The Spartan Sprint in Washougal, Washington was my 2nd Spartan race experience and so far, it was my favorite. (Spartan Boise in 2015 was my first.) My team and I loaded up the Sprinter van and headed over the river and out the winding roads that led to the Washougal MX Park. When we were about 2 miles away, the back up of traffic began. It was slow going, so we were glad we left ourselves plenty of time to get there. The sea of cars and people at the event was a site to see. I was happy to discover that the check-in process had been streamlined and was extremely fast and efficient. Once we got all of our pre-race stuff done, we checked out the course map and the nearby obstacles and mentally prepared ourselves.
Once we hopped the wall to the starting chute, I got really nervous. More nervous than I’ve been at an event in quite awhile. After chants of “I am Spartan!” and “AROOO!” We were set out on our Spartan adventure. Straight up a steep hill. It didn’t take long before we realized that a power hike was more efficient than running. But, not everyone went with that approach. There were some that started out at a full sprint. About 1/4 mile in, we passed a guy on the side of the trail losing his lunch. Our power hiking decision was confirmed! Eventually the steepness tapered off and we could run again. The wooded trail was great, as it provided shade for our late afternoon start time of 1:45, but the dust was overwhelming at times.
After some time on the trail we began to encounter a variety of obstacles. And so the fun – and the challenges – began. They started out pretty easily and we were settling in. However, when I saw a slanted mud-covered wall ahead, I got nervous again. The wall looked ridiculously slick! Fortunately, there were ropes to help you up the wall and once I leaned against the rope, my footing held strong. On to the next challenge! I can’t remember what order the obstacles came in, but we encountered mud, walls, cargo nets, heavy lifting and pulling, and more. I was feeling pretty good about not having to do any burpees so far! (There is a 30 burpee penalty for any failed obstacles at Spartan Races.) Then we encountered the rope climb. I know how to climb a rope, however, the rope seems to be my nemesis at any obstacle course race. The muddy, wet rope got the best of me and I finally resigned myself to burpees. (Curse you, rope!) Then it was on to more challenges.
I enjoyed completing the strength challenges, as they confirmed that I had been working hard and increasing my strength. I do have to admit, that I have a bit of a fear of heights, so the climbing challenges involve mental strength for me. I can climb up just fine – as long as I don’t think about it – but once I get to the top of something, getting up and over is when I get nervous. I know I can do it, but I am suddenly much more cautious. The beauty of an OCR (obstacle course race) is that everyone works as a team – even if they are strangers. Every time I was at the top of something tall and transitioning to the other side, there was someone there encouraging me as they climbed over nearby. Just having someone talking to me made all the difference in keeping my mind off of the task at hand. So, thank you to all of my impromptu “teammates” who gave me some encouraging words right when I needed them.
I did incur a few more sets of penalty burpees along the way, but overall, I was pleased with my successes and enjoyed the challenges. I improved on some challenges and discovered some things that I need to work on. We wrapped up the race with the dunk wall, which made sure we were completely muddy for our team photos at the end. As we stood in line to get our photo taken, we recounted some of our adventures while enjoying some of the recovery drinks provided. Our hands were full of the post-race snacks/drinks, and our finisher shirts. (Good thing those shirts were wrapped in plastic since we were a muddy mess!) We had huge medals on our necks and giant smiles on our faces. Spartan Race was a success!
There were plenty of hoses so that we could remove the first layer of dirt. However, despite hosing myself thoroughly, I don’t think I was much cleaner! Round two of cleaning off involved rinsing off at the Sprinter van with a gallon of water. That managed to get another layer of dirt removed, but I was still in need of a real shower! I used my Undress to change (out in the middle of a giant field) and was once again reminded of how awesome that dress is for changing clothes in public without awkward moments. Once we were all cleaner and in dry clothes, our next stop was dinner. We found a great place in Washougal called Hearth, where we enjoyed some delicious wood-fired pizzas and salads.
Overall, when preparing for grueling obstacle course races, like Spartan Race, the most important part is deciding where to go eat afterwards. Once you adopt the proper mindset (about where to eat), the rest of the details will fall into place. Of course, I’m kidding – sort of. There is definitely the necessary training that must take place, but when all is said and done, it’s about having fun. And for my crew, part of that is finding new places to eat afterwards where we enjoy the food, drink, and each other’s company while we recap the day’s adventures. See you next year, Spartan!
Order Spartan founder Joe DeSena’s new book Spartan Fit! to prepare for your next Spartan event.