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Let me kick this review off with a heads up. If you are looking for an Obstacle RACE done right, then look no further then the Spartan Race Series.

I am going to do this review in two parts, because…well, because my family ran in two races! Part 1 is my experience with the race, and Part 2 will be my review of the Spartan Jr Race in which Thing #1, Thing #2 and Thing #3 ran! Muddy Kids! Muddy Dad!

You are currently reading part 1 of two, and this is my write-up of my run of the 05-20-2012 0900 wave of the Spartan Sprint.

THIS WAS NOT A 5K!!!! It was 5.2 miles!!!…but as usual, I am getting ahead of myself.

Since I was running in the 0900 “elite” wave, and this race was far away from San Antonio, Mrs MuddyJ and I, along with Thing #1, Thing #2 and Thing #3, AKA the mini-us’s drove up to the lovely riverside town of Marble Falls Texas. We spent the night in a Motel 6 there…(they left a light on for us)

After an uneventful drive up, we reached our hotel, checked in & unloaded the car. We had spotted a Chili’s on the river during our drive, and decided that would be a nice place to dine out. We decided to sit outdoors, and the first thing I noticed were the sporadically seated Spartan’s all around me. A table of three guys nearby were still wearing their finisher’s medals.

Unable to contain my curiousity, I inquired as to their opinions of the race…the word they all gave me: BRUTAL

We spent the night in our hotel room, with Thing #1, Thing #2 and Thing #3 too excited by a new place to be their usual well-behaved and mannered selves. Eventually they went to sleep and all too soon it was time to get up and go. Check out was uneventful, and we ate breakfast in Marble Falls @ the Blue Bonnet Cafe…I recommend eating breakfast there if you ever find yourself in the area at the right time of day!

Getting on the road towards the race (20 minutes away by all our calculations)bright and early, we thought we had plenty of time to get there, get parked, sign-in and let me warm up…. we did..until I drove right past our turn and continued down the wrong road for over 20 minutes in the WRONG DIRECTION… NOTE: Always use navigation system along with paper directions.

Somewhere are 0840 we pulled into the parking area paid the 10$ parking fee and headed towards the shuttle pickup….I was set to race a 0900 wave, and it was not looking like I was going to make it on time… I had looked up my bib (#9036) on the Spartan Race website before hand, so I started marking myself during the shuttle ride to save time. I got to the check-in and packet pickup, collected my bib, wrist timer, and swag bag, handed Mrs. MuddyJ my “Muddy Mayhem” t-shirt and race bag and hurried to the start point. I thought I was going to make it on time…. Pinning my bib to my shorts another racer remarks to me: Dude, calm down, its a 0930 wave…

I calm a little bit… my stomach starts to do its usual pre-race flip and I tell it to STFU, I don’t have time for shenanigans right now… Luckily it listens…..

I spot the starting area, and there’s NO ONE there… no one gathering… no one stretching… this is odd… I ask staff members if the 0900 wave has left, and NO ONE KNOWS… finally I walk over to the MC,

“Did the 9am wave leave yet?”

“Dude, it’s 9:06…”

A flurry of confusion and disappointment must have flashed over my features at this point… I really didn’t know what to do….

… and then the MC pointed to the starting chute and said, “GO”…

The next thing I knew, I was sprinting down the starting chute, I vaguely recall the MC lamenting over the PA system, “why are you people in Texas always LATE?”

I think I should mention now.. there’s no course map for a Spartan Race that you can review and form a strategy with. You have to hit the trail ready for anything. It’s part of the challenge.

I had no inkling of an idea how far it would be to the first obstacle, so I decided I would try for a challenging, yet ultimately maintainable,  pace for myself.

The trails I was running on thinned as the race wore on, eventually turning into a single file track….I was 6+ minutes behind the pack at this point, and it was a very eerie and  almost frightening experience to be running alone in the woods on such challenging trails… I kept looking around for trail markers to be certain I was on path correctly. Finally, across a clearing to my left, I saw my first obstacle, or so I thought… (the transverse wall) I kicked in my afterburners, and then the trail went to the right, instead of the left…. I slowed a little as the trail wound around and around, and finally the path opened on a welcome sight, actually, two welcome sights:

1)the first obstacle

2) the back of the PACK

The first obstacle was a series of under over walls… not too tough, but momentum breakers…unless you have been training in quadripedal movement and parkour…then they’re just plain fun…

I had been training in quadripedal movement, and parkour… so going under the first wall was simple, and I safety vaulted the next (it was only about 48 inches tall), then I did it again as the obstacles repeated.

