The alarm might have been set for 5AM. Does it really matter at this point? All I know is that I am awake, in my best friend's house and he's already downstairs.
I zombie shuffled down the steps because my quads, glutes and hamstrings are on fire. Rayne, one of my best friends of over three years, is doing his first Spartan race with me. For over a year, he's been doing strength, calisthenics and very light cardio work (because he sucks) with me in and outside of the gym. Watching him go from being somewhere around the 250 pound range to shaving off over 30 pounds, I think that this was a great way for him to experience a day in my life. He lives for this type of shit, as he has quite often told me.
We split a center cut steak with spinach and cheese omelet. He made breakfast three perfectly shaped large pancakes for his son before heading out the door. We caught a gypsy cab to take us to the train station not too far from his home, which kept us in decent timing. Along the commute, we did our occasional shit talking towards one another and because I am stubborn, I reminded him to NOT push help on me if I don't need it. The dynamics of our relationship is build on love, hypocrisy and very stubborn personalities. We feel the need to help each other but we randomly break out into asshole moments of ripping each others' heads off with affectionate terms like "stop being a dick" or when one of us fuck up, the phrase starts off with "What you're not gonna do is..." Despite our chaos, we know how to push each other through the pain and I guess we kinda give a shit about each other.
Once we reached New York Penn Station, we hustled our way through the light crowd of people to check the train schedule for the NJ Transit line heading towards Newark. We had a bit of wiggle time and decided to go to the most gluttonous place possible: Krispy Kreme. Once we picked up a half dozen of doughy goodness with our iced lattes, we walked towards the funk of the station to go on board.
We made it to NJ in less than 30 minutes and linked up with my friend Asha. She was just as sweet as she was on Saturday. We talked about all things TMI and had enough conversation fillers to make a nun blush. Along the commute, I couldn't tell if it was my nerves or something severely wrong, which made us make a stop at the Dunkin Donuts on the way. Silly me forgot how caffeine sensitive that I can be, which made my bowels do the Harlem Shake. My body shook for a little bit but once we reached Mountain Creek Resort, it slowly started to leave my system.
Breaking His Spartan Virginity
Rayne and I agreed that we projected being done around 4:30pm and agreed on a meeting point with Asha after the race. We took care of the basic business by going to the registration tent, finding our bib numbers on this never-ending list of names and start times. We signed the waiver, picked up our package, headed onto the gear check area and took in the sites. It was refreshing to see his reaction to the course. He seemed as if he had no worry in the world and anticipated going onto the course to get things started.
Unlike Saturday, I spoke a lot more to people. Perhaps it was a mixture of being there with a familiar face and he shares my extraverted spirit at times with talking to random people. We did a bit of video commentary on Instagram and listened to the commentator try to get us revved up for the Spartan course.
Rayne, being the person that he is, set the tone for what I knew would be a beautiful mixture of clashing personalities, feel good chaos and fun on the course. We weren't even a quarter mile before he felt like I bit his head off. Actually, it may not have been more than two city blocks to be very honest. While on the trail, I was looking down at my phone to get the rest of my apps on and he thought I wasn't paying enough attention to the course. He "suggested" that I shift from one side to the other to not get trampled over by other excited Spartan warriors excited about the course. We have small ways of irritating each other soul and I told him that I was fine. Unfortunately, this turned into an interesting dynamics of not really communicating effectively for about ten minutes. By the time we passed the hurdles, which was the first obstacle on the course, heading up the mountain, we got over our own egos and bullshit.
Unfortunately, doing this for a second day in a row meant exceptional muscle inflammation but I pushed through to the best of my ability. At mile one, he was doing excellent. I watched him engage with more strangers on the course and occasionally chuckled as he screamed out random obscenities to motivate other Spartans to push past the pain. I must mention that if you decide to do this with a friend, family member or loved one, it's great to know how well you both work together. Being that he is my most consistent workout buddy, I had an idea of where he would be able to help me push past certain mental blocks and where I might be of some sort of assistance to him.
Rayne helped me through the course by acknowledging that I was already swollen and because he's very aware of all of my spinal and back issues, there was no pressure to be done under a certain amount of time. The highlight of doing this experience with a friend may vary from person to person but for us, it was the idea of having someone who I know will enjoy being out on the terrain, pushing past pain and remaining positive. In our everyday lives, we both face enough challenges and the course was a great way to escape, even if it meant incurring bruises, swelling and getting dirty.
For a change, I put down my camera phone a lot more because I wanted to take in a little bit more than I did on Saturday throughout the course. I reminded myself to not be a nuisance and tell him everything that was coming up ahead because I had a feeling that maybe he wants a bit of that surprise of what was ahead of him. Around 3 miles in, he glanced at me and said "...our workouts are harder than this." Whilst I agreed with him. I knew that around the 4th or 5th mile, we would face some challenges on the course.
