Spartan Sprint – Wintergreen, VA: Recap

A couple weeks ago I completed a Spartan Sprint with a team from my gym, and I thought I’d share a few of the details in case I have any readers thinking about doing one of these races.

A Spartan race is a mud and obstacle running race that includes both weighted and body-weight only challenges such as carrying heavy objects and swinging on monkey bars. It also includes mud pits, because obstacles are just a bit harder when you’re muddy and your hands are slippery.

First of all, I had an awesome team of about 15 people, most of whom I work out with regularly. Many of us trained together, and we had a great coach who led us through workout that had similar obstacles to the ones we encountered during the sprint and, for the obstacles we couldn’t prep for, exercises to strengthen muscles we would use during the race.

We got to the event two hours before our start time, as instructed in the packet we were sent before the race.  That meant I had to get up at like 4:30 AM to drive to Wintergreen Ski Resort, but I guess that’s part of the deal when you go to big races like this.  Parking at the event was basically in a big field. I was a little concerned because it had been raining, but it turned out to be fine.  A shuttle bus took us from the parking lot to the check-in area. I had heard rumors that the shuttle time was around an hour, but it was only maybe 20 minutes.  So that turned out to be fine, too.

Once you’re in the check-in area you can sign a waiver, get your packet (which includes timing chip, drink wristband, and headband/bib #), and have plenty of time to contemplate what you’re about to do… I mean, take photos from the outside of the course looking in. There were also restrooms and porta-johns in several locations, which I definitely took advantage of several times.

Two hours is plenty of time to do all these things plus check your bag (which costs $5) before lining up for the race. When we finally headed to the corral at our start time – make sure you get there for your start time! It will affect your finish time if you don’t. – we had to jump over a small barrier to get in the corral. Then the MC started through this speech about how “today you are Spartans”, and you will not give up, etc.. At certain points you’re supposed to respond with “Aroo!”  I had no idea what was going on so I just followed along with others who seemed like they did!

Finally they will blow the whistle and you can start, but there is no running yet because you’re all jammed like sardines into this tiny corral.  By the first obstacle we were able to run if we wanted because everyone had finally spread out. However, the Wintergreen course is basically either uphill or downhill the whole time, very little flat or semi-flat, so we did not do a lot of running.

We encountered some easy obstacles, which I was able to complete alone or with only a leg up: 6 foot wall, mud pit, vertical rope net climb, a wall over muddy water ( you have to complete submerge yourself very briefly to go under the wall), through wall, 2×4 mounted about 5′ high (and you have to go over it), a slanted rope climb and a slanted ladder (you climb up one side and down the other), barbed wire crawl, slippery wall and a 7 foot wall. Seriously, just about anyone can do this stuff.  These obstacles are basically there to slow you down and break up the running up or down hills.

There were a few obstacles that were not as easy, but I completed them – bucket carry, rope climb (usually I have no problem with rope climb but the Spartan Race uses a thin rope and it was wet and slippery from previous racers), sandbag carry, sandbag hoist, and uneven monkey bars.

The hardest obstacles for me were: the Z-wall because it was slippery and the corners of the footholds were rounded off by previous racers (I slipped on one of them and got my only serious scrape/bruise of the race). I was able to complete this obstacle, however; the spear throw – I threw wide left, barely missing the target; and the multi-rig, which was a nightmare for everyone, it seemed. So technically I failed two obstacles and I was supposed to do 60 burpees… but I only did 30.  That was because I ran out of time before my team was ready to move on, and you’re supposed to stay with your team.  (I guess the team could have waited for everyone to do burpees, but the refs don’t count your burpees if you’re not in the competitive class so people just tend to carry on with the race after about half their burpees are done.)

The last “obstacle” is the fire jump. You’re supposed to be jumping over a small fire before hitting the finish line. This is a Spartan standard. I was pretty bummed that it was so rainy for our race, because it meant we basically jumped over some smoldering logs…

At the finish line there were several Spartan volunteers waiting to hand us our medal, give us a t-shirt, food, recovery drinks, and take a team victory photo.  It was all really cool and the lines went very fast. The cool and overall swag makes it kinda worth the $100 I paid to enter the race!

Then, we headed off to the clean-up area. Spartan-provided showers after the race basically amounted to some in garden hoses on the ground, and they had very little water pressure in them.  So I ended up just cleaning off the worst of the mud then heading to the changing tent and putting on the extra clothes I brought.

After the race you also get a free beer, but I don’t drink so I handed my wristband off to someone and headed home. By this time it had been a long day, but so much fun. In short, I really enjoyed myself and would totally do it again. I had built the Spartan up a little bit in my head but the worst part of it, really, was trudging up and down steep hills for almost two hours. That can really wear you out!

If you’re thinking of doing a Spartan Sprint, I highly recommend that you do it.  There’s a hefty fee and a lot of training to do in preparation, but it’s all worth it. Besides, it’s good to have an event to train for, right?

Looking for more info on the different Spartan races? How to eat while training for a race?   Check out the Spartan website. 2017 races are now open!


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