• Patrick DiBello

My Spartan Trifecta Experience - Part 1

For me, running one race is enough but 3 in a 3 months? Damn. I’ve had a couple of friends that were asking me to run Spartan Races with them for the past 2 years but it never seemed to interest me. It looked fun and all but I always have so many goals that veering off track to do something different meant that I’d have to sacrifice what I really enjoy doing so I can prepare for a fun day race. I wasn’t having it. I want to train handstands and acro and a Spartan Race doesn’t exactly fit in to acrobatic training. Fast forward to April of this year and something was different. I was comfortable. Training handstands and acro is extremely challenging but for me I was too comfortable and that needed to change. My friend Dan finally got through to me on this Spartan race fun and I worked on my friends Jason and Josh to join us. It didn’t take long for them to agree. Little did we know that was going to turn in to 3 races, 25 miles, and 60 obstacles in 3 months.

Race # 1- Tuxedo, NY: The Sprint(3 miles, 20 obstacles)

This race was meant to give me a kick in the ass to step up my training. Spoiler alert, I didn’t. I still did my regular training which consists of handstands, acro, and pull strength. But I ran about 6 laps total around the gym which may come out to a couple of miles in the month leading up to the race. I knew my calisthenics training would make the obstacles a breeze but I was half cocky, half ignorant when it came to the endurance portion of the race. I haven’t ran in four years but I thought that because I can do a 90 minute yoga workout while controlling my breath and not completely resting that I would have my cardio in check during the race. I was also training squats and dead lifts so I felt my legs would be strong enough for the challenge. I was wrong.

I was pretty excited for this race. At the starting line everyone was getting in the zone. I was standing there with my boys about to do something we didn’t really know anything about, surrounded by a bunch of other people and most of them are in the same boat. The music was blasting and the MC was doing a good job of getting us pumped up. The race started and I was rockin’. I felt good and was having fun early. I remember running up the mountain and going through a few pretty easy obstacles. We were all still together pretty much and the last time I remember feeling good was on the way back down the mountain where we ended up having to do the barbed wire crawl obstacle. I’ve never done that before but it was pretty manageable. Right after that they sent us back up the mountain and that’s when I started to crash. Mind you, I don’t even think we were a mile and a half in to this four mile race. But we did just go up and down a ski mountain and I ran the whole time. That’s when I realized I went too fast too soon. So when it came time to get back up that mountain for the next part of the race I was smoked. I had to stop so many times going up that mountain, even when I was walking. Eventually I got up to the top but I felt destroyed and it took me a while to get my legs back. Most of the obstacles still ended up pretty easy but the hercules hoist was almost unmanageable for me. I remember struggling so hard, that bag felt like 200 pounds. And the rope got wrapped around my ankle so when I let it go at the end it yanked my leg up to my shoulders and almost took my foot off with it. I almost forgot about that(Shout out to my flexibility game). I remember baking in the sun because there was no shade when I had to rest. I didn’t fail any obstacles on this first race. This race pushed my limits and I may have felt defeated numerous times but it was some of the most fun I’d had in a long time. I remember climbing up a cargo net and at the top I thought about how lucky I am to be doing what I was and where I was. I love hiking and obstacles and here I am doing them both at the same time on a beautiful mountain surrounded by thousands of other people. This is what I’ve been missing? I could have done better but I didn’t care. I had fun and finished strong. I also learned a couple of things, mainly that I have no clue how to pace myself, and that was a problem.

On the way home we joked about doing another race and it wasn’t long before we signed up for our next one.

Race # 2- Palmerton, PA: The Super(8 miles, 25 obstacles)

Palmerton...what the hell did we get ourselves into? First of all, I didn’t change my training routine at all. So there’s that. Then I realize that this race is one of the harder ones around due to its elevation so it’s known for putting a hurt on people, perfect. I went in to this race just as excited and confident as the first one. But I felt a little more prepared because I had a little experience and a plan. My plan was to pace myself and it seemed simple enough. But when you are climbing up the face up the face of a 1,407 foot mountain, nothing is as it seems. I intended to buy a hydration pack for this race but dropped the ball on that so I would only be able to hydrate at water stations. My friend Laila encouraged me to eat more than I was planning to before the race and gave me some gummies to keep in my pocket in case I needed them. THANK YOU, LAILA!

