Friday, November 2, 2012

Midwest Super Spartan: Bekah's Recap!

I'm still so excited that I don't even know where to start. I'm bruised and still a little sore even and yet, all I can do is smile like an idiot every time I think or talk about the Midwest Super Spartan. I had a blast. 

Friday night before the race, Fred and I went shopping for race gear that would keep us warm. Depending on which weather app we checked, the temp was supposed to be anywhere between 31 and 50 degrees. We were being optimistic and planning for low 40's. First we hit Dick's Sporting Goods. Big mistake. I don't know why, but I'm always shocked at the lack of service at these stores. I don't even know why I expect anyone there to know anything but this trip really set the bar at a new low. Not only did the employees we hunted down and asked to help us not know where or what the products were but on more than one occasion they themselves bashed the store. One girl didn't even know where the dressing room was, not kidding. It was her first day so I could totally cut her some slack but instead of getting on her little headset and asking someone, she turned her back and went back to folding clothes. At this point, I was mentally practicing my spear throw with Dick's employees as the target. 

Next stop Bass Pro where we bought what might just be the best invention ever. SealSkinz socks. (Not made from real seals, which is nice so they've got that going for them.) They are supposed to keep your feet warm and dry. If you run during the winter, you know how horrific it is to have wet, cold feet. Honestly, there are few things I dislike more. These socks are not cheap. Fred and I both felt they were worth the expense though since we both plan to do a lot of trail running in the colder months. Oh, and also because we are wimps. They did great during the Spartan though. I was really surprised they kept my feet dry after complete submersion the first several times. Danyelle and I even joked saying I would still buy them even if they were made from real baby seals. (*Key word here, 'joked', I would not buy anything made from a baby seal nor do I condone wearing baby seals on your feet. Unless you are freezing to death and that is the only way you can survive, then it's probably okay...)

We also picked up some Under Armour base layer to wear and trail shoes. Yes, we waited until the night before to get pretty much everything we needed. Living dangerously is just what we do. 

Morning of the race we woke up to the beautiful sounds of our alarm at 5am. I got ready, had some oatmeal and coffee, then woke up my children who were sound asleep and are possibly becoming bitter about us running races which cause them to be awake at ridiculous hours. They were not thrilled. Neither was my sister when we dropped them off at her house but she pretended to be. She's awesome like that. 

Skipping right along... we arrived and parked. Ended up being parked almost right behind Danyelle and her husband. The four of us grabbed our packets and headed in. We ran into a few friends right before our heat was about to start. One of the people we saw was our Spartan Class trainer, Eric. He ran the 8:00 Elite heat and was already done... in about an hour and a half. Eric finished 19th overall in the Elite heat. He's one of the two pretty amazing guys who led the Spartan training class that Fred and I took in preparation for the race. I'm so incredibly thankful for that class and our two awesome trainers. 

Midwest Super Spartan finishers from the Spartan Class at Peoria Athletic Club
Our Trainer, Eric, is in the back row, second from left and our other trainer, Lee, is back row on the right. Eric recently left us to go to work with Spartan Race. Michelle, bottom row, second from left has been helping to lead the class. She's quite awesome. Completed her First Race Ever a little over a month ago. It was a Spartan Beast. No 5k's to start out for that girl, oh no, she is a bad ass. I want to be just like her when I grow up.

Kory, Danyelle, Bekah, Fred
This is us before the race.  Fred surprised me on Friday afternoon by coming home with a mohawk, he's awesome.
The ambulances at the race entrance are always comforting...
The four of us, myself, Fred, Danyelle and her husband, Kory, all ran the 10:00 heat. We all knew we were going to take it easy, have fun, and try to avoid serious injury. We skipped out on the competitive heat for a reason. Fred was actually more into really pushing himself but elected to stay with me and our team. Okay, I totally threatened him with 'loss of privileges' if he left me. 

My biggest fear was the climbing walls. I've been dreading them all summer. I'm short. I don't like to fall/drop any distance. So, I wasn't as concerned with getting up the wall as I was with getting down the other side. The first two climbing walls were angled toward us which made getting up difficult but allowed you to slide down the other side. It was very muddy and you slid fast but it wasn't that far so I was good with it, in theory. Then I did it. On the slide down, there was a plank in the wall that stuck out just a little bit farther than the other planks. I cracked my elbows on that while sliding down, especially my left one. I managed to do this on BOTH of the walls because I'm awesome like that. I managed to make it over all of the climbing walls with the help of my team. Especially Fred, he helped me up each wall and then came around to the other side to make sure I didn't fall getting down. 
Lovely bruises all over my arm, five days later.

I was surprised at how much upper body strength I've acquired since starting the Spartan Class. One of the hills was so steep and muddy that there were ropes to help you pull yourself up. This was one of the first obstacles and I was nervous about having the strength to pull myself up. Once I started up, I couldn't believe how easy it was. I'm not saying this was a simple task but I really expected it to be harder for me. Those push-ups and dips payed off! Thanks, Lee and Eric!

Another obstacle where I was again thankful for Lee and Eric was where we had to pick up and carry a weight that resembled a round pillow. I don't know how much the 'girl' ones weighed, I think someone said 40 lbs. We had to carry it up and down little hills on a trail that reminded me of a dune buggy track. It made me think of the time in class when we had to carry weights up and down 5 floors of stairs in a parking deck, over and over. I did it without any problems. I don't think I could have said that 3 months ago. I won't go into detail on every obstacle, too many, but there were only 3 that I did not even attempt. All of the obstacles were challenging in some way and I really enjoyed seeing what I could do. 

