Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Seattle SPARTAN Super Race

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer

On 13 April, I joined a whole new, rugged class of athletes--I became a Spartan Racer! I ran the Seattle Spartan Super race (8.5 miles, 30 obstacles, and so incredibly rainy and cold), finished in 2:07, and I earned my first wedge of my Spartan Trifecta. I realize I'm publishing this a month late, but life has been kind of "hung in the balance" with a bunch of stressors lately, so the least I could do is share some of the race fun despite the fact that I'm way late and several posts behind.

If you're wondering what made me take the leap from competitive distance running to competitive Spartan racing, it's all due to my friend & colleague, Mat, who has been trying to convince me for the past couple years that my speed, agility, and strength need to be utilized for something more "badass" than just half and full marathon running. He thought I'd like the challenge of the obstacles and running that Spartans offer, and why not test your body fully to the limits with a new sport? After years of his prodding (and a couple glasses of wine on Christmas Eve this past 2018 that dropped my willpower and stubbornness), I gave in and signed up for my first Spartan--the Seattle Super.

Now, choosing Seattle for my first Spartan race was either the wisest or dumbest thing I could have ever done. Wise because this year's course was literally the HARDEST race that most folks said they've ever encountered with how rainy, cold, and impossible the obstacles were so realistically I started my Spartan racing off with the hardest race I'll ever have to do and it "should" all be downhill from here. I mean, even the top athletes failed some of the obstacles and normally that doesn't happen. It may have been the dumbest decision ever because it was again--cold (40 degrees), terribly rainy, incredibly muddy (which was fun), but very, very challenging. A lot of folks either DNF'd (did not finish) the race due to hypothermia/sheer frustration or suffered extreme hypothermia upon finishing. Sounds like a good time, right? It actually was.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Open House

Mat (the buddy who convinced me to try Spartans in the first place and who coached me for the last four months) and I made a "man trip" out of the race and both signed up for it. We got into town Friday afternoon and went straight to the Open House to play/test out some of the obstacles since I'd never encountered many of them before. I knew the obstacles that would give me grief--pretty much anything that involved grip strength--but I'd been training since January so I felt mostly ready. The biggest unknowns for me were going to be monkey bars, beater, twister, and multi-rig, because my grip strength is really sub-par and I didn't have a place to train for those at home. Also, the spear throw was a big 50/50 shot because sometimes you get it and sometimes you don't.

We explored the Open House for two hours and met some of the Spartan Pro's I'd been following online for the past several months. We finished the evening at Subway and called it a night early to try to get some much-needed sleep (neither of us ended up sleeping much).

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Open House

The next day started early. Mat and I were both racing in the Elite heats, so he had the first start time of the day at 7:30 and I was right behind him at 7:45. Despite the fact that I'd never run a Spartan before, he and I both agreed Elite would be a good fit for me because of my past running training and also I don't give two craps about placing in an age group, so I just wanted to be up there with the big guns. Mat shared the best quote with me, he said, "You can be a big fish in a small pond, but I'd rather know what kind of fish I really am." And with that, I decided to go Elite!

At 7:45 we "Aroo! Aroo! Aroo!"-ed our way across the start line and we were off. As you can see from the starting line photo below, it was a wet one. I was soaked BEFORE we even started running, and I was not eager for the dunk wall that awaited me two miles in.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Starting Line, Spartan Photography

The course started off fast and hard, with forest trails for the first 1.5-miles of the course. If you've never done a Spartan, it's not like there's a "trail" that you run. They mark off parts of a forest, field, river, landscape, etc., and YOU are the ones who are making the trail. It doesn't matter if there are trees, rocks, branches, thorns, water, mud, A RIVER, or whatever... if the arrows point in that direction, you just conquer it. I almost fell several times going up and through the un-groomed forest, but the forest was the least of my worries. It was a muddy, slick mess and I should have known the worst was yet to come.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Barbed Wire Obstacle

The first couple obstacles were great. Hurdles, barbed wire, bucket carry... all not a problem. I had been training buckets every single week, and that bucket felt about the same as what I'd been training with (about 65 lbs), so it didn't phase me much. I mean, I didn't love carrying it for 7+ minutes, but whatever.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Bucket Carry Obstacle

As I was getting to the buckets, the Elite leaders of the race were dropping their buckets, so that was cool--they weren't too far ahead and I was happy to see I wasn't too far behind or in last place or anything like that. None of that really matters, but mentally--I just didn't want to be last.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Women, Rolling Mud Obstacle

Coming over the rolling mud was where it got interesting. Rolling mud went right into the dunk wall. At this point, it was about 40 degrees with a 37-degree or so windchill, and the idea of jumping into the murky water to go under the dunk was something I was not prepared for. But jump-and-dunk I did and by that point, I was already soaking wet so the only factor it added was just more wet.

