Spartan Sprint

Exactly one week after I did the Vermont Spartan Beast, I find myself at the Citizens Bank Park stadium in Philadelphia getting ready to start my very first Spartan Sprint race.

It was a beautiful sunny day with warm temperatures. Everyone at the stadium was excited and the energy was very palpable. You could just feel how lively the place was!

The course was a bit over 3 miles long and there was about 20 obstacles or so. Overall, I think it was a very easy course, especially since I just ran a Beast race a week prior.

There was no mud, no getting dirty, no so-steep-you-have-to-climb-on-all-fours types of hills. Just a bunch of stairs, different obstacles, a lots of fun.

Here’s a run down of how the course went for me, and the most important lesson I learned from this whole experience.

Sprint Overview


The race started at the top of the lower deck of the stadium. Since there was limited room at each obstacle, racers were sent off in waves 16 with a bout a minute or 2 between each wave. This gave enough time so it’s not a massive crowd cramming in between the small aisles.

I was registered on a team with my sister and 2 of her friends, but each of us agreed to run our own race to the best of our abilities. (I finished 1st out of us 4 by the way but that’s besides the point :))

The race started with a descent to the ground floor of the lower level, follow b a couple of sharp turns, a small flight of steps, and then our first obstacle.

Pushups

This was the first “obstacle” of the race. Getting into the stadium’s changing room, we had to stand on top one of the few pre-placed Spartan logos on the ground and knock out 20 chest-to-ground pushups.

This is where I get to gloat (just kidding).

All those sets of 100+ pushups my dad used to make me do as a kid came in real handy here. Although I haven’t kept up with that kind of volume, I’ve never had a problem knocking 50 or so pushups ANYTIME.

Needless to say, this 20 felt like nothing to me.

Up and down 20 times, and off I went.

Farmer’s Carry

It was such a short race compared to the others that I’ve done, the obstacles tend to blend together in my mind. So I wasn’t sure if this obstacle was right after the pushups.

Either way, I was pretty happy with how I did on this one.

Men had to carry two 5-gallon water totes full of water and women had to carry one. I personally felt carrying two is easier with one in each hand, it balances out a lot more.

There were multiple points during the walk that I felt like putting down the totes and stopping. But it was during this part that I found that I’m capable of more than how I feel (huh?)

What I mean is that even though my heart was pounding, I was breathing heavy, my shoulders and arms were sore, and carrying those water totes felt like crap, I was able to keep going and not stop.

It was during this obstacle that I discover how much further my willpower can take me. Plus the desire to redeem myself for not finishing the Vermont Race added to the fire.

I went through quite a few flights of steps and then back to where I picked up the totes. Dropped those babies off and off I went to the next obstacle.

Sandbag Carry

Sandbag CarryAfter carrying the two totes of water, the single sandbag carry felt like nothing. Holding onto it on my upper back, I breezed through the aisles and stairs of the stadium.

There was one aspect that I didn’t like very much about this race.

Unless you’re in the Elite Heat, you’re doomed to be trapped at one point behind people that are walking or just slower than the pace you want to go.

I ran into that the most during the sandbag carry since we were going through countless aisles in the stadium and up and down the stairs. Sections were taped off and the “outside” aisles that were left open for people to pass seem to always have people sitting in the chairs to take a break.

I can’t put a number on how much time I wasted walking behind people and trying to pass them but the line in front of them was too long.

Either way, the sandbags were dropped off back at the pickup station and on to the next obstacle I went.

Cargo Net, Wall Climbs And Z-Wall

Now I remember! The cargo net was the first obstacle of the race. But it was quite easy and over with really quickly, so not much to be said about it.

The only challenging part was climbing the on the edge of the net because everyone else was in the middle.

The wall climbs throughout the race were very basic. No 10′ walls from what I recall, the tallest was an 8′ foot. Plenty of pullups and muscle-ups prepped me well for these.

Not long after the cargo net was the Z-Wall, which I have failed miserably in the past during the Spartan Supers and Beasts. But not this time.

With no water, dirt or mud to slip on, I demolished this obstacle. Plus the replay of me doing burpees because of this obstacle in my mind was more than enough motivation to complete it.

Hercules’ Hoist And Wire Crawls

One of the staples of a Spartan Race is the Hercules’ Hoist, which I’ve gotten used to by now. Only difference between the one here and the ones in the Supers and Beasts is the lack of metal fence.

I’m used to putting my feet against the fence to help pull on the rope. Without the fence, the obstacle was a little bit harder, but it still wasn’t too bad.

Especially since it’s only a 3 mile race and this came in the middle of it, not after 6+ miles like it usually is in a Super or Beast.

The Wire Crawls were spread out through a half mile stretch of the race. No barb wires this time, just ropes tied across the banisters in the walkways to crawl under.

