I’ve never considered myself an athlete. I was a fat kid in high school, bullied for my size. When my friend convinced me many years ago to do a Tough Mudder race, I was immediately hooked, even though it was an exhausting 6+ hour affair. I was introduced to Spartan Race by Matt, and have totally fallen in love with obstacle course racing because of them. On April 1st, I competed in the San Jose Super in the Elite class. My goal was to improve my time last year, 2:37, by 15-20 minutes and at most miss a single obstacle.
This was my first race of the year, so I was a little apprehensive about bettering my time. I hadn’t trained for a race in months. I do not typically run a whole lot outside of the gym, so I knew I needed to get my mileage up to complete an 8.5+ mile Super. 3 weeks before the race, I started running 3 days a week. I built up my mileage by a mile or two every run depending on how I felt, and backed down a bit just before the race. I did this all while going to Spartan class twice a week.
Race day I wasn’t too nervous. I had trained hard, got good sleep, and was ready to tackle the course; worrying about it now wouldn’t help me. I was a little worried I would be totally outclasses by being in the Elite wave, but my fears evaporated as soon as I crossed the start line. At least a ¼ of the men there fell behind within the first ½ mile. Most of the obstacles flew by, and my least favorite, the bucket carry, was short and on flat land, and easy accomplished. Still not fun, but was very doable. The obstacle that I was worried about was the Herculean hoist. I had missed this at the Tahoe Beast as it was at the end and my grip was shot. Luckily, the hoist was in the middle not near many grip-challenging obstacles, so I completed it with ease. I pushed up to the end, with a dunk wall mercifully cleaning and cooling me off before I crossed the finish line. Not failing a single obstacle no less!
The worst part: The hills, oh those hills. They were brutal. They were clearly the hardest obstacle for everyone there. Steep, steep hills to climb, then steep, steep hills to descend, one after another! At least the hill were only in the first 5 miles or so of the race and leveled out afterwards. The only way to conquer the hills was to keep going. Push myself to not stop and trudge along, no matter how slow I was going, to keep making progress. Right at the end of the hills is when I decided to take my energy blocks, as I didn’t want to be out of energy for the rest. This was good timing, and I picked back up to a better pace right after.
My results? They speak for themselves. This year I made the course in 2:00:09. Last year was 2:37:40. I cut off 37+ minutes from my time and completed every obstacle this year. Not only was that a huge improvement, I went much beyond the goals I had for myself. I had a better time than almost 50% of Elite racers, which blows me away. This race has finally proven to myself that yes, I am an athlete. I can compete and do well. If I go and put effort forth, sacrifice a little, I can achieve an athletic goal I set for myself. I’ve proven to myself, I can do it. A reward no one could every take away from me.
If you have shown any interest in doing an obstacle course race, such as a Spartan race, I encourage you to do it. Is it hard? Yes. Is it worthwhile? Absolutely. When I started obstacle course racing about 5 years ago it took my team almost 7 hours to complete a 10 mile trail. The San Jose Spartan Super I completed in 2 hours for almost 9 miles. There is a wide range of abilities in these races so don’t let the intensity of the Elite races scare you away. There are Spartan Sprints you can start at, or even just the open wave in a Spartan Super. Open wave encourages teams to tackle the course together – which is a great way to bond with friends or a partner. Support each other during the race. Misery love company right? I also would encourage those who are thinking about the races to take the Spartan Training classes at NorCal. Not only do they help prepare you for the races (they certainly helped me!), they are also continually tweaked by the coaches on their experiences and gym member experiences in the races.