So, what’d you guys do this weekend?
Me, I tore a chunk of flesh off my right pinkie, skinned the bejesus out of my left shin, crawled/rolled 450 feet across a craggy minefield of prickly burs while staying low enough to avoid dozens of strings of barbed wire and submerged myself in muddy water that seemed to hover around the temperature of your average Frigidaire.
In other words, I did a Spartan Race – along with thousands of other masochists who made the trek Saturday to Porter Farms, a sprawling cow and pig farm that’s right next to The Middle of Nowhere on a map of eastern Cabarrus County. The fun (I debated whether to put quotation marks around the word fun, by the way) spills over into Sunday, with waves of 250-plus racers going off every 15 minutes from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Some background: Spartan Race, like rivals Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash, is a company that owns a series of obstacle races determined to make your muscles sore and your clothes completely wet and dirty. Spartan, in fact, has become so popular, NBC is launching a seven-episode reality-competition series based on the concept (it premieres in June).
Concord’s event is a “Sprint,” which basically means that it’s the shortest and therefore – presumably – the easiest type of Spartan. In this case, short and easy means just over five miles in length and “only” two dozen or so obstacles to traverse.
The first one stands in the way before the race even starts: Simply to enter the starting corral, athletes have to clear a four-foot-high wooden wall.
But going into the race, my biggest fear wasn’t the difficulty level; after all, I’ve run more marathons than I can count and finished a couple of Ironman-distance triathlons, so physical endurance challenges don’t easily intimidate me.
Vomiting and bloody diarrhea, however, do.
And in the days leading up to the race, the alarmists in my friend group were quick to point out horror stories like the one from 2012, when 22 people competing in a Tough Mudder in Nevada became infected with campylobacter coli (which causes those two violent ailments) after accidentally swallowing water laced with cattle or swine feces.
So after my wave set out Saturday morning but before we hit the first major obstacle, we sauntered past herds of cattle looking at us a bit like I imagine the Chick-fil-A cows regard chickens, and I couldn’t help but think of toilets.
Then it passed. Because then I had other things to worry about. Like the Hercules Hoist, which requires men to raise a 100-pound-plus sandbag (about 25 pounds less for women) 25 feet in the air using a rope-and-pulley system. Or the Platinum Rig, a series of rings, Tarzan ropes, chains, monkey bars, swinging horizontal bars and I-don’t-know-what-else that looks like something out of a “Saw” movie.
Or the Bucket Brigade, which involves filling an industrial-strength bucket to the top with rocks then carrying it to the bottom of a steep hill and back to the top. Twice.
The penalty for failing any of these obstacles? Thirty burpees. Don’t know what a burpee is? Just think of your four most-loathed exercises, and you’ll probably hit on at least a couple that are involved in a burpee. Or Google it.
I personally wound up doing – don’t laugh – 180 penalty burpees on Saturday, and so I can attest that simply typing these words on a keyboard was done rather gingerly. If you see me on the street Sunday, don’t expect me to wave since I probably won’t be able to lift my arms.
And people paid as much as $158 for this opportunity!
Worth it? If you don’t mind getting little cuts and bruises and getting lots of dirt under your fingernails but especially if you like to test your limits and/or if you always wanted to see if you could survive boot camp but only wanted it to last for a couple hours, your answer will probably be: Yes.
Me, I’ll feel better about giving you a straight answer once I see if I can make it to next weekend without a trip to the ER.
I’m kidding! It was a blast. A good mix of running (which I love) and – when you’re not being humbled by an obstacle – a strong sense of badassery. I’d literally give the Spartan Race two thumbs up, except I think both of them are sprained ...