#mudlife: Spartan Super Race Recap

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Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, right? I definitely pushed that this weekend at the Asheville Spartan Super. This was my first obstacle race ever, and I’m still not completely sure how Jeff managed to talk me into it. BUT I will say I am so glad that he did. I think this race just about compared to running a full – and it took almost as long.


We headed up to Asheville on Friday morning. First up: Sierra Nevada! Jeff has been wanting to go here the past three times we’ve been to Asheville. We spent some time exploring the brewery and grounds. Even though it was raining, the atmosphere was so lively.


After we finished checking out the grounds, we headed up to our cabin in Burnsville. This was my first time using AirBnB. We stayed in the sweetest cabin with an amazing view. Our friends got up around dinner time. We loaded up on carbs and watched Get Out <– highly recommend!

The next morning, it was RACE DAY! Our heat was at 10:15, which gave us plenty of time to make the hour drive to Black Mountain.


We got to the quarry about an hour and a half early and checked in. There was a super reassuring message in our race packets:


I was already pretty nervous, and this did not help at all. Thankfully the energy in the village was contagious and the wait for our heat passed quickly. We studied the course map and checked out some of the obstacles while we waited. Something that was really different for me for this race was not knowing anything about the course ahead of time. I think this might have been a good thing – I can’t stress if I don’t know what to stress over. Right?!

The course ended up being about 8 miles. I wore my old Garmin Forerunner 10, but it died about two miles in. We had a “river crossing” first thing that was more like a fording. It rained the night before, so the water was pretty deep – over my head. Swimming is not my strong suit so I was kind of freaked out, but there was no way but through!

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First up on dry land was the overwalls and hurdles – I like that these were first because they gave me some confidence. After that was the cliff climb. The elevation changes throughout the course was insane – about 1,500 feet overall. The cliff climb had us going up ropes about 20 feet. I was pretty freaked out and slid around a bit, but I made it. After that was the six foot wall. I needed a little boost from Jeff to get over it, but it wasn’t bad. Then we had the sandbag carry. I was worried about this obstacle while I was training. It really wasn’t terrible. We had a short out-and-back that was less than a quarter mile and fairly flat.

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Next was the Z-wall. I had a good rhythm going until I crossed over and fell. First set of burpees! We “ran” for a good bit after that, and by run I mean hiked and crawled. There were several places along the course where there was no way to get up other than on hands and knees or to slide down on your booty. We made it back to the festival area and had the Herculean Hoist. Not terrible so long as you lay down and then lift. Then we had the dreaded spear throw… and 30 burpees. This was a popular burpee zone!

Since this was all in the festival area, we had three more obstacles in quick succession. First was the barbed wire crawl. I alternated between rolling and crawling. My hip got cut up pretty badly on this one. From there, it was time for rolling mud and the dunk wall. I was nervous going into this obstacle and it wasn’t my favorite. Can’t you tell?

Next was the slip wall, which was sort of like the cliff climb. The platform was of course covered in mud. I was insistent that Jeff go behind me in case I fell. Focusing on one step at a time and trying my hardest not to pitch forward, I made it to the top! … Then fell as soon as I touched the top to get over. I slid from the very top to the bottom and took Jeff out on my way. My ego and shoulder were SORE after that.

We had more hiking/running/crawling before making it to the A-frame cargo and atlas carry – another one I was worried about not being strong enough for. Spartan Race had posted a tutorial for the atlas carry on their Instagram, so thankfully that helped a lot. I knelt on the ground and sort of rolled the ball up until I could stand. We had to carry about 10-15 feet, do five burpees, then come back. After that, we used a cargo net to climb a short cliff and then tackled the seven- and eight-foot walls. This took me a couple tries. I had to use the women’s step for the seven-foot wall and Jeff gave me a boost for the eight-foot wall. Almost immediately after that was the bucket carry. This was tougher than the other carries. We went uphill, then downhill, then turned around and came back. It was tough. I’m thinking it was about a quarter mile start to finish. The next obstacle, Bender, I was just not comfortable with, so I got started on burpees while the boys tackled it. Following this was the log carry and another cargo climb. The inverted wall was next. It looked really intimidating, but this super nice girl stopped to show me how to do it. No burpees for me here!

