When I completed my first Spartan Sprint in June of 2014 I felt accomplished, but relieved. I think my first thought was “thank God it’s over.” I loved the challenge I had put my body through, but I knew I was under trained for it. Fast forward to September 2016 when I first realized I could have a chance for redemption: the Charlotte Spartan Sprint. It was on a farm, not a ski lift like in Tuxedo, and I had been focusing on strength training. My cardio was lacking due to a slow recovery from my ankle tear, but I knew if I was smart I could ramp up slowly to the 5ish miles of the race.
I recruited my friend Michelle, who had been looking for a different type of challenge. A cardio queen and speed demon, this would be a very different type of race than the half marathons she was used to. Like any good friend, I waited until after a round at a local brewery to broach the topic. Once I had a reluctant “sure” from Michelle, I made her register on the spot. Once the credit card is charged and you post it on Facebook, there’s no going back.
The race was in April, cool enough for a light jacket before the race, but refreshing by the time you started sweating. We were joined by her friend Chad, who had deferred from a spartan the previous year due to an injury. It was both Michelle and Chad’s first Spartan and fourth (2 stadium sprints and this would be my second traditional race).
After the first wall to get into the corral, we chanted I AM SPARTAN with the emcee. Fired up, we were on our way.
We had decided to stay together for the whole thing, something I always recommend to friends. There are just some obstacles you’ll need support (emotional or physical) to get over. We reached the first lower walls and I impressed myself by getting over them without help (for the first time ever!).
There were some challenging obstacles that I know I need to train for. I’m more determined than ever to learn to do a pull up to help me over higher walls and increase my grip strength. In total we did 120 burpees. The failed obstacles were:
- Rope climb
- Spear throw
- Monkey bars
- Rope lateral wall
- Inverted wall- I still can’t figure out how to do this without falling on my head. I need more core and upper body strength. Any suggestions you may have for this are welcome!
The most challenging obstacle for me was the rope wall. It was a tall graded wall, just after the 150 yard bear crawl under barbed wire in thick mud, so it was covered in mud and slippery. Once you reached the top of the wall on the rope, you had to go over it and climb down the other side (there were planks on this side so It resembled a ladder). I was able to keep my center of gravity low by staying in a squatted position, but at the top I couldn’t figure out how to get over. I tried to put my chest on the point, but I started to slide backward. I believe my exact words were “oh hell no.” I started having irrational thoughts: I’m just going to stay here. I’m going live here from now on. Luckily Chad had gone over before me. He grabbed my hand and helped me over. In true Spartan family form, everyone in line for the obstacle cheered as I made my way over.
There were a few new (to me) obstacles that I loved including the sled pull (a sled holding a sand bag is chained to a stake in the ground. Pull the sled toward you then drag it back to the starting position) and dunk wall (after 4 mud hills in water, you must go under the water to come up on the other side of a wall). My favorite obstacle is still the Hercules Hoist (a sandbag on a pulley system – you must lift the bag to the top and slowly set it back down. If it isn’t controlled and it drops, you must do the burpee penalty). A teammate had to help me with this my first time and ever since then I’ve been able to complete it by myself. Everyone loves seeing progress 😊
General training tips:
- It’s a farm. There are cow pies scattered throughout and it’s uneven terrain. I saw more people fall (including myself) for trying to go too fast and not paying attention to the roots/loose stones/uneven dirt/mud along the course. When in doubt, take it slowly.
- Invest in trail shoes: As always I made the mistake of wearing older running shoes. The mud quickly filled up whatever tread I had left and I was left with no grip on the ground or obstacles. Trail shoes are made to get caked with early. It’s worth it.
- Just have fun: don’t take it or yourself too seriously. You’re going to end up in positions where you may need help. A hoist over a 10-12 foot wall. Help over a rope wall. Your butt in someone’s face during the army crawl. Embrace it and have fun with it.
- In the end, you’ll know: It’s something they say to you when you’re waiting to start. You’re now a Spartan and it’s the greatest feeling in the world.
Overall ranking: 3.75
Race Price: 4 Spartans are expensive ($80-$100+ for a 3+ mile race). They also charge you to spectate, which just seems crazy to me.
Organization: 4 Between the volunteers giving directions for obstacles, the signs along the course and the clearly defined start and finish line, I was very happy with the level of organization for this race. I will say I couldn’t find the finisher t-shirt tent and had to ask multiple people. This is the only reason they’re getting a 4 here.
Level of Communication: 4 They emailed us a few times before the race in regards to the hurricane plan and sent out a post-race survey email. They never spammed us, but gave us just the right amount of emails. I only wish they had given us a description of the obstacles we could expect.
Race Course: 5 You must respect the course and take it slow where you need. Overall, loved it.
Swag: 2 T-shirt and a coupon for the next event. Nothing exciting.
T-Shirt: 3 I’ll never understand why they give us cotton t-shirts.
Medal: 5 A different design from the years past, which I appreciated. Who wants the same medal over and over?
Spectator Support: 3 There were a few spectator spots and it felt like these were only where burpees were almost guaranteed. The rope climb, spear through, monkey bars, etc. Way to have our families see us looking good!
I feel differently after this spartan. A little redeemed and more focused in knowing what I need to do for the next one. And oh yes, there will be a next one.