Race recap: Spartan Race [8/8/2015]

Before/After at the 2015 PacWest Spartan Sprint. Photo by Marilyn Tycer

Each of the three years that I've run the PacWest Spartan Sprint, I was incredibly nervous during the days approaching the race, questioning my own sanity, and afraid I hadn't trained hard enough. And yet each of the three years, I completed the event feeling exhausted but happy. It's not a "muddy fun run" where you get a little dirty and forgot it ever happened the next day. A Spartan Race will leave you scratched up and bruised, almost every muscle in your entire body will be sore for days afterwards, and failure to attempt or complete an obstacle will result in a penalty of 3o burpees, if not more. It pushes me far out of my comfort zone, but just after I cross the finish line, I become determined to become faster and stronger and smarter. One thing I love about Spartan Race is that complete strangers will offer to lend a hand to another participant. Help is freely offered and given, and there is a strong sense of camaraderie, more than almost any other event that I've done. While it is a timed event, and the obstacles are tough, Spartan Race has a strong focus on "getting up when you’re knocked down and finishing what you start. And Burpees, lots of burpees."

Lisa, rocking the barbed wire crawl! Photos by Spartan Race

The 2015 PacWest Spartan Sprint course was again located at the Washougal Motocross Park, with an incredibly hilly 4+ mile course. The obstacles aren’t revealed until you arrive at the race. Many of the obstacles were the same (spear throw, wall climbs, bucket brigade, traverse wall, rope climb, Hercules hoist, log carry, sandbag carry, wall dunk, etc.) although some had changed location (the barbed wire crawl was shorter and no longer 1/4 mile uphill), others had been removed (no water slide, no fire jump), and some had been added (tryolean traverse, uneven monkey bars, log jump).

For me, one of the biggest challenges this year was mental: I wasn’t running with any of my close friends. My friend ended up not signing up, and an acquaintance of mine in the running community (Lisa) had her Spartan teammate drop out due to work. As the race got closer, while I was relieved that I wouldn’t be running solo, I was nervous that I would let Lisa down or she would feel like I was holding her back, and although she had seemed like a very nice person, I was afraid that in that kind of challenging environment, we’d struggle.
Lisa, rocking the barbed wire crawl! Photo from Spartan Race.

Lisa and I were actually signed up for different wave times, and it was difficult to find any information about changing wave times on the website, so we kind of took a gamble and we both arrived in time for the earlier of the two waves. Once we arrived, we found out that it’s not a problem to switch waves to be with a friend if you switch to the later of the two waves. Ooops. Fortunately, everything was really well-organized at the start, and they allowed us to start with the earlier wave.

The final obstacle of the PacWest Sprint–jumping over the logs into the water. Photo by Spartan Race

Once the race started, I was so glad that to find out that Lisa and I were really similar and fairly evenly matched. Doing a Spartan Race with someone you don’t know very well is a really good way to find out a lot about them in a short amount of time–you really see what a person is like when things are getting tough. Since it was Lisa’s second time doing Spartan Race, and my third, we learned to watch the other participants while we waited for our turn to see what techniques worked best for successfully completing the obstacles–working smarter, not harder, will save your strength. As a runner, I have pretty strong legs, but I don’t have a lot of arm strength, so I can’t really afford to wear them out!

We completed the race in a fairly respectable amount of time (1:53); received our medals, t-shirt, banana and CLIF bar,got an official post race picture; and then went to check out all of the vendors and grab our free beer! Lisa and I had a great time and immediately started talking about doing another race together (Spartan Race offers several distance options: Sprint, Super, Beast, Ultra Beast, Hurricane Heat, as well as kids’ races). I couldn’t wait for the official race photos to be posted (they’re completely free to download!)

I think Spartan Race does an all-around really good job of being organized, having a stream-lined process, having great volunteers, and an awesome event with a really positive atmosphere. While the price of the event is on the high side–especially when the additional registration fees are added on, and $10 per car for parking, and $5 per bag for bag check–my experience is that Spartan Race consistently puts on quality events, and I’m already looking forward to the next event! Maybe even a Trifecta someday.


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