It is official, and the photo frickin’ proves it. I ran (and sometimes walked) the Spartan Sprint today. What is the Spartan Sprint you ask? Well, click here for more details. Basically it is a 5K obstacle Race. It’s not as long as other races like the Tough Mudder, but none the less the spirit is there. Run a long trail run with multiple challenging obstacles. These courses are inspired and designed by ex-military trainers, so they are no joke. But none the less, I took it on today and survived and finished. Before, I go any further I want to thank my ‘team’ today @ Bust It Boot Camp through Fit Happens LA for getting us all organized and trained for the race. I also want to thank heavily my Sub Group of my three best buds, Jarret, Jesse and Nate. Nate stayed with me the whole race and really encouraged me a lot. He’s the man! Truly, Nate did some AMAZING work today on that course.
We reported to Malibu Canyon for a 9:30am heat. When we arrived it was mass hysteria! There was a rock band, Registration, Loud PA, FIRE and more FIRE! There was just a ton of awesome cool people around. The vibe was incredibly energetic. I think the event must have hosted about 10,000 participants today. So, good on you, Spartan Race!
We got the gun and the smoke flare and we were off. We first encountered with GLEE water. Then we all got in the water, and found it to be about 50 degrees. Not quite Polar Bear but a enough to take your breath away. And just in case we forgot about it, they made us do it again.
Then there was the first of many (and I mean many) hills. It was short but sweet and ended in some 4 foot wall scales and some under crawls. Nothing too drastic, but then again, we found ourselves staring at a massive hill. The next 3/4KM was spent climbing basically a mountain. At the top we found our 2nd obstacle. A Cargo Net Climb. Nothing like seeing a sea of humanity scale a rope net at once. Funny story. I managed to jam my head into a strangers ass about half way up. I was chugging away looking at my foot and hand holds, and did not realize the woman ahead of me had stopped. Forehead to butt cheek, and apology later, and I was helping her transition at the top to scale down the cargo net.
Then we ran down a hill and we all almost killed ourselves. We found a wall challenge again. Over the Wall, under the wall, through the wall, rinse repeat. More hill runs. This is where our collective group started to spread out a bit. We did a Creek Crawl for a good portion, scaling rocks and the like. Eventually we found ourselves face to face with our next obstacle. A Cross Fit Rig, or as I like to call it, adult monkey bars. Oh, did I mention you had to do a hand over hand rope climb up a hill to get to them? I forgot that part. That part I was fine with. The Monkey Bars were a bitch and I slipped off my third hand hold. The penalty for that, 30 burpies. (Just a note to you Spartan Sprint Organizers, GO FUCK YOURSELVES with these Burpies).
We ran on to the water station for a quick drink, a little Guns N’ F’n Roses, and on to the next obstacle. This was a tire descent and ascent. We basically carried an old tire down a steep hill then back up. A bunch of us fell during this and ended up sliding to the bottom in a polite heap. We then scaled back up. The tire wasn’t a big deal for me. NOTE: Things that involved strength were places I excelled. Things that involved agility were places I did not excel.
Then it was about this time I realized, we had scaled a mountain, gone down the other side, and we were heading back UP the mountain. The next 1-2 Kilometers was predominantly an uphill climb. This really hurt. It wasn’t torture, because I have been doing hill climbs for a while at Boot Camp, but unfortunately, it was tedious and long and dropped fairly far back in the pack. Eventually after what felt like an eon we found ourselves at the top, with a trail guide letting us know we were in the final kilometer. At this point, I realized we hadn’t seen that many obstacles yet. There was a minimum of 10. Oh, Crap.
When we got to the bottom of the hill… the scene I saw before me… how do I put this… a lesser man would have wept openly. I cried a lot on the inside. The scene was just people screaming encouragement while other people just flat out suffered. Let’s get to the gory details. Another puddle jump to a horizontal Wall crawl. However, this was so slippery and muddy by this time, I fell off quickly, and just like the Monkey Bars, there was a 30 Burpie Penalty.
It was a short jog to the next obstacle. The Swim. This was the part of the race where (and I’m not kidding here) I truly felt like I was in danger. I hit that water and it was if someone had punched me in the stomach. I lost all of my air and realized I could not touch the bottom. I had to swim. I started to struggle, and my partner NATE came back to help me. That calmed me down and I managed to get some breaths in, but it was amazing that I had almost zero control over my breath. It was the opposite of empowering. At this point, we were basically stacking obstacles one on top of the other.
The next one, I killed. They had a bar suspended about twenty feet off the ground. A rope was slung over it and attached to a 5 Gallon Paint bucket filled with Concrete. The goal was to simply tow it back up, and then control release it back down again without dropping it. Penalty for dropping it? You know by now. But I did not drop it. I whipped that damn thing up there quickly and slowly returned it to earth. It was the one time, I finished an obstacle before Nate.
I head on to the next challenge about 30 yards away and this is where everything goes bad. (I know, you thought it was bad already). There was a barb wire crawl. Yep, Barb wire was suspended at various heights for about 25 yards. We had to crawl (not bear crawl, which I can do) but Commando Crawl. The bad part about this was that it was a human traffic jam, and the pace was slow. Oh, and some jack hole was spraying us with a fire hose the whole time. Oh, and Jack Hole’s firehose washed away all the mud, so we were left with large SHARP rocks to crawl through. This was the only time in the race where I was conflicted. I could tap out but guess what I’d get to do again… no damn way. Usually, I rolled under the low crawls, but I could not, because we were crawling like ants up this narrow cause way of barbed wire. It was just a long slow crawl, which felt like it took maybe 10 – 15 minutes. The dude ahead of me slipped and kicked me in the face twice. That sucked. The hose sucked worse. At one point, I lost it and flipped off Jack Hole, and then he just held it on me for a good minute or so. Worse still. I got myself tangled in the barb wire. Luckily, I got out, but my body was so numb from the swim, I didn’t realize I sliced up my back pretty good. If you don’t believe that this was real barb wire take a look at this…
That is my back post race. The holes are where the BARB WIRE caught me up, and I had to pull myself free. This took some of my skin with it. Unfortunately, my shirt was not the only victim here, as my Under Armor shirt also bit the dust on the Barb Wire. By the end of it I scraped, muddy, soaked and freezing. I was also burning a cramp in my hamstring and in my tricep. However, the next jog helped to get the blood flowing for the final few obstacles.
