I am now a crazy Spartan

Carrying a heavy sandbag up and down three flights of stairs, climbing ropes, scaling high walls, leaping over fire and crawling through mud under barbed wire just to come out the end and slide into a deep water filled hole, all spread out across approximately 13 miles of running through ditches, woods, creeks, hills and open fields may qualify as something only an insane person would do.
Call me crazy.
Last weekend, I did exactly that completing my first Spartan Race at Fort Campbell, Kentucky with a group of friends from Columbus. I say “first” because it won’t be my last Spartan Race. I loved it.
My journey toward last Saturday’s accomplishment began several months ago. I was in a rut. Working with our newspapers, coaching soccer and working out – that was my routine every day. I was visiting with a friend and explaining I needed something to challenge myself, something new that will force me to shift my focus in a completely new direction. She suggested a Spartan Race.

It just so happened she was leading a team to this race and invited me to look it up. Within a few minutes my spontaneous nature took over and said just do it.
Since that day I’ve changed my workout routine from soccer-based to more cross-fit, but clearly not nearly enough. I knew going in I was in good physical shape, but woefully unprepared to tackle the obstacles the Spartan would throw at me. My instincts were right.

We climbed over a five-foot wall into the starting gate – a tease for the two dozen obstacles that lie ahead. The very first was the monkey bars. I swung myself from one bar to the next to get across the long trellis. I was almost within arm’s reach of the last rung when my grip slipped and down to the ground I fell. The punishment – 30 burpees – the overall best, but personally most hated exercise. That was immediately followed with two miles of running up and down hills and I didn’t catch my breath until I hit the next obstacle.
From there I zigzagged through tiny trails through thick woods for miles, leaping over fallen trees, only to come out and get to haul a 5-gallon, rock-filled bucket around and hoist a 100-pound boulder out of a hole and carry it 30 feet.

We climbed over cargo nets, repelled walls, and failed often at obstacles with names such as Olympus – a slightly slanted wall with odd grip placements you had to use to get from one end to the other without falling off and hitting the ground. I didn’t come close and was punished with a 3/4 mile extra loop of jogging through a cut corn field which I actually found very relaxing. I’d take running over burpees every time.

The one obstacle I failed that continues to haunt me is a simple rope climb. It’s just getting yourself straight up the rope approximately 25 feet in the air to ring a cowbell awaiting you at the top. There’s clearly a proper technique that I wasn’t going to get on this day after 10 miles of Spartan.
Monday, I bought a 30-foot rope from the Farm Supply in Bruce to throw over the limb of the giant oak tree in my backyard. By this weekend, I’ll be able to climb any rope, any height.

The barbed wire crawl through the mud, using a rope and pulley to hoist a 90 pound sand bag 30 feet in the air, crawling through a maze of metal bars without touching the net over the top or the ground, and getting yourself over numerous wooden 8-9 foot walls were relatively easy, despite the current discoloration of my forearms.

The other component of the race that was refreshing was the camaraderie of the participants. At every obstacle there were many offering encouragement and even coaching if desired. It was less about winning and more about just finishing, accomplishing something together which I did in exactly three hours.

It’s what I enjoyed about my new Spartan friends from Columbus. It was a shared experience that we celebrated together. It’s an experience I’m ready to start training for once more, starting today.

You may email Joel McNeece at joelmcneece@gmail.com