Some were high enough where bear crawling did the trick, others were low enough to warrant army crawl or rolling.

I was a bit too enthusiastic during this race and slid into each one of these Wire Crawls and rolled right out of it. During one of these slides I got a nice gash on my left knee from a small rock. Didn’t feel it til I looked down at the blood streaming down my leg but I lived.

Spear Throw, Heavy Jump Rope, And Plank Walk

No Spartan Race is complete without a spear throw. We are Spartans after all right?

Unlike the Z-Wall, I missed this obstacle just like all the other races I’ve been in so far. There were no problems with the spear’s orientation, it just went wide left.

Spear ThrowThose 30 burpees would be my undoing.

I was so frustrated that I didn’t pace myself through the burpees. I wanted to get them done as quick as possible and was completely gassed at the 30th one.

I mustered up whatever strength I had left and made my way to the Heavy Jump Rope. We had to wear a band around our ankles and knock out 20 reps with a heavy rope.

I’d say the rope weighed about 10 lbs.

The band by the ankles didn’t help either. Being forced to keep our feet together at this point of the race and swinging a heavy rope and jumping was getting exhausting for my CNS.

After that fiasco, I jogged to the Plank Crawl, which was actually a “break obstacle”, as I’ll explain later. Keeping both feet on a small dolly, we all walked on our hands and “plank walked” about 20 yards. It was pretty easy as no obstacle up til this one had really tax the abs.

On to the monkey bars I went.

Monkey Bars And Rope Climb

I prepped my grip for this one knowing that I had grip trouble last week during the Vermont Beast.

This obstacle was a breeze overall. The gap between the bars got wider about half way through and I had to swing a little harder to reach the next one. But  besides that it wasn’t much of a problem.

After running up some more stairs and climbing over more walls, I made the descent down to the field. At this point, I could see the finish line and that was my cue to empty the tank.

I dashed for the rope climb and made short work of that obstacle.

No J-hook technique, but I did cross my feet and gripped the rope with my feet and thighs. This climb was nothing compared to the Tarzan Swing from the Beast.

The rope climb and the next 3 obstacles were located behind the 3 bases on the field. So the rope climb was around where 3rd base is, and the next 2 obstacles were at 2nd and 1st base, respectively.

Box Jumps and Ball Slams

Sprinting my way to the box jumps, I knocked out the 20 reps of 24 inch box jumps in 2 sets of 10. This was mainly because all but one of the boxes were being used and that one had 3 people on it already.

Each person took one side of a box, so it was 4 people per box. I tried to be cordial and go when the others weren’t but I couldn’t wait for them to take their break.

After 10 jumps, I found a box with only 1 other person on it. I ran over to that and repped out the remaining 10 reps and moved on.

Sprinting my way to 1st base, I grabbed a 20 lb slamball and did my 20 overhead ball slams. At this point, I knew it was the last obstacle so I really went all out. I was pretty gassed by the end of the this, about the same as when I finished the 30 burpees.

I sprinted to the last “obstacle” of heavy bags and ran through them, crossing the finish line at 44 minutes.

Lessons Learned


Just a quick review of what I got from this race. I’m capable of much more than I had thought.

Lessons Learned
Not As Many As Before, But Still Valuable

Those thoughts of burning lungs, lactic acid-filled legs, and general suckiness isn’t that bad when you know it’s only temporary. I felt I really had to go through this non-stop experience to truly understand the meaning of that.

And now I’m that much more confident of my abilities, especially in races like these.

I also have the “break obstacles” I mentioned.

These are obstacles that are essentially breaks from the constant running and heart rate jacking activities. Things like cargo net climbs, spear throw (although I end up doing burpees), monkey bars, and other less intense obstacles tend to lower my heart rate from the runs.

On top of that, being in the Open Heat creates bottlenecks in the race. People tend to gather up at the obstacles that take a while or where not enough spots are very limited.

I keep this in mind when I race in these Open Heats. Knowing that eventually I’ll have to stop or slow down due to bottlenecks, I plan to rest at those points only and constantly move whenever I can.

All in all, it was a great time at this Spartan Sprint event. I plan to do the same event next year as well and am aiming to be within the 30-35 minute range, hopefully under.

Stay healthy,

-Wing

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I've just started getting serious about health and fitness around 2014. Since then I've learned the insider info on how to optimize athletic performance and healthy living through both nutrition and proper training. The most important thing I've discovered however, is the connection between the mindset of those that excel in athletics, and those that succeed in their life pursuits. I've spent the last couple years observing and drawing these connections and similarities, finally created a platform to share with you all what I've found, and how to apply them in your own life to get similar results.

11 thoughts on “2016 Philadelphia Spartan Sprint- What A Fun Day!

  1. Hi Wing,

    This is the first time ever I have heard of the ‘Spartan Race’. I don’t think they organize these races in Europe. Do you happen to know that?