I came to the Spartan Signature obstacle. The spear throw. It’s pretty simple. You take a spear and you need to stick a target with it. I have NEVER in my life had the need to throw a spear. But Nate gave me a few tips. His spear went straight, but failed to stick. He got a Burpie Penalty. My spear went sideways and clattered to the ground next to the target. I got the Penalty. However, I bit the bullet and did my Burpies. The end was in sight.
The last obstacle was a bit of a morale crusher prior to the race, because the start line is next to the finish line and we could watch people struggle with it. You had to jump over a log lit on fire and then run to a 12 Foot Ramp incline at a 45 Degree angle. Sound simple? Well, it’s not when they hose the ramp down with soap. We saw the competitive racers struggle with this. I saved a little bit of mustard just for this last obstacle. I pumped myself up hoping to gain speed and momentum for the ramp so that I carried myself up it and could reach the top. I started my ‘sprint’ and leaped over the fire on my way to the ramp when a JACK ASS PHOTOGRAPHER JUMPED IN MY WAY! He hands me a business card and tells me my ‘awesome photo’ could be found at his website. I almost picked him up and threw him on the fire log.
Instead. I took a new mark and ran towards the ramp. At this point… I hear it. “GO MICK!” I look over and I see my wife standing with the spectators watching me with a big smile on her face. Well, can’t fail now, my wife is watching. Nate and Jesse were waiting at the top to help me over if I struggled, as MANY of us saw competitors struggle with this and required that extra hand up. I take a sprint and as I get to the ramp, I JUMP about three feet up the ramp. I PLANT my foot and then…I’m flying. I slipped off the ramp. My foot goes up over my head and I fall backwards towards the earth and land with a crash on my back. The air rushes again out of my lungs and I hear the crowd cringe and groan. It probably looked as bad as it felt. I slowly get back up. The competitors behind me are now terrified. I take my place again. I run up to the ramp. I don’t leap. I just grab the rope. And then I remember. I excel at the upper body strength portions. Hand over Hand I easily climb to the top of the ramp and scale over with a hand from Jesse and Nate. Team work. The Crowd cheers. I stop at the top of the ramp. I turn back to the crowd… and I blow them a kiss. The CROWD EATS IT UP and cheers again. I scale down the back side of the ramp and I face my last challenge.
Three fairly beefy men with Jousting Staves. They are all dressed as Spartans, they all have a smile on their face. Now, these guys are no joke. I later met a competitor who broke his ankle trying to dodge these guys. I was done. I was tired. I was bleeding. I simply pointed at the guy in the middle and indicated I was going through. Now, he probably clocked in at 175. I clock in at about 270. So, He side stepped me, popped me on my back as I went through and… I’m done.
I finished. A woman clipped off my time chip and she draped the medal for finishing around my neck. A few National Guardsman congratulated me and handed me a towel. I was also handed a t-shirt. I walked off the race course and found my little boy, Max and my wife waiting for me. Max was worries as I probably looked like hell, but I knelt down, took my medal from around my neck and gave it to him. He liked that. I teared up a little.
For me the photo above is about friendship. It’s also about support. I could not have done this without my guys up there. I love them for that. Spare Tire always has been about the community supporting the individual in their effort to become healthy. It has now been over a year, and I went from a guy who found himself sweating and out of breath when I tied my shoes to a guy who a little over a year later ran the Spartan Sprint.
So, writing this about 8 hours later, where am I at? Well, I’m scrapped and cut. My knees look like they were given a once over with a screw driver. My elbows aren’t much better. I found a nice little gash on my hip after I came home and changed. My hands are raw and my back is scratched up from barbed wire. My calf, ham string and tricep will all ache tomorrow from the cramps. I have a lump the size of a ketchup packet on my shin below my knee. Would I do this again?
The challenge of this race is unlike anything I’ve encountered. It really hits you physically from all areas. You cannot dominate every challenge. I don’t know how you could. It’s meant to break you down so that you push through it and finish. This race is mostly about guts. That being said, I would adjust my training to incorporate more hill and trail running. Most of my runs prior to the race were street runs. This does you little to no good on a trail like this. I would also incorporate more climbing, and potentially more pull ups into training. The flexibility you need to endure some of the obstacles is key. I would also work on my grip a bit and strengthen that. I would also need to work on my crawls and rope work a bit.
Gear wise, I’d also ditch the shorts and go with straight on spandex. The shorts just weighed me down. The running shoes were good except for when they got wet. I’d consider switching to barefoot shoes because they seem to carry less weight when wet, but that’s something I’d have to work into. The head band was a good idea. Kept the sweat out of my eyes. I’d also carry a cramp buster with me in the future to down mid-race. Help balance my potassium and sodium levels.
If you are reading this and thinking all this craziness seems Awesome, then I encourage you to just go and find a race near you and do it. You’ll be glad you did. I’m glad I did.