kinda got stuck there for a while, but I just took a few deep breaths, listened to the encouragement that the volunteers were shouting and then kept moving.

Andy climbed the cargo net after me (in an amazing time I might add!) and we all made our way along the course. The ninja and I were lucky to have her there with us, because at this point a volunteer had already made her way up the course taking down the path markings. She was really apologetic when she realized that we were still 'racing.' Once we got back on track we got to the tire pull. You pulled the tire out on its side, and then reeled it back in with the rope that was attached to the tire.  Next year I might bring gloves to wear during the obstacles, to prevent rope burn.

We were SO close to the finish line, I could hear the music coming from the finish line and the announcer letting everyone know that the last racers were coming in soon.

Then we reached the 8 foot wall. As I walked up to it, I kept telling Andy and the Ninja, "I can't do this, I can't do this, I can just do burpees." Andy wouldn't let me give up though. She actually let me use her shoulder as a boost. As I was clearing the wall, I just started crying and repeating that I couldn't do this. Apparently it was kinda funny to the ninja (who cleared the wall fine! With no training of course).
Only six more obstacles left at this point. We got to the rope climb, which was practically impossible for me at this point. I gave it my all, but ended up falling into the mud and had to do 30 burpees before I could get to the next obstacle.
First mud pit under barbed wire
 We were in the home stretch now!  We slid down the first small mud pit, that had barbed wire over it. The mud was very gritty, which made this a very difficult stretch of the race.

Inclined Wall Climb
In the middle of the mud pit there was an inclined wall climb, which was really hard, especially covered in mud. The staff and volunteers all came into the mud and helped the ninja and I over the wall. Even the ninja needed help with this one! Once I got up to the top of the wall, I really needed help clearing it. I just didn't have any more upper arm strength to hoist myself the extra distance.

Down the wall and into the second part of the mud pit we went! While this was a very difficult part of the race, the volunteers and staff were beyond AMAZING! They were cheering and streaming encouragement, which was helpful and motivating. Andy walked along side me and gave me a hand out of some of the pits of mud.
Some of the more watery parts of this obstacle were so deep I was just treading water before I pulled myself out of the "lagoon." I rolled a lot through the obstacle. I thought this was not allowed but apparently it is encouraged? That was what the staff told me apparently.
Finally we made it out of the mud pit! You know how it is out of the mud pit and into the fire, that's the saying right? Haha, but really the wall of fire was next.
The Ninja making his jump
As I made it to the wall of fire I didn't clear the wall of fire as gracefully as the ninja did.
At this point the finish line is 30 feet away. The last obstacle is the gladiator pit! I was going to go big at the finish line or go home! I took off my mud shoes and tossed them to the side and ran into the gladiator pit.
I checked one gladiator and slid by the other gladiator, then slipped and fell before the third gladiator got to me. They all helped me up and I crossed the finish line!
As the last two people to cross the finish line we got walking sticks!! Which I think is really cool! But next year there will be no more walking sticks for us, I plan on coming back to the Spartan Race stronger and more prepared.

Overall Thoughts
The Spartan Race was definitely the hardest, most challenging, and most rewarding experience I have ever had. The volunteers and staff were great. They were helpful and motivational. The obstacles were challenging, but doable with some help, even if you are out of shape. I really loved the people and the atmosphere of the race. I would really recommend this race to anyone interested in obstacle/mud races, by far it was one of my favorite races to date! Have you ever raced in a Spartan Race? Are you Spartan Strong? I am really proud to say that I am a Spartan!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spartan Sprint Race Volunteering Recap!

Note: I did run the race with my awesome boyfriend. The only nickname he has is the Ninja, so that is what I will be calling him. FYI he is called that because he is so light on his feet.


So for people who haven't ever volunteered for race before, sometimes you get to run the race for free if you so wish and you always get the great feeling of cheering on other people as they race.

So the Ninja and I  volunteered for the shorter shift, 6 hours, on Saturday since we were racing the next day. Originally we were going to help out in the registration tent, but they needed us more at the obstacles on the course.

 We ended up at the finish line right after the final mud pit where the wall of fire was. It was an amazing and rewarding experience. The wall of fire is a two foot tall pile of wood that is on fire. The race participates jump over the wall of fire then fight three gladiators in the gladiator pit then they cross the finish line!

Cheering and helping people cross the wall of fire was empowering. There were people who had been on the course for more than 7 hours crossing the finish line in tears and smiling. I thought that I would include some tips for people interested in volunteering.

  • Wear sunscreen if you are going to be in the sun
  • Wear sunglasses
  • Bring a noise makers, kettle bell, or be prepared to clap and cheer 
  • Wear comfortable shoes (Or in my case the shoes I was racing in since they got muddy) 
  • Bring water and some food
  • Bring a good ATTITUDE! You are cheering on these people and being supportive really makes a difference in someone's race.
  • Be prepared to offer assistance, especially in an obstacle race. Sometimes people can't make it through an obstacle without a helping hand, so just being there to help when necessary is a good thing to know ahead of time
  • Have fun!
The race recap should be up sometime tomorrow! Have you every volunteered for a race? Did you like it?