PROLOGUE- Spartan Race bound:
October 10, 4:45 AM, 285 South – It’s a frog choking gully washer and my car is sliding all over the place. What the hell?! My knuckles may have a tinge of white.
5:10 AM, 20 East – It’s still a frog choking gully washer, but route 20 must drain better because the car’s back end ain’t shimmying around anymore. Flashes of lighting burn my retinas. And it’s all in the direction of the race.
5:35 AM, Exit 130 Greensboro, GA– I miss my fellow Grey Berets as I fuel up alone at the Waffle House. Most of the people in here I can tell will be going to the race. More compression gear, less camo.
6:10 AM, somewhere – It’s stopped raining.
6:38 AM, Durhamtown ATV Park – This is the craziest fucking parking area ever. It’s dark as hell, starting to rain, and I’m dodging trees.
6:40 AM, Durhamtown ATV Park – As soon as I start walking to the festival area, the clouds open up. It sounds like a freight train. And how the hell am I going to find my car?
6:50 AM, Festival Area – Find the biggest team tent and duck in for cover…right into a fucking pond in the middle of it. Who’s the MENSA genius from team Spartan that placed the tent in a low spot?
7:25 AM, Starting Corral area – They have delayed the start until 7:45. No sense in standing out in the rain. Back to the natatorium…… I mean team tent.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE RUN:
It is fucking down pouring as we sing the National Anthem, and it looks pretty damn dark still in those woods. MC gets everyone fired up. “Who are you?! rah rah rah!” “I’m a fucking wet dog for the second race in a row!”
- I’m excited to toe the line with my fellow Grey Berets. We are opting for cruising today to keep fresh and unhurt for next week’s OCRWC. It’s going to take some effort to reign Frosty in, as we plan on running together.
- Damn smoke bomb is let off! Damnit! I hate that shit! Satan’s fart cloud at the start is not my ideal way to start a race. The smell and taste is awful.
- And we’re off!…….to the slowest start in Spartan history! The early morning gloom, combined with the smoke makes visibility almost zero. We’re all shuffling our feet like fucking Tim Conway, trying to get through the smoke. The blind leading the blind. We break free of the cloud from hell and immediately go down a steep slippery slope that dog legs right. It’s all asses and elbows as several people immediately bite it. “This is gonna suck!” I yell.
- The Log Hurdles being square and at 45 degrees actually helps in the wet conditions. I manage to get over without killing myself.
- We come out of the woods and run along the road in a semi clear patchwork of tall undergrowth and sparse trees.
- It’s a little too early to get fucking kicked in the head at the Over of the O.U.T
- As I use the roll technique at the Under of the O.U.T, I suddenly remember I’m wearing my hydration pack. For a split second I have visions of electrolyte water exploding everywhere in a glorious blue geyser. Luckily the only thing getting me wet is the rain.
- A-frame cargo net –You go up, you flip, you crab walk down. The flip-n-crab ™. It is not very tall, but the nylon webbing is extremely slick.
- The last time I saw these Monkey Bars they were covered in ice, so a little bit of rain is an improvement. Despite some of the bars being at slightly different heights, the simian rhythm is pretty straight forward. The huge fucking gap between the middle two bars catches me off guard like it did at the Sprint and puts a hitch in my groove just as a dude to my right is falling. But it does not prove fatal, and I finish it out.
- The ATV trail is a miserable fucking muddy mess.
- What’s this?! Look at all these perfectly cut sections of logs. Give me an axe I’m ready to chop up some shit! What? This is the Log Carry? I go all Goldilocks and pick the one that’s just right and heave it up on my shoulder. Almost immediately we have a small descent into a creek. The footing on the way down is fraught with danger. Nothing short of fucking tank treads would keep you from slipping. My Anakondas continue to prove their mud mettle, and I get into the creek without cracking my tailbone. It’s a fairly easy carry (read flat!) along the creek. Then we have to get out of the creek. The creek’s edge at the extraction point is pretty much vertical and almost chest high. With a small tree in the left hand and a right foot dug into the mud, all the while my log (It’s log, it’s log, It’s big, it’s heavy, it’s wood. It’s log, it’s log, it’s better than bad, it’s good) is precariously perched upon my shoulder, I’m able to crest the lip of the bank. Suddenly, I’m on my heels, and I can start to feel the insatiable embrace of gravity! Fuck! I am on a razor’s edge of having an ugly and painful yard sale, but then I do some weird contortions and I get on the winning side of this tug of war. Whew!
