I’m going to be honest here, I was about ready to write Spartan off and out of my race calendar permanently. I had completed the three distances last year, I had got my trifecta, I had had some fun and enjoyed the races, but really I thought they were a bit more hype than substance and although there was nothing wrong with any of the Spartans I did last year, there are plenty of other races out there to spend my hard earned cash on. Then they brought out new T-shirts and medals, and I got seduced by the new bling, so I decided to give them one more go and signed up to one sprint, one super and the beast for 2015.
Then came all the controversy sounding Spartan this year, changing dates, changing peoples wave times and making out that it was all brilliant with no apologies, and this managed to annoy me for no real reason as none of the changes had affected me, my races remained as I had booked them, all this along with lacklustre reviews, (other than Spartan Scotland, which sounded awesome!), and I found myself yet again thinking that this would be my last year doing Spartan, I would collect my Trifecta and call it a day.
Be all this as it may, I was still up at some ungodly hour on a Saturday morning to make the trip to the Cambridgeshire sprint (actually set in Peterborough). The long journey was filled with laughter as usual and we arrived in high spirits and got registered easily, leaving us a little time for a few photos before starting the race.
We clambered into the starting pen, the coloured wrist band we were given at registration checked as we climbed over the wall in front of the start line to make sure we were running in the right wave.
I was running this race with my friend Dom Wright, and we set off somewhere towards the middle of the pack and we hit the first obstacle in very short order. A series of low walls to vault over, coming so soon this did cause some hold ups but we were soon on our way across what turned out to be a very obstacle heavy course. They came thick,fast, and varied with very little running between them. This was fantastic, the course was amazing and you were never quite sure what they might make you do next. Spartan had done it, they had really got it right this time.
Since I have already written this race up for Muddy Race I don’t want to repeat myself to much on this blog, but you can read my race review here.
It was great running with Dom, who was always there to give me a push over a wall and encourage me, he also had the patience to wait around while I completed several sets of burpees for failing to complete the traverse wall (I got a bit tangled up), the monkey bars (too slippery for me to grip), the rope climb (because I just can’t do it) and the spear throw (only about an inch short – damn it! 😉 ) He also waited to help me and make sure I got up over the final wooden slope, which after sliding back down it several times at Cambridge last year, I’ve had something of a mental block over. We finished together, along with Gareth Ernest, as we leapt over the fire to pick up our medals.
After the race everyone was buzzing, so many obstacles for such a short distance, so much fun, such a good race. The general consensus was that this had been one of the best Spartan Races most of us had been to. I am now really looking forward to seeing what they throw our way at the Super and the Beast in a few weeks time, and I can’t wait to get out there and do another one, and if they are as good as this Sprint was, then I may have to put Spartan back on my race calendar after all!
A week after my first ever Spartan race I found myself getting up at 5am to make the trip to Cambridge to complete my second, the Spartan Sprint. Although much less nervous this time, I had come down with the usual start of term illness that I get every September, and was feeling really poorly. In fact if I wasn’t doing all of this for charity I would have crawled back into bed! Never the less, I was picked up at 6am and we headed to the race.
The Spartan Sprint is the shortest of the three Spartan distances, advertised at 5+km, this race came in pretty much dead on the 5km distance. It was a nice flat race through some woodland and easy paths, there was to be quite a bit of mud and the pre race email had warned about two water crossings that would require the ability to swim. The race would also contain some of Spartans signature obstacles such as the rope climb and spear throw.
The walk into the event village had actually taken us past some of the obstacles, so we already knew we would again be climbing up and over the large A frame cargo netting and doing a crawl between hay bails topped with wood.
There was a great atmosphere at the start of this race, the event village was quite compact, and there was music playing as we gathered for the start of the race.
We set off through a cloud of smoke and very quickly hit a set of low hurdles across the path. At this point the pack still had not really split so it was a bit slow going, with most people walking over them, myself included. This was followed up by a wade through some thick mud, which I have heard swallowed quite a few shoes. One of my x-talons was pulled off my foot despite the Xtenex laces, although having them did allow me to get my shoe back on again very quickly.
