On June 11, 2022, I completed my first ever Spartan race. I’ve only raced one other OCR in 2022, and before that, the last OCR I had competed in was World’s Toughest Mudder in 2011. Needless to say, it’s been a while.
When I joined Cerus Fitness in January, I almost immediately caught the OCR bug. Much like the CrossFit & ultrarunning communities I’ve been a part of, the people are awesome. And there’s a kid inside of me that never really left the playground. I love jumping, climbing, and swinging my body through space from one thing to the next. OCR has been in my blood since the beginning.
The Night Before
The race took place 15 minutes south of Colorado Springs. I didn’t want to drive over 2 hours on race morning, so I shared an Airbnb with Bryant & Mark. Mark has completed many Spartan races in the past, so he was giving Bryant and me the inside scoop, since we’re both first-timers.
It was nice to roll up with those guys and hang out pre-race.
Practicing the Spear Throw
The spear throw is the most talked about obstacle in every Spartan race. It’s likely the obstacle that people miss more than any other.
I practiced the spear throw at FIT FOCR around 30-40 times and was successful on maybe 2 attempts. Going into the race, I accepted the fact that it was likely that I’d miss the spear and have to do 30 burpees.
I was thrilled to see that Spartan set up a practice spear throw in the festival area. Racers could test it out before they had to attempt it in the race.
I waited my turn, grabbed the spear, lined it up, and absolutely nailed it. It felt so much easier than I was expecting.
“I might actually nail this thing after all.”
Confidence is running pretty high at this point.
The Starting Corral
I entered the starting corral about 10 minutes before my official start time at 8:15. I didn’t want to be in the back of the pack, trying to weave through a bunch of people as I passed them in the first mile. I’m a great downhill runner and excellent at the first few obstacles (hurdles & walls), so I wanted to be near the front.
We fist-bumped it out, said our Aroos, and away we went.
After weaving through a sea of people, flying past them on the downhills, and making quick work of the over walls, I hit the first aid station less than a mile into the race. I wasn’t thirsty but I told myself to drink early and often because it was 80 degrees at the start and heating up quickly.
I was a little concerned about how my legs would feel after running a 50k with 7,250 ft. of vert only 8 days prior, but the legs were firing on all cylinders. They felt great. It felt like the obstacles were weighted more heavily near the back half of the race, so this provided some flat, open sections to test out my running.
That is, of course, until we hit the first climb, which stopped everyone in their tracks. There were 3 big climbs on the course, and THEY. WERE. STEEP. Thankfully, compared to my 50k a week prior, they were much shorter in length, but they still packed a punch. I’d venture to say they were impossible to run, even for the elite mountain running athletes.
I was able to tap into my 50k experience of enduring 1-2 mile long climbs. If I was able to survive those, I know I can survive these. Mentally, it helped keep me from stopping to take a break. I passed quite a few people on the 3 big climbs today.
I had some mixed feelings about the obstacles for my first Spartan race.
On one hand, I feel confident in my obstacle ability. I’ve practiced a bunch at Cerus & FIT FOCR, won a competition where obstacles played a small factor, and have always been naturally gifted when it comes to body awareness and generally swinging through the air.
On the other hand, I’ve never stepped foot on any of these exact obstacles before. I didn’t want to go in over-confident and end up failing something because I tried to fly through it.
I played it relatively safe, and was successful on 28 of the 29 obstacles. That dang spear throw… 😠
I crushed all the hanging obstacles. There really isn’t much area for improvement on:
- monkey bars
- multi rig
Twister was a bit more challenging than I thought. The holds are smaller in circumference than the other hanging obstacles, and many people thought they were more slick. I wasn’t able to skip holds as I had intended, but I moved quickly one hand after the other.
I’m just really good at walls. Being 5’11” helps, but I also know how to flip over quickly and dismount with my momentum going forward, propelling me right back into a run.
Even the Inverted Wall was no problem. I can reach the top on my jump and I swung myself over with relative ease.
The Box was a bit trickier than I thought, but I basically treated it as a wall, muscling my way up with my forearms.
The wall at the front of Stairway to Sparta wasn’t high enough to pose any real challenge, nor was the one on Vertical Cargo.
The Slip Wall is more about how you get down the steps on the backside than it is getting up. You’re soaking wet at this point, and the bars will be slippery. It’s probably best to play it safe here.
There’s definitely room for improvement on:
- Z Wall
I didn’t move nearly as fast as I would have liked to. Some of this is due to lack of practice. I’m hopeful that the more times I go through these, the faster I’ll get. It’s hard to devise a strategy for hand & foot placement without ever having touched the obstacle before.
Thankfully, FIT FOCR has Z Wall and Olympus replicas so I’ll be able to get some practice in before my next race.
Surprisingly taxing. I wasn’t worried about not being able to complete it, but I was caught off guard with how much energy it took from me. Getting my running back up to speed after the carry was a struggle.
There’s definitely a training opportunity here. Carry a heavy, odd object, drop it, and run. It should be fairly simple to improve this with training.
They’re much more stiff than most cargo nets you’ve probably trained on, which makes them easier to climb, both up and down. I utilized the flip over technique to start my way down.
For the A Frame Cargo, after one flip, I crawled the rest going forward, almost like a crab walk. I think forwards is the fastest way to come down.
It can be really difficult to climb out the other side. Soaking wet mud on an incline provides some pretty awful traction. I channeled my best beached whale, laid out on the mud, and used my forearms to perform a muscle up-like movement. Maybe more of a wiggle-up?
This was near the end of the race, and by then, we were all overheating. It was probably mid-to-upper-80s at this point, and I couldn’t wait to jump in the cool water.
I was so excited to dunk my head that I pulled the ultimate rookie move—I didn’t hold onto my headband. 🤦♂️
It’s low enough that it caught my back a few times when I crawled on all fours. Next time, I’m going to try a sideways crawl mixed with a roll under the wire. I think I can shave off a little bit of time here.
I made very quick work of this one. Anything with upper body pulling, I feel really good about. However, the dismount was higher than I expected. I need to figure out a slightly faster way to jump off the other side.
The sandbag carry is my jam, and I handled it well today. Spend the extra few seconds getting it in just the right position on your shoulders. It will allow you to relax your arms down by your sides, and make it easier to run with.
The bucket carry was ROUGH. Now, I did do 30 burpees for a missed spear throw right before it, but even still, the awkward shape of the bucket, combined with its weight, and the steep uphill we had to climb, it would’ve been tough regardless.
Another thing that a little practice should make a lot more manageable in the future.
As I said early, this was the only obstacle I missed. The point stayed straight and I threw it plenty hard, I just missed it wide right. I was probably in my head about excessive follow-through that I didn’t follow through enough.
I’ll practice a bit more, but I think it’s more about execution than it is practice at this point.
I’m happy with my performance.
- 8 out of 65 in M35-39
- 29 out of 351 in overall male
I went into this race with 3 things in mind:
- Have fun
- Learn & practice the obstacles
- Push myself, failing as few obstacles as possible
Based on these goals, I absolutely crushed it. A+ on all three.
I’ll have more confidence going into my next race. Having experienced the obstacles now, I’ll be able to move faster through many of them. I’m really looking forward to taking another crack at a Spartan.
Currently, the only one I’m signed up for is Arizona in November, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I decide to sign up for another before then.
Hanging out with the Cerus & FIT FOCR crew was the perfect icing on the cake. What a fun group of people. 😎
It was blistering hot, but I loved chatting with everyone, and cheering on several of our athletes who made the podium in their age group, including Hannah Holmes who won the women’s elite race outright!