So, what do we know at the finish line?
I enjoy these sort of things. It was a hugely fun day.
My good luck with the weather this summer continues to hold. It was a pretty much perfect day for it - sunny, bright blue skies, if anything a tiny bit too hot, but that was much better than the alternative, and made the 'run into this giant pile of icy mud' bits seem very appealing
Everything is more fun if you take someone with an excellent camera along
. Particularly if they're good company.
Map reading by committee doesn't really work. If you're driving the car, know where you're going, or delegate this to a navigator in advance, and make sure you trust them.
On the other hand, if you take the back route, and end up with a left turn right in front of a giant queue of traffic waiting to turn right into the carpark, you can never ever ever criticise your navigators at all, because it was Absolutely Priceless.
Some obstacles are genuinely good fun. This list includes, but is not limited to: climbing over walls, crawling under walls, climbing over nets, leaping over haybails, walking through deep muddy water, running along narrow twisting trails up and down hills, leaping over logs, leaping through fire.
Some obstacles give me a huge sense of smug achievement. This list is probably headed by Climbing the Very High Rope and ringing a bell at the top, but doing the monkey bars gives it a good run for its money (I have never been able to do monkey bars, and wanted to ever since I was small)
I am still a wuss, and obstacles involving any upper body strength are hard work. This includes carrying boxes of ammo, carrying buckets of water, dragging tires, and lifting buckets of concrete into the air by pulling on a rope. The worst obstacle on the whole thing was the walk-along-parallel-bars-on-your-hands-
with-your-feet-off-the-ground one, which I failed completely at. [And we'd _practised_ it on the trim trail, and I knew I couldn't do it, and I could have practiced, but didn't, so really, my failure was my own fault]
There was a lot of trust involved in the system. I failed at the walk-along-parallel-bars one, but quite a few other women were falling down and getting back on at the same point and keeping going. And no-one was counting how many burpees you did or whether you did them properly. Also, there was a bit where you had to pick up a rock, and there was huge variation in the size of the rocks, and I did not pick a very large one. In fact, I picked quite a small one and then felt guilty about it. I guess at the end of the day you're only racing yourself so you're only cheating yourself...
There was probably actual genuine Mild Peril involved. Cat fell off the monkey bars when training and broke her elbow. Vivek sprained his ankle during the race. There was a bit where we were crawling under barbed wire and it pinged down and I was petrified it had gone in Naath's eye, but it hadn't (I'm not sure if it was special safety barbed wire, but it looked real to my out-of-it racing state) Naath fell off the evil-parallel-bars and gave herself a bad jolt. When I was at the top of the rope I had a sudden 'hmm, I can see how far away the bottom of the rope is from here' moment. There were less dramatic but probably also present risks like small cuts and lots of runners and lots of mud.
Races with groups are differently fun from just going on your own. The Team Thing! is fun, with matching t-shirts and people to cheer for, and people who you recognise running past you. But the faff factor is greatly increased - if you're on your own you can decide you're going to just go to the bag drop, or go and watch people finish, whereas with a team there's the 'what are we doing now' and the co-ordinating lifts, etc etc. I don't think I quite understand the ettiquette yet either. There was definitely a bit where Neil was Waiting For People, but I wanted to know how fast I could do it and Race. On the other hand, Naath and I were pretty evenly matched, and so ended up keeping each other company round. She definitely waited for me at the tire drag, and I definitely waited for her at the parallel-bars-of-pain so maybe that was more like Teamwork and less like racing. But maybe if we were doing that I should have waited for her at the end so we could cross the line together, rather than sprinting off after the last obstacle. There is a 'me' in team, but it's a bit backwards and broken ;-)
For a course trying to get hundreds and hundreds of people through it, I thought the organisation was pretty good. The course layout was nice, with the racers coming in to the spectators at the start, about a third of the way through, about two thirds of the way through, and at the end, always with some fairly interesting obstacles to watch. Obstacles that needed a mcguffin were designed to flow really well, with people finishing with the mcguffin leaving it at the place the next people picked it up from. There were definitely bottlenecks though. Quite a few of the running bits were very narrow (top of a ridge, or through a wood) which limited overtaking (not a problem for me, but a problem for the people behind me ;-) ) There were a few obstacles where you had to wait for your mcguffin (a bit of a queue for the buckets-on-ropes, for example) And the worst bit was the rock carrying, where there was really no way to overtake, so everyone inched round at the speed of the slowest person with a rock. So I think if I'd been time obsessed to the second, I might have found odd patches briefly frustrating, but I thought it all flowed really well.
