I am so excited to introduce my first guest blogger, Doug, a newbie who’s Spartan cherry (along with our two other eBay teammates, Kevin and Sourya) Richard and I had the honor of popping (sorry for the dirty phrase to those whose minds are clearly not in the gutter like mine). It was so much fun racing with first timers, as it brought back all the memories and feelings of our first Spartan… reliving the nervous excitement, the feeling of, “holy shit, what did we get ourselves into”, to “oh my god, I feel like I might vomit, or die, or both and not necessarily in that order” and finally to “I am now a mother effin Spartan, AROO!!”
Date: June 4, 2016 Location: Toro County Park, Monterey, Ca Distance: 8.5ish miles Obstacles: 27 Time:~ 4:33:45
For most young professionals, the early hours of this day are spent in bed nursing a hangover, with the eventual plan to (occasionally) shower and shovel overpriced brunch down their gullets. Follow that up with any non-strenuous activity you can think of – lounging in the sun at the park, attending the latest hip festival, or the ever-popular day drinking – and you have the perfect framework for what 90% of young professionals spend their weekends doing.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been there. I love laziness and gluttony just as much as the next person. But this Saturday was different. This Saturday, I ditched the mimosas and people watching for something far less comfortable. I pushed myself physically and mentally. I battled with my teammates against ludicrous hills and way too many obstacles. This Saturday, I became a Spartan.
It all started at 6 AM. After hours of tossing and turning – a homogeneous combination of excitement and dread refused to allow me a restful night – it was time to rise and shine. I called my teammates to ensure they were awake and still crazy enough to embark on this torturous trail. Sure enough, they were. We rendezvoused in San Jose, loaded up the car, and took off towards Monterey Bay.
After an hour plus of driving, inefficient parking instructions, and a quick shuttle bus ride, we had arrived at base camp. Immediately, we began the check-in process, gathering all of the necessary gear to complete this excursion. The “this is really going to happen” feeling began to sink in as Elite competitors (the ridiculously ripped guys and gals with abs that you could literally do your laundry on) started reaching the finish line. It was time to mentally prepare.
As the final logistics were coordinated, as well as some rudimentary stretching, we were ready to take on the behemoth formally known as the Monterey Super Spartan Race.
As the announcer/hype man began spewing words of inspiration and various other forms of hoop-la, I surveyed the crowd for expressions. Faces wore looks ranging from smiles and laser focus to dreadful and “I should have never signed up for this”. Our team’s attitude was somewhere in the middle, trending closer to the excited than miserable. But that would change, constantly. Morale would prove to be a dynamic quality over the course of the next four and a half hours.
Finally, the command was given and we were off. The first mile of the race served as a warm-up and primer for things to come. The path was littered with barriers that we hopped over, crawled under, or navigated through. So far so good. It wasn’t until the walls reached border-line ridiculous heights that our team was slowed down. But, thanks to the power of teamwork, they were all ultimately overcome.
Mile two was where s*** got real. Not going to lie, after mile one I thought to myself, “This is what people were talking about?! This is cake.” Well, that was all about to change. Shortly after hitting the one mile marker, we emerged from a wooded area to tackle three obstacles in a row. The first, a nightmare for anyone afraid of heights: a three-story climb with only a cargo net between you and a couple broken limbs. Don’t look down!
Next up, the uneven monkey bars. A real pain in the arse. Unfortunately, this is where our team saw our first inability to complete the obstacle and thus burpees were assessed. No time to dwell on the past though, as right afterward was the barbed wire crawl.
Usually, the barbed wire crawl is known to be long and muddy. Well, in case you haven’t heard, California has been in a drought for quite a long time. That means no mud, which sounds like a good thing. Let me tell you, it was not.
