Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Never Underestimate a Course because it's Flat

How hard could it be to race on a flat course in Virginia? After all I’d been training on steep inclines with sandbags and racing ridiculously challenging races on ski slopes. Spartan Race course designers never cease to amaze me with their ingenious ways of making a course from hell out of nothing but tall grass and a few boulders in the woods.  The race site in Leesburg, VA was at a horse park, which meant we got to jump like horses for the day. I felt like a flailing horse through those jumping obstacles. I wished I had 4 long legs; my two short ones were burning so badly.

There were two hills on course, course designers figured out how to utilize those two bad boys the best they could, and both caused me to hike instead of run. There was obstacle after obstacle after obstacle, 75 in all. I cannot say there was a lot of running between obstacles because it seemed there was always an obstacle in sight. Don’t get me wrong, this was a running race.  11 miles long, I believe. That’s a lot of running for a Super! But before boredom could possibly set in, another obstacle or sets of obstacles would emerge on the horizon.

All of my favorites were there: incline wall with rope, rope climb, cargo nets, monkey bars, log hop, sandbag carry, and of course the barb wire crawl. And my least favorite of all time had to also show up, the spear throw. There were many unique obstacles for this unique course. The sandbag carry was intense.  We drug that pancake up and over huge boulders and high logs. I sometimes had to set it on the boulder so I could first climb up myself. The “Hobie Hop” was interesting. Step into the large rubber band with feet, hop, hop over logs, and get low to go under ropes, hop more. But the actual horse obstacles were the highlight.  Up and over logs and other curious structures we went. Some racers could hurdle right over; some could leap and land on top. Many of these obstacles were a little too high for me to cruise right over. Regardless, they were challenging and a whole lot of fun.  The overnight rain really added challenge to the obstacles. Now they were not only caked with mud, but wet and slick, too. The monkey bars, which were usually quite natural for me, were a huge struggle to just stay on.  I fell off the traverse wall, something that my rock climbing experience had never let me down on before.

But for me, on both days, the running on the flat, grassy terrain was my most difficult obstacle. My legs cramped, muscles spasming.  My mind told my legs to go, run faster. But my legs just wouldn’t go. It was all they could do to keep moving. Somehow, someway I finished the VA Super two days in a row.  The flat course beat me down and got the best of me.

What did I take from this race? Never underestimate the difficulty of a flat course. Although you may train for what may seem harder courses, the hardest ones might be the ones least suspected.

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