Last Saturday, I went to spectate my first Spartan race. I didn’t race it – obstacle racing is not my thing – but my boys did and it was fascinating!! Like a whole new world.
First up, Spartan San Jose is nowhere near San Jose – it’s in the middle of the Central Valley in this crazy place called Diablo Grande. Basically you take the motorway out to Tracy, head south for a bit and then turn onto this road which winds its way through emerald green canyons for 20 minutes with NOTHING out there at all and you end up in this brand new golf-resort town miles from anywhere. It was bizarre. Parking took a long time and cost $10 but eventually we were parked up and walked the 15 minute walk to the race venue. Glad we allowed plenty of time for getting there!)
Spartan races are not cheap. I think the Husband paid about $150 for his 8 mile race. I don’t remember what we paid for the Dude’s race but I do know that because HE raced, I got in for free – otherwise spectators have to pay $20 which is pretty scandalous, AND spectators have to sign a waiver so I suspect the fee is for insurance purposes.
Having not been to an obstacle course type race before, there were immediate notable differences from what I’m used to. The bodies were SUPER different to running races. There were muscles everywhere, 6-packs everywhere, rippling quads everywhere! Many of the women wore a lot of make-up, most people had really made an effort to look good! Many people were clearly running in packs with matching outfits. Lots of people wore black, which appears to be ‘the Spartan look’. There were a lot of bare-chested gentlemen. It was notably more diverse than most of the running races I’ve been to, which was good to see. Best of all, many of the men were wearing VERY tight lycra shorts or even tights…I saw more willy outlines in one morning than I have in years 🙂 So basically Spartan is full of taut, muscly eye-candy! I also got much more of a ‘testosterone-y’ vibe than I do in running races.
The race ran throughout the whole day, starting in waves of about 100 people every 15 minutes. The Husband’s race started at 9.15 – even with an early start it got hot towards the end, I can’t imagine starting my race in the afternoon! To get into the starting corral, you have to climb over a 5-ft wall..basically I couldn’t even have made it to the start line. The Husband lined up with the one person he knew running this. He had done very little training so was basically out for some fun.
The announcer then briefed the Spartans and then asked them ‘Spartans, what is your profession?’ to which they all shouted ‘Aroo, aroo, aroo’. I have no idea what ‘aroo’ is and it makes no grammatical sense but I heard a lot of aroos throughout the morning. And before we knew it, they were off.
It’s not easy to spectate a Spartan race because its so spread out but Spartan did a decent job of enabling supporters to cheer on their people. The first obstacle is visible from the spectator area and then you can see your Spartan starting to climb the most enormous giant steep hill. Seriously, I’ve never seen a hill like it and according to the Husband it went on for miles – and they had to carry sandbags on their shoulders at the steepest part at the top.
Then at about mile 4, the racers loop back to the staging area and there are three obstacles we could watch. There was a giant wall that sloped away from the racers that they needed to climb over, then a massive A-frame with ropes and then finally a terrifying monkey bar set-up. Those monkey bars were super-high, wide apart and at different heights. We watched people doing it for ages, it was amazing, and we cheered the few that completed it! I was surprised at the lack of crowd support – people cheered on their own racers but the Dude and I cheered for anyone who completed the monkey bars, and we got some stranger looks! If anyone fails an obstacle they have to do 25 burpees before they can move on.
The Husband came through Mile 4 in over an hour and he looked exhausted!!! He managed the inverted wall and the A-frame but totally failed the monkey bars and had to do the burpees. We went over to cheer him on and he looked so exhausted and battered that I actually reminded him he could drop out now and come and get a sandwich. I wasn’t trying to discourage him, just remind him that he could legitimately stop this race if it was too awful and we’d still love him. But he shook his head and plodded away. I was actually quite concerned about him at this point.
We got food from the food trucks (limited veggie options, no surprise) and went to watch the final three obstacles which are also near the staging area. There’s a spear toss into a hay-man, a rope-wall and then finally a mud-bath – you slip down a mud chute into revoltingly muddy water and then you have to duck right under some wooden planks to the other side. It looked horrible!
We waited for the Husband for a long time and he didn’t come…and we had to leave and go to the Dude’s kid race. This looked like much more fun – a half-mile of trails to run with some super-cool obstacles. The Dude was desperate to race and he absolutely crushed it, flying along and have a blast. He particularly loved the mud pits, throwing himself into the muddy water. I collected him at the end and he was glowing and wanted to race the next event in half an hour – apparently you can do as many kid races as you want, which makes it much better value.
We found the Husband who had just finished – he was beaten to a pulp but smiling and rightfully proud of himself. He got to watch the Dude do his second race, over a mile, which he loved again! They both took advantage of the ‘shower’ area (hoses) to clean off the mud and put on clean clothes and then we crawled slowly back to the car to go home.
This race brought it home to both the Husband and I that our fitness is kind of limited. We have decent cardio fitness but we have no upper body strength and I’ve become aware recently that I have no core strength either. It’s hard to muster up the drive to fix those weaknesses but it’s definitely worthwhile to have better all-round fitness. Something for us to think about.
It was a fascinating morning for me, spectating the Spartan Race. This is not a world I’ve ever been in before – I came to the conclusion that Spartan is basically CrossFit at the Races! It’s an entirely alien world to me and not one that attracts me at all but I am full of genuine admiration for the ladies and gentlemen who did today’s race! I could not have done this race, not at all, so I take my cap off to you. You’re all crazy but you’re crazy impressive!