This past Saturday my husband Brian and I finally had a chance to complete a Spartan Sprint at Citi Field! Spartan Races usually take place on muddy terrain, so when I saw the chance to try out many of the same obstacles in an urban (read no mud) setting, I jumped at the opportunity.
The Spartan stadium sprint distance is about the length of a 5k, and without mud and hills I thought this race would be easy. I couldn't have been more wrong! As I sit here writing this 3 days later, my right leg is still extremely sore, and I had to take an unscheduled rest day yesterday because of it.
We were fortunate enough to have recorded the whole race on a gopro video, and after watching I can see where the 3 miles of mostly stairs combined with my extremely lopsided method of stair climbing/descending caused the issue.
Besides our usual running routine and 40+ days of P90x3 training, we had a good idea of what obstacles we may encounter. In the days leading up to the race we trained for the 3 main ones I was worried about failing - monkey bars, rope climb, and the spear throw ( with a homemade spear made from a broomstick and a stress ball)
As I mentioned above, we didn't do any training for the stairs, and that ultimately proved to the one of the hardest obstacles in the race.
My advice - while you can get through this race just by being able to run 3 miles, I strongly recommend training on the stair climber beforehand as you use a different muscle group for stairs then you do for running. Don't learn the hard way like me!
When Brian and I do obstacle races, our main focus is on successful completion of the obstacles and not on our finish time. If timing is important to you, I recommend doing the first wave of the day or if you feel like shelling out extra $$$ , maybe even sign up for the elite wave. Otherwise, you are bound to get frustrated as there will be lines for obstacles and it is more difficult to pass people in an obstacle race setting (especially in a stadium where half the race is spent running through rows of seats in a single file nature.) It’s all about fun and challenging ourselves with the obstacles!
Onto the recap and race day:
Packet pickup went smoothly. Spartan race does it a little different than regular runs; we had to locate our bib number first on a board and then bring it to the pick up table to receive our packet. Inside was a headband with our race number on it in lieu of a bib, which I really like because it is easy for a regular bib to rip off while climbing walls, bear crawling, etc. There are also wristbands for start time, free beer, and a timing chip.
We had arrived an hour early and we used the full hour to walk around the stadium, use the restrooms (no porta pottys for once!) and otherwise prepare ourselves for the challenge.
We were in the 11:45 wave and we lined up a few minutes beforehand. Spartan staggers the starts letting about 15 people go every few minutes, and in about 10 minutes time from lining up we were off! In this time it also started raining, which we would later find out resulted in a few obstacles being closed down...
Since we were focused on the obstacles, we definitely held back on our race pace in order to not tire out and fail the obstacles, which results in a 30 burpee penalty.
Here is the Gopro video of the event, which Brian wore with a chest strap. I managed to trim the entire race down to a little over 6 minutes. Enjoy!
The first obstacle we encountered was actually on the stairs - it was ropes we had to crawl under on the stair case. We saw this type of thing 2 more times in the race. There were at least 5 walls that I can remember, and they were high enough that my 5'0 self needed a boost from Brian to get over a few times.
The hardest obstacle by far is the spear throw. There was a sizable line to complete this obstacle, and in the about 15 minutes we were standing there waiting for our turn, I saw maybe 3-4 people complete the throw. The rest of us made our way to the burpee area for our 30 burpee penalty.
Spartan also thought it would be great to have the very next obstacle be carrying a concrete block across and back , doing 5 more burpees in between. Then, as if the 35 burpees most of us did wasn't enough, there was a little more running to the locker room, where we had to complete 25 push-ups. Ouch!
The other obstacle I really underestimated was the herculean hoist. A sand bag was attached to a rope which you then had to pull up (you can see what i'm talking about in the video.) I later found out this weighed 75lbs, which at 103lbs myself I had trouble with. Even with a nice strangers assistance, I still had a hard time!
By the time we got to the monkey bars, they were closed off, probably due to the rain! I was really disappointed since I had trained for them and really wanted to test out my abilities. I'm currently searching for another urban obstacle race that has them!
Other obstacles included more walls, stairs, 25 box jumps, stairs, 25 slam ball throws, a water jug carry up and down stairs, a sand bag carry, stairs, a net climb, jump rope with a heavy rope, and oh, did I mention stairs???
The rope climb at the end of the race, in my opinion, was the only other really difficult obstacle. They had ropes both with and without knots, and my guess is the rope is about 20 feet high. Brian and I both got up there, but it was really difficult after exhausting our upper body strength on the earlier obstacles.
|Sand bag carry|
|Brian on the cargo net|
At the finish line we were handed our medals and then got a pretty cool photo op with the spartan gladiator stick. We then proceeded to the finisher table where we received our finisher T-shirt, a banana, and a granola bar.
|The finisher T-shirt|
Time: We finished the race in 1:21 and that included stopping to take video, waiting in various lines for obstacles, one bathroom stop, 2 water stops, and the massive traffic jam on the net climb. Could we have done if faster? Definitely... Did it effect our experience? Not at all!
Burpee total: 35 each! only 1 obstacle penalty each at the spear throw. We will never know if the monkey bars would have caused 30 more burpees for me!
the sideways wall traverse. I had seen this on prior race videos and was expecting this, but it was no where to be found.
Any sort of balance obstacle - there may have been balance beams blocked off after the rain?
Race photographers - I haven't seen the free race photos yet so I can be completely wrong here, but I only saw a photographer at the sand bag carry during our time slot. UPDATE: I added 3 race photos and the photographers were actually in 4 places. They unfortunately lost the finisher photo we took with the jousting stick, which is the one I was most looking forward to. Oh well!
Gatorade/Sports drink - only water was provided. It was fine for this distance, maybe they have it at longer distance races?
Final Thoughts: Brian thought the race was on the easier side and had no trouble with any obstacles other than the spear throw. I thought the race was challenging, but mostly due to the up and down stairs... We both agree that we want to do another Spartan in the future.
Have you ever done a Spartan race? What do you think of it?