Aside / Breathing Into It

Spartan Super highlights. Mud and obstacles, like getting the car out of the mud after the race…

Our first Spartan Super is finished. It is also our first step towards finishing the Spartan Trifecta, which is completing all three basic Spartan races (Sprint, Super, and Beast) in a calendar year. When the Spartan Race series began a few years ago that seemed almost impossible. Now people compete to see how many trifectas they can earn in a year. Good on’em for that.

I have been wanting to earn a trifecta for years, but aging ankles, children, work, beer-and-not-exercising have conspired against me. However, after finishing this weekend’s race I will BE DAMNED if it doesn’t happen this year! Because it was a rough one. It was rainy. Not a monsoon, but you were wet the moment you left your car. It was cold. Not icy, but cold enough that your fingers were numb and your energy just drained away. And it was muddy. The hills, the trails, and the obstacles were all thick with mud the consistency of either wet paste (if you were running in it) or axle grease (if you were trying to hold on to something). We bought some racing gloves, which helped, but there was only so much they could do. There were obstacles- I’m looking at YOU, Monkey Bars!!- which I have never had a problem with that were absolute failures this time around due to the conditions.

One of the biggest take-aways that Micki brought up about 3/4 of the way through the race was that this one was a bit of an over extension for the over 40, not working out in advance crowd. She was right. Most of the other mud runs, such as Warrior Dash, Dirty Dash, etc. are more focused on getting out, having some fun, getting dirty, and having a free beer afterwards. Spartan Race events are a bit more serious, but the Sprint is eminently doable given an okay level of fitness (I have done more than a few of them). Even the Washougal, Washington Spartan Sprint, with the infamous Hill of Tears and Suffering, is something that can be done without a year’s worth of Crossfit under your belt (although heh, it would help!) But this Super was just on the edge of physically safe. There were moments where I had to adjust my approach or bypass something rather than trying again due to fatigue. It was the first time I had to weigh the risk of injury versus the chance of completing a task. It definitely required some moments of strong focus and the will to gut it out that I haven’t felt in a obstacle race before. There are always tough bits, but this one required a bit of serious self talk while simply slogging through yet another 100 yards of shoe-sucking mud. The combination of being wet the whole time, the chill factor, and the constant slipping in mud was intensely fatiguing. Two days later I have legs and back muscles that are sore not because of hauling heavy sand bags up and down hill, but because of trying not to land on my behinds each time my feet went sideways. Even the 10+ mile Tough Mudder wasn’t at exhausting as this one.

We didn’t even hang out and get our free beer afterwards. THAT was a first. We just changed into dry clothes, went right back to our car, tried to leave, and then waited a couple of hours for someone to tow us out of the mud. At least we had company- there were at least a couple of hundred cars all stuck in the parking field. But we had snacks, our phones were charged, I had a terrific companion to complain to, and the heater in the car worked, so it was all good. And the event staff were amazing at getting people out of there as quickly as possible.

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This is how it looked when we first parked… *before* three more hours of rain and vehicles churning up the field!

But you know what the best part was? Going home, telling family all about how tough the Super was… and immediately signing up for the Beast! It is easy to get into a rut, where the every speed bump in my day feels like a mountain. Actually conquering something, even an 8.2 mile slog through the mud, is another reminder, a shift of perspective on what you can do. And as wet, cold, and miserable as it was, it was also a hell of a lot of fun!

So the Beast is up next. And we will be training for it, as much as we can with everything else in life decidedly not slowing down. Because pushing a little bit harder, and seeing if you can go just a bit further is as addictive as anything else, and a lot healthier than what I would be doing otherwise.

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