Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I AM (mini)SPARTAN!!

Well folks, it has been quite a while. I’m certain that you have suffered in my absence but I assure you that my time away from the blog-o-net was well spent. I cleaned my apartment. I got a haircut. I even went so far as to organize my collection of bike movies. They are now arranged autobiographically of course. And the pants I’m wearing right now….yeah…they’re new. Bam! How’s that for excitement? Can you contain yourself? I can. Mostly because of the pants.

My mountain bike race schedule for this year has taken a slightly less than busy turn. With just four races marked on my calendar I had a little room for extraneous competitive outdoor activity. This new found flexibility and lack of direction has left me with far too much freedom and far too little self-control. I like racing. Let’s be really honest here, I just like competing. I’ll compete at anything; cycling, gum chewing, board games, traffic, drinking(except milk) or anything else with measurable comparisons to the performance of other people. The event and the outcome are inconsequential. I just want to go head to head with other people at something. Anything. And this is why I entered the Spartan Race. Those unfamiliar with this event can roll on over to It’s ok to be frightened by what you see there. You should be.

This event was the most fun I have ever had in a pair of running shoes. Running is pretty stupid on its own but with the Spartan Race you get to wear costumes. I entered as a three person team alongside the Little Italian and the female half of my favorite Michiganian couple. By entering as part of a three person team I had the distinct advantage of being able to throw mud at other people in the spirit of team building. Had I thrown mud at random competitors rather than my teammates I’m certain those people would have punched me in the face and you know how much I dislike that.

The race began with a light run off the island at USNWC and over to the first obstacle. This involved nothing more than rolling on dry ground under a net and then jumping a four foot wall. Not very Spartan –like in my book. I was a bit disappointed and told the Little Italian that this was going to be too easy. Then we hit the first mud pit. From that point forward my day was much more damp, sticky, fragrant and bad-ass. The mud was thick and deep. No, really deep. I sank up to my chest and proceeded to wade toward the rope climb at the end of the pit. I made it to the rope climb only to find the rope too slippery to ascend. I made it about 3/4 of the way up and promptly slipped off and fell back into the mud. This time deeper. How deep? Deep enough to know that the mud didn't taste very good. My failure to top out on the rope resulted in the forced completion of 30 burpees. I hate burpees.

The next few obstacles included a long slog through the Catawba river followed by a series of increasingly taller of walls to scale. So far so good. After another light run through the woods we hit my favorite part of the course. I spent 100m on my stomach slithering under barbed wire like a marine. A very tiny yet conveniently slippery marine. I found that with a good push I could slide for a significant distance. Never mind the sticks, rocks and other assorted debris in my way. I would have gone through twice if they let me. And if I had been wearing a cup.

So here is where the day becomes a bit of a blur. The walls got bigger and the obstacles more diverse. I used a chain to drag a cement block, crossed a river on a cargo net, ran up a hill with a sand bag on my shoulder, threw a spear at a straw target and even jumped over a fire. I was successful in clearing most of the obstacles but not all. Each time I failed at an obstacle I had to complete another 30 burpees. 120 total for the day. Stupid burpees. The walls were the one challenge I refused to fail on however. As they got taller they became much more difficult. Once we hit the ten foot walls I knew I was in trouble. There were steps to assist the women but we men were left to fling ourselves over without assistance. I made it over every one through a combination of stubbornness and what I suppose could be called ingenuity. Sadly, I cleared the tallest of the walls by using my man bits for leverage. Bad plan. I walked it off but can't say I was too happy about having nearly castrated myself in the name of sport. That one navigational error directly led to an afternoon spent watching Golden Girls reruns in an effort to avoid any inadvertent.........well, you know. If you don't know, I have a book you can borrow. It contains pictures. They are pretty confusing.

The race came to an end with a body cleaning swim followed by crossing the finish line hand in hand with my teammates. T-shirts, medals and free beer all around. Great success! I came out of the event without much in the way of photographs but given the volume of mud that covered my entire body I doubt a camera would have survived. I'll leave you with one shot taken at the finish line that seems to get the point across quite nicely. This is me wearing my finisher’s medal, soaking wet, smiling ear to ear. I'll be back at this event in 2013 and all who attend will fear the mudhawk.