Last Updated on September 27, 2019 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
Long story short: the Super Spartan race makes the Warrior Dash look like a tot trot. A frolic through the playground. No offense Warrior Dash, I really had fun at your race, and I’ll do another, but I can’t even compare you to what I did last Saturday. If you, my readers, are new to running and looking for something fun but not so scary: choose the WD. If you want a CHALLENGE: Go Spartan. Bigger Challenge? Go Super Spartan, or better yet, the BEAST.
Seriously, Super Spartan was no joke. Not for the weak. It’s anything but a “fun run”….but it was still SO much fun.
I regret to inform you that Hope and I didn’t get our waterproof camera to take pictures on the course. We had every intention to, but we had no idea where we were driving to and “stopping on the way” didn’t happen. When we arrived to the race course in Winnsboro SC, we asked the parking attendant if there was anywhere nearby we could buy a camera. CVS, grocery store, gas station? He informed us that we were basically in the middle of nowhere. We could drive back on the interstate for a while to the next rest stop, but no promises.
Hopefully, I will have more pictures to add to this post over time, but for now, I have , uhh, “borrowed” posted pictures from others via the facebook spartan page (click here to see the official photo album with the official race day pics). Sharing is caring right? Further, I bow down to some guy named Jason Miller from facebook, who ran with a video camera. Jason: you get two muddy thumbs up for this epic video. It’s 26 minutes long, but if you really want to know what a Super Spartan looks like (some of it skipped of course) it’s worth the watch. And earmuff the kids or turn the speakers down if you are in the office…there’s a few f-bombs dropped in the soundtrack. But it is SO worth the time to watch!
(edit…apologies, but at some point during the switch from blogger to wordpress, I lost all of the videos)
But now for my experience.
I spent the 3ish hour drive to Winnsboro trying not to get car sick from Sharpie fumes while making our awesome “You’ve been chicked” shirts. The guy to girl ratio at Spartan race was like, 10/1. Ok I made that number up, but I’m guessing it’s pretty close. Proof positive was the long line outside the MEN’S bathroom door, where as Hope and I walked right into the ladies room. When have you EVER seen that happen? Therefore, the shirts were necessary. And further, mega kudos to all of the guys we DID chick for their awesome attitudes, more than one told us they loved our shirts (as we chicked them, muahaha)
|Hope modeling the “oh snap, a girl just passed me” shirt|
We arrived on site, got our race shirts, bibs, chips, and headed to the start line. I was a nervous freaking wreck while waiting for our wave at the start. Like, I want to throw up nervous. Wanna know why? Remember that fear I wrote about in my last post before the race? Yeah well I was about to face it…in the first 100 yards of the race. With a countdown of “10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-AROO AROO AROO!” (that’s the Spartan war cry, apparently) we ran STRAIGHT up a big hill, only to leap over fire at the top.
|pic credit: Spartan Race facebook page|
Oh, oh, and don’t let me forget to add…they set a smoke bomb off at the start. Yeah that was fun to try and run/breathe through. Holy cow. I won’t lie, as I got to the top , I panicked, looked around for a place where the flames were slightly smaller. There wasn’t a spot, so I told my inner self to “STFU” and jumped. It was hot, and I was very thankful for the man on the other side of the flames hosing everyone’s legs down as we ran by. Yeah, my guess is you can’t get much of a “running start” to clear the flames when you are running UP hill, and burning shoelaces are very likely. I turned the corner and felt my body scream “WHAT IN THE HELL ARE YOU DOING ?!?!” Nothing like going from zero to all of that in just over a minute. A warm up might not have been a bad idea, haha.
We rounded a corner and there was the first mud/water/pit. I mean, it was water, but it was clay colored, and you certainly couldn’t see even 2 millimeters into it. But you did have to dive into it, as there was a line of barrels that you had to swim UNDER. Time to get muddy. Under I went. Jumped out on the other side and prepared myself for 8 miles of squishy sneakers.
|pic credit: Spartan Race facebook page|
Now, I knew the Super Spartan was 8-ish miles of running. And I figured it would be a bit of trails. I didn’t realize however, that i would be 97% trail. And by trail, I mean mostly technical trail. Heck, some of it wasn’t even “trail” so much as “follow these flags through the forest”. Downed tree in your path? Go over it. Trail just stops and drops 6 feet down into a ravine? Figure it out.
