Ah, yes, the Spartan Race. This nightmare of an experience took place on the dreadfully cold morning of October 4, 2014 in Cumberland (Zanesville) in Guernsey County.
The Spartan Race is a well-established obstacle race series designed to push your limits, test your strength, challenge your endurance. There are dedicated followers both nationally and internationally who travel to compete in these epic events year-round.
There are several different ways in which one can experience the Spartan Race. Three main events at most all Spartan Race functions are the Sprint, the Super, and the Beast.
- The Spartan Sprint is comprised of 15+ obstacles over 3+ miles and is a great way to get off the couch and onto the course!
- The Spartan Super will test your physical strength and mental resolve. Tackle 20+ obstacles over 8+ miles, and show that you're Spartan tough!
- The Spartan Beast is a true test of will. Tackle 25+ obstacles over 12+ miles, and prove you're the ultimate Spartan!
When I was given the opportunity to participate in the Spartan Race when it came to Ohio this month, I did not hesitate to jump on the offer. My brother - who is just the most badass warrior I know (I may be a bit biased) - was up for the challenge as well. Together, we decided to go "middle of the road" and sign up for the Spartan Super. We had done so many Warrior Dash races in the past, so we thought this would be the perfect match to challenge us.
And challenge us, it did.
Making our way to Southeast Ohio, we knew we were in for it based solely on the frigid weather that was in the forecast that morning. Our run was to begin at 10:30 AM, and it was in the mid-40s at that time!
When we arrived, the "parking lot" (if you even can call it that) was MAYHEM! It was sloppy, unorganized, and and very frustrating. We were led by the volunteers through a muddy field and we had to literally park on the course itself!! The back-end of our car was sticking out onto the trail as dozens of runners sprinted by.
So, we had to start a bit late bcause of the parking debacle. I was stressed out and failed to eat my protein bar or energy shots. But we eventually made it to the start line and without much preparation, we were off and running!
One aspect of the Spartan Race that differs from most other obstacle races is that they did not provide a course map online ahead of time. So, essentially you had no idea what you were getting into. I couldn't decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing. They claim that the "surprise" aspect of the race is part of the whole "Spartan experience" but I personally feel that it's just something they say so that they don't have to take the time to make an official map and put it on the site. Either way, that's what we had to work with.
Here is where the main problem came. We signed up for the "Super" Race thinking it was going to be 8+ mules as advertised, but there was no way of knowing how long it really was going to be. In our heads, we thought perhaps it would be about 9 miles, maximum. But we were pretty far off. And that was a problem.
Me taking on the "Bucket Brigade"!
The Super course ended up being close to 12 miles of HELL! I love a good challenge, so in retrospect, this "hell" I refer to was something I am proud to have accomplished. But, at the time, I was struggling! Let's give a quick recap of some of the main aspects of the race (not all inclusive, and not necessarily in the proper order).
- 1. Wall Traverse: A series of walls you must jump/climb over.
- 2. Muddy Water Pit: I don't know what it's really called, but it was just a pit of mudy water.
- 3. Bucket Brigade: Fill a bucket with gravel and carry it through a winding, hilly trail.
- 4. Tire Flip: Pick a monster-truck sized tire and flip it multiple times.
- 5. Army Crawl: The classic crawl in mud under barbed wire - for a LONG time!
- 6. Sand Bag Carry: Carry sand bags through a trail. Much like the gravel buckets before.
- 7. Log Carry: Another carrying obstacle?! I was getting a bit bored with these - and drained of strength!
- 8. Atlas Ball: A 100-pound perfectly spherical rock you had to carry about 30 feet.*
- 9. Log Balance: Large logs you walked on over water (I scooted instead of walked).
- 10. Stumps: Tiny stumps sticking out of the ground - you had to walk from stump to stump without touching the ground.
- 11. Cargo Climb: A climb up a large cargo net - extremely high up!
- 12. Rope Climb: Just like gym class, climbing a rope and ringing a bell!
- 13. Spear Throw: A pretty unique aspect of the Spartan Race - throwing a javelin into a haystack!
- 14. Herculean Hoist: Pulling a sandbag via a pulley system to the top, and slowly bringing it back down.
- 15. Inverse Wall: A wall traverse with a wall slanted at 45 degrees.
- 16. Double Dirty: Jumping onto three long felled ascending logs about 5-6 feet apart. This was one of the most difficult and most painful, because you had stand up, balance yourself, then jump from one log to the next (jumping both across and up). You'd basically have to have your stomach slam into the next log and bear hug it, then pull yourself up. It was super hard.
- 17. Fire Jump: Like other mud races, a leap over burning logs.
Again, this was just a sample of what we experienced. The main challenge was the muddy, hilly, treacherous trails we ran on in between the obstacles. There was unfortunately a great deal of walking that took place as a result of how difficult the terrain was.
What was bothersome was that we literally would run well over a mile in between some obstacles. And I was frankly underwhelmed with some of the obstacles. I guess what I learned is that the Spartan Race has many tests of your STRENGTH above all else, which is why there were so many "carry" obstacles and whatnot.
Also - if you did not successfully complete an obstacle, you had to do X amount of BURPEES! That's right, burpees. The jump, squat, push up combo move that everyone loves to hate.
To add to the already miserable conditions, it HAILED midway through our run. Yes, hail! Ohio is so weird sometimes.
*But not all was horrible. The Atlas Ball obstacle, for instance, was one of my proudest moments. It was so very difficult and I wanted to give up. I almost did, but my brother encourged me to keep trying. I kept at it, and I found a spark within me to accomplish the task at hand. I managed to lift the atlas ball and complete the obstacle! You have the strength to do more than you imagine. And this was proof.
Thank God we finished in one piece. It took us 3.5 hours, but we did it!
Here's the thing. This was the very first time Spartan Race came to Ohio. Because of this, I feel like they had a LOT of things that need improved upon. The parking situation was a jole, and I can not believe I actually had to pay $10 to park where I did. Also, there need to be far more water stops and perhaps some other fueling stations (protein bars, bananas, etc. like they have at the Tough Mudder). Lastly, if they are going to advertise an 8 mile race, it should be somewhat close to 8 miles. That was the major complaint.
When all is said and done, I did truly enjoy the Spartan Race. Call me a masochist, but after a lot of reflection, I was able to look back and appreciate the pain, suffering, and struggle I went through to tackle the Spartan Race. It made me feel like I really earned that medal at the end, and I am part of an elite group of Spartans! I almost feel bad to have complained on the course. I witnessed a lot of grit and determination, and even handicapped folks who overcame their adversities to take on this monster of a race.
One more in the bag, and it's one for the books. AROO!