- The ropes at the Cliff Climb are barely visible against the dirt with their muddy camouflage. Not much of a cliff, but the rope makes it possible given the conditions.
- We are running through the woods. Not a trail in the woods, but actually running THROUGH the fucking woods. Dodging branches that threaten to clothesline me, avoiding thorny vines that are eager to either trip me or tear the flesh from my body and hopping over all manner of forest floor detritus. It all has a very “The Fugitive” vibe to it and any minute Tommy Lee Jones is gonna shoot my ass.
- We pop out of the woods and go “off trail” into a grass swamp. The craziest feeling. Like walking through a wet, thick, very shag-a-delic carpet. Yeah baby! Luckily there is someone ahead of me to show where the bottom suddenly drops out. “Fuck! He looks as if he was pulled under! Keep it together Tretsch! It’s not at all creepy out here!”
- I approach the Sled pull and immediately go to one that is not occupied and is further in the direction we are headed. No sooner do I sit down then I’m yelled at, “those are the women’s!” Well that explains the 8 empty lanes.
- Fuck! These sleds are heavy. The rain certainly adding to the sandbag weight. I’m dragging this steel plate monster, and it gets hung up on a rock in the ground. I put my back into it, the plate digs up the fucking boulder, and now I’m ploughing the earth like farmer Brown instead of skating over the mud like Yamaguchi. The mini Stone Mountain finally gets left behind and I quickly pull the last few feet problem free. Dragging that damn sled back to the start sucks and of course I trip over the fucking rock!
- Oh looky! A fucking hill….of mud and rock.
- Fuck! This “road” is muddy and hilly. Cross slope is a……..WHOA! Dude is sliding towards me with “cleats” up. I reach down to assist in stopping him, thus protecting my ankles and hopefully keeping me from landing on him like a ton of bricks from being undercut. Annnnnnnd, I put my hand right on his crotch. “Well HELLO there!” I manage to avoid him and then stop to assist. I go to help him up and he’s all “I’m ok, I’m good!” Hey if it’s any consolation, you just got felt up by a Grey Beret.
- It’s an 8’ wall; you go up, you go over, except when you slip and run into it.
- Come out of those damnable woods and smack into everyone’s favorite pile of gravel. The volunteers at the Bucket Brigade are aggressive and make it VERY clear there were no holes to be seen! Back into the woods with my personal gravel pit. Though negotiating all the possible trip hazards on the forest floor was a challenge, the loop was flat and quick. This made me very happy.
- Back into the woods. After a short while it changed into this bizarre landscape of tall skinny pine trees in neat rows at an angle to our run and brushy, grassy undergrowth bristling with thorny vines. And it all went fucking uphill and downhill and uphill. And then I hear a yell from a kid in front of me. He’s startled a deer out of some thicket. I’m too busy looking at my feet to keep from busting ass, so I miss it. Then I hear a high pitched scream from behind me. There is much yelling about bees. I think it’s fellow Grey Beret, Chips, so I commend him on his girlie scream. Writer’s note – It was not in fact Chips. HE took his sting to the kneecap like a true Grey Beret: stoic, silent, strong. It was the guy BEHIND him, and he got stung in the purple headed womb broom. Fuck! I sent out a silent man-prayer for a fellow bro. Come to find out, many, many people got stung in all manner of places.
- We finally exit the scary Pine Barrens and head straight into another shit storm of mud, and it’s a Log Carry. Now that I am a seasoned veteran of one log carry, I pick up my wooden friend with supreme confidence and head out on a path of giant muddy whoop-dee-doos and steep embanked turns. A wet dream for dirt bikers but an absolute nightmare for taking one’s cylinder of cellulose for a walk.
