I know you’ve seen it. I know you’ve quoted it. But have you actually lived it? “This is Sparta!” I shouted while puffing out my chest and brandishing my spear (okay there was no spear, but I pretended to hold one). The whistle blew and a passel of ratty-sneaker wearing warriors crossed the starting line–my girlfriend and I included. This was the Spartan Super Race.
Okay, so I didn’t face thousands of Persians in a suicide mission battle over the 8 mile 30-obstacle ridden course, but I did do a lot of suicides before I did battle with the Spartan race in Cliff Terrain Park in Marseilles, IL last weekend.
A conglomeration of obstacles and trail/terrain park running, the Spartan race elevates typical marathons to a whole new level.
Born our a New Years Resolution I wanted to conquer the Spartan race as a physical challenge and strength endurance test.
A few days of heavy rain before the start made sure that our already outdoorsy trail stayed slick with mud. In some places almost mid -alf high.
Stacey and I set off at 2:00pm. For the first mile we scampered down muddy ravines and scuttled through narrow tree lined crevasses. Stacey scurried the slippery slope with surprising ease. Her hands uncovered roots previously unseen to use as ropes. I relied on her heavily to navigate the curves and climbs of the course.
Obstacles included a lot of…well more climbing: climbing over several different sets of apparatus, climbing ropes, climbing under barbed wire, monkey bars of varying lengths, heights and devices, dragging plates, carrying heavy bags or balls, throwing spears and endless climbing through mud, under mud, over mud.
Overall, my weight training was worthwhile. I slogged the heaviest sandbag and logs through mud pits, hoisted a 50 pound bag 20 feet into the air, and swung my body across all the monkey bars. I even propelled myself unassisted over various walls 6..7..even 8ft in the air! But alas, one obstacle remained unconquered–a hanging rope innocently swinging in the wind proved my achilles heel.
The goal: pull your body up from a pool of brown water 20 feet to the top and ring a bell. It’s a classic PE/Boot Camp training drill I’ve seen shimmied on TV and in many a movie. In person the exercise proved much more difficult. The rope slick with water slipped constantly from my grip. Pulling my body weight out of the water burned my muscles like a pack-a-day smokers lungs while my feet frantically pursued an ethereal perch. I couldn’t find one. Succumbing to the fire in my biceps, I plummeted (okay I was only like a foot of the ground so it was more like slowly collapsed like a poorly made tent in the wind) to the ground. I never made it to the top. I never even made it 5 feet off the ground–oh innocently swinging rope I will be back for you…next year.
Stacey’s toughest trial came at the log carry about two-thirds of the way through the course. Already fatigued we were tasked with burdening a let’s call it 20 pound log through ankle deep mud. Stacey seemed stuck in the dank quicksand several times, but she beared down and gritted through the whole course with the log still on her back.
By the time both of use ran towards the finish line with only the iconic Spartan fire pit in our way we were almost sad to be at the finale.
We leapt through the smoldering flames–muscles burning, legs quivering, clothes stained brown with huge grins across our faces. This is Sparta I wanted to shout again while brandishing my chimerical spear…but I was too tired.
Maybe next year we’ll try the Spartan Beast–13.1 miles and over 40 obstacles.