If anyone needed an indication of what the 2012 Indiana Spartan Sprint was going to be like, the drive on to the race site should have been the first clue.  It was 7:30 a.m. when we drove out to rural Indiana, up a decent-sized hill (for Indiana), and on to the Haspin Acres property.  The sky was a cold grey, almost as cold as the chilly 40 degrees in which we would soon be racing.  The parking lot was a big bulldozed field of packed mud. Nothing fancy here.  Just like the promotions for this race, everything about the race site said “RAW”.  I looked back  on some of my emails regarding the race and this excerpt summed it up very well.

“When the founders got together this year and discussed the “corn fed” Spartans of Indiana demanding a race, they said ok lets give them what they want…a pure, no holds barred, brutal founders race. We decided that once a year we will pick a location that our athletes demand and bring the old school style racing back like we used to hold in 431 BC. Don’t expect glamour, fancy tents, cheerleaders, or anything that is found in today’s society. This race is focused on breaking you in under 2 hours. You will scream “mercy” on this 3 plus mile course.”

The fact that this race even came into existence is a testament to sheer effort of  two of my best Spartan Racing friends, Jonathan Nolan and Nathan Deavers (and of course their significant others Laura Anglin and Mary Deavers who permitted it)!  Jon and Nathan, along with a few others they recruited, not only generated the interest in this race, but also helped design and build an extremely challenging course.

I ran in the first heat of the day at 9:00 a.m.  I’m not sure it should have even been called a “heat” because there was none in existence.  The customary jumping/dancing around pre-race served more than just getting rid of the jitters, it was necessary to keep from freezing.  A cannon, yes a real cannon, that shook the earth with a really loud cannon boom signalled the start of the race.  The elites had an extra special beginning as we were directed away from the regular course route to a neck high “dip” in the pond.  I had lined up near the front of the pack, so as I was making my way back out of the pond I was met with a thundering herd of racers coming toward me.  It was like I was running against a herd of migrating wildebeests!  I’ve said before that I go inside my own head when I race and thankfully this held true again.  I knew I was cold, but I honestly did not feel the cold during the race.  As usual, I can’t recall the specific route of the race, so I’m just going to recount the obstacles to the best of my ability.  If I forget something or go out of sequence, then….it really doesn’t matter.

One of the first challenges was packing small logs up and over several series of undulating hills.  This made me think back to some of my training with my log and I wished I had done more.  There was a rope climb up the deck of a building followed by a run through the darkened crawl space of said building.  I remember vividly the first ascent up a fairly long, fairly steep rocky slope.  I remember it because it was the first point in the race where some racers had slowed from a run to a trudge.  At this point, I was doing really well.  I had passed several people and was probably within 10 to 15 people of the leader.  That was until we ran up a small hill to a pond.  I heard the race volunteers shouting to swim across and use the ropes if you got in trouble.   The next thing I heard was “if you can’t swim, then don’t even attempt it.  Do 30 burpees.”  Fabulous!! (that was sarcasm).  Swimming obstacles kill my performance times.  I suppose if I could overcome a fear of drowning and actually become a decent swimmer that this wouldn’t be the case.  However, that wasn’t happening at the time, so I went to the side and started my burpees.  It seemed like for each burpee, another racer got in front of me.  That included all those individuals I had just passed to get to the front of the pack.  I’m guessing that I lost 25 positions because of the burpee penalty.

If the burpees that taxed my energy were not enough to wreck my performance, then the next “incident” really did.  There were a series of short muddy berms and mudholes to traverse.  As I was making my way through them, I made a bad decision on foot placement.  What I thought was packed mud was most definitely not!  My left foot went shin deep.  When I pulled it out I left something very important behind — my shoe!  When my socked foot hit the next mud pit, I quickly turned around to find my shoe.  I caught a glimpse of a rapidly closing hole in the mud.  I thrust my hand down it and fortunately grabbed my shoe.  At this point, my socked foot was covered in mud and I wasn’t even sure I still had a sock on.  I made my way to the next mud hole and begain feverishly trying to clear the thick goo from the shoe so that I could get my foot back in.  After about 30 seconds of this and another 20 or so people passing me I was finally able to get it back on and struggle through the process of tying it.  This made me angry because it was my own doing.  I must have not done my usual pre-race tightening of the shoe and I attribute some of that to the cold.  Finally, I was back on the path and thinking to myself that I had just ruined any chance of a great finish in this race.  I did my best to shake it off and run the rest of the race as fast as I could.