- We come up at the top of the rise and out of the godforsaken woods, and I see the Z-walls. Oh yeah! A boulderer’s jam! I got this!…….As I do my 30 burpees in the mud, I wonder what the fuck just happened. Sure the pieces of painted 2x4s were slicker than a harpooned hippo on a banana tree and muddier than a West Georgia pig sty, but I’m a climber for fucks sake! “This plus the atlas carry will be my only ones”, I vow.
- The Invert wall is a tall monster, but with 2 horizontal 2x4s on the approach side, it’s a pretty straight forward climb. I slide down the other side and land much too hard. My knees tell me to fuck off.
- The trails are just ludicrously fucking muddy. We are at least 5 miles in, and I haven’t had anything that looks remotely like a normal running gait. I feel like a fucking fiddler crab.
- We come out into a wasteland of mud, ravines and scraggly trees to find the Sandbag Carry. Frosty and I head uphill in a ravine. The mud is redonkulous and the footing horrible. I look over and there is Frosty walking in a rivulet as easy as you please. “It’s better traction and rinsey,” he says. Sure as shit it is. It’s all sunshine and unicorns until we have to get out of the ravine. Then it’s everything I can do to keep from sliding backwards down the hill. We reach the top and get a jog going on the downhill to finish the loop. The mud has gotten so thick and sticky my shoes must weigh ten pounds by the time we drop off our sandbag. “This is the first wave!” I think to myself; “it’s going to be the 9th circle of hell by the time the afternoon waves come through!”
- As I approach the Multi-bars, I’m excited to see they are set up similar to my rig at home, just fewer rings; it’s a softball versus my baseball, and has one more piece of hanging rope. SO, giddy up! 3 rings, hanging pipe, hanging softball, hanging rope. Uh oh! I stall out on the first rope and lose my momentum! But a big reach gets me to the second rope and on to the bell. Whew!
- I was wearing my hydration pack to test out some prototype armor I had devised to protect the pack from the Barbed wire crawl if I decided to wear it during the upcoming beast. So I took a look at the muddy fucking HILL we were going to crawl up, pretty much internalized every known curse word I had, and went in. I could hear the barbs scraping against the aluminum plates and was feeling pretty sure of my Mcgyverness until my bubble butt got zinged. And we kept going, and it got steeper, and my fingers dug deeper, and I was getting gassed. Fuck! How long must this go on?! Frosty zoomed right up while I struggled. It was never gonna fucking end. It’s all core baby! And mine is lacking.
- It’s an awkward approach to the Rope climb, but it quickly becomes clear this one is different than the norm: no knots on any ropes (they just get in the way anyways) and no pit of water. It’s a thinner rope than I have at home, but the J-hook still proves effective. I want to jump down to save some time, but the hay bales and all the gaps in-between them are a sure fire way to snap an ankle.
- We are now fully in a wide open Mud Zone. It’s a fucking mess!
- With the Slip wall being so late in the race, I approach it with just enough effort to get to the rope. No need for heroics.
- Being soaked to the core of my being since the minute I stepped out of my fucking car, the Dunk wall barely registers as liquid.
- A large muddy looping curve brings us to some kind of Logs-as-jerry cans carry (this was one of the classified obstacles, so it had no name). Again, with the perfectly cut sections of log but this time with thick chain attached to them for handles. I literally laugh out loud when I see we have to carry them 50 feet through water, turn around and come back. This is a weak copy of Battlefrog’s jerry can carry, but given a certain RDs’ love of brutality, I could see this being scaled up to a much longer and more technical length. But today, it’s humorous.
- Cramps start to rear their ugly head in Frosty’s legs; so, I break out the mustard packets. I take one too just for good measure. That strong vinegar bite is not an unwelcome pick me up.
- I have practiced the Spear throw in my backyard a thousand times if once. I even have a rope on it. It’s almost second nature. I have never practiced with the spear covered in mud. My anemic throw coupled with the muddy conditions resulted in an “air ball”. “Are you fucking kidding me?!” I couldn’t believe it. I did my 30 in even worse mud than the last 30 and then stepped back up and drilled that spear into the hay. “Well fan-fucking-tastic!” NOW I’m Achilles?!
