Finally a Spartan
Warning: This is long
Last week I took a trip down to Las Vegas, it was the first time I would be in Vegas as a legal adult. I was stoked, but for a completely different reason than most of the other people on my flight.
The next morning at noon in almost 30 degree weather I joined 5000 other athletes in a grueling 8.5 mile race in the desert. It wasn't just any normal race, it was a Super Spartan Race, meaning that on top of running we would have to crawl in mud under barbed wire, carry sandbags, flip tires, climb walls, jump and swim. Did it suck? Yeah. Was it fun? Hell yeah!
Amazing race promo video: http://vimeo.com/58479997#
This time's race featured 25~ obstacles, some easy some harder. The penalty for failing or skipping any obstacle was 30 burpees, I ended up doing a total of 30 burpees. Overall the race was not as difficult as I had in mind, the biggest challenges for me was not having enough water to drink (there are water stations on course but I will definitely carry a camel pack next time) and getting use to running in muddy shoes.
Why would anyone do this? Wheres the fun in torturing your body in the desert heat when the Bellagio is only half an hour away? Everyone has their own reasons, while running you could see a mix of emotions, motives from people of all sizes, shapes, race and age.
For the elite group of racers this was their sport, their opportunity to prove they were the best. The race is a balance of strength and endurance, a true test of fitness and what drew me to it in the first place. A bodybuilder would get smoked and a marathon runner would have trouble with most of the obstacles.
Others were there out of camaraderie, my heat consisted of 50 athletes from the same Crossfit gym (so jealous). The Biggest Loser had their own station and were pushing each other throughout the race, much respect to all of them who participated. There were families across 3 generations, grandfather and grandson racing side by side. Friends who had challenged each other to personal bets or wanted extra motivation to tackle a mountain. Finally there were several military units racing together, some perhaps honoring a sacrifice made by a trooper overseas.
You had some people who just wanted to try something new and didn't know what they were in for. Finally there were those who had something to prove, like me.
Rewind 2.5 years ago, I had hit 240 pounds and hated life. I couldn't walk a few flight of stairs without losing my breath, I was looking at a short life span. How could this be possible? My father was a well known triathlete in Hong Kong, everyone knew him as the iron man, even at 62 years old he was still rocking a 6 pack (Mommy really chose well). How did I fall so far? I came across one of the spartan videos and told myself "I want to do that!" With the motivation from friends and awesome trainers to start me out today I was finally able to stick to a promise. (Okay it wasn't that simple but that can come in another post) Crossing the finish line left me with a mix of emotions that are hard to explain. I already knew where I stood in terms of fitness; the gym tells me everyday. There was no doubt prior that I would be able to finish, it was just a matter of time. I had no bet going on with anyone. Perhaps it was as if I could finally write the last chapter to a book and start seeking the next adventure.
I finished in over 2.5 hours going at a comfortable pace, coming around 15th percentile. I'm sure if I was pushing for it and prepared a water supply I could have pushed the 2hr mark. A big thank you for everyone who has been a part of my training!
- The only obstacle I failed was the spear throw, honestly how the fuck am I suppose to prepare for that? I'm pretty sure I'll be failing it for a long time, my throw was the equivalent of an air-ball.
- The rope climb (as pictured) was the obstacle I feared most. I have never climbed a rope in my life, the last time I attempted to in 8th grade I couldn't get off the floor. Turns out a rope is much easier to climb than a pole or silk. Many thanks to my pole dancing instructor for prepping me there!
- 8 foot wall climbs are pretty challenging for most people. Watching people fail one after another (in pretty hilarious fashion) was quite demoralizing. A lot of people had to resort climbing with the help of other people. Fortunately I've racked up quite a bit of experience with this, my carelessness has led me to arrive at my office several times without a key. Scaling the office wall was pretty much the same thing, except I didn't have to worry about avoiding administration during the race.
By the time I got to the wall climbs I was running with two other (Vietnamese?) fellows, it was pretty awesome to hear some of the other racers say "damn asian ninjas" while we were climbing.
- The swim section was a godsend, I could have taken a nap right there. I wish it was 5x the length it was. Being able to cool off and not be covered in mud was a heavenly feeling. I'm also always surprised by the amount of people who cannot swim, the world is covered in 66% water, its a critical skill!
- The tire flips/atlas stones were lightweight, deadlifts make life easier.
- Mud crawls really suck, I will never understand the race organizer's fascination with mud, it seems like a staple in almost every obstacle course race. fuck mud
- Crossfitters really excel at these events, its a perfect match and a great gauge of how effective your programming is. There were many very fit looking guys who were getting beat by less in shape CFers.
- 8 miles is long, but not as long as 21km. Very glad a friend made me do a half mara earlier this year, its easy to convince yourself to keep going when you've already done it before.
As these events are only held in the US it was always really difficult to find an opportunity to attend. Now that I'm in the states with the Nike+Techstars accelerator I jumped at the opportunity of not having to fly 15 hours to join an event. Will be trying to attend as many similar races while I'm here. Very jealous of the outdoor entertainment available in the states. The amount of coordination and effort required to set up a smooth event like this is also crazy. I am always interested in organizing one in HK but it seems like a near impossible task. Very encouraging to hear that Tough Mudder will be expanding to Japan very soon, maybe I will see some of you there.
The fuelband is also a very robust device, I was pretty sure that I would break it during the race. It's still working perfectly fine after being covered in mud. I also hit 8000 fuel that day, a record... for now.