Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Spartan Hobble - Pain for the Whole Family

Here are things I do not like:

1. Running
2. Signing waivers that inform me that by signing the contact, I am "giving up substantial legal rights".
3. Signing waivers that also inform me that I may get "diseases from exposure to fecal contaminated water or slurry", "permanent paralysis", or "death".
4. Signing waivers that contain the phrase "drowning and other injuries are common occurrences in the event".

Here are things that will make me run:
1. Being chased by a maniac with a chainsaw.
2. Being chased by a maniac without a chainsaw.

Here are things that will make me sign that stupid waiver:
1. My daughter

Many years ago, I ran in a race called the Warrior Dash with many of my friends.
Since I did not actually die in that event, I supposed that I would never be forced to run again unless I met with one-or both-of the two conditions for running that I listed above.

I was wrong.

It appears that when I ran that race, many years ago, my daughter, Tori expressed interest in doing it someday. I smiled and patted her head and said something fatherly like, "That's nice, honey."

Naturally, she assumed that I meant, "Wow! I'd love to subject myself to that same torture over again in the future. Let's do that!"

I did not mean that at all.

I meant, "That's nice, honey."

And from that small communication breakdown, I find myself at the starting line of the Spartan Race, an event that mentions "fecal contaminated slurry" in its waiver that you must sign.

Don't believe me? Go ahead. Read it.
Tori, Alex, me. Yeah. Tights. Shut up. All the cool kids were wearing them.

The Spartan Race was held at Killington Mountain in Vermont. The word, "kill" is right in the name. Does nobody else see this as a problem?

This race was described on the website as a serious 3-5 mile course (they couldn't be more specific) with 22-30 obstacles (again, specificity is obviously not their strong suit unless they are writing contracts detailing the way you can, and likely will, die during the event. Then, they are unnervingly specific.)

Pictures on the website showed people strenuously exerting themselves and, somehow, actually appearing to enjoy themselves. The pictures showed towering pillars of fire, miles of barbed wire, ropes to climb, water to traverse, and everybody in the pictures looked exactly how nobody actually looks when exercising strenuously.

Here are some screenshots from the Spartan website:

See that smile? Those things smelled like old gym socks left in a dank basement. Nobody smiles with 40 pounds of stink on his back.

This is how people finish the race on the website.
Kerri took pictures of some people trying that at the actual race.

It didn't generally end well.

Nevertheless, my daughter wanted to do this and I am a good dad so I signed her life away on a bunch of waivers. For added fun, I signed my son, Alex's and my own away as well. Kerri had to sign her own life away, as she is an adult.

Yes, spectators had to sign waivers just to spectate.

We picked up our race packets and were greeted with another friendly reminder about just how much fun we should expect to have.

They whack you for $40 if you don't return the timing chip in the bag. Unless, you know, you're dead. Then they charge your heirs.

They helpfully suggested that we arrive about 90 minutes before our scheduled race time. Check-in took about 3 minutes, so with 87 minutes to kill, we busied ourselves freezing to death.

Tori and I also got our numbers written on our arms. Why? Because it was a distraction from the hypothermia. Plus, the girl writing the numbers had amazingly neat handwriting. I asked her to write the preamble to the Constitution on my arm. She refused.

Just as our extremities began to freeze solid, it was time to begin! The first obstacle is actually to enter the starting pen.

Tori hopped over with ease.

As did Alex.

I used the lady in front of me for traction and was able to hop right over.

We were then treated to another opportunity to wait around and have warnings and waivers read to us again!

Rather than listen to "important race safety information" delivered by a man with no pants on, we opted to pose for pictures.

 And then the race began!

We rocketed from the starting line at speeds approaching 0.0003 miles per hour.

After this point, Kerri, being the only sane member of our family, wandered around the spectator area with the camera so there is no photographic evidence of anything. You'll just have to trust me on this.

We began a slow, uphill plod up the steep face of Kill-em-all Mountain. It was sort of like being stuck in rush hour traffic, but with more sweating and wheezing and panting.

We hopped over some logs, climbed up some walls, and came to the "Memory Test" where you had to find a word/number combination based on the last few digits of your race number. You had to remember the number to avoid the dreaded "Burpees" which are an exercise maneuver doled out as punishment for failure to complete any of the obstacles.

