Sacramento Super, Triple Crown Race

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The Sacramento Super is the first Spartan age group championship and part of what they call “The Triple Crown”. The crown is made up of the Spartan World Championship Beast in Vernont, the Super in either South Carolina or in Sacramento, and the team championship in Texas.

One of the things I love about racing in the states is meeting the larger than life “OCR celebrities”. The best part of today was definitely keeping up with them.

The race started fast and uphill into a couple sets of over-unders and over-under-throughs, as per usual. Also as per usual, I was trying my darnedest to keep up with the fast off the gun pace.

Over the next mile, I somehow caught up and found myself in the “Rose chase pack” with Chikorita and TyAnn Clarke. Both hugely talented pro OCR racers.

Just to give you an idea of how tough these ladies are, TyAnn once gave herself a staph infection trying to aggressively massage out rhabdo. She’s also got two young kids and balances a career as an elite athlete with being an awesome mother.

I “raced” Rose in Washington in August and lost her after the first big climb, so I was happy to see her bouncy little pony tail and picture perfect stride just ahead.

The first real obstacle was a water pool to an inverted wall, which was neat cause you lost some jump and needed more muscling up.

Next came the log hop, where I actually pulled ahead just by running across. I used to fall over looking at anything requiring balance, so I guess all that walking around on a pole stuff worked.

At this point, I pulled into second but couldn’t see Rose – or any of the back of the pack elite males. I was on my own for way finding. Never good. Never good.

Coming back through the festival area totally spun me and I ran right past the monkey bars. To make things worse, when I got back around I saw that they were the infamous thick-bar up/down set from Vermont… which I failed. Of course, failure is what makes success sweet – so I was extra stoked to make it this time.

Those bars added some challenge to the rope climb and extra slick traverse wall that followed, but no burpees!

And then I went off track. Again. John was yelling for me to go straight and I was looking up at the hill ahead of me, instead of his straight… my right. Sigh.

The next obstacle was these huge tree trunks that you had to leap from to grab a higher one. I failed it without much glamour. Just slid off and resigned to the burpee mass.

I managed to catch up to the mighty TyAnn some time around the 7′ wall. I used to struggle a bit with the timing to jump and catch… but all that home practice sure paid off.

Then came the cords-tied-to-trees-like-those-lasers-in-Mission-Impossible-obstacle. Not challenging, just weird.

The spear throw was on a string again. I’m thinking they started doing this to prevent volunteers from having to run to retrieve the spears (which indeed seems a wee bit risky) and to give all competitors the opportunity for a clean shot into an empty bale. I noticed TyAnn throw the rope over the barricade so it wouldn’t wrap around anywhere. I did that too, and my rope didn’t tangle… but, it also didn’t go in. This is where I said figuratively said goodbye to Ty and did my 30 burpees.

I like to roll through mud pits – and this one was a roller. A long downhill pit, unimpeded by bumps or straw bales. I’m pretty sure those devils at Spartan planned it that way to laugh at us as we drunkinly try to run after rolling for several minutes. The mucky, lumpy transition into the water obstacle was challenging. I know from salsa dancing that you should “mark” where you’re going and turn your head to keep your eyes focused on the end when you spin. I also find blinking and bouncing on your heels to help regain your sense of up. It helped but boy was I dizzy. Someday they’ll plan a spear throw out of one of those. Or maybe their insurance won’t allow it.

The water obstacle was shallow for wading on the left and deep for swimming on the right. I chose to wade but swimming would probably have been faster… the muck at the bottom must have been a foot deep.

Then came an 8′ wall, pancake sandbag carry, tire flip, tractor pull, and bucket brigade. All relatively tame after the beasts in Vermont and Sun Peaks.

After the big cargo net, came a tractor tire drag uphill. I couldn’t budge the thing even using the peg that held the rope for leverage. Burpees that close to the finish line are the worst type.

The herc hoist was also especially heavy. I was also a bit rattled because I ran up to a rope wrapped with pink tape (which usually means it’s a woman’s rope) but was shuttled around the backend to a “red bag”. The volunteer at the station was awesome though. He pointed out which one to grab and then cheered me through it.

The last obstacles were a dunk wall to a very slippery slippery-wall. I usually just grab the top but I threw a leg over just to be sure today. Watching for John coming in later, I saw countless hyped up dudes try to sprint it and fall right on their faces to an accompanying “eeeeee” of them sliding back down the wall. Ouch on so many accounts.

