This was to be my first Spartan, and being one week shy of exactly one year since I started this whole OCR insanity, I was eager to test my newfound fitness against this well-known racing series. At the same time I was a bit bummed as I had been fighting the fucking phlegm monster for a month, and that little prick decided to make a guest appearance just a few days before the race. My racing buddy and I arrived at GIHP at 6:45 in the AM and it was 26 fucking degrees. The kind of cold that only feels worse because you know you’ll be wet and muddy very soon. The ½ mile walk from the parking area was not an unwelcome bit of warm up. Check in was a breeze. I mean when isn’t it when you’re there before the sun is up? We walked into the festival over rutted and frozen ground passing under the cargo bridge obstacle. This would prove to be a cooler experience on the way out when it was covered in racers, but know it was just a quiet welcoming hulk. We found the biggest team tent and parked my newest piece of OCR gear – a four wheel collapsible cart with 250 lbs. of crap carrying capacity. Everything in the tent was covered in fucking frost! Did I mention it was ass puckering cold? I had already decided to wear a long sleeve compression shirt and forgo making yet another group of racers suffer through my blinding whiteness, but I was still unsure about pants versus shorts. Quick hellos were said to my fellow GORMRs. As we unpacked our gear and race packets the cold started to really seep in and the decision was made; Compression tights (hey Athletics8! You need a 46 year old with middling fitness to pull in the cougar demographic?). This proved to be a highly prescient choice. Some of the GORMR ladies seemed to appreciate my Marvel Comic boxer briefs (About to do their 11th race. Barbed wire inflicted holes and all) when I dropped trou. They could have been laughing AT me. Did I mention it was fucking cold? Anyways, my trusty, 10 races tested board shorts were still going on over the compression tights. No one needed to see my Mamel Toe. Did my usual race prep in those strange plastic boxes lined up like Qin Shi Huang’s terracotta army on the other side of the jumbled mess that was the festival area. Went for a, (now a habit at GIHP), pre-race jog to the parking area and back. And just like the weather report predicted the “fair Lady Georgia shone her golden radiance down upon” Sparta. Perhaps we might get to just plain freezing by the 8:00 am start time.
Notes for the Reader
I was to end up doing two laps; my original 8:00 am heat and the 10:45 am heat with the bulk of my fellow GORMRs. One * means the second time on the obs (obstacle) was easier because of increased temps, 1st lap knowledge, etc. Two ** means it was harder because of muddiness, tiredness, etc…
- The drones flying overhead while in the starting corral had a menacing…umm, drone, which gave me a “this shit’s about to get real” kind of feeling.
- Singing the National Anthem A capella style due to an A/V snafu (side note: I think this was staged. It happened in Tampa also) proved without a shadow of a doubt that I have the singing voice akin to two cats fucking. Have you heard that sound? It ain’t pleasant.
- 200 yards in and we had mud and water filled Moats. I leapt over these like my life depended on it. Though sunny it had not topped the freezing mark. I was able to only get my left foot wet, but it was an icy taste of what was to come.
- **The Hurdles location was a rookie mistake Spartan! 300 yards out was too close to the start for such an obvious back-up causing obs. Having the beam turned 45 degrees was a devious touch though.
- **Walls. You jump. You pull. You crank with your leg. Better the second time around when your hands were full of GORMR ass, helping out like only a true OCR gentleman would.
- **I had been looking forward to the Z Wall ever since I heard they had added these kinks to the linearity of the original traverse wall. As I suspected, it was right in my bouldering wheelhouse, and my very first Spartan bell was rung. An anemic “ding” (the bell was hung up and not hanging freely), but a “ding” none the less.
- *Caution! Monkey Bars will freeze before the trail. Love that they are different spacing different heights and large diameter (though not good with frost and ice).
- *Stairway to Spartan was a good combo of wall and delta ladder. Frost on the wood made for “good times” at 16 feet.
- Decided to try the flip technique on the Vertical Cargo Managed not to kill myself, but I imagine I looked like a flopping fish. Second time around was flawless and caught on camera. Cameraman: “Hey Spartan! Look!” Me: “Hey cameraman; flip with Blue Steel!”
- Getting to hustle past the largest team tent with your fellow team members cheering you on was pure OCR gold. An adrenaline shot straight to the heart from Uma Thurman herself. I’m no square Daddy-O, I’m a GORMR.
- I always try to jump up as many rungs on any A-frame type obs (less climbing), and since the Cargo Bridge was only a mile into the race I was able to get up to the third board. Then it dawned on me, there were people watching! Damnit! Where was the flair, the joie de vivre, the smile?! All business. I was clearly slacking.
- Hercules Hoist. Hoist a heavy bag. Try not to burst a blood vessel…. or bust a nut. Physics and a fucking huge log were in my favor.
