Monday, June 22, 2015

Boston Spartan Super 2015

June 20, 2015
In the days before this race I was somewhat apprehensive--although there were to be no hills, it was the first race I would be doing entirely alone. I did most of last year’s Spartan Sprint alone, since Ben was late, and then had to rush to meet his son, perforce having to leave me behind (I told him to go on ahead), he was there with me for a short while.  Both Bonefrog and Tough Mudder I did with John et al.  There would be the New England Spahtens to run with, but without any identifying gear on, I didn’t really feel “part” of them despite running with them. Essentially, I would be running this race alone.

Course Map

A bonus to this race was that relatively speaking, it was close to home. Only an hour drive--and the next two races I am doing will also be at the same site in Barre, MA, so I would get a good taste of the terrain. Parking was in a huge field in what turned out to be a 10-minute shuttle bus drive from the venue. It was a long walk from the car to the shuttle buses, and by the buses was a line of porta-potties. Having them there was good, but at 8:45am, several people were coming out of the porta-potties warning others that they were already out of toilet paper... The bus took us to the farm itself where it was another walk to registration. Registration was well-organized and fast, as is typical for Spartan Races, which was good, because I was worried about being late for the start. Bag check went smoothly as well, and I was able to get VIP bag check for being part of the largest team. Vendors were selling beer, some sandwiches, smoothies, and the farm had its own kiosk. I might have missed some vendors, but it appeared that the food options were limited, especially for kids. It was good to see several obstacles set up for kids in the Festival area: a climbing rope, a kid’s sized wall to climb over, and of course the kid’s race itself.  

Soon we were called to start line, where we endured what I thought was too long of a pep talk, and then we were off at a jog. I wanted to slow down and walk, but the momentum of the crowd was such that I had to keep moving faster than I am used to (which isn’t that fast).  

The first obstacles were pretty easy, to get your blood going. First was Hay Wall, which was jumping over walls made of hay, and then a pair of 6’ walls, which I managed to climb over without difficulty. Next was O-U-T (Over Under Through).  I helped a fellow Spahten over the wall, but managed to climb over myself. He thanked me for the help, and I introduced myself, only to have him run off apparently not hearing me, which made me feel a little stupid.

Next was the Monkey Bars, and I cursed as I approached, thinking I was already going to have to do some burpees, and I still felt like we had just gotten started. These monkey bars were different from previous races--they were level, and the bars were thicker so I was able to get a better grip. I also planned better for this one, deciding to go from one bar with both hands and then moving to the next, rather than hand-over-hand. I assumed I would make it a few bars and then fall off, but to my astonishment, by the time I got that far I still felt strong and thought I could go all the way.  I took my time, went methodically, and as I got close to the end I saw their trick--towards the end the bars got more spread apart, so I had to swing the last two bars or so.  But I managed it and was immensely pleased with myself.  

Next was an interminable Barbed Wire Crawl--I measured it on the map as 130m of it.  Fortunately it was not muddy and there were not a lot of rocks, but the barbed wire certainly was barbed (I tore up my right palm on it) and it was very low, so for most of the crawl I had to crawl rather than roll.

Then there was a hike back towards the Festival area, and on the way I passed a team of racers in red shirts who were helping along one of their members in a wheelchair, which was pretty cool to see. The path was so narrow and rugged they were forced to carry him and his chair past it. By the festival area was the first water station and a porta-potty, then a lattice bridge over the entrance to the festival area. I took it slowly and deliberately and had no problems. Next we passed the kid’s race area, and I saw some kids doing the course, looking like they were having a blast. Back towards the woods there was a wall with a Memorization Test - my code was Quebec 733-3276, which we were informed we’d be tested on later in the course...and ultimately weren’t.  Soon after that was a 7' Wall (which I managed myself), and an 8’ Wall, which I didn’t.  I helped one guy over and then he helped me over.
Sandbag Carry

After that was a Sandbag Carry which wasn’t difficult at all, and then back towards the Festival area for a Vertical Cargo Net.  This one had two sides to it, so there wasn’t a backup like there was at the Bonefrog, and the next itself was tighter, so it was also easier than the Bonefrog’s.  
Surmounting the Vertical Cargo Net

