Category Archives: Trail Race
Well, I did it. I completed the South Carolina Beast this past Saturday. I wondered if it would be harder than the Asheville Super and it was. However, it was only harder because it was longer and I had to finish the last 3+ miles in the dark. If it had ended at 8 miles I would have completed it 4 hours faster than the Super. But alas the race was close to 15 miles with 31 obstacles. At the starting line the announcer said 14.2 miles but many of us agreed it had to have been closer to 15.
I had a very late start time – 1:45 pm. I thought I had left enough time to arrive 2 hours before my start time. Unfortunately, the parking situation at Carolina Adventure World was awful. I sat in a line outside of the complex for 1.5 hours. And then when we finally did get to get inside and pay the $10 parking fee, we still had to wait because they were trying to figure out where to send us to park. I followed directions and tried to scan for open spots. There were none. I traveled a half a mile or more and made up a spot. Thank goodness for having a small car. I then walked all the way back to sign-in and pick up my timing chip, headband, use the bathroom, and check my bag. I arrived to the starting gate at 1:43 pm. I didn’t have a moment to enjoy the booths, atmosphere, or buy gear. I was bummed.
I finished in about 6 1/2 hours. I fell and hit my knee on a rock around mile 6. It didn’t bleed because of all of the mud but it hurt. Bad. I had been running at a good pace off and on until then. I ran as many of the downhill and flat parts of the trail as possible. I ran some of the hills but often walked. I completed all obstacles (except the monkey bars) at that point as well. The pain in my knee made it hard to run. So I walked as quickly as I could.
Some of the obstacles were:
- 6 and 8 foot walls
- two barb wire crawls
- 1 regular sandbag carry
- 1 different type of sandbag carry
- bucket carry
- plate drag
- Inverted wall
- spear throw
- monkey bars
- and a horizontal rope that you had to pull yourself along on with your hands and feet
- and a few others
The trail was beautiful because fall colors were everywhere. It included a lot of elevation changes. As soon as we’d go up, we’d go back down, and then right back up again. We passed through one section of muck. Muck is the mud that is so thick that you might lose a shoe. I had to get pulled out at one point because I truly couldn’t move my foot. It was rather comical. I thought there would be more water – there was a lot of mud but no swimming nor water that was deeper than my knees. That means I could have brought my phone with me for photos… one of these days.
At mile 11 the group I had been kind of staying with all rejoiced. We thought, “Just 3 more miles!!” Well… it was also 16 obstacles with 9 being in the last mile. It also got dark. Fast. So we strapped on our headlamps and continued on. I was in a lot of pain by this point. I had bruised both wrists on a wall and so burpees hurt – modified or otherwise. I ended up with 5 sets of burpees. Too many… It really should have been 6 but at the last obstacle, the slip wall, no one was even doing them because it was getting close to the time they were going to close the race. Everyone just wanted to finish. The slip wall was pretty dangerous by that point too. Yes, we had to go through wet mud first and by that time of the night, it was almost like walking up ice. I attempted it but deemed it too dangerous to keep trying.
My feet and ankles hurt throughout the race as I had chosen to use my old shoes. I had to make a decision – feet or calf pain. I went with foot pain because I just hate when my calves hurt. For some reason I find it easier to deal with foot pain than calf pain. I’m sure in the long run it really didn’t matter.
I felt a wide range of emotions when I jumped over the fire. The biggest one was relief. I finished. I made it before they closed the course. I only needed to wait in a long line for my photo. And I did. I don’t usually get my photo taken in the little tent but I was determined to this time. I knew my family was waiting to hear about my finish but I had this one last thing to do. Afterwards, I rinsed off as best as I could in the dark. Freezing. I got changed. And I began my very long walk back to my car. I was completely alone (the whole lot was empty) and I broke down in tears. The pain. The cold. Feeling alone. But ecstatic that I had accomplished my 2016 goal. It was overwhelming.
A friend asked if I’d do the trifecta in 2017. I definitely think I want to but if I do I must get better at the upper-body obstacles. Monkey bars, multi-rig, rope climb… just those 3 alone will cut out 90 burpees. I’m tired of not being able to do them but it is difficult with no where to practice them. I also think if I can somehow figure out how to drop 10-15 lbs that will also help me quite a bit. Somewhere there is a magic pill that will do this for me, right? (kidding!)
If you haven’t done a Spartan Race I encourage you to give one a try. I think that most people who get off the couch, walk, and do some push-ups and burpees can accomplish one. You can walk the race, get help on obstacles or do burpees, and get that medal. If you need help starting, let me know!
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.