Monday, April 8, 2013

Race Recap: Super Spartan & the Weeple Army

Race Day: Saturday, April 6, 2013
Location: Lake Las Vegas, Henderson, Nevada

Race Day -1: Travel day

Nothing special happened during the drive. After a 13 hour drive, including stops to eat and pick up snacks for the drive, we arrived in Henderson around 4:30pm or so. By "we" I'm referring to my friend, Jeff, who is 20 years old and the one who got me into doing these crazy races. We drove out to the venue for the next day's race to make sure we knew where we were going and then I took him down to the Strip for a quick tour and some dinner. By they time we got done it was about 9:30pm so we headed back to the hotel to settle in for the night since he had the volunteer heat at 8:45am.

Race Day: 

Let me start off with I survived! :D I've now done my second Spartan race and truthfully I feel a lot more comfortable and happy after doing Super Spartan than I did doing Spartan Sprint. When I did Sprint in AZ it was myself,  my son's female friend, my son and my local friend who kinda got the idea of doing an obstacle course race (OCR) into my head in the first place. At that race I ended up cramping up severely in my calf and told my son's friend to go on without me so that I could stretch out the cramp for a while. I then went through the rest of the course on my own with the occasional help of complete strangers. By the time I hit the fire jump (the last obstacle on both races other than the Spartans with the pugil sticks at the very end) I was totally spent.

In comparison at Super I had signed up through one of my TinkerBell Half Marathon friends to run with the Weeple Army. What is the Weeple Army you ask? They are a group of extreme/OCR racers ranging from beginners (like myself) to elite Death Race athletes. This is a true one is left behind. I can't tell you how many times they saved me from having to do punishment burpees or helping me by sharing my punishment burpees when I did receive them. To me, the burpees are possibly the worst thing of the whole race! I love the camaraderie, support and motivation that these guys and gals provided! Enough so, that I have joined their ranks and hope to meet up with some of them at the Military Sprint in Colorado next month and then Spartan Beast in Utah at the end of June.

So, let's get to the race already...

Jeff and I got to the venue at about 7:45am and picked up our bibs and just hung around until his heat at 8:45. After I saw him off I went to my car to try to take a nap because I was having some dizziness that had been an issue since I started getting sick on the previous Thursday. When I couldn't sleep, I sent a message to my friend Jessica who had posted that they were on their way and she said to meet her at the "Biggest Team" tent. After a few more minutes trying to nap, I gave up and headed back to the festival area to meet up with Jessica and the Weeple Army for the first time.

At the start of the race the Weeple Army was recognized as the largest team. This resulted in a tent/canopy just for the team to use. The heat started at 11:15 and you could feel the anticipation in the tent as time was counted down until about 11 o'clock when everyone started heading to the start. With the traditional battle cry of "I am a Spartan! Aroo! Aroo! Aroo!" the race began with the throwing of a smoke bomb through which you had to run. Now, I hadn't been feeling well for the 2 days prior to the race and was really questioning if I should race or not due to some dizziness that I was feeling. I decided to go for it and just drop out if I needed to.  So this early into the race I was still feeling the dizziness until we came to the first obstacle...the moats. These were 3 dug out holes of muddy, slickness that you either jumped across or waded through. It seemed that they started our narrow enough to just jump over then progressed a little wider which I jumped but one leg slipped into the muddy water and the final one I just said "Screw it!" and waded through the muck. So early on I was wet and muddy but the dizziness had disappeared, maybe because I had something else to focus on.

Next came a hike on hills...never ending hills. I thought Bataan was bad but this race came pretty close to that! The next obstacle was the under and over repeated 3 times. You basically crawl under some netting then go over a wall I think it was probably a 6 foot wall.  After that we continued on, I should mention we weren't going for time and there were several of us newbies so the pace was slow and steady and finally passed the one mile marker...only 7 1/2 more to go. The next obstacle came up the over-under-through...basically another wall to go over than the guys helped the girls get over by providing a step/lift, then crawl under a wall, then climb through a square hole in another wall easiest done by going feet first.

