What a fun adventure we had this weekend! Not without its share of stories though!
Sunday I ran my second Spartan race—but first one solo. After the team event in Charlotte in April, I wanted to see how I’d fair on my own. Javi transferred his missed race from April to this one, so we planned to race separately on Sunday morning in Black Mountain, just 20 minutes outside of Asheville, NC. The Spartan race was held at the Grove Stone & Sand Co. Also known as a stone quarry. A hot, sunny stone quarry, full of rocks to carry… more on that later!
I got the course map on Friday, which was both great (planning! Visualizing!) and worrisome (what the heck are all the classified obstacles?) The map also didn’t indicate the elevation change, but I knew it had to be very mountainous.
Training: Since I’ve been training for the triathlon, I haven’t done a single burpee in months. In hindsight, it might have been a good idea to include at least 10-30 daily, but…. That old hindsight saying rings true again. However, after the April Spartan, I did recognize the need to work on upper body and grip strength. So I have been doing pull-ups several times a week, as well as “dead hangs” where I just hang from the bar.
Since we chose the Sprint course (the shortest one of the three), I knew I could handle 3-5 miles. The mountain would be challenging, but I had faith in my leg strength. And it turns out, picking up Asher and carrying him around also helped! Since he’s already 3 years old, and already over 30 pounds, I know my days of carrying him are numbered. He frequently asks to be carried, so I usually say yes. It helped!
We had errands on Saturday, so we didn’t leave til after lunch. It was about a two hour drive to Black Mountain. We stayed at the Monte Vista Hotel, which was historic and cute. Our room had a king bed and 2 twins, although when we walked in, I only saw 1 twin bed and got upset. It took me awhile to realize the other bed was a trundle bed, underneath the first! *whew!*
No family trip would be complete without forgetting at least one thing from home. Turns out, we forgot 3 pretty important things: GU (for pre-race and during the race nutrition), sunscreen, and headphones so Javi could watch TV on his laptop while we all slept! *doh*
We decided to try the general store, and were pleasantly surprised they had 2 of the 3 (headphones & sunscreen). The sunscreen was a generic brand, not sure it was waterproof, and it was $14 (!!) but hey, beggars can’t be choosers! We headed across the street to the running/adventure store, and they didn’t have GU, but they did have Huma, a similar type of product, made from chia seeds. We tried a sample and bought two packets each. I liked them enough that I would use again.
As Javi was checking out, I noticed they had TONS of Oiselle gear! My fave running brand, and my team!
I wanted to by a tank and shorts real bad, but didn’t—we’re on a budget. Sad face.
Next we headed to the fountain for Gabe to see, and they had a delightful splash pad. I didn’t bring swimsuits (“Mom-EEE!” Gabe exclaimed with disgust). I told them to wear their undies, and I didn’t have to tell Asher twice. He stripped right down!
Gabe was more modest and didn’t want to. Asher had an absolute blast though. Thankfully I had a towel for him in the car.
After a dinner of sausage, potato salad and home fries at the German restaurant…. and brotherly shenanigans…
…and yummy ice cream at Kilwin’s…
…We finally settled in at the hotel for the evening. I didn’t feel like doing much, and there wasn’t much to do anyway (no TV), so I went to bed around 8 PM. Figured I’d be rested for the next day!
Didn’t set an alarm, thinking our “clock” named Asher would be punctual at 6 AM as he normally is, but was shocked to wake up to him climbing into our bed at nearly 6:45.
We were all Super well rested! Yay! Can’t say that too often.
After a breakfast of hard boiled egg, half a waffle, and some bites of Asher’s yogurt, I felt a little nervous, but mostly calm. (Javi had a bagel, Gabe ate a bunch of little powdered donuts, and Asher had yogurt + Cheerios… so healthy over here!)
Despite the little bit of nerves, I knew I could take on this course solo, but was more concerned about the timing. Decided I didn’t need to use KT tape on my ankle (twisted on last week’s run), as it felt OK that morning.
The next few hours went like this:
7:30 Arrived a race site. Carried Asher.
8:00 All checked in, spectated the elite men’s race. More picking up and putting down of Asher.
9:15 Javi sweet talked into the earlier coral (he had 9:30 assigned to him) and he was on his way!
9:30 Gabe started the kids race. I attempted to carry Asher and the backpack! Couldn’t keep up with Gabe. He had fun though (and Asher ran a bit of the course too!):
10 – 10:45, blessedly chilled in the van. I had a banana and my Nuun drink, and kids ate Kona Ice (aka “Cone of ice” lol)
11:00 Waited for Javi by the dunk wall. And waited, and waited. I worried that we missed him.
11:11 Asher got his foot stuck in mud, went down, and was half covered in mud on his right side. Many baby wipes and chastising by Mommy ensued.
11:15 Javi finally came through!
11:38 Javi finished the course, I carried Asher some more, and I had missed my 11:30 start. I wondered, can I make it to the 11:45 start (in 7 minutes)?
11:44 I made it to the start line! Realized I forgot my gloves, and forgot to give him my sunglasses! Oops. At least I had time to pee. 🙂
At last… after about 4 hours of carrying Asher, I was free! LOL!
The Spartan Sprint course (for me)
First up: River crossing—slipped within the first ten feet, nearly completely submerged in the river!
Oh well, at least I was cooled down, for the time being!
The course went through the woods, up and down and up and down some super steep and rocky hills, had some walls, hurdles, and more walls thrown in, through some more mud and more hills, the sandbag carry….
…and finally some very challenging obstacles. A steep, nearly vertical hill led to the Atlas Stone carry, which I surprising rocked (Get it? Rocked? ha) Carrying my kids around does have its perks, I suppose! I didn’t like those 5 burpees though! Some foreshadowing of what was to come.