I kept running, now passing other runners, and the trail turned steeply downhill and thinned again.  I took to the habit of letting slower runners know I was passing them, and on which side, “on your left” or “on your right” other runners seemed to have no qualms about giving me room to pass, and most even offered encouragement as I passed! Of course I returned the kind words! A small creek crossing slowed me a little as I couldn’t see the bottom, but my VFF’s gave me enough ground feel to know when my feet were set correctly and I charged onward.

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again, TOE SHOES ROCK!

The trails alternated between rock beds, creek crossings and woodland trails for the entirety of the race. They were the most challenging and technically difficult trails I had ever run up to this point. I mention this now by itself because I could write on and on and on and on… about how tough these trails were.

That said, I THINK the next obstacle was walls that I had to go through the middle of… ahhh PARKOUR… I underbarred  through these and barely broke stride through three of them (I think it was three) and continued on. Next came monkey bars….no big deal…. then balance posts where you had to hop from post top to post top… (precision jumps, thank you again parkour training)

The first obstacle that really smoked my upper body was the bucket pull, in which you lifted a 5 gallon bucket of dried concrete by pulling a rope through a pulley…. I laid on back and lifted it hand over hand… it wasn’t impossible, but it was draining…

Next came a low crawl, or more appropriately a low roll under barbed-wire and up a hill.

At the base of that hill, were tunnels. I have done tunnels before, but these were VERY different. Usually, races like this use a pipe with a diameter large enough for you to crawl through on your hands and knees. I am not a huge guy. I couldn’t fit my knees under me, so I scooted through by dragging myself along with my fingers and pushing with my toes (thanks again VFF’s) About halfway through I remembered something very important… I am claustrophobic… sooo… choking down a rising panic I pulled and pushed until I could roll on my back and pull myself clear.

I stood up triumphantly and GAVE THE TUNNEL THE MIDDLE FINGER.

I turned to continue running and then I saw the rock wall. No, it wasn’t actually an obstacle, it was just the trail, and it went almost straight up about 15 feet (or so it seemed) and at the top… a water point…

You bet your ass I stopped and drank. I learned @ the Jailbreak to never ever pass a water point. After the water point, and a short run (there was alot of running) I hit THE WALL, Literally. this time it was an obstacle. Looming in front of me, 9 ft or so smooth vertical wall. Yoda spoke to me in my mind, “remember always your training young one”

I ran at the wall. I jumped. My right foot hit the wall before my momentum was waning and I transformed (not magic, physics) my horizontal momentum into vertical thrust…then my left foot hit as my arms came up and my hands grabbed the top. I pulled and kipped and did a muscle-up to get over the top, hanging an arms length down before dropping. I hit the ground with my knees out to the side and let my arms absorb some of the impact as well. I had done it. Behind me, another runner was successfully atop the wall and was about to descend.

I patted myself on the back mentally.

Then I turned around.

The next wall was taller.

I actually cursed out loud…. then I ran straight at it and repeated my performance at the last wall. The runner who came down directly behind me on the previous wall simply walked off to the side and started doing burpees…. He offered kudos to me as I came down the other side, I thanked him, said ,”see you at the finish line” and took off running the brutal trails once again.

Next (I think) I came upon a pond, with floating barriers. Very TALL floating barriers. I was directed by staff to go over the first, under the second and over the last. The first was a slight challenge, and since I am a good swimmer, I had no trouble with the under portion, though it was zero visability.The last over was VERY difficult though, as I could barely touch the bottom to get a launch out of the water. Luckily another runner, much heavier then myself, made an attempt at the same time, which pulled the obstacle down just enough for me to get over it. More running and more then a few turns later and I happened upon the brick drag. This consisted of a concrete block connected to a chain. A race volunteer was giving directions loud and clear, follow the path around and back, YOUR BLOCK MUST STAY ON THE GROUND AT ALL TIMES… you had to drag it behind you. My legs were threatening to boycott me after this.

Have you ever seen “Ninja warrior”? Remember way back when, where I though I had seen the first obstacle? The transverse wall? 24 feet long with hand and foot grips at staggered intervals. You had to hug the wall and use only those grips, not the top of the wall, and no touching the ground. I summoned my inner ninja and set my mind to the task. Then I looked across to the other side of the wall, where the ENTIRE WEREWOLF PACK FROM TWILIGHT was doing burpees. I blinked in disbelief, it wasn’t really the cast of twilight, but the guys on the other side doing burpees because they hadn’t made it were truly fit and buff dudes. Not just musclebound either, these guys looked GENUINELY FIT. This visage looming in front of me gave me pause, but I was never going to find out if I could do it if I didn’t try.I swallowed hard and stepped out onto the wall.

