Thursday, August 11, 2016

2016 Asheville Spartan Super :::: Race Recap & Review

So I did something this weekend that I haven't done in over 3 years... A SPARTAN RACE! I have completed two Spartan Sprints previously, (2012 and 2013) so when I was given the opportunity to race the Asheville Super, I couldn't say no.

For those of you who don't know, Spartan has three levels of races:

Sprint (3+ miles and 20+ obstacles)
Super (8+ miles and 25+ obstacles)
Beast (12+ miles and 30+ obstacles)

If you complete all three levels in one calendar year, you've achieved what's called the Spartan Trifecta. My brother (subscribe to his YouTube channel) is now 2/3 of the way to being done with this, having completed a sprint earlier this year and the super this weekend.

So, Matt and his friend Zach came over on Friday night and we set out for the race on Saturday morning. We got there and easily parked ($10) and got our stuff. It helps if you print out a waiver and know your bib number, but there were plenty of volunteers and booths so it really wouldn't have taken long either way.

Spartan has changed a lot since my last race. They used to mark your face and body with your bib number (like a triathlon) and you wore a bib (like a running race). Now they've started giving out these headbands with your bib number on them. To me that's a big improvement. I usually wear a headband anyways, plus those markers either come off the first time you're in water (about 5 minutes into the race) or you have to scrub off a layer of skin to get them off.

We checked a bag ($5) and got ready to go. We were racing with a group that Matthew and I have just become active in lately, called Operation Enduring Warrior (OEW). We are both community ambassadors for this charity and we were really excited to be racing with the team. Our MAT (Masked Athlete Team) was there to assist an OEW Adaptive Athlete through the course. I plan on going into this in a lot more depth in another post because I want to give it the attention it deserves, so that's all you get for now!

My mindset for this race was just to have fun and enjoy it. I was excited to race with such a large team and to challenge myself. However, I WAY underestimated the seriousness of this course. I should have realized that with such a large group we would be out on the course for a long time. I should have worn a hydration pack and I definitely should have brought some sort of carbs. About 2 miles in a guy offered to split a pack of Gatorade chews with me and I swear I could have kissed him.

We also ended up getting separated from our team, which I was bummed about.

So, obstacles...

The usual suspects:  4 ft walls, 6 ft wall, 8 or 10 ft wall, cargo net, rope climb, spear throw, bridge, sandbag carry, bucket brigade, pulley, fire jump, slip wall, monkey bars, over under water obstacles, tractor pull, and barbed wire crawl.

New to me:  A different play on monkey bars, wooden bars you had to jump over, mental challenge (had to remember a set of numbers to repeat back at end of race), a cargo net that was just straight up and down, atlas stone carry, and horizontal rope climb.

Plus lots that I don't remember or don't know how to describe, plus the huge, never-ending obstacle that was the terrain. We climbed, and we climbed, then we climbed some more. This race was set in a rock quarry and Asheville is quite mountainous. Spartan race definitely used that to their advantage! On the course map below, the part between obstacles 18 and 19 was pretty brutal. I didn't think we were every going to get to the top of that mountain.

Thank the Lord, they gave out Clif Shot Bloks at the water stop before that big climb. Those were lifesavers. And of course it reminded me of the two packs of Shot Bloks I had brought to the race... And left in our bag at bag check.

As always, the camaraderie was excellent. What better way to bond with 10,000 strangers than to make them do something really challenging together. This race was definitely a challenge, but to be honest I felt very good afterwards. I wish I had brought water and fuel, but other than that, I felt really good!

I felt like I was in so much better shape than when I did the Sprints. I'm not sure if that's true or if this race just played more to my strengths (I'm built for endurance, not speed). I also think having completed long races before really helped me mentally.

And of course, having my brother with me was amazing. He is just one of those people who makes you feel so much better than you actually are. He was constantly encouraging us and checking in.

After we finished we were given our medals (SO, SO, SO cool), shirts, bananas, Clif bars, and cold FitAids.

Spartan has really stepped up their swag game. The medals are badass, with nice ribbons and the shirts are super soft. They also had the shirts in a little bag for us so we would't get them dirty.

If you have ever considered doing a Spartan race, I'm here to tell you: SIGN UP!!!!! You won't regret it (well maybe just for a second before). When you finish it (and you will finish it, don't doubt yourself!!!) you are going to feel unstoppable. You will most likely be tired and bruised, but no one can take that feeling of accomplishment. And who doesn't love an excuse to play in the mud?

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me! I love talking Spartan race and there are no stupid questions!!!

Thank you to Spartan Race who provided me an entry to this race in exchange for my honest review. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Catawba Falls Hike

Brad and I were both off on Friday so we decided to check out a local trail. We chose a shorter one because we both had other stuff we needed to get finished during the day. 

Trail details:
Catawba Falls
3074 Catawba River Road Old Fort, NC
Directions:  Take I-40 E from Asheville to the second Old Fort Exit 73. Before the ramp ends, take a RIGHT on Catawba River Road. Follow it to the end (about 3 miles). 

This was a great short hike with the option to really challenge yourself with some technical hiking/climbing at the end. I have no idea how long it was because my Fitbit died and I wasn't wearing my Garmin. I'm guessing round trip maybe 2.5 miles?

Brad continued by himself on the steeper part (heading to the top of the falls). I'm afraid of heights and while I was confident in my ability to climb up, I was not so confident in my ability to rappel down (there were ropes tied by God knows who to assist). He said the view up there wasn't worth all the trouble. 

This was a great, short hike. It had beautiful views, several water crossings, and what looked to be several good places to get in and cool off. I'd definitely recommend it if you're in the area!