You’ve read about our mental preparation for the Super Spartan course in Part 1. You journeyed with us through the first several miles of hiking and sporty obstacles in Part 2. You imagined the rugged terrain and elevation of the black diamonds in Part 3.
And now, on to Part 4, the final leg of this journey:
I’m hungry. Blistered. Still relatively okay with the uphill hikes but wondering what mile we’re even on and how many times we’d have to go back into the woods. We’ve been hiking for hours and it’s starting to get really cold. False rumors were circulating that the wait time for one of the obstacles was 45 minutes and people were planning to “burpee it out” so they could just get home.
But let’s explore some of the more difficult obstacles we faced. I should preface this by saying that the penalty for failing to complete an obstacle was 30 burpees. Not failing to attempt, but failing to complete. A few days before the race, I looked on youtube at how to do a burpee. A great way to get your 13-month-old to laugh at you. And something I should have started practicing about 13 months ago, not 4 days in advance.
First obstacle we failed: Throwing a spear into a bale of hay. I missed by a mile. 30 burpees ensued. My abs still hurt when I laugh, cough, sneeze, or breathe.
There was a log flip, where we each picked a log and flipped it end-over-end the length of a bowling lane. Obstacle complete!
At the top of that “hill” where we found our final water station, there was a pulley obstacle, where we pulled on a length of thick rope to lift a weight and then slowly lower it back down. Girls were given smaller weights. That obstacle was a joke. Moving on. At one point there were two giant hay bales to scale. I’m not sure if that was an obstacle or what. They rolled a little when you touched them, but it wasn’t really a challenge.
Speaking of hay bales, another obstacle was the “Tractor Pull.” We each had to drag a heavy cement donut-shaped block on a thick metal chain up a hill and then back down. If the cement broke, you had to start over. I felt like a prisoner, especially with my black bib number written down both my arms and my cement ball and heavy chains.
There was an inverted wall. I loved, loved this obstacle! Most people were hoisting their friends over, but I attempted this one solo and climbed up the back of the obstacle, flung myself over, and slid down the backside. Woohoo! I was a little overzealous on the “flung myself over” part, however, and I managed to knock the wind out of myself before the downward slide. Four days later, my ribs still feel bruised.
I recruited some (large male) nearby runners to help my friend over, because I’m really not good as the base of a cheerleader pyramid. In fact, I’m pretty sure my first attempt at a hoist on an earlier wall resulted in a mammogram.
I’m meant to fly. Lol.
I should take a minute to say that everyone we encountered on this course was so friendly and helpful. We had all adopted a very sarcastic sense of humor about the brutality of the course, and the sense of camaraderie was really encouraging. There were Wounded Warriors blazing their way through the course, and people from all walks of life. People who had completed an Ironman or marathon, and people whose only prior training was for a 5k. (A hard lesson for them to learn.) The spirit of this race was incredibly inspiring.
Sandbags were the element of another obstacle. We had to carry a sandbag up a hill and then back down. From our vantage point, the people ahead of us looked like tiny ants on an anthill. I tried different carries on this one, and finally found that holding it above my head with my arms straight up was most effective. It helped give me the momentum to walk, and took the direct pressure off my head, shoulder, or belly, where other people were carrying it. But I still hated this obstacle. Of course there was a camera at this one, so I’ll post that pic when I see it.
At one point, I overheard someone say that whoever designed this course is sadistic. And that was before the log carry.
So now, friends, I must relive the LOG CARRY for you. By far my lowest, weakest point of this whole thing. A little background: When I was a teenager, I had my spine fused at my L5 and sacrum with a cadaver bone to treat a severe-grade spondylolisthesis. The cadaver bone is fused with bone grafted from my hip. For this reason, I am not allowed to go bowling, and I’m discouraged from sitting for longer than 2 hours (I usually have to get up for breaks in a movie theatre). I despise TV marathons and movie marathons because of the pain from sitting that long and the stiffness that ensues. Instead of carrying my son in a carseat, I always babywear and own 3 different carriers to distribute his weight on my spine. I frequent the chiropractor and wear custom orthotics to correct my flat feet so that my lower back is aligned to remove pressure off my pelvis. This race was a great idea.
