I wrote about my first Spartan experience here last year, and my general tips are still there. I did the same race again this year. The obstacles and course were a bit different, but not hugely.
This is meant to be read in addition to tips from my first Spartan race post.
- If booking taxi from & to Ascot Berks Station, go with Ascot Cars. You can easily book online and it was only £10 each way.
- I’d suggest booking the outgoing taxi for 2.5 hours after your start time. This should allow time to complete the course, snack, change and possibly shower.
What (not) to bring:
- Running with a light bag is doable. Bag drop lines were very long, and we weren’t carrying much. With two people it was easy to manage it when we were doing certain obstacles. It did get a small tear on the barbed wire crawl though.
- There should be free drinks (beer or non-alcoholic, and snacks) when you finish the race. There are at least two water stations on the course, so you might not need to bring drinks.
- Can confirm there are toilets on the course, usually next to water stations.
- I tried using chalk for grip on some obstacles, but with all the mud I feel like it didn’t do much.
- Bring some plasters and anti-septic cream, especially if wearing shorts. It’s very easy to scrape your skin when running through the forest, and after wading through mud you’ll want to clean it out.
- I’d still recommend bringing a full change of clothes and shoes, except maybe a top, since you can get the free finisher T-shirt (may involve standing in a queue). If you need to get in a taxi, you can’t be drenched in mud. We didn’t really bother showering this year though, since the area around the showers was so muddy it felt quite pointless.
- shower first to rinse off the mud, then bath for a deep clean. To be honest I still didn’t feel fully clean after.
- if you can, have a tasty meal waiting for you at home.
- I was sore all over the next day, and in places I didn’t even realize I used the day after (my left adductors worked very hard apparently).
The course was a bit longer. My pace per mile was actually better, but overall we took longer. We were towards the bottom of the rankings, but I don’t really look at those after seeing the majority of people do 0-5 burpees after failing an obstacle.
Running with someone rather than alone is also a different experience. Overall I enjoyed it more, since we could help each other and have fun together. (It’s not ideal if you don’t need much help and want the fastest time possible, since you might end up waiting for a friend to finish obstacles or penalties.)
While the weather was equally nice on the day, the course was much muddier. Last year I did slip and lose my shoe in the mud once, but apart from that I avoided getting soaked. This year, there were several parts of the course where we were basically wading nearly hip-deep in muddy water (thankfully shoes stayed on this time). I didn’t really love that, so I may try a stadium race next time.
Last year I went on sometime after midday if I remember correctly, but this time we started fairly late at 16:00 (last heat was 16:15). The beginning of the course felt crowded, but it thinned out towards the end. And since the last section with about a quarter of all the obstacles was quite empty, we could try some of them a couple of times.
I am happy that I relatively easily managed two obstacles I failed last year: rope climb and Hercules Hoist. They use somewhat similar muscles, depending on your technique, so that makes sense. But I think the main differentiator for Hercules Hoist was that I realized not all the weights are equal, and this year I made sure to pick one I saw a couple women manage single-handed without help.
Other carries, walls and net climbs pretty well. I could probably be quicker or more graceful, but generally I was pleased. I felt like this year there were much fewer wall obstacles than last year, actually. Not sure what happened to the log flip, which was on the map but not on the course.
Unequal weights came into play in the bucket carry too. I just picked up a bucket when one of the volunteers yelled out that the weights vary, so I tested another one (both women’s). It felt like half the weight of the first one. I’m not really sure why they don’t just make them more consistent; as a participant I’d rather try a harder task as long as it was fair.
What I found the scariest was surprisingly the balance wall. It’s about 5 foot high beam that you have to walk over. I know that in theory you can run across it looking forward, but that was not the case for me. I shuffled over it quite slowly, gaze glued to my feet.
My least favourite obstacle this year was the slip wall. Last year’s I managed just fine, but this year the ropes were much shorter (the shorter the rope, the harder the obstacle in this case). However, my main issue with it was that the ropes were different length, and one was noticeably longer than the others. This resulted in a long queue for that rope and the rest of the obstacle going pretty much unused. I managed the obstacle with help.
Once again I failed at the monkey bars and the multi-rig. I was a bit disappointed by this, since I’ve gotten so much better at pull-ups (0 -> 3) and I’ve done a couple monkey bars in parks and at the gym successfully. I remembered the Spartan ones were trickier, but I forgot just how much. A couple bars in, I found myself hanging and feeling like it was impossible for me to reach the next one, which was far away and higher up. I think you really need the proper swinging technique and use momentum to traverse these kind of distances. I don’t have that skill at all, but it’s something I’ll try to work on next year, perhaps by going to the park and skipping every other bar. Similarly, the multi-rig was composed of rings. I got a few in, and then at some point straightened my legs, since I didn’t realize I was so low that that meant I was now touching the floor. I think that immediately qualifies as a failure, but to be fair I wouldn’t have made it much further on that one regardless, since I was moving quite awkwardly and slowly. I saw a woman go after me and she had the perfect swing, making the whole thing look effortless. It’s hard to find a ring arrangement where I could practice this, but I’ll see what I can do.
And of course, the spear throw. Since we were in the second-to-last heat, the course was quite empty by the time we got to the end. This meant I got the chance to throw the spear a couple times without feeling like I was holding someone up. Technically you’re only meant to get one try, but living in a studio flat in London, it’s nearly impossible for me to find spear throwing opportunities – so I took it. After four attempts I felt like I was getting slightly better, but it still never actually stuck in the hay.
It’s unlikely I’ll be going to Windsor 2020, since we’re thinking of living somewhere else next year. But I’m certainly planning on doing some kind of obstacle course race. I’ll need to work on improving my monkey bar technique before my next attempt though.