A very long hike and ultimately to the Inverted Wall, which I managed just fine, and then a Plate Drag, which consisted of a metal plate with a pair of sandbags in it. Mine was in a very rutty patch of ground, and so it got stuck several times and I had to go forward and lift it out.  Soon after that was the Z-Walls (the horizontal wall traverse). I got 2/3 of the way through this before I slipped and fell.  I was pleased at how far I managed, but also angry that I fell. A lot of people were getting assistance from each other on this one, but again, I was “alone” so that hurt me here. I had to do my 30 burpees, and already I was exhausted so I had no form. I plowed through them and moved onto the Atlas Carry. The Atlas Carry consisted of carrying a large stone (at least 50 lbs) a short distance, doing 5 burpees, and then carrying the stone back.

Following that was the Bucket Brigade.  Seeing as the ground was more or less flat, the distance was long, and we had to carry the bucket a quarter of a mile.  I got nearly halfway before I had to set it down, and then set it down (on my knee--my “rule” is that I won’t let it touch the ground) several more times after that.  As at the Sprint last year, this was by far the most physically demanding challenge.  A few people on the way passed me while I rested, trying to cheer me up.  Unnecessary, but it was good to see the spirit of camaraderie. (I actually ended up passing a few of them before the end of the Brigade)
Bucket Brigade

After that was the Stairway to Sparta, which was an A-frame wood lattice, with a 6’ or 7’ wall to begin the climb. I made it up just fine, only for my left calf to threaten to cramp as I pulled myself to the top of the wall. This would plague me later. More hiking, and then to the Spear Throw. Predictably I failed this obstacle.  The spears were attached by ropes so you could drag them back rather than have someone go forward to retrieve them, which was good in theory, but they seemed too short to me and made it harder to get a good arc upon throwing them.  30 more burpees.

Another hike and a short reprieve at a water station, and then onto the Mud Moats, with a Slip Wall (angled wall with a rope assist), and then to the most difficult part of the course.  

First up was the rope climb. More experienced than I was at my first OCR, I didn’t hesitate this time, and went right in. The water was chest deep--nearly to my armpits. The rope was knotted, which was a plus, but again, I didn’t get far. I got out of the water, but no farther. 30 burpees. Next was a short Tyrolean Traverse, over ground. I got on the rope and my technique was good, but I didn’t think I was going to be strong enough to make it. Then both my lower legs cramped up and I fell off the rope.  Angry with myself, I sat on the ground for a minute, feeling sorry/angry at myself before continuing.  30 more burpees. Next was the Clif Multi-Bars which was a rig consisting of bars, ropes, and more bars, which of course I got nowhere. 30 more burpees.

More hiking, or rather slogging, through a  lot of mud, and then to the Hercules Hoist. There was no way I would be able to manage this on my own, so I had to buddy up with another guy, and then a third. It took all three of us to do the hoist, and I got a little rope burn on it as well. Then over an A-frame Cargo Net, which again was very tight and therefore not difficult. Back into the woods and into more mud, and I saw the 7-mile marker. My watch said 3:42:00, so I figured if I hustled it, I could reach mile 8 under four hours. The Super was supposed to be 8+ miles, so it might not mean I could finish by 4 hours, but it was a goal to shoot for. I picked up the pace, still slogging through mud, and then, to my surprise, I came out of the woods, and the Finish Line was in sight.  Just the fire jump and that was it. Anti-climactic to say the least. I jumped over the fire and finished, and after the 12-year-old volunteer disentangled the medals, he handed me one (odd--both Spartan races I was handed a medal, while a medal was placed over my head at the Bonefrog, and at the Tough Mudder someone put a headband on my head).  
Over the Fire

All in all I consider the race a success--as I did the same number of burpees that I did for the Sprint last year, and I passed the monkey bars.  But the finish of the race seemed anti-climactic, and the race itself is less fun without someone to run it with. But it looks like I’ll be running the remainder of this year’s races alone. Onto the Battlefrog!

Other Races in this Series

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