The Miller Park Stadium Sprint (November 1, 2014), happily, was much closer to the experience I was hoping for. Apart from a slight misadventure picking up a rental car to get to the stadium (I was leaving early in the morning, so I rented at O’Hare. O’Hare has what it calls a bus and shuttle center, and I thought that would have the shuttles to the car rental places. It didn’t.), getting there was no problem.
And once I got to the stadium, things were pretty easy. (I may not have parked right, since I was expecting to have to pay and didn’t, but oh well) it was fairly chilly and the stadium’s retractable roof was open, but it wasn’t that bad, and the weather did warm up nicely as the day progressed.
Instead of letting a mass wave go every 15 minutes, the race had 15-minute waves line up, but they only let 15 or so of us go at a time, maybe 30 seconds apart. That seemed to help reduce line-ups on the course. There were only two points where I felt my progress impeded by crowds, and both of them were minor. One was while we were carrying water jugs through the bleachers, which kind of forces a single-track situation. While possible to go up or down a row, there were handrails for the stairs between rows, which created choke points. But like I said, they were minor ones.
The second crowd-related slowdown was at the third and final 8-ft wall, where there were lines of maybe 5 people. (By that point, I wasn’t in sprinting form; I wasn’t complaining about having a bit of a breather.)
There was a nice variety of obstacles, even though many of them were more exercises than objects to negotiate. I’m okay with that; heavy jump ropes with your feet strapped together or medicine ball slams are kind of my idea of a good time. And it’s not like there weren’t plenty of obstacle obstacles as well.
I was a little sad that rowing machines weren’t one of the obstacles. I’d heard that a 500 meter row in 2 minutes is often used and dreaded by many. For me, though, that’s kind of in my wheelhouse. My gym uses rowers often, and they’re probably the thing I do best. I was fully expecting to have sonnets written about my form, and be plucked from my machine and decreed a Spartan Rowing God, sort of how the stories go about how every famous actress in the 50s got discovered in the supermarket. Alas, it was not to be.
There was one obstacle that I just didn’t get. It was a wheel that you were supposed to strap to your feet and wheelbarrow your way across the floor. The Velcro on my straps never held, though—and that was a common problem. Eventually I just kind of dragged the wheel behind me. Some instruction on how it was supposed to attach, or maybe just better equipment, would have been welcome.
Overall, though, the race provided some good information about where I’m weak and strong. I wound up doing three sets of burpees, on the traverse wall, spear throw, and rope climb. I wasn’t able to climb the big wall that gives this blog half of its name unassisted any of the three times it appeared on the course, but I got closer with each attempt, suggesting the issue may be more technique than physical. The Hercules Hoist, on the other hand, was not a problem, and even made me feel zesty. The stair climbs—of which there were a fair amount—were kind of strange. They didn’t seem too bad during the race, but man was I sore after.
It was also a lot of fun.
I’ve seen some online complaints about the race. Some were related to the medals (which did have an embarrassing typo declaring them from the “Sparian Race”) and some about other things. I’m not sure how much of those complaints were people being genuinely put out by something and how much were people trying to feel Important on the Internet. I do know that any issues that I had with the race were minor—nitpicks, really—that do not dampen my enthusiasm for the experience or my excitement for the races I’m planning next year.