2018 Race Recap #22: Boston Spartan Sprint (Open)

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Team Mo, rocking the bling at the finish.

Early this week, my daughter texted me and told me that her plans for today had changed and was wondering if there was a race we could do. As it turns out, there was.  Of course, I was already registered for the Sprint and was kind of hoping to rip it up, but I would run with her.  And then it occurred to me that I didn’t have to make a choice.  Since my debacle with the second Beast a couple of weeks back, I really can’t see my way through to getting another one on the calendar (who knows), so my hope of earning a double trifecta this year has been pretty much shot. So since I had a code for a Sprint I decided to just run a second lap: two laps in the same day only count toward the Trifecta once. Groupon had an afternoon entry AND a discount code, so we were able to pick up a couple of late entries for about $60 each – so I got to run with both.

Also of note, since Spartan considers a second lap of the course a separate race – different bib numbers, second full registration fee, second insurance fee, second shirt, medal – I consider it a second race too. A race like FIT Challenge considers multi-laps an add-on so I consider that the same race. That’s the difference between an entity overly focused on profit margin (and not wholly well run either as illustrated below) and a labor of love that’s actually profitable and well regarded (and well run).

As soon as the first race of the day was finished – it began to rain.  And hard too.  So I took up shelter at the facility’s shooting range and waited for the kids to get there.  Which is another story, and since this is my blog, I’ll happily digress and tell you that story.

On Thursday of this week, Spartan announced it was changing up the usual practice of $10 parking and instead would make parking free and charge $5 per person to ride the shuttle.  After the backlash on social media about this – that it was contradictory to the idea of carpooling, and/or that folks would simply drop off at the facility and then park – it became clear that it wasn’t going to work out quite the way the race anticipated and on Friday they announced a clarification that what they really meant was that it would be $5 per person to ride the shuttle, with a max of $10 per car. Now all well and good for me – because the kids were showing up later and were riding in together, it was $15 instead of $20.

These guys CRUSHED it, and I’m happy they let me tag along.

However, by the time they arrived for our 12:15 heat, the lot was full and they were now redirected to a secondary lot at a college in the next town over – 15 or 20 minutes away.  Now, there was no mention of this lot on the web site and I’m quite sure I received no email about it.  So the kids find the new place, and wait.  And wait. And wait. Because apparently no one told the shuttle drivers to go there…or how to get there.  5 arrived at once, then another that they got on.  Where they would have been 45 minutes early, they now arrived late.  Inexcusable logistics problems by a company that runs races all year across the country AND, let’s not forget this was not the first time they’d run this specific race in this venue.

Remember, it’s now been about 2.5 hours since my first race ended. I’ve been steadily rained on for two hours, muscles cooling off, and pretty sure my body had gone into full recovery mode – even if I’d only run 5-odd miles, it was longer than it had taken me to run the first race.

The rain made the already muddy course ridiculously sloppy – more than a few of the obstacles were almost impassable, Olympus was exponentially more difficult than it was in the morning; the slip wall was true to its name.  The Sandbag Carry and the Herc Hoist were made more difficult with the water having penetrated the bags.  I used the very same station at the Herc Hoist that I had used in the morning and while it’s safe to say fatigue played a part, I’m quite sure it was also much heavier after sitting in the rain.  The bucket carry was more difficult due to the course itself – thicker, sloppier mud made slipping quite the hazard.

All of which said, it was awesome to run with these guys. “Team Mo” was an experience I wouldn’t give back at all. Watching them help each other and support each other. Not a thing better than that.  On this time around the course, I came up with 5.63 miles and 1375′ of elevation gain.

Results (Open)

1:59:51

OVERALL: 1363/ 4655
MALE: 1028/ 2692
M 45-49: 107/ 272
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2018 Race Recap #21: Boston Spartan Sprint

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Please like me; I finished and didn’t die.

In all honesty, I’m not thrilled with my first race today. I ran about as well as I could – I’m on the other side of my piriformis issues I think (it flared up not at all today, perhaps a dull ache), but over the last week or so I seem to have developed a compensatory injury in my ankle or perhaps the end of my hammy.  I crushed some of the obstacles I had missed at the Beast a couple of weeks ago (Olympus you’re mine now), I failed one I expected to (the Twister, damnit) but actually did better than expected, and I came THIS close to getting across the rig which I actually hadn’t expected to complete.  Damn Spearman: always a crapshoot for me with that one.

I finished the Spartan Trifecta last year, but the skin of my teeth – I was injured most of the early summer so I missed the Boston Sprint and completed the set with the Fenway Stadium Sprint – since it’s technically a Sprint, it counts, but it didn’t feel like it – so this was the first mud Sprint I’d done since 2016.   It was a good, challenging course. My GPS pulled down a little more than 5-miles so it was on the long end of the Sprint spectrum, but I suspect that’s to make up for the relative lack of elevation gain.