After clambering out of the mud, you grabbed a sandbag and took it for a run, then the route took you through some lovely natural terrain, waving back and forth through some woods, before eventually having to tackle the very heavy atlas stones. I was finding the running really difficult as my chest was hurting, but at least I was able to take the stone from someone this week, saving me from attempting to haul it up off the ground.
As I have already said, the race contained two deep water crossings, which didn’t bother me too much, I’m not a really strong swimmer, but I can get myself from A to B in the water without drowning. My friend was less delighted though as she really is not a keen swimmer and I know she wishes she had known before she signed up for the race (in the race email two days before was a little late notice for her).
So far I was doing OK with no burpees, but before long we hit the monkey bars, and I predictably slid straight off them into the waiting hay below, dusted myself off and got on with my first set of 30. I found these really tough going as the motion of going up and down quickly along with the cold I was suffering made me really dizzy. After a slow 30 I was off again, having no trouble with crawling over the path, or carrying the heavy bucket full of water.
My next set of burpees came, again predictably, at the rope climb. I did give it a go, but barely got off the ground before I was off and getting ready for another 30 reps. Once these were finished I grabbed some water and headed over the A frame cargo net and carried on. My running was really slowing down as my breathing became harder but I was determined to finish.
My third and final set of burpees of this race came at the spear throw, which I missed entirely, then it was off into a ditch with barbed wire over the top meaning you had to run through it at a crouch. This was followed by the hoist, which I managed fine, just as the week before, and then a short run round to the final obstacle, the same A-frame slope as last week.
Having had no problem at all with this at the super, I confidently headed up the slope using the rope, got to the top, and slipped, sliding right down to the bottom. This preceded to happen another 3 times, leaving me increasingly frustrated. I honestly thought at one point I was going to fail this race at the final hurdle. I was feeling drained and unwell, and really didn’t fancy 30 burpees in-front of everyone near the finish. I took one last shot at it, got to the top of the rope again and froze, I couldn’t convince myself to move, the guy to the right of me at the top was telling me I could do it, but I was immobilised, sobbing that I couldn’t. He grabbed my wrist, as a guy to the left took hold of my other one, and someone behind me gave me a shove and I was finally at the top. The crowd watching the obstacle gave a massive cheer, but I honestly just felt humiliated.
I clambered down as quickly as I could managed, rallied myself a bit for the fire jump, and crossed the finish line in tears. I was feeling really run down, and not my usual elation at the end, but at least I had finished.
It took quite a bit of calming down and convincing by Lucy Martlew and Lauren Edwards-Fowle but after a breather I was feeling better and game for a second turn around the course. A group of us went round again for a fun lap to enjoy it rather than race.
I am so glad I was talked back into this, as it was a really fun lap. We took it much slower and I can’t speak for the others, but I had a really great time. Highlights of the second lap were finally completing the monkey bars, with a tiny bit of help from David Beatty, and an epic group fire jump at the end. We skipped the final obstacle due to a massive queue, meaning I didn’t have to face it again, and even got thrown chocolate to munch when we went through the barbed wire covered ditch. All in all it turned my day back into a really positive experience and I finished on a real high.
After the race was over we hung around to watch the amazing Lucy and Faye take the podium after coming in 1st and 3rd place for the ladies respectively and have a couple more photos, before it was time to hit the road again.
As this race approached I was feeling more and more nervous. In fact I had never felt so worried about any race I have done, including the my first one. Spartan races have a reputation for being tough, but I think it was the thought of doing 30 penalty burpees for every failed obstacle that was really getting me worked up. I have always struggled with burpees and can’t do them fast or well. I also knew there were obstacles that I was going to fail, for example I know I can’t climb a rope, and it’s not a nice or comforting thought going into a race knowing there are things you just can’t do.
I arrived feeling quite sick, but having my awesome “RPCC famly” around me helped with the nerves, well, I say helped, as some of them had done the Sprint the day before and kept saying how tough it was – and this was going to be longer!
Spartan Races do not release their distances beforehand, they just tell you that the Super will be 13+km. With the people from the Sprint the day before telling us that the 5+km course clocked in at around 7km we were trying to mentally prepare for anywhere up to a 15km course, however I have seen some peoples data from the Super and it actually looks like it was only about 12km, surprisingly under distance. I said at the time it didn’t feel that far. The course was going to be hilly and over some tough terrain, but I was prepared for this as I had raced at Pippingford earlier in the year. Since at least some of the course had already been churned up during the sprint the day before, it was also going to be really muddy in places.