Man, is it just me or does the fire jump just keeping getting bigger? Pretty soon they’re going to light picnic tables on fire 😉

I feel like there is room for improvement in today’s performance for sure (read as: spear throw and make more muscles) but I can also see the progress. Which is a good feeling. It’s special mix of progress and room for improvement that make hope.

Plus, with the age group championship even though I missed the elite podium, I still won my age group!

That being said, probably only half the people stayed to collect their prizes, which probably means the age group awards could have been better communicated.

Winning isn’t everything, even in Sparta

 

Joe Desena designed and built the Spartan Race as a mirror for challenges in life. Something like, we’ve gotten so used to being comfortable that any type of discomfort seems magnified. His thinking is that with enough exposure to discomfort, little things will be put back into their rightful place and become, well… little.

On Mother’s Day I somehow rolled my ankle running down a steep trail. I didn’t notice it at the time, but the next day while running hill reps, it didn’t feel right. But of course, I kept running on it. The next day, I couldn’t walk… or the next… or the next. In fact, I had to walk backwards down the stairs in our house for a few weeks.

I missed a marathon that I signed up for in May but was optimistic about my chances to heal before the Spartan Sprint in North Vancouver.

Not so. I jog very gingerly at Crossfit the two days ago – not 400m – and as I was being passed by a man built like a truck, I knew I had to throw the run towel in.

I was still kind of hoping through some awesome miracle of Sparta it would pop back into place or whatever at the start line. This is not entirely misplaced. I once hobbled to the start of an 8k only to blast off instinctively to the gun and somehow pop my sacrum back into place with too big a stride, finishing strong and injury free.

I “ran” about 25m in this case and settled into my peg leg hobble. Darn.

Being toward the back of the pack at the first obstacle wasn’t so bad, but… like in my old cross country days, get caught in the back at a hill and – you soon realize how having a strong run off the gate sets you up for a good race in OCR.

I was lucky to have my brother out there with me. He took the year off running and is not in top form so we ended up leap frogging a bit.

I did more burpees than I would have liked today. Not surprisingly at the wall… all elites had to take the side without the board and I couldn’t run up to it. The one legged hopping just wasn’t doing it. I also fell off the balance beam and missed the spear throw. I was surprised by my fall off the balance beam despite my wonky ankle but would have been more surprised had I actually made the spear throw. I never seem to get it on the first try even in training.

The rope climb at the end was hard. The knots really get me when the weather is cold and my grip fails. I kept trying to get around that top knot and kept slipping back down. I’m not quite in the shape I have been… but even last year I remember having used some not so ladylike language when I hit this one. Thank goodness the crowd rallied for me. I wanted to hug each and everyone of them after… but that would be weird… and I was REALLY muddy.

The crowd also loved my one leg fire hop (even though it was strategic for not all the way snapping my ankle tendons) – I might just keep it as a signature.

My goal for the day was to finish in one piece physically and mentally. I’m not going to lie, I do not like losing. I know, serious character flaw – but let’s face it – that’s what makes racers racers. We like to win and we hate to lose. Otherwise, we just wouldn’t push ourselves so hard we wanted to fall down, puke or die.

On the way up to the mountain my three-year-old asked if I was going to win. I told her that I probably wouldn’t but I would try my best to get to the finish line.

That really kept me going out there. Like my run was going to be some glorious lesson in taking life in stride… trying your best… being a good loser.

When I came in though she had only three questions for me. Did my leg hurt? Did I get my watch muddy? And, did I crawl in the mud?

She didn’t care if I won or lost. My four-month-old still cooed and made googley eyes at me while I pealed the mucky compression gear off. My three-year-old wanted pancakes. My husband said, “good job” – and I think he even meant it.

So there it was, my kids and husband teaching me a lesson yet again. It doesn’t matter. We’re all just lucky to be out there: crawling through the mud and getting our watches dirty – even if our leg hurts.

Whether intentional or not, Spartan Racing really does teach you how to be a better and happier person. You can’t change how high the wall is or if the weather cooperates, you have no control over your injuries come race day after you’ve done everything possible to heal them. You do your best anyways and you be grateful for the ability to confront yet another challenge.

Still, I’m looking forward to racing hard on two legs.