Apr. 23, 2016 | Spartan Race: Seattle Super
I’m actually pretty excited about this post. Julie, the wife of a fellow racer in my Spartan Support group had taken quite a few good photos and sent them to me. So this Recap will have more visuals! Yay!
I must confess, I thought I was going to retire from obstacle course racing after last year. But the Pacific Northwest presented a different terrain, even though all of these races take place in the middle of nowhere. I couldn’t resist the promise of being in the woods, in a wetter and cooler climate. So, here we are.
When I looked at the weather report the day before, a (thunder)storm was on the forecast. I wondered how this would play out. Sure, being in a mountainous region in the middle of a storm that would likely have lightning seemed a little on the
wild dangerous side. But in true Spartan Spirit, my first concern was how I’d be able to make my way through the obstacles in heavy rain; I anticipated that at least several obstacles would require a good grip without any water interference (like that time I fell off the Monkey Bars in my first race because of I stupidly forgot to dry my hands before attempting it). Luckily, we were treated to a mostly dry day with an occasional drizzle that lasted at most a minute.
I had spent the entire morning coaching people on how to get past a certain obstacle (the Inverted Wall). Due to some scheduling complications, I and the other people within my Spartan Support team missed the last official heat. We were given a new heat and the 15 of us started about an hour later, which later turned out to be a good thing.
We had been told that along the first part of the course, we would encounter runners coming from the opposite direction. (More about this later.**) The directive was to keep following the course markers and arrows.
The first mile was through a field and a small section of the woods, with some walls and a (higher than usual) hurdle scattered throughout. There were a few ditches that had pools of water between them and I tripped into the last pond. With my shoes completely covered in heavy mud, I trotted along, trying to keep the lead I had managed to grab from the starting line. The next two miles were mostly in the open fields, with a few steep hills here and there, along with some log climbs (literally climbing over logs and fallen trees). This part of the course was definitely the dry part of the race, as I would soon learn.
As I hit Mile Four, the course took a turn into the Wetlands, which were quite aptly named. The ground quickly transitioned from harder dirt to soft mud to gooey clay. The clay was soft and unforgiving; each step was a gamble, as if you stepped into a deeper, less solid part of the clay, your foot would sink deeper into the jaws of the earth. And even if were you able to find a shallow path, with the weight of the clay on your shoes and the actual consistency of the ground, it was difficult to maintain balance; it was slippery and sticky, and even though I was wearing trail shoes (which had quite a lot of traction), I slid at least four times. Think Bambi on ice. Only even less graceful. Later in the woods, in the deep parts of the wetlands, it became similar to walking through molasses.
And then I reached the Cliff Climb.
Normally, the obstacle has a harder surface. It has an extremely high incline, so using the ropes that have been hammered into the cliff is a must to scale it. This one was a different story. The entire cliff was made of the viscous clay and the ropes were completely wet and covered in the clay, rendering them to nothing but glorified streamers. The first part of the climb seemed fine, as I made sure to move my feet quickly and as lightly as I could to avoid sinking into the clay.
And then I stepped into a particularly soft section. I pulled my foot as hard as I could, trying to break free from the grip the earth had on me. I had just managed to pull most of my foot out before my foot had slipped out of my shoe.
I lowered myself to retrieve the shoe. After a forceful pull, I managed to get it free and threw it up the cliff ahead of me. The clay stuck to it and kept it captive as I slowly
wrestled climbed my way up to it. As I reached it, I picked it up again and threw it several more feet ahead. The sticky clay made it easy to throw the shoes up the cliff; it was very reminiscent of the sticky hand toys that you’d get at an arcade or the dentist’s office. I repeated this process until…
My other foot got stuck.
You can guess what happened next. I lost my shoe and, as I did with my first, went to pry it out and threw it as high up on the cliff as I could to have it join its other half. And there I was, shoe-less and clinging on to dear life to avoid slipping down. I continued to scale the cliff as much as I could until I reached a point where I couldn’t get a good grip on any part of the cliff. I looked around, making grasps at parts of the mountain that seemed solid enough to pull myself further up but to no avail. I was stuck. And my legs were slowly sinking deeper into the clay.
This obstacle was really like trying to climb quicksand.
Options exhausted, I scanned around, trying to find something to pull myself out from the cliff’s jaws. My eyes fell to a small branch just a jump and reach away. It was my only option. I threw myself as far as I could, arm stretched out. My fingers wrapped around the branch. It wasn’t until I yanked with an iron grip that I realized that there were thorns on the branch.
Oh, HOLY BATMAN!!!
I could feel the thorns in my fingers, and for a brief second I pictured my fingers as water balloons bursting.
With the damage already done, I yelled the most beastly yell I could to distract myself from the pain as I used it to pull myself up out of the clay. I crawled my way up, digging my fingers into the clay to cover the open wounds in my hand. I could feel my fingers throbbing as I made my way to the top of the cliff. (Side note: I can only imagine how much more difficult this would have been had the storm actually come.)
I kept the clay on my hand as I trotted along the path further into the woods, looking down at it occasionally to monitor the blood flow. There wasn’t much I could do and I continued along the course. Blood or no blood, I was going to finish.
Several obstacles and hills later, I found myself in an open field close to the Start Line. The Tyrolean Traverse (or as I fondly call it, the Sloth) and the Rope Climb lay ahead as spectators watched racers scale and climb the ropes. I looked down at my hand.
I flew through the obstacles as quickly as I could, trying to make up for the time lost on the Cliff Climb, and followed the course markers back into the woods, where the Sandbag Carry and the Monkey Bars waited.
The rest of the race was like being back at a playground…if the playground was set up like a military training camp. The second half of the course was comprised of rolling and crawling through mud and clay (SO much clay!), worming through trenches under barbed wire, and practically swimming through the rolling mud hills and the dunk wall. Same good ol’ Spartan stuff.
After the last crawl through the water, the last obstacle before the Fire Jump was the Atlas Carry.
…which, by the way, wouldn’t have been so difficult if:
1) the Atlas Ball wasn’t completely covered in slippery mud and
2) I wasn’t completely covered in slippery mud and water.
Getting a grip on the ball was near impossible. And for some time, I was stuck desperately trying to get my hands under the darned thing.
Somehow I managed to get this ball across. Twice.
Thankfully, the Fire Jump and the Finish Line was just a mere 100 feet away!
I didn’t finish as fast as I wanted to, but considering the circumstances (getting stuck behind other racers at certain obstacles and the unexpected human-eating mountain), I’ll take it!
Age Group: 7th
** The Cliff Climb had gotten so backed up that runners had gotten redirected around the obstacle. While they got to skip the obstacle, they had to run an extra mile. For better or worse, my heat had missed the congestion.
Now for the other
boring fun details:
Shoes: Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 2
Bottoms: Nike Rival Shorts (2″)
Top: Nike Pro Hypercool Tank
Bra: Nike Pro Classic
Socks: Nike Elite Compression OTC
– No water pack or Gel/Shot Bloks for me! I normally don’t race with any extra goodies. Though I did stop at an aid station to grab a Shot Blok (so that I could stay awake for the drive home after the race).
– Deodorant was a must. Not for deodorizing though (that won’t save you from smelling like mud after a race like this); anti-chafing!
* I didn’t drink any water in the morning, but I had chugged down my canteen of water the night before. This somehow worked out because I had no access to a bathroom in the morning.