There was clearly Big Money to be made out of us all. It was expensive (my 10K last summer had been 15 quid, whereas this was 45). Some of that is justified by the complexity of the course - a 10K needs a few signs and a waterstop, whereas setting up fire pits, monkey bars, ropes, ammo boxes etc etc must add to the costs - but with 5000 entrants there must have been a quarter of a million pounds worth of entry fees sloshing around in that field.
There was excellent people watching on the field. The two most common groups were charity teams, and single men racing (usually with a support team of wife and kids enjoying the spectacle). The race itself was definitely male dominated - I'd estimate 80/20, but it'll be easier to count once the results are up. They didn't look vastly different from your typical parkrun, but I think tended to snip off the bottom end of the bell curve a bit - there were a few people looking as though it was part of their 'get fit' plan, but most people looked like they had gotten fit already and were now showing off and enjoying it.
The one thing that really surprised me was the get outs in the course for women. The weaker sex had a shorter wall with better footholds to climb, a lighter bucket-onna-rope, a lighter sandbag, and a lighter tire. Now, on one hand this filled me with joy, because usually when I approached one of these obstacles I would be in pain and tired, and my brain would relish the relief. But it felt _wrong_, somehow. If I run 5k, I run the same 5k as the men, just slower. If I sit a maths exam, I answer the same questions as the men. Discussing this later, it's interesting that I probably wouldn't have noticed this as an 'unfairness' quite so much if the weight had been done, eg, proportional to height or bodyweight (of course, that would be a logistical impossibility). I almost wish I could go back and do the Slowest Spartan Race Ever, just using the Man Stuff. However, it is worth noting that I accidently started dragging a Man Tire rather than a Lady Tire at the tire drag. I could barely move it, and Naath (with her ladytire) vanished off into the distance. About half way round I found a Man dragging a Lady tire, and managed to persuade him to swap - and oh, it was a blessed relief! [Also, it was an interesting reminder of how 'man' doesn't have any of the connotations that 'lady' has, when they were divvying us up into 'manbags' and 'ladybags']
There was a big warm up speal at the start of the race. [There's a similar one on Youtube here
] A man yelled at you lots of things like 'You will face things no-one has ever faced before' 'You have trained your mind and your body, failure is not an option' 'History will remember you, today is your day' and we all shouted back in chorus 'I AM A SPARTAN!' It turns out I am cynical enough that I don't switch my brain off entirely during these things, and sort of notice the pretention and the religion-alike and the mass-histeria side of it, while, err, also getting quite hyped up by it. I wonder if these sort of things do fill a religion gap, in a weird way?
My attitude to the spartan race was, err, not very spartan. I packed - two books, a water bottle, a flask of coffee, a change of clothes, a change of shoes, two towels, a chocolate bar, dried mango, and nuts. All of these I promptly dropped at the bag drop and forgot about, but sheesh, you'd think I was going on a three week expedition, not a 60 minute race.
At the end they gave you three things. Today, the t-shirt seems like the most useful, as it's a nice technical t-shirt and I can wear it to other running things. Yesterday afternoon I was best pleased by the Totally Gratuitous Medal, which I doubt I will ever wear again. But in the first 10 seconds after the race the most amazing thing they had given me was a plastic cup of cold, clear, delightful water. Ah, water after exercise, one of the most joyous things in the world.
I am still confused about sponsorship, but we are Very Near the Target, and I Leapt Through Fire, so your chance to give money to Epilepsy Research UK
remains open here