The name "burpee" is so stupid, all I could do was laugh every time someone suggested that I do one. Or thirty.

I memorized my word/numbers (Bravo 7489689, in case you're wondering).

I chanted it to myself throughout the rest of the race, repeating it like a mantra, incorporating it into the pacing of my wheezing and panting.

Bravo 7489689


Bravo 7489689


It must be one heck of a memory test because they haven't asked for it yet. There was no check point where we were required to recite it.

I expect that some day in the far distant future, I'll receive a telephone call in the middle of the night. "This is Duane - the guy with no pants on from the Spartan Race. WHAT WAS YOUR NUMBER?" And I'll be able to tell him, by gosh. I may not remember my own name at that point, but I'll know that number.

We continued ever upward into the thinning air. Climbing hills is not Tori's strong suit so she slowed quite a bit and Alex took off without us. Tori and I wound our way up the mountain, eavesdropping on conversations like this.

"Oh god, I hate you, Kim. Why did you make me do this?"
"I'm a 38 year old, overweight alcoholic. What could possibly go wrong?"
"Gasp... Wheeze... Retch..."

Probably as a result of the many years I have spent hiking up mountains with my hiking associate, Julie, climbing the big mountain was not an unpleasant experience for me. I just had to be careful not to step on the many, many people curled up in the fetal position along the trail.

Eventually, we arrived at the summit and were handed 40 pound sandbags called "pancakes". It was then politely requested of us that we carry them down a steep, rocky trail and then bring them back up to where we had been given them. I suggested that it may be much simpler if we merely left them where they were, but that idea was dismissed quickly. The main problem with the "pancakes" was not the 40 pounds resting on your neck or shoulder as you trudge along. It was the fact that I was likely the 10,000th person to have used that pancake and the fabric it was made from had absorbed a staggering amount of other people's sweat.

The stench was really something to experience.

The rest of the race consisted of running along trails, picking things up, putting things down, climbing over things, climbing under things, and falling in the slippery mud.

As we made our way downward toward the finish line, our paths crossed those of people doing "The Beast" or "The Ultra Beast" The race were were subjecting ourselves to was called "The Sprint". It is a leisurely 5 mile jaunt for pikers, newbs, and couch potatoes. The Ultra Beast is a 26+ mile endurance test for people who like to sweat at competitive levels. We overheard several conversations between Beast runners as they passed us. They were all having exactly the same fascinating and witty conversation:

"Salt pills."
"Carb blasting."
"Liquid Amino Acids!"
"Good talk, bro. Good talk."
"Yeah, bro. Good talk. Stay strong."

Eventually, we made it to the dreaded tunnel of barbed wire where you are supposed to crawl under about 100 yards of low strung barbed wire.

Many people opted to roll the entire distance and it was entertaining to listen to them start to moan after a few yards. "Uurrrrrgh... soo... dizzy..."

Turns out that Gatorade and liquid amino acids make for festive, brightly colored vomit, puddles of which add another dimension of excitement to the barbed wire obstacle.

After the tunnel, we were on the home stretch and had only to throw a spear and jump over a towering wall of fire.

Alex threw a spear and Kerri got a great picture of it.
Tori threw a spear and Kerri got a great picture of it.
I threw a spear and Kerri got a great picture of some other guy who stepped in front of me.

Then came the fire. The towering wall of fire designed to test each runner to his physical and mental limit.

This is a screenshot of the fire, as shown on the Spartan website.
Somehow, Tori and I managed to hurdle the six inch lump of smouldering cordwood.
Tori crossed the finish line with wonderful form.
I crossed the finish line running a bit funny because of the stupid tights.
The final obstacle was to wait in line to get your picture taken and to try to eat a free energy bar without gagging.
I did it! I ate the disgusting energy bar!
The dude behind me got some excellent bunny ears on me. Well done, guy. Tori still obviously has the taste of energy bar in her mouth. I wiped my tongue on the back of some guy's shirt. Tasted better than the bar.

And with that, our day drew to an end. We limped back to the car, reeking of other people's sweat and made our way homeward.

Just before she drifted off to sleep, Tori asked, "When is registration for the next one?"

Both kids were asleep in less time than it took to eat a free energy bar.
Maybe I'll get a discount on the registration fee if I use the promotional code: Bravo 7489689.

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