Written by Shona Stephenson
I drove out to the Spartan Race at the Mt Ivory Conference Centre biting my nails. I was totally unprepared for the Spartan Race Sprint 7km Brisbane Obstacle Course Race in Ipswich on Saturday.
I had not trained for the Spartan Race Sprint Brisbane apart from gardening in my new massive Brisbane backyard in The Gap, doing 3 sets of 10 burpees in between some running drills and core exercises the day before. That should do it I naively thought. I was hoping that my personal training conditioning, trail running agility and my childhood gymnastics skills would get me to the finish line. Technically I had not even entered it yet. I was about 50/50 whether to do it or not that week. I have Tarawera Ultra 100km on a week later and I did not want to risk injuring myself. I’d been wanting to do one for about a year but the timing always seemed to not be right. 3 days before the event, after a bit of persuading from my Aussie Inov8 Team contacts and Paul my Physio at Body Leadership who had me do a Video Blog for Obstacal Course Australia I decided to enter the race. Besides, it would be a nice way to start the year by doing something totally out of my comfort zone.
On the day before the event Mikey warned me that I was going to have to throw a spear for a Spartan Race obstacle. What? Are you kidding? Nah. Surely not? I thought. I did not even go to the website to check it out what I was going to be up against. I was clueless, blissfully unaware of what I was up awaiting me. All I knew was that if I fail an obstacle I was given a Spartan Race penalty of doing 30 burpees. 30 burpees. That does not sound too bad.
The atmosphere at the Spartan Race start line was pumping. The DJ was playing funky tunes and everyone was there to have fun, push themselves, get and dirty. I stood on the start line and I managed to meet my Inov8 Australia Team Mates the Legendary Deanna Blegg (VIC) and Leah Richardson (NSW). I was also spotted by inov-8 Athlete and Sydney trail runner Lachlan Dansie (NSW) who I’ve meet a few times after Coastal Classic. After a few good luck wishes to my new found friends and saying “I am Spartan” a few times. We were off and running.
It was not long before I was leaping over a about 5x 1m high wooden hurdles. Cool first Spartan Race obstacle down only 11 more to go. I ran on and then I was jumping over more 5x 5 foot high fences and after a bit of a run I was then swimming through a black muddy black dam. Here I surprised myself. For the first time in my life I was passing people on the swim leg. I was a bit bummed when my Hammer 50% Gel 50% water pop top bottle floated away in front of my face. I’m pretty sure I lost my asthma inhaler too on this leg. In the dam I used a combination of free style, breaststroke and rope pull to get across the 50m of water.
I climbed out of the dam and headed up the muddy bank, scooted around the trail then I ducked under the 30cm high rows of barbed wire and crawled my way through the dirt. I managed to get a sideways log roll happening but I was soon too dizzy to roll. I decided to crawl again staying low and occasionally catching my hair and butt on the barb wire. After about 50m of wire crawl I dragged myself up and started to run again in the Spartan Race chasing down Deanna.
It was not long before I was again on my hands and knees and crawling though a tunnel and then running to a side ways wall transverse, up a hill through a trail to my next Spartan Race challenge. Here I was given a sand bag. I took the lighter women’s option. I could barely lift the sand bag onto my shoulders it felt so heavy. Man my arms are weak. Once I had it on my shoulders I could run with it up the hill until the hill became too steep. I then ran and walked 20 steps on and off for the new 200m before I ran the flat and the down’s still keeping Deanna in sight. I returned back to the Spartan Race marshals dumped the sand bag and took off up the hill I felt as light as a feather.
At the top of the hill I was then given a rope that was attached to a cable up a tree with a 20kg Kettle Bell tied to it. I was told to lift the kettle bell up to the top of the rope with out dropping it. I pulled and pulled with all my might, even hung onto the rope my feet off the ground with all my body weight and I could only manage to only lift the kettle bell about 30cm off the ground. I then took the burpees penalty thinking I was wasting time on this challenge.
