Race Report: Spartan Race Hawaii 2015

 Race overview 

Race type: Super
Distance: 8-10 Miles (13-16km)
Obstacles:

  1. Creek run
  2. Rolling mud hills
  3. Barb crawl
  4. Cargo net climb
  5. 8-Foot (2.4m) wall
  6. Tire Pull*
  7. Tree Crawl
  8. Shepherds Ladder
  9. 7-Foot (2.1m) wall
  10. Reverse wall climb
  11. Bucket carry*
  12. Monkey bars
  13. Traverse walls
  14. Sandbag carry
  15. Atlas carry*
  16. Long barb crawl*
  17. Rope climb (~20ft / 6m)***
  18. Spear throw*
  19. Monkey bars
  20. Slip wall
  21. Fire jump
  22. Terrain*
  23. Weather

*Tough obstacles

Reflection

Race Course: 

The route was overwhelmingly scenic and beautiful! However, I was looking down most of the time trying not to twist my ankle on the trail which evolved from tarmac surface to soft sandy trails to wet creek beds littered with hidden rocks to slippery muddy slopes and sometimes even just grass! There were also many winding twists and turns and plenty of steep climbing both up and down. This is why I listed the terrain as an obstacle above.

Obstacles: 

I could clear most of the obstacles pretty easily however a few of them were tough.

1. 8-foot wall

The wall was easy to clear but it was muddy at the top and I slipped and fell the 2+ meters. Thankfully I landed ‘softly’ and could continue running.

2. Tire pull

I wanted to avoid waiting in line for people to finish so I ran to the end and picked the last tire to pull. I sat down. Grabbed the rope and pulled. Nothing happened. I pulled again. This time, I lost my footing and the tire ‘pulled’ me instead! Frustrated, I put my foot on the huge nail that anchored the rope and kicked. Thankfully it moved this time, although less than a meter. I continued kicking and finally ‘pulled’ it to me. It felt more like I was doing some horizontal squats. That tire must have weighed at least 100kg or 220lb! Next, I had to pull it back to its original position where the rope was taut. This too, was hard. Grabbing the tire between my legs, I had to use a lot of leg strength to move it. When I was done and continued running, my legs were not accustomed to using minimal force to propel my bodyweight. Every step I took felt like I had springs beneath my feet and I had to restrain myself for fear of rolling face first downhill.

3. Bucket carry 

There were empty buckets beside a pile of gravel. We had to fill these up ourselves and carry the buckets up and around a steep hill. I was overambitious and filled the bucket more than 3/4 full. It felt like a 30kg(66lb) weight plate. Then I started hobbling towards the hill. Halfway there, I lost my balance and dropped the pail. The gravel spilled everywhere! Looking around, I realized I was not the first to do that as the grass was littered with patches of gravel. Frantically, i tried to scoop them back in but this time only managed to fill the bucket a little more than half full. Moving on, I realized this weight was more manageable and counted my unfortunate ‘blessings’. Then we came upon the hill. Already I could see people sitting down resting on the upslope with their buckets beside them. Mentally, I challenged myself not to stop for rest and moved on. Climbing that hill alone would’ve been tough without the bucket. It was hard to see where to place my feet so I settled on carrying the bucket a little to the sides of my hips. It was so steep that I had to take at least a second between steps to find my footing. It was slow moving but when I finally got up and over, the satisfaction was unparalleled. It was only compounded when I dumped my gravel load off. What a weight off my chest!

4. Atlas carry 

Three quarters through the course, we had to pickup these huge concrete blocks that were oddly shaped. Almost as if someone had recently sledgehammered a wall and left the biggest pieces out on the ranch. I thought they were all the same size so I picked one random one and did a deadlift. Man, it was heavy! I think it could’ve weighed 50kg or 110lb. I could not lift it up to bear hug it close to my chest. Instead, I rested it on my thighs and hobbled the 10m. We had to do 5 burpees then carry it back.

5. Long barb crawl

This obstacle involved crawling under some wires (no barbs!). But some portions of the crawl were pretty low, about a foot or 0.4m high. I tried rolling sideways but got dizzy soon after. A fellow Spartan advised me not to so I started bear crawling but it felt more like lizard crawling with your arms out to the sides. To make matters worst, the ground beneath the wires was not smooth or sandy. There was mud and quite a number of sharp stones too.

6.Rope Climb 

I really love climbing ropes so I ran towards this obstacle feeling pretty confident.

I was so wrong.

The rope was at least 6m or 20ft high with a pool of ‘chocolate’ beneath it. Approaching the obstacle, I immediately realized the ropes would be wet from previous climbs.