After climbing the first peak I was already sucking wind and my legs were feeling it too. I didn’t feel destroyed yet but my body was working pretty hard and I knew we had a long way to go. The sandbag carry is tough for me and I thought I had the advantage of it being at the beginning of the course but I was wrong. We had to carry that damn thing partially down and back up a double black diamond ski slope. I’ve never been skiing in my life and now I’m carrying 50+ lbs over my shoulder up a double black diamond mountain? After I walked my sandbag down the mountain and turned the corner to go back to the top I looked up, and it looked like a war zone. People were scattered all over the ground with their sand bags next to them as they gasped for air. I had to set my bag down 4 times going up the hill and almost threw up at the top. A couple of minutes after that I felt somewhat normal and kept it moving at a decent pace. The course was brutal but for the most part I was doing fine. Completing all the obstacles and feeling good. There was a line of obstacles at the top of the mountain and I breezed right through them. Monkey bars, and rope climb are my strengths so I felt good and I came out of that section feeling strong and pumped up. After the rope climb was a downhill dirt road and I was coming in hot. This was around mile 5 and I I was just about to coast downhill and save some energy when I felt a little cramp in my quad. I brushed it off and kept moving for a minute or so and then that little cramp turned into a massive one. My vastus medialis(the part of the quad responsible for straightening your leg) completely locked up and it brought me right to the ground. It looked like the muscle was about to pop out of my skin and it was rock hard. I’ve never been in that position before so I really had no clue what to do, and it was not pleasant. Here I am baking in the sun on this dirt path with my leg so locked up that I felt like forcing it to bend would have ruptured my muscle, FML. After sitting on a dirt path rubbing my rock hard muscle for 5 minutes a girl came by and gave me a little packet of bio freeze. I yanked up the leg of my tights and rubbed it on my quad. About 5 more minutes went by and eventually the muscle started to relax. Shortly after that a guy passing by hooked me up with a couple of salt pills. I didn’t have any water so getting them down wasn’t pleasant.. Nevertheless I was appreciative of the gesture. I felt decent so I kept moving making sure to hydrate at the next water station. But about 10 minutes later the muscle contracted again, locking my leg in a straight position and showing no mercy. This time I laid in some grass under a tree and used a stick as a roller to try rubbing out my quad, no luck. After a few more minutes it finally calmed down and I hit the trail for another 10 minutes until it struck again. Here I am, on my ass with my leg locked out for the third time in 45 minutes. My race now went from a goal of finishing without crashing like I did last time, to just finishing the race. This time a group of woman stopped to help me. One of them gave me two salt tablets and her friend bent down next to me and handed me the tube of her hydration pack and said, you are going to want to take those with water. I looked at her and asked if she was sure and she didn’t even hesitate. My friend Dan came by shortly after that and held me down with water and encouragement for the remainder of the race. No surprise there, he’s a good dude and that’s what friends are for. But these complete strangers went out of there way to help me and are most certainly a huge reason I was able to finish this race. That moment gave me a new love for Spartan Races. Being on that mountain under prepared and complete strangers willing to sacrifice for me was something I’ll never forget.. My leg only cramped up one more time after that and even though I was destroyed once again I was able to finish the last mile pretty strong, all things considered. I failed one obstacle this race, the spear throw. I prefer not to fail any obstacles but I can live with failing the spear throw. I had enough juice left to do my fun jump over the fire at the end of the race but it’s safe to say I was beat by yet another Spartan Race. Once again I had to reflect on the lessons. The lesson of this race, I didn’t know anything about running long distances or fueling my body for something like that.

Part 2 will be my experience at the Spartan Beast. 13 miles and 30 obstacles. How did my preparation change and how did it benefit me? I hope you'll check back to experience the rest of my journey, thank you for reading.

Much love


#spartanrace #health #OCR #Running