We ran about a mile through the “trails” until we came across the first set of walls. This first set was maybe, oh, 5 foot? I didn’t have any trouble getting over them so they couldn’t have been too high. Cleared the first wall, looked at the second and said “how the heck am I supposed to clear that?” as there was snarling barbed wire wrapped around the top. The kind volunteer pointed to the maybe 16 inch gap UNDER the wall and said “go under”. Oh yeah, haha. Under I went. Third wall: tires embedded about 4 feet up. You had to go through them. I figured the feet first approach would work best, and so in I went. Then, repeat. Three more walls in the same order. Over, under, through.
Once those were over, back into the forest we went. I was reminded of how much I LOVE trail running. We were in the very last (i.e. non competitive) wave, and the pack thinned out very soon on. I’d say we were somewhere towards the back of the middle of that pack. We passed a bunch of people at the very beginning, and other than 2 guys that we pretty much played back-and-forth with for the entire course, we were alone out there. I liked it.
More trail running, and then we came out of the woods to a water stop and a giant cargo net climb. This one was easily twice as tall as the warrior dash, I’d say about 20 feet? I had no idea I was un-easy about heights until I was at the top. Hope crawled up and over that thing like a darn spider monkey, but I timidly and carefully made my way up and over, until my feet were back on solid ground. Whew.
Back into the forest. More trail running
Next obstacle: logs.
|photo credit: Spartan Race facebook page|
I have no idea what you would call this. But basically, there were skinny logs, maybe 6-8 inches in diameter, driven into the ground and spaced out. You had to run across the top of them, without falling off. If you fell, your punishment was 30 burpees. If you don’t know what a burpee is, watch THIS video, and start doing them. A hell of a lot harder than they look…especially out in the dirt, in the hot SC summer sun. Thank goodness I’ve been doing Insanity! Now back to the logs, I made it to the second to last log. Yes, that’s right, I jumped with super stellar balance that made me start wondering if I should have joined the circus, and with only two (out of maybe ten?) left, I fell. The Spartan volunteers decided that attempt was worthy of a 10 burpee discount, so I only had to do 20. In the heat, in the dirt.
Burpees done, and back into the woods we went.
You’ll have to forgive me, because the middle is a bit of a blur. There was a lot of trail AND river running. Like, the trail ended and we just ran up a river bed. At one point, we turned and went up this disgusting smelling ravine that was just wide enough for a single file line and about waist deep. I felt like we were in a jungle and asked if there were gators this far inland. Hope lovingly named this portion “Nam” and wondered where her machine gun was. Other obstacles in this middle section included monkey bars (I fell, 30 burpees). Lifting a cinder block on a rope up about 20 feet off the ground. Carrying a tire a good half a mile down a big hill (trail of course, complete with downed trees to navigate over) and then back up again.
The half way point was a barbed wire crawl. Now lets remember warrior dash, the barbed wire was a good, oh 2 or 3 feet off of the ground, in a mud pit. You could easily crawl on your hands and knees. Not the Spartan race my friends. This was straight dry dirt, sticks, and rocks, with the barbed wire, MAYBE a foot and a half off the ground, some places probably less. You were on your stomach, head down, or you got cut. The first ten yards I tried the frog crawl. You know, one arm and knee slides forward, followed by the next. It hurt. There was a slight break in the barbed wire where I was able to flip on to my back, and I did a reverse sideways snake slither for the next 15 yards. I swear I was under that barbed wire for what felt like HOURS. It was at this point that I realized how much of this race was mental. While halfway under the barbed wire, just inches from my nose, I realized, there is NO WAY out of here, other than to go back the way I came or go to the end. Like, no “OK I’ve had enough, let me me out now” exit. You HAVE no choice but to move forward. Towards the end, the dry dirt turned into try mud, and it was an awesome relief. I literally jumped for joy when I finally rolled out from under that chaos.
|photo credit: Spartan Race facebook page.|
|photo credit: Spartan Race facebook page|
It was here that I finally sat down and took my socks off, then threw them in the trash. They had been holding in tons of coarse sand from the river bed runs that was just tearing my feet to shreds. Talk about hot spots, I have a blister today ( 4 days later) that is in the running for worst blister EVER. I kept threatening to just run the rest of the course barefoot, but Hope talked me out of it. However, once I ditched the socks, I felt like a new woman. Ahhh.