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We made our way back to the festival area for the last few obstacles – which of course were a ton of burpee-makers: rope climb, twister, and multi-rig all did me in. Ninety more burpees. Between these, though, I was able to do Olympus (with assistance – that thing was nuts), the tire flip, and bridge. The women’s tires were 200 pounds, but the hardest part was getting a grip under it to get going. I pretty much felt like WonderWoman after this obstacle, but quickly came back to Earth at the bridge. I HATE heights and this was pretty much my worst nightmare, but I had to do it to get to the finish line.

And finally… we were there!

That medal felt so good to put on. While I didn’t train for this race as long as I have others, it was such a challenge, both mentally and physically. I think I’ll be back once this training cycle is over!

So, are you thinking about running a Spartan race? Some tips if you are a first-timer that I wish I knew beforehand:

  1. Be prepared to wait at some obstacles, especially at the beginning.
  2. Wear tight clothing!
  3. Bring fuel. You will be out there for a while and will need more than what you can get at the aid stations.
  4. Do it with a friend – you will need support, whether mental or physical, at some point!
  5. Do not expect a nice shower at the end. 🙂

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“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a ride!”

– Hunter S. Thompson
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Catching Up: Journey to 26.2

Planning a wedding took a lot of my time during my little hiatus from blogging. You know what else did?

Training for a marathon.

Taking the Plunge

After our wedding, I found myself with a ton of free time that I wasn’t used to having and a lack of motivation to work out for the sake of working out. I didn’t run much for the last couple of months before our big day and instead did a lot of strength training to get ready for it. I knew I needed to sign up for a race to motivate myself to start running again, especially with the holidays coming up. That’s when I found the best race ever, the Asheville Marathon and Half!

I picked this race for a few reasons. First, Asheville is where we had our “mini-moon!” At around three and a half hours away, it’s the perfect distance from home to be a destination race without breaking the bank. Asheville has become one of my favorite places. Surrounded by mountains, laid-back folks, totally weird in its own perfect way, lots of craft beer and good wine… you can’t go wrong here. Another thing sold me on this race: the ENTIRE thing is run on the grounds of The Biltmore Estate. Running the full would give me the chance to explore parts of the estate that are normally not open to the public. I was sold. I registered for the race a few weeks after our wedding, and then it was time to start training!

Marathon Training

For a training plan, I picked Hal Higdon’s Novice II Plan. I average about 30 miles a week on the plan with one 20-mile run. I was worried about the one sorta-long run during the week that maxed out at 8 miles, but it really wasn’t an issue. I just planned to leave work right at 2:45 (my contract time) on those days to get my run in. Training through the winter in South Carolina was glorious! It was great to run at about 4:00 in 50-60 degree weather. I did my weekday runs solo, but usually met up with some running friends for my weekend long runs when I was in town. Since I trained through the holidays, some of my runs let me explore places besides Aiken, which was a fun way to learn my way around!

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Out of all my training runs, this 14 miler was my toughest one. I’m pretty sure it was all mental because it was my first time running longer than a half marathon. I also did this run in Newnan, GA, where I’m not as familiar with runner-friendly roads. I did a lot of car-dodging the first half, then did 7 miles on my husband’s old high school’s cross-country track. Not the most exciting, but I got it in!

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My 19-miler was the best. I had my running girls with me for most of it, and our local ice cream shop had a special ice-cream-for-breakfast event! I had never had a hot waffle topped with ice cream, but you MUST TRY IT! It’s even better after running long on a cold morning!

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Before I knew it, it was time to taper and get ready to race! I personally love the taper. It’s the perfect time to catch up on everything you don’t have time for during training, like cleaning your car, sitting on your butt watching Netflix, and snuggling with dogs.

 

 

 

Race Weekend

We traveled up to Asheville after work on Friday with both of the doggies. All week, the forecast was for freezing rain the day of the race… until Thursday, when they started predicting 3-6 inches of snow. Don’t I have the best luck with weather?! I packed way too many options for the race, because I was sort of in denial that it would actually snow. I was also nervous about getting to the race if there was accumulation, because we opted to get a cabin about 30 minutes away in the mountains. We got to our place at Cabins of Asheville, right up the road from where we stayed on our mini-moon, and got the dogs settled. It was so cozy! I definitely recommend these cabins if you are planning to visit this area.