Keeping my body tight against the wall, I gripped the handholds tightly and took my time. Moving determinedly, yet quickly, I made it across and rang the bell. The long line of twilight-looking-dudes clapping and cheering as I ran past… the sportsmanship and comraderie at this race is amazing.

The next clearing was a series of three six foot tall log hurdles. It’s like going over a wall, but you can’t use your legs at all, because there is no purchase to be had with them, very taxing to the upper body, I also think it was shortly after this point I did the cargo net climb….in comparison to the rest of the course it was too easy to mention….

The trail started to turn out of the woods, and I could see the “party zone” on the other side of the lake…ALMOST DONE…. yeah right….

I kicked on the afterburners once again and then there was MUD. Repeating six foot tall piles of dirt, and the hole that had been created to cause the aforementioned hill was filled with water. and it repeated…. I will admit… it felt good…

The path wound back towards the beginning again, and the next obstacle, carrying a 50lb sandbag up a hill and back went by quickly and without taxing me too much. Down a steep hill and back up I was directed to flip a tire 4 times. I was starting to suffer from exertion stupidity, so it took a few tries for the guy to explain what I was to do. I wasn’t hard, it just broke momentum…again…. more trail running and I could see the crowds where somewhere, an eternity (reality: about an hour) ago I had left Mrs. MuddyJ, as well as Thing #1, Thing #2 and Thing #3. They would see me SOON! This realization pumped me up alot and I ran on… up and down another man made mud hill… and straight into the rope climb….

yes, the orange headgear is me climbing the rope…

I made short work of the rope, and rang the bell. continuing onward to the fiery jump over burning hay bales….

Right about this time a GIANT monster was the next obstacle… he tried to eat me… ok…not really, another racer walked in front of Mrs. MuddyJ as she snapped this picture and the effect was hilarious.

here’s the actual fire jumping photo…

After this was a log balance crossing, which I made short work of, followed by the spear toss.

Going for the spear toss

Though my spear struck true and hung there a moment, it fell back out and I was directed to the side to complete the dreaded 30 burpees.

I didn’t mind this so much, because right next to me were not only Mrs MuddyJ,  Thing #1, Thing #2 and Thing #3, but my nephew, Quintonium, my brother Fat Al, and his wife, Lollipop. As Fat Al made jokes about smelling ben-gay wafting over the hill as I approached, I shut him down by reminding him that, not only was I doing this, I started 6 minutes behind everyone I was currently passing. A race volunteer remarked”that was you that started late.. i thought I recognized that orange head”

Four obstacles remained, and now my children were cheering me on! I could have done another 20!

Thing #1 Directed me to jump into the pond crossing, so I did.

Then it was up the wall on the other side….

Which was way more then a little slippery…. I later discovered it had been generously coated in soap…

Then under the barbed wire to face the gladiators! In truth, this obstacle was just too long to be fun. It seemed like I had to roll under the wire FOREVER….my only complaint really.

..keep them doggies rollin….

After making it though the Gladiators, I crossed the finish line…01:20:55

HEADSHOT!!!!

I collected my finisher’s medal and T-Shirt, had my timing device collected from my wrist, and some-one, God Bless Them, handed me a sugar-free Red-Bull….

I headed to my family, to say hello to Mrs MuddyJ, Thing #1, Thing #2 and Thing #3, as well as Fat Al, Lolli, and Quintonium.

Gather around children and I’ll tell you all about my time in the Service of Sparta….

Lolli was very frightened by my haggard appearance. She considers me very fit and she was slated to run the 1100 wave…. I lied and told her it was easy, just long…. A challenge, but ultimately doable.

The shower set up was awesome, hoses were suspended from a pipe matrix and there was plenty of pressure to go around, as well as…. wait for it…. SOAP

The Spartan Race series is sponsored in part By Dial, so there were bottles of speed foam soap in buckets for free… I love this product and I had been using it at home for months! A quick wash and change, and I was looking like a new man… ready to see Lolli off on her wave…

.. and off goes Lolli, a grim set of determination set upon her face…

While she was out running the main course, we divert to part 2 of this review, The Spartan Jr, In which ran Thing #1, Thing #2 and Thing #3!!!….

….TO BE CONTINUED….

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