Pacific NW Spartan Race report – running with wolves

In my last race, the Seattle Warrior Dash, I was so calm it was freaky… but this race just freaked me out.

Climbing into the same starting pen as Amelia Boone and Rose Wetzel-Sinnett is scary. Although I’m not sure why. Both are lovely people.

The men’s elite heat took longer than they imagined and consequently, the ladies elite heat was stalled 7 long 7-minute-plank kind of minutes.

I am glad they announced as such so that I could run to the porta-potty for about 5 extra last minute pees. Copious amounts of pre-race piddles are nothing new to me. So much so, that I incorporate them into my warmup. Jog there, dynamic stretches in the cue, drills back. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

On the way back I hear one of the elite males complaining about a snag on course, to which Joe Desena (yes THE Joe Desena) replies, “you have two legs and are still alive. You were a beast out there. Never mind anything else.”

I plan to test this response in a variety of perhaps otherwise uncomfortable situations. Fender bender? Hey buddy, “you have two legs and are still alive. Plus, you’re a beast behind the wheel. Never mind this.”

Late on a work proposal? Surgery didn’t go quite like you wanted? This might work for you too. I already tried it no less than five times on my husband John.

Anyways…

I was stoked to finally climb into the starting pen with a whole bunch of air-brushed looking lady beasts with unreal looking muscles and perfect skin.

I managed to not have a heart attack and groaned to a start on one of many very long very steep hills that I would be climbing today. I managed to stay within touching distance of Rose and Amelia – which was what dreams are made of.

At the very top of the big hill were some well-placed hurdles. Normally no big thing and more of a warmup obstacle, they hurt a little in my soul since I was currently hunched over and entirely out of air.

I’m pretty sure the same evil genius placed the tire flip – halfway up a steep hill on a plateau. Four tire flips. NBC was there filming and later told me they loved that I made such a hearty tire flipping grunt. Apparently, I will not be on TV for my athletic prowess, but perhaps instead for my embellishment of work effort.

The inverted wall was welcome respite from the battering hills. As was the lattice bridge (a plank latter and bridge across the top of the rope climb).

Having lodged myself in a pit several weeks back at Warrior Dash, I was happy to be chasing people who successful ran through the rolling mud pits. OK, good, we run.

I decided not to fly recklessly across the traverse wall today and did no burpees. I also only hit every second foothold (and only the flat ones). It took longer but not as long as 30 burpees would. It did cause me to fall back from the little pack battling for the last podium spot but top ten was my goal and I thought I’d better not get too ahead of myself.

I was feeling fine until I hit a very large, very limp cargo net. Joe Desena was there with some people he was torturing, along with a bunch of volunteers. It was super hard getting over the top with the looseness. I’m certainly glad there were no NBC guys there…. but I think I saw Joe Desena shake his head. And I’m pretty sure the detainees were laughing inside somewhere behind their teary bewildered eyes.

Awesome Vancouver based OCR star, Michelle Ford, well aware of my inabililty to make tactical obstacle based race decisions, gave me a fantastic bit of advice that stayed with me throughout the race.

”If you come across a choose-your-own-adventure style obstacle, chose the shortest option.”

The 8 foot wall was easier than most… they let the elite ladies use the foot boards… normally I’d have just muscled over it… but today was all about choosing the path of least resistance. Footboards it is.

This was the first time I’ve done the Herculeus Hoist in a race. I knew to throw my hips down and lean back into it, but in the first few pulls I was still using only my back and arms. I soon got into a rhythm of driving my hips up and down to make it easier.

Next came the bucket carry. Coming back down the hill, I peered into my bucket of rocks to see my ID card. Evidentially, it fell out of my top where I shoved it after registration. I found a pocket on my shorts to keep it safe. That was lucky.

I passed the great Tiffanie Novokavich on a flat section and led our two lady pack into the technical trail. I was feeling pretty awesome flying along – even on the rocky cliffy bit. Until, that is, I realized that I had led us off course. Tiffanie and I did some way finding (OK she found the trail and I followed her).

The next obstacle was officially my new least favourite thing ever. You drag a big concrete block attached to a chain up and down a trail with ruts dug out just big enough to grab a hold of the block, forcing you to heave it out in slippery uphill muck.

