On Saturday 19 October, the GISKL PTF team took on the Spartan Sprint in Kuching at the Leadership Institute of Sarawak Civil Service. True to the spirit of GIS, it was a day filled with determination, resilience, risk-taking, and teamwork.
For two of our team members, Ms. Awesome and Beauty Queen, Spartan Sprint Kuching would be their maiden Spartan race. I want to take my hat off to their grit and tenacity! For two newbies who didn’t get much training (due to time constraints and injuries), they were phenomenal!
To The Princess, who said that she was retiring after Spartan Super Semenyih, I want to thank her for coming all the way to Kuching to brave the mud again for me. For the road is never so long, nor so arduous when you travel in the company of friends.
For me, Spartan Sprint Kuching marked the third and final part of my Spartan Trifecta journey (the goal that began two and a half years ago with the Spartan Sprint in Semenyih):
Race Report: Spartan Sprint Kuching
As expected, the actual race did not go quite as planned as my pre-race assessment – it never does. Firstly, two of the obstacles that were listed in the race guide were swapped out for two different obstacles. Instead of the Z-Wall and Memory Wall, we got the Tyrolean Traverse and Armer. The next surprise was the changes within the obstacles, but more about that below…
I felt a bit of regret that I didn’t opt for the Beast. It would have been lovely to see the heart of the Borneo jungle. The Sprint course skirted the edges of the jungle so we hardly saw anything. If they run this again next year, I think I would like to do the Beast just to see the jungle.
As I observed from the maps, the elevation was pretty kind and we were more than adequately prepared for the inclines. The trickiest part was the mud. Being the rainy season, we were also expecting it. Thankfully, it was only a Sprint, so we didn’t have too many sections of mud to negotiate.
There were several changes in the obstacles – not just the two they swapped out for the Sprint course, but also the order of the obstacles. I don’t know whether this was intentional or whether there was a mistake in the organisation. This was was the list of obstacles we had to complete during the race:
- Hurdles – assisted
- Overwall – completed
- Barb Wire – completed
- Dunk Wall – completed
- Vertical Cargo – completed
- Inverted Wall – completed
- Monkey Bars – completed
- Plate Drag – completed
- Atlas Carry – completed
- Sandbag Carry – completed
- Bucket Carry – completed
- Tyrolean Traverse – completed
- Armer – completed
- Spear Throw – failed
- Rope Climb – failed
- Multi-Rig – failed
- Hoist – failed
- Slip Wall – completed
- A-Frame Cargo – completed
- Fire Jump – completed
I failed 4 out of 20 and had 1 assist. Not exactly the scorecard I was hoping for, but it wasn’t too bad either.
Entering the Pen
I feel a need to add this one because of the injury sustained by The Princess. Before the race starts, everyone needs to get into the starting pen. There is a short wall we have to climb over to enter the pen and it’s pretty straightforward to negotiate. Unfortunately, many people are trying to get in at the same time and it is easy to trip someone else up.
All I want to say is this: there is no rush. The race hasn’t started yet. If you see that someone else is still getting off the wall, let them go first before you try to get up. Because someone else was too impatient to get over the wall, she trapped The Princess’ leg which resulted in an injury to her lateral collateral ligament. So racers, please be mindful of others around you.
In the photo above, the hurdles are the long poles to the right, mounted on those triangular stands. Okay, I severely underestimated this obstacle. I thought it would be a simple matter of tackling it the way I get over the walls. I guess if I had handled the walls the way the Elite racers do it, this would have been no problem.
Unfortunately, I don’t. I rely on getting my leg up first and that does not work for the Hurdle. Mainly because there is no wall to brace my other leg against, but also because the beam is a diamond shape. If you don’t get yourself up high enough, you’ll slide back down. If your leg is still hooked over the beam (like mine was), you will end up under the beam. Getting over it then becomes nearly impossible.
Although I didn’t ask for it, a few people came to my aid and pushed me over. Sadly, I will have to hang my head and call this an assisted obstacle rather than a completion on my own. In the future, the move I need to practice more is the “getting out of the swimming pool” action.
