Sons of Sparta: MN Spartan Sprint 2016

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When asked if he wanted to run the kid’s Spartan course again, my son Josh expressed little enthusiasm. “I don’t know, I’ve done it already. If I could run the adult course, maybe…”

He may or may not have been of age on race day, but his paperwork showed that he was and no one questioned it. We set him up with some of my spare gear, explained to him that there would be obstacles that he would need coached or assisted through, and made it clear that we were going for a good time and a finish, not doing anything crazy to push for a faster time. It turned into a cool perspective, seeing something like this through new eyes.

Time for our wave came. I encouraged him to get to the front of the corral (the energy up there is something I can still feel from my first race) and told him we would move to the side as soon as we were moving to make sure we were not in the way.

Pre-race speech, fist-bumping our fellow racers, yelling “I AM A SPARTAN,” and we were off, up a steep hill. We slowed to a walk before reaching the top, but kept a steady walking pace at least. I could tell he was doubting his decision to upgrade to the adult course by the top of it, but he kept moving.

First obstacle was a pair of 6′ walls. I moved forward to assist some other racers that were having trouble, and he could see the process, so we had no trouble getting him over.

More hilly trails. At a few points they had turned on the snow-making equipment to help cool us off, and to make the trails muddy and slippery. We came to the over-under-through, 2/3 of which he could do without help. I ran just a bit ahead and could see the water/ mud pits coming up, so I called back that Spartan was giving us a chance to cool down. He smiled and picked up the pace to get there. He made it through the rolling mud portion with only a few comments of how wet shoes feel weird, but seemed less sure of himself at the dunk wall. I explained the process, had him take off the pack so that it wouldn’t snag, and went through first. (A few other newbie racers also appreciated the demonstration.)

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And he made it look good:

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Money bars were right after, which we both failed and knocked out our burpees together. Cargo net was next, which I instructed him to do one leg at a time, while I flipped over the top to show him the other option. (“Doesn’t make it much faster, but its fun and it looks cool. You need to be able to do pullups before you try that one.”)

Back uphill, taking a quick breather whenever either of us said we needed it. In particular I remember, when the hill got steeper and we entered a woodline, a racer passing us checked in that we were okay, and made a comment to me of, “I’d ask his age, but he qualifies as a man taking this one on.”

Tarzan-swinging on trees to get up the hill, constant reminders to keep hydrating (it was in the high 80s or low 90s at this point), up and over more walls, making sure that he saw how to get others over. I could tell that he had never thought about an obstacle like the reverse wall, but made it over with help after seeing it done a few times. The barbed wire crawl was one of those things that looks awesome until you are in the middle of it…

This crawl was admittedly pretty nasty. Slick mud, small gravel at the start and big rocks toward the end. I made it through well ahead of him, and walked back along the side to take his pack and encourage him along. I was proud of him, you could tell from his face that this was no fun no more and he just wanted out, but he kept going.

Just after the mud crawl: “I can’t even tell what color these shorts used to be!”

“Now do you understand why we wouldn’t let you wear a new shirt?”

“Yeah…”

I pulled him aside to give him a quick tutorial on how not to face-plant on the slick wall, then went up first to help him over the top. He got about halfway up, slipped back down, and I decided to try another way. He held on to the rope, and I pulled it hand-over-hand to get him up. Hadn’t thought of this before, but it worked.

Atlas Carry was next. Josh decided that his weight-bearing ability was not up to snuff, and he would just get started on his burpees. I completed the obstacle and then knocked out the last 4 or 5 burpees with him.

We then both completed the Z wall by way of broad interpretation of the rules. There were a few points where I was holding him off the ground until he could sort out his footholds, and I used the top of the wall a few times to get through.

More trail running. I asked the volunteer if Josh could do the ladies version due to body size. Volunteer took a quick look at him, snickered and nodded.

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Drop the sandbags, quick shuffle through the woods, and came to the next obstacle, which was a beam set at about chest height. I got down on all fours so that Josh and a few other racers could use my back as a step. One of the ladies that I had helped over looked back and asked, “Does Dad need help over?” Not sure yet, I took a step back and was able to jump just high enough to swing my legs over. She smiled and said, “Got it. Dad is awesome!”

Some welcome downhill running, and we hit the Hercules Hoist. I did it first to explain what will and will not get you rope burn, then had him try the ladies’ weight. I stepped in to steady it when he needed to re-grip, but he fought through and did all the actual lifting.

The bucket carry here was brutal even a little more than most. He did the female weight, but that was still more than half his body weight, and the hill was the steepest I have seen outside of Vermont. We would push as far as we could, set it down, rest, hydrate, and do it again. I got mine to the top, went back down to help/coach Josh up, and for some reason decided to go back down again to help a newbie tag-team his bucket up to the top.

Downhill was easier, but the bucket is still clumsy and heavy. There was a steep uphill immediately after that we went up really slowly, Josh deciding to crawl part of it.

Next was what is probably my favorite obstacle of this race. A steep sloped wall about 7 feet high, with a ladder-type frame above it. I helped a few racers up it, then surprised myself by completing it unassisted.

The Rig was next, which we both failed. Heat and maybe a little dehydration was getting to us, so when we started getting light-headed when coming up from a burpee, we decided that was enough. I think we completed about 20?

We were overjoyed to find the 5 mile marker just after that. As we were running down a hill, we could hear the festival area, and they started playing “Carry On My Wayward Son,” which I couldn’t help but find appropriate. Spear throw, burpees, rope climb. The rope is usually hit-or-miss for me, as if I can keep the rope where I need it, I’m fine, but if it moves I’m usually in trouble. This time I remember stopping in the middle of the climb, okay untangle it, okay reset it, okay back in action, and was able to complete it. When I was done Josh had 22 burpees to go, so we each knocked out 11.

We formed up to do the fire jump together…

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Josh got cold feet for a minute, but recovered to finish strong:

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And now we both start training for next year. After ice cream, ice cream first…

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