Pennsylvania Spartan Super
Oh Spartan, one of my favorite obstacle course races around. This was probably the first race I seriously considered skipping (yes, you heard me right). Now I am not one to quit, but please believe me when I say I felt like I was dying from the plague just the week prior. I had just returned from Costa Rica and my body had completely shut down. The amount of hiking, running and waterfall chasing throughout the entire country was finally catching up to me. I could barley move, I felt like I had a fever and I was beyond exhausted and weak. I could have been drowning from the amount of rice and beans I had that week, but who knows, it could have been a combination of everything and man was I suffering! All I could hear in my head were the thoughts of,”You’re screwed Ash”, “This race is going to be the death of you”. Over 8 miles up and down a strenuous mountain with over 32+ obstacles? I might as well have started digging my own grave, but good god even I didn’t have the energy for that! I was not able to work out at all that entire week so I did my best to give my body the much needed rest it deserved and that may have been one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while (as stubborn as I am, it’s not like I really had a choice!).
This race was actually a free race for me because I chose to volunteer the next day during the Sprint. I did not want to burn any bridges bailing out at the last minute for something I committed to a while back. My friend convinced me to tag along and already had accommodations set and plus the race was free, so I couldn’t help but to say yes!
We drove up to Pennsylvania straight after work that Friday. We hit the typical mind numbing northern Virginia traffic and stopped for dinner somewhere in Maryland. It was about a 4 hour drive away, but traffic made it so much longer (insert road rage here!).
We arrived early on Saturday morning at the Blue Mountain Ski Resort. It was a beautiful day for a race. The mountains were in sight and were just ready to kill us all with its terrain. We had some time to kill so I practiced my climbing skills over this wall.
People started filling in quick so we explored around before checking in our bags.
I did a practice climb on the rope to make sure I still had it in me and thankfully I did! Funny story, I actually lost my watch somewhere around here and was running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to find it. No one really knew where lost and found was located and I was directed in so many different directions which was quite frustrating. Thankfully someone turned in my watch and I was able to get it back before my start time!
We checked out the course map before heading over to the start line. I wish this map included elevation. This map just doesn’t do justice to how difficult the terrain actually is!
We met up with another friend for the 9:30am heat and I figured I would take it easy and stick with them. The start of the race had us going straight up a hill. It only seemed to get worse when we had to keep climbing up the mountain. I climbed up the first few sets of the mountain then paused and waited for my friends. I waited at the top and some people were making fun of me for not even being winded. I am glad all that major hiking in Costa Rica payed off! My friends caught up and we began to press on. I made it closer to the top and stopped again for my friends, but they were no where in sight. I decided to keep going hoping they would catch up. The first obstacle went back down the mountain and up again. When I still didn’t see my friends I decided not to wait anymore and just go.
I was surprised to see the spear throw so early on in the race as the next obstacle. I had never made this one before and I remember my mistake the very first time I did this when it wrapped around my leg. I hesitated and thought about it for a moment and just took the spear and threw it. Next thing you know I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the spear stick in the hay-bale and not fall! Wow did I really just make the infamous Spartan spear throw? Many Spartan athletes struggle with this and I could not believe I had just made it! I was overwhelmed with excitement and my energy levels had magically skyrocketed. I took off and was ready to take on the rest of the course. Look out folks, the energizer bunny is back in business!
I came across many obstacles I had seen in previous Spartan races, including the sandbag carry as seen above and below. There were a few new ones including having to swim across a lake. I was just barley able to stand in it so I kinda hopped my way across. There was another new obstacle that I spent a good 20 minutes on. It was one of the rigs where you had to climb a rope over the water to reach the monkey bars. I had remembered my rope trick, but this one was in the water which made it that much more difficult. Many people struggled with doing this obstacle. I tried climbing the rope countless times only to get halfway up it. I even had people rooting for me, but I just couldn’t keep a grip and fell. I did not want to give up, but disappointingly enough I knew it wasn’t going to happen so I made my way to the burpee zone to do my 30 burpees (curse you rope climb rig!).
Later on in the course was the regular rope climb and after failing the last one I had no excuse not to do this one. This one was not over water, so I had to be careful to make my way back down the rope slowly without falling. I took off my waterpack for this one and I was able to grasp the rope so much easier compared to the last one. When I made my way to the top, I rang that bell with the uttermost excitement! I had never been able to do this obstacle in the past 2 Spartan races I’ve done so this was another great accomplishment for me!
Another obstacle I conquered was one of the monkey bar rigs. When I attempted to get on the monkey bars they were so wet that I could not keep a grip so my hands slipped. I started walking over towards the burpee zone, but then I thought, “why not give it another chance?”. I walked around the rig over to the other side. I could not believe how much drier this section was compared to where I was before, so I was able to make my way across the entire rig! I kept getting more excited by conquering obstacles that had defeated me in the past. Its amazing knowing that all the hard work I was putting in was finally paying off.
The heat was pretty brutal out that day and I was very glad to have my camelbak with me along with some GU. I drank most of my water and was a little disappointed that the water stations were not allowing us to fill up our waterpacks. I tried to conserve my water as much as I could and sipped on it here and there. I would fill up a cup of water at the water station then throw it in my camelbak and take off. I just barely had enough to get by.
Now I was in no hurry to get this race over with, but I ran most of the downhill portions as much as I could. I have so much fun running down steep terrain, you have no idea! The speed and agility on a difficult course gets me excited. It places you on edge to watch your footing and balance when you’re moving at such a speed and I enjoy the thrill. One portion of the course we were climbing down rocks going down the mountain and those were pretty fun to jump on. Just a little scary not knowing if rocks were loose, but I did just fine! Some parts were so steep you were forced to get crouch down and grab onto the nearby trees. Some people even slid. The amount of people out there really wears down the course making it much more difficult to get by. The course was pretty crowded which makes it even harder to pass people on such rough terrain. I love being able to find someone running fast and I just get behind them to pass everyone.
I was a little disappointed that I was not able to complete the last obstacle. It was another rig with hanging rings. I tried it the first time and was not able to keep a grip so I tried again, but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make it across so I walked over to do my 30 burpees. The finish line was in site with just a walldunk and fire jump away!
I may have gotten a little too excited during my fire jump because I had not fallen this entire course until 5 feet before the dag on finish line in front of everyone! Ugh, like seriously!? My leg just had to cramp up mid air and I took a pretty bad fall and tumbled. My entire right leg ended up looking black, blue and purple along with a few scrapes. It is hard to tell looking at the pictures and they unfortunately didn’t capture it on camera. Not my best fire jump pictures, but definitely the most embarrassing moment of my Spartan Career. >.<
I finished the course in 3 hours and 39 minutes. I had amazed myself yet again not realizing how much my body was truly capable of. I have a tendency of underestimating myself and being able to overcome something you don’t believe you can do is one of the most powerful feelings in the world. It gave me reassurance that I can do more and to never settle for less. I need to keep pushing myself and with the right training and mindset I can accomplish anything (that can be said for anything else as well!). I was glad I didn’t back down and came out for my first NBC Championship series race!
When I looked at the results I couldn’t believe I had finished within the top 3 % of females! I was so excited I just wanted to sign up for another race in the Elite division!
After the race, I waited for my friends. I really started to worry about them because they finished the course in 7 hours! (Trust me when I say that Spartan is no joke!)
My Salomon’s were actually shiny, brand new shoes before the race and you can definitely see I got good use out of them out there on the course. Spartan DC is coming up soon and I can’t wait to be back out there racing again!