The Arizona Spartan Race Weekend has been the start of my race season for the past two years, and this year was no different.
Starting with the Open House on Friday afternoon – this is something new that I first encountered last year in Sacramento. The Open House is a two hour window where racers are encouraged to come out and check out some of the course, interact with some vendors, and ask questions of trained SGX coaches who also lead tours and give tutorials on certain obstacles. This Open House I attended as an Ambassador, covering one of the coaches on Facebook Live while he led a tour, and while I think part of the value was in this coaches' enthusiasm for Spartan, but it also was a valuable opportunity to try out some hard, burpee-making obstacles without any penalties. One crowd favorite was trying out the Twister; this obstacle was introduced last year and seems to be as difficult and hated as the spear throw. There are many different techniques for conquering this obstacle and I think a lot of people benefitted from seeing other people try it and giving it a shot themselves.
Aside from covering the Open House on Friday, my ambassador responsibilities this weekend were to get footage of obstacles to be uploaded to social media. I think for the first time ever, I really felt a camaraderie with my fellow ambassadors, and we even pulled off a nearly complete group photo!
I had originally planned for this to not only kick off my season, but also to be my first double race weekend ever. I ended up only running the Super on Saturday for a number of reasons, first being the weather. Historically, the Arizona Spartan Race is normally the very last week of February, which means it is often quite warm by then. This year the race was scheduled for the second week of February, which is normally pretty cool if not truly chilly. Unfortunately something was going on with our state's thermostat that week, and we had highs in the mid 70's to low 80's, finally settling in the mid to low 70's for race weekend. Kind of a bummer – I had to be honest with myself and accept that with only afternoon heats available for the Sunday Sprint, I would be risking a lot since I am really not in the best shape to be doing two races in a weekend anyway.
Which brings me to my second reason why I didn't feel ready to do two races in one weekend – ya girl enjoyyyyed her winter off season! I hung out with friends, my cat, got started on re-watching the whole Real Housewives of Atlanta from the beginning, rearranged some furniture, and more. I definitely put a higher priority on leisure and nurturing my spirit than I did on exercise and nurturing my body with things other than macaroni and cheese... On the other hand, that macaroni and cheese binge bought me an extra five pounds I was glad to see! Sometimes it's just important to be happy and relaxed and not make everything about fitness and health. I think even though I definitely could have been more ready come race day, I don't have any regrets about how I spent my off-season.
This year, instead of having the Sprint on Saturday and the Super on Sunday as they had done in 2017, the order was switched, which I think makes much more sense from a logistics point of view. Spartan Race courses are built in the days leading up to race weekend, and any items that can be cleared away as the weekend goes on means less to break down on Sunday night and Monday. This also means that the Super course on Saturday is as pristine as it can be – less ruts in the mud, cleaner obstacles for better grip, you name it, as some parts of the course are for both the Super and Sprint and will be set up for both days.
The Super course was 8.4 miles and 25+ obstacles. Once again, the Arizona terrain threw me for a loop and I tweaked my knee when my foot got stuck between some rocks and in some dust – very similar to what happened last year when I rolled my ankle! I have accepted that I a) need to trail run more to get my stability more on point and b) Arizona terrain looks flat and soft but is a treacherous beast. Aside from the injury, I had a really good race, finishing a minute faster than the last Super I did in Sacramento, and continuing to progress in my upper body obstacles. I was able to complete at least ¼ more of the Multi-Rig than ever before, and the uneven bars are rapidly moving into the "I Got This" category.
The Super course had so many stretches of plain, boring, trail with no obstacles for a while. Part of the reason I like Spartan Races is that I hate running, and just when I am starting to think "Christ I am so tired of running" there's an obstacle to break up the monotony. This race did not have that kind of relief and I really felt the lack of distance training negatively affect my performance. I expended so much energy just getting the miles down that sometimes I needed to take a breather before tackling an obstacle in addition to breathers every ¾ of a mile – not something I normally do.
This race was one of the first that I have encountered that had little to no new obstacles for me – this may be because it's my 7th race, it may be because this is my third time running in Arizona, it may be because there legitimately were only tried and true obstacles out there that weekend. One old favorite I was glad to see was the Memory Wall, however I really wasn't too comfortable with the level of cheating that went on with that obstacle in the Open Heats. You're supposed to just remember it or fail and do the burpees, and there were a lot of people writing their code on themselves. Jokes on you – dunk wall and dirt can and will remove Sharpie!
I also noticed that unlike some other races I have completed, this one had the ENTIRE course map posted online the Thursday before the race, however the maps were not up when we got to the venue for Open House. There also were no mystery obstacles on the map – every single one was identified for both the Sprint and the Super. On one hand, I think this really can help people mentally prepare for the course, but I personally kind of missed the feeling of surprise when you come across a mystery obstacle.
I continue to race alone for the most part, which frees me up to make friends with strangers on the way. I met a wonderful girl named Lauren and her dad, racing together! I thought it was so cool that they get their whole family involved in Spartan events – daughter and dad raced the Super on Sunday, and they were joining their mom and brother in the Sprint on Sunday! My dream is to one day have a family that races together – right now it's up in the air whether that's gonna be my mom and sisters or if I will have to marry/birth my own family to have a Spartan Family!
For the first time, I made fuel a high priority and actually managed to eat a pack of Sport Beans, three Gatorade Chews, and two waffles during the race. Normally, I forgo fuel in favor of just eating after the race, but I can tell that fueling more correctly during the event really shortened my recovery time – probably because I wasn't draining myself past empty! I was able to move around a lot more the day after a race than I have been in the past. Even though I really don't like eating during races, I now have personal evidence to motivate me to get those gels, waffles, and chews in no matter what.
All in all, even though I got a little hurt and didn’t make my goal of a two race weekend, I feel that this was a very positive start to my 2018 Spartan Race season. I look forward to spending the next two months training for the LA Stadium Race at Dodger's Stadium!