Spartan Race

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Carolinas Spartan Sprint

I really love obstacle races.  I like mud. I like climbing over stuff.  I like being asked to crawl, wade, and slog through place I would never think of going otherwise. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and wipes me out physically.  Both of those things are feelings I love. 

Mrs. RQ and I participated in the Carolinas Spartan Sprint at the National Whitewater Center in Charlotte.  The last Spartan we did was a Super Spartan that clocked in somewhere around 8 miles.  This one was technically only four, but I honestly really didn’t have any idea how far we had gone at any given time.  The trail was convoluted, ran up and down hill, over hill and dale, doubled back on itself, wove in and out of swamps and rivers, and finally ended up back at the start.  Some dozen or so obstacles thrown in made it even more difficult to gage the distance.   I’m also going to give a disclaimer right now.  I’m pretty sure of the order of the first couple of obstacles, and a sure of the last 5 or so, but prior to that, I’ve really lost the order.  I’m going to try to get them all in, but I have no idea the correct order.  The basic gist was run single track for a while, come out of woods, do obstacle, more single track. I’ve kind of noticed that the obstacles can be divided into endurance, strength, skill, combo, and “hey we need an obstacle here” categories (easy obstacles children could do) that I’m going to call filler, and I’ll try to label them as I go.

The race started next to the NWC’s whitewater facility (which is awesome, by the way), and went fairly flat for about a quarter of a mile.  We then hit a filler obstacle that required one to crawl under some mesh and then over a short (3ish foot) wall.  I think it was really designed to stretch the crowd a little bit out, because we hit fairly tight single track immediately afterward.  We actually slowed to a walk for a while because of the log jam, which isn’t uncommon in this type of race.  This particular stretch was very similar to the course of the one we did last summer. Lots of slippery red clay, switchbacks, and fairly steep ravine sides you had to climb up.  Sometime after that we hit a clearing and another filler obstacle, the old over the wall, under the wall, through the wall times two. More single track led us to a mud bog easily thirty inches deep, and the first real obstacle of the day, a knotted rope with a bell near the top that one had to climb.  I’d but this one in the strength and skill category.  Not too hard in usual circumstances, but you had mud all over your hands and feet, the ropes were already slippery, and the bell was fifteen or so feet off the ground (which you were actually starting below given the several feet of mud).  I managed this one, but I am extremely proud of myself for doing so and it could have gone either way.  Probably 80% of people at least were doing burpees on this one.  After that, a little more single track led to a river, which we then had to slog through for probably another quarter of a mile. I say slog because it also had a foot or so of mud on its bottom and was more like walking through marsh that anything else.  It was slow going, partially because in random intervals, one would hit a 4 foot deep hole, or a tree, or a submerged rock.  Finally, we climbed out on a point of land… only to run 15 feet and hop into another inlet.  This one was too deep to wade, and had to be swum.  After climbing out of that, obstacle order become very murky, so I’m just going to list.  Likewise, the trail between obstacles can be considered anything from moderately challenging to super challenging single track. 

I think what showed up next was the infamous barbed wire crawl.  This time it was on a boulder strewn clay road and we had to crawl thirty yards, make a 180 degree turn and crawl back through ditches and little hillocks. The wire was also too low for somebody of my thickness, so I had to low crawl on my back for a while and hold it up with my hands.  That one is more of an endurance obstacle than anything else.  Over the next several miles, we had:

Strength Obstacles:  drag a 45 lb concrete block around a course via a chain (not allowed to carry), carry a sand bag up and down a hill, pull a five gallon bucket full on concrete up twenty feet off the ground via a slimy rope and pulley (not that hard dry, but coated with mud and having a wet rope…)

Strength and Skill obstacles: A series of 7 foot walls, a series of 8 foot walls, and new to the race for me, a series of walls I had to jump to reach the top of (9 foot?), and then pull myself over (a guy in front of me ran to jump on this one and lost his footing in the red clay, sliding face first full speed into it.  He was ok, so it was hilarious), long monkey bars (which Mrs. RQ rocked- it was a bĂȘte noir

Filler Obstacles:  A claustrophobic trip through a 36 inch drainage pipe (just part of the landscape, not brought in for the race, a climb over hay bales onto an open shipping container (this container actually formed a tunnel allowing folks back and forth to the parking lot, despite the fact that the race course crossed the path)

Both Spartan Races I have done have, in contrast to say, the Warrior Dash, done a nice job of blurring the line between obstacle and just general part of the race course.  That said, both franchises also do a nice job of stacking obstacles at the end of the race, such that the crowd can watch them.  This race was no different.  Emerging from the woods back near the start, we hit what turned out to be the hardest obstacle of the day – the strength and skill laden wall traverse.  It’s basically a 20 foot long wall with 6 inch long, canted, zig-zagging pieces of 2x4 attached at eye and foot level.   One has to hold on, traverse the distance without hitting the ground, and ring a bell at the end.  I got within two feet of the bell and fell off.  I was too tired to do rapid burpees from my effort, and in retrospect it would have been better to fall off earlier.  Next we had a filler obstacle that seemed really out of place – a 200 meter standing row complete with cybex-type machines and a digital counter.  Then my other burpee-bringing obstacle, the spear throw.  I need to practice this one.  After those burpees, we hit a curious filler obstacle that turned out to be psychologically difficult.  It was a simple cargo net climb, but it was strung between two cargo containers over the NWC’s man made white water river.  While there was no way to fall in, the rushing water cause a lot of people to do burpees.  I have to admit, it was strange to see boats full of people whitewater rafting sailing beneath me as I climbed over. What then followed was a short strip of single track.

Emerging again from the woods for a final time, we hit our final series of obstacles – an A-frame plywood triangle covered with dishwashing soap one used a rope to get to the top of,  the famous American Gladiator-style Spartans wielding quarter staff, who pummel you, and a very, very pleasant swim through a portion of the NWC’s man made river.  I frankly didn’t want to get out. 

Frankly, I was wrecked after this race.  I didn’t have the horrible compartment syndrome like calf paint that I had after the first one, but I still knew I had worked hard. Some races, you get a medal and a T-shirt for doing very little.  This one, you earn.  Can’t wait for the next one.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Shamrock 2012

The Shamrock Marathon and Half Marathons are, to my thinking, some if the best organized, most professionally run races in the country. I've previously described the course in great detail. It's flat, fast, scenic and has pretty good crowd support. 

I've not been running much recently, largely because I've been doing other stuff like dead lifts and kettle bell work outs. I won't say this one snuck up on me, but the truth of the matter is I hadn't run in 10 to 12 weeks prior to this race (and even then it was just the Disney Half - I hadn't run for a month or so prior to that one either).  So there you have my preparation- about 13 total miles, run all at once, in the preceding 4ish months. What could go wrong?

Truthfully? Remarkably little. I mean, it was very slow (about 20 minutes off my PR) and it hurt, but Mrs. RQ and I still had a great time doing it.  I got weird shin splint type pains for the first several miles, accompanied by what I can only describe as calf fatigue, but it went away.  A little after that, my left iliotibial band needed stretching. No big deal. I was really tired around mile 11. Shot an extra gel and went on.

    Not my fastest, far from my prettiest race, but the weather was great, Mrs. RQ kept me company, and the beer and Irish stew tasted just as good at the end.  All in all, a pretty good day.

Just a quick pic from the Disney cruise..