This past Saturday I completed my Spartan Trifecta. For those who may be new to me or to Spartan Races, let me explain. The Spartan Trifecta is made up of three races: The Sprint (3-5 miles), The Super (8-10 miles) and The Beast (12+ miles). To earn a “Trifecta” you complete all three races in one calendar year. I also did the Washington, D.C. (aka, Maryland) Sprint and the Asheville Super.
When I sign up for races I look at dates. Because I have two kids who play sports, my weekends are often taken up with their events. I try to cram my races into the summer and that gives me less options for racing. I also try to pick ones that are closest to me so that I can save money. When I go to Asheville, I stay with my brother. I can drive to and from Maryland. For West Virginia, I stayed at an AirBnB for the first time and it was perfect. After I signed up for West Virginia, I doubted myself. I knew it was going to be a hard race as it is classified as the North American Eastern Regional Championship. Spartan Race has a Global Championship and certain races are classified as “regional” or “national” championship. Winners gain entry into the Global Championship.
When I run these races I am not looking to win. That’s clear I think. What makes Spartan Races really cool to me is that we are running the exact same courses as the elite races. They cover the same mileage and obstacles (they just can’t have help like us open races) as we do – just much faster. This Beast took me 7.5 hours. Yes, that is a LONG time. I totally lost track of time. I knew, after I finished 3 miles, it had been only 1.25 hours. I had completed the first 3 fairly quickly and was pleased. I thought this meant I was going to finish in about 5 hrs. I was wrong. I was doing good running where I could – downhill and flat areas- there just weren’t that many. Much of this race included elevation: 4490 ft of elevation change over 13.5 miles. Some of that elevation was at a grade of 42%. You can reference this graphic to see how steep some of the elevation was. Fun fact: I bear crawled a bunch of it – way easier.
I felt like I accomplished more obstacles than previous races. I’m able to scale most of the walls on my own and did receive just a small amount of help on a few others. I still cannot do the obstacles that require good grip strength – hanging, monkey bars, etc. This is a big frustration of mine and I really want to change this over the next year. But as a result of getting better at the other obstacles means I came away with very few bruises. I think I even avoided poison ivy at this race and that’s a big deal for me. I also have realized I can carry heavy things. The log, bucket, and sandbag carries were all pretty easy for me. I did set the bucket down twice but it was at the end and I was tired. I also had to swim during this race and I found that super fun.
The place where the race was held: The Summit Reserve in Bechtel, West Virginia was beautiful. It is a Boy Scout Camp and one of the nicest “camps” I have ever seen. The views at the top of the mountains were wonderful. I loved seeing the peaks – it helped me feel accomplished. At one point, at the highest point, there was a dining room. It had glass windows all the way around and I could only imagine how amazing it would be to eat dinner in there during a beautiful sunset.
Overall, the race was about 15 miles (including obstacles). I am amazed at myself for finishing it. I wasn’t fully prepared for it. I hadn’t trained hard enough and felt it. I thought I had based on what people said about last year’s race, but, in good Spartan fashion, they made it harder. As I hiked, walked, and felt the pain, I told myself, “I never want to do this again.” But now, as I look back… I kind of want to…. I’m ridiculous.
If you haven’t ever done a Spartan Race and want a way to push yourself or have a goal I fully recommend trying a race. You can do the Sprint. I promise. Now that my Trifecta is done… I will relax a bit, probably gain a few more pounds, and then start in on my training. I am going to visit a couple of OCR gyms in the area and train on the grip obstacles. And maybe, in 2019, I’ll complete the Sprint and do it all without burpees!!
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!