As always, I kicked my Spartan Race season off with the Arizona race weekend, this year a Super. As luck would have it, this wasn't a very positive season opener - I tweaked my knee and did not feel empowered at the finish line. Life and I have had a really weird stalemate going on and from the middle of February to about two weeks ago I have been very depressed, and had a hard time finding joy in the things that used to make me light up. This black cloud unfortunately included Spartan Races, and I felt like such an idiot for mouthing off about running a double Trifecta in 2018.
To sum things up, I'm feeling a lot tougher mentally, and while part of that has to do with some awesome personal development tools I've found, I also had an amazing time at the LA Stadium Sprint and re-discovered a lot of what makes me love these events!
I drove out to LA on Friday to stay in Monterey Park, just 15 minutes away from Dodgers Stadium in Chavez Ravine, knowing that my ambassador shift started at 7 am I didn't want to be late. What I neglected to remember was how freaking wet and cold California can be in the morning, and I also managed to not bring a single sweatshirt. I conducted my entire ambassador shift, filming obstacles, wrapped in an ugly grey fleece blanket I stole from a movie theater. Moral of the story – look at a couple full day weather reports before you pack. Oh, and maybe I should have used my own memory, you know, since I lived in southern California for the first 17 years of my freaking life.
During my ambassador shift, I got an amazing video of a girl getting her first rope climb! These kind of emotional firsts are one of my favorite things to capture to share with the Spartan community - everyone had a first race, and everyone has obstacles that are easier than others. It's so special to see the joy on people's faces when they achieve something new.
Anyway – this was my first Stadium event, and it has a lot of key differences from your normal Spartan Sprint. This event was very manageable in terms of distance to cover and obstacles to complete, and would actually be a great way for someone to start their Spartan career off comfortably if they don't feel ready for a true Sprint. The Stadium sprints are shorter in distance, go by quicker, and the obstacles just keep coming. The Spartan Stadium series also requires only 15 burpees for a missed obstacle, rather than the 30 required in a normal race, which really helps if you are worried about the burpees draining your energy. Plus there is the added bonus of bathrooms literally everywhere – if you've ever had to change a tampon in the woods, you know that this is a real luxury!
The Spartan Stadium series races are excellent events to invite spectators to. Unlike a normal outdoor Spartan course, there are a lot of places that spectators can catch a glimpse of you and maybe even capture a video of you in action. It also offers a much more comfortable atmosphere for spectators; at traditional Spartan Races, there is very little available seating, port-a-potties of various cleanliness, little protection from the elements, and it's difficult to watch your people do more than start and finish unless you are willing to walk along the race course. The ease of viewing and comfort factor make the Spartan Stadium series the perfect race to invite spectators to – especially if your spectators aren't up for walking a lot or braving the sun and heat.
There were a few obstacles that I had never seen before, most importantly the Assault Bike and the Gauntlet. The Assault Bike kind of frustrated me – you get on this bike and have to pedal however long or hard to burn 15 calories. I understand that this was probably chosen for a reason, but I am almost sure that everyone burns calories at a different rate, making this a really arbitrary threshold. I would have felt better pedaling a set distance, or something that didn't vary from person to person.
The Gauntlet was really odd... it was like my old friend Thighmaster at Tahoe, where you had to hang on punching bags to cross a distance. The Gauntlet had the punching bags, but instead of crossing them, you just kind of ran through the forest of punching bags. This obstacle was the last in the race, and was a pretty lackluster last obstacle in my opinion. I am small enough that I kind of blasted through the gaps in the bags.
For the first time in three Spartan Race seasons, I was able to complete the Hercules Hoist! This obstacle is a very heavy (+/-90lb) bag on a pulley – the object is to raise it up to the top, then slowly lower it back down without dropping it. Fail to raise the bag – burpees. Drop the bag on the way down – burpees. At around 100lbs myself, I have had a lot of failure when attempting this obstacle, both because of physics and lack of training for technique. This time at Dodger Stadium, something just clicked for me, and I walked right up to that bag, leaped up, drove my body to the ground and feet into the fence, and managed to get my first Herc Hoist! Funnily enough, as I was riding the high of success, I ran past Curt Sandoval of ABC 7 News! Curt was covering the Spartan Race, and I managed to get my mug on the Monday news. (Video below of my very winded interview.)
I finished at 1 hour, one minute, quite a bit slower than I wanted to finish, but right on par with my lack of training and motivation over the last few months. I struggled with my stamina on the stairs, and really need to work on that to prepare for both hills in my Beasts (Big Bear and Seattle) and to prepare for the next Stadium Race here in Arizona in July. My goal is to shave 15-18 minutes off of my total time so that one day I can have a hope of placing in my Age Group category.
Maybe it was the Herc Hoist achievement, maybe it was the fact that I looked super cute at this race, but overall the most important thing I experienced last Saturday was the joy that originally got me going on my first Trifecta journey in 2016. I wasn't particularly fast, but I felt amazing with every stride, even on the stairs. I felt the same giddy, wired buzz that I have been missing at the finish line for over a year, and I cannot tell you how relieved I am to re-discover this happiness.
This last race inadvertently helped remind me of just how fun these events can be, and how freaking amazing it feels to make these physical accomplishments. Just in time too – the Big Bear Beast is just 14 days away!
Check out my moment on the ABC 7 News with Curt Sandoval - I am at 1:54!
The Spyder 360 Obstacle, where I accidentally added a bonus obstacle to my time.
One of the best videos ever captured of me on my favorite obstacle - the rope climb. My climbing technique comes from a background in aerial arts, there are a lot of methods but this one works for me.