This is a recap of my personal experience at the race. If you’re more interested in just the nitty gritty details about the race and course, check out my BibRave review here. Don’t forget to review all your races and help out your fellow runners!
What: Spartan Sprint (5ish miles, 20ish obstacles)
Where/When: Saturday, September 20, 2015 in Killington, VT
Weather: Cloudy, windy and 50 degrees at the start, warming up to partly sunny and 60 by the end
This was the second year the Spartan races were hosted by Killington ski resort, and you can tell they have their routine DOWN. Volunteers were guiding cars to parking, shuttles ran every few minutes to get racers from the further lots over to the start, and all of the tents were clearly labelled. Bib numbers and waivers were available online prior to race day, so I just walked up to the correct tent and had my race packet within minutes.
We arrived about an hour before our scheduled wave, so we had some time to use the porta-potties (of which there were plenty, all with TONS of extra toilet paper) and explore. There were tons of vendors and pre-race activities, including a warm up routine that happened every 15 minutes or so before each wave went out. My only complaint about this was that Alison’s husband Scott, who had volunteered his Sunday to drive us down and cheer us on, had to pay $25 for a “spectator pass.” I’m sorry, but that’s just not cool. Forcing spectators to pay to watch an event is blatant money grabbing, especially for an event that is already (in my opinion), exorbitantly expensive.
Right before our wave, we had to jump over a wall about 4 feet high, and then listen to a completely unintelligible “safety” speech from some emcee type guy. It was all clearly a stunt, done for a laugh, but I felt like it was a waste of my time. He ended up ripping off his pants and had american flag underwear on underneath, which was mildly entertaining. He then did a pump up speech about “We are Spartans,” and after some yelling, we were off.
During the Race:
As you all remember, I was TERRIFIED of what we’d be up against during this race. Alison and I started out pretty slow, jogging when we felt like it, and within a quarter of a mile came up against our first obstacle: jumping over a horizontal log about 4-5 feet high. Both of us being relatively tall, this was no problem.
Next up was a series of walls–over, under, and through. Again, no big deal, easing into it. The third obstacle was more challenging: an 8ish foot tall wall angled toward us. I was able to grab climb and grab the top, but just didn’t have the strength to pull myself up and over. There was a really nice younger guy there encouraging me, and he said, “What do you need?” and I said, “I need a butt push!” And bless his heart, he put his hands on my dirty, sweaty tush, and boosted me the few extra inches I needed to get over.
We continued walk/jogging until the next obstacle, which was jumping up and over some big round hay bales. After this, we had to memorize a series of numbers that we were supposed to be quizzed on later (this never happened..Did we miss it? Did they take pity on us later? Who knows). And then, it was time to go up the mountain. I wish I’d had a camera on the course, because let me tell you, this incline was NO JOKE. We were basically hiking straight up one of the lift lines. It was super steep, and pretty muddy in places. There were several false summits, and every time it was like, “OK, great, we’re done… F&%^ THIS S*%& ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?” And on and on.
Finally, FINALLY, we reached the top and began our descent. At first, we were just walking/jogging down an access road, and we came to the next obstacle, which was called “Pancake Breakfast.” We each had to grab a round sandbag or “pancake,” 25ish pounds for women, not sure what it was for men, and carry it down a trail portion, and then back up another access road. This was challenging, but not awful. The hardest part was just trying not to slip and fall on the scrubby, muddy trail. I’m proud to say I didn’t set my pancake down once, and made it back up ok.
More descent on a rocky trail, which then turned into slick, rooty, muddy, single track through the woods, with a crazy steep angle, at times. This portion seemed to go on forever, and led to several near collisions with competitive runners who felt like they should have the right of way at all times. One guy actually was so focused on passing people he tried to cut off a corner of the track and went down, hard. This leads to my second complaint: for safety reasons, there really should be separate days or events for competitive versus non-competitive runners. Having Sprinters, Beasters, and Ultra Beasters all out on the course at the same time in competitive and non-competitive heats is dangerous, first of all, and I really felt like those competitive runners pushing past and through didn’t have good manners at all. A lot of them didn’t even call out “Coming through” or “On your left” or whatever and just went pushing past. It sort of ruined the atmosphere of camaraderie and fun.
After emerging from the woods, we ran down an access road for a while, and then emerged from the woods to an absolutely breathtaking view down one of the ski slopes, which we then had to run/walk/crawl down. The incline here was still really ridiculous, and the grass was muddy and slippery in places. At the bottom of this very large hill was the tire pull. Tractor tires were attached to ropes, and we had to drag them up the hill sitting on our butts, then drag them back down. This was one of the hardest obstacles to that point, and I got a really bad cramp in my right calf from using my legs to help brace myself. Which leads to my third complaint: there was no water on the course until mile 3.5. Water stations were advertised, and Alison, who ran the same race last year, said that there was water at the summit of the mountain, as well as at least one other place. But we’d been on the course for close to two hours and over three miles with no water. We hadn’t brought Camelbaks or bottles because we were “only” doing the Sprint distance, and assumed (incorrectly) that there would be adequate water stations.