We gathered at the start line, for a bit of a warm up, although there was not much room, a race briefing and a lot of crys of “I am Spartan” and “AROO” then a quick three, two, one and we were off over the line.
We set off slightly downhill, across a rather bouncy bridge and then set off up a long gravelly hill, towards the top of which were a series of small walls, one to go over, one to go through and one to go under. As usual I’m sure I will start getting things in the wrong order and miss things out so please forgive me, I try my best.
After some tricky trail running, a bit of wading through mud and water it was back down the hill and heading back towards the main obstacle field by the event village where you were first taken into some trenches, to crawl under barbed wire and some netting suspended above the trench, this was followed by a short run to a large A frame net to climb up and over.
Once over the net you had to clamber in and out of a series of muddy trenches then it was around to the traverse wall. This was so slippery that despite really trying to take my time, my shoe slipped and I was off – this earned me my first set of 30 burpees so down I got and started the slow process of getting these done.
This was followed almost immediately by the monkey bars, slung low over a shallow pit of water, I gave it my best shot, but slipped straight off the narrow bars with a splash, clambered out of the pit and set to doing my second set of very muddy burpees. If there was ever a moment when I thought I might give up, this was it, 60 burpees already, very close together, and no idea what was coming next.
Once I was finally through with my burpees, it was back into the woods, through some more mud, one misstep and I found myself buried up to my knee, laughing I pulled myself out and carried on, before long finding myself at a sandbag carry, grabbing a bag I set off down the hill, around and back up again – at which point I took a bit of a wrong turn, but noticed quickly and set off again in the right direction.
Throughout the course there were several other sections where you had to carry objects, from huge atlas stones(which I struggled to even lift) to ammo boxes. Towards the end was also a jerry can carry, but there was a huge queue and the marshals suggested we just took the burpees as it would be quicker! There was also a heavy tyre drag, which I actually got through surprisingly quickly, and a log carry that took you through a pool of water that seemed to be full of rocks, but that I actually quite enjoyed.
A set of parallel bars at the top of yet another hill earned me another set of burpees as I failed to shimmy along holding up my own body weight, before setting off for another run.
Once again you looped into the main event village area, this time to be faced with a rope climb, followed by a hoist. I failed the rope climb, this was inevitable really, and did my burpees, then feeling a bit worried about my lack of strength, moved onto they hoist. I actually had no problem with this obstacle and heaved the weight to the top, lowering it carefully to the ground lest I pick up yet more burpees, then I was off again, up a hill to a barbed wire crawl. I chose to roll under this, which saved my knees and was quicker, but left me really dizzy!
Some more running, mud and obstacles such as a wall climb, which I managed with just a little push from the girl behind me, and it was time for the spear throw as you headed back towards the event village for the final time. My throw was on target, but not hard enough to stick in the hay bails, and another 30 burpees came my way.
After the spear throw it was around to the hang tough obstacle – which I again failed, yet more burpees and this time with the finish line in sight! Once I had struggled through these I sprinted off, trying to finish as strongly as I could. To finish you had to run up the steep side of an a-frame with the help of a rope, before climbing down the net the other side, before taking on a fire jump then a straight run down to the finish line.
After crossing the line you were handed a very nice sized medal, and 1/3 of my trifector attempt was successfully completed. There were some decent freebies once you had finished racing as well, including a cold beer, and some really nice ice cream. Then it was time for our customary post race selfies, hugs and group shots.
With my first Spartan Race completed, it’s time to look ahead to my second, the Spartan Sprint, which is next weekend and to think about really upping my training in order to complete the Spartan Beast in October, which still scares me. I was chuffed to find out when the results were published that despite my thought on the way round that being in the top 100 women in this race would be ok, I managed to finish in the top 20, and 4th in my age/gender category with a respectable time of 1h55mins.
I will leave you with our final group shot of the day. In the end despite being so nervous about this race I thought I might throw up, I had a fantastic day with some amazing people and enjoyed (almost) every moment of it.