I’m finally out of my mimosa-hazed, iced knee lounging to write about the Asheville Super on Saturday! I’m so happy I did it. I’m a little sad it’s over. I’m a lot relieved it’s done. I’m ready for my next race.
A little quick background on the venue – the race was on Black Mountain, on a stone and sand company’s property. Needless to say, there were a lot of uphills, a lot of rocks, a ton of mud and plenty of water.
We got to the venue with plenty of time for me to look around at the obstacles, get comfortable in my surroundings, and anxious to get to the starting line. One of the main obstacles I was fixated on was the 8’ wall. I was getting a bit worried watching others trying to climb over it. It seemed like everyone had a buddy with them to assist, and I was going at it alone. I know the Spartan race is about being a community – so I could ask anyone for a boost, but still, the last thing I want to do is slow a stranger down. But I had to push past that worry – I would figure something out when I actually got to the obstacle, not hours before.
It’s finally time for the 11a heat to line up. It’s go time! I’m one of the first in the line, and I awkwardly make my way over the short wall… great start, Alaina. Oh well, laugh it off.
We shout our AROO’s and take off. We barely make it ½ mile in and we’re thrown into water. Deep water – like past my waist. And there are huge rocks under the murky water. People up ahead are trying to warn those behind that a “big rock!” is coming up. But it doesn’t really help since you’re probably navigating over your own big rock at the same time. I am thankful that the water isn’t freezing this time. Even though the race just started, the cool water feels good. And thank God for that because we were in it for almost a half mile.
From the water it’s back to running up dirt paths, through the trees and thorns. Clambering up huge dirt hills that you have to use your hands and feet to push over. Large sections are slippery from the recent rain plus the wear & tear from earlier heats. I try to move away from the pack and stick to the outskirts of the race boundaries… It’s a little less worn out off to the sides, leaves and dirt haven’t been made into mud trails yet, and it’s much easier to pass the “turtles”. (<- Not my term! You can hear people shouting “turtles to the left, rabbits to the right” throughout the course. It doesn’t always work, but in the first couple of miles it’s a nice attempt. )
Canon’s #1 rule in these races is to keep your hands dry. Makes sense but not easy to do. Though I made it through the ½ mile of water with mostly dry hands and the mud from clambering up the mountain had dried nicely, but then came the barbed wire crawl through giant puddles. I don’t know if these puddles were filled with water by the event staff or if they just got lucky with all the rainfall and the course got that much dirtier. Either way – I was about elbow deep in mud puddles and scraping my knees through the sandy pit. There were a few chances to roll through, but then you had to go right back to crawling. It was pretty brutal.
Of course there were the usual obstacles – different walls to climb over, cargo nets to climb, atlas carry… Two obstacles you can usually expect but still really killed me (but I completed!) were the gravel carry and the sandbag carry. They’re especially hard on my back. The gravel carry was up a pretty decent grade hill and back down again. Luckily it was mostly dry but the dirt was soft and thick. The only good part about the gravel carry was approaching it from the A-frame cargo climb and everyone on the hill was singing Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s so much easier to do something when you can smile through the pain.
As I approached the sandbag carry – I could hear the volunteers telling the racers this was an exceptionally brutal sandbag carry. Not that this information helps at all cause you’re stuck going through with it… But I guess good to mentally prepare for a couple seconds. They weren’t kidding. This was 6 miles into the race, around 17 obstacles down, this sandbag never felt heavier. Here we are, on a hill in the woods covered in trees and roots, trying to climb down it with dead weight. Worse yet – climbing back up. The steepness of the hill would’ve called for using hands and feet, hard to do with a sand bag. People were attempting to toss their bag up and climb to it. I put my bag down once for just a couple breaths. Letting my back stretch back into place. Getting up to the top. Holy shit.
Then a causal 2+ mile uphill hike. Literally, not 1 person was running it. It was painful and exhausting. Racers were dropping like flies. Some were laying flat on their backs, others stretching out a cramp, or sucking down some goo, anything to not move uphill anymore. I refused to stop. There was no point cause I would just have to keep going up anyway. My legs would still hurt. What was the point of resting for a moment and falling behind just to feel the exact same pain, maybe worse, as soon as I moved again.
I kept pushing myself. Thinking about the awesome note Canon wrote me about willpower, inner strength, mental toughness, and personal goals. I could do this! And I did. Only to be met with some more climbing just a couple minutes later, but hey, a flat ground felt like rest.
The most frustrating portion of the race was the last couple miles. We were moving downhill on a path that was barely wide enough for 1 person. Branches and vines were thick all around, there really wasn’t anywhere to go but to follow this path with everyone else. Not being able to move at the pace I wanted to move was driving me insane. I made moves to get ahead every chance I got. And finally I got past the group and was off on my own.
Even though my knee started aching around mile 6, sharp pains shooting through every few steps, I still tried to run when I could and walked quickly when my knee couldn’t handle it. I was going to get to that finish line since I was 2/3 of the way there. One of the biggest pushes for me was when I heard someone say they had started in a heat 1.5 hours earlier than me. I had caught up to them and now I was going to push past them.
This race was as mental as it was physical. It hurt and felt like it was never going to end. It was wet and muddy and smelly. I wanted water when I couldn’t have it. I wanted to rest but forced myself to keep going. I wished I had someone to talk to but was happy I didn’t have to rely on anyone else.
In the end, after 9+ miles and 27 obstacles, I only did burpees 3 times! When I passed the finish line I remember thinking, “holy crap seriously only 3 sets? Hell yeah!”. I missed the spear toss – damn you spear toss, the Z wall, and the final multi rig (which is like monkey bars except with rings, ropes and bars).
Three obstacles I was really ecstatic over beating were the monkey bars, rope climb and traverse line. (And getting over all the walls, but these 3 mainly!). I really wasn’t sure I would do well with the monkey bars, but when I got to them and killed ‘em (!)I was kind of hoping I’d see another set that day. Now I can be sure that all the training I did for my shoulders and grip strength is going in the right direction.
When it came time for the rope climb – the rope was very slick by the time I got to it but I was still able to make it to the top, ring the bell and even controlled myself coming back down.
Lastly – something I didn’t train for, don’t know how I’d even begin to, was the traverse line. Upside down, propelling yourself across a slack line to a bell…. This was exhausting and difficult. My shoulders and arms were screaming, my calves were getting rubbed raw, I felt like I was never going to make it, and then I did and said FU burpees.
There were so many more obstacles and so many more moments that I can’t even take from brain to paper. I am so, so happy I did this race, alone. I trained so hard to succeed in it and learned a lot about my physical and mental prowess. In all honestly – I feel like a bad ass. I didn’t stop, I passed people, I completed most of the obstacles, I was smiling at the end – hell yeah I feel good about myself!
Overall – 25th place for my age group, finishing in 4 hours 9 minutes. Now I’m off to the Philadelphia sprint to race next to my mom in her first Spartan race. After that I will achieve Trifecta glory at the Carolina Beast in October! I’m super pumped for that race, especially since I’m so happy with how the Super turned out. We’ll round out 2016 with another Super in Jacksonville so Canon can reach the Trifecta, too. Stay tuned!
Here are links to a couple YouTube videos from this years race. They’re pretty fun to watch!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfMgttx0Qro – Probably my favorite, a little commentary from an exhausted racer, great views, and short.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebk8S0SMSdc – Little longer but you see every obstacle and the whole course, in order.
Fun injury pics, cause why not…