If you would have told me on January 1st that I would be running in the April Charlotte Spartan Sprint Race, I would have shrugged my shoulders. If you follow my blog, you remember that it was during the Asheville Super the prior year that I dislocated my shoulder and was ultimately sidelined from many upper body exercises. I sure did make a comeback. Let me start in January. I regained the ability to lift my arm overhead. I was released from physical therapy.
I eased my way in to some serious lat exercises through training with an incredible group of women led by the one and only Emily Breeze Ross at Stax – an incredible crossfit gym in Charlotte. It was in these workouts that I gained confidence in the workload that my shoulder could handle. Let’s face it, I was afraid. In the confines of my home gym, I was hesitant to try certain movements for fear that I would end up in physical therapy again (even though it was evident I wouldn’t). The environment was supportive and the push from other women forced me to work outside of my comfort zone. It was during these workouts that the wheels started turning that I actually might be able to pull off this race (this year).
I completed my Spartan SGX coach certification in February. This gave me the ability to lead my own Spartan training classes. I started teaching my first class in March. It all happened so fast. I was introduced to an incredible group of people, who welcomed me with open arms into a pretty tight knit community.
So positive. So tough. Regardless of what was going on during my day or theirs, these individuals (my team) pushed through some high intensity workouts while also having a lot of fun discussing races and attempting to complete several obstacles. I signed up for the race in February and put the pedal to the metal.
I focused on strength, but also put a major emphasis on conditioning. This year’s course was 25 obstacles spread over 5 miles. It favored those who could run (and run fast). Let me start at the beginning. Conditions were about as bad as it gets for Charlotte in April. Temperatures in thirties. 15-20 mile per hour winds. Warm up was imperative. My husband was set to start at 7:30 AM. I was set for 7:45 AM. After picking up our packets, we went back to the car and sat until 7:00 AM. At that point, we stripped down to our race wear and a long sleeve shirt that we could chuck at the finish line.
I have to admit, this is one moment in my life that I will remember being the coldest (and I went to school in VA where winter wind chills were in the negatives). See my choice of apparel above.
- Mudgear Compression Socks
- Reebok Women’s All-Terrain Super Running Shoe
- Reebok Compression Short
- Athletics8 Compression Arm Sleeves – I ordered just days before due to the weather forecast.
- Nike Racer Dri-Fit Singlet
I dropped my long sleeve shirt at the start. Surprisingly, the arm sleeves made an incredible difference. I would consider wearing these more often. I already knew the socks were key. Outfit set, I was ready to start. See details below.
- Run hard as hell down a cattle beaten hill straight over a small creek.
- Upon climbing a short hill, OBSTACLE 1 – hurdles. Beams suspended about 4 feet off the ground. Clear them. Any way possible.
- Mile 1 done.
- Approach OBSTACLE 2 (“classified”) – over, under, through. You got it. Jump over a short wall, roll under a raised wall and jump through a wall with a hole in it.
- Loop back to start. OBSTACLE 3 – A-Frame Cargo Net climb. See below.
- OBSTACLE 4 –Multi-Rig. I made it halfway across before my cold hand grip failed. I failed. I was sent to the burpee zone. 30 burpee penalty for me. My hands just got more cold.
- OBSTACLE 5 – Hercules Hoist. Lift a heavy bag up and lower it controlled slow. The women’s bag is around 60 pounds. I am still not sure how I was gripping the rope. The only thing that I could think about was how my hands were working, but I wouldn’t feel them.
- OBSTACLE 6 – Spear throw. It’s hit or miss. I actually hit the target dead on, but it fell out. That counts as fail. I’m in the burpee zone. With that I am 60 burpees in and I haven’t even run 2 miles.
- We have hit the 2 mile marker.
- OBSTACLE 7 – “classified” – Monkey Bars. I failed these in Asheville. I nailed them in Charlotte. Nothing is better than kicking that bell to let everyone know you made it.
- OBSTACLE 8 – Atlas Carry – pick up a heavy stone, carry it several feet, put it down, do 5 burpees, and carry it back to start.
