One year ago I started working out with a friend, Paddy. He is a super fit guy who years ago won a "From scrawny to brawny" contest - he is one dedicated and disciplined and buff guy!
Me, I hadn't done much exercise lately (and not much before that either) :) I loved vinyasa yoga and hiking. Here and there a few push ups. That's it. Then I broke my shoulder and exercise became even more limited. I had just gotten back more regularly into yoga and gained some strength back. But now I seriously wanted to up my levels.
There is a gym in Prado and a session costs you incredible 2 Euros! So, inspired to become the fittest me, I went there one day with Paddy, so he could explain to me how everything works and what exercises I could do. I did not expect that he had constructed me a whole workout plan for the next months! So for the next weeks we went together to the gym, starting at 2 times a week for me. I soon learned that I was weaker than a feather in the wind (without being as light). Paddy told me that my push ups were not low enough so I re-started with knee push-ups. He asked me about goals, and I said a pull-up would be absolutely mind-blowing for me! He said that it could be possible in a few months.
The training felt really good, and I was happy he joined me every time because otherwise I might have been too intimidated to go regularly, surrounded by all those tough and fit guys there at the gym. Paddy was such a good help and teacher - if I was not able to do an exercise (and a lot of them fell into that category) he helped me finding an easier variety to start off and build strength. Soon we added weekly hill sprints to the training, and geez, they were tough.
But I soon noticed a definite increase in strength (not too hard if you start at zero, haha).
And one day, it happened! I did my first pull-up. And then two more. To say I was thrilled is an absolute understatement!
In the meantime Paddy had done a Spartan Race in Madrid. This is a 13+ km obstacle trail run, often including a lot of mud (and fun I heard). It is incredibly tough, and he ran a fantastic time for his first obstacle race! I got intrigued, and loving challenges (2 years ago we had done already the Travesia together, a 65 km marathon hike through the mountains of Grazalema), I wanted to do a Spartan Race! There was one coming up in Barcelona in 3 months, so I decided to sign up!
I had 3 months to train. I started doing more jogging because a lot of the race includes running distances between the obstacles, often with inclines. Running in and around Prado always includes some more or less steep hills in the countryside, so it was the perfect condition to train for a Spartan Race. The hills killed me. I had two trails I ran regularly from then on. One was 5 km run which included 4 hills, and the other one was a more or less steep incline up to a hill above Prado.
Besides that I just continued a bit of strength training, doing some push-ups, pull-ups - and burpees. In case you don't know what a burpee is, it is a very much hated exercise, which includes most muscle groups. At a Spartan Race, if you fail to doan obstacle, you have to do 30 burpees. Now let me tell you, 30 burpees in a rested state is hardcore work (at least for me). In the middle of a 13 km run, covered in mud, it is insane.
So the weeks went by, and then suddenly it was only one week to go. And I realized - I was definitely still not prepared and fit enough for a Spartan Super Race! I hadn't practised on any obstacles, like climbing a rope or getting over 8 foot walls. My running had improved but I hadn't run a single 10 km so far. My repetitions of pull ups hasn't improved. I did the Spartan Test - how many burpees can you do in 5 minutes - and I did only around 55 or so. They say in my age group I should be able to do 75 to be Spartan proof.
Add to that an increased amount of stress over the past weeks before the race. I work a busy job where I am standing on my feet all the time, which is not the greatest for full recovery. I didn't have much time off before the race. The race would be one day before or directly on my period (for you guys, that usually means a reduction in energy). 3 days before the race I had worked a 10 hour shift (read: standing and walking around for 10 hours straight), 2 days before the race I had another shift where I literally had a melt-down. The same day my journey to Barcelona started, which included taking a bus to Seville, where I would stay overnight. Unfortunately my hostel was bloody noisy, and I had to get up again at 4 am to catch my early flight to Barcelona. I managed to get maybe 2 hours of sleep that night, and then 1 more during the flight.
