The Spartan Race feels like having a baby. During the race, I swore I’d never do it again. Afterwards, when the pain is forgotten, all I can think about is the next race. So here I am, back again, for more…
…with a new partner in crime – The Warrior Princess. I had promised to ease her into the Spartan race with a Sprint first, but when we found out the Sprints were flagging off at 11 am, she willingly agreed to take on the Super in favour of less sun.
I thought I remembered reading somewhere that there were supposed to be 27 obstacles in the Spartan Super, but this one had only 25. Well, 25 or 27, 2 or 4 more obstacles surely wouldn’t make that much difference. They say the Sprint is 5 km, but the Sprint last year came up to 8 km or so I was told. If that’s true, what’s another 5 km?
A little wiser this year, I skipped the Elite category. I thought it would get us off the hook with the burpee penalty but apparently that’s for the Open. Oops. Anyway, here’s how it went…
The Spartan Super 2019 – Semenyih
My overall feeling about the race was that it felt easier this year. I’m not sure whether it was because I am stronger and better prepared, or if the race really was easier.
Some of the obstacles, like the Sandbag Carry and the Bucket Brigade were definitely easier. The weights were the same, but the trails felt shorter with less inclines. They also changed the order of the obstacles which definitely helped. It meant that I could tackle harder obstacles while I was still fresh-ish. Last year, I had to climb the rope immediately after my arms were dead from carrying the bucket. This year, we did the Rope Climb before the Sandbag Carry.
I am a huge believer in reviewing experiences because it helps us to identify what went right, what went wrong, and what we can do differently for the next time around. So, let’s start with the obstacles.
- 4 Foot Wall
- Hercules Hoist
- Stairways to Sparta
- Bucket Carry
- Plate Drag
- Monkey Bars
- 7 Foot Wall
- Inverted Wall
- Rope Climb
- Sandbag Carry
- Vertical Cargo
- Atlas Carry
- Z Walls
- A-Frame Cargo
- Barb Wire Crawl
- Dunk Wall
- 6 Foot Wall
- Spear Throw
- Slip Wall
- Fire Jump
The 4 foot wall was easy so let’s skip that one.
The Hercules Hoist is a sandbag tied to the end of a rope that goes up over a pulley. You have to pull the rope to lift the sandbag up to the pulley. The Marshall told us the bag was 35 kg for the women. This is one obstacle that you do not want to be a feather weight for. I don’t know how the Warrior Princess managed this because she is a feather weight.
I failed this last year, so it was a demon sitting in my head plaguing my confidence when I came across it. All I could remember was how heavy it was and how it wouldn’t budge when I pulled on the rope. It came as quite a surprise when it moved more easily this year.
Maybe I am stronger, maybe the bag was lighter than last year, or maybe I was fresh since this was the first strenuous obstacle in the course. The Hercules Hoist in the 2018 Sprint was placed in the middle of the course after I’d been exhausted carrying buckets and sandbags so it is not an apples to apples comparison.
Stairway to Sparta
I didn’t get a good picture of this but it was like a 6? foot wall (not really sure how high it was but taller than me) with this metal frame above it:
The challenge is getting up to the metal frame, but if you can get over those walls, you can do this. Climbing the metal frame is only a challenge if you’re afraid of heights.
Olympus is a horizontal traverse across an inclined wall using chains, rock climbing handholds and circles cut out of the board to get from one side to the other. I failed this one last year as well because I couldn’t get a good foot grip with my shoes sliding down the wall.
This time, I tried going barefoot. It was definitely better than sliding on slippery shoes, but it was still not enough to get me across. The rock climber’s instinct in me tried to use a toe hook on the handholds, but the marshal told me “no legs”. I could have made it if they would have only allowed me a toe hook!
This is definitely an obstacle I believe I can overcome with more work. It’s just like a boulder problem that I need to figure out and I can do that in a climbing gym. Looks like I have homework for the next race.
