SPARTAAA!

“Even if you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward.” – Victor Kiam


My favorite reaction when I tell people about this race: “…and you do this for fun?” Almost anyone can do this if they want to. I saw racers of all ages and ability levels.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I should start off by saying that I did not train for this race as hard as I intended to. Summer came, I had places to go to, people to see, things to do, and I got lazy part way through. It happens. They email you a WOD (Workout of the Day) and I didn’t follow a single one. I failed at this goal: Run 1 mile 2x/week, increase to 3 miles 2x/week by July 2012. The longest distance I ran jogged was 2.4 miles and that was in early July :p Turns out, the race suited my style and ability – jog at a really slow pace with short bursts of energy every now and then. Some obstacles had lines and some parts of the trail were so muddy and steep that you had to slow down or risk slipping and seriously injuring yourself (meaning: there were plenty of breaks).

This was the Spartan Sprint (3+ miles / 15+ obstacles), so the distance wasn’t bad for someone who dislikes running.

Other Spartan Races:

(FYI future racers/spectators: The race was held at Amesbury Sports Park, but you have to park at 319 New Zealand Road, Seabrook, NH and take a shuttle. My GPS told me to take a right turn immediately after I got off the highway. We ended up at some random place and there was a sign the said “Go back to main road, turn right.” So, after you get off the highway, keep going straight for about 1.3 miles and the lot is on your left.)

Once we got there, I got more excited and nervous about the race. You could see smoke on the top of the hill (part of the course), racers going up and down the hill, music was blasting, muddy people were walking around, there were food, water, and merchandise tents, training areas, a guy was dressed up like a Spartan (minus the wellies). I lined up with my 2pm heat and waited for the signal. There was a racer who had a prosthetic arm. The day before, a double-below-knee amputee completed the race. True grit!
Before


Some of the obstacles:

Over-under-through, wall climbs (which got increasingly higher, up to 8 feet), tread through waist-high mud (an ATV got stuck here), Herculean hoist (like a lat-pull, 40 lbs for women & kids / 60 lbs for men), monkey bars, hop across stumps, traversal wall (like bouldering), object carry (carry weight up and down hill), vertical rope climb, spear throw, drag chained cement block, flip over a tire 4 times, barbed wire crawl through mud, fire jump (it was only like 1 foot high), slippery wall (45 degree incline, rope available for assistance), run past gladiator guys who whack you with giant pugil sticks.



Traversal Wall

How tough was it? Since you aren’t required to complete the obstacles (penalty: 30 burpees for each missed obstacle), the race wasn’t hard to complete. I figure it’s probably what YMAA campers eat for breakfast. But, if you wanted to do every obstacle AND shoot for a fast time, it’s a good challenge. I think the fastest time is around 30 minutes and you’d race in the competitive heats in the morning. It took me 1 hour 36 minutes 38 seconds, but I took my time at some parts. The obstacles I couldn’t do were: monkey bars, stump hopping (probably 6 inches in diameter at most, slanted at angles, and pretty far apart from each other), and spear throw (you get 1 shot and it has to stick in the target). The jog was okay, you just have to be really careful on the steep and muddy parts because you can definitely tear something if you slip. My ankle was still sprained when I ran, but I think some trail running is okay because you get to (lightly) stretch your ligaments at different angles.

It was apparently a hot and humid day, but it didn’t feel like it since a lot of the trails were in the woods and the muddy water pits cooled me off. (I lingered longer then I needed to :p) Retreat Center mountain running came in handy! It wasn’t a breeze, but this hill was a speed bump compared to the mountain.

I sprinted up this hill (okay, my sprint was the speed of a jog)

A lot of people struggled with the barbed wire crawl, but I enjoyed it the most. I am small, so all I needed to do was the log roll. It goes from a flat plain to a slight incline, and I started doing pantherwalk to maneuver around other racers, but I couldn’t have finished that way. I ended up rolling uphill. Downsides to this obstacle: minor cuts from rocks on the ground and you get MUDDY. Next year, I will definitely wear Spandex because I felt like my shorts were going to fall off.

That’s right son, Imma pass you!
I debated whether or not to try Kong Shou Dui Gun (空手對棍) on them and hit back 
After
Turkey legs yum!


After the race, we got a medal, t-shirt, banana, and 1 free beer. We spent a while hosing the mud off as it gets in your shoes, underneath your clothes, and in every crevice.

About 20 minutes after we finished, it started POURING. For the last heat, the announcer said, “You guys might actually die on out there.” :p Then the rain cleared and it was time to EAT.

I’ve been lazy about training, but after watching the Olympics, passing Kun Wu Gun (崑吾棍), and running the Spartan Sprint, my energy has been renewed. I’m going to need it.