I had thought already before that I would not participate in the race because I had just felt run-down, stressed-out, and totally not fit enough. So when I arrived in Barcelona I even felt more convinced. I thought about how I would feel not doing it, and decided that I was fine with my decision. My health was more important. I would not regret it. So instead of just chilling somewhere and save energy, I left my bag at the lockers of the train station, and explored Barcelona a bit before Paddy and his wife would arrive by train. I went to the Sagrada Familia and enjoyed Starbucks, then further to La Ramblas.
Finally Paddy and Lidiya arrived, and we had a fantastic late lunch at one of the bext vegetarian restaurants I have ever eaten! Check out Teresa Carles if you get a chance! I had a fabulous tasty mushroom dish and a heavenly gluten free buckwheat sponge cake with vegan cashew creme and chocolate sauce. We joked that after that food I definitely would have to do the run!
Then we drove to Manresa where we would stay over night, because the race was further out in the countryside. It took us a while to find the airbnb apartment - and unfortunately there was a festival going on! It was Saturday night, Paddy and I just wanted to get an early night of good sleep, and our apartment was directly on the square where a concert was going on, plus no parking spots were to be found. But we managed in the end, and tried to get some sleep at 9 pm (while lucky Lidiya went out to explore the festival).
I didn't sleep to well, and we had to get up again at 6 am to drive to the race. I was still dead-sure I wouldn't run but sure enough put on my gear just in case I would change my mind lastminute. We got there early, parked and registered. We got our little plastic wrist bands, head band and the chip that would measure our running time. We did a little warm up. I did everything still with the thought in mind, that I probably would not start.
Then it was 9 am. Elite Heat for Paddy. It was so exciting, seeing all those fit people (did I mention the hot ripped topless duded everywhere?), and then they ran off. The next heat got in and did their warm-up, while Lidiya and I were watching. My heat was at 9:30. I still wasn't sure. By then, a part of me wanted to do it, but a big part of me knew that it would be madness and I wasn't ready to do this.
I mean, there was a wall you had to climb over to get to the starting line, and I wasn't sure if I could get over that. But Lidiya convinced me more and more to at leats give it a try, and then I saw a way chubbier girl than me trying to get over that wall, and she got help from some people cheering her up. I thought, how brave she was, and that's what this race is also about: to challenge yourself, to cheer on others, and just to give the best you possibly can. So I went to the wall, tried to get over - and couldn't of course, ha ha. Lidiya pushed my bum up, and then I was there, amidst all these people doing their warm up. I felt pretty scared but there was no way back now. I also felt quite lonely because many people had their teams supporting each other. But here I went.
We started running. The run included a LOT of mud and water holes, also because it had rained heavily the day before. So very soon after the start we had to walk through a mud and water hole. I was covered in mud up to my belly and wondered how I could run with those wet muddy and 2 kg heavier shows now. But on we went. The first walls came. I tried. And failed. People helped my at every single of the walls. I felt grateful but also embarrassed. I knew I was not ready for this. Strength-wise I might have been fine but I had no idea about techniques to get over walls. Anyway, I could only do my best.
Surprisingly, the running and the distance of 13+ km wasn't the hardest, it actually felt fine. Of course there were parts when I was walking to catch my breath but overall, my endurance qualities were not too bad. Also the carrying of logs, ties and buckets full of stones wasn't that bad.
At the slackline I asked a guy if we wanted to get over it together, to help each other with balance. A short Spartan romance, holding each other's hands while balancing over the slack line, ha ha! We ran a bit more together after that, but then lost each other. I wasn't much in the mood for Spanish small talk anyway at that time!
Balancing over more logs. More water holes. At times I thought I would lose my shoes in the mud. Sliding down muddy hills on your bum. Actually, this was fun! Then it got steeper up the mountain. Up there the view was amazing!! But sure enough I didn't have my camera with me, and certainly no time to enjoy the view much anyway because I had to watch the trail while trying to catch my breath.
