Michael & Michael: Was the Second Spartan Sprint as good as the first one?

This past weekend Michael Angel and I did our second Spartan Sprint together. Michael had struggled with his health a lot earlier this year. Our usual training together was much more spotty than the first time due to health and other important issues. We had signed up for the Concord Spartan Race shortly after doing the last one and now that the race was drawing closer we had to ask ourselves a hard question: “Is it a good idea to do this?”

Our answer was: “Hell, it was not a sensible idea the first time, why not do it a second time and see!” Just like the first time we agreed to give it our best shot.

So why do it a second time?

I just love the atmosphere. I am very competitive by nature and doing the race this way took the element of competition completely out of it. I was able to enjoy the race itself. I love the people, their encouragement, help, support and in the end their selflessness. I love helping others getting over obstacles.  I don’t know how many people helped us but they are all super inspiring to me. In addition Michael and I wanted to make sure that the first time was not a fluke, that we were able to do it again.

Getting Ready12959328_10206747506028246_875752261_o

We use a repurposed military molly backpack for this adventure. We had it altered. It is quite a job to get Michael into the backpack. It needs to be fairly snug, but not too tight to cut off his breathing. If you think Michael is not working hard in there, think again. By the end of this race he was cramping all over. He has to stabilize himself, hold his legs up to avoid kicking or tripping me. He wears combat boots, fatigue pants that are duct taped to the boots, tactical gloves and two layers of shirts. Inside of the backpack he wears a motorcycle kidney belt to prevent the hard frame of the backpack to rub him bloody as he gets jostled around. On the front of the backpack we attached a bag to hold a water bottle. He is facing away from me because of his limited hip mobility.

I wear tactical pants, combat boots, tactical knee pads (gift from heaven when getting up), reversed shin guards (we learnt that from the last race, my calves had huge 12986615_10206747499348079_14547684_ohematomas from the hard rubber sole of his boots kicking it). Together we way in at about 295 to 300 lbs with gear.

During the first race I made the error of underestimating the length and intensity of the race and did not bring food or water. A kind racer provided me with a KIND bar and the water station saved. This time I was prepared. I had 4 bars and a water bottle with me.

20 min before our race: time to help Michael into the backpack, boots, gloves, etc. This takes about 15 min. Then we made it over to the start line. The atmosphere was great. People were excited and hyped up.

After the famous start line speech, the gun went off. Michael and the backpack felt heavy for some reason. I had trained with 140 lbs additional weight whenever I did not carry Michael, but this morning it felt heavy at the start.

In addition I had lost some weight and the belt that I was wearing bunched my pants up in the back and the pack was pressing right on it. Normally no big deal, but when you have 120 lbs pressing on it for over 4 hours, not so much. I have a big old bruise there, another “war injury” to be proud of. After the first mile or so, I settled into the race. Michael and I were talking to people, or in case of an uphill more like grunting at people in response ( I apologize for the primal noises coming from me).

The Canvas Triangle12980893_10206747508508308_984232991_o

We mastered all the obstacles to the Canvas triangle fine. This one is not that hard, but safety first. Thankfully many people volunteered to stabilize Michael when I had to go over the crest and stayed next to me should I slip. Quite out of breath we approached the rig.

The Rig13000544_10206747500268102_17476582_o

In November I had failed doing the rig. My grip had already been exhausted. Knowing I would not be able to do this with Michael I placed him on the floor and was able to do the whole rig (screw you, rig!).

The Spear Throw

I nailed the spear throw, or so I thought, as I watched the spear approach the target. The aim was perfect, the power behind it….not so much. I had underestimated the force necessary for it to stick. BURPEE TIME!

Some of the following obstacles became a haze. We crossed over the vertical canvas wall with some awesome Spartans stabilizing Michael again. The sandbag carry was relatively easy and I was not too worried about it. Then sometime down the road, there was the Bucket Carry.