Another hike of seemingly never ending hills and we came to the monkey bars. Now these are not the typical school or park playground monkey bars. These are thicker and the spacing is uneven...mostly too wide for my short arms. Thankfully, my friend's husband was kind enough to give me a lift on his shoulders (yes, this kind of teamwork is allowed) and as long as I touched each bar I was good to go...thank you Mike!

More hills followed on rougher terrain that was marked as non-drivable by the race map. Next came the Rolling Mud which in this case were big mounds of mud that you literally had to slide down and wade across to yet another mound for a total of 3 if I remember correctly. Obviously, it involved mud but I can't remember if we just had to wade through it or what. A nice hike over some smoother terrain landed us at the Hobie Hop. OMG. I wasn't expecting anything like had to put a rubber exercise band on both legs between your ankles and knees then could only hop to get around. To make it even more challenging, you had to jump over or on/off hay bales. Let me tell you, I need to start going to CrossFit more regularly and do some box jumps! Unfortunately, some of the bales were already falling apart from previous heats and the baling string holding them together posed a tripping hazard if your foot happened to get caught in them. One Weeple did go down with either a cramp or sprain and several of the more experienced Weeples stayed with him.

Back over some more rough terrain we landed at the Tractor Pull. This is basically a weight attached to a chain that you have to drag behind you up a hill and back down to the starting point.  This wasn't too bad and I was familiar with it from the Arizona race. After a mix of continued hills over both smooth and rough terrain we passed the 3 mile marker and landed at the tire flip. Nope, these are not little car tires. These are tractor tires, slightly smaller for females, that you literally had to flip over 3 times if you did it alone or 6 times if you had a partner. You did this out and back to the starting point where you had to center the tire on top of a block. There was absolutely no way that I could do this alone, so my friend, Jessica, helped me with it...let me tell you, Jess is a beast and probably could have done hers alone fairly easily compared to my t-rex upper body/arm strength!

Again, more hills over smooth and rough terrain and we landed at the Sandbag Carry. I thought that this was actually easier than at Arizona because if I remember correctly we actually used sandbags at that race compared to the "pancakes" that we used at Super...but then I could be wrong too. So up a hill with the sand pancake on my shoulder shifting it to the other shoulder every so often just to keep from getting too tired on either side. We continued on then hit the Tire Drag which is exactly what it sounds like. It's a tractor tire tied to a rope and you had to drag it out to the length of the rope and then pull it with the rope back to the start. Yup, no way I was able to do this alone so one of the other Weeple ladies and I worked together to pull it inch by inch over the sand that would pile up in front of the tire (did I mention that you couldn't lift the tire up?) which took us forever and Jess had finished hers (alone) and came to help us get the tire all the way out and the three of us pulled it back in. Thank you Jess and I think it was Ursula  (?)  for the teamwork! :)

More hills over rough guys know how much I love hills! Not! and we ended up at probably the worst obstacle to date...the Bucket Carry. You take a bucket and fill it with dirt to the marked line and carry the damned thing over some rough terrain, slightly uphill and then back over the same kind of terrain which in this case involved a bunch of small hills one right after the other. You couldn't lift the bucket over your shoulder (not that I could anyway) so you end up holding it close to the body...there were no handles on the bucket..that would be too easy!! LOL! I managed to get almost to the end with about 3 of the little hills left when I slipped or tripped falling forward with the bucket but landing so as to not spill any of the dirt. I got back up and continued on to the end but was so tired that I couldn't climb the hill of dirt to dump it down to the people filling their buckets, I just ended up dumping it where I was basically laying.

Just a little bit more rough terrain before some easier hiking still on some hills and then we came to the Atlas Lift. This is a weight that you carry across to a marked point, do 5 burpees and carry it back to the starting point. Not really too bad other than your arms being a little tired from carrying the weight then having to get the burpees done. It could be worse..but I don't want to give Spartan Race any new ideas. LOL!

