The drive out to Washougal wasn’t too bad which took us over 30 minutes from East Vancouver. Parking was plentiful in a large grassy field with a short walk to the start. I wasn’t pleased with the $10.00 charge for parking, however the lines to get in moved quickly and efficiently. Once your ID was checked you were given your race bib, a timing chip bracelet and a head band which had your race number on it. Right away as you entered the park you could sense the excitement in the air. Party music was blasting, lots of people were taking before and after pictures near the Spartan signs and tons of smiles all around. The beer garden off to the right was a huge covered area with tables and chairs -a big plus for me as I hate standing after a race when my legs are tired. Those who had just finished their race were beaming with excitement and eager to offer advice of how to go through the obstacle and reassured me that I would finish. Bag check was on the immediate left for a cost of $5.00, but be warned that if you wanted to get your bag returned it would cost you 10 burpies. In hindsight I wish I would have skipped bag check to save money and the parking lot wasn’t too long of a walk.
Our heat was one of the last to start at 3:00pm. It was nearly 90 degrees and I kept debating if I overdressed as I looked around at the racers. I was wearing a dry-fit tank top and capri length running pants. I also noticed a few people wearing gloves and elbow and knee pads which I thought was odd at the time. But I was quickly mistaken.
In fact, just to get into the starting chute you had to climb over a 5 foot wall. The race started on a trail that went uphill for approximately ½ to ¾ of a mile. Luckily it was mostly shaded so you didn’t feel too much of the heat right away. Not knowing exactly what was in store we decided to do a slow jog to conserve energy for the actual obstacles which turned out to be a very good strategy.
The first few obstacles were basic climbs over walls at varying heights and then they started to get harder. The other racers were eager to help each other by offering a hand or a knee to get over the walls. The chemistry was immediate and you quickly got the “no man left behind” feel. Next were the strength challenges which included everything from climbing cargo nets, flipping tractor tires, traversing a wall sideways, carrying buckets of rocks for a quarter mile loop, carrying around sand bags, as well as dragging a cement block attached to a chain up and around a hill. The nice thing was that some of the obstacles offered lighter versions of the obstacles for women which I took full advantage of. The course was moderately challenging due to the rolling hills but was well marked with red arrows.
About halfway through the course is when the muddy fun begins! Climbing on my belly on rolling hills underneath barbed wire was tough. The mud was super slippery but I was glad that I had a tank top on instead of just a sports bra as I was pulled by a fellow racer a couple of times. It then became obvious as to why some people wore gloves and knee pads.
Next was the slip and slide, which was the highlight of the race. I was totally terrified as I flew down the slide full speed, but it was also the most exhilarating. Towards the end there was one more mud climb that seem to go on forever ALL UP HILL! My hands were raw and knees felt pretty beat up at this point plus I was pretty exhausted which became more of a mental battle to figure out how to get up this muddy hill to finish my race. I eventually grunted, gripped and rolled my body up to the top and I was pretty sure I shed a tear or two. The course ends with a knotted rope climb above a muddy pit of water. Since I have very little upper body strength I opted out and did thirty burpees willingly.
Right after was a spear throw, which was much harder than what it looked, and you only get one chance – which meant thirty more burpees for me. Then just for fun, one more small wall climb and a quick underwater dip in muddy water. I was so glad to see the fire pit because then I knew that the race was nearly over. Shelly and I ran full speed and jumped over the fire like Olympic hurdlers! I’m sure I heard the Chariots of Fire theme song in my head for a brief moment.
The finisher’s medal did not disappoint. It was on a thick red ribbon with two heavy metals on it. One was the circular Spartan medallion with “Spartan Race Finisher” on the back. The second piece was a triangular shaped medal; which is 1 of 3 pieces of the Trifecta medal (three completed Spartan races in one year). You’re handed a protein bar and muscle milk as you exit the finisher’s chute. Shelly and I were feeling on top of the world so we quickly made our way to one of the Spartan signs to flex out muscles and take a finisher’s picture. There was a “rinsing” station and a changing tent available to the finishers. A merchandise tent was on site to purchase anything from tanks, hats, sweatshirts, and even onesies for babies with the spartan logo on it. I believe it was cash only, but an ATM was on site. We quickly made our way over to the beer garden and sat with a few others and shared our race experience. Who knew a muddy, challenging obstacle course could bond people together so naturally?! Additional food was available for purchase but we didn’t bother to check it out.
In conclusion, I would have to say Spartan Sprint was one of the hardest, yet most exhilarating races I’ve ever done. In my opinion, the average Jane or Joe can safely complete the race, but must possess a basic to intermediate level of fitness to complete the majority of obstacles. I like that there were water stations & Port-a-Potties available along the course. Each mile was marked so you knew exactly how much of the race you had already completed. The volunteers were super nice and encouraging. It would have been nice if electrolytes or some sort of energy GU was offered at the half way point (similar to what you see in your local 10k or ½ marathon races). I didn’t necessarily train for this race, but will definitely work on strengthening my upper body and core to make it a bit easier on myself next time.
Also, I felt the course was perfect. It was neither too long nor too short and had a nice mix of running and evenly spaced obstacles. Do not wear your newest or most expensive workout gear or shoes! In fact, I donated my shoes at the end as it was not worth trying to get them clean. Be sure to remove your watch and or any jewelry just to be on the safe side. Costumes probably not a good idea either as It would just slow you down or most likely get caught on one of the obstacles … less is more with this type of race. Spartan Sprint will definitely be on my list of “must do races for 2015! Aroo!!