I thought after completing “Run For Your Lives” that each OCR would be the same. I was wrong, really wrong.
I signed up for the Spartan Sprint in Blue Mountain, PA in December 2013. I didn’t do any research prior to signing up. I just thought to myself, “if you did the last race with no issues then this one won’t be a problem either.” Angie, Mike, Keith and Cait also registered for this race. Lauren, Cait’s sister, volunteered in the morning and got to race for free. We had a pretty solid group for our first time.
(Tip: If you are looking to save money on these events, try volunteering. Most organizers offer free or nearly free registration just for a few hours worth of work. Given the cost of the race and the hours you’ll spend volunteering, you will basically be making around $20 an hour. I haven’t given this a shot yet, but I’m hoping to maybe volunteer some time this season.)
When we first arrived, we basically realized we had no idea what we had registered for. Blue Mountain is very steep from bottom to top, but we actually couldn’t even see the top because of the thick fog that day. As we looked up and down the mountain, a look that said “what the f—” quickly spread across each of our faces. Well it was too late now; there was no going back. We got through packet pick-up pretty quickly, so we began stretching and getting ready for our heat.
(Tip: always stretch before these types of races. You’ll be using muscles you’ve never heard of in your life.)
When we first signed up, we picked a general time slot to race during. After arriving, we were placed in a specific heat in the afternoon. You won’t know exactly when you’ll race until you register at the event the day of the race. It was summertime, but you would think since we were in the mountains it would be cooler. That wasn’t case at all. It was hot, humid and muggy.
(Tip: want to avoid long lines at obstacles, a treacherous racecourse and less time to finish? Sign up for an early morning wave. Now we try to sign up for the 10:30 am wave. This is about the time the elite runners finish. The course isn’t torn up yet, which is huge for safety purposes.)
After we got started we ended up in small groups. No, unfortunately we didn’t stick together on this one. This was mistake number one. I was alone, Mike and Angie were together, followed by Lauren, Cait and Keith. We each worked at our own pace.
(Tip: don’t push yourself to finish as fast as you can. There is no money or prize for the “open” heats.)
I can only speak for myself in regards to obstacles for this race. Half walls were the first obstacle followed by the steep climb to the top of the mountain. Most of this was through wooded and rocky terrain. It was 2.5 miles up followed by 2.5 miles back down.
(Tip: unless you are a warrior of some sort don’t try to run up any steep mountains at full sprint. Typically, there isn’t enough room given the typically narrow path. It’s also very easy to slip and hurt yourself badly.)
About halfway up I completed the sandbag obstacle. I was given a sandbag that I had to carry down a short distance then back up the same distance. It followed an oval shaped course they made around some trees. The sandbags were pretty heavy, but they had different weights for guys and girls.
(Tip: if you are afraid of heights, don’t look down. Also if you stay bent over with your eyes to the ground while carrying the sandbags it doesn’t seem as long. I’ve tried looking up, and I felt like it took much longer.)
After I dropped my sandbag off, I still had half of the mountain left to climb. At the top I was met with three obstacles. Tire flip, spear throw and rock lift—three obstacles all requiring upper body strength. I completed the tire flip and rock lift but failed the spear throw. Since I failed the obstacle, it was burpees for me. I did my burpees and moved along.
(Tip: when lifting tires, use your knees not your back. For the spear throw there are a bunch of YouTube videos that show the proper technique. All I can say is keep your arm in a forward motion even after letting go. It will keep the spear straight. At the rock lift, use your legs to your advantage.)
There was a water station at the top, so after some high quality H2O it was back down the mountain we go. Descending is definitely better than going up the mountain. People are more spread out, and it’s easier to maneuver around trees and rocks. Along the way I hit some mud obstacles including one where I had to drag a cinderblock attached to a chain through some water (knee deep at most).
(Tip: when you are in the water with the cinderblock, don’t stop. Keep moving! You face the possibility of getting stuck or sinking into the mud. Save your stops for dry land.)
After the cinderblock drag, I was met with a choice of either the monkey bars or balancing across wooden pegs. I went with the pegs. I tend to be better with balance obstacles rather than strength. Again, I completed this obstacle. It’s also one of my personal favorites.
(Tip: for the wooden peg balance obstacle, don’t let both your feet end up on the same peg. Just keep moving forward as if you are walking normally. It will be difficult, but the faster you move the less likely you are to lose balance.)
The next obstacle involved a little swimming across a man-made pond after sliding into it. Since I could touch the bottom I went for this one. Being tall does have its advantages sometimes. In the pond they had about five or six inflatable tubes to “go under.” So I went under each one and completed this part as well.
(Tip: if you’re like me and don’t like being submerged under water, you can lift the tubes up to give yourself clearance. There is normally enough slack to allow this. I saw a YouTube video on this and it was mind-boggling.)
The final two obstacles included the rope climb and scaling a wall while only stepping on little wooden blocks. You already know the result of the rope climb, but can you guess the result of the wall scale? If you guessed fail, then you’re correct. To this day I can’t complete that obstacle either. Although, I get closer to completing it every time.
(Tip: when I complete either or both I’ll let you know. Keith said for the rope climb “keep your legs locked and use them to lift you up the rope.” It looks like it helps.)
I finally crossed the finish line in 1:51:11. This is my personal best for a Spartan Sprint. It’s crazy to think that my first race would be my best, but you’ll later learn this was also the easiest Spartan Sprint. Oh by the way, the elites who ran in the first heat finished in only 45 minutes. Just thought I’d share that bit of information.
Mike, Angie, Cait, Lauren and Keith all crossed the finish line shortly after me. We were all pretty banged up, but enjoyed the race thoroughly. Prior to rinsing off we got some nice photos together showcasing our mud and medals. This is always a highlight of our day together.
So now you’re aware this was the first and last race I chose to run alone. I’ve realized since then that running with someone is a lot more fun. Now no one runs alone.
This would be the start of our Spartan Race addiction. In later miles I’ll talk about 2014 and 2015. In the next mile I’ll share our experience at the Warrior Dash—another first for our team.