I found the bucket carry to be more challenging than the same obstacle at the Tri State NJ Beast a couple of weeks ago – that one was basically ring around the rosey in a relatively flat spot; this one was up and down through mud, water, and downed trees.  Otherwise, the obstacles and the course really wasn’t all that difficult, but then again I’m measuring it against my recent races at the Beast and the FIT Challenge so perhaps I’m not being fair to the course. There was a grouping of upper body obstacles right in a row that was devious and clearly designed to make the course harder than it might appear otherwise – well played.

There was a non-insignificant amount of mud along the trails and it has been a while since I experienced that aspect of the race, so that was a welcome challenge.

Overall I think I acquitted myself well – certainly didn’t crush it as I had hoped I would, but I’m willing to cut myself some slack for injury and some conditioning loss from not being able to run as much. I pushed as hard as I could and I think I gave it my all.  I was certainly more careful counting my burpee penalties.

Overall, I was pleased with the Sprint course – it was a challenge but not over the top. My watch clocked in at 5.34 miles and 1100′ of elevation gain.  Clearly not my best result, but perhaps that’s just because there were a lot more badass 40-49 year old guys out there today than usual. I’m going to chalk it up to the idea that I’m really just not as competitive as I’d like to believe.

Results Age Group Competitive:

1:40:13

OVERALL: 304/ 409
MALE: 237/ 297
M 40-49: 84/ 104

2018 Race Recap #19: Tri-State NJ Beast

Yup. Day #2.  Second one in two days.  For a middle aged, marginally fit guy pushing to find his limits, this was an expression of that journey.  Guess what? I found the limits. I have to say that of some 130 races over the last 2 and a half years or so, this is the most humbling…no humiliating I have felt.

First the course specifics and details.  Sunday clocked in at 14.1 miles – just about a mile shorter than Saturday’s course. I haven’t looked at the maps of both to know if there was actually a mile less or if my watch was inaccurate or what – actually it would be more than a mile less because on Sunday, I missed the spear throw that I made Saturday and had to take a penalty loop.  More on penalties later, because they play a substantial role in my story of Sunday. Elevation gain Sunday was up over 5200′ compared with 5000′ Saturday which would definitely be reflected in that spear penalty as it was just straight up…forever…or so it seemed.

I missed obstacles I got on Saturday, I got one Sunday that I had missed Saturday which felt good. The lesson of the day, though, is that Spartan races are more than physical challenges – they’re mental challenges.  I pushed through this race, and was physically compromised to be sure, but I did it. My mental acuity though, my mental acuity failed.  I failed 3 obstacles with a burpee penalty – 30 burpees and a time penalty.  When I crossed the finish line – I actually took some time to pull myself together before jumping over the fire at the finish – I felt like I had crushed the race.

I later found that I had been disqualified.  It seems I had failed to complete the requisite 30 burpees on ALL 3 failures.  ALL of completing progressively fewer – including the penultimate obstacle on the course – which is the one I apparently didn’t put in the minimum.  I KNOW I counted 30, but knowing you counted 30 clearly doesn’t mean you completed 30.  So, I failed.  And while I finished, and not technically a DNF, I was disqualified.  Rules violation and rules are rules. I’m beside myself upset, all that time and effort to blow it on the last one.

At first I was frustrated because I thought it was glitch or misunderstanding at one station. I was firmly convinced of it.  Then I was angry.  But while I could argue one station, I can’t argue with three.  I blew it. Perhaps at some point I’ll be able to look at a bright side, but I don’t see a bright side right now.  I’m hurt. I’m angry. I’m humiliated.  You’ve got to play by the rules and if you don’t you have to pay the consequences.

Mental exhaustion. Physical exhaustion.  Whatever. Fact of the matter is that I pushed my limits and found that I’m not where I thought I am.  Perhaps that’s the bright side – knowing how exertion affects my mental acuity will help me down the road.  Perhaps. Right now, I just feel defeated.  “Disqualified.” Basically says “cheat.”

When I decided to start recapping each race this year, it was an accountability instrument. I wanted to see my progress through the year, and I wanted to see my opportunities to improve.  I honestly never thought I would fail or at least fail for these reasons.  I thought I was better than that, but now that I know I’m not, I never ever want to be here again.  Failing is one thing – its human – but “disqualification,” damn. I never want to feel this way again.  In failing I know I’m pushing, growing, becoming better. I’m trying hard to see this in that way. I desperately want to see it that way. That’s all just framing – what matters is what I do with it.  The story you tell yourself is irrelevant if you don’t do something to improve from it.