I’m not sure why they call it the Overwall because it was just like a 5 Foot Wall that we had to climb over.
Straightforward roll. Nothing to add.
We talk about doing the Spartan race to conquer our fear. Well, the dunk wall was the biggest challenge for our Beauty Queen who fears the water. But real courage is not about being fearless. It is being afraid and doing the thing that scares you. That is true courage. So well done, my Beauty Queen. You are truly courageous.
Ms. Awesome fell from the top of this wall and gave us quite a scare. Thankfully she came out of it unscathed because the mud provided the cushioning to her fall.
I have never successfully completed the Monkey Bars in a Spartan race. I entered this race expecting that would not change. Then I noticed that the bars were on the same level (not staggered at different heights) and that they were closer together than they normally were (similar to the ones in the playground – possibly slightly further apart). They were still the fat bars, but maybe I could get partway through it.
I climbed up with no expectations, just a determination to give it a go. Before I knew it, I was halfway through and I still felt solid up there. Maybe I could make it to the bell. I had to remind myself to focus. It would be terrible to fall off just shy of the bell because I got overconfident. I tried not to think about anything except the next bar, and the next bar, until all that was left was the bell.
I couldn’t believe I made it and no one took a video! Or even a photo! Gah! The one and only Spartan Monkey Bar I completed and there is no photographic evidence! D’oh!
The secret to my success? Rubber dishwashing gloves. They are the bomb. While everyone else was complaining that the bars were slippery, my rubber gloves gave me the best grip ever – much better than any other gloves I have tried.
This is normally pretty straightforward but the ground was pocked with clumps of grass and potholes so the sled got stuck a lot. The marshalls allowed us to adjust the sled whenever it snagged but it was pretty tedious.
This was surprisingly easier than I recalled. I remember the ball being so heavy that I was afraid I would drop it on my toes. Either the ball was lighter than before or we have gotten stronger. I prefer to think that it was the latter.
Sandbag Carry and Bucket Carry
I think we were well-trained for these obstacles. The sandbag trail was pretty easy. The Bucket Carry trail had a steep incline towards the end but we did not have any trouble with it.
The Tyrolean Traverse was not an obstacle listed for the Sprint so I wasn’t expecting to have to do it. That said, I’m glad I got to face it again because it was a disaster when I had to do it for Beast. My left calf cramped when I first hooked it over the rope but it recovered after that and I made it to the bell without further incident. The distance was shorter than the Beast at Tambun but it still feels pretty far when you’re hanging upside-down. I stupidly did not check the ropes and took the one with the bell positioned further away. I still made it so I’m pretty happy about that.
This was the obstacle that gave me the most cramps when I did the Beast. It was also the one and only time I cramped during this Sprint. Being a shorter, less intense race, it’s difficult to draw conclusions about cramps and how I am affected. That said, I can now identify the exact move that triggers a cramp. If what they wrote about cramps on the Spartan website is correct, then I haven’t trained specifically enough for this move.
The only thing I can think of to do is to practice the Tyrolean Traverse and/or hang upside-down and practice the action required for the Tyrolean Traverse.
Always the same problem – lousy aim and no distance. Someone suggested practicing throwing a broomstick at a target. I think I’m going to try that next time.
This should have been a given. I had it down as a given. I wasn’t expecting to have trouble getting up the rope.
A couple of things made it harder. Firstly, the rope was short. There wasn’t enough to wind around my leg. Ms. Awesome tried to hold the end for me. That should have helped but the rope was also thin and slippery. Secondly, this is not the same material they normally use for the rope climb. It looks like a nylon rope. In previous races, they use hemp ropes which provide more grip.
I tried everything – swapping gloves, without gloves – nothing worked. Every time I put my hands higher, I would slide back down. Everything was slipping – my feet and my hands. I couldn’t grip it tight enough to stay up.
I spoke to another racer at the end of the race and he said it was really down to good footwork and better grip strength. Obviously, I didn’t have either. I felt pretty bummed until my Pilates instructor told me she couldn’t do it either. She’s like my idol. If she can’t do it, it’s no wonder I couldn’t do it.
