This past weekend I ran my very first Spartan Race, a Spartan Sprint, in Wintergreen, Virginia! I left Wintergreen on a high and am still super pumped to be able to say I've done a Spartan Race! It's funny that I'm so excited about it because a couple years ago I would have only been competing as a professional donut eater (I can eat at least a dozen hot Krispy Kremes at once). I seriously have no idea when I became someone who genuinely enjoys working out, much less someone who pays HARD EARNED MONEY to jump into mud wearing expensive workout clothes (can we talk about that later?), but this is apparently part of who I am now.
When I wrote my big 30 Before 30, I decided I wanted to add an obstacle course race. It worked out really well that the Spartan Sprint happened to fall on a day that I wasn’t already working AND a friend from class was already signed up. I work a lot of weekends this time of year, so it is VERY rare that something like this is at all feasible for me! Even though I was able to physically make it to the race, it was still kind of a stretch since I had a wedding all the way across the state until 11pm the night before. I'll admit that I might not have been at my best Sunday morning. I raced on very little sleep, a lot of adrenaline, a chugged can of Red Bull, and many, many Clif energy chews. (The ones that taste like gushers are DA BOMB, by the way!). I probably won't schedule myself like this for any future races, but at least I know that if I can do it running on fumes, I can do it even better when I'm well rested!
The morning of the race we woke up to a chilly, misty day. It was plenty dreary and just wet enough to make everything slippery and muddy...Like the ropes…but, I’ll get to that later. I'm grateful it wasn't super hot, but it was FREEZING afterward when our bodies started cooling down.
I’m so glad that the race that I could make was the shorter of the two Wintergreen races because I heard from several people who go to the same obstacle course racing class that I do (you should check it out here if you’re interested!) that the longer race, the Super, was freaking ridiculous. Like almost 9 miles up a mountain both ways ridiculous. Lucky for me (lucky being a relative term here), we only had to trek 4 miles up and down the Blue Ridge mountains. I kept saying “Are these the mountains people SKI DOWN?? And we are climbing UP? Can I get on the ski lift please??". Before the race several people told me "You'll be great at the running part!" because I've run a marathon and several half marathons, but in reality, there was actually very little running. A lot of the course was just way too steep for running, which was fine by me because the climbing felt like an obstacle in and of itself!
So, getting to the obstacles. There were 20 of them for our race, the Spartan Sprint. My favorites were the Herc Hoist, the walls (the taller of which we helped each other over), and some of the climbing ones, even though they were pretty scary if you are scared of heights like me and also scared of potentially breaking your neck.
The bad: I failed at five obstacles. The good: I only failed at five obstacles.
Let's start with the bad. No one loves talking about their failures, but I think they are a pretty big part of the Spartan Race since you have to do 30 burpees to pass any obstacle you miss. So, unless you really love doing burpees for some reason, you're going to try as hard as you can to avoid doing them in the wet, rocky mud. Going into the race I knew I was probably going to fail on at least a couple things, especially the spear throw. No real surprise there since I have very little hand/eye coordination! I also failed a couple of obstacles that were difficult for me because I have shorter arms and legs and am not what you would call a gymnast. The worst one though, was the rope climb. I was SO close and I think if it had been another day and it maybe wasn’t so slippery and I had a couple hours more sleep, I could have gotten it. At least, that’s what I like to think.
I got 2/3rds-ish up the rope and my arms just couldn't pull anymore. I let go and burst into tears. I was then mad at myself for failing AND mad at myself for being a cry-baby! I said later "I WASTED SO MUCH SALT BY CRYING AND THAT'S WHY I HAVE CRAMPS NOW." Pro tip: tears contain much needed sodium, so keep that shit on lock!
I think I cried when I failed at the rope because that was the one I wanted to hit so badly. I knew I wasn't going to hit the spear throw or the monkey bars, but I really had a shot at the rope. I was angry with myself for giving up and for not being strong enough to make it. Sometimes it’s hard to know when you really gave all you had or if you should have pushed just a little bit more and this was one of those situations. I tend to doubt myself, so was I capable of doing it, or not? In the coming months I plan to practice climbing ropes more and really pushing myself beyond my limits as much as I can in my workouts so that I'm ready to do it next time. I've already decided I'll do another Spartan Race if only just to conquer that freaking rope.
The good about failing 5 obstacles? Even just a year ago, doing a Spartan Race at all would have been such a stretch for me. This was one of the hardest things I've ever put myself through physically. Five obstacles out of 20 isn't too bad when you consider that. I think the Spartan Sprint (at least the Wintergreen one) was HARDER than either of the two half marathons I've run. I've never sweat so much, cramped so much, or cursed so much as I did on Sunday on that mountain. But, although this race was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, it was also something I’ll look back on fondly for a long time. Yes, the course was challenging and a lot more taxing than I thought it would be, but it was also so beautiful! Climbing to the tops of those mountains reminded me how amazing Virginia is and how lucky we are to live here. I also realized that as tough as the race was, I was so glad to be doing it because otherwise, I wouldn’t have been on the mountain that day experiencing how beautiful it all really was! I might have been at home watching Flip or Flop instead, and really, you can watch Flip or Flop anytime. It’s not every day you can climb mountains.
My best tip if you're looking to do a Spartan Race is to make sure you do it with a friend. This experience was so much fun because of my friend Cheryl! It would have been so terrible to do it by myself, so I'm so glad I got to do it with her! I would also highly suggest loading your body with electrolytes and sodium the day before. Cramps were an issue because of all of the up and downhill climbing.
All in all, I'm so glad that I got the opportunity to run this race and experience such a fun day. I'm really looking forward to working hard to improve on the things I failed on this year to be even better next time! Thanks for reading my little recap of the race!