- As I’m negotiating the 8’ wall, my quads seize up. What the hell?! I’ve never had that happen. It goes away as fast as it appeared, but not without leaving me with some pain.
- I don’t realize how short the Vertical cargo net climb is until I do the flip technique and my feet end up only inches from the bales of hay at the bottom. Sweet!
- I can smell the pungent odor of a wood fire! A beautiful smoky haze tantalizingly close.
- We climb up to an ATV drag strip, replete with a Christmas tree, to find the Atlas carry. And there they were, Satan’s bawbags – one hundred pounds of spherical concrete sunk in mud, caked in mud, smelling of mud. I squat down, embrace them lovingly as if they were my own betty swollocks and heave! Annnnnd nothing. The fucking mud has it in a vice grip of earthly suction. I roll the dam thing just enough to break Mother Nature’s greedy grip and give it another go. It comes up, and I can feel its full weight as I struggle with the slipperiness. I stagger to my feet and become THAT guy. You know the one; the guy at the gym who makes all those fucking ridiculous noises. But fuck me! It’s heavy, slippery and I’m tired. Everything the spring Sprint was not. I get to the other side in double time and soooo want to drop the fucker. But, NO! I do not want the damn thing to get stuck in the mud. So with grunting noises reminiscent of a rutting rhino, I ease that cantankerous concrete orb to the ground. Do the 5 muddiest burpees known to man and gird my loins for the return trip. It’s easier picking up but no less difficult to carry. The noises coming out of me are demonic. I get to the flag and let go of that thing as if it was on fire.
- I’m glad to see there isn’t a ridiculous water pit after the Fire jump. I execute “The Flash” ™ flawlessly in anticipation of the camera, and happily cross the finish line.
- That was fun! I love the wet conditions but how many fucking different kind of carries can one do. Not very creative. This was only my second Spartan race. I am doing the Beast to get a Trifecta, but the jury is still out for me on this race series. I haven’t drank the kool-aid.
October 10, 9:50 AM – I head to the showers in an attempt to get the mud off. The festival area is a fucking muddy squishy mess. The person who set up the team tent needs to learn from the person who set up the showers. The entire hose off area is covered in a thick layer of #57 gravel, making it perversely, the driest place in the festival area. I find a high point of gravel at the far left next to a Spartan wall.
9:55 AM – I am down to my Voltron undies and have washed every article of race gear I have to avoid washing myself. I fear the water will be ice cold. My fears prove unfounded. The water, while not warm, is bearable. As I’m spraying the orange off, I realize I forgot my towels! FUCK! Rookie mistake.
9:57 AM – I am patting myself dry with my Tough Mudder and Barbarian Challenge hand towels thankfully found at the bottom of my race bag. Reminds of some cheap hotels where the actual towels weren’t much bigger.
9:58 AM – The changing tents are far and will require traversing through some nasty lakes of mud and water. Screw that! I have nice “clean” feet, fresh socks and dry shoes. I’m going to change here. I put on my shirt, face towards the wall and drop the Voltrons. Oh whoa be the poor person that happened to look in my direction at that moment! Of course my vision of a finely executed and graceful wardrobe change is shot to shit when the Voltrons get stuck on my left ankle. So I’m trying to kick off the fucking wet boxer briefs, while trying to put on the dry boxers, my feet being stabbed by gravel, left foot cramping up, and my balance shot to hell, all while my blinding white ass is saying a happy “cheerio!” out from under my T-shirt.
10:00 AM – I am clothed and no one around me appears to have gotten sick.
10:30 AM – I can’t stand Shocktop. Besides everyone is complaining it’s warm and flat. I buy a frosty cold bud light.
11:00 AM – The water under the biggest team tent has grown into a reasonable size pool and almost shin deep. There is talk of swimming competitions later. And now that it is light out I can clearly see a high point not 30 feet away that would have easily fit the tent. SMH!
The remainder of the day is a blur of great company, picture taking and hilarious conversation. The original Grey Berets leave to go find some lunch. Just in time before the skies opened back up.
photos by Spartan Race, Kimberley Williams Blake, Sonya Williams Bresnihan