50 Burpees

I'm sure it's obvious by this post, but I survived the Ottawa Spartan Race Sprint! I managed to conquer what I was told was the hardest Spartan Race in Ottawa yet. It was 6.7 painful kilometers up and down the hills of Edelweiss Ski and Sports Club. Despite this, I still have mixed feelings over the whole ordeal. I'm not sure yet whether it's just some post-achievement downers, or whether I truly do regret my performance for the race. I suppose I should just get into what happened and the things that I learned.

When Kevin and I signed up to race, the only available heat was at 4:30 - the last heat of the day. When we arrived to the ski hill, we noticed that our heat was probably much smaller than the others, and filled with less intense runners and groups in costumes. I was pleased to see this since I was hoping not to break any bones this weekend.

From what we heard, the race had been designed with a vengeance; the last two years there had been a lot of complaints that the Ottawa Spartan Races were too easy, so this year the course designer made it much, much harder to appease the critics. This was my first Spartan Race so I can't support this claim, but I did find the course was designed to really take advantage of the terrain. The race trail has us going up and down the mountain three times. We didn't wind up and down the hills either, instead the race led us straight up the steep ski hills. It was brutal. Nearly everyone in our heat walked up the steep inclines.

Overall, the obstacles weren't too bad and I only failed two throughout the whole event. The first several obstacles involved crawling under barbed wire and fences in the mud. It was quite easy; I found the worst part was that the bottom of the mud pits were covered in large rocks of different sizes. My first failed obstacle was a set of steel railings that racers were expected to traverse by using only their arms to hold themselves up. I don't think I had the upper body strength required, but it didn't matter; my hands were still muddy from the previous obstacles and I instantly slipped off the bars. 30 burpees.

I think the biggest eureka moment of the whole race was right then: I realized I had over-trained burpees. As it turns out, we were only expected to do burpees that extended from squat-plank-squat-jump, whereas I had been training with a variation that included a push up. I blasted through the 30 burpees, fueled more by the excitement from my sudden realization than anything else. Other obstacles I encountered included walls to climb over, mud pits, and tunnels to crawl through. Kevin was really helpful with the walls and gave me boosts. My first time climbing the wall was a little awkward; it took a moment to figure out the best way to get my body over the wall. After my first attempt I had no problem. Kevin would hold out his hands and I'd be on the other side a moment later.

I also found I was really impressed with my strength for any of the weight-lifting obstacles. There were several that involved carrying different objects up and down an incline: a sandbag, two ammo containers, and a gas container full of water. Other obstacles I excelled at included using a pulley to lift and lower a weight, as well as an obstacle involving pulling a cinder-block on a chain.

Overall, it was really the hills that killed. The process became routine: walk steadily up the incline, do obstacles, run down the hill. Never did we stop except for brief seconds to stretch our calves. I think this is what helped us to finish in relatively good time.

The last few obstacles were set up to be challenging. A 12-foot wall followed by a set of monkey bars, ropes, and rings. I excelled at the monkey bars and rings, which I was really proud of, but I failed the rope climb pathetically. Despite looking up techniques on the best way to scale ropes, I was still useless at it. I got myself to the middle of the rope and was in a good lock and comfortable, but I didn't have anymore strength to pull myself up. I hung there pathetically for a few minutes chanting, "I don't want to do burpees." Eventually I felt bad hogging one of the ropes and slid down. 20 burpees.

The volunteers at the end of the race were feeling a little exhausted and impatient by the end of the day. The race was a lot longer than previous years, and I noticed they were a lot more generous than they probably should have been. On the rings, I couldn't quite grasp the very last ring because it was too high. I had built up momentum and had swung back and forth 5 times, touching it each time. Finally the volunteer called out to me, "You're fine. You're getting farther than a lot of people. I'll count it, you've touched it." The volunteer minding the javelin throw had a similar attitude. I've read on a lot of other blogs that usually anything that doesn't pierce the scarecrow results in burpees. This time around she was counting anything that touched the targets. My throw was awful: it was a near miss except the back end of the javelin scraped the straw. Surprisingly the volunteer counted it and told me to run off before she gave me burpees for my shitty throw.

I don't know what my final time was for the race because I was too busy  trying to find Kevin afterwards. I have an idea it was somewhere between 1:30 to 1:45, but I'll update later with my true time. I found several of my sister's friends who all found my time to be quite decent, but I suppose I'll have a better idea once all the scores go up in a few days.

After finding Kevin, we took some pictures together and hosed off all the dirt and mud we were covered in. For the beating we endured we were award with a Spartan Race medal and a nice Reebok t-shirt. I also rewarded myself with a delicious VEGA energy bar (this was the closest I've had to a chocolate bar in nearly a year).

Although the race is over and I managed to survive, I still can't help feeling a little disappointed in myself. Again, I might feel better in a few days when I can see the average times, but I can't help the feeling that I didn't push myself enough.

See, that's the problem with the Spartan Race; you're stuck in a trade-off between trying to conserve your energy for obstacles and pushing yourself to improve your time. In the end, I finished feeling like I still could have tackled more.

As well, I'm left feeling a little guilty over how easy-going the volunteers were to excuse my burpees. I still could stand at the end of the race and wasn't too tired, I guess I just feel like I deserved those burpees for technically failing those obstacles. Oh well, nothing I can do about it now. I guess next time I'll have a better idea of how my energy will play out for the race, and I'll be able to push myself as hard as I wanted to.

Here are some things I've learnt for next time:
This last point is a bit hard for me to write. Kevin was definitely helpful with the walls, but I couldn't help feel beaten down by running the race with him. It was frustrating to see him outperform me on all the obstacles; he didn't fail a single one. To make matters worse, he hadn't trained for the event in the slightest and it almost seemed like he was there to make a point about not having trained. 

I guess I just felt a little attacked because fitness has become my lifestyle, and now I'm left feeling like all of this strength training and cardio might have resulted in nothing but aesthetics. I just have to remember it's unfair to compare male-female performance. Men are blessed with much stronger upper bodies, and the comparison just isn't fair. Next time, I think I'd like to run with another fitness chick; we could motivate each other, and help one another over the walls. 

As the days pass, I'm starting to feel better about the race. Regardless of Kevin surpassing me despite zero training, I still managed to get through the race with energy to spare. My body is beaten, bloody and angry, but I didn't listen to it while I was climbing up and down the ski hill three times mid-day. I definitely should be proud.

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