Although he didn't know it, I admired the idea that helped other strangers push through on the course just by conversation. There were times where he extended his assistance with some of the ladies who were struggling getting through a path. Even as stubborn as I can be, I accepted help a decent amount of times when it was needed. I like my balance of independence and feeling like I earned it while being practical and smart about it. At times, he saw a better path that we could take versus going other ways that a sleuth of people took. Perhaps this was because he was determined to avoid getting mud inside of his shoes. He's not much of a germ phobe but for anyone who hasn't been in wet mud, understand that it weighs you down and it can feel pretty uncomfortable. Personally, I think I didn't care at moments on Sunday because I knew there was a section that we couldn't avoid being in the water.
The obstacles and terrain certainly felt easier for me on Sunday. The weather was super cooperative and the ground was semi dry in most areas. We reached the barb wire fairly quickly and I asked him about how to execute a decent rolling technique after we passed the obstacle. My technique was to stay nice and low while using my right side to crawl. This is also referred to as a lateral trench crawl. Using my technique may exhaust you a bit being that I am using one side more than the other. At times, I alternated it with doing a crab crawl to prevent my dreadlocks from being caught under the barb wire, a traditional trench crawl which is using your forearms to move while keeping your lower half low. From what I was able to see, Rayne alternated between a traditional bear crawl, trench crawl and a lateral trench crawl at times. From Rayne's explanation, if I wanted to execute a decent tuck roll, I would shift my weight onto side by crawling on one side, tuck the elbow and then roll over. Once I got a decent rhythm, it would push me through. I might try this technique out in Winnsboro, SC later on this week for my double Spartan Beast weekend. If you are a person who gets dizzy fairly easy, you may not want to do the tuck roll technique for too long. Honestly, there's not much teamwork that can be done in the barb wire crawl aside from untangling someone or pulling up barb wire to assist someone on the course. Rayne decided that shit talking was the best way to motivate me. We constantly heckle each other on the course by saying profane jokes. Other people were very amused by our constant bickering and commentary but it indeed did the job. When we got across, a lot of people thanked him for his humor despite one fellow who was exceptionally pissed off by the amount of F bombs that we threw out on in this section. Good for him on clean language. I do not know of such a thing at moments.
Unfortunately, we're very good at irritating each other so we bickered like two bitches in heat once we reached the first water crossing. He hates the freezing cold water because it hurts his bones and at the time, I lacked any form of sensitivity to his screaming, which made me use some piss poor choice of words to tell him to get over it. Unfortunately, he didn't realize that he triggered my anxiety with the constant yelling, as I am exceptionally worried about drowning...even in water that only goes waist deep. Did I mention before that we work each other nerves a lot? Yeah...well, sorry buddy. You just pissed me off at the moment. That double meltdown took us a little bit longer to get over as we argued like two folks who lived in the same room in the old folks home. In my head, it was like I woke up with pink eye and I started screaming, "Don't fart on my pillow and I will not have to shank you asshole!" Again, please don't let my brutal honesty scare you into doing a buddy system with someone on the course. Just remember the love that you have for this person. Nobody's perfect.
Typical us eventually got over it and went through the remainder of the obstacles on the course with semi ease. The plate drag was pretty fun to me. I kinda get an ego boost watching others' reactions to me as I pull it without a fuck to give. By the time we hit mile 7 or 8, we did the Atlas Carry, which wasn't bad at all. If you so desire, you can half ass the five required burpees or give your all into it if you're passionate about them.
When we approached the sandbag carry, a few of us who were on the course on Saturday chuckled a bit. The sandbag carry is honestly the EASIEST obstacle on the course because you're not carrying it that long. Literally the path is less than 3 minutes if you are moving at a slow pace. Rayne and I balanced our sandbags on our heads. If you place it in the right area, it's relatively simple to do. Most people either carried it on their shoulders, which is smart or directly in front of them, which to me seems like it hurts more. Once we placed it back, we hit the cargo net again, dug deep through another clusterfuck of barbed wire but this time, it led to an incline rope wall. I found that part easier on Saturday than Sunday surprisingly. I think it's because my fingertips had very minor cuts in them by this point. I took Rayne's advice and grabbed a shorter rope near the end, grounded my feet into the wall, squatting low and using my upper body strength to pull me up the wall. Once you kick over, there's a straight path way down. Thankfully, most of the course is relatively flat or down hill with hiccups of large tree trunks obstructing the path. People like Rayne enjoyed jumping over these trunks while folks like me decided to not be so graceful but taking our time to get over it.