Word on the street is that this is the new rope they will be using for future Rope Climbs. Looks like I will still have to train grip strength and improve my footwork for rope climbing.
Like the Monkey Bars, the set up for this Multi-rig was also easier than the usual Multi-rig. The rings are closer together and they aren’t as long so you don’t swing as much. These rings also offer a better grip. The ones they used in previous races were wooden and more slippery, especially when wet.
On my first attempt, I fell off three rings shy of the bell. Every subsequent attempt got worse and worse until I gave up. I did it by leading with the right hand and matching the left hand to the same ring before reaching for the next ring with my right hand. I used a forward-facing grip, but I noticed a few other people using a backhand grip. I wonder if that works better? Something to think about for the next race.
I don’t know what happened here either. I would get the sandbag halfway up and then my grip would fail me and the rope would slide through my hands. I tried, I really tried. I must have attempted it four or five times before I gave up. I just didn’t have the juice to get the bag all the way up in one go.
Slip Wall, A-Frame Cargo, and Fire Jump
The rest of the obstacles were pretty easy so I won’t write about them.
Finish Time: 2 hours 36 minutes. I beat the timing of my first Sprint by 50 minutes. That said, I believe the first Sprint was a harder course.
My biggest fear is always that I gave up too early, too quickly. That maybe I failed the obstacles because I didn’t try hard enough on race day. As I think back over the obstacles I failed during this race, I feel satisfied that I tried my best. I pushed myself until I popped my blisters and pulled a muscle in my left breast (I think it is an intercostal muscle because it hurts when I breathe deeply). So yeah, I know I gave it everything I had. It just wasn’t enough for this round.
Am I done with Spartan races? I’m not sure. There is a part of me that would like to do this again. I want to see if I can be better.
Injuries (Edited 26/10)
It’s been one week since the race and I felt a need to add this…
My motto has always been “go hard but don’t be a hero”. If there is a high risk of injury, it’s better to skip the obstacle than to be stupid. Like, if you’ve got a problem with your back (say you’ve suffered a slip disc), definitely don’t try the Atlas Carry if you’re not sure you can manage it.
For me, the fear of injury usually revolves around my ankle or my knee. These two are my trouble spots. What I didn’t expect to injure was my chest muscle. After the race, I thought that it would go away after a couple of days. Well, it’s been a week and it still hurts to cough or sneeze.
For the past week, I’ve had to lay off most of my upper body workouts – no weights, no boxing. At one point, I had to go easy on the cardio work because it hurt to breathe deeply. I even struggled with core work – there is something about activating my abs that triggers the pain. Who knew? I never would have guessed that one tiny strain on a muscle I hardly notice could take me out for more than a week. Apparently it takes as long as two to three weeks for a mild strain to heal. Lucky the kids are on holidays and I am on an enforced workout break.
I’m not really sure if I’ve resolved the issue with the cramps. The Sprint is a short race so it’s not a good gauge for cramps. There was that brief incident at the beginning of the Tyrolean Traverse that suggests I still need more work on my calves? I guess we’ll have to see after the next Super or Beast. Yes, I am considering another Trifecta next year.
As for the strained chest muscle, I’ll have to train harder and concede defeat earlier to avoid repeating this injury. I’m pretty sure it was sustained during the hoist – maybe even the rope climb?
A Word of Thanks
Before I conclude this race report, I want to thank a few people for helping me prepare for this day:
- The Jungle Babes who cheered me on and supported me through this journey.
- Desmond from Fitness Achievers for all the torturous strength training we did not enjoy so that we could suffer a little less during race day.
- Ishaq, Harris, Nazeem, and Ping from Flycycle – there were many days when we couldn’t train our legs with hiking. If not for those hill-climbs and cardio training on the bike, I’m sure we would have struggled more.
- Emilio, Christian, and Benny from Tribe – there is a lot of fitness to be developed when punching a bag with everything you’ve got.
- Jules from Zenith Pilates – for helping me stretch out and build static strength to balance all my HIIT workouts.
- Camp5 – where I practiced my grip strength and actually having fun!