On November 16th T, B, and I left our house and drove 2 hours to Wellington T-Stop on the Orange Line, just north of Boston, MA. We were headed to Fenway Park, home of the US Champion Boston Red Sox. B had never been to a major league ball park, nor had he been to a Spartan Race. I like to think that he was more excited about the race than the Red Sox, but I’m not sure. I Dad can dream, right?
It was to be my second Reebok Spartan Race event; I’d run a sprint distance (3 miles or so) at Killington, VT back in September. For a week or so before this event I watched last year’s video a few times to try to get a sense of what the obstacles might be and to psych myself up even more (is that really possible? not really.) for the event.
I’d signed B up for the 1/2 mile kid’s race (in retrospect he should have been in the full mile). Here’s how the day went down.
We took the T to Kenmore Station and walked the 1/4 mile around the corner to Fenway Park. We were swimming upstream of many Spartans who had already completed the event; proudly displaying their finisher medal, wearing their finisher t-shirt, and bragging loudly into cell phones, “DUDE!!! IT WAS WIKKID PISSAH!” In Boston-speak, ‘wikkid pissah’ means that it was fantastic. Excitement grew as we rounded the corner and B saw the back side of Fenway for the first time. His eyes were WIDE OPEN as he tried to take it all in. We found our way to a gate with a line of people and stood in it for about 3 minutes before we were told that we needed to go register first. Where was that? Half a block away through a sea of people. Yea, it would have been helpful if there were signs at the gate pointing to registration. We made our way over there and made our way through that process. It was mostly smooth, no real issues. I can’t help but wonder where Spartan Races gets their army of volunteers. Left over Persians?
Back into the line into the stadium we went. All three of us had to pee REALLY FREAKING BAD by this point, but there were NO VISIBLE SIGNS pointing to restrooms. We managed to follow signs to the start area for the kids race; we were about an hour early for B’s start time (and as it turned out about 4 hours early for mine…) so once we figured out where we were supposed to be, we went off in search of bathrooms. We found them on the entry level, but to the RIGHT, not the left, as we had gone for the kids race. Highlight here was that we found this lego replica of Fenway: BACK up to the kids start we went. That area WAS A MAD HOUSE. No crowd control or guidance, tons of kids, tons of parents, not much patience…I was surprised at how well i did. T was getting a bit stress out, though, so we tried to keep up-beat in the frenzy. Parents were plopping their kids over the barriers to get them into the start area, so B got hoisted in with the rest. T went ahead a little to try to catch some video of B, and I stayed at the corral fence. It was a MADHOUSE!
Finally this big dude climbed up on the tables and said, “if you are in line for the HALF MILE, you are in the WRONG LINE. your race won’t start for half an hour!” B’s eyes met mine as the color drained from his face and tears of terror welled in his little blue eyes. Poor kid was 5 deep, but he quickly made his way to the fence; i grabbed him back over to my side and he wrapped around me so tight!! He said that he was a bit scared; there were so many people, it was so loud, he didn’t know where Mom was….we took off to find her, him still wrapped tightly around me.
Finding T, we chilled for a bit and watched other kids run the course. It wound back and forth through the seats behind the visitor dugout, over and under railings, down steps onto the left field foul warning track (near the dugout), then back up to the start area. 5 or 6 wooden obstacles finished out the course; some over, some under, some through. Kid volunteers dispensed special orange finisher medals, wide eyed kids mingled, and frustrated parents tried not to lose their offspring in the masses.
B was still a bit nervous when his start time came, so he asked me to run it with him; once he got going he tried to leave me in the dust. There was some confusion in the rows of seats, but we sorted it out with the help of some parents (THANK YOU, T!!) who had been watching earlier heats. B cruised through the course and demolished the obstacles. T was able to get it on video, so as soon as I can convert it to digital I’ll upload it…
Now the waiting game began. We went outside the stadium and managed to find some OUTRAGEOUSLY PRICED pizza slices and sausage for lunch before heading back in to try to catch some of the obstacles. The weather was ‘warm’, but the wind made sitting in the shade of the park very uncomfortable. We managed to find some sun poking in near the rowers so we hung out there until it was my turn to start.
T and B had figured out that we had been waiting near one of the first obstacles (5′ wall) and challenges (500m row in 2 mins), so they stayed there with the hopes of catching me as I came through.
