I completed the Honor Series Ft. Benning Spartan Sprint on April 8, 2018. It didn’t go quite as I planned, but it taught me some valuable lessons to take with me through earning the rest of my 2018 Trifecta.
It was hot, dry, and dusty. Yeah, that pretty much covers it. I won’t be too upset if I don’t make it back to Ft. Benning in the future. I feel like I experienced most of what it had to offer during the short drive in. The cactus needle that decided to stick itself in my toe didn’t help matters. Yeah, cacti. In the middle of a parking lot. In Georgia. And somebody decided this was a perfect place for an obstacle race that includes low crawls.
The festival area was so-so at this one. Honestly, by the time we got there, it wasn’t much of a festival area at all. It felt more like a staging ground, with people warming up and sporting far more serious looks on their faces than the afternoon casual waves warranted. I love OCR. I’ve done my fair share. In my experience, people normally look… happier. Maybe the heat had a lot of people feeling irritable, but it definitely wasn’t the festive atmosphere I was expecting. Still, you had the staples of merchandise, showers, some food, etc. It got the job done.
As for the course itself, I’ll have to admit that I wasn’t fond of the set-up. First off, Spartan Sprints are supposed to cap out around 5 miles long. This one was 5.5 miles, almost double what the Sprints start at. I don’t know if it was because this was Spartan’s first Honor Series race or what, but that was a nasty surprise when I arrived, having trained with the expectation of a 3- to 4-mile course.
On top of that, the layout of the obstacles was far from what I would consider balanced. We had a few climbing-style obstacles and an absurdly long Barbed Wire Crawl sprinkled in through the first couple of miles, but then there were huge gaps of just flat, uninteresting trails. After the second or third water station, those trails turned into big artificial pits of muddy water that made sure you were plenty wet and muddy before getting to the final gauntlet of 8 upper-body obstacles back-to-back in a roughly half-mile stretch leading into the finish line. Was it challenging? Yes. Fun? Not as much as I would’ve liked.
I went into this race thinking I was going to do really well. I was running it with a friend who I knew had better cardiovascular endurance than me, but I wasn’t too worried. Even though we were in an afternoon wave, which is usually more casual and easy-going, he wanted to be competitive and stay towards the front of the pack. I was completely fine with that until about half a mile in, when I realized that I was not performing anywhere near as well as I should have been.
Struggles from the Start
My chest was tight, my body felt heavy, and I couldn’t keep up a decent running pace. I didn’t know what was going on, but I kept making my way through. I’m good at climbing walls, so I made it over those just fine, but when we got to the Barbed Wire Crawl, I kept getting really dizzy and couldn’t keep my heart rate down. I even had to stop and sit for a minute when I got out from underneath the barbed wire before I trusted myself to get up and keep going.
Strength-wise, the Rope Climb was the first thing that gave me real trouble. I couldn’t get my feet right and only got about halfway up before my arms gave out. I slid back down with a mix of shame and pissed-offednish, stepped to the side, and did my penalty burpees.
After the Rope Climb, it was open trails for quite a while. I tried to run again and couldn’t keep it up. I attributed my cotton-mouth to the dust that was kicking up in the low crawl and the queasiness to the Subway I had eaten for lunch a couple of hours before. It wasn’t until I took down two full cups of water at the second or third water station instead of just one gulp that I realized that the issue all along had been dehydration. Almost instantly, I felt my strength come back to me and was able to run again. I even smiled during the Sandbag Carry. It wasn’t quite enough to keep me hydrated for the rest of the race, especially not in the unforgiving Georgia heat, but it was nice to know that it wasn’t just that I hadn’t been training right.
Things Pick Up
In fact, even though the cotton mouth started coming back, my training did a good job of carrying me through the gauntlet of upper-body obstacles at the end of the race. I had done a Bonefrog Challenge a few months back and come out of that race unhappy with where my upper-body strength was. I focused on it and pushed a little harder than I had been. That showed when I got to the that last chain of obstacles in the Sprint.
My buddy and I had different methods on the Twister. I can tell you that going backwards was far superior. He had been instructed to go sideways, but the swinging necessary for that method really taxes your arms. He wasn’t quite able to make it through. Going backwards feels really natural and I made it through no problem, saving me from having to do more burpees. I also got through the Inverted Wall, Bucket Brigade, and Monkey Bars without much issue.
The Spear Throw would have been more aptly named the Burpee Trap. I missed and had to get down and dirty with some more penalty burpees. Shortly after, I ripped my hands open on Olympus. The open wounds made the Multi-Rig and Slip Wall plenty fun, but I once again made it through before jumping over that glorious line of fire to cross the finish line.
Hydrate. Seems simple enough, right? I thought so too. I almost never have issues with hydration. But when you stack a Waffle House dinner with the old habit I have of limiting my fluid intake during a long drive, you end up with a recipe for minor dehydration. That minor dehydration quickly got worse with the heat, dust, and wind at the race.
I also learned the lesson of always understanding the goals of a potential race partner really clearly before agreeing to run with them. My intent was to do this race for fun and I thought my buddy was going in with the same intentions until we got there and he told me that he wanted to put up a competitive time. I then felt pretty bad when I slowed him down. He was a champ about not leaving me behind, but I could tell he wanted to go faster.
As for my training, I was fairly happy with the progress I had made on my upper-body endurance and coordination. But failing on the Rope Climb made me realize that I needed to keep working on my overall upper-body strength. I can proudly say I’ve done that since this race. And I proved that during my Spartan Super, which you can read about here now that you’re done reading this AAR! See what I did there?