Onward we went hitting mile marker 6...and let me tell you at each mile we were counting down, "only x miles to go!" Then came my most hated obstacle from Arizona...the Traverse Wall. Basically it's a climbing wall using blocks instead of climbing holds to hang onto. There's no helping on this, although at Arizona you could, and I couldn't even get onto the first set of more burpees to do. Wait, now that I think about it that was the first set of burpees I actually had to do. I think I had gotten to about 10 total when some of the guys came over and did some burpees for me and the other ladies that needed them. I can't thank these guys for all the burpees they did for us in this last portion of the course!

Not very far from the traverse wall came the Barb Wire Crawl. Would it be wrong of me to say that I actually love this obstacle? The wire was lower in Arizona but the bottom there was truly mud. Here at the Nevada race it literally was like a stone covered bottom...not smooth stones either. I wished at this point that I had worn my neoprene knee sleeves just for some extra cushioning, but I kept going no matter how much my knee were hurting. Finally towards the end the muddy water was deep enough that you could float and pull yourself along with your hands. Thankfully one of the other Weeples who had already gone through had taken a bunch of our hydration packs at the start and carried them to the end for us. Once you got out of the mud there was a pool of still muddy water that you could at least rinse off some of thicker mud on your body and clothes.

The next obstacle is another of my most hated ones...the Log Hop. I have no sense of balance and when I tried to do this on my own in Arizona I failed miserably. This time Mike again came to my rescue and guided me with each step. All the guys were knights in shining armor during this race! As we continued on, we had to wade through a knee high swampy area which wasn't bad at all...I was thinking it would be a lot worse.

The next obstacle was both fun and a bit scary at the same time. It was the Cargo Net Bridge. At Arizona you basically climbed up a cargo net, got over the top and climbed back down. Not in Vegas! You had to go up about a 20 foot net, get on top of the tower, then cross another cargo net about another 20 feet to another tower and then climb down. Climbing up and down was no problem for me, it was getting across. Basically I just sat down and scooted across using by butt crack...yes, that's what I said, to perch on the ropes scooting over one at a time until I got across. When I was on the towers all I could think of was "If someone falls between the holes in the cargo net, there's nothing to catch them" and "I wonder if too many people get on these towers will it topple overs?" I think that was enough incentive to try to get down as soon as possible.

Then we came upon the next obstacle...the Herc Hoist. Basically this is a weight tied to a rope with the rope going through a pulley at least 20 feet above. You basically had to just pull on the rope to get the weight all the way up to the pulley then bring it back down in a controlled manner. I didn't find this too difficult, it was just a matter of digging in and pulling in a controlled, short manner. The men's weights were about twice as heavy as the ladies, and one of the guys who was fairly small almost went flying as the weight was coming down until some of the other guys grabbed him and the rope saving him from what could have been a bad situation.

Some more hiking and we hit the last of the walls. First a set of two 7 foot walls and then a little further down a set of 8 foot walls. Again Mike, Dave and the other guys came to the ladies rescue and helped hoist us up until we could get our footing and swing over the walls. There are some 2' x 4' screwed into the right side of the wall on both sides but they're even hard to climb onto by yourself. Finally, we were almost at the end...

The next hurdle was the Water Crossing. Now, if any of you know me personally, you know that I've been taking swimming lessons for the last month trying to get over my fear of deep water and drowning. Thankfully it's worked enough that I had no issue getting into the deep water, with a life preserver. The hardest part was getting on top of the floating platforms. The guys were again helping everyone up and Dave had me and just when I thought I had a grip I slipped off and under the water. Surprisingly, I didn't freak out and just tried again. The second time I managed to drag myself over with Dave's help and slid into the water on the other side. I didn't try to swim with the PFD on because it just wanted to do it's own thing so I grabbed the rope they had buoys on and dragged myself across. Then came the attempt to climb onto the second platform which also took a couple of tries but I eventually just took off the PFD since I could stand in the water and was able to get dragged up by Jessica and Ursula. I had survived the water crossing without freaking out! That was a huge deal to me! Again I wouldn't have been able to without the help of the Weeple Army!