I don’t know how to describe this one, but it’s pure upper body – arms and lats. Oh yeah, and grip strength. It is like a monkey bar but sideways and with rotating handholds. It is another obstacle I think I could master with more training – starting with my useless left arm.
I am certain that this was easier than the 2018 Sprint. My memory may be hazy, but I’m positive that this trail was shorter and flatter. It’s even easier if you have a spare tyre to rest your bucket on!
When you realise there is a camera:
Another easy one. I didn’t have any trouble with it last year either.
Even though they got rid of that ridiculous rotating bar that they had last year, it didn’t help me much. These are not your regular playground monkey bars. They’re fatter (harder to hold) and further apart (twice the distance of normal monkey bars). The bars also alternate with one higher and one lower so you have to swing up and down between bars.
I have grave reservations about whether I’ll ever be able to complete the Monkey Bars in this lifetime.
7 Foot Wall
There is a little foothold that women are allowed to use for this obstacle. With the foothold, this wall is actually really do-able. I think they forgot to put the foothold last year because I felt incredibly cheated when I didn’t see it.
I got my first calf cramp hauling myself up this wall. Lucky it wasn’t too bad. A bit of stretching and I was ready to keep moving.
The inverted wall is a little like rock climbing where you have to get over an overhanging wall. I knew when I completed this obstacle that I was definitely stronger this year. There was a bit of cramping, but at least I didn’t get stuck halfway up.
Another metal structure to climb over. Perhaps a little demanding for the vertically challenged since the first bar is quite high up.
I didn’t cramp this time but The Warrior Princess did. She really freaked me out because I was so scared she would fall. She made it down safely but that toe cramp after! It looked like her toe was broken! Luckily she managed to coax it back to some semblance of normalcy.
I failed this last year, but I always wondered if it was because of the Bucket Carry obstacle they made us do right before climbing the rope. By the time I was done carrying that stupid bucket up and down those inclines, my forearms were so pumped! I could barely wrap my hands around the rope, let alone exert the pressure to haul my behind up.
This year, I made it. Again, not really an apples to apples comparison, but I’ll take it.
The Rope Climb and Sandbag Carry were located in the same place as last year, except that the Sandbag Carry was the Bucket Brigade and they made us do the Bucket Brigade before the Rope Climb. It was like doing the course in reverse. We came from the direction we left last year and left in the direction we came.
The trail for the Sandbag Carry was not the same as the 2018 Sprint Bucket Brigade. Personally, I thought this year’s was shorter and easier.
Most people carry the sandbag on a shoulder or in their arms, like the Bucket Carry. I saw a photo of a lady carrying it on her head and it seemed like a clever idea to try. It worked pretty well except for the sections where the descent was very steep and we had to scramble.
Another easy one.
Carry a cement ball, weighing 35 kg (so they tell me), from one side to the other (marked by metal poles). Drop the ball, do 5 burpees, then carry the ball back.
I’ve seen pictures of people carrying this ball on their shoulders. I do not know how anyone can get this ball onto their shoulders. I settled for getting it across to the other side in any way possible. No one cares whether it’s done gracefully or not as long as you complete the obstacle.
This is the Z Wall – I didn’t get any pictures, but I found this video on Youtube:
I was a rock climber before and this was the sort of thing we used to do for warm up. If I failed this obstacle, I should go hang my head in shame. I made it – without shoes – and I thought it was pretty easy. The trickiest bit is getting around the corner.
Another obstacle I failed – again – but at least they removed that ridiculous pipe they threw it last year. I feel like this might be an obstacle I could master if I built up a bit more upper body strength and practice the moves for muscle memory. I’m pretty uncoordinated – I need to practice to get things right.
Anyone have a multi-rig lying around that I can practice on?
There was a multi-rig at the Viper Challenge and I thought it felt easier. I certainly got further there than I did in this one. Was it because the rings were lower and there was more swing? I wonder…
A Frame Cargo
Just like the Vertical Cargo but diagonal and longer. Easy.
