The Tri-State Super Spartan Race was held on September 8th & 9th at Mountain Creek, in Vernon, NJ. I have been anxiously anticipating this race ever since I signed up in June. This was supposed to be an 8+ mile race. On day before, we found out 8+ meant eleven miles. I’ve never run eight miles before in my life, so what’s three extra miles. This wasn’t really my reaction when I heard that it was eleven miles, but I’m keeping this PG. I brought 6 endurance gels and put them in my pocket. I can’t believe how useful they were for me.
They had four water stations set up every two miles. I was going to run with a Camelbak, but decided against it at the last moment. I trained by running with it on my back for two months. I didn’t think having water on hand was worth the extra eight pounds (weight of Camelbak filled with water) I would have to lug up and down the mountain. So I drank some of it before the race and left it in the car.
I spent almost two months of non-stop training for this event. I did two days a week of intense weight training, two days of trail running, and three days of endurance workouts like football and basketball. These activities helped me tremendously in preparing for this event. I personally believe endurance is the most important aspect of an OCR.
My race time was 9:30am with Team AZN Armour. When you sign up with a team, the event coordinators make sure you all run in the same heat. My brother Matt, a first time obstacle runner, and my cousin John, second time, ventured with me to the event. Also running it were my sister-in-law Amanda and her fiancé John L. They both ran Warrior Dash this year as their first event. This was an insanely large step for all of them to take as newbies to OCR, so I give them all the credit in the world. AZN Armour is an OCR team welcome to anyone who would like to compete in these events. Basically, you can join the group on Facebook and enlist with the team on many races across the country. It is also a great support group for the many different questions you might have. I enjoy having this at my disposal.
We arrived at the mountain around 8:15 to pick up our packets and to become mentally prepared. My brother saw a course roped off to the left and stated, “There is no way we are running up that. That must be the way down the mountain.” We met up with my pro racer friend Ron who told Matt that the course he was referring to was the kid’s obstacle course. Matt needed all the time in the world to mentally prepare after hearing that. Ron is a Spartan Street Team Member. He is also amazingly good at these events and offers great advice in preparation. He too is a member of AZN Armour.
Our race was about to start and I was really pumped up. The best racers from around the country came to this event. Spartan Race does an excellent job of hyping you up beforehand with a Spartan-inspired speech. My nerves were calm and I tried not to focus on the fact that I was about to start running and wouldn’t be stopping for hours. Smoke bombs went off and the race started.
It began with a mile “run” straight up the mountain. I cautiously pushed myself to keep pace with the front ten people. I calmed my breathing and got it done. At the top of the mountain there were a few obstacles including a short, lake swim. A beautiful run through the woods and down the mountain we went. The greatest obstacle ever was next. It was a 23 foot cliff jump into water (thankfully into water! You never know with these races!). I was a little nervous, but just did it. It was great. If you want to bypass an obstacle, they make you do burpees (updowns). For the cliff jump, the penalty was 50 burpees. Some more running downhill to the base of the mountain followed.
Running down a mountain is very hard. First, you don’t want to fall. Second, your legs become extremely tight. It was very important to mentally block out the early miles. I didn’t want to think about the pain I was in and the fact that I was only at mile two or three. A few more light obstacles as you made your way back up the mountain, and then the Spartan signature obstacle: sand bags. You need to carry a sand bag (40lb for men, 25lb for women) up the mountain about 600 feet and back. This is usually a mental meltdown point. Luckily this was also the six mile mark. I completed that but was not prepared for what was to follow.
Up the mountain we walked. It was so steep and unbearable. My legs were getting tighter by the second. Almost at the top, we reach a somewhat vertical 400 foot rock face. There was rope netting that you could grab and climb up. I believe it was there to hold back fallen rocks, but the race coordinators used it as an obstacle. I took it in stride, going about 15 feet and taking a short break. At the top I turned around and was blown away by the spectacular view. I could have sat down and stayed there forever. Unfortunately, I was enrolled in a death race and couldn’t stop.
The next obstacle entailed pulling a rock with a chain. This isn’t bad at all. Then across the mountain we ran. I was really feeling pain in my legs. Talking to people throughout the race, I learned they all were having tightness as well. I kept pace with a few different people throughout the race and kept up friendly small talk. It was a good strategy because you take your mind off running while engaged in conversation.
The monkey bars were next. As soon as I grabbed the bar and left my feet, my legs cramped up. It felt like I was shot (I have never experienced a gunshot wound, but I can just imagine). I finished the bars and dropped to the ground. The pain was unbelievable, and I can take a great deal of pain. An EMT at this obstacle told me everyone was cramping at the monkey bars. She said that after running so much and then leaving your feet for the bars, your muscles tighten. I stretched out and hobbled off to the walls. It only felt good to run at this point; each time I tried to stretch one leg, the other would cramp worse.