There's just certain obstacles that you know you can't do and for me one of them is the Rope Climb. You get one try at climbing a knotted rope about 20 feet high, ringing the cow bell at the top and then climb back down. Heck, I couldn't even get my feet onto the lowest knot. I did try, fell in the water below and proceeded to the burpee area. Again the guys had finished and came and helped all the ladies with our burpees...I'm telling you, these guys are great! :D

Next came the Slip Wall...basically and incline wall that is slippery as all heck. I managed to get near the top and had my fingers over the edge when my feet went out from under me and I started sliding down. Again the Weeple Army was there to save my ass! The guys at the top had grabbed me and were pulling me up, Dave was at the bottom hanging onto a rope himself and helping to push me up from there and with some effort I finally made it over! These guys are so awesome!

Yup! That's me that the Weeple guys are saving!
The Spearman was next and another obstacle that I hate because I can't figure out how to get the form right. Basically it's literally a sharp pointed spear that you throw at a bale of hay. If it sticks you're good to go...if not, it's burpee time. Needless to say that It was burpee time again. And once again the team came to the rescue and helped those of us doing burpees by sharing the burpees and doing some for each of us.

Burpee time after the Spearman...that's me bent over on the right.
Finally, it was the last two challenges the Fire Jump and the Gladiator Pit. As the Weeple Army gathered together to make the final charge, I kinda stayed back because I was just a visitor amongst the Army and not a true member but Dave said to join in and while I still remained at the back of the pack I crossed the finish with these awesome band of people.

Weeple Army charge to the finish, I'm standing on the
left but eventually joined the group.
Now, let me clarify something here. The Weeple Army is all about teamwork. I didn't matter if you were a Weeple or not, they stayed back as long as anyone needed help and then we went on together or the slower of us moved on knowing that the guys would catch up sooner than later. The Weeples define the true spirit of teamwork and I am now glad to be counted among their ranks. It's going to be an honor and a lot of fun to be going through these extreme races with these folk!

At the end of the day I couldn't find Jeff who was supposed to be working at the registration area which was being broken down. My phone had died so I ended up just hanging around until I thought of moving the car to the parking area directly in front of the entrance to charge my phone and finally got to see an text from him. He had been moved to the Spearman obstacle, evidently I had looked directly at him 3 times while I was there and didn't recognize him, and hadn't eaten all day so I got us both some BBQ sandwiches and he took a break to eat then returned for the rest of his shift. Once he finished we headed back to the hotel to shower (we had "showered" at the race using garden hoses and sprayers) and then headed out to find a Fatburger to eat at. Luckily the hotel clerk knew of one that wasn't on the Strip, the only one I knew of, and we grabbed some burgers and fries there for dinner before heading back to the hotel. I stayed up doing laundry having to wash the clothes twice to get most of the dirt/sand out but still would be needing to wash them again at home. Jeff had already crashed out and I finally finished the laundry and fell asleep around 2am.

Race Day +1: Travel Day

We had decided to sleep in and woke up just in time for the last 30 minutes of breakfast. We were both a bit stiff but I was moving much easier than I had been the day after Sprint. The trip home involved eating...a lot. I think we made three stops just to eat with the final stop in Albuquerque at Texas Road House for a nice ribeye steak. I swear, that last 3 1/2 hours seemed to take forever! We finally arrived home at about 1am and after some calming down of my pack of K9s and a viewing of my obsession, the movie Pitch Perfect. I pretty much died not waking up until noon today. All in all it was a great weekend!

What I Liked About This Race:

The camaraderie of the Weeple Army was by far my favorite thing about the race. Finishing was also great and especially finishing with a group rather than alone was a big plus. The course was challenging but not too technical even on the rough terrain. The fact that I got through the water crossing without freaking out was a bonus as well.

What I Did Not Like About This Race:

Other than those obstacles that I truly dislike or can't do, the race was great. A couple more water stations would be useful because of the heat people were finishing the fluids in their packs before getting to a water station. Other than that I did see anything that needed fixing.

Would I Do This Race Again?

Well, considering hat I'm signed up to volunteer for both days at Military Sprint in Colorado next month and race on one day, plus planning to do Spartan Beast in Utah for my Trifecta...I'd say, yes...I would do this (or some other Super) race again.

NOTE: All photos courtesy of Sandy Erb

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