Spartan Race

Posted: August 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

Aroo! Aroo! Aroo! I chanted with 249 strangers in the 11:00 AM heat of the Spartan Race in Brooklyn, NY. Off we raced to face a task that was simultaneously Herculaen and Sisyphisean. For those who I have not inundated with my experience already, the Spartan Race is a 5k (3 mile) race, with 12 obstacles. These obstacles, or challenges, range from crawling through mud under barbed wire, to scaling inclined walls greased with lard.

I trained hard for this race, acquiescing to the knowledge that I had not idea what to expect. I approached the start line with the courage of Ares, but by the finish, I felt more akin to Epimetheus, seeing much of the race in hindsight, as well as my mistakes and small defeats.

The race was held at Floyd Bennet Field, at the tip of the borough of Brooklyn. I was encouraged by the rather flat geography. The race organizers, however, were as devious as Hermes in finding ways to create both height and elevation to the course and break up the seemingly level terrain.

The start and finish juxtaposed in a small,sun scorched field, reminiscent of something you may find in the imagery of Tennyson’s Ulysses. Roughly the size of one and a half american football fields, it was bordered roughly to the south and west by parking lots. To the east lay a long berm, about 8 feet hight, that traversed the length of the field, and concealed the treachery that lay beyond it. To the North was moderately dense woodland, from which I could see emerging the survivors of previous heats.

From there, the visible obstacles were a serpentine path along the berm, an inclined, greased, rope wall, a mud crawl under barbed wire, and an incarnation of Atlas wielding a pugil stick, reminiscent of American Gladiators. I was able to get some ideas as to how to tackle each, most importantly the inclined crisco wall.

Most people early on were grabbing the rope and trying the climb up. This proved the be a cumbersome strategy at best. The best option appeared to be to run full speed, and try to run up the greased obstacle as far as possible, and then grab the rope, or if you’re lucky the top of the wall, and pull yourself over. The greased wall became somewhat of my Ithaca, my final goal, as Ithaca was for Odysseus making his way back from Troy.

I had adorned myself in a red mohawk, kilt, and Jagerman t shirt.

The adrenaline surged in my veins as the minutes ticked away to the start of my heat. I had no idea how to pace myself, so it was all a complete guess. I tried my best to stretch and warm up as the various elements of my pre race shake began to make my body tingle. There were only a few minutes left. The “King” of the race was giving us all a speech. I could not hear a thing. Then, with a chant of “Aroo! Aroo! Aroo!” the race had started

Odysseus indeed. It was as if the race itself was my own personal, anguished odyssey. The first obstacles were the serpentine run up and down the berm, followed by hurdling about twenty jersey barriers. Competitors were already dropping out at this point. Next came some running to a wagon filled with hay, and the more running to both four foot, and eight foot walls. I felt like Odysseus competing in the pentathlon on Scheria.

After the eight foot wall the run took me to a climb over a cargo net, and then into twisting, turning paths through the woods. Amidst this maze were two barbed wire crawls. Making my way through the second of these crawls, I was sure that the finish could not be far away, but as if someone had opened Aeolus‘s bag of winds, I was left to plod through more, seemingly endless woodland trails.

Finally the forest fell away, and I was sure this finish was near. Unfortunately all that lay before me was more hurdles, and a run to a giant pile of wood to climb over. I looked across the plain to a line of runner, certain that it was the next heat. To my dismay, I realized that it was my heat turning back to the next obstacle.

The finish was so near, but I had to first horizontally traverse a wall with chunks of 2 by 4 nailed to it. The problem was that competitors in front of me were not going as fast, and I lost my grip and fell off. This resulted in 30 pushups, and the challenge of crossing the wall again. After an uneventful spear throw, I only had three more obstacles in front of me.

The greased wall, that I thought would be a touchstone proved to be more so of a Scylla, to the barbed wire mud pit that was indeed Charybdis. Like Odysseus before me, I prevailed these two monsters, and enduring a couple blows of the brutes’ pugil sticks, I crossed the finish line.

It was an incredible experience. One that I have learned from, and one that I plan to build on. In October, I have the Rugged Maniac, a similar obstacle race, in Southwick, Mass. I have registered for the Tough Mudder, in May 2011, a seven to twelve mile race of similar design. Hopefully, I will get my chance to do battle with the Spartans again (the complete irony being that my High School mascot was the Spartan).

After party was great with free beer from long trail, and goodies from Muscle Milk, and Red Bull.

Perhaps the best part was traveling home mud spattered, in a kilt, and sporting a mohawk. For the most part, no one seemed to notice.

I scored a pizza from the Pepe’s in Manchester, Connecticut on the way home. A well deserved trophy.

I had all the best intentions to make it out to a Yacht Rock night at a local club. I was too tired. Smooth music can wait for another day.

Apropos of that, Keep the fire.

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