WOW, that was fun. The Spartan Sprint at Fenway Park was my first Obstacle Course Race (OCR) and wow was it different from just running a regular road race! I’m glad I “ran” it – it gave me a new perspective on both those kinds of events and my own abilities. I learned a lot about myself, my skills, and what my new, significantly lighter and much stronger body can do.
So what exactly was I dealing with that day? How’d it go? Why did I do well over 100 burpees?
First off, let me just say…the sheer number of people at this thing was absolutely stunning. I knew Spartan Races, Tough Mudders, etc were a big deal…but holy crap there were a ton of people! Thousands upon thousands of runners, spectators, vendors, volunteers…whoa. As soon as I got off the T at Kenmore Square I started seeing people in the tell-tale neons of running gear, and even a few finisher’s medals. Once Fenway was in view it was all I could see…including some great shirts…like this one:
I don’t think I fully understood that shirt until after the Spartan. Now…I get it. If you think you don’t like burpees…just run a Spartan…you’ll learn a whole new level of disdain for the exercise.
I ran this race as a part of a team – the MMRL Ruffians. We ran to raise money and awareness for the Masonic Medical Research Laboratory (MMRL), as well as to raise awareness of and promote Freemasonry in general. There were 5 of us running –
It felt a little disorganized when we were inside Fenway itself getting ready to start…we kind of lost track of each other. The four of us on the right found each other and got in the starting corral together…but we couldn’t find the guy in the orange shirt. It came to a point where we either started or missed our wave…so we kind of had to just go. Sooooo…four of us ran together. It was good! Running with a team was a good experience, and you can help each other. More on that later.
As far as MMRL – The MMRL is the signature charity of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts. The MMRL does a lot of its work under the more specific banner of the Cardiac Research Institute (at MMRL). One of the groundbreaking things they’re researching is how to grow organs for transplant – imagine…someone needs a heart transplant…and they could have a heart grown from their own cells…it would eliminate (or at least immensely reduce) the risk of rejection! It’d be a huge leap forward – that’s just one of the things the MMRL is working towards, and it’s why I thought this would be a GREAT cause to support!
So…remind me what a Spartan is?
As I said in the pre-race article – a Spartan race is one of many “Obstacle Course Races”. There’s Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, Hero Rush, etc etc. Most of them are just one kind of race – 5K distance, 13ish miles, etc. Spartan comes in several varieties – the Sprint, Super, Beast, Ultra Beast, and Death Race. The race I ran, the Spartan Sprint at Fenway Park, was…as the name would imply…a Sprint. It was about 3 miles and had 22 obstacles. Unlike a typical Spartan, which would occur in a field or on a mountain somewhere, this was in a ballpark – so no mud, no water, and no fire. There were plenty of creative obstacles to take the place of those though (that used the venue well!).
Let me just say…Spartan Race is no joke. Below is the envelope I got with my number, timing chip, etc inside:
In case you can’t read it…it says:
Warning!!!!! The Spartan Race is a dangerous and demanding extreme sporting/racing event. THERE IS A REAL POSSIBILITY THAT YOU MAY DIE OR BE CATASTROPHICALLY INJURED. Each participant voluntarily and knowingly accepts and assumes all risk of participating in the event.
No. Joke. Probably not quite so much risk of THAT bad of an injury in the stadium…but I can just bet on a longer Spartan (like a Super, and especially a Beast) there’d be a real risk of real injury. Yeah…about that…
The Fenway Sprint
The race itself was a load of fun. Like I said, it ended up being about 3 miles and 22 obstacles. There must have been hardly any running with all those obstacles, you say? NEGATIVE. There was plenty of running involved. More like jogging from obstacle to obstacle, though, as we were making sure to stick together as a team. If I were on my own I probably would’ve been doing a lot more running, but that’s A-OK…it was good I took my time and paced myself as I learned how to navigate this kind of a race.
There was work to do before we even started the damn race! See that look on my face? That’s a look of awe at the fact that I just hurled myself over that 6 ft. wall behind me. That, I can safely say, was the first time I ever hurled myself over a wall! It would not be the last time that day. Not by a long-shot.
So you waited in line, climbed a 6 ft wall, then waited in line more. Once we got up to the starting area, the emcee had us step up to do 5 burpees before he “fired the gun” and let us start.
OK…so I climbed a 6 ft wall and did some burpees…CAN I START NOW?!
