Spartan Race Atlanta Sprint 2016
March 5, 5:25 AM, My Driveway – Holy Crap! 34 fucking degrees! It’s cold! Not in the I’m going to die, because I could just put on a turtleneck and my tweed, way; but rather, I’m running a race today and I’m sure to get wet and will die way!
5:45 AM, 20 East – What an awesome time for an AC-DC rock block! Speakers are at 11
6:00 AM, Exit 82 Conyers, GA– I miss my fellow Grey Berets as I fuel up alone at the Waffle House.
7:00 AM, GIHP parking lot – I load up my wagon with the essential OCR supplies: racing gear, folding chair, 2 cases of beer, an easel, and a special poster that pokes fun at some friends.
7:15 AM, Festival Area – The Festival area is HUGE. I can see several signature Spartan obstacles along the fringes. I find the largest team tent and claim a parking space for the Grey Berets beer wagon.
7:25 AM, Festival Area – I decide that it’s cold enough to justify wearing full compression tights, AKA “pecker pants”. Of course, I have to wear my well-worn race board shorts to cover all the naughty bits. I have also decided to wear some work gloves for the first time ever to keep my hands warm and a long sleeve compression shirt. Oh, and a skull cap. I’m becoming soft.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE RUN:
- We get the usual speech at the starting corral: the emcee droning out his spiel – rote reciting, sounding like a flight attendant with 20 years.
- Everyone in the corral is excited though. We are the very first wave of Spartan’s new competitive category.
- I keep reminding myself of the promise I made all week: do not go out like a fucking jack rabbit and die a mile and a half in. Keep that monstrous ego in check!
- It’s 36 degrees. And, we are off!
- We get to the Hurdles in the same place via the same route as last spring. This time though, there is not a thick layer of frost on them. I launch with a sense of well-practiced ease and get denied. I’m hanging on like it’s a sternum checker and then get spit off. Well fuck! That’s not a good way to start a race.
- The course continues as per last year and we hit two rows of round Hay Bales sitting in the fire break.
- I immediately drop into some dense woods, where there’s not much choice but to go single file or risk getting pummeled by branches.
- The woods open up a bit and there is a bit of water and mud that everyone is avoiding like it’s fucking liquid magma. No sense getting the tootsies wet and cold this early in the race.
- The 6’ Wall goes more smoothly.
- The woods are still open but we are definitely bushwhacking it by following strips of white Spartan course tape. In fact, we have already crossed over several actual trails. It’s all beautiful, and the sun is out, and my bawbags are still toasty.
- Uh oh! There’s a creek. Please don’t make us go in it!
- It’s a constant dance on the toes to avoid all the tree fall and forest floor detritus. I’m not known for my fucking grace, so I keep my head down.
- The Mile One sign pops up in the middle of the woods. Shortly after my watch buzzes with the same information. My pace is somewhat where I wanted it to be. Perhaps a bit conservative and definitely not jackrabbit like.
- I’m a fucking human pinball as I go careening down a hill bouncing off trees. Whoooooaaaa!
- HA! Suck it! I made it down the hill unscathed!
- Fifty feet later….Flying through the air! FACE PLANT. Piper down! We have a piper down! Luckily I land in the soft leaves and am back on my feet before the guy behind me runs me over.
- After a bit, it feels like I’m gonna need to settle in for a longish run. The forest is beautiful, and the pace is good…………..annnnnnnd I fucking face plant….again! Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with me?!
- Vertical Cargo Net pops up out of nowhere. The thing is a short flaccid mess. Like a fucking idiot I go straight to the middle, the mostest saggiest floppiest part. It’s a challenge climbing up as it leans back thirty degrees. The flip technique gets me quickly over the top, and with my feet only inches from the safety hay bales, no down climbing is needed.
- The trees have greatly thinned out and I’m now on an actual trail. The running is fine. I muse about what was here before, seeing as how obviously this is all new growth trees.
- The. Fuck. Is. That. Smell!? A putrid smell of death and decay assaults my prominent proboscis. I immediately get flashbacks of OCRWC (go here for THAT review). My nose hairs (old man hairs mind you. Takes a lot to get those fuckers tingling) curl up for the better part of a quarter mile.
- The Invert Wall shows up in a clearing. The boards on the approach make it an easy task. It’s an opportunity for passing folks. I’m still cautious on the slide down though; it’s an ankle twisting zone.
- So far my new Icebugs are performing like a dream despite my fucking clumsiness.
