A Spartan race is an experience that can never be really explained with words. In February, I completed my first Spartan Sprint in Arizona. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew it was going to be intense. I mean, with barbed wire crawls, javelin throws, wall climbs, cargo nets, rope climbs, fire and burpees, it had to be intense.
The sprint distance can be anywhere from 3-5 miles in length, and just as with any Spartan brand race, the actual obstacles and length of the race are not known before race day. After completing a race, finishers receive a high-quality medal and a third of another medal. When the three different distances have been completed in one calendar year, a trifecta medal is earned by piecing together the pieces.
Yesterday, I completed the Super Spartan Las Vegas 2015 race. With just over 9 miles of running and obstacles, I felt extremely proud and accomplished after jumping the finish line fire.
A word of advice to anyone looking to complete a Spartan race of any distance. You want to show up prepared. Practice doing burpees, lots and lots of burpees. Wear gloves and shoes that drain and have lots of grip for obstacles. Also, bring a hydration pack as water aid stations are never guaranteed. I also highly recommend bringing fuel such as bloks, gels, or sports beans to keep from running on empty. Make sure your clothing is tight-fitting, non-cotton, and preferably moisture wicking as you will appreciate it when climbing out of water and mud or rolling under barbed wire.
The Vegas Super race was interesting. After jumping the start line wall, a short and flat run starts the race off nicely. Before long, we were at obstacle 1 (OUT) which includes a wall you jump over, a wall you go under and a wall you go through. This was followed by a trail run which quickly turned into a steep hike up the side of the mountain. We went up one side and down the other, and then around the rest of the mountain to the flat lands. There was a lot of gravel, shot gun casings, and debris along the way. Somewhere in the middle of this hike, we were given a number to memorize (mine was UNIFORM-453-2522).
It felt like a very long, flat run without any additional obstacles for awhile. Really, there were some obstacles to break up the run portion, but most of the obstacles were towards the end of the race. We carried sandbags, flipped tires, climbed the Z-walls, carried a giant cement rock, and jumped a 6,7, and 8 foot wall. The walls are where you see the most Spartan spirit, as there is always someone ready to give you a boost, shove, hand or shoulder to get you to the other side. Spartan races are about teamwork after all.
Next came a vertical climb up a cargo net, and then the Hercules Hoist, which includes pulling a pulley rope to lift a sandbag up and down. Next came a plate drag, where you pulled a rope to make a large, weighted sled move from one pole and returned it bag to the original position in the same way.
The A-frame cargo net was next. This obstacle was very challenging for me in my first Spartan race, but it was much easier having completed it in the past. This was followed by filling a large work bucket (like the kind you get from home depot) up with gravel and carrying it in a loop that goes up a hill and back down.
The pointed hurdles were the next obstacle. These are made up of several log type hurdles that come to a point and are about 4-feet from the ground. These always seem to leave their mark on my legs, but were completed nonetheless.
After all these obstacles, we had to recite the number we were supposed to memorize. Here, a lot of Spartans ended up doing penalty burpees. I, however, was able to escape after reciting the number correctly.
The next obstacle was climbing straight up the side of a sand dune. The climb was steep, and hard to find/maintain balance. There was no rest at the top though, as this is where the barbed wire crawl was set up. This particular barbed wire crawl was extra difficult, as it was probably twice the length of the Sprint crawl, and was on dry, rocky, land. I was able to roll under a large portion of the wire, however it was impossible to roll the entire distance as it was a very long length. Another difference for this event, was the lack of moisture. The dry, dusty environment made the barbed wire more difficult to master.
We were hot, exhausted, thirsty now and also just about 8 miles into the race. Several obstacles were packed in at the end, which simply added to the challenge. We went through some muddy water, swam under the dunk wall and after getting super wet, climbed up the slip wall (An A-frame wooden structure with ropes to climb up with).
The spear throw was next. While always a more difficult obstacle, the targets were set up on an incline from the throwing area, which added an extra element. After completing my penalty burpees, we moved through the last 3 obstacles (cargo bridge in the sky, the rope swing and the final fire jump).
When you jump that finish line fire, it’s a feeling like no other. You are instantly ready to sign up for the next race, regardless of how much misery you had to endure. I have just one more race left in order to complete my trifecta, and am excited by the unknown of a beast race (even though I am too sore to walk as I type this). That’s when it’s obvious that there really is “no pain, no gain.” That’s when the addiction to the pain of a Spartan race is understandable. That’s when you realize you want more. You want to race more often, you want a faster time, you want to get higher on the rope or swing farther from the mud.
When you cross the finish line and feel it, you understand. You feel it inside of you and you know that YOU are a Spartan.