Last year, I was limping around recovering from surgery. Now, I can say I ran the Spartan Race! AROO!

10 thoughts on “SPARTAAA!

  1. Good job, as a martial artist who's also in the military, I can completely agree with you about hating distance running! It feels completely counter to forms and flexibility. One thing I've been doing that you might like is doing shuttle sprints intermixed with forms (usually weapons). Usually I'll do a weapons form or set of exercises, then sprint for a lap around the soccer field. Then another form or set of exercises, repeating for maybe 8-10 laps (so about 2 miles total). Gives me a way to get my cardio up for running, yet still improve on MA. Just an idea, good luck…

  2. Yes, I agree that straight up distance running trains cardio differently from sequences and sparring. Those require endurance for explosive power and speed so I'm experimenting with jogging shorter distances with weights to build that strength and power. Shuttle sprints are a good idea, I live close to a soccer field so this is doable. Thanks for the tip :) Do you have any military drills that complement MA training?

  3. A lot of guys I know are into doing Crossfit, which is basically circuit training. Their website has some good workouts (much better for MA than traditional weight training). I've been taking some of their workouts and adding some MA sets. Something like push-ups, burpees, sit-ups, then a short sequence from a form that I'm trying to work on. Another might be instead of burpees doing a set of jump kicks. A simple one I do a lot is sets of push-ups with sword cutting or staff spinning, say 15-20 push-ups, then 20 cuts or spins (right & left), and repeat for 5-10 sets or so. Out of curiosity, I noticed you said in your bio you've begun doing more Tai Chi to compliment your external training? I'm curious how you mix that in with your external training? Do you completely separate the external and internal training or ever do them together? I started doing yang style a few years ago to complement my external training as well and have been trying to figure out how to balance the two. I've been mixing some of the two, say hard style workout for 15-20 minutes, then soft style training while I catch my breath, and repeating, but I've heard that's not always a good way to train. Just curious how others do it. Thanks -Chris

  4. Hi Chris,Great question, thank you! I just posted my answer in a new entry, and I hope I answered your question, but someone could definitely write a book on this topic.I can't say whether or not alternating between hard and soft styles in 15-20 min intervals is beneficial or not, maybe it depends on a student’s fitness and skill levels. I asked Jon, and he said that should be fine for a workout, but not enough time to understand the theories, which I presume you spend time on separately.Just curious, what hard style(s) do you do? For taijiquan, do you have a partner to work on sticking/coiling, centering, pushing hands, etc…? Do you apply jing in your sequences?

  5. Thanks, I posted a couple of more questions on the other post :) I do spend time separately on taijiquan. Usually I separate my soft style training between forms and push-hands and do have a partner I work out with for the partner drills. Usually we'll spend about an hour doing various types of push-hands, usually beginning with the pre-set drills (similar but slightly different than Dr. Yang's), then onto free-style push hands, and then onto push hands with applications (chin-na and throws/wrestling). Sometimes we do fully competitive style, sometimes half-speed with one taking the offensive role and the other the defensive roll. We change up though and have lately been trying to experiment with it. I'd like to get some more formal training on "sticking/coiling, centering, etc" and especially on applying jing. That's one of the weaknesses I'd like to work on. How are you applying jing in your sequences? In regards to my hard style training, most of all my training has actually been in a Korean style called Kuk Sool Won. We call it a hard-soft style, but from what I've seen of Chinese styles it's closer to Chinese hard styles. I've done a little bit of southern Shaolin, but only a bit. When I started doing taijiquan a few years back I started reading some of Dr Yang's books to supplement my practice and have been really impressed with YMAA and what ya'll do. -Chris

  6. I won't respond to the questions on the other post b/c I'm not at that level yet :) I'm also no where near applying jing to my sequences. Hopefully you get a sense of how they train at the RC from Jon's reply, and maybe it will give you new ideas. Although, it sounds like you already have a pretty well rounded training regimen. If you ever get the chance, take one of Dr. Yang's seminars (international or at the RC). This isn't a plug, but books and DVDs can only show you so much and it's also nice to meet other passionate martial artists from outside of YMAA and share ideas. Good luck in your training.

  7. ha, no worries, sorry for the million-and-one questions. It sounds like we're in somewhat similar places in our training. I would very much like to visit the RC to train or go to one of the seminars. The fact that YMAA allows other stylists to come is very impressive to me. It seems like a lot of styles (including my own sadly) aren't always open to training with others. Shows the quality of Dr Yang. I had actually hoped to a few years ago, but instead got sent to Iraq, haha… definitely wasn't as fun as coming out to the RC would have been :) hopefully in the near future…

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