Yesterday I did the Spartan Super at Brimacombe ski hill in Claringdon, Ontario. Not only did I do a Spartan, but it was on the hottest day of the summer. One good thing about all the mud: it was nice and cool!
The Spartan is a 13+K race including 23 obstacles.
I am an endurance runner, and I expected more running in this race. However, for the majority of it, racers go up and down the steep ski hills. The hills are so steep that mostly everyone walked them. Even the downhills you couldn't run flat out because they were too steep; one so much so I had to go down in a squat position.
As you can imagine, going up and down hills like this, your calves were often feeling like jello just in time for the obstacle at the top. The relentless sun didn't help.
This is a hard race; definitely a good challenge!
You got one chance to attempt the obstacle and if you failed you were required to do thirty burpees. I saw many people only do a couple of burpees or none at all. I also saw people fail the obstacle but then just keep trying until they did it. I was determined to do it 'by the rules'. I think altogether I did 150 burpees. It seemed like more.
I made it over all the walls on my own (I was running solo, as my partner had to pull out). I was happy about this because most of the women were getting help from teammates. Especially for the wall that was a backwards incline!
I also did the strength work without any major issues (pulling weighted propane tanks up to a certain level by rope, dragging weighted tires on a chain up and down a muddy hill, carrying rocks and other weighted objects up hills, and so on).
I was hoping to do the rope climb, but I hadn't done enough training. I looked up tutorials on rope climbing a few nights before, but didn't have the chance to practice on an actual rope. The S hook looks a lot easier to accomplish than it actually was (for me, anyway).
I saw many people try the rope climb (which was very high over land and I saw a few people fall down quite a distance) and fail. Part of my strategy was to go straight to the burpees.
If you know you can't do it, you're wasting energy trying and failing and then you still have to do the burpees.
Ideally I would like to do all the obstacles but I knew that rope climb wasn't going to happen.
The same with the rings. I had bought fingerless gloves to help with climbing (and I would highly recommend them, as you are constantly pulling on ropes or chains) and I thought they would help with the rings, too. But there was a huge mud pit right before the rings and you had to crawl under barbed wire so my gloves were coated in a thick covering of mud. Not very helpful on rings. Burpees again!
There was tons of mud on the course. Shoe-sucking, almost up to your knees, smelly mud. I saw some people who were completely stuck and had to have teammates pull them out. People lost shoes. You can't run at all on these long stretches.
I saw a few people puking (I'm sure the extreme heat was a contributing factor) and people who were injured. It looked like twisted ankles and pulled muscles mostly.
Once we ran by a creek and I wanted to throw myself face first into the water, I was so hot.
There were hoses spraying out water and I would run into them all happily, arms outstretched and yelling, "Woo hoo!" It felt like the best shower I'd ever had.
NOTE: there aren't that many aid stations and they are very, well, Spartan. Only water. No Gatorade, no snacks. And for the women it is important to note that there are no portapotties on the course at all either.
Despite the heat I was in a good mood for the whole race (except when I failed the climbing wall challenge two blocks from the end by grabbing the top of the wall! And then I realized I was doing the men's wall anyway.)
On my way up one hill, I was surrounded by racers, and I remarked good-naturedly, "Damn gravity!" Someone else yelled, "Damn hill!" Another guy chipped in, "Damn body - I should be fitter!"
Once when I was crawling through a mud pit under barbed wire a guy beside me said, "How's it going?" I said, "It's going GREAT! The mud feels awesome."
On most of the mud stretches, it was best to stick to the sides. The trees are your friend at this point.
There is a point in every hard race, I find, when you ask yourself 'why'. Why am I doing this to myself? Why am I running up ski hills and carrying heavy objects up hills on such a horribly hot day? Surely there must be better things to do with my time? But in the end, you are challenging yourself. You learn about yourself out there on the course, having to keep putting one foot in front of the other even when it's hard and it's the last thing your body wants to do. You will have bragging rights for the rest of your life that yes, you did a Spartan Super race. And why not? It's better than sitting on the couch. Much more character-building.
I loved jumping over the fire at the end - fun stuff. We got a nice technical T-shirt, a really great medal, a Clif Builder's Bar, water, coconut water, and a free yogourt. There was loud music on and great energy. King Sparta was there mingling on the grounds and he would also send all the heats off by making us yell: "I am Spartan!" And: "Aroo". Not sure what that is, but it sounds good.
Now I know exactly what to train for before I do the next Spartan!