Another double header weekend was happening in Seattle, and unlike the Beast & Super weekend in Seattle from 2016 that I was at, I did not volunteer on Saturday, the day before my race. I went down to visit a friend in Seattle and raced on Sunday. As much as I love volunteering, what I learned from last time was that 12 hours of work followed by an intense race was going to tucker me out.
I took the Amtrak Cascades train very early Saturday morning from Vancouver, BC to Seattle and had a very calm day visiting with a couple of friends. I had managed to convince one of my friends from Vancouver to do the race with me (as in, do the same race as me – we did not race “together”), so we drove up together on Sunday morning.
I was so excited to return to the Meadow Wood Equestrian Center, only because it happened to be the same venue that my first Spartan Race was at. I was curious which obstacles were going to be the same, and how the layout of the course would change. I was excited that the loop went the opposite direction as the event in October 2016 – rather than beginning with a hill climb, we “warmed up” on the flat, and shambled our way up the hill closer to the end of the race. It was also neat that the announcer guy who gets everyone pumped up at the start line recognized me from the race I did in October (I was at the front of the pack). Given that there are 250 people in waves every 15 minutes from 7:45am until 1:00pm, I was amazed that he recognized me. Part of the OCR community familiarity that I love so much and keeps me coming back for more!
What was surprising this time as well, was that even though it was warmer, it was WAY muddier. And the organizers were nice enough to include an obstacle called The Dunk Wall. Yup. You MUST dunk your head under a wall, which means you have to stick your face in the horse poop contaminated mud. The dunk itself only lasted a split second, but opening my eyes was met with sheer terror because now I couldn’t see and when I tried to wipe my eyes clean, all other parts of me were also covered in mud. I called out for help and one of the nice volunteers yelled toward me “hey, you can use my sleeve! It’s dry!” I love you, Spartan Volunteers!
I definitely had really bad muscle cramps in my calves when hoisting myself out of the mud trenches just before the Dunk Wall. Now I understood why people wore hydration vests during races, not just to keep hydrated but also to pack some electrolyte pills! I cried only once during this race, and it was when I was trying to scale the Slip Wall. When the wall is dry, it’s a relatively simple obstacle for me to complete. This time around though, the wall was situated exactly following the Dunk Wall. Which means that it was completely covered in mud. I climbed up it and slid down 5 times, at precisely the exact same place – trying to grab the top knot of the rope to try and pull myself over to the other side. Those awful calf cramps I said I was having would happen at the bottom of the Slip Wall, too. This was one of those moments where I questioned my sanity and was not sure I could keep going. I was not willing to give up though, and on my sixth attempt, I finally made it over!
Another strategy that I employed this time around compared to my first time, is that I started bargaining with other solo racers in the burpee pits. “Hey there, how many more burpees do you have left?” I would ask. “22.” “Okay, so then I’ll split your burpees! You do 11 and I’ll do 11, and then we’re done!” Not only did this help make someone else’s race a little bit easier, but it was a great way to make friends and spread the love of obstacle course racing. These moments on course with strangers and camaraderie is part of what keeps me hooked!
I much enjoyed the layout of these obstacles better than I did the first time, as well. Perhaps that is simply because I was only a tad more experienced, given that it was my third ever obstacle course race, second ever Spartan race. That being said, I felt that the insane amounts of mud definitely made this race a lot harder than my first race! I made sure to smile for the camera as always, especially when I was doing an obstacle that required pure strength (e.g. sandbag carry, Herc hoist) more than technical/climbing ability (e.g. monkey bars, Olympus).
This time around I was much better trained and more mentally prepared for what I was getting myself into, but I was digging mud out of my ears for days after! Even more amazing was that I was fully prepared for my friend to hate me when she finished, but she also fell in love with the obstacle course racing community. “That was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life!” she exclaimed after she finished. “But everyone on course was so nice and offered to help me and cheered me on for everything!” YES. She could understand my new addiction, and she left feeling the same sense of accomplishment that I did. That we can always do more than we think we can and it requires a lot of emotional and mental strength to keep going hours into a race.