My husband Shafiq and I did a Spartan Super Obstacle Race this past weekend and it was intense, to say the least. Spartan Races are endurance events that test all aspects of your fitness level: Speed, agility, strength, and endurance. Among the obstacles to be completed is jumping over an 8-foot wall, carrying a 40-pound bucket down and back up a hill, crawling under a barbwire fence for about 100 meters, climbing over 3 story cargo net, climbing a rope and swinging through monkey bars among other things.
We both started strong. I had been training for this for several months so about 2 miles into the race I pulled ahead of him and we got separated. I was focusing on getting through the race as quickly as I could, but with no illusion that I would place. I just didn't want to be last.
All was well until ... well it wasn't
Four hours in, at mile 5 and after obstacle 23 I fell to the ground. My quadriceps seized us and decided it wanted to play "pretend to be a rock"- A sign of dehydration and loss of sodium - I couldn’t move without severe cramps in the front of both thighs.
I discovered that "cramps" is like a bat signal to other Spartan racers. When people asked if I was okay I was able to mutter "leg cramps". Immediately other racers stopped to help.
Mariya and Tom stopped and immediately became my triage team. Mariya went in her bag and handed me a massage ball, instructing me to try and massage the muscles. Unsurprisingly "rocks" don't massage well. I could barely put any pressure on them without severe pain.
Another racer stopped, reached in his bag and gave me two packs of mustard. Mustard is endurance racers must have to ease muscle cramps. I had several packages but had run out at that point in the race.
[Side Note: According to a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports in 2010 Pickle juice (and Mustard) promptly ease electrical induced muscle cramps not by electrolyte imbalance as previously theorized but rather by disrupting the electrical signal in the muscles causing the cramps.]
Another runner gave me a package of energy gel pack. A little packet of simple carbs and electrolytes which are also an endurance athlete staple that I had also run out of.
After having the mustard and the gel the cramps relaxed enough for me to limp downhill to the next volunteer water station.
Tom stayed close and offered his arm if I felt unstable at any point. When I got to the Volunteer water station I crawled into the shade and began drinking water.
For about 15 minutes every time I tried to move or stand my muscles would seize. Two other runners stopped with the same problem. One guy said “I’m tapping out. It’s not worth an injury.” I agreed. We both requested a medic.
While sitting on the ground guzzling cups of water another injured runner sat next to me while she waited to ask for some supplies to fix her hand. She pulled some skin off the base of her fingers during the monkey bar swing. She gave me a Cliff bar. I started to feel a little better.
I sat there for another 15 or 20 minutes or so. My muscles relaxed and I could walk around a little. I felt better. The volunteer said we only had 3 miles and about 6 obstacles left. So I decided to see if I could make it to the next obstacle.
I went slowly.
I counted the obstacle.
I inquired about how much further at the volunteer stations.
I made it.
It took me 5 hours and 31 minutes to complete but I did it. A full 8.3 miles and 29 obstacles later.
This was legit one of the hardest things I’ve ever done aside from giving birth. So why am I planning my next spartan race already. I’m just a glutton for punishment I guess. 😁