- The density of the woods remains the same but we are back to bushwhacking it. I’m loving this!!
- We cross the firebreak for the second time.
- As I drop into thicker woods again, I get the first taste of water and mud that can’t be avoided. I’m good and warmed up, what the hell; I splash through it with abandon. The water is absolutely fucking freezing. My feet are not happy, but my hands are warm and toasty in the work gloves.
- I pass what looks to be the kid’s course, which means I’m heading back towards civilization – the festival area.
- O-U-T comes into view. A quick hop over the 5’ wall, a quick roll under t….OWW! I whack my arm and hand on the wall. I’m so floppy when I roll. I’m like some fucking ragdoll. Why can I not have control over my extremities? The stick and giggleberries refuse to comment.
- I wish I had a killer form going through the “through”. But alas, I look like a geriatric corgi going through a doggie door that’s six inches off the ground.
- It’s nice flat grass running as I pass the starting line on my way to the A-Frame.
- The A-Frame spans the entryway to the kid’s course. The lil’ grommets are going to get a kick out of walking underneath the “big kids”. The Flip-n-Crab ™ goes flawlessly. (Learn this technique my lovelies. It’s saves time and makes it easier on the down side.)
- I love the Spartan Monkey Bars, especially when they’ve been in the sun and don’t have fucking ice on them. They are at different heights and spacing, and the bars are good and chunky and fit oh so nice in my hands. I opt to kick the bell for the first time ever. Meh. I cheated myself out of the last bar.
- More flat, fast grass running brings us to a ninety degree turn into more heavy woods. The ground is soft with leaves, pine needles, and humus. The pine trees bristle with limbs and branches and other pointy things that could catch the inattentive racer.
- The first real hill appears, and as always, I power walk it to conserve energy.
- The 8’ Wall appears in a break in the woods. Mud at the base of each makes the approach tricky, but the top is reached. More people are passed.
- Back into the sun dappled woods.
- Damn! I’m feeling like Samuel L. Jackson, because it’s a fine motherfuckin’ day!
- I cross the fire break for the third time, which means we must be heading out to the back forty again. I’m just glad we aren’t carrying heavy shit up the long ass hill that is this fire break.
- The scenery just keeps getting better running through some open trails.
- Plate Drag pushes prodigious piles of pine straw at its prow as I pull that ponderous piece of poop across the ground. At least it’s not like the soul crushing mud at the Carolinas Beast.
- I am rewarded for my efforts with a downhill bombing run. Gravity is wondrous (except when you are face planting). Thank you Sir Newton (fuck you Sir Newton).
- I can see the Yellow River through the trees as I take a hard left on the gravel trail. Memories of a tough Battlefrog jerry can carry jump out and say “BOO!”
- It remains a slight downhill as I cruise to the Z-Walls. The legs are feeling good.
- Well, well, looky here! I have caught up to some people I needed to catch up to. My starting pace is paying off.
- At the Z-Walls, I favor an inside corner for the first transition and luckily the walls are positioned such that this choice is bathed in fair Lady Georgia’s golden radiance. So, everything is deliciously dry dry dry!
- Even dry, you must give these walls the proper respect they deserve. A measured pace with a firm grip and well placed feet is the key (kind of like sex), and don’t stick your ass out (not kind of like sex), you have to keep your center of gravity close to the wall.
- The Bell is rung.
- The course continues to be absolutely fantastic as I drop into some single track in a wide open forest.
- Cross the firebreak for the 4th time – Heading home baby!
- I get into some thick woods with single track and get behind three women walking (hello? Elite females? WTF?). I make the obligatory “on your left”, and then notice there ain’t no left to be had, with a tree filled steep embankment impeding my way. They aren’t helping at all by not squeezing right.
- I finally scramble off to the right on a tree fall that takes me down to some strange sand flats and some kind of swamp in training.
- Cargo Net Cliff Climb starts off with a long rope and transitions into a cargo net on an ever increasing slope until it finally goes to vertical. It’s a cute version of Pinnacle Hill at Mud, Guts and Glory, but still fun as hell.
- Annnnd it leads right to a fucking hill. I can’t bitch and moan too much, it’s only the second real hill of consequence so far. It gets the same Jazzercize power walk treatment.
- The downhill on the wide open trail feels glorious.
- I pull up to the Spear Throw confident in my ability to channel my inner Achilles. I lovingly prepare the rope on the target side of the barrier so as not to inadvertently step on it. I grasp my spear (easy there people!) in the appropriate location with a medium grip (ok! Knock it off!). I take my usual one long step back. I line up Spearman with my left arm. I send that fucker zipping through the air like a rocket.
