A "Spartan" is not only a member of a warrior society from ancient Greece, but also an obstacle course race, of varying distances. Obstacles include upper body challenges, carrying buckets of rocks or sandbags up and down hills, throwing spears, climbing ropes, scrambling over walls and hurdles, and many more. A Sprint is about 5 miles, a Super 8, and a Beast 13. All three in the same year are a Trifecta. If you can't do an obstacle, you have to perform 30 "burpees," a hellish combination of squat, push-up, and jump. Burpees are not fun. But the races are a blast!
Our team of Blue Mountain ski and snowboard instructors, “Shredders,” formed last spring to cross off a bucket list item and do a Sprint at our home mountain in Palmerton. Fast forward a few months and we’re looking to do a Trifecta in 2018! After worrying about the Sprint all summer (in one week it will be over, in 48 hours it will be over) I didn’t want the race to end! Signing up for the Super November 4 at Mountain Creek, New Jersey was a no-brainer and 5 of us (left to right: Jennifer, Meghan, Sheri, Sharon & Stefanie) decided to go for it.
The cast of characters:
Meghan, our youngest team member at thirty something, has done lots of Spartans and she rocks the upper body elements. We knew she was hard-core (and has one as well!) when she successfully rang the bell at the Ape Hang (a rope/angled monkey bar combination over a pond of water) in July and she only did one set of burpees at the Super.
Sharon, our oldest at 51, is challenging Cal Ripkin when it comes to a streak. She has run every single day since January 1, 2015 and shows no sign of stopping. With many races under her belt, she dominated the trails and passed people half her age while waiting for the rest of us to catch up.
Jennifer, the cheerleader of our team, just turned 50 and is always posting something positive on Facebook. She has never met a logo-ed item she didn’t like and our trainer was the beneficiary of a few Spartan cones and other items that Jen realized she perhaps didn’t really need. She recently quit smoking and continues to amaze herself and her team with what she’s able to do.
Stefanie, low forties, is one of those people who seems good at everything, even “cursing like a truck driver” during one particular hill. A self-proclaimed truck driver nearby seemed impressed. Despite a fear of heights, Stef nailed every climb without a downward glance.
And I, Sheri, am 48 and almost always know where the cameras are. I have smiled through bucket carries, cargo nets, sandbags, and fires, but must admit that the dunk wall caught me off-guard and underdressed. (We stripped down to basics to enter a pool of water and go under a barrier.) No pictures will be shared from that element!
Our road to the Super began Friday night at Blue Mountain, the spot of our first Spartan, where Jen and I left our cars to ride with Sharon. Stef had an event at her kids’ school and met us at the hotel and Meghan planned to arrive the following morning. We got off to a somewhat rocky start, as the car GPS wasn’t co-operating, and we sadly had to pause behind a deer that had just been hit.
Fortunately, we arrived in New Jersey without any further ado and checked into our lovely hotel, the Appalachian. We had a little trouble getting the garage key card to work, but managed to enter and park. After schlepping up much more luggage than we needed (Jen and I do not travel lightly), we were stymied by another door, this time for the room. We asked a random guy in the hall how to get in (he couldn’t get away fast enough), and eventually made it inside. Clearly our first obstacles were doors! We probably should have done burpees.
We went out to dinner for a carb load and somehow the conversation turned to the Super Friends cartoon and the Wonder Twins. Jennifer disgraced herself as a child of the 70’s by not knowing Zan and Jana, but Sharon and I quickly found a video on YouTube watching their “Wonder Twins Powers — activate!” Somehow, we did not think that transforming into an octopus and an ice unicycle would do much for fighting crime, but it presumably worked for them. Even the monkey Gleep may have been wondering just what those writers were smoking. By the way, we recommend Gencarelli’s restaurant; we returned the next night on the way home.
The race itself was long and hilly, about what you’d expect at a ski resort. What was an unexpected treat was the gorgeous weather — a beautiful, sunny fall day and lovely views all around. We were truly lucky, as the previous year was much colder and rainy. People had written on newsgroups that it took over an hour to warm up afterwards.
Our team helped each other with obstacles as much as we could and everyone except Meghan had to do the same number of burpees: 150. The monkey bars, twister, multi rig (really hard variations of monkey bars) and rope climb (at the end, that’s just mean!) did us in and no one hit the spear throw. Alas! Better luck next time. We were pleasantly surprised with our success with new obstacles such as the Bender and we all did great on the Z-Wall. It was fun to see big guys doing burpees as we strutted on by.
We finished the race holding hands jumping across the fire pit. Not only did I look at the camera, I arranged our team by shirt colors beforehand. After collecting our medals, bananas, and belongings, we proceeded to the line for beer. Whatever the brand, the beer at the end of a Spartan race tastes especially good! We posed for lots of pictures with our Blue Mountain/Spartan Shredders sweatshirts before saying good-bye to Meghan and jumping on the shuttle to return to the hotel. Stef had to leave, but Sharon, Jennifer and I lingered in the hot tub and compared bruises before heading out of town.
While eating dinner, Sharon got a text from a colleague at Blue, informing her that the Valley parking lot where we left our cars was about to be locked for the evening. We were able to call security before arriving and Dino was there to let us in. (Thanks, Dino!) Not getting our cars would have been a bad ending to an otherwise great day.
We’re thinking of returning to Mountain Creek for the Beast in April (perhaps two nights in the hotel so we can celebrate with the hot tub — and drink!), a Super at Blue in July, and perhaps a Sprint in the stadium in Philadelphia. We are definitely “drinking the kool-aid” and can’t wait to do more. It’s been great fun to test ourselves and get in better physical shape, but the bigger blessings are the relationships we’re developing along the way. An obstacle race is a great way to work as a team and turn colleagues into life-long friends! As the (modern) Spartans say, "Aroo!"
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