And yet in this next obstacle, I was expected to carry a LOG down the mountain and then back up. I feel like that description isn’t doing it justice, but what more do I need to say? It wasn’t a thin log like you’d throw on the fire. This was The Giving Tree trunk that later served as a stump for the boy in his old age.
I tried holding my squatty stump in every position. On my shoulder, I felt the log slowly worsening my (untreated) scoliosis. In front, I felt like I was 9 months pregnant again with the world’s largest baby. Attempting to roll it uphill was torture on muscles I rarely use and on my spine. But I was going to finish this leg of the race – I’m not sure if it was an obstacle we could bypass because it added a great distance to the course, and it wouldn’t have been 8 miles total if we skipped out. I didn’t see anyone opting out with burpees on this one. Not even the man who, after making it almost all the way back to the top of the hill with his log, dropped it — it rolled into the woods and down the mountain. And as much as we tried to talk him out of it and even offered him our own logs (we’re so generous and thoughtful!), he ventured deep into the woods to retrieve it. That is the real spirit of this race.
My log made a good resting stump at various intervals up the hill. When I finally made it back up the mountain with the log, I heaved it into the pile, only to be corrected by a race official, “I AM THE END OF THIS OBSTACLE! YOU MUST PASS ME WITH YOUR LOG!” I had to dive in and get my log back out, walk another 10 feet, only to toss it back in the same log pile. Seriously?!
When the finish line was within site, there was a rapid-fire series of obstacles. Let’s start with the legendary ROPE CLIMB. The obstacle itself was not a surprise to us. The fact that it was juxtapositioned over a frigid, deep pool of muddy water, however, was. In order to face the obstacle, I had to jump down into muddy water up to my nose, then wade over to the rope I had preselected while waiting for my turn. It looked like the knots were adequately spaced for my height.
Once on the rope, I quickly discovered the disadvantage of this feat: my shoes and socks were completely submerged, saturated in mud and weighing a TON. I grabbed onto the rope and began to pull my lower body up and out of the water. My gloves were slippery with mud, and my hands were icy. And although I used to be that girl who got extra credit in high school PE class by doing 10 pullups, I could not lift the weight of my legs and muddy shoes to climb to the top of this challenge to ring the bell. I think I went up one knot or two higher than where I initially pulled myself up, and then hung there awkwardly, looking back at the crowd watching. I thought I gave this one a worthy attempt considering how many hours we had been on this mountain already, and how hungry and cold we were. And no amount of hanging there was going to make climbing upward any easier. So I climbed back down the rope and slid my body back into the icy water. After wading back to the slope, I climbed up and out and moved on to the next obstacle, the traverse wall.
Oh man. This brought me back. When I was in high school, my older brother was really into rock-climbing, and he built rock walls all over our attic and filled the room with chalk, climbing shoes, caribiners, and harnesses. I spent many an evening up there, hanging out and climbing (and having dance parties). So this obstacle looked fun at first, although I prefer holds that have a little room behind them, not wooden blocks that are flush against the wall. (Similar to the picture below, except ours didn’t have the barbed wire on top — we just weren’t allowed to touch the top of the wall or ever step off the wall, or it was an automatic 30 burpees).
Now throw in all of the handicaps that I faced at the Rope Climb obstacle, plus the fact that I was newly drenched in mud from my fingernails to my mud-laden shoes, and my clothes were too sopping wet to dry my hands on! The judge at this obstacle was ruthless, looking to disqualify like a hawk. To make matters worse, we could now SEE the finish line. I attempted the wall, traversed a few blocks over, and decided that what was another 30 burpees in the grand scheme of things? I got really flustered when a guy came up behind me to coach me across the wall. I can’t handle that kind of pressure, so I stepped off the wall in forfeit.
Thirty burpees later, we were scaling the moat, climbing a rope up the side of a wooden structure, and approaching the fire pit. At this point, I wasn’t even phased by the flames. Before the race, I had watched runner after runner clear the fire in awe. Summoning the best grande jete I could from a lifetime of ballet lessons, I cleared the fire with a flourish and thankfully ran through the giant Q-tip beaters previously mentioned in Part 1 and finally, OVER THE FINISH LINE.
Where we were rewarded with a banana. A Powerade. A black cotton t-shirt. And a well-deserved finisher’s medal. I wanted to sleep in it.