Squamish Super Spartan

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m not a runner. But I had so much fun doing the 5k Warrior Dash earlier this summer that when I heard about another obstacle race in Squamish in the fall, I cheerfully signed Jen and I up for it without really processing that a Super Spartan involves 15km of running and more than 20 obstacles. I have never run further than 10k in my life (and even that was under duress while I was rehabbing my knee after ACL surgery) and apart from the Warrior Dash, have been running once in the past year.

I had good intentions when it came to preparation, but between the bike crash and a severe reaction to the tetanus shot that followed it they fell by the wayside. In fact, having come off my bike on Monday I was pretty sure I’d have to pull out of the race; my legs were more bruise than skin and neither shoulder was working properly, so the idea of hauling myself over cargo nets and running around carrying 50lb sandbags just a few days later seemed unlikely.

By Saturday morning the worst of the soreness had worn off, and I decided to give it a go. We arrived early and spent some time milling around the start line, admiring costumes and stretching. Our heat left at noon, and got off to a flying start with a fire jump just around the first corner. We ran along Logger’s Lane and into Smoke Bluffs park, where more obstacles were waiting: burpees (so many burpees!), netting strung between trees for us to scramble over, and over-and-under fences.

The trails were gorgeous and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the run. The netting scramble thinned out the pack, and J and I ran mostly by ourselves along gorgeous, rolling singletrack that took us through beautiful old growth forests with peek-a-boo views of Howe Sound from granite outcrops. I did find myself pining for a bike (the trails would have been much more my speed than my ill-fated ride on the North Shore) but if I had access to terrain like that in my back yard, I might feel differently about running.

Squamish Super Spartan cargo net

By the time we reached the halfway point I was dying of thirst. Fields of obstacles lay between us and the water station: a canvas tunnel, a rope climb, and a giant wall. The wall was the one spot where my sore shoulders let me down; having grabbed the top I didn’t have the strength to haul myself up, and had to spring off Jen’s hand to make it over. We also had to tow concrete blocks on ropes around a short gravel course, which was surprisingly easy.

The water station was almost out, so we were restricted to one tiny cup which almost made the desperate thirst seem worse. I still haven’t figured out if lack of water was just poor preparation, or if it was a deliberate obstacle. After sipping the contents of the tiny cup as slowly as possible, it was on to the next series of obstacles: an embankment climb, balance boards, and carrying a sandbag up a steep hill. By this point I was starting to feel the unaccustomed pounding in my legs. I kept running; though; I was determined not to slow J down more than I already was.

By the final stretch my right knee was throbbing painfully and my left hamstring was jangling with every step. I could barely believe it when we reached the final series of obstacles: a spear throw, a crawl through muddy soup below barbed wire, a tire flip, ¬†and a climb up mud-slicked ropes to ring a bell. My spear didn’t stick in the hay bale and I couldn’t make it all the way up the slippery rope, which meant another 50 burpees. Then it was into the freezing creek, and through the defending gladiators to the finish line.

Squamish Super Spartan finish line

I felt completely beat up by the time we got home, with legs like jello and strange quivers going through my damaged shoulders. The next day my quads were so sore I could barely walk. But it also felt like a huge achievement: to go out and do something completely unfamiliar, with very little preparation, and to cross the line hand-in-hand with J at the end.

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