Next came my least fave obstacle of the day: The bucket brigade. I uttered many a curse word as I heaved this extremely heavy, incredibly awkward to carry bucket of rocks up a large, steep hill. I stopped to rest once on the way up, at the top, and once on the way down. Everyone was resting, swearing, complaining. The sun beat down on us. It was downright awful. I had been mostly enjoying myself up to that point, but the bucket carry SUCKED. No pics of that, thankfully.
The course planners took some mercy on us, and there was a water stop after that insane carry, where I had 2 cups of H2O and my Huma gel (first one went down great 15 min before the start). It was hot, but I felt fine. I ran where I could, not too fast though, as I wanted to save my energy for the 12 obstacles clustered at the finish line area. I got held up at many points coming down the mountain because the trail was so narrow/steep in some spots, there was a line of people to go down.
Finally, about 4 miles later, I emerged from the woods by the Herc hoist!
Here’s a rundown of the final 11 obstacles (numbered to correspond with the map):
- Herc hoist (pulling a heavy sandbag up by a rope)—rocked it. Up & down, done son.
- Spear throw—once again, the spear splayed off to the left, and I did my first round of burpees. Ugh.
- Barbed wire crawl. Second worst obstacle of the day. Did NOT like this. I tried the rolling method and got sooo dizzy. Rolled over some stones too. Lost a good chunk of time here.
- Rolling mud / dunk wall. Family was here, so I was happy to see them. I threw my sunglasses to Javi so I wouldn’t lose them. Definitely a better time than Charlotte’s freezing cold, very deep, ripped-a-hole-in-my-pants dunk wall.
- Slip wall—up and over.
- Rope climb. Once again, the ropes were all so slippery and covered in mud, that I couldn’t even get a hold. I tried twice, figured my effort was futile, and started my second round of burpees. Uhhhhh. Javi couldn’t climb it either.
- Olympus. This one is special. It looks kinda easy but is surprisingly hard. I made it close to halfway, then couldn’t hang on any more. Third round of burpees and started to get really sick and tired of burpees.
- Tire Flip. Something in my hip made a popping noise, but thankfully didn’t hurt myself. Got ‘er done somehow.
- Twister. Another “special” one. I made it maybe ¼ of the way, and just couldn’t grip anymore. It was awkward, and I had to do ANOTHER freakin round of burpees. I was disheartened by this point.
- Bridge. Up and over.
- Multi-rig. Also known as rings. I failed this one badly in Charlotte, because my hands were slipping, so I didn’t have high hopes, but figured I should at least try. I did NOT want to do another set of burpees. The guy in front of me said “These rings are dry” so I watched him, and he made it across. I started out, and I thought, “hey, I think I might be able to do this!” About 3 rings from the end, I realized the bell I needed to ring got tangled up. Thankfully, a volunteer fixed it about 5 seconds before I reached it. OMG, it felt SO good to ring that bell. It gave me a huge boost!
- Fire jump. Ecstasy at being at the finish!
I felt exhausted, but proud. The medal somehow makes it all worth it. I thought I had a fast time, but didn’t wear Javi’s watch, as he said he had trouble with it (and I didn’t want my new Garmin to get muddy or broken!) He said I was about 1 hour, 45 minutes. I was like WOW that long?! Surprisingly, I did well in my age group and for women’s overall:
I could tell the boys were all exhausted too. I hosed off the best I could, changed, got my T-shirt, and we grabbed a burger, chicken wrap, fries and lemonade that all tasted SO FREAKIN GOOD. When you’re hungry, I suppose anything will do. I was ravenous and so was Javi.
Asher fell asleep 5 minutes into the ride home.
I watched him, and he literally could not keep his eyes open. Poor guy. All that being carried around was exhausting… ha! I couldn’t get enough to drink… probably took in only 4 cups during the race, so I drank probably 7-8 cups on the way home, but still wanted more.
We (J & I) yawned the whole way home, and we had to take a detour around I-40 construction, but we made it. Took us a combined 20 Q-tips to get our ears cleaned out (yuck!) The hot shower felt sooooooooooo good after all the mud. My tummy was a little upset but calmed down after we got home.
Luna was happy to see us!
My lower back and core held up very well (thank you, yoga!) My ankle was fine too–praise the Lord!
I have bruises on my forearms from the wall, and more bruises on my legs and butt from rolling through the barbed wire crawl. My lats, upper back, and shoulders are very sore from the carries, climbs, and rings. I didn’t put sunscreen on my upper back so that got burned. So grateful for my body and its amazing strength. This event is one where I marvel at the incredible abilities of the human body. I was happy that 3 of the 4 of us could enjoy pushing our bodies to new limits. We all had such a good time!
This race was meant to give me clarity on what I want to focus on for next year: obstacle course racing (OCR), triathlons, road racing, or a combo? I can’t rule out OCR/Spartans though, because I got this huge rush of excitement when I conquered some of those harder obstacles. I had a few low points, where I asked myself “Why I am doing this, again?” but after nailing the rings at the end of the race, I feel like OCR could be my “thing.” The mud doesn’t bother me–after years in the Army, haha! I like being in the woods and doing things outside of running (like heaving heavy things, climbing walls, and trudging/swimming through creeks). We will see how the Ramblin’ Rose triathlon goes—my next event! It’s in less than 3 weeks, then I can focus solely on the next Spartan, in Fayetteville on 9/24. It will be the Super length (8-10 miles), but I’m not sure yet if I’ll go solo or on a team.
If you made it this far, you are a true Spartan reader/supporter, and I thank you!!
Have you ever done an obstacle course race (or do you want to try one)? What did you think?