Every Spartan Race – or Tough Mudder or Rugged Maniac or other OCR – provides a story (or two or three); they create memories that can be looked back upon years down the road. This past weekend’s Spartan Sprint in Laughlin did just that, and then some. I cannot say if it will prove to be the most memorable, but let’s talk in 10 years to see where this one ranks. My guess is that it will easily be right up there – in so many ways.
Spartans come in all shapes and sizes. From the elite athletes with the 6-pack abs and gorgeous bodies to the overweight, weekend warriors who include high school football among their greatest accomplishments and to everyone in between.
And then there are the adaptive athletes. Imagine a Spartan Race with its hills and mountains, technical terrain, dunk wall, rope climbs and heavy carries. Now imagine doing all of that in a wheelchair or with prosthetic limbs or on crutches.
I was honored enough to witness these athletes first hand and up-close in the Para Spartan Championship.
At the beginning of every race, all racers climb over a 5′ wall just to get to the starting line. I was surprised – though I shouldn’t have been – that these athletes and their teams had to climb over it as well. The chaos of teams helping each other over the wall and/or hoisting wheelchairs was a site to see.
I teared up a bit watching that. Which was followed up by one of the athletes singing the national anthem and then starting line emcee giving an emotional speech as he sent the teams off to conquer the course in Laughlin.
The excitement, emotions, sense of accomplishment, the perseverance – insert whatever adjective you would like – on display was something I will remember for a very long time.
And c’mon. How can one not love a team who call themselves “Straight Outta Legs”? Who, by the way, won the championship with a time faster than most everyone else.
Over the Wall
For me, the Sprint course in Laughlin was probably the easiest Spartan course I have done. Which essentially equates to being the flattest Spartan course I have done. That said, the sand, lose dirt and wind were almost equalizers. It might have been flat terrain, but it was difficult terrain.
Though I do not recall going up any significant hills or inclines, there were two long-ish declines that assisted greatly in allowing racers (i.e. me) to keep a steady, slow, gravity-assisted jog for a couple of long stretches.
Because of the wind, understandably, there was no Fire Jump. There was also no Dunk Wall (we were told the water kept evaporating, though it looked to be more of a rip in the tarp that caused the water to drain out.)
Otherwise, a lot of the staples were there: Rope Climb, Bucket Brigade, Hercules Hoist, Spear Throw, Z-Walls, etc.
And despite the wind – did I mention the wind and blowing dust? – the festival area was in full swing with racers enjoying the 75+ degree weather, music, DJ-led activities, a couple of food trucks, etc. What I thought was really cool, too, was walking through the casino(s) and seeing so many people decked out in their Spartan finisher shirts wearing their Super and Trifecta medals.
Unlike traditional 5k runs or half-marathons, obstacle course races are not standardized and certainly not identical. Differences in race length, terrain and obstacle density and completion, all play a role in overall time and placement. What can be used as a measurement is the comparison of overall placement among all racers, all males and all racers within my division (i.e. age group).
Though the course in Laughlin was not as difficult as others, everyone completed the same course with the same obstacles on the same day making for a good way to benchmark performance compared to others.
- Overall placement: 712 of 1227 racers (58%). *This was my highest placement of all past Spartan races. I’ve never finished better than the 73-percentile overall.
- Placement among all males: 453 of 681 (67%). *Again, a personal best by 10-percentage points.
- Placement among those in my age group (45-49 I believe): 49 of 84 (58%). *Previous best, 76-percentile.
And so much of this can be attributed to my friend Jason who ran the course with me. I have run so many of these races by myself; preferring not to hold anyone back from having their own successful race. I know I’m slow. I know I walk too much. I know it is up to me to motivate myself and essentially compete with myself. I cannot expect nor depend on others to do any of that for me.
Though there is a lot to be said with running with a team or partner.
Part of my motivation was to push myself to be better than the last race. But part of it, too, was to not hold Jason back too much and to not embarrass myself in front of a friend. He would politely call me an idiot for thinking that way, but that’s the truth.
These races are so much about community and teamwork. Everyone is there for each other and everyone is there to help everyone else be better. And Jason has done that for me on more than a couple of occasions: Big Bear Beast, Tough Mudder, the Stadium Sprint and now the Laughlin Sprint.
And for that, I cannot thank him enough.
And the rest of the story...
Back in February I told the story of how I broke my big toe at the AZ Spartan Super. Not to be outdone, I must relay a new story. A new story of how I broke my pinky toe in Laughlin.
I would love to say it was due to some arduous activity like completing the Herc Hoist. Or sprinting downhill on uneven terrain in order to push myself towards personal triumph and glory. Or another racer accidentally dropping her sandbag on my foot while I was trying to help her finish the obstacle. But I can’t.
I broke my pinky toe slipping into the hot tub at the hotel after the race.
I know. I know. It’s not a very manly story. And no – I wasn’t drunk either. I simply stepped onto the first step of the hot tub and, wooops. I tripped.
So as I finish this post, just know that once again I am in a walking boot and am limping around contemplating that maybe this is not for me. That maybe it might time to end this charade. Obviously I am not as young as I used to be.
No decision has been made yet, but I am seriously considering never going into a hot tub again.