- I shanked it! motherfucker! I shanked it! You have got to be shitting me!
- It grazes the right side of the middle bale. Just like at home! Those 5 whole minutes of practice the previous weekend just worthless!
- I do my thirty. There goes a couple of precious minutes.
- At this point I am on very familiar ground – the service road/riding path that shows up in every single race at the Georgia International Horse Park. At least it’s flat.
- Rolling Mud with Dunk quickly appears. Backlit like an angelic steaming pile of poo. Only this steam is coming from the water pits. I go over the first mound and jump into the water. Sweet baby Jesus! That water is cold! The coldness hits me like a fucking sledgehammer. I squeal like a tweener at a One Direction concert while Yung the Hung and his dim sum go seeking refuge in my spleen.
- Thankfully the pits are not as deep and the mounds not as tall (duh! Civil engineering!) as last year.
- Two more mounds and one more water pit, I can’t feel much of anything below my chest and then my day gets really interesting; a fucking dunk wall! Holy Beelzebub’s bathtub Batman! It’s still very early so the water is right up to the bottom edge of the wall. No choice. Complete immersion. There go the warm dry hands in the warm dry work gloves!
- My leg muscles are about to revolt and the right honourable member for Fuckinghamshire and his clockweights have completely abandoned me, leaving me wet and alone as I drop into the woods for more bushwhacking. Wait….that doesn’t sound right
- Face Plant! AGAIN! Just fucking great! It’s shaping up to be a repeat of the first half of the 2015 season.
- The work gloves, though now wet, prove to be a boon for filling the bucket in record time at the Bucket Carry.
- I pass muster under the careful gaze of a volunteer checking for the appropriate fill level and head on out.
- What the fuck?! It’s a short forty-five-degree slope through trees to start the loop. Sketchy does not even come close to describing this.
- The loop is flat, easy, and short through some lovely pines and is over in no time.
- Fuck! Now it’s time to go up the same slope. The shoes dig in like a Rottweiler on a ham bone. I pity anyone who doesn’t have lugs on their shoes.
- Distance was traded for scariness. The start and finish are ankle snapping, gravel spewing, head knocking clusterfucks waiting to happen. I would rethink this part Spartan.
- Two hundred yards of open grass running and I’m at the Atlas Carry already! Diabolical. The scale of the weight has changed (lots of little pieces of gravel vs. one honkin’ sphere of concrete), and the carry distance is short, but my back still yells, “you’re an asshole!”
- With no mud, Satan’s love spuds are not suctioned to the ground (ok, that didn’t sound right either) and it only takes foreplay levels of grunting to get the damn thing lifted.
- The Rope Climb is immediately next. Though tricky with the new(ish) thinner ropes, the bell is rung without a hitch. I forgot to take my gloves (now soaking wet) off, but this did allow me to slide down in double time without setting my hands on fire.
- Barbed Wire on flat grass with a couple of 4Xs thrown in. Yawn……
- I run for the next few yards with eyes crossed, staggering like a hammered college kid on spring break, as I shake of the post rolling dizziness.
- The Slippery Wall is in the shade but dry. Up and over and the shoes perform flawlessly.
- Back in the woods and straight into a fucking cold swamp. Oh how the feet doth protest! I swear the water is getting colder at each new location.
- Will this swamp ever fucking end?!
- Oh shit! I feel the fluttering of electrical impulses in the calves. Please don’t cramp on me now! I pass a couple of more racers just to get the hell out of the water faster and get back on terra firma.
- A quick run through the woods and then we are back in the water in an ice cold brook that is neither idyllic nor babbling.
- Well that’s a random 6’ diameter steel culvert pipe sitting there unburied. Fun to run through though.
- The tunnel under the road is shin deep with rushing water. I’m high stepping in the dark because this is the last place I need to do another face plant. There’s a distinct aroma of horsehit assailing my nose (the only thing not wet and cold; but now, again, unhappy)
- Fuck it’s cold! My feet are going to leave my body and kick me to death for this insanity.
- In lieu of the nice dry mountain bike trail that parallels Centennial Olympic Parkway, we get to keep the feet wet by running in a goddamn concrete drainage culvert…which is actively draining.
- The calves are still whispering to me. I just hope they don’t start yelling.
- I hop out and arrive at the base of a large face of exposed granite and see the unmistakable crates that hold the Sandbags.
