October 3, 2016
Do you fancy doing Spartan with me Sis?
Yeah OK, why not?
Went the initial conversation in a bar over a few shandies a couple of weeks ago, and then last week she started to google what Spartan was and the fear began to set in
But I don’t like Mud…
Or enclosed spaces…
Or being touched…
Or you bossing me around like you do…
Boy oh boy was she in for a treat.
So I have done Spartan already this year, (you can read about it here) it was a city event held in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park about 5 minutes from where I live and despite being physically tough and a little scary at points it wasn’t quite muddy enough for me, so I jumped at the chance of trying out the Windsor one for size.
I did a Tough Mudder (here’s the horrific evidence) a few years ago too, which was the most scariest thing I had ever done, and which left me physically broken for months. But I figured with my sister accompanying me round and no time pressure we would just do as much as we could and enjoy it.
Now let me tell you a little bit about my sister Jennie.
She was very active as a teenager, a good swimmer, a good cross country runner, very competitive…but with two kids now and an office job she finds it hard to prioritise sport. She has done the occasional 5k run with me, and has spells of doing 30 day shred and the like in her front room, but she would be the first to tell you that she’s not exactly fit at the moment. An operation on a broken toe at the beginning of the summer didn’t help either as she was immobile for 6 weeks…and the weight crept up and her fitness deteriorated as she basically wasn’t walking anywhere or running around after the kids anymore.
On the train from Waterloo on route to the event she told me she had had no sleep worrying about the race. She had also cleaned her flat top to bottom just in case she died (and you thought I was dramatic)
But anyway we arrived in Windsor in the rain, jumped in a taxi to the event, got ourselves sorted and made our way to the start line for the 12.40 wave.
I was a little nervous as my knees have been twinging a bit recently, and I was still a little tender from Thursdays CrossFit Session and Friday mornings 5K. I also knew that running in the middle of the day wasn’t great fuelling wise either…as breakfast seemed like a long time ago.
So one of the first things you have to do for Spartan is make your way into the starting pen, which involves climbing over a 5foot wall…I managed to hoist myself over with not too much trouble.
But Jennie fell flat on her face which didn’t bode well, and her happy go lucky smiling face turned to one of real concern as we did the pre race warm up and the half naked Spartan MC went through his speech getting us all psyched up with calls of “Who Am I” to which we were to respond “I AM SPARTAN” Jennie seemed to shrink further into herself.
What had I done?
Then we were off.
It wasn’t long before we were at the back of our group of 300, but that was OK…it wasn’t a race. Well it wasn’t for us anyway. The going was tough, I hate running on grass and I was nervous about going over on an ankle, so we took it slow. The first few obstacles were undertaken with relative ease, Jennie required the help of a volunteer which made me chuckle
I’m heavier than I look
She squealed as he threw her over a wall.
Scrambling under barbed wire, I could almost feel a shift in Jennies attitude. We started to have fun. Getting our hair tangled up in the wire, having a laugh with the volunteers and making rude remarks to the photographers. The rain had disappeared and the sun had come out too.
Windsor Park was beautiful, and as we made our way to the epic log carry we saw a heard of deer galloping past us. It was really clever how they used the natural environment of the park (what was there) to create many of the obstacles.
It wasn’t long before the group behind us caught us up, but it was fine, now we were just in the mix and enjoying the challenge of each obstacle as it came to us. I was feeling strong. My twice a week CrossFit sessions were really paying off…where many were having to put their two logs down repeatedly to get some respite….my shoulders felt fine and I just powered on.
Then came the mud.
Up until now we had only got a little dirty from crawling under the barbed wire and from crossing a small stream. We were now heading into what I like to call the trenches of DOOM. We were basically following a small narrow brooke, filled with clay like mud that sucked at your trainers and stunk like manure…it was a bit gridlocked here, so movement was slow and a whole heap of blokes in a rush climbed out and ran along the bank instead to cheers and jaunts of “Cheater, cheater”. We stuck with it and enjoyed the fun of having to grasp at grass to keep your balance, and the farting sounds the mud made each time you moved your foot. There were tunnels to crawl through, branches to duck under and eventually a bank to climb up.
When we emerged Jennie and I looked like swamp monsters, I’m not sure how we got so muddy, as most people’s mud stopped at their knees. We had it everywhere. There was one point where Jennie laughed at the fact I decided to go down a hill on my bum, then much to my delight she slipped over and came crashing down on hers.