What else did the race consist of?  Lots and lots and lots of muddy undulations.  It seemed as if the entire race was running up a muddy embankment and back down another.  The X-talons were great again.  There were several hill climbs that had ropes from the top so that people could actually get up them.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that I didn’t need them and started making my way back toward the front.  There were no “fancy” obstacles in this race, just elements of the earth used to the course’s advantage.  In addition to all the hills, there were dozens of water/mud holes about 4 feet deep dug throughout the course.  These were accompanied with a muddy hill either before or after the holes and they taxed the energy levels trying to get out and over.  I heard of several people that needed assistance getting out of them.  At times I struggled to climb out.  On one of them, I made the leap over the hole and heard the volunteer exclaim “Wow! You made it!”  For reasons unbenknownst to me, I then immediately fell BACKWARDS into the mud hole with a big splash and took a mouthful of that nasty muddy water.  I came out of it with one of those sounds you make when you’re unexpectedly doused with cold water!

I was going along pretty good and blitzed across the log crossing over the muddy chasm.  Then another problem.  I lost the path.  Not just me, but about 10 other guys.  The volunteer wasn’t any help and we spent a minute or so going back and forth trying to find out which way to go.  Another minute lost and 7 or 8 more people that caught up with me.  More muddy hills.  More log carries up and down muddy hills.  The cargo net, which is usually pretty easy was even more challenging as usual because it was not taut.  There was a second rope climb.  I’m still mad about failing this obstacle in AZ and I made sure it didn’t happen this time.  The 2 guys in front of me failed, but I went up with a couple of slips.  Just when I thought I was in danger of failing again, I resolved not to quit and made it.  Thank goodness!  There was the customary barbed wire crawl.  I should say crawlSSSSS.  After each crawl there were more mud holes and berm crossings followed by another crawl.  Just when I thought I was through the barbed wire crawl obstacle, there was another!  I’m not even sure how many there were, but I’m sure that my knees and elbows are scratched and bruised today because of them.

Jeff struggling at the finishAs far as running goes, there couldn’t have been more than a quarter mile of the 4.3 miles that was on even and stable ground.  The entire race was very technical, including some rather long and very rocky ascents/descents.  I was thankful to make it through those quickly without a race-impacting injury.  I’m sure I left some things out, but the final stretch of the race was up a hill, around a pond and then a 20 yard crossing through a shallow part of it.  Coming out of the pond, we had to grab a log and carry it down the path and back.  I picked up the first log I saw and then heard the volunteer say for guys to get the big logs and girls to get the smaller ones.  I had picked up a smaller one.  I turned around, dropped it and picked up the first big log I saw.  That log was unfortunately the biggest of the bunch and had to weigh in excess of 80 pounds.  I made the loop and was ready for the sprint to the end except now my legs and upper body was spent.  The last two obstacles were new ones and consisted of a jump up and over a log suspended about 6 feet high crossing the course.  It took me 2 attempts to get over that one.  One more to go.  The last one was higher and thicker.  I made it up on the first try, but then struggled like a sick monkey for what seemed like ages to get over it.  April videoed it and trust me, it wasn’t pretty.  If I ever think of myself as an athlete, then that video will dispel the myth!!  The landing on the other side was the end of the race.  Done!  Wow!  What a fabulous race!

That's not a cape!I received my medal, gave up my timing chip, and then came out of my head to the realization that I was freezing!  I grabbed a metallic thermal sheet and went looking for my girls.  April was getting ready to run in the next heat.  She did great by the way and I’m thinking she needs to start racing in the elite heats!  I spent the next 30 minutes trying to clean off and get some warm dry clothes on.  This post has gone on and on, so I’m going to wrap it up now.  My little girl raced in the Kids Race and this edition was fabulous as it consisted of a 1 mile run over a part of the course where the adults carried logs.  The kids just ran the course and had a couple of smaller obstacles thrown in.  My little one ran really well.  She started at the back of the pack, but passed SEVERAL other kids along the way.  The family had completed another Spartan Day and it was joyous!  I got to renew acquaintances with “old” friends and make introductions to new ones.  My Spartan community continues to grow and I cherish dearly the friendships made at these races.

My 2 Spartan Race GirlsHow did I do?  Considering the swimming penalty, the lost shoe, and the lost path, I guess I would say pretty good.  Remove two of those issues and I would have improved my standing greatly.  As it stands, I finished 40th out of 188 in the elite heat and 3rd in my age range with a time of 1:09:24.  I’m not sure if the overall results are official, but as of now, it looks like I finished 79th out of 2259, still 3rd in my age range.

Epilogue:  It’s the day after the race and I’m scratched, nicked, torn, bruised, sore, and unfortunately sick.  However, I wouldn’t trade that experience.