More trail running, then we rounded a corner to a pond. The lifeguard in the boat said go ahead and “dive” in. I should have taken dive to know it was deep, but I didn’t expect to step off of the bank and just drop! It was deep. 50 yard open water swim. My sneakers felt like bricks. So I took this opportunity to cool down and rest with a bit of a back stroke. The water was nice and cool, it felt AWESOME. We got out at the other side, only to run the corner, and have to cross the pond AGAIN. This time, by way of rope. Hanging. It took me a few feet to get the hang of using my feet in the water to propel my body forward and sort of “jump” with my arms. But maybe 10 feet from the other side, my arms literally gave out, and I plummeted into the water. The Spartan volunteers again told me “close enough” and I was spared from more burpees. Sweet!
Run back up a hill, where we were instructed to grab a 40 lb sand bag, and run back down another hill with it. Now, I have two toddlers, both pushing close to 40 lbs, but this little 40 lb sandbag felt twice as heavy as my rugrats, haha. Got to the bottom of the hill, was instructed to drop the bag, and climb up to the top of this cliff over a big water (again, mud water) and jump in. I can’t remember the last time I jumped about from more than a few feet into water, but standing at the top of the cliff I thought…ooohhhkaaay just GO! It was a stomach dropper that’s for sure! I felt like it was 30 feet up. Pictures show otherwise, hahaha.
|This dude deserves a special type of award, lol. Photo credit: Spartan race facebook page|
Got out of the pit where I was instructed to pick up my 40 lb sand baby (ha) and carry it BACK up the hill. Dropped it off, then back into the woods and up a trail we go.
At the top of that hill, we met 6 dirt mountains and 6 mud pits. At least, I think there were 6 . By this point in the race, my glycogen stores had TANKED and I was ready to be done. My brain was a little fuzzy. Also, at this point in the race, being the last wave, the backside of each mud hill was so slick, we had to kind of scale the sides just to get any footing at all. It was rough.
Another leap over the fire pit (which , I won’t lie, by this point was just smoldering, but it didn’t hurt my feelings), down the hill we started on, to the least-seemingly difficult but actually really hard obstacle on the course: A spear throw. No lie. There was a pile of spears, and three big targets: haystacks with spartan heads on the top. The goal was simple: Throw the spear, get it to stick in the hay bale, and you are good to go. Spear doesn’t stick? 30 burpees.
Needless to say, I had 30 more burpees to do.
Up over another wooden wall with a rope to help you over, and a mud puddle on the other side. Round the corner and there it was: the finish line. 2:33:xx was our finishing time. Yes, 2.5 hours to run 8 miles. See? It’s no “fun run”. The female winner came in at about 1:36. Next time, we plan to put a little more pep in our step and RACE, but today, we just had FUN! As you can see in our faces in this picture…
|bring it Gladiators!|
Now, dear Spartan race, who I’ve come to love as family (well, almost): here’s my only beef for the day. You need to keep those gladiators at the finish line with pugil sticks (Hope assures me that’s what they are called) motivated to play their part to the fullest extent, and show no mercy to the runners. It appears today you had two young volunteers, who by the time we got there, were seriously over their volunteer duties. I don’t even think they hit me (or if they did, it was a “love tap”) and as you can see by the photo op (after I was changed and showered) they weren’t feeling so enthusiastic (Hope yelled at one to get up off the ground and take a picture, haha)
|Don’t they look thrilled? (and aren’t I clean?!)|
Next time, maybe switch them out every once in a while? Or, a steady supply of that Monster Energy drink you had laying around? Just a suggestion. Because really, I was looking forward to either an epic fall to the ground via pugil stick or an amazing fake and roll like you see on the NFL field. Scenario A didn’t happen, and B wasn’t necessary.
Alas, we finished, we survived, no one got hurt (other than this gnarly infected blister I currently have, ugggh). Showered (outdoors, of course), changed, left our mark on the Wall of Valor
|Yes I was|
and made the long trek home, which included an almost DESPERATE search for a Taco Bell. A Spartan’s gotta eat 🙂
|The Spartan Loot|
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.