The Bucket Carry570b2c4c3bf4014b112b172a-o

Well, it looked rather harmless from the distance: fill up a bucket with gravel, carry it down a hill, up the hill, down the hill and back up and finally dump it back to where you got it from. Sounds simple enough. Well, turns out, that darn bucket got rather heavy and when I decided to take a short break with Michael on my back, it almost tilted over. A volunteer was kind enough to hold the bucket, while I got back up. Off we went trudging up the final hill to dump my load…

The Barbed Wire Crawl

I am not sure what sadist decided to make this like 5 miles long (I heard it was only 200 or 250 ft but hey, it felt like 5 miles). My wife, my oldest and my mother in law were waiting there, cheering us on!

In November Michael and I had successfully made it through the barbed wire by me going backwards, pulling him and him pushing. 1/3 of the way in, it was pretty clear that it was not happening. We needed help. People were offering all around, and before we knew it the “Spunky Spartans” (an awesome group of gals) and some guys helped out right away. By pulling together, holding Michael’s head up and me banging my head unceremoniously into the head of one of our helpers several times we made it through…just to be greeted by…

The Mud Pits 570acad93bf4014b112ae42f-o

Remember the sadist who put up the barbed wire crawl? Well, said sadist put 4 mud pits back to back and while digging it out decided to put the dirt behind each pit and filling the holes with water. I am six feet even and it was chest height for me. Have I mentioned that the combination of dirt and water turns into clayey mud? With Michael on my back I way about 300 lbs, after being in the muddy water the backpack filled up and I have no idea how much I weighed. I was not getting out, not without help. Again the Spunky Spartans and two awesome guys helped. They basically pulled me and Michael out of the hole. After successfully repeating the procedure, we finally came to the last hole in which we had to go underneath a wall in order to cross it.

After talking to Michael briefly  to see if he wanted to do this (since it was dangerous, we both did not know what was in the water, how deep, where the backpack could get tangled up) we, with our trusty crew of helpers, survived this obstacle as well!

The Rope Wall, Inverted Wall, Rope Climb

Michael and I decided to not do the rope-wall. The wall was directly after the mud pits, extremely slippery and higher than the last one. Common sense finally set in and I did 30 burpees to move on. The inverted wall was conquered quickly with the Spunky Spartans and we were off to the last obstacle, the rope climb. Now I will admit that I am not the best rope climber but at this point I was absolutely exhausted. My arms were dead, but 30 burpees it was.

The Finish570a13903bf4014b112a590d-o

Michael and I had decided to let him cross the finish line himself. He was an active participant in this race. He deserved it! He is an absolutely amazing person that has my utmost respect. He was sore and cramping all over the body. The cold was taking a toll on us and I was so weak by the end I was not even able to pick Michael up to help him out of the backpack. Michael is my hero. The trust that he put in me, in strangers with his life is wonderful and honors me. I am grateful for a wonderful friendship.

I don’t want to forget anyone that encouraged or helped us. Rebecca, his attendant, and his son were both there, making it possible as well.

Part of the reason we did it again was the human experience we had the first time. We were not disappointed. It was heartwarming and wonderful. 12986753_10206747500828116_1301549182_o 12991794_10206747500748114_1148716643_oThe Spartan family is absolutely amazing.

Days Later

Today is Wednesday. Three days after the race. I have not heard from Michael since yesterday. Last I checked, he felt a lot better. Interestingly I am not sore, except a curious phenomenon. My arms are pain-free, unless I try to pick something up that weighs more than 20 lbs. Then I get a deep, dull, tooth ache like pain in biceps and triceps that goes deep to the bone. Time for more rest I guess. My muscles had it and they are letting me know.

Are we doing it again?

I don’t know. I will definitely continue doing obstacle races. I have not talked to Michael yet, but I heard something about a next time :), so maybe this is going to happen again! It would be great to get the trifecta with Michael together this year. I know though, that our limit, at least at the moment, is around 5-6 miles. This race took us 4:13 hours to finish. For the next race we would have to find a different way of moving Michael. A way that both of us can sustain longer. So, to answer the question in the title. It was absolutely fantastic!

A big AROO to everyone




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