The hardest part are the last kilometers. Until then I had managed to run without having to do burpees. But now the obstacles got harder. The first one I failed was a wall you had to climb along to ring a bell around a corner. I sliped off. 30 burpees. Which took ages. Then the rope climb. By that time I was too scared to even try getting up that high and risking falling, so I went immediately over to the burpee space. 30 more burpees. Which took even longer. Then the spear throwing. I took my time, thought of all the tips I got from Paddy, threw - and hit the strawbale!!! I was screaming of joy - until the guy standing there told me it was invalid because the spear was touching the ground with the end. WHAAAT!??! On to more burpees. By that time, I couldn't be bothered anymore about disqualification or time or even pride, so I only did 10 burpees. Further on. The monkey bars. I had trained swinging myself from one ring to another at the gym, and knew I was able to. Thing is I couldn't even reach the first bar. So I had to jump to catch it - and missed it of course. B.U.R.P.E.E.S. Again, I only did 10. Who.gives.a.fuck. Certainly not me anymore by that time.
Then the last obstacles. Getting yourself up on a slippery muddy wet wall using a rope. I tried two times, and slipped. Guys who were on the top grabbed my arms and in the end pulled me on my legs and arms up. Very elegantly. NOT. Ha ha. Then I was there. Getting under cars and then jumping over the fire (I was just scared I would be too weak to jump over the fire!) and then I stumbled into the finish.
WAAH! I did a Spartan Super Race! I got a medal, an apple, a bottle of water and a Spartan T-Shirt, and there I was, all muddy and cold but real happy too. It took me only 30 minutes to find Paddy and Lidiya, walking around. I found out it took me 3,5 hours to finish! I had read before that an average Super time was 2:40. Well, I certainly didn't rush, because my goals had been a) to survive and b) not to break anything. So all was good.
I got showered by a nice guy with a water hose, and then we left already. We drove all the way back to Barcelona, where Lidiya was about to meet old friends, so I took the next metro to the city center and tried to find a hostel. I felt and looked a bit like a homeless person I guess. Mud still on my feet and in my hair, dirty fingernails, a plastic bag with the muddiest clothes and shows you can think of. But I was lucky and found a nice central hostel.
First thing: HOT SHOWER! There was still so much red mud coming off me. When I was drying myself afterwards, the fluffy white hotel towel was brown! I just had a shower!
I went out food-hunting, and wandered around the area. I got me a "Party recovery-Juice" (almost the same) from the place we had eaten the day before, but ended up buying some food at the supermarket (hummus, crackers, smoked trout and a bag of kale), and ate that at my hotel room. One tipp: if you have just done a Spartan Race, do not go to the Corte Ingles Supermarket in the city center of Barcelona. Too.many.people. WAAAH!
I fell into my bed around 9:30 pm. But didn't sleep too well strangely enough.
The next morning every muscle hurt. Everything. I was so sore. My knees were covered in little wounds from robbing through the mud under barb wire. I felt wrecked. But I had a day of sightseeing before me. I left my bag at the hostel and wandered off. Starbucks! Another amazing lunch at Teresa Carles (rice spaghetti with creamy vegan mushroom sauce and a take away dessert of rhubarb and strawberry buckwheat tartelette). After walking for 6 hours through the town with sore muscles I made my way to the airport.
Of course by then I got my period. INserting a mooncup hygienically on an airport toilet was probably the hardest obstacle this weekend!
Flew to Seville, arrived at 11 PM, checked into my hostel, fell into bed, got up at 6 am, caught the bus to Villamartin, and drove home. Oh the joy of a hot bath!!!
Would I do it again?
Hell, yeah! But with more proper training on obstacles. I feel I should at least be able to climb a wall and a rope. But yes, I am hooked!
Many thanks to Paddy who made it possible that I had a minimal fitness level to survive this - and to Lidiya who literally pushed my bum to the starting line. AND to everybody else who pushed my bum numerous times over obstacles during the race! Thanks!