Barb Wire Crawl
They should call it the Barb Wire Roll because that’s what most people do. It’s definitely easier than trying to crawl your way through. You just have to remember to flip the other way every few rolls so you don’t get too dizzy.
Dunk Wall and Swim
It was so hot by the time we reached this obstacle. I think everyone was ready to hurl themselves into the river just to cool off.
6 Foot Wall
Climb over. Only challenging if you’re cramping.
Correct me if I’m wrong but were the targets nearer this year? Not that it made a difference because I still missed. Another obstacle that will require practice and muscle memory to overcome. Where I can hone my spear throwing skills?
Climb up an inclined wall with a rope – same as the finish last year – but it definitely felt easier this time.
More official photos from race day
When you’re so tired, but you still have to do a pose for the camera, except you can’t even coordinate with each other to jump in sync…
We crossed the finish line at 4 hours and 1 minute – could have been faster if we didn’t have to stop to nurse cramps. Out of 25 obstacles, I missed 5:
- Monkey Bars
- Spear Throw
That’s one less than last year so the score is definitely getting better.
I must thank my Spartan Warrior Princess for braving her fear of mud to accompany me on this insane journey. She came back from a bout of dengue and still finished strong! And that is why she’s The Warrior Princess.
Spartan Training Program
In preparation this race, this was the weekly schedule that our personal trainer from Fitness Achievers helped us work out:
- Monday – Spinning (Flycycle)
- Tuesday – Pilates (Zenith) and Personal Training (Fitness Achievers)
- Wednesday – Spinning (was supposed to be recovery day, but The Warrior Princess decided it should be “active recovery”, although how anyone could call Harris’ flycycle class “recovery” is beyond me)
- Thursday – Personal Training (Fitness Achievers)
- Friday – Pilates (Zenith) and Circuit Training (Cirque Fit)
- Saturday or Sunday – LSD Training (Hiking or easy run/brisk walk)
Somewhere in there was also a bit of Flyclimb – a group class workout on the Versa Climber, and the occasional Tribe Boxing. These weren’t in the program but we needed a bit of fun from time to time to let off some steam.
We had to make a few changes from time to time due to Chinese New Year and other events. Then The Warrior Princess got knocked out for a while with dengue but she made an phenomenal come back! All of these things threw out our training schedule a lot. If we could have kept this program up for longer, we would have been in better shape for Spartan.
The flycycle classes – especially when we went heavy on the bikes – was great preparation for those steep inclines we had to hike up during the race. The training at Cirque and our personal training with Fitness Achievers for me was essential to build the strength required for many of those obstacles. Without that, I’m sure I would have failed more obstacles.
The only thing I would add to my training in future is more focus on grip strength. I may have been a rock climber before, but it is clear I have lost all my grip strength.
For Future Reference
Cramp prevention! I could probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve ever suffered from cramps in my whole life. During this race, my calves were cramping, my hamstrings were cramping, and even my hip flexors cramped! What’s up with that?
I didn’t get a single cramp last year and the only thing I changed was to fill my hydration bag with Pocari Sweat instead of water. Should I have carried plain water instead? The Pocari Sweat didn’t really do much to quench my thirst. While others went to the water stations for the sports drinks, I went there desperate for water.
Science hasn’t come to an agreement on the exact cause of muscle cramps, but there are theories. Some include electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, muscle fatigue and carbohydrate depletion. Given that I was taking a power gel every 45 minutes and sipping on Pocari sweat in between, I am inclined to rule out carbohydrate depletion and electrolyte imbalance.
Could it be dehydration? I had 2 liters of fluids with me. Last year, I took 1 liter and ran out and I didn’t get any cramps. So what was it? Something to figure out before the next race.
Yes… the next race. This year, we aim for a trifecta.