The first obstacle I opted out of was a really high climbing thing, or as I like to call it - Certain Death. It was just 2x4's going across giant poles. You had to climb up and over and down the other side. Sounds easy enough but the rungs were spaced pretty wide apart which makes it even more difficult for my short legs and it was really high. And of course everything is now muddy and slick at this point. I watched Fred go up while I debated whether or not to do it. When he got to the top and started down the other side he looked at me and slightly shook his head. This is the guy who pushes me to try everything so I figured if he thought I should skip it, then I should probably skip it. I'm pretty sure this obstacle was the reason for the 'death waiver' I signed before the race. I did my thirty burpees instead. 

The second obstacle I opted out of was the monkey bars. I will be practicing these. I will not opt out again. This is my new goal. They are kind of high up so I would have to step up on a platform and then onto a hay bale they had sitting there and I would still have to have help reaching the first bar. Yes, I'm really that short. This frustrated me. Not just the lack of arm strength to make it across but the drop distance scared me too. I need to get over that.

The last one was the rope climb. It's in muddy water. The few minutes we stood and watched, no one made it to the top. I'm talking guys who look like they "pick things up and put them down." It was crazy to watch. Burpees, please.

Then there was the mud. This wasn't normal mud. This was some hybrid mix of mud and glue. It was crazy how it stuck on to you. It was fun though! We rolled under barbed wire, slogged through muddy water and watery mud, climbed up mud hills just to slip down mud slides on the other side. We all pretty much laughed and smiled the whole time while trying not to lose a shoe. People were friendly and helped each other along the way. They yelled encouragement and cheered too. There was a lot of great energy.

This is my friend Teisha, taking the climbing wall like a pro! And that is the climbing wall responsible for most of my bruises. See that board, the widest one sticking out just a hair farther than the rest? Yep, that's the culprit...

Each obstacle brought a different challenge. Though I tried, I didn't make it through all of them and ended up doing burpees on a couple others. That's the rule, if you opt out or do not complete an obstacle, you do 30 burpees. I think I did burpees a total of 5 times. One of the last obstacles is the spear throw. You literally throw a spear-like instrument at a target. If it sticks, great. If it doesn't stick or misses completely, 30 burpees. I totally stuck my spear!!! It was awesome! 

The gladiators at the end took pity on us. I also admit to using Danyelle as a human shield. I'd do it again too.

At the end we were completely coated in mud. We collected our medals, t-shirts, and then headed to hose off. It was cold and took forever to get the mud off. We put dry, clean clothes on cold and still slightly muddy bodies. We cranked the heat in the car and focused on thawing out. I was happy to be done. My entire body was spent. Soon, I felt like I'd been run over by something very large. Totally worth it.
Still had mud caked on my braids but somehow it just didn't matter. 

Tips For Spartan Races:

~Take towels, at least one preferably two. I had a hand towel that I kept wiping my hands on so I wouldn't get mud from my race clothes onto my clean clothes. I used a bath towel to wipe down with.

~Baby Wipes/Face Wipes: I keep these in my car anyway to use after a run. They come in quite handy.

~Gloves: I wore fingerless gloves and they worked great. 

~Trail Shoes: If you don't have trail shoes at least make sure your shoes have decent tread on them. It will help with the trail running and hill climbing. Once you are in the mud pits though it won't matter.

~Braids will keep your hair out of your face and are less likely to get caught on barbed wire than ponytails and buns.

~No loose clothing! It will snag on everything and/or get weighted down with water and mud, possibly leading to unintentional nudity. Also known as 'wardrobe malfunction.' Drawstrings are a bonus! 

~Most importantly, join the Spartan Class at Peoria Athletic Club!!!!

There is some crazy talk going on about signing up for a Spartan Sprint which is 3-4 miles, another Super which is 8-10 miles, and a Beast which is 10-12 miles. If you complete all three in a year it's a Trifecta. If you look closely in the group photo above, you'll notice Eric is wearing a Trifecta medal. Fred and I are thinking about it... wonder if we can talk Danyelle and Kory into it too! (Yes, that's a completely blatant hint, Danyelle.) 

Peace, Love, Happiness!

Have you done a Spartan? What do you think about obstacle races? 
We love hearing from you!!!


  1. Great recap, Bekah! I smiled the whole time reading it!! Loved doing it with you Dirkses!! ~Danyelle

  2. One thing I did this time (since I'd trashed my trail shoes on other mud runs) was to stud my running shoes - was going to pitch them after Spartan anyway. Screw 3/8-inch machine screws into the outer edges all the way around the shoe. I was amazed at how much more traction you got. Got the idea from runnersworld, just changed the pattern.,7120,s6-238-267--13045-0,00.html

  3. i love this so very much! im going to print it out and put it in the spartan book! you yourself have helped me in more ways then you will ever know i will not forget my first trail run for you! at that point i knew i would be ok because i have the best group there is! i love you so much girl i thank God every day he put you in my life!

    1. YOU did it, make sure you give yourself credit! You are an amazing person, you have no idea. Now, stop making me get all teared up. I'm supposed to be tough. ;)

  4. So spot on about that High Wall of Death! I was scared, and I'm 6'5", 215 and in great shape! Holy cow, that was scary with the muddy gloves. I thought Spartan missed an opportunity to highlight the 97% of the course that was forested, hilly, trail, and the trenches/riverbeds. THAT was the real challenge of this race. The Sprint in Laurel (Founders race) was no joke either. Congrats to you on your finish!

    1. Thanks! I don't feel so bad now for opting for burpees on that wall! :)