- Loved the “non-trail” portions of the course. I could hear the braying of the hounds, the shouts from the screws! I wasn’t going back to the joint! You coppers would hav…….wait? what?! Shit! Watch out for that low hanging limb!
- I broke my streak of falling flat on my face.
- *And then the Rolling Mud (mud pits with mud humps) appeared. As I descended into the first mud/water pit, I bid adieu to my balls, knowing I would not see (or feel them) for quite some time. Each mound progressively higher, each pit of water progressively deeper. This of course makes perfect sense upon later reflection, but when your nuts are seeking shelter in your chest cavity and your feet have become lifeless stumps, the fundamentals of civil engineering escape your immediate understanding.
- As I waited for my buddy to enjoy the “pleasures” of these pits, I looked back towards them. I was struck by the bright sun highlighting the steam rising from the heads and bodies of my fellow racers. Reminded me of my time sharing a hot spring with Japanese Macaques in Jigokudani; Our heads steaming like a New York City sidewalk grate. Oh wait, that was a National Geographic article. Shit! I can’t feel………….anything.
- Pounding my legs as if they were pizza dough and a moderate hill climb gets the blood pumping again.
- **”Fill a bucket!” “To the holes!” “Black buckets for men, red buckets for women!” I better not see that bucket on your shoulder Spartan!” The Bucket Carry was a bitch. I didn’t stop. It sucked. Passed people I did not expect to pass.
- Running down the trail looking like Jim Carrey in that tranquilizer dart scene from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
- **Inverted Wall! Thank god! Get some blood back into the overcooked linguini that are my arms!
- **Tough hill climb. They are getting easier than last year.
- **Oh goody, it’s the Sandbag Carry! First rocks now sand! That soft squishy pancake was like neoprene heaven compared to those evil plastic buckets from the 9th circle of hell.
- *Hey what’s this random bulletin board doing in the middle of the woods? Wait! Why is there a word and a series of numbers next to the last two digits of my prison…..err, bib number?! And why the fuck are they written upside down?! So here I am with several others, heads cocked to the side like a puppy hearing its name for the first time, attempting to read this code from U.N.C.L.E. To the guy who used the sharpie that was lying there on the 2x, that’s cheating fucker!
- I was starting to really dig this bushwacking/running thing. And I was managing to keep my face from getting fresh with Mother Earth. It was a fine day.
- Sierra-322-7038…..over…and over….and over…..and over………….again!
- **Nice and sketchy use of tree fall on a steep downhill.
- Come around a bend and boom! A huge cliff of impressive dimensions looms overhead…..covered in cargo netting?! FUN! Hell, I imagine, for acrophobics. Strange jelly legs at the top. Nerves or fatigue?
- As I write, I cannot picture what was in those heavy ass steel plate sleds at Plate Drag. Since there were not 8 tiny reindeer available (despite the freezing temps) I had to pull that sled myself. Glad that huge spike was there to brace off of.
- Balls to rival my own. Less blue, more concrete. Both cold as the rocks of Torneo’s hoary brow. The Atlas Carry is heavy as fuck for us smaller dudes. First burpees of the day, and they were a required part of the obs. I was determined they would be my only burpees!
- The Double Up was another obs in the wheel house of a climber – Two handed pull, heel hook, crank with the leg, and reach for the upper bar with the right hand. Boom! And……not so graceful on the dismount.
- I was now fully appreciating the “Bear” Novakovich pull-up challenge I did in January. The fucking misery of 3,100 pull-ups in a month was paying off in huge dividends.
- *Hey dudes with the clipboards stopping me! What’s that? My last two digits of my bib number and the double secret code from awhile back!!? Shit, I had not recited it since the cliff climb. And then it appeared in my brain as easy as complex number multiplication is to Raymond Babbitt. SIERRA – mother fucking-322-7038!!! BOOM!……… ’course ten minutes to Wapner.
- And there they were, farmer Brown’s misplaced bales of hay. I was ready. Keep the rope on the hay side of the barrier. Get the rope in big fat loops on the ground with no kinks. Rope lightly grasped in the throwing hand with the spear. Step back two steps. Rope lightly draped and to the side. Side shuffle forward. Hard release. Exaggerated follow-through. YES!! Spear Throw, crushed. All that practice with a roped spear paid off! Do not listen to those that complain the rope effects the throw. It does not, it’s too damn thin and light. They probably stepped on the rope.
- *I tapped into my Johnny Weismuller, used the outside lane closest to the crowd and hit the Rope Swing with all the true Tretsch élan I could muster. Then I got hung up on the bungee cord on the dismount. A couple of awkward and funny looking hops and I still managed to avoid falling flat on my face. So much for looking cool…..
- *I had been wondering where and when the Barbed Wire crawl would rear its pointy head. Just when I had “warmed” back up, down in the wet mud I went. No rolling here, what with strategic mounds in the way. Some so tight to the wire I had to go all cephalopod and ooze through.
- The crowds cheering my name…….in my head.