Tiffanie was just ahead of me on the slip n’ slide. I was hoping this would be mud and not slide when I saw the course map. It was indeed slide. I manned up and threw myself down shortly after she launched off. At some point I realized that I no longer wanted to be on the slide. However, this was on the slide. Probably at the same point when Tiffanie seemed to realize that this was a super-sonic slide and that she was going way too fast. She plummeted into the water on her back, legs and arms up and skidded across like a rock. I made a half ass attempt to pitch myself off the side of the slide and then spent the rest of my terror filled ride trying to slow myself with my feet or dig my nails in. Neither worked but I did peal back two of my nails so it was not for lack of trying.

Flash back to age ten or so when my father finally got fed up of my fear of waterslides and forcefully threw me into a tube slide. When I plunged into the pool below, my mom, waiting at the bottom, waved the lifeguards off, “she’s a great swimmer.”

However, there was no swim in my lifeless body – so my mom let the lifeguards drag me out.

Today, thankfully, I managed to swim across to the shore – only then realizing that I could have walked. I was also making some sort of woofing sound that may have been a panic attack.

Still barking like a Saint Bernard, I jogged off. I was pretty resolve to enjoy the rest of the race at this point and let any illusions of a strong finish slip away in the mud. Tiffanie was heading up the sandbag carry and 8th place was just plunging into the pool of horrors somewhere back. Why not slow down a little and take in the scenes?

I hauled a sandbag onto my shoulder and heaved up the hill, TV camera in my face the whole time. Thankfully by the time the camera caught up, the barking had stopped and I had settled into a reasonable pace.

The barbed wire crawl was the longest I have ever seen. It was also up a very steep hill. I stayed on my knees, digging my fingers and shoes in with each stride until I had to push-pull crawl underneath the wire. My shirt and shorts kept on snagging and I actually thought to myself, “I wish I wasn’t wearing a shirt because skin would not get caught in the wire.” My goodness. The things athletes feel to be reasonable thoughts. Later, I saw the war wounds of my fellow Spartans as they compared patterns at the finish line. Maybe the shirt can stay.

The higher you got up the hill, the more slippery things got. Just as I thought I might slide all the way back down, a rope appeared. I wanted to kiss it but it was really gross.

Onwards.

I was stoked to have no problems with any sliding at the top of the rope climb – and to finally see the finish.

Of course, in between me and the finish was the spear throw, and most probably 30 burpees.

Yep, 30 burpees.

Nothing gets more heated than a discussion about Spartan burpees. And nothing makes me crazier than obsessing over the rules in terms of how they should be done. In the elite heat at bigger races like this, they film you and have a guy just standing there analyzing them. You need to touch your chest to the ground and your feet need to leave the floor. As far as I can tell, you do not need to do full hip extension or bring your arms up. If you watch the Spartan burpee demo video, they talk about hip extension, but the rules in a race are a different story though.

So I asked the guy and he said it was chest down, feet leave. I do feel like we as an OCR community we need clarity that… how much hip extension and how do we measure it?

The slip wall led to a muddy bank and into deep water. There was a high wall placed about half way. I was trying to figure out how one makes it over said wall when the officiator pointed out that I might want to go under it instead. OK, “let’s go with that.”

No wonder I never got into “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. I probably always ended up dead in a ditch somewhere in the first 20 pages.

I had a lot more to give at the finish line – I kind of wanted to put it down today. Still, I feel OK with the direction the race took. And I learned a lot.

Oddly the big win of the day for me was at my favourite salad bar post-race. I was in the washroom with my two girls when an older lady came up to me (I was still covered in mud and Seren was wearing a mud stained shirt and no pants). “You’re a good mom”, she said. “You don’t see many moms these days that take the time, are happy and really treat their kids well.”

Now, I’m not always a good mom. My baby was not wearing pants. But I am happy and I try to take time for my girls. I owe that to fitness. We don’t train to make ourselves better athletes necessarily, we train to make ourselves better people. A big part of that inner happiness for me comes from movement and the freedom, health and competence that it brings.

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