We continued jogging down the access road and through a mud field, and finally FINALLY reached the bottom of the mountain again. Here, we had to pick up square sand bags, about 25 pounds for women, and trudge up and down a very steep hill in a horseshoe pattern. This was again mostly difficult trying not to slip and fall in the muddy grass. Up was tough, down was tougher. But at this point, hallelujah, there was water! As much as we could drink. Unfortunately, it was too little too late at that point, because both of us were plagued by leg cramps the rest of the race.
After guzzling some water and eating some Honey Stingers, we had to go up and over another 4-5 foot wall, and continued jogging downhill toward the finish. The next obstacle was the rope climb, and it was the first obstacle that we failed. I just don’t have the upper body strength, and I’m about 10 pounds heavier than I should be. So we both did our 30 burpee penalty and moved on to the climbing wall. It was sort of like a rock climbing wall, but it was chunks of 2×4 nailed to a wall, and you had to make it around 2 corners and ring a bell. I failed almost immediately. Alison almost made it, but ended up falling too, so another 30 burpees each it was.
Next up was carrying a big fat log from one flag to another (about 15 feet), do 5 burpees, then carry the log back, which was pretty straightforward, although my right calf cramped up again pretty badly during the burpees. We jogged on, and I’m pretty sure we jogged right past the memory test I mentioned above, but no one stopped us to test us, so I’m not sure what that was about. But I DID still remember my number, so there!
The next obstacle was one of the hardest for me, not because the actual thing was so hard, but the method I employed to defeat it. We had to crawl under about 50 yards worth of barbed wire, which is a long, long way. It was wet and muddy underneath, and while it’s totally doable to crawl, the fastest, safest method is to roll. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to roll 50 yards on the ground, but by the end I was so dizzy I thought I was going to puke and/or pass out. I had to sit still for a few minutes just to get my bearings back.
In a few hundred yards, we had to jump over two more logs. Alison got such bad cramps in her calves at this point that we had to stop for a bit, and a very nice guy gave her a leg up over the first one. We made it over the second one ok too, and found ourselves face to face with the spear throw. We had to throw a “spear” into a hay bale about 20 feet away and make it stick. Yeah, not as easy as it sounds. We both failed. And while I was throwing, I got an impossibly bad cramp in my right calf, the same one that had cramped up twice already. My foot was stuck in a pointed position and I could barely walk. Thankfully it released after a minute or two, but it was super painful. I massaged it a bit, and then did my burpee penalty.
That was the final obstacle before the fire jump, which is basically the finish line. We ran and jumped over the fire together, and I did my best to pose for the photographers, and then we crossed the timing mat.
My official time was 2:58:09, and I have never been more proud of myself than the moment I got that medal. I also got a Clif Builder Bar, a Paleo-friendly, gluten-free recovery drink called “FitAid,” and half a banana. We got our finisher photo taken together, then headed to meet up with Scott at the beer tent. Each racer got a wrist band for a free beer, so I got a Shock Top, which was SO refreshing, and guzzled it down. There was a pretty good party, but we didn’t hang out long. The food Killington Resort was selling was stupid expensive, and we were starving, so we hopped on a shuttle and hit the road. I didn’t bother hosing off or changing, because by that point I wasn’t wet anymore. I decided to just sit on my towel in the car so I didn’t get dirt everywhere.
The finisher t-shirts were decently nice, although I was disappointed that they didn’t have gender-specific sizing. I got a medium, and it’s WAY too big to wear anywhere other than around the house. It also would have been nice if they’d been tech shirts that we could run/train in rather than a cotton/poly blend, especially considering the amount people pay for registration. Oh well.
I’d just like to state for the record: before Sunday, I really didn’t understand how awful muscle cramps could be. I used to snort and cringe any time some athlete had to DNF or pull out of a game because of “cramps.” Pssht, how bad could they be? Well, now I know. They’re bloody AWFUL. During the spear throw, my muscles were so tensed up I couldn’t even move my foot, and the pain was excruciating. I will do everything in my power never to experience that again.
I will also say that I had way more fun than I expected to, and it wasn’t as hard or as scary as I imagined it would be. Yes, it was very difficult, but I’m glad I did it. I only failed three obstacles, and other than the boost I got over the wall, I completed everything by myself, and without cheating. I felt like a goddamn ninja warrior when I crossed that finish line. I felt strong and amazing. And exhausted, haha! The crazy thing is, I’m already thinking that I might do it again next year. Alison said that this year’s race was completely different from last year’s, which means that next year would be a totally new challenge. I can’t believe I’m even considering another one. WHO AM I???
Have you ever experienced bad muscle cramps during an event?
Do you think it’s rude and/or unsafe for “elites” to push past other racers?