Whilst competing my 30 burpees I lost a position to Leah. Leah and Deanna are Cross Fitters and were handling the Spartan Race strength challenges with comparable ease. I on the other hand was about to lose another one position if I was not careful to a Victorian Triathlete. I ran down the hill chasing Leah and I shown a 35kilo ball to pick up and carry around a 10m loop. Wow. 35kilos? Are you kidding? I only weigh 52kilos. There was no way I was going to lift it but the thought of doing more burpees was enough motivation to get me to try. I could not pick it up. I had to slide it up my body, then get my forearms underneath the ball, then hugged it tightly to my hips. I then walked around the loop trying not to drop the ball on my feet. Cool. Made it. Never thought I was going to do that.
I moved onto the Spartan Race vertical rope climb. Shit. I’ve never done this before. I asked the marshal. if I could just do burpees. I just did not think I could do it
“Give it a try.” He said not really believing I could do it either. He is not show much confidence my potential. I guess my body language said it all.
I reluctantly gave the vertical rope climb a shot. All I knew was that you are suppose to use your feet and there was a technique to it, but I’m pretty sure I did the Spartan Race obstacle the hard way. I pulled with my arms, then drove my legs up the rope and used my Inov8 X-Talons 190, with the rope tech plastic sole to rest on the rope. Then pulled with my arms again, rested on my feet, pulled, rested, pulled, rested, pulled then rang the bell then in two movements I was back on deck again and climbing back up the side of the scaffolding 10m tower, transversing the cable nets, rolling down cargo nets giving myself some nasty rope burn, climbing down the cargo nets then onto the rope scaffolding.
I soon watched Leah do the Spartan Race spear throw into a hay stack and I then gave it a go. My spear handed dismally short of the hay stack and I was down on all fours again doing 30 more burpees. This set really killed me. My arms were trashed. I was gashed already on my knees and stomach. The first 10 were okay, the next 10 hurt, the final 10 were pathetic and lifeless.
Next were the monkey bars, which I had not done for about 20 years. My hands were wet but I managed to get a good grip and used my legs, hips and core to swing from bar to bar, ring to ring to bar to bar with surprising ease. Wow. Another obstacle I did not think I was going to be able to do.
I was off and running. Technique, technique, technique was all I was thinking when I ran. This is your strength so use it. I then chased down Leah, who was having trouble at the Women’s 8ft high wall jump. I’m only 5 foot 1.5 inches so this was going to be interesting. The first attempt I just missed the top of the wall. The thought of doing another 30 burpees was enough to make me catch the top of the wall, fling a leg over the top and jump down the other side leaving poor Leah behind me to do burpees as a Spartan Race penalty. Phew. I had a small gap.
I then crawled under 25m of barb wire up a hill this time then turned a corner and cruised to the balance beam. I use to love the balance beam in gymnastics. This beam was made up of 2 by 4 wooden planks of treated pine laid out in a adjoining open ended squares. I made it down the narrow 2 inch first plank, then the 2nd but stuffed up on the third. My right ankle was loose and wriggling uncontrollably. All my strapping tape had come off my right dodgy ankle. I lost my balance and fell off the planks. Bugger. More burpees. I was relieved when I spotted Leah falling off the planks too. We were both stuck doing burpees together.
After my 90th burpees for the day I ran down the hill, leaped over the log of fire and turned to be greeted with 4 burley blokes with padded sticks and kick pads to run, dodge and weave around. After a few small shimmy steps and some “soft pushes” from the blokes I then was allowed to pass. I crossed the Spartan Race finish line in a surprising 2nd place. 1 hour 3 minutes a full 13 minutes behind Deanna (VIC) and only a tiny 1 minute in front of Leah (NSW). It was a clean sweep for inov-8 in the women’s event and we nabbed a 2nd place in the mens with Lachlan (NSW) securing the 2nd place on the podium. I’m not sure if I’m to call myself a Queenslander yet.. or a Spartan. Maybe after I represent Queensland for a year. Looking forward to my next Spartan Race and towards Tarawera Ultra 100km.