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.
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.
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.