- **The Slip Wall was just that…….on the second lap. I have got to get faster on the down climb on these A-frame type obs. What’s the trick? I must know.
- *Oh…….goody. More……longer… barbed wire with more mud and deeper water. It’s now roughly 9:20 AM and it has just gotten above freezing (maybe). Since I can’t roll, I’m not flailing like Elaine on a dance floor, but I still manage to feel the sting of a pointy bit reaching out and saying “hello Spartan in the brand new technical compression shirt, that needs some breaking in”.
- **Shit! Steep uphill under barbed wire!
- *From the top of this conquered mound the view made my heart sink. For there, at the bottom of this Hamburger Hill, was a pit with a wall; its lower portion submerged in a huge, ugly, sure to be nad shriveling cold pool of muddy water of unknown depth. Many expletives were shouted…..in my head. There were kids present in the crowd. I’m not an animal. I dropped in; it was chest high!! The cold hit me so hard I stopped and had a microsecond of panic. Grabbed the bottom of the wall, plunged under and left my balls behind.
- **Another cargo climb…..to a platform with poles. And not an Amber, Chastity, Candy or Cherry to be found. I wrapped as tight as I could but still slid down at warp speed. These things were slicker than two eels fucking in a bucket of snot. I hit the ground and jarred the hell out of my left knee. This was a very dangerous obs with not enough cushioning for the surely expected speed of descent. Time for refinement Spartan!
- And Thermopylae was done! That was one long ass obs. It was really 5 rolled up into one miserable obs.
- **So now, really wet, really muddy, really fucking cold it was time for the Rope Climb. Found a good rope, used my practiced foot technique, and rang my second Spartan bell for the day. Not so much on the second lap. The ropes became limp versions of the slippery poles and I failed an obs for the first time that day. Kudos to all you who can climb that greased snake after hundreds of people have been through.
- **A-Frame, up fast down slow. I really need the secret to this.
- **And my streak continues. The Fire Pit is nothing but a smoldering stack of split wood as I take my leap. Once again I am denied the righteous flames of OCR badassery. Though I do get a lungful of smoke…..tasty, minus the salmon.
- **A quick hop into the Mud Pit, because you know, I could still feel one toe and I don’t want to do anything half ass and then across the finish line. And just like that, my first Spartan was done.
- That was pretty fucking awesome!
- I cannot get warm. I am shivering uncontrollably. PB&J going all over the place, but not in my mouth. Firepit…more smoke! Real flames!….helps tremendously.
- The festival is now a jumbled mess with a crap load of people. Takes multiple tries asking multiple staff people (not volunteers) to find the results tent. Nothing is working.
- Core temperature seems to bounce back just in time for 10:45 heat. Refer back to 1-47, but with insane calf and hammy cramps after mile 1.
- I run through the finish line straight to the tent, strip off my shirt, grab my sweatshirt and haul ass (amazing what family obligations will do to muscle cramps) to the 12:30 kids race to follow my 6 year old and her BFF in their first Spartan race.
- Lil’ grommets are just so damn fun to watch doing an OCR.
- I forgo the wash off area for the first time in any race. I just don’t want any more cold fucking water!
- Spartan, black is not a great choice for a changing tent. Walking in to an almost pitch black space, the distinct jingle of medal against medal, the air was pungent with that certain funk that makes the nose hairs curl. The heat from a space heater was oppressive but not all together unwelcome, with the previous shivering still fresh in my mind. It all had a Midnight Express vibe to it. I may have had an ass or two uncomfortably close to my face at one point. The price for snagging one of the few folding chairs, and being low, I guess. Even a lone bare light bulb would have been helpful Spartan!
- Final obstacle – Hauling two 6 year olds, a three year old, and wet gear in my cart back to the parking lot. Brutal, but dry and toasty.
- This race kicked ass. I’m glad I enjoyed it, because I have the Georgia Super and the Carolinas Beast on deck. Though I won’t “drink the kool-aid” (for any race for that matter. Why? They all need to be tackled and enjoyed. No need for deifying any particular one) I really would recommend this race to anyone.
I am an idiot in many ways today. I was calling a teammate by the wrong name ALL day, I failed to make the start of my 6 year old’s daughter’s 12:30 race (this also makes me a fucking tool besides being an idiot), and I did not get a finisher T-shirt because:
- I am a Spartan noob.
- I did not read the athlete’s guide closely enough.
- I didn’t bother asking anyone.
I blame it on the cold.
But a HUGE shout out to Spartan Customer service. I emailed them Saturday night once I realized my monumental blunder after reading several Facebook posts (again, the GORMR family comes through). Sunday morning I had an emailed response saying they would mail me one. Sweet.[spartanracerate]
*Photos By: Thank you to GORMR’s: John Montoya, Jonathan Delgado, Joshua McElroy, Richard Rouse, Tim McCall, and everyone who pitched in.