Of all the races on my calendar this year, the Portland Spartan Sprint was my most anticipated. I have been working on various skills all year with the goal of improving my performance on whatever obstacles Spartan decides to throw in the mix. I was both excited and a bit nervous as race day arrived. My teammate and I hit the road with what we thought was more than enough time to get to the Washougal Motocross Park and get checked in and ready. As we neared the location, traffic slowed to a crawl – as we expected. Once we got parked we had quite a hike to the check-in area. Our plan was to go check in and then come back to the car to drop our stuff off and make final preparations for the race. That plan was quickly derailed as we joined the throngs of people waiting in the many check-in lines. Despite the many check-in areas, the lines were moving slowly. The line we were in seemed to be having computer issues. I kept checking the time and getting more and more nervous. When we finally got checked in we had less than 20 minutes until our start time. We decided to skip the hike back to the car and instead checked our items at the bag check area ( which was a $5 fee.) By the time we had things taken care of it was time to get ourselves to the start line.
I was really bummed about not being able to put on some chapstick, grab a piece of my “running gum,” and get in a warm up before starting. I tried not to think about the fact that my usual pre-race rituals were thrown off and just focused on what I could control. As we hopped the wall to get into the starting chute, the upbeat music that had been playing suddenly changed to a slow bagpipe song. The announcer drew our attention to the group of Veterans that were making their way to the start. Several of the veterans were decked out in full gear, including what looked like gas masks. 2 of the veterans were missing legs. We stepped off to the sides and let the veterans make their way to the front and cheered them on. I got a lump in my throat as I watched them go by and suddenly my pre-race rituals weren’t that important anymore.
Soon the announcer was making the Spartan pre-race speech – which for some reason I really enjoy – and we were shouting, “I am Spartan!” Then we were heading up a long, steep, dusty hill. It wasn’t long before power hiking was more efficient that running up that hill. The dry summer had made for a crazy amount of dust and we were quickly enveloped in a cloud of it. Dusty trails were definitely the theme of the day out on the motocross course. It made getting wet and muddy later on a treat, as that helped calm the dust down.
Our first obstacles were the walls and hurdles. I appreciate that Spartan throws in the easier obstacles first to make you feel successful early on. Although, when we encountered the 7 foot wall, I had to have a boost from my teammate to get myself up and over that one. Then there was a number of upper body strength obstacles all in a row. I was a little concerned about them being close together, but my training paid off and I was even able to conquer the monkey bars with tired arms. I was pretty excited about that one! Next we got ourselves all muddy going up and down mud hills and into pits before we had to climb up a slippery wall. Then it was back to more upper body work. An obstacle that was new to me, The Twister, got the best of me and I had to do my first set of 30 burpees (the penalty for not completing an obstacle at Spartan.)
Immediately after my burpees it was time to attempt to cross the rings, an obstacle that has gotten the best of me in the past. I swung easily from ring to ring on my first reach. I heard advice coming from various people and the thing I kept hearing was, “Swing left to right, ” so I focused on that and soon I was halfway across. That’s when a guy next to me accidentally bumped into me as he swung by. I was able to keep my grip and he encouraged me to keep going. I managed to stay calm and re-start my swing and make my way to the end and hit the bell. I jumped off and cheered! A guy standing nearby offered me a high five. I was so excited to have completed that obstacle! I’m pretty sure I was smiling for quite awhile after that success. That was the best moment of the entire race for me.
There were still more obstacles to conquer, so after my mini celebration, it was time to continue on. I had 2 more sets of burpees to complete before my race ended, but I finished feeling quite proud of myself. Covered in mud and a few bruises, we took a photo and then made our way to get cleaned up and find a place to have lunch and rehash our Spartan adventure. I have to admit, I can’t wait ’til next year! Wanna join me?