- OBSTACLE 9 – Vertical Cargo Net. Take that A-frame net and make it go straight up. My tip – stick to the sides where the net is the least loose. You can climb quicker on the tighter sides.
- OBSTACLE 10 – Plate Drag. This should not be hard. In fact, it isn’t for me. However, being the one of the first groups of people to get to the obstacle, it was nearly impossible. The grass was 2-4 inches high. There were hidden rocks underneath. My sled got wedged in the clumps and rocks. I took longer than necessary to get my sled back and forth.
- We are at mile 3.
- OBSTACLE 11 – Sand Bag Carry. Run/walk/put on your shoulder/back/biceps. Do what you need to do to carry it around a large loop through the woods.
- OBSTACLE 12, 13, 14 – 6, 7, 8 foot wall. Elites have to complete by themselves. I am at a disadvantage being so short. Either way, I made them.
- OBSTACLE 15 – Z-wall. I am convinced that my height makes this almost impossible to complete. I just can’t reach some of the hand hold blocks. I’m back in the burpee zone.
- With that, we are at mile 4.
- OBSTACLE 16 – “classified” Bucket Carry. I dominate this. Could we do the bucket carry the entire race? Having two 20 pound children that I carry around together regularly, easily prepares me for this. See picture at start of post.
- OBSTACLE 17 – Pond run. I never saw a pond. I just saw a lot of mud and nearly impossible terrain to run on. I was forced to slow down.
- OBSTACLE 18 – “classified”. Again, I never saw this obstacle. Maybe they forgot it? Maybe I was just so cold nothing phased me anymore.
- OBSTACLE 19 – Barbed wire. My downfall. My new nemesis. I chose the route where the barb wire was closest to the ground. I tried to roll. I tried to change directions. I tried to crawl. No matter what I did, I got dizzy, was unsuccessful and I ultimately got passed by 4 people in a matter of 100 yards. It shut me down. The anxiety of two weeks of racing set in. I just wanted to make it to the finish.
- OBSTACLE 20 & 21 – Rolling Mud and Dunk Wall. I was actually starting to feel warm before I was forced to submerge myself in water, which eventually led to me having to swim under the dunk wall. I began to hyperventilate and had a very hard time catching my breath. The picture is pretty hilarious. It says it all.
- OBSTACLE 22 – Slip wall. In past races, this obstacle has not actually been that slippery for me. In this race it was imperative to use a rope with the knots. It was slick. My shoes held up for me, providing me the traction that I needed to stay up.
- OBSTACLE 23 – Inverted wall. Another obstacle that I am not used to being so slippery. Climb/jump/find a way to reach the top of an inverted wall and slide down the other side.
- OBSTALCE 24 – Rope climb. No water underneath. A big fan attraction. You better practice this and get it.
- OBSTALCE 25 – The famous fire jump. I tried to edge someone out over the pit. I didn’t quite make it.
I was reluctant to check my place at the end of the race. I thought I was much further behind than I actually finished. My initial check left me at 13th. I was in shock. I thought for sure I would be high 20’s. After final results were posted, I ended up 14th. I snagged a picture with my husband before chatting with him about her experiences.
In my comeback race, I finished 14th overall, 7th in my age group and failed three obstacles (completing 90 burpees). I missed the top 10 by less than 1 minute. Jeff ended up 26th overall, 5th in his age group. He failed one obstacle (completing 30 burpees). It sounds like somebody worked a little harder. Kidding. Here are my biggest takeaways from this race.
- The sport is getting much more competitive. In the first mile, I was running hard. I have improved my run a lot, averaging 7:28/mile in race the prior weekend. The women running in my heat have run races in 2016 with average paces in 6:30-7:00/mile range. They are fast.
- Sponsorship is everywhere. Elite Spartans are making money racing. This is no joke.
- I was not phased by strength, but rather conditioning. I could have saved time transitioning quicker between obstacles and the run.
- Anyone can do these races. I am so proud of my team and all of the other groups out there helping one another to complete these races.
- Most importantly, I am back. I am injury free. I am confident in my ability to do another one. That is HUGE.