Futhermore, my hands were also muddy. I tried wiping them off on my tights but found out my tights were wet too and that made my hands wetter… -.-||

Right before climbing, there was a small hill and the guy before me was just walking around it. Foolishly, I followed him and wadded into the waist high ‘chocolate pool’, trying to keep my hands out of the water. On hindsight, I should have ran up the hill and jumped to grab a rope! This would’ve kept me dry and reduced the height I needed to climb. The rope would be drier further up too!

So starting from below, I grabbed the slippery rope and tried climbing with my hands only. Bad idea. I slipped and fell. I tried again, this time using my feet to wrap around the rope like how the army had taught me. I managed to move up twice before slipping and cannonballing into the mud. My shoes did not have much grip or traction. Additionally, I did not even make it halfway up!

I decided to join the numerous Spartans doing their penalty of 30 burpees at the side to save time and energy for the rest of the race.

This was my first failure.

7. Spear throw

This was my first time throwing and it only counts if your spear stays stuck in the hay stack. Being an ametuer, I tried learning the ropes by watching how others were throwing as I ran up to the station. No one there was hitting the target with many not throwing hard enough so the spear started to dip below reaching the target. Mentally I told myself to throw upwards and throw hard. Grabbing a spear, I experimented with where to hold it and found that the center was most balanced. Then, looking at the top of the haystack, I threw. In my mind’s eye, I saw everything in slow motion. As it left my hand, I saw that it was flying nice and straight and I was feeling optimistic. However, just before reaching the target I realized it was still flying upwards and not dipping. It ended up flying over just past the top of the haystack!

Noooooooooo… *Sniff, 30 more burpees.

At the end, I still had a lot of energy left. After jumping over the flaming coals, with a mid-air pose for the camera, I sprinted through the line. I was greeted with a warm welcome. A volunteer hung the finisher medal around my neck, cut off my race tag and I proceeded to collect my finisher tee, coconut water and half a banana.

After that, I stopped in my tracks and closed my eyes. It was a rather emotional moment for me and I had to fight to hold the tears back, even now they well in my eyes as I recall that moment in time.

The past year has been a tremendous struggle. I suffered injury after injury to the point that I spent a total of 4 weeks rolling around at home on a computer chair because my feet hurt too badly to walk. So you can imagine how grateful I am to be pain-free and able to enjoy sports and to run the race of my dreams. I will never take my health or fitness for granted anymore and strive to help others lead pain-free, fulfilling lives.

Points for improvement:

1. Trail running

Four days after the race my ankle still hurts from all the pounding and twisting and shock of running through so many different surfaces. I now realize I need much more time on mountain trails for my feet to adapt and get stronger. Although this was the furthest distance I’ve run since coming back from injury, it was not a problem for me mostly because I think my muscles are strong enough from all the standing, walking, cycling and cross training I have been doing.

2. Lifting heavy loads

It is one thing to lift weights when you are fresh and another to lift heavy stuff repeatedly after running miles without rest and going through several obstacles as well. Furthermore, the course designer was kind enough to place the heavy lifting towards the end where most people may have depleted their glycogen stores. I need to train like this, depleting my energy stores before lifting heavy to simulate these races.

3. Skills training 

Some obstacles simply require practice to master. Particularly the walls, barb wire crawls, balance beams, rope climb and spear throws. I will need to find somewhere equipped with these or set up my own obstacles at home to train.

4. Timing

My time was 1:30:54. When cross referenced with other Spartans, I would have ranked 15th in the elite male category. Even then, I am still slower than a number of female Spartans. However, I feel that I could have cut a lot more time because of a few reasons.

Firstly, I started out at the back of the wave and incredulously, some people started walking a few minutes from the start! They became human roadblocks…

Secondly, there were a couple of congestions on the trail, mostly because some parts meandered through think vegetation and the steep downhill path was not very wide. Many people took their time going down these paths and the effect simply cascaded. I remember getting so fed up that I bashed through the side of the trail, creating my own path.

Thirdly, the 30 Burpees from failing an obstacle was very costly on time. On average I think I took about 3 mins to complete them because of fatigue. I look forward to the race where I do not fail a single obstacle.

Because of all these reasons, I think I will sign up for the elite category for the next race. I also want to see how the elites run and clear obstacles and ultimately measure myself up to them. I’m also sure their attitude and mindset would not be simply to complete the race, even at the expense of walking the entire thing which is, frankly, appalling.

With that, my first Spartan race has been a blast and I am extremely motivated to sign up for more OCR races in the future. AROO!

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ― Albert Einstein

P.s. I volunteered last Sunday after the race but till now have not received any email on how to claim the free race. Anyone know how this works? Would greatly appreciate your help!

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