On Saturday, we spent the day exploring downtown Asheville with my running girls Missy and Sheri. We met up for lunch with our friend Nancy, who ran the Saturday half. She filled us in on the course and as we ate, it started flurrying outside!

We headed back to our cabin for an early dinner. I made spaghetti and bison meatballs from Run Fast Eat Slow. Then, it was time to get my gear ready before an early bedtime! We planned on being out the door by 5 AM to give us plenty of time to get there in the bad weather. I had the sweetest helper while I got all my stuff ready.

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Pack – Nathan Firestorm 2L; Shirt – Stiletto Running; Leggings – BCG; Shoes – Brooks Adenaline GTS 16; Watch – Garmin Forerunner 235; wrap – Momentum Jewelry; buff – race swag; jacket – Target; gloves, hat, ear wrap – Academy Sports; pickle juice shot, two Gu, hot hands packs – Academy Sports

Race Day 

We woke up at 4 AM on race day to…. SNOW! There was about 4-5 inches on top of my car, and it was still gently falling when we left the cabin. Thankfully, the city was prepared and salted the roads, so we had no issues getting to the Biltmore. The employees and volunteers seemed genuinely excited to be there and were so helpful, which helped calm my nerves a bit. I was super bundled up, but not enough to hang out around the starting line. We waited in the barn to stay warm until the race started, after a 30-minute delay due to the weather. Before long, it was time to line up!

Missy and Sheri were using the Galloway method, but Jeff and I planned to break at each mile, so we split off pretty soon into the race. I was feeling good and set out on my own at around mile 3. I got way too hot and had to take off my jacket right around that point, then caught up with my girls right before we got to the Biltmore house!

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I hung with them for a bit before picking up my pace a bit. Jeff and I found each other right around mile 8 and hung together until the course split between the half and full at around mile 10.

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These pictures can’t come close to doing the course justice. I’m sure it’s beautiful without the snow, but on this day, it was a winter wonderland. I felt like I was on the set of a Disney movie the entire time.

The course took us over hills, bridges, trail, gravel, and through vineyards. It was so gorgeous!

 

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Miles 15-20 were a bit of a blur. I perked right up around mile 20, because the course took us right past the finish line!

Seeing Jeff and Missy waiting there and cheering gave me a burst of motivation that I really needed at that point. I was starting to get tired, and had officially entered into the realm of running farther than I ever had before. The mental game was on. The last six miles of the course were out-and-back, which definitely played on my mental strength. I took my pickle juice at about mile 22. I was skeptical about it before the race, because everyone I asked told me I would know when to take it. They were right! I knocked it back when my legs started really feeling like lead. It helped me for a bit, but I hit the wall HARD at mile 23. So many people were walking at this point and I was so ready to be done. Doubt started creeping in as I texted my mom telling her how hard it was. She ended up sending my inspirational texts about every 5 minutes until the finish. Did I mention she’s the sweetest? 🙂

That last 5k was the toughest one I have ever run. I finally understood why everyone says you aren’t halfway through a marathon until mile 20. I drew on every mantra, memory, and power song that I could to get me to the finish line. With a quarter mile to go and the finish line in sight, I stepped up the pace as much as I could.

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After 4:54:36, I finished. The tears flowed as I realized just what my body and mind had accomplished. From the first day of training to the moment I crossed the finish line, I learned so much about my own strength and will. The marathon can and will change you.

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See that profile?! I definitely earned the rest of the day that I spent eating tacos, drinking wine in the hot tub back at our cabin, and snuggling with the pups and my #1 cheerleader throughout this whole process.

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So, did I convince you to run Asheville? If you’re even just toying with the idea of running your first half, full, or challenge weekend, DO THIS ONE! From the course to the staff and volunteers, this is an amazing race. If you decide to join me on March 17-18 next spring, you can sign up here. Use these codes for a 15% discount off ALL EVENTS between now and July 31!

Enter invitation code JULIABIPS2018AMAROCKS and discount code  2018AMAJULIAROCKS for your discount. I’ll see you at the starting line!