I hate to be the one to kill all of the joy but there were some negative aspects of the course but not obstacle related. One of the biggest gripes that I heard on the course was questioning where the hell was the port-a-potties for us Spartans running the course? I'm safely assuming that they expected us to be bears, take a shit into the middle of nature and use a leaf. Many of us certainly made a little twinkle in the woods because hell, unless you're moving at a 15 minute pace, you're out there for over 4 hours. I have smelled the gas of plenty of folks trying to suppress the rumbling in their tummies. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed about the nutrition station as well. I'll be fair: Even the Spartan website recommend folks to bring some items with them. My gripe is the lack of supplies that they had available to the Sunday guys on the course. When I was there on Saturday, I was able to get 3 energy chewable gels, which was great. Considering that Rayne and I were in the morning wave on Sunday at a decent hour, I don't get how there was none available within a two hour time span, safely saying that the entire event was no more than 4 hours active. That was a bit disappointing. Nevertheless, I really couldn't complain.
Despite day two series of hiccups, we had a crap load of fun. By mile 8, we hit the Hercules Hoist where you lift up this bag filled with God knows what and you pull it to the top. Rayne and I use the same technique to get it up swiftly. We gripped the rope and squat low pulling back. Once you get down, pull back a little bit more rope, jump back slightly and repeat until you get it all the way to the top. Just remember to not let the bag plop or else they will penalize you with burpees. Before completing the 8th mile, you'll approach a Z-Wall, which just requires you to watch your feet placement and hold onto the top of the wall. When you hit a turn, don't over think it and just find your placement to the next step.
It's relatively easy to know when you hit mile 9 because there's music blaring in the distance. The inclines do not exist much longer but it does make you question what happened to the rest of the obstacles on the course. Oh please. Say no more. Once you make it near the end, it's like they threw every asshole obstacle known to man before you can cross. It's almost a bit sadistic but not enough that would make you want to quit.
Mile 9 has the bucket brigade where you fill up rocks up into a pail and lug it up and down a hill. Once you empty out the bucket, not even 50 feet, you approach another set of monkey bars. It is much simpler than the first set of monkey bars near the beginning but harder to grip because it's usually caked with wet mud from other contenders. A few steps on, it leads you onto the rope climb. Let me not fake the funk with you guys: I didn't bother with the rope climb again and I wished upon a star for someone to try to force me to do a burpee. Rayne was a bit more honest than me. He actually attempted the rope climb several times, in which he twisted two ropes together to pull himself up. I was pretty impressed by that because I never saw anyone do it before. Hindsight told him that he should have braided it together but I think the Spartan volunteers would have discouraged him from doing so.
Once you make it past this point, you are heading home. The final obstacles are the dunk wall and we were both over it. We politely walked around it. He did it in an inconspicuous way while I simply didn't give a damn. We glanced at each other, looked onto the fire pit and jumped across. Alas, the finish line was there. I secretly hated on his really cool side jump. I hope the camera man actually caught it but I suppose we will see if he did in a few days. We received our congrats, eagerly accepted our medals and grabbed our goodies. After collecting our finisher shirts, we retrieved our baggage, took loads of selfies, along with recruiting a volunteer to snag some photos of us and picked up our beer. I drank only a half cup before feeling like I needed food.
It was refreshing to know that I didn't need to clean off nearly as much as the first day. No shivers and chattering teeth for me on Sunday but I traded it in for every ounce of my body hurting so bad. Asha picked us up shortly after and we had food at the Applebees just to get something in our stomachs. Everything from this point was a blur. Exhaustion and fatigued started to set in, as the George Washington Bridge had two or three accidents on it and I was exhausted. Before I knew it, we were dropping Rayne off to the Bronx and unfortunately, he had to go to work directly after. We tried to talk him out of it but when real life kicks in, I couldn't knock the hustle.
The commute back to Brooklyn was very smooth and swift. I thanked Asha for helping us accomplish things that weren't a part of my wildest dreams years ago. It means so much to me to find genuinely great people who want to see your success. I will always have so much love for her. The trip upstairs into my brownstone hurt. The squeaking of the stairs mimicked my bone aches. My toilet bowl wasn't too happy with me but there's no hard feelings. Took me 45 minutes to shower, as I allowed the hot water to dance across my back, performing a ritual that I have done many times before in marathons. I inspected my body for new bruises, extra swollen parts and securely bundled up.
The next morning, I ached something terrible. Combining it with my viral and sinus infection, I felt like glamorous shit. I looked over to my weight bench and saw my packed suitcase and two of my Spartan medals. They were earned brutally this weekend. The suitcase reminded me that I'll be back in the air on Friday to complete two more events, longer and possibly harder this upcoming Saturday and Sunday to complete my double trifecta. Goddamnit, I am a Spartan finisher and i'm eternally thankful that I had one of my best friends by my side. Perhaps, this is what the Spartan is all about. See you back on the pavement in South Carolina. I'll be joining one of my oldest online buddies, Bracha on the course. Thank you for the memories NJ. You treated Rayne and I exceptionally well.