What can I say about the Spartan Sprint? Just that it’s the toughest 5k+ obstacle course race that I have ever done that is under 7 miles. I will be able to compare the Spartan Races to the Tough Mudder in a few days time.
The first obstacle to the Spartan Sprint was the line to the parking lot. I had left 20 minutes earlier than I planned on and I was glad I did, but eventually would not have mattered. There was a line of cars over a mile long before entering the parking lot. It gave me a little time to relax and let the nervousness settle a bit. Once I got my parking pass and parking spot all situated, I made my way to the waiver area. What I didn’t know was, there were two waivers, the standard white waiver for the Spartan Race and a green waiver for NBC to film you. Needless to day, I had to wait in the packet pickup line twice. Thanks green waiver.
This was my third year at the Pacific Northwest Spartan Sprint at the Washougal MX park. The terrain is perfect for an obstacle course race as there are lots of hills to be used and you bet the Spartan Race course designers took full advantage of them. If finished getting ready for the race, checked my bag and headed over towards the starting gate. This is where I found out that leaving earlier than I expected to leave didn’t matter. For whatever reason, the wave start time were a little late. the 10:15 people were waiting to start at 10:30. My 10:45 heat started at 11:12. At least I was able to get in a few extra stretches! I also talked to two guys who were doing their very first obstacle course race ever! They wanted to do one of the more challenging races to prove that they could do it. They picked the right race! I found out that they have been training for over 6 months to build up fitness and endurance for the race. Before the race started I wished them luck and said I would see them at the finish line, because they will finish!
I needed a quarter mile or so to get my race stride down as this seemed a little more challenging to get my breaking right. Maybe it was the extra half hour of waiting around, who knows. The first obstacles were the PNW standard mini walls, followed by the slanted wall and a new obstacles for the PWN Sprint, climbing up and over the rope climb obstacle. They made it so that you could see down to the water pit below and this freaked out some people who were afraid of heights. Bravo to those who got past their fear and finished this obstacle. There was a bit more running and then came one of the three obstacles that I have issues with. The Traverse wall.
The Traverse wall has always made me do 30 burpees, with my usual exit from the obstacle is on the second step. For the past month I had been strengthening my grip with a hand gripper tool and it seemed to have paid off. While I did not complete the obstacle, I did get 80+% of the way through it. When I fell off, I was mad, but then happy that I had made it so far down the wall. Next race, you are MIME traverse wall! Off to the burpee zone!
The next interesting obstacle was the one called, The Gamble. You get to pick a direction, might be easier or harder than the other, or they are both difficult, but different. I first saw this obstacle at the Beast in Monterey and both options were tough. The Sprint was not any different, both were a challenge. Left was a tire flip, right was the tire pull. I opted to go left, for the tire flip.
The next obstacle that was grueling was the ‘fill a bucket with rocks and walk a motocross course without spilling’ challenge. I started off strong, making it to the starting ramp for the motocross bikes, going over the ramp and down the long stretch of track that you see to the left. At the first loop, that was were I took my first break of three. The last 20 yards, I powered through so I could get rid of the bucket and rocks. My hands were really stiff after I poured the rocks back into the pile and dropped off the bucket to the next runner.
For the third year, the PNW Sprint had a huge water slide which has been dubbed, The Leonidas Luge: the King of Sting. This year, the Spartan Race made the slide shoot you out and it was a lot of fun. The only bummer was the huge wait to do the obstacle. If you were running for time, this was going to sink about 25 minutes of race time. This is what most people complained about. The wait. I wasn’t going for time, so I didn’t mind the wait, because the payoff was awesome!
After the slide there was a barbed wire crawl, sandbag carry and the dreaded uphill barbed wire crawl. Think of it as crawling up a muddy slope, under barbed wire, for 70+ yards. Oh and they spray water down it to make it even more slippery. I always need help on this obstacle and I always pay that help forward by helping others. This year was no different. The first 1/4th of the slope in the middle was very slippery and I needed help to get past the first barbed wire structure. Luckily there was people to help me get past it and I helped others get past it too. When I got to the top third of the hill, where there is a rope to help get up the rest of the incline, there was a lady that was having trouble getting up the final part of the hill. Since I wasn’t in the race for time, I decided to help get her up the rest of the way. I would clamp on to the rope and let her use my arms and shoulders as leverage to get up. You could tell that at times she wanted to give up, but the people above her kept giving her positive reinforcement. But you know what would make this even more difficult? Water. What did a race volunteer do? Unloaded the hose on her making the already slippery slope even more slippery. Up for the challenge, I anchored myself in to get her to the top. When she made it to the top she was very relieved and I gave her a congratulatory hug. She had just completed, what I think is the most challenging obstacle of the course!
Some time after this, my GoPro shut off, but I attempted the Rope Climb and although I was able to get up a little higher than I ever had before, I still could not complete this obstacle and settled in for another 30 burpees. The next obstacle was the Spear throw, the third and final obstacle that I have issues with. I balanced the spear, took a step back and proceeded to throw the spear with all my might and watch the spear land a few feet away from the target. Laughing, I head over to the burpee zone for the final time.
The final obstacles were a small uphill barbed wire clamp down to a water pit that you had to go under water for a quick dip, the out of the water to an A frame rope climb and then jump over the fire. Once I finished, I got my red Spartan Sprint medal and completed my second of three races for my Spartan Trifecta.
After the race, I made my way back to the final obstacles to watch a few of the other racers complete the race and see if I could find the two guys that I talked with prior to the race. While I was waiting, I saw a lady sitting at the top of the small barbed wire hill right before the dunk in the water. I could tell that she was visible shaken and possible had a fear of water, or being underwater. She was looking at the pool and shaking her head, almost as if she was psyching herself out. I started to hell out “You got this! You can do it!” and others started to cheer for her too. Reluctantly, she got into the water and slowly walked to the wall that she had to go under. I yelled out, “You can do it! Its a quick dunk and you are done!”. She gathered all the courage she could and went under water and moments later came up on the other side and got out of the pool as quickly as she could. Once out, she laid down and appeared to cry for a few moments and I’m sure those were tears of joy. After she got up, I got her attention and gave her a hug. Going up the A frame obstacle, she had more difficulty getting over the top. After all of the previous obstacles, it’s very easy to imaging that her arms were tired. People were going past her and no one was there to help. I hopped over the fence and braced her bottom foot so she could get over the obstacle. She went on to complete the race. She had conquered the Spartan Sprint, just as hundreds, if not thousands of others did that day.
A little while later, I found the two guys that I spoke with prior to the race. Huge smiles on their faces, they completed the Spartan Sprint proving the people wrong who said that they wouldn’t have. I’m proud of those guys and I’m sure they will be back next year.
When I was heading out, I saw Amanda Sullivan at the exit and told her that I think she is amazing. She replied something to the like that “we are all amazing, we just have to try”. She was there with her new friend Elizabeth, who race and completed the kids spartan race. Amanda flew through the Sprint to make Elizabeths start time for the kids race so she could go through the race with Elizabeth and encourage Elizabeth through her race.
Overall, this race was a very positive and uplifting day and one that I will not forget.