The walls consisted of two 7-foot and two 8-foot wood walls. I was very nervous about leaving my feet again and cramping up. I pulled myself over each one and hobbled to the next. I was extremely mad about my legs because I finally hit an area of the mountain in which I would have been able to be run fast. The EMT at the walls told me we had about two miles left. After running nine miles, that was the motivation I needed. I sprinted off to the rope climb across the lake. You needed to throw your legs up on a single rope and pull yourself across the lake. For once my ankle brace was a positive. I rested my brace on the rope and flew across. Others suffered some serious rope burn.
Some more running downhill followed. An awesome slip and slide into a pool of gross water led you to the final five obstacles right at the finish line. The crowd cheered you on and gave you so much energy. The first obstacle was the spear throw. Missed it, so I had to do 30 burpees. I have yet to hit be successful with that obstacle in 3 straight Spartan Races.
The next was a horizontal wall climb. It’s basically a wood wall with blocks screwed to it that you need to climb across. This was the first time I completed it. Next up, a rope climb of about twenty feet and hit the bell—killed it. Barbed wire next. I tell everyone to roll. No one listens. I rolled my way up the 200 feet of muddy terrain with barbed wire inches from my body. This is where you receive micro cuts all over your body from the jagged rocks throughout—fun! Fire jump then sprint past the gladiators that try to hit you. I “hot dogged” towards the gladiators with my hands up high. What’s the worst they can do to me at this point? Hit me hard. Off to the finish line I sprinted.
Reaching that finish line was amazing. It was beyond me that I finished such an amazingly grueling race. I felt great about everything I just accomplished. I only wish my legs would have stayed strong, but it seems everyone had problems with leg cramps. I finished in 2 hours and 56 minutes. That time put me at 154 out of 3507 overall, 25th in my age group, top 5%. My goal was to finish in the top 500; I was very pleased with the end result.
Everyone who came with me completed the race, and I am extremely proud of them. It was physically and mentally the most demanding thing I have ever had to do. As I waited for my crew to finish, I killed about eight cups of Zico coconut water which was being handed out. I also gave in to my serious hunger and bought a $7 veggie burger. Everything tastes amazing when you are near death. The way the course was designed, I was able to see Matt and John come down the mountain and complete the last 5 obstacles. It was a great setup for spectators to come and cheer their friends and family on. Amanda and John L. stuck together for the whole race. True Love.
Following my two previous races, I would become “hung over” immediately following the race. The effect would last for 2 days. I always thought I was hydrated properly, but a friend suggested increasing my glucose intake. I added ½ cup of oats to my Sunwarrior shake every morning. I increased my carbs during the week. I also ate a stack of pancakes the night before the race. I don’t know if that was the key, but after this race I didn’t experience any of the “hung over” symptoms. I felt fine (sort of).
After the race, I dealt with serious soreness and bizarre behavior. Anger, giggles, frustration, and sadness were just a few of the emotions I encountered over the next few hours and days. My wife wanted to kill me Sunday when we were trying to sleep. I started laughing about nothing. It seems everyone I raced with encountered the same feelings.
Matt was furious over nothing at the end of the race. He looked angry and was yelling at everyone. He normally doesn’t act like that. I took a few pictures of him and he wasn’t smiling at all. He was eating one of the bananas they give you at the finish line. The caption for the photos could have been “Hate Bananas? Try an Apple!” He calmed down on the ride home and didn’t want to talk about racing ever again. Amanda claims she cried twice and in between laughed like crazy. She’s a little nuts to begin with (jk). I guess our bodies were in shock from what they just endured and those were just some of the symptoms. If not, my family is just plain weird. If you would like to read about Amanda’s view of the race, you can check it out on her blog at: (http://runninginthedirectionofmydreams.blogspot.com/)
My cousin John told me he was trying to persuade people at work to sign up for a race. He seems very passionate about OCRs like me. He said that his coworkers just look at him like he’s insane. You have to try one to know the effect. John did two races with me this year and is heartbroken the season is almost done. He knows it will be a long winter.
I stick to my belief that anyone could complete this race. It all depends on your goals. If you are completely out of shape, you will have a tremendously hard time, but still can finish. I looked at the official times and some people took nine hours to finish. It’s all about setting goals and giving it your all. I commend anyone who finished this race, even finishing in nine hours. It was the most demanding thing I have ever done.
As I went to bed Saturday night, I questioned myself. Would I ever run that particular race again? Just then I received a sign. Physically and mentally fatigued, I received an email from Spartan Race containing a 40% off coupon code for next year’s TriState Super Spartan in September. I will be running the 9:30am heat with AZN Armour along with my angry brother Matt, addicted cousin John, and the love birds. My goal is a top 100 finish. Better start training!
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