Five times I’ve gone online – on Facebook, Twitter and of course this blog – and proudly proclaimed myself a “Warrior”.
First I was just a warrior. Then there was the repeat. Next I conquered the battleground in Nebraska before eventually completing the Warrior Dash in Phoenix, Arizona.
Thus becoming a five-time back-to-back, multi-state, multi-time zoned warrior.
I won’t say I ran great nor was I even remotely in what anyone might define as being in “good shape”. But I did it and am proud of the title.
Then there was the Arizona Spartan Race.
I thought the Warrior Dash was tough. It was a walk in the park in comparison. To put it mildly, Spartan kicked my ass.
By definition, the Arizona Spartan Sprint was supposed to be a 3 to 5 mile run with 20 to 23 obstacles (in reality, it was 4.8 miles and 26 obstacles.) There was the rope climb, the inverted wall, monkey bars, spear throw, sand bag carry, plate drag, 8′ walls to climb over, barbed wire crawl, mud pits, etc., etc., etc.
Unlike the Warrior Dash, however, skipping or failing an obstacle doesn’t result in a good laugh among friends. The penalty before moving on is 30 burpees.
To put it mildly, burpees suck. No one likes them. As a matter of fact, it was the number of burpees I’d have to do that bothered me more than the hills and running. In any given Spartan Sprint I was told runners typically did between 30 and 90.
I did 100+, I think. I really don’t know as I lost count at how many obstacles I failed and how many times I hit the ground as a result. And in Spartan, there are no do-overs. You fail, you burpee.
And the course, at Ft. McDowell, proved to be everything one would expect: it was hilly, muddy, challenging and again, hilly.
So why Spartan Race?
The bottom line, really, is the challenge of it all; to push yourself beyond the norm of a typical 5k or a typical mud run for that matter. Perhaps just as important is the focus and motivation on trying to get (or stay) healthy.
But the biggest lesson learned was the teamwork. Runners were constantly helping each other, encouraging each other and giving much needed advice on the course making the group more important than the individual. A concept in which a lot of us need reminding…
Let’s face it: we only have one shot at life and most of us spend it at a 9-to-5 desk job with little variety where routine becomes just that: routine.
The Spartan Race – and the Warrior Dash for that matter – forces you to break habits and to do something completely out of the ordinary. In some ways, it becomes more of a mindset than anything physical (but seriously, I hate burpees.)
To be honest, I was disappointed at my effort and certainly could’ve prepared better. But as Def Leppard says at the end of every show, until next time… and there will be a next time! – there will certainly be for me. My 43-year old body might not like it, but my 25-year old mind can’t wait.
Yet for now, from the highest virtual mountain, I can look upon the world, and myself actually, and humbly declare: I am a Spartan.
Rope climb. I needed the knots on the ropes that the women were provided. Without them, I didn’t come close on this.
Z-walls. Hugging a wall that bends twice at 90 degree angles proved too much even with help.
Monkey bars. I practiced this and still had little chance.
Inverted wall. Picture a wall at a negative angle and very muddy hands.
Rope swing. I think I simply chose a rope that was too long. Upon swinging like Tarzan across a mud pit, I splashed right in. Of course my muscles were jello at this point.
- Train for the unexpected. Doing multiple sets of curls or triceps extensions or and bench press at the gym don’t really help when carrying a 50-lb sandbag up and down a hill or when having to fill a bucket with rocks and having to carry it 80 or so yards.
- Bring a water pack. There were water stations on the course, but not nearly enough.
- Wear gloves. After hoisting myself over walls, pulling ropes, climbing out of mud-pits and carrying rocks – my hands were on fire towards the end.
For me, the most difficult obstacle was the rock carry. We had to fill a bucket with rocks and carry it about 75-yards or so up and down a hill without being allowed to balance it on our shoulders.
The 6-year old twins got a chance to run the Kids’ Spartan Race. It was a half-mile course with a few walls, some mud, a spear throw and burpees. Their excitement when showing off their medals and telling me about their run is something I won’t soon forget.