After scaling the 6′ wall to get into the start corral, we eventually lined up at the start. After some motivating talks, we had to do 5 burpees before the race even started. At the call of, “ATTAAAAAAAACK!” our wave of 20 took off! First obstacle was 3 flights of stairs, then a run along the back row of seats. We’d started a little ahead of schedule so T and B weren’t even ready for me to be coming by! I stopped and yelled hello to them before climbing over the first wall.
After the wall we had to grab two large water jugs (5 gallon?) and carry them down to ground level then back up. Next, along the ramp that went to the upper decks (another 3 flights?) we went over and under bungee cords that had been stretched across the way. Toughest part here is that without my glasses I was having a tough time judging the height of the lower ones so I had to high-knee my way through those. A little run among some seats, over and under railings, then back down some stairs to the rowers. I saw T and B again, and they managed to find their way over to see me as I completed the last 50m of the row. Water stop (which was close enough to spectators that I handed B a glass of water!), then back down toward the field.
The order of the next events is a bit foggy in my head, but they included moving a block of concrete, doing 5 burpees, then moving it back; 30 ball slams with a 30lb non-bouncing med ball; 20 jump ropes with big-azz ropes and ankles held together by rubber strap; 20 push ups in the visitor locker room (hands off the ground at the bottom before coming back up…killah!); more stairs, bleachers, back and forth through seats, and then the HERC HAUL. This one gave me trouble at Killington, so I really wanted to breeze through it. I wasn’t winded when I got there, and felt pretty good.HA!
That’s the beauty of Spartan Races; they challenge your mind as much as your body. I struggled with lifting the object up, but I made it! Lowering it had to be gentle, so that was tough, too. Others around me were assessed burpee penalties for letting their block slam into the ground. Next were some over, under, and through wall obstacles before crawling under stairs (looped back to the start area by now) on our way to a 7′ wall and the monkey bars.
Course took us through a tunnel and back outside to the traverse wall and spear throw. I had been HOPING for the traverse wall as a way to see if I could call on my rock-climbing experience to navigate that obstacle. Signs declared a 30 burpee penalty for falling off the wall, using the top of the wall, or failing to ring the bell at the end.
RING! I nailed it and moved to the spear area. While waiting (which happened at every challenge/obstacle) I saw many, many people miss the hay bales. And not narrowly. WAAAAY off. YIKES! Were the spears that difficult here? Were they weighted oddly? Time would tell..I hefted my spear and let lose…SSSSHHHHHHTUCK in deep, center mass. AROO!
Leaving the area I ran through about 30 people in various stages of 30-60 burpees penalties. Whew…..
Back up and around some stairs, etc., then to grab onto my Spartan pillbox (ahem….PANCAKE) and into the right field seats for some up, down, and along the stairs and seats. It was a bit crowded through there, but I did manage to pass a few people. We dropped our pancakes where we picked them up and went back to the right field seats for some more back and forth before hitting the ROPE CLIMB. DAG-NABBIT….I was dreading this, too, as the last time i’ve climbed a rope was probably in seventh grade back in 19somethingsomething…I found an empty rope, jumped up, grabbed on, and started climbing. Near the top it hit me that I’d have to take one of my hands OFF OF THE ROPE in order to ring the bell. I’m not slick enough just to raise my feet over my head while suspended from a rope to ring the bell, so i quickly let go, rang it, then began to lower myself like i’ve seen Delta dudes do in the movies. HAHAHAHA…..in my mind! it was probably the exact OPPOSITE of that, but since we don’t have pictures or video evidence…let’s just leave it at Delta style. AROO!
Back out into the seats briefly before taking a right and running along the right field foul warning track. Only three obstacles to go! Cargo net, misc walls then the 8 footer followed by box jumps between home plate area and visitors dugout. Finish was in front of Red Sox dugout…but I had to get there first! I picked a line up the net where an athlete was at the peak. I figured they’d be gone by the time i got to the top…nope. It was a woman paralyzed by fear and nearly in tears! I stopped next to her and managed to calmly talk her into getting over the peak and a few steps down before I moved on my way. Bottle neck at the walls…but made it over the 8 footer on the first attempt; at Killington it took me two jumps to get myself over! Progress!!! I sped along the warning track in front of the Green Monster, running my hand along the smooth green wall. Another athlete had stopped at the word Boston, placing both hands on the word and leaning into the wall. I didn’t know what to do, so I gave him a reassuring pat on the back before heading to the box jumps and GLORY!
All in all it was an EXCELLENT way for me to spend a day with the family. HUGE THANK YOU to T for putting up with my crazy ideas, the cold weather, the crowds, the noise, the unknown, and the long day. AROO AROO AROO!