The crawl began smoothly. We all utilized the rolling technique to breeze through the initial portion. This lead to dizziness and a plethora of thorns being thrusted into every square inch of my body, but overall nothing compared to the remaining leg. The last part of the crawl transitioned from a flat, reasonable landscape, to an uphill dust ball. See, the drought conditions left the field on which we were
struggling crawling a dusty mess of dry grass and dirt. This meant, as other competitors in front of you advanced up the hill, you got a face full of dry earth in and around your face/mouth. Not fun or delicious.
After what seemed like a mile of traversing up the hill on my hands and knees, I had finally reached the top. Covered in dirt, grass, and thorns in addition to noticeably dripping sweat left me quite uncomfortable. But this is what I signed up for. It was sort of revitalizing to be such a mess; it made me feel like I was starting to get into the true Spartan spirit.
The next mile or so was a blur. My subconscious vaguely recalls cursing as my quads filled with lactic acid on some seriously steep hills.
Nevertheless, I remained focus, with one thing on my mind: climbing to the top of the rope.
During our intense (OK, it was just one 1.5 hour session at a climbing gym) training regimen, the biggest obstacle presented was the dreaded rope climb. You remember the rope from elementary school P.E.? Its baaaaaack. And I couldn’t hack it. Quite demoralizing.
This time however, I didn’t care how long or whatever unconventional method it took, I was getting to the top of that damn rope. So, when we emerged from the woods yet again, this time to find the confounded rope, I was ready.
Now, I could spend the next paragraph or two painting a beautiful picture of me overcoming adversity and failed attempts to ultimately reach my goal, all in elegant language, but I will spare you the balderdash.
The reality is that, thanks to poor form and a history of deadlifts, I was able to dart to the top of the rope fairly easily (fortunately). Unfortunate though, was my complete disregard for friction and gravity alike. Needless to say, coming down was not as euphoric as its counterpart.
Alas, the rope was not left without its share of casualties. Pauline was as close as I have ever seen someone get to ringing a cowbell without actually ringing the bell. The price to pay: all of the skin on her ring finger. A small price to pay for eternal glory.
The team marched on, eclipsing the halfway point of the adventure. At this point, shirts were no longer necessary. Hairy chests were exposed and things were going smoothly. That is, until the bucket brigade.
The obstacle: fill up a massive bucket with rocks and then carry it up AND down a steep ass hill. Fun, right? Why did I sign up for this again?
After some screaming and panting, the team was able to navigate its way through the torturous trek and finish the obstacle. Catching one’s breath was completely needed after this burner.
The next mile, while overall not too strenuous, packed its own punch so to speak. This punch came at the hands of an inverted wall that needed to be jumped over and it landed directly on my family jewels. Mind you this was not the first time I racked myself on this day, nor would it be the last. It was however, the only instance caught on camera and, thanks to Pauline, you get to find humor in my torment:
With a handful of standard obstacles sprinkled in and a ton of hiking, the next couple miles appeared to drag on. The finish line seemed so close, yet so far. We ascended up a giant hill and scaled right back down, eventually hitting mile marker 8.
We were close. We hit the home stretch. Only half a mile and a handful of the most extreme obstacles lay between our team and the honor of becoming a Spartan. On we went to the spear throw.
Naturally, our fearless leaders, Richard and Pauline, successfully completed their spear throws on their first attempt. On the contrary, the rookies’ efforts were not as fruitful and resulted in sufficient burpees all around.
Afterwards, picking up a massive boulder, carrying it, dropping it, lather, rinse, repeat was next up. I was especially fond of this because I challenged Richard to a race and won. Considering Richard bested me in every single other aspect of the Spartan Race as a whole, my
ego competitive side needed some sort of consolation prize.
One more quick hill and a few short strides brought us to the final five obstacles. The first of which was a much needed soak in a water-filled, mud trench. The kicker: the last portion of the trench required you to be completely submerged under the murky water. Quite refreshing.
Upon scaling the last mound of dirt, the next obstacle stared us right in the face. This time, it was the seemingly simple, yet quite deceivingly difficult upside down rope ladder climb. At this point, our soaked clothing and mud covered bodies made latching onto the metal ladder rungs a tricky task. Bloody achilles tendons aside, we all were able to power through, leaving just a handful of tasks between us and completion.
