SPARTAN RACE RECAP

Proudly displaying my "participant" medal... and a mostly clean belly 🙂

Hope you all enjoyed yesterday’s photos! 🙂  As you can probably guess, the race went very well.  To be honest, the obstacles were a lot easier than I’d anticipated, and I would have to say that the real challenge to the sprint distance event would have been in pushing myself to complete it as quickly as possible (obviously not a reasonable goal for this year).

As we queued up at the start line with the nearly 200 other competitors in our heat, we were all a little bit nervous, since we didn’t really know what to expect.  We had watched the Elite/Services and CrossFit heats finish, and nobody looked too much worse for the wear, but from our vantage point, we’d only been able to see the obstacles at the start and finish points, so we didn’t know what would await us on the rest of the course, nor how treacherous the terrain would be for running.

As the air horn sounded, we took off across the field.  About 150 metres later, we hit the first obstacle, the fire pit.  I think they must have been short on fuel, because the largest flames were only a mere foot high, and some parts of the log weren’t even on fire!  We quickly and easily leapt over the fire and carried on.

We ran for several minutes and then encountered the second obstacle: a thigh-depth, seven metre wide, rocky crossing of Lynn Creek.  For those readers not familiar with Vancouver, Lynn Creek is a glacial runoff (more akin to a river than a creek in most places) that flows from high up in the mountains down to the inlet.  The water is absolutely as cold as it can be while still remaining liquid!  We emerged from the creek soaked from the waist down, and barely able to feel our feet.  I was lucky to be wearing lightweight mesh trail runners that don’t hold much water, but many people had to run the remainder of the race with some seriously heavy, wet shoes.

After the creek crossing, we ran down the trail and over a bridge, where we were each handed an empty balloon and told to inflate it to the size of our respective heads.  This would have been easy, except that we had to accomplish the task whilst climbing a long, steep set of stairs up to the top of a hill, where we were then required to pop the balloon and run back down the stairs to the bridge.

Back at the bridge, we had to hoist a cinder block from the river up to the bridge deck using a rope, and then slowly lower it back down.  If we dropped it on the way up or down, there would be a penalty of 25 burpees.

From the bridge, we ran for another several minutes (this was quite a long stretch of running) to another hill, where we were required to carry two heavy buckets full of rocks up to the top of the hill and back down again.  Being tall and fairly strong made this an easy task for me, but a lot of smaller and lighter people struggled with it.  The next obstacle was a tarp tunnel, through which we had to crawl or bear walk.

After another run (with some not-so-lovely hills), we reached an eight-foot wooden wall with no foot or hand holds, which we had to climb over.  Normally I’d have no problem doing this on my own, since you really only need to be able to pull yourself high enough to swing a leg on to the top of the wall, but I will admit that I had to break down and ask a guy beside me to give me a boost (and yes, I had to ask; amazingly, nobody offered!).  Following the wall, we dragged a cinder block around a dirt track, and then it was off to the infamous mud pit.

The mud pit is a roughly 10-metre long pit of dark, nasty, smelly mud, with (real) barbed wire on top.  You basically have to crawl, keeping your hips and stomach as low to the ground as possible, so as to avoid getting your clothing (or worse, your skin!) caught in the barbs.  I guess my military training finally paid off, because I quickly zoomed through this obstacle, passing almost a dozen people along the way, and still managed to keep most of my torso clean, other than a little spot on my belly! 🙂

After another period of running, we came to the balance beams, approximately 50 feet worth of zig-zagging boards a mere two inches wide.  The penalty for falling?  Twenty five burpees.  I knew from watching the earlier heats finish the race that there were at least two more obstacles likely to result in burpee penalties, so I was determined to make it through this obstacle without falling.  Amazingly, though I had a few close calls, I actually managed to complete this challenge.  I took it very slowly — so deliberately, in fact, that one of my team members who fell finished all 25 of her burpees before I finished the obstacle — but slow and steady paid off in the end.

With the finish line now in sight and our motivation high, we quickly ran to the next obstacle, a cargo net.  This was quick and easy to climb, and then it was just a brief downhill sprint to the spear throw.  Unfortunately, the spear throw did not go well for most competitors, including the entirety of our four-person team.  We were required to throw a spear a short distance — maybe 10 metres tops — and have it stick into a straw target.  Failure to accomplish this resulted in a penalty of, yet again, 25 burpees. Burpees are not the easiest thing for me right now, and it took a little bit longer to complete them than I’d have liked; however, I can honestly say I did 25 legitimate chest-to-ground reps before moving on.

The next obstacle was a wall traverse, where we had to travel across a wooden wall with very sparse and small hand and foot holds.  Falling off, touching the ground or grabbing the top of the wall would result in another burpee penalty.  A climber would have found this obstacle very easy.  A 28 weeks pregnant woman, on the other hand, not so much :).  So, I grudgingly did another 25 burpees, though I will admit that I had to do 10 of my reps without the push-up because I didn’t want to keep the team waiting.

Lastly, we had to run the Gladiator gauntlet — two guys whose sole purpose it was to trip us or knock us down, either with their hands or with a large, padded beating stick.  My team immediately threw me up front and ducked behind me, theorizing that the Gladiators would never hit a pregnant woman 🙂  They were mostly right, as I certainly got the impression that the Gladiators didn’t try particularly hard to knock me over (phew!).

Once past the Gladiators, we crossed the finish line to a cheering crowd and a bunch of our friends and family.  All in all, it was a fun and very gratifying experience.  There was definitely more running than I’d anticipated, but the running was mostly along groomed gravel trails, so it was a lot less technically challenging than I thought it would be.  I will look forward to racing competitively next year, with J and the little guy there to cheer me on.

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