Now, about 2.5 miles in, what's when I got to the point of real SUCKY circumstances. I approached the Z-wall with confidence because I'd practiced on it the day before. But that darn Z-wall threw me a curve ball with the slick blocks and slippery shoes, and I slipped off that wall after only a few blocks. I was so frustrated! I jogged over to begin my first of many, many burpees.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Women, Spear Throw Obstacle

Now, the 30 burpees wasn't so bad. But the obstacle right after Z-wall was the spear throw, and wouldn't you know--I failed that one, too. My spear went far enough, and I thought it was going to go in, but it went just to the left of the foam block and man--that was soul-crushing. 60 burpees in a row was not ideal.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Women, Yokohama Tire Flip Obstacle

I cruised through the next several obstacles, picking up my pace between obstacles as my legs would allow. I was so grateful that besides for the first mile or so of hills, the Seattle course was mostly flat so that was one issue I didn't have to deal with. After failing those obstacles back-to-back, I knew I was really far behind in my heat, so I took the pace easy, thanked the volunteers, and just tried to have as much fun as possible during the race. I mean, it was kind of miserable out there. The only way to look at it was just HAVE AS MUCH FUN AS POSSIBLE!

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Women, Atlas Carry Obstacle

As I made my way through the 8.5 miles of the course, I was right about one thing. Almost every single grip obstacle tested me. It wasn't because I was new to Spartan racing--trust me, my grip is sub-par but I trained it like crazy--it was the insane wetness of the course that threw me off. In addition to Z-wall and spear throw, I also failed olympus (after trying to get through on my knees because it was so slick and it took all the skin off my knees), twister, beater, monkey bars, the box, and multi-rig. Talk about a frustrating race! Failing those eight obstacles equated to 180 burpees (I did 192 because I did 2-extra at each failed obstacle just in case) and two penalty laps. UGH! By my last set of burpees at multi-rig I was so absolutely done with doing burpees.

Despite the cold of the windchill and the constant rain, I never felt cold on the course. Not even when we had to run through the snow-melt run-off river (literally... we had to run through a RIVER for almost half a mile!). The rain and the cold were two things that did not bother me at all (until after the race anyway), which was a huge relief.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Women, Rope Climb Obstacle

One of my greatest wins during the race was making it up the rope climb. Prior to training for this race, I had never learned to climb a rope EVER in my life. Mat taught me, and I practiced almost every week at a rope climb on base. I have taken the skin off my shin more times that I can count in the last couple months, and to make it up that rope in those conditions and to get to ring a bell (since I didn't get to ring many others due to all my failed obstacles) was so exciting!

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Women, Fire Jump Obstacle

When I finished the race, I was RELIEVED, exhausted, overwhelmed with a feeling of accomplishment, and so proud to have finished my first Spartan. I finished in 2:07:45 (37th place elite) and had 180 burpees under my belt and a new, shiny Spartan Super medal around my neck. I felt like a BADASS! This was a Championship Series race, so I literally went against the best female Spartan athletes IN THE WORLD. To finish in that time and in that place with that caliber of athlete was pretty darn cool!

Shortly after finishing, the hypothermia began to set it, so I didn't wait around at the venue long. Mat, who had a great race and finished in 1:32 (yeah, Mat!), got me back to the hotel for a hot shower and SOME MUCH-DESERVED PIZZA!!! We drove back to Boise that evening, swapping race stories the whole way.

Seattle Spartan Super Race, Spartan Elite Racer, Spartan Women

When I finished the Super, I said, "You know, I don't think this whole Spartan racing thing is for me." Wouldn't you know that two days later I signed up for the Montana Spartan Beast which I'd run three weeks later? Of course I did. What can I say, I'm a glutton for punishment! Plus--gotta earn that TRIFECTA! That post is coming soon! Thanks for reading ;-)

If you want to follow along with my Spartan training, it's all documented on Instagram under my STORIES! (Spartan Training, Spartan Racing, + Workouts)