- It’s a fairly short loop entirely on the granite. Again the shoes perform well on this new type of surface. The sun feels fan-fuckin’-tastic reflecting off the granite.
- I drop the pancake and head in the direction back towards the festival area. To my right is a golf course and there is a foursome stopped in their cart looking my direction. I imagine they are wondering what the fuck is going on. “Better mud and frozen balls then Kentucky bluegrass and Titleists”, I think to myself.
- Back under the road. The water seems deeper and swifter in this tunnel. No less sphincter puckering cold though.
- At this point, I know I am heading back to the festival area. When is this “sprint” gonna to end?
- I get to the Herc Hoist. ORM videographer extraordinaire, Jeff Marier, has a camera stuck in my face and wants color commentary. Hell, I love the camera!
- I heave on the rope. Abso-fuckin’-lutely nothing happens. What the hell?! Again. Again, nothing! I get on top of the metal fence barrier thing and just fall backwards towards the ground. I swear I hear the bag say, “yeah, whatever. If I have to. I guess I’ll go ahead and lift off the ground.” Satan’s nutsack is only a couple of feet off the ground and I’m struggling like never before! Why is this so fucking hard?! I am barely moving the bag with each pull. I start to internally panic while showing the appropriate media worthy grit on the outside. Where normally each pull moves the bag in increments measured in feet, I’m struggling to move it inches. I’m wrapping the rope around my arm like a python on a caiman. The progress is excruciatingly slow. Tunnel vision ensues and I am aware of nothing but that black bag of pain and anguish. Finally, the top is reached. Untangling myself and lowering the weight takes even more precious time.
- One hundred yards later, I’m at the Multi Rig. Evil placement after the Herc Hoist! My hands hurt and are really cold. Why did I not take off the wet gloves, like 5 obstacles ago?! I really need to pay more attention to what the fuck I’m doing.
- I shed the gloves.
- I study the rig. Rigs are my jam. My covered porch given over to my very own interchangeable rig system. I got this. I can smell the barn! Ring, Rope, Ring, upward angled “pipe dreams”, ring rope, (big gap) ring, bell.
- The guy in front of me slips on the second ring. I hop up and wait, getting the swinging rhythm of the second ring locked in. Grab the first ring, skip the rope and grab the second ring. Transition to the horizontal pipe. Hmmmm! My hands don’t feel so good! Grab the third ring. I’m gonna use the rope to bump to the last ring. I feel a pop in my finger and my left hand slips off the rope, and just like that I’m in the fucking burpee pen and losing more precious time. I watch with dismay as several guys I caught up with and passed, now pass me.
- Barbed Wire Crawl #2 is pure Spartan; holes, humps, water and a shit ton of mud. It goes on forever. At this point I don’t feel the freezing water anymore. I’ve long abandoned the idea of seeing Wormy McJuicemaker and his man-satchel until summer. I’m slithering around finding the path of least resistance trying to catch up.
- I look up and there is a pedestrian log bridge we have to go under. Of course it’s spanning a deep pit full of water. On the other side? More crawling.
- In this section I’m able to get some rolling done in between crawling. I’m half way through, and Zing! A barb catches my skull cap and Spartan headband and they are flung backwards at least a body length. I remain silent; there are children about. I shimmy back and retrieve them.
- I’m pretty gassed. The end is in sight. The smell of smoke urging me on. I’m now fully lathered up with Georgia’s finest clay.
- The Fire Jump gets no dramatic flourish today. The tiredness and carrying stuff in my hand throws me off my jumping game. I shouldn’t have been such a slack-ass in the off season.
- And just like that, 5.64 miles is done. That was FANTASTIC! The course layout was the bomb dot com! It was the same ol’ Spartan obstacles, but the unexpected struggles and the cold morning gave it fresh life.
- They (Spartan) keep doing races like that and Tretsch says DO IT!.
The weather is absolutely beautiful now. It’s a blue bell day and the temperature is climbing towards the 60s. I shed my clothes and crack open a beer (I can’t stand Shocktop – Spartan’s beer sponsor – so I bring my own). There’ll be no second lap today, because my lil’ grommet is gonna run the kids race. The Grey Berets as usual are goofing off, cutting up, and socializing. Everyone is just having a grand ol’ time. It’s a fine day to start the 2016 season.
Photo Credits (in order): April Williamson, Eden Hardy, Kimberley Williams Blake, Spartan, Jeff Marier, Spartan, Jeff Jones, Lauren Thompson-Phelix[spartanracerate]