I did it. I finished the Spartan Sprint with only one set of penalty burpees – and that was for the spear throw, which I knew I didn’t have enough practice in to guarantee anything. I figured that one was a toss up. I finished a lot faster this year, even though I didn’t do a lot of running. Maybe next time I’ll go for speed, but this year was all about the obstacles and finishing. And I finished a whole lot of obstacles.

I had an earlier start time this year, so we got going from the house before 9:30 am and Google Maps insisted it would take us an hour to arrive at our destination. Ha! That would have been true if there were no Spartan Race going on at our destination, but since there was, we ended up with about 45 minutes worth of stop and go traffic to get to the parking area. Luckily, we snagged a spot near the port-o-potties, because after that wait we both needed a pit stop.

We ran into stop and go traffic pretty far from the parking lot.

Seeing the line of cars ahead was not fun.

I did get excited to see the runners and part of the course up on the hill.

Then, before we headed inside, I ate my lunch of a tortilla and chicken breast. And then we walked on over to registration and split up since there’s a different check in line for spectators and racers. I got my goody bag and we met back up and entered the festival area. The layout was a lot different from last year. Better, I think. We entered the merchandise area, and then got to the map and the food trucks were one direction and the start was another.

We spent some time scoping the place out, verifying the location of the snow cone truck and figuring out where Ambrose could watch me start and finish the race. I was nervous. I got my sunscreen on and then I heard the guy in the start corral announcing that they’d take anyone whose time was before 12, even though it was 11:30. And then that they’d take just anyone, no matter the start time. That was tempting, but I’m a creature of habit. I wanted to go on time.

Nervous selfie.

Of course, I was also jittery with nerves, so after two pit stops to make sure I had peed as much as I could before the race started, I got into the start corral for the 12:15 start, once they announced that they would take anyone who had a start time before 1:15. And that was the absolute best choice I made all day.

Because although I stood alone in the corral, near the front and ready to go after climbing the wall to enter, I didn’t stay alone for long. I jogged slowly through the rough terrain to the Over Wall, and hopped over that without any trouble. Then I jogged some more to get to the Rolling Mud. Right before the mud, I was found. Someone who had also been to the Camp Rhino training the prior weekend saw me, said hi, and asked if I wanted to join her team. I said yes and was immediately adopted.

Entering the start corral.

That wall wasn’t a problem for me.

Waiting in the start area.

And we’re off!

Being with a group made me remember that I was doing this for fun. Yes, I wanted to test myself against the obstacles, and yes, I wanted to see if my months and months of training had paid off. But I’m not out there trying to get the best time or beat anyone. We did a lot of walking, and that was okay.

I got adopted!

Into the rolling mud.

I got wet.

In this pit, the liner floated up and tried to trip me.

Then we headed up, up, up the hill.

Although I had been planning on emptying the water from my shoes after the Rolling Mud, I decided not to so I could keep up with the group that I’d found myself in. I got some introductions and learned a few names. I even told one of them about my ICT hike coming up in July, since a lot of folks were talking about what other races they were doing. We trudged up the hill and the work passed more easily for the company.

On the Vertical Cargo, I hung back a bit near the top to make sure I didn’t get inadvertently kicked in the head. And I also talked one of my new teammates through getting over the top, because the height made her nervous. It was a bit scary up there because the whole rig wobbled a bit, but I didn’t have any trouble getting up and over.

After that was the Barbed Wire Crawl, which I only like because I am small enough to mostly avoid hitting the barbs while I crawl. Again, it was much nicer to do this as part of a group, joining in some banter or just listening to them and feeling like I was included. One girl ripped a scab on her knee and went to rolling instead of crawling. Since we weren’t that far from the Rolling Mud, her clothes picked up a lot of dirt and made mud.

Plenty of clearance for me on the crawl.

I even managed a smile for the camera!

The next obstacle was the Rope Climb. Last year, I thought I had the Rope Climb in the bag, because I was able to do them at CrossFit, mostly. But this year, I knew I could do it. I’d been practicing rope climbs not only at CrossFit, but also at Camp Rhino with a slicker rope. And I had been working my grip. So even though the rope I grabbed was cold, wet, and muddy, I knew I could make my way up it.

I took a few deep breaths, dug my fingers into the slim, dirty rope, and set my feet. Not as high as I could possibly set them, but high enough to get started. With a wet rope, I wasn’t going to chance getting my knees up to my chest. I just needed to finish, not to do it in a certain number of pulls.

I rang that bell at the top of the rope. And it was wonderful to have that group there, ready with the high fives and cheers when I told them that even though I had done the course last year, this was my first bell. I also tried to help one of my teammates figure out the rope climb, but it’s not something that’s really easy to teach or learn in just a few minutes, so she decided to do the penalty instead.

On from the rope climb, we got to the Sandbag Carry. This came at right around the same spot that they had the buckets last year. It’s a place where the hill dips down a bit, so we got to carry the sandbags downhill and then back uphill in a nice little loop. The downhill was no problem, but my legs complained a fair amount while trying to get back up, especially when I was passing someone who had to stop for a rest break. But I managed not to knock her off the trail or fall myself.

The Hurdles were next. This was an obstacle that I remembered from last year with less than fondness. I had trouble with them last year – I could do them, but I had a hard time getting my body all the way over. I remembered struggling with them. Not this year. Even though I wasn’t training specifically on this obstacle, my overall training paid dividends. I was able to hop up and slide my hips and swing my legs over on both of the hurdles. No drama.

The Z-Wall was something that I did have a chance to practice on at Camp Rhino. I didn’t anticipate having issues with it, because I didn’t have to put all my weight on my arms. And it started out alright, but I had a bit of trouble at the right angle turn; I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to grab the structure itself to swing myself around. After some hesitation, I did just that (it was a wood piece, not a metal or strap support, so probably kosher). And my adopted team cheered me on as I trembled my way through to the bell on that obstacle.

And then, we came upon my nemesis. If there was any one obstacle from last year that really burned me, it was the Monkey Bars. Sure, the rope last year literally burned my hands, but the Monkey Bars surprised me by being so thick and having ups and downs. I was never able to do playground monkey bars as a kid, so when I finally learned how to do it in my 20s, I was excited. But these are no playground monkey bars. And I had been worried about these.

But they were different from last year. Still super thick, but no ups and downs. Easy, right? So I approached and started without realizing that some of the bars had really big gaps between them. Luckily, there wasn’t really time to get nervous while I was hanging on to the bars. I just gave a big swing and went for it. And I made it across each of the wide gaps, and all the way to the end. It wasn’t the challenge that I was expecting, but I still felt I had exacted my vengeance upon those bars.

And they led to what may have been my favorite moment of the race, after I had finished and Ambrose told me that he’d overheard guys talking about how the Monkey Bars were too big and had gaps that were too wide for those guys to do it. He was worried upon hearing that at the time, but when he told me, I couldn’t help but grin like a lunatic, because I got across those hard bars.

To be continued

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