Next up was heaven for a rockclimber and hell for a man with wimpy forearms (me). The task: scale three walls laterally without touching the ground, while the only foot and hand holds are tiny cuts of 2×4’s that have been abused all day by Spartans. Oh and you’re still pretty wet, so it’s slippery too.
Needless to say I, and everyone else on the team save for Richard, was defeated by this obstacle. This concession did not come without protest though. Each any every team member struggled together, numerous times, to display the resiliency you’d expect out of any Spartan. Despite the A for effort, we joined forces for a round of burpees.
The final frontier for those afraid of heights was next. A thirty foot climb on a wooden ladder was nothing out of the ordinary at this stage in the day. But, a straightforward obstacle this late in the game surely does not exist. Of course, upon reaching the top of the platform, a 20 foot plank walk was the only way to cross safely. As someone afraid of heights, I felt cortisol flood my body. I refused to look down though, and next thing I knew, I was talking others through the fear. Another obstacle down.
At this point, we could physically see the finish line and Cliff Bars. So, so close.
The second to last impediment was pulling a 75 pound bag of sand 25 feet up using a rope and pulley. I witnessed people grinding though this task when we first entered, baffled at how hard they made it look. From a distance, this one looked like a breeze. All you had to do was pull. No problemo.
I was wrong. This bag was f***ing heavy. When I pulled, it did not want to move. As sweat dripped down into my eyes and I grunted ferociously, the bag slowly raised. It was almost as if the bag was mocking me, telling me how outrageous I was for attempting to finish this race. Well, suck it bag of sand, because I lifted you all the way to the top AND calmly lowered you back to the ground (to avoid disqualification, you couldn’t just drop the bag when it hit the top).
Last, but not least, was the ultimate test of grip strength. If your monkey bars from the elementary school playground were taken and adapted for Navy Seals, this is pretty much the love child they would produce. This obstacle was composed of three parts. First, a perpendicular monkey bar that you needed to shimmy across. Second, a set of five gymnastic rings spaced just far enough apart to make you hate them. And finally, a set of three ropes with a knot tied at the end.
So if you were able to do the painful gymnastic rings, you then got slapped in the face by these nearly impossible ropes. Yet again, Richard passed with flying colors while the remainder of the team struggled to advance.
There was no lack of determination or grit from this squad, yet our efforts proved to be too little, too late. We were banished back to the burpee zone for 30 final up-downs prior to our collective finish line cross.
We had done it! It only took 4.5 hours, but Team eBay BOS (Business, Operations & Strategy) completed the Monterey Super Spartan Race. Eight and a half miles and almost 30 obstacles. Those Cliff Bars and bananas were well deserved and especially tasty. Time to decompress.
After a couple of weeks of reflection on my first Spartan Race, I can confidently say that I will be participating in another one soon. The commitment of the race definitely held me accountable in my workouts and diet, while the event itself was both extremely enjoyable and satisfying. I felt that I was able to elevate myself on a personal level and also strengthen the relationship with my teammates. Those who suffer together, stay together…or something like that.
For anyone who is interested in pursuing an obstacle course race in the future, I wholeheartedly recommend it. That is however, with the caveat that you dedicate ample time to strength and endurance training. These races are no joke and we witnessed quite a few individuals who needed to call it quits early due to injury or exhaustion. Be prepared on race day, but more importantly, put the time in beforehand at the gym.
So, all things considered, I was pretty happy with the way my Saturday ended up going. Even though my Sunday was a little more sore, I would do it again in a heartbeat. I gotta admit, it feels pretty awesome to be a Spartan.
If you liked reading about Doug’s first Spartan adventure, head over to Be Opposite and read about his other interesting life endeavors and adventures.
Full photo album of our Monterey Race can be found here