Asheville Spartan Super 2016
I sat and wondered if I should write about this race. Technically this is a Hiking blog but since we did hike a mountain during the race, I figured this qualified.
Two years ago I did my first Spartan race. It was the hardest thing I had ever done and I loved it. It was a ‘Sprint’ which means it is the shortest of the three Spartan races. That race covered 5 miles and was the farthest I had ever ran/walked at the time. I did another last year and decided that 2016 was the year I would earn my Trifecta. The Spartan Trifecta is completing each Spartan length in one calendar year. This past weekend I finished the Super. I have the Sprint in two weeks and the Beast at the end of October on my 45th birthday.
I was certainly worried about the Super. I felt like I had been preparing myself for it – trying to get miles in running and hiking, strength training, and working on my grip strength. I felt like I had done my research. I looked at past videos to get a sense of the terrain and I figured I could at least complete it.
The beginning of the race had me feeling good. I was running. Breathing well (I have asthma). I swam through a creek that felt amazing. And I finished mile one feeling like I had flown through the course.
Well, the race beat me. Sure, I finished but I wasn’t prepared for the 2,600 feet in elevation gain that we covered. In fact, I feel like from the parking lot to the top of the mountain may have been a bit more than that. 80% of the race was continuously uphill. Sometimes we had to hold onto trees to pull ourselves up. Many of us grabbed a stick to help with climbing and going downhill. It felt never-ending. The trail took us through Mt. Mitchell State Park in North Carolina. As we climbed higher and higher the views just got more magnificent. I was sad to not have a camera with me to capture how beautiful the mountains looked.
We had a long, 3 mile stretch on the mountain. The first two miles felt endless as we just kept climbing. There was no level ground for recovery so people just stood against a tree or sat down. I saw some laying all the way down in the woods (I was ultra careful because I didn’t want poison ivy and I still got some). We would turn a corner hoping to see the top or at least to have some level path but nope – just more climbing. All you heard on this portion of the course was silence with some curse words as people struggled. Many were not prepared with a hydration pack or energy gels or food. I passed more than one person who had passed out on the course and were waiting for medical help.
Finally, as we came down the mountain, single-file, through Rhododendrons, we felt relief. And there was a very welcomed water station towards the bottom before the vertical cargo net obstacle. I know I filled up my water cup four times. Although some did we weren’t really supposed to fill the hydration pack. Volunteers stopped some people while others didn’t seem to care. I didn’t fill mine because I figured that was less water for those who came unprepared.
As I started my last quarter of a mile (as told by a boy, all of about 14, who was sitting in a tree and had already finished the race) I wasn’t sure I could finish. I know that seems strange with so little to go but we still had a creek to walk through and 4-5 more obstacles. Spartan Race had placed some very close together to aid in NBC filming the race. I knew my brother and sister-in-law were waiting for me at the finish line so I had to get there. I was cramping and in pain – shoulder, ankle, feet – but I got there. When I saw them at the end, I felt a wave of emotion come over me. I was elated to be done. I found out later it had taken me 7 1/2 hours to complete the course.
I know that my future includes a lot more elevation training. I don’t have many mountains super close to me so it will have to come in the form of hilly roads. I still have more upper body strength to build and I want to jump higher. All great goals. As I was hiking up that mountain I kept thinking, “I’ll never do another Spartan on a mountain.” but I won’t rule that out. The scenery is amazing and if I train appropriately maybe it won’t be so bad next time.