And off we went.
I’m not gonna sit here and talk about ALL 22 obstacles…that’s a little excessive. I WILL talk about the ones that stuck out (they may not be in order). First – the “jerry carry” or “jerry can” or whatever it was…(the water jug carry) was not as bad as I was expecting. When I watched a video of last year’s race…that flight of stairs you had to go down and up seemed a hell of a lot longer. Going up still sucked, but it was early enough in the race that it was manageable.
Another obstacle that occured RELATIVELY early on (I think) was the 500 meter row. Megan actually got a video of it:
Had a little trouble getting my feet out of the stirrups at the end. whoops!
There was a point where we ran into a locker room to do pushups…that was pretty cool. I would imagine it was a visitor’s locker room and not the actual Red Sox one…but still…come on – that’s awesome! I heard 20 pushups…so I did awesome pushups with good form, straight as a board, no dipping in my middle…and when I hit 15 I heard the volunteer in the room telling someone they were “hand-release pushups”…i.e. when your chest touches the ground, your hands leave the floor for a second. Guess who did 35 pushups instead of 20. Yeah…good thing that was followed by a jog along the bleachers…
Before I realized it, I was running along the Green Monster! Again…cool. There were lots of obstacles along the upper decks that didn’t give me much trouble – Medicine Ball Drop, Hobble Hop, Stone Carry, Rope Jump… The obstacles that did give me trouble were the Monkey Bars (got halfway through, had to stop), the Hercules Hoist (got the weight almost to the top of the pulley, had to stop), the rope climb and the spear throw.
The monkey bars and the hercules hoist were both, I think, failed due largely to my gloves. I researched online to find as good a pair of gloves as I could, and my search led me to the Madgrip Pro Palm glove. Picked them up cheap (about $10). They were not as secure and tight to my hand as I was expecting, and they slid around to the point where I was grasping a handful of plastic/rubber, and not a rope or monkey bar. I have a feeling this was because the back was stretchy, meshy fabric and the palm was rubber – the palm stayed practically glued to the rope/bar/whatever…but my hand moved around inside. Guess I need different gloves next time. I think a pair of gloves that secures at the wrist and isn’t made of meshy fabric would be good…maybe the Mechanix M-Pact. More research will follow.
The spear throw sucked because the obstacle right before it was a wall-walk….big long wall with blocks of 2×4 screwed in at angles…kind of like a climbing wall. You couldn’t touch the ground or the top of the wall, just the blocks…talk about hand strength! There was a chick crowding me once I got halfway down, and 2/3 through I almost fell off! I made it though… I was pretty happy about that! Once I finished though, I had no hand strength left! Good luck with that spear throw!
With all those failed obstacles, there were lots of 30 burpee penalties to deal with! Remember how I said running with a team was great? If you’re with a team…your teammates can eat penalty burpees for you – i.e. you have 30 burpees to do and 3 of your teammates each do 5 burpees…you now only have to do 15. We did that for each other more than a couple times. Even so, I think I did well over 100 burpees throughout the course of the race…
I could go on for days about the obstacles, but the bottom line is…this race was a TON of fun! I mean… I got to run all over Fenway Park! The concourses, the bleachers, the dugouts, the locker room, the warning track, the Green Monster…I even touched the scoreboard! For a Red Sox fan…that’s pretty fantastic. The medal was special too – the lanyard part of it (I have no idea what the proper name is) had Red Sox-themed lettering for “2013”, and on the back of the medal was Fenway Park itself. Pretty sweet reminder, if you ask me.
This race was also a great learning experience – I learned just what I can expect from an obstacle race, where my strengths lie, what I need to work on, and what techniques I need to practice. Now that I know what I can do with regular road races and with obstacle races, I can set realistic goals for next year and plan how to train. I’m already working on filling up next year’s race calendar! I’m actively seeking out sponsors for a number of races – if you’re interested in being one of them, reach out (Darrell@SoTHISIsFitness.com). I’ve already got my first sponsor signed on for a few races up in Newburyport / Salisbury (more on that very soon!). I’m looking forward to a year of seeing what I’m made of and pushing myself to the limit! I might even do my first marathon next year!
Nothing is out of reach. Remember – given time and training, anything is possible.
PS – After alllllll that…I did a double workout the next day. NO REST! Beast up! AROOOOO!