I never had any plans of running any obstacle course races this year, let alone the Spartan ones. But then I entered a giveaway on Becky's blog back in the summer, and I won an entry into any Spartan race! Since I didn't want to run a race alone, I signed up for the one she was already doing - the Spartan Super in Red Deer which is a 13k+ course with over 20 obstacles (you can read Becky's recap here). I'm still not sure what made me feel like I should be signing up for such a race, but I guess I was feeling overly confident in my abilities!
Then of course I caught wind of the Spartan Sprint in Calgary and convinced my sister to do that one with me as a sort of "training" race for the Super. Both were awesome experiences although I don't feel like I can really compare the two. Different distances, different venues and different race day conditions.
On the morning of September 12, I had planned to be on the road to Red Deer around 7:30 a.m., giving myself ample time to pick up Becky and then head over to the race. As luck would have it, my alarm never went off and when I did wake up, it was already 7:30 a.m.! Cue all the swear words and I ran around the house like a mini tornado before finally hitting the road around 8. Good thing I had given myself extra time in the morning because I only ended up being about 15 minutes late picking up Becky.
We arrived to the race grounds and met up with Lindsey and her husband Chad who were also running the same heat as us. (You can check out Lindsey's recap here.) It still hadn't really hit me that I was minutes away from running my furthest distance ever.
I didn't really have a plan per se, just to finish and have fun. I was pretty sure that Becky and I would stick together for the race, but I remember asking her just to make sure. Lindsey stuck with us for the most part, speeding up during the running parts and helping us out with the obstacles, before she took off near the end and kicked our non-pregnant butts!
We couldn't have asked for a nicer day to race. It was quite warm, but not unbearably hot, and the course was dry unlike my experience during the Spartan Sprint. There was a lot of long stretches of just running which, as dumb as it may sound, I was not really expecting. A lot of the running was through the trails which I really enjoyed though. The time and distance passes quicker and you don't have to run as fast as you would normally feel pressured to do so because you are too busy concentrating on foot placement.
We had 27 obstacles to complete, and I'm proud to say that we accomplished almost all of them. What a difference a dry course makes! One obstacle, where we were required to fill a large bucket with sand and then carry it several hundred metres was probably my toughest. As soon as I picked up my bucket, my back did not agree. I didn't feel like I was hurting myself or straining, just the muscles in my mid back were not happy. I kept stopping to rest the bucket on my knee when a guy came up from behind me and told me to put my bucket on top of his. I was so taken aback by his willingness to help me, but I told him I couldn't let him do that. As soon as he was done with his bucket, he ran back to me and carried my bucket the rest of the way. I almost wanted to cry! It reminded me that there are still really kind, genuinely nice people out there, and even during an intense obstacle course race, there are people willing to help you out.
The hardest part about this race wasn't the distance and it wasn't the obstacles. It was the fact that I wasn't properly fuelled. While I had eaten a bowl of oatmeal with peanut butter before I left my house, and had a banana before our heat started, that wasn't nearly enough food to keep my going, and too much time had passed between leaving my house and starting the race. I went in with the mindset that since I don't fuel during a 10k run, I don't need to fuel for an extra 4k. I didn't take into account that amount of energy used completing a single obstacle. Somewhere between kilometre 9 and 10, Becky and I both really started to lose steam. We were hungry and exhausted. I honestly worried that we wouldn't be able to finish. Their were water stations along the course, but that's all they offered. I think even a glass or two of gatorade would have helped us immensely.
The second half was therefore the toughest. By that point we were walking more than we were running and I just wanted to be finished. Honestly, if it hadn't been for the support from Becky and Lindsey during the race, I don't think I could have finished. They made it so much more fun and it helps to have a friend push you along. While Lindsey finished ahead of us, Becky and I held hands as we jumped over the last obstacle (fire jump!) and crossed the finish line at 2:49:09! I could not have been more proud of us! I went into the race thinking it would take about 4 hours based on how long the Sprint took me, so I was super happy with our time. Of course, I can't help but wonder how we would have done if we had been better prepared, both fuel wise and running wise, but there's always next year to improve on our time!
So what's my take-away from running two Spartan races this year? Fuel, fuel, fuel! I wouldn't carry anything on your person during a sprint race, but I would recommend eating a good breakfast before hand. Fuel well before a Spartan Super and carry some sort of fuel with you, be it honey stingers, candy, a camelback with gatorade or a protein bar. You will definitely need it and not regret being prepared. Wear shorts or crops that are tight and not 100% cotton. You will get wet and muddy and you don't want the water weighing your clothes down. Trail shoes are recommend, but I did both without and managed fine. Have fun!
Thanks again to Becky and Lindsey for being there for me during my toughest, most challenging race both physically and mentally! I never in a million years thought I would do something like this and I feel incredibly proud of myself (and us!) for knocking this one off the ol' bucket list. Now, who's joining us next year?!
Have you ever run a Spartan Race, or other obstacle race?
What's your favourite obstacle?