I guess we were about half way through at this point. I was exhausted. The mud is really draining both physically and mentally as you concentrate hard on not falling over. Jennie was having a real blast…I haven’t seen her this energised without alcohol in like FOREVER!!!!
But there were still some big obstacles to come.
Climbing up the massive A frame with slippery trainers and just a rope to pull you up for example….how my upper body allowed me to do it I will never know. Jennie had 3 attempts, slipping back down on her belly each time before admitting defeat. I had managed to get up, but now I was hugging the scaffolding at the top for dear life not sure if I would be able to get myself back down the other side. A kind volunteer climbed up and walked me through each movement until I was on solid ground again.
The atmosphere at these events are great. Its great for people watching too. You get all sorts taking part. Couples. Big groups of lads (obviously) and to my delight there were lots of wobbly bodies too. Nobody is judging. It’s all about doing what you can at your pace, and helping and encouraging people along as you go.
One of my favourite obstacles was the atlas stone carry.
Carry a 30KG metal ball from one side of a enclosure to another and then back again. Jennie was slightly ahead of me and I saw her pick up the ball and carry it bent over like some kind of deranged crab. It looked painful, and I know she was worried about dropping it on her bad foot.
So I thought back to my CrossFit training and thought right…I need to squat and get this as high as possible on my body before moving anywhere. Which is exactly what I did. I used my glutes and quads to get the ball on to my chest and then I ran (I kid you not) to the other side…the look of astonishment from other participants was hilarious…I don’t know how I did it either if I am being honest. I did the same on the way back but this time with Jennie watching in disbelief
You’ll be pulling buses or competing for worlds strongest woman next you nutter
She said as we ran on towards the next obstacle.
It felt good to know I was stronger than last time I did anything like this, and I had more confidence with obstacles too this time round. Granted I still have no upper body strength to pull myself over overhanging walls, and I still had no desire to stand on complete strangers in an attempt to get over an 8 foot wall…but at least I was making progress.
Right towards the end there was an obstacle where you had to flip a log over 10 times. I just went for the closest log to me not realising it was one of the heaviest. It took some real effort to do it, but I managed to flip it twice…some guys couldn’t even get it off the floor.
By the time we got to the last obstacle a 8foot wooden wall, Jennie and I knew we wouldn’t be able to do it. I probably would have been able to get up with the help of some sturdy blokes putting their hands on my muddy behind, but I didn’t have the upper body strength to lower myself down safely…and I had made it this far without injury…I wasn’t willing to risk it…so we opted for burpees.
Hand in hand we jumped over the pit of fire, finishing in 2 hours and 16 minutes. We hugged and went in search of a beer.
What an incredible day.
The race is great…but actually its the whole experience. The anticipation before, the working out what to wear…a pink thong Jen??? nope not so much. And trying to get yourself in some form of normality for the journey home. I failed this miserably, not bringing a change of clothes.
A very, very, very kind lady gave me a lift to the station (which was about a 40 minute walk) and I sat in a carriage full of very prim and proper tourists back to London…the looks I got on the tube were hilarious…but jennie who did bring a change of clothes kept her SPARTAN headband and medals on as a sign of solidarity…in fact she may even have worn them to work today.
Having the opportunity to do this race with my sister was incredible. We are close anyway and have got into all kind of scrapes in the past, but this took our relationship to a whole new level. There was one obstacle where she was stuck at the top of a scramble net begging to go back the way she came rather than come down the way I had just done. I looked into her eyes told her she could do it, and bossed her around until she did as she was told.
She’d probably still be up there if it wasn’t for me taking such a firm hand.
I’d like to say a massive thank you to Spartan for inviting us down to review this event, and I would encourage all of you to think about doing one of these events next year. Of course it helps if you train and get prepared for them, but my sister is proof that actually as long as you don’t go mad and take your time…absolutely anyone can do one of these.
I also want to say a massive thank you to my sister. She is my biggest supporter. She helps with childcare (like all the time) so I can do crazy things like international races and late night speaking gigs. She believes in me, but never lets be forget who I really am…and most of all she makes me laugh when I really need cheering up. She is an incredible sister…aside from her leaving my phone out in the rain for 20 minutes after the race ha ha
I AM SPARTAN….AGAIN!!!
Next year I am going for the BEAST distance though…so beware!!!!