Yesterday, I became a Spartan.
I finished my first Spartan Sprint, a 4.8-mile obstacle course race somewhere in the depths of the Fort Campbell Army base in Clarksville.
In short, the day was a bit terrifying, challenging as hell and amazing.
I have to admit I was scared when the lovely Sarah and I got on site at Fort Campbell. She could see it in my eyes. The whole set up of the “festival area” was a world of sensory overload — tents for registration, spectators, bib numbers, gear sales, etc. — never mind not knowing what I was truly up against. I got a glimpse at the course map for the first time, but that didn’t quell my anxiety.
I started breathing easier and thinking more clearly when members of my team, PTI Spartans, began to arrive. I’d trained for months with this great group of people, some of whom had done the whole Spartan thing before. We were the biggest team at 64 strong, which accorded a bunch of honors including a team tent, a trophy and more.
Before long, it was time to head to the starting corral. To get into the corral, we had to jump over a wall. I hoped I wouldn’t embarrass myself before the actual race event started by falling over it, but I pulled myself over with ease.
Our team started the race together, but by the time I got over the first obstacle (a wall of hay) my fast friends were out of sight. Fortunately, I quickly found three other people moving at my speed and we promised to get through this thing together.
Second obstacle was another wall, then this tinker toy/rotisserie looking thing that we had to get over. My group (I don’t remember their names) stuck together and we helped each other over. After climbing up and over a wall of cargo netting, I realized something was a little wrong in the colostomy department.
GROSSNESS ALERT: All of the jumping over walls and such unlocked the clasp around my colostomy bag. The bag had come free from the flange. If I didn’t fix it, the bag was going to slide down my leg. I was able to wrestle the appliance back together in relative privacy, but there was a bit of a mess in my shorts with no way to clean it up. I put myself back together as best I could and continued moving.
We kept moving. Before we knew it, we’d gone a mile and then, a seeming short time later, we had three miles behind us. We’d accomplished most of the obstacles, but there were a few — monkey bars, a thing called the Z Wall — where we had to do burpees instead. I was okay with that.
The last part of the race was the toughest. It rained and there was mud. Lots and lots of mud. We crossed a creekbed in knee-deep water in the midst of what felt like miles of trail. Another obstacle or two, then cross the creek again, this time in chest-deep muddy water.
Got to the sandbag carry obstacle, and the wait was very long. The object was to carry a sandbag through the woods, down a ravine and back up. The muddy trail meant everyone was moving very slowly and carefully. The wait was well over 20 minutes. Three members of my group were in line to do it. I could feel my energy reserves hitting bottom, so I needed to keep moving.
Which meant I got to the unbelievable wall of mud sooner than my team mates. I made the decision to go down into the creekbed backwards so I wouldn’t pitch back and crack my skull. As I was sliding down the side of the hill I saw my right foot snag on a root. My left foot continued sliding toward the bottom. I was doing the splits. In the mud. With an audience.
Wade through more muddy water to get to a 12-foot wall of mud that had to be scaled to get back to the trail. This was not something anyone could do alone. There were dozens of us helping each other up. Folks on top grabbed hands and arms, folks on the bottom pushed feet and bottoms toward the top. At my turn I felt sorry for everyone working to pull/push all of me up, but I got there.
I rose to my feet, and followed the trail out to the next obstacle, which was a series of man-made mud pits. Seriously! I managed to climb up the first hill. Looking down to the pit it was obviously going to be slick, essentially a giant slide. And slide I did, landing into the pit like a cannonball. Although I didn’t want to give up, I opted to bypass the rest of the pits and swung around to the barbed wire crawl.
Imagine 50 yards of barbed wire planted just two feet off the ground. The object was to crawl or roll under it from one end to the other. Most of us rolled. It took forever, but I finally got to the end. When I stood up, I saw the next obstable, the rope climb. I didn’t even try it. I took the burpee option.
The next obstacle was some weird shooting range thing that no one explained. “Take a gun and slide through the window.” Okay, then follow the directional signage, come back around and toss your toy gun back in the pile. A Fort Campbell sight-seeing moment, perhaps?
There was a spear throw (throw a spear at the hay bale), which I failed, and then the last three obstacles, which I ROCKED!
First up, sandbag pull. Use a rope to hoist a sandbag off the ground and up to a pully. Then lower the sandbag slowly so it didn’t hit the ground. Even in my near exhausted state I made quick work of it.
Second, the angled wall climb. Using a rope for assistance we were to climb to the top of a wall, then over and come down what was essentially a ladder. I loved this obstacle because I chose a rope without any knots in it, which was noticed by the moderator. “No knots for this Spartan. Great work Spartan,” he said.
Once on the ground it was time to bring this thing to an end and head to the finish line. The last obstacle was the best, a fire jump. Literally, jump through the fire and touch the finish line mat. Race over.
I was covered in mud from head to toe. Somehow I busted my lip. My knees and elbows were scraped raw. I was covered in scratches. I was wet and tired.
But I was ecstatic. I had finished something that just a few hours earlier had scared the crap out of me.
As I write this, I hurt all over. I mean I have pain in places I didn’t realize I have places, but I’m already thinking about next time and what I need to do, like lose weight and continue strength training.
Yes, there will be a next time. I can hardly wait to get started.