    I like your vivid telling of how your race went. When I read it I couldn’t help but shiver. What a heavy race! Kudos to you for completing it and in such a great time.

    I’ll follow your journey on those races!

    Greetings,
    Rik

    1. Rik,

      They have these races in Europe. Simply go to Spartan.com, click on the Running Man icon to the left, click on “Find A Race”, and zoom out until you get the world view. You’ll see that there are plenty of Spartan Races in Europe.

      Matter of fact, Jon Albon, the Spartan World Champion from a couple years back, got his start in Spartan Racing in Europe.

      -Wing

  2. Wow, this is incredible, you make this sound like a walk in the park. I really take my hat off to you.
    I live in South Africa and triathlons have become a big thing here in the last few years.

    My brother-in-law has finished 5 of them comprising of a 3km swim, over 100km cycle and 42km (marathon) run.
    Its seems like the two of you would get along well 🙂

    It is amazing what the human body can do once you sent your mind to it. You mentioned the course you had done previously was a beast in comparison. You, my sir are the beast. RESPECT!!

    1. Michael,

      Thanks for the kind word! I’m still improving and only have been taking these races seriously. Your brother sounds like a very fit guy. I’m sure he’d dominate these races!

      -Wing

  3. Having the right mindset while working out is mandatory.
    If you are not focused on your goals, or on the proper goals you might see less results than expected or even quit.

    Someone has to experiment too. There are millions of ways to work out, get healthy, fit.
    Being healthy is a result of good exercise, nutrition and a sound mind.

    Thank you for the nice article.

    Harry.

  4. I really think I need to work o my fitness before I do something like this. That race still sounds really tough.

    How long did it take you overall?

    I have a,ways struggled with monkey bars. Do you have any advice that might help as I just find I can only do about 7 or 8 before I get tired or fall off.

    Thanks

    Adam

    1. Adam,

      It took me 44 minutes. I’m going for sub 30 minutes next year, working hard to get there!

      A few things I learned that has helped me with monkey bars is:

      1. Keep the arms bent at all times. As counter-intuitive as this sounds, it’s much easier to get through them with bent arms. Once you let them straighten out, it gets exponentially harder. Give it a try and compare the two.

      2. Don’t wrap the thumbs underneath the bar. i.e. keep the thumb on the same side as your fingers, over top of the bar. Some thinks this makes it easier to slip off, but I have a much easier time transitioning from bar to bar with this grip.

      3. Do more pullups! Overhead grip (palms facing AWAY from you) is preferred to replicate traversing through monkey bars. If you can do 10-15 strict ones, you should have no problems with monkey bars!

      -Wing

  5. Hi Wing,

    I remember several months ago in a previous article written at your site that you discussed participating in two of these Spartan races, back to back a week a part. I’m so glad that I then ran across this article.
    Trust me Wing I am so impressed that you can physically pull of this type of feat. I consider it akin to a person running two marathons within a month of each other.

    So you actually thought that the second event, the one that you described in this article was easier physically than the first one? I can only assume with you being in such tremendous shape that you obviously were able to recover so quickly from that first event held in Vermont.

    I also got a kick out of the fact that while grouped with your sister and two other friends as a group, you slipped in that subtle remark that you beat your sister overall, (if I read that part of your article correctly). Good for you, sir! I have a sister as well thus I know that allowing her to beat you would have been entirely unacceptable despite your obvious love that you have of her being your sibling!

    The entire range of events – pushups, Farmer’s carry, sandbag carry, climbing walls, throwing spears, jumping rope and doing plank walks, this after beginning with a sprint race together are obviously all activities that most human beings, not in the type of great physical shape could even dream about completing. Because in reality it simply would not happen.

    At my age of close to 60 I still bicycle several times a week working up a good sweat and elevating my heart beat. I can manage 100 pushups if necessary. But doing all that other stuff, and in a span of a few hours? No way!

    I commend you Wing for being in such tremendous athletic condition!

    Jeff

    1. Jeff,

      Thanks for you comment as always! The race was a breeze compared to the others not really because of me being in shape, but because the the other two put me through navy-seal-hell-week-like experience.

      You were right, I really didn’t want to lose to my sister, but at the same time, I wanted her to do well.

      There were guys there in their 50’s and 60’s, completely destroying the course, so never sell yourself short Jeff!

      -Wing

  6. Wow, that takes a great amount of focus, dedication, training, and hard work. I can definitely understand why though, it pays off, since you must feel great for having accomplished this. I think the lessons also applies to other kinds of work, where say you are running mental merathon, and you have to stay up long hours and work in the night/morning to get your work done. Thank for the insight.

    1. Andrew,

      It definitely carries over to other aspects of our lives. Physical fitness and mental toughness really can’t be overstated!

      -Wing

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