For the third year in a row, we ran Spartan Race Citizens Bank Park, and for the third year in a row, we were totally not prepared for it.

The first year we just didn’t know what to expect. The past two years we just didn’t train properly, despite the best of intentions, so it felt harder than it needed to be and I knew perfectly well I coulda shoulda done a whole lot better.

Don’t we look happy and accomplished in that picture up there? Yeah. This picture here is a more accurate representation of how I felt most of that day.

spartan race citizens bank park

Miserable. It was cold and windy and that stadium is like a wind tunnel. By the time it came for us to run, we’d been frozen stiff; it literally took half the race before my legs started to feel warmed up properly.

The wait did mean we got to spectate a bit, which was nice. Amazingly, I happened to notice when one of our CrossFit coaches went across the monkey bars— that’s her with her hair in a bun, in the middle.


Those monkey bars are no joke. They’re wide in diameter and far apart, and you have to be careful to keep your feet off the mats. Touch down and you’re done.

After cheering Coach Mik across the monkey bars we went and waited for her to deal with the traverse wall. This sucker is one of many obstacles at Spartan Race that is harder than it looks; it requires a fair amount of finger grip strength and getting around the curves is rough.


Another deceptive obstacle, a new one this year. It looked like it was going to be fun. All you had to do was keep your feet on the skates and “walk” across on your hands, spin around, then come back the same way. 2015-11-23 21-36-56

But, the wheels were like the ones on shopping carts in that they swung every which way, and liked to pull hard to the left, and sometimes my feet would randomly overrun my hands. It was not easy.

I guess it was sort of fun.

citizens bank spartan race

Seriously, I look like a psycho. A cold, windblown, miserable psycho.


My yearly dugout photo. I look happy here because I’m out of the wind and in the homestretch.

spartan race citizens bank park wall

I really struggled with the walls this year, which is disappointing because I don’t usually. My upper body strength is not where it used to be.

spartan race citizens bank park vwall

And for the third year in the row I still didn’t ring that damn bell at the top of the rope. I’ve got the technique pretty much down, but I get scared at a certain point. Also, the knots actually make it harder and these ropes are well worn; the ones at my gym have a lot more grip to them.

I don’t know. Next year, I hope.


Another year down. I’d say I gave a solid… like… 65% of my best effort. So if you’re wondering if you can manage Spartan Race, the answer is YES. Yes, you can, and you should. Because even though it was cold, and miserable, and I wasn’t ready, I enjoyed it as always.

spartan race citizens bank park finish line


More details on Spartan Race obstacles at stadium races here.

Rope climbing techniques and other ways to prep for Spartan Race obstacles here.


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Spartan Race is like childbirth.

I was so focused on being prepared and the afterglow of accomplishment, that I’d kind of blocked out how much it really sucks while you’re in the moment. And the day after.

Just like childbirth. Just like every CrossFit Riverfront class I walk into.

But that’s good, right? That’s the brain’s way of making sure you want to come back and do it again, in spite of the fear/pain.


This time I also agreed to join a team with some friends from the Riv for the Delaware Mud Run. Like, I didn’t fight it at all.

That was on a SUNDAY.

As in the day after Spartan Race Philadelphia at Citizen’s Bank Park, 2014.


Clearly I wasn’t.

So. This is how it went down.




Preparation training, or lack thereof:

No run training other than the running we do as part of our WODs. More idiocy.

In July I was reliably going to 6 WODs a week. Then I went to the beach for 10 days, then I got completely buried in work for about two weeks. That three-week stretch put me way back— I was shocked really by how much my strength and endurance had been affected.


citizen's bank park spartanKelly and me and Tracy looking totally adorbs 


How it played out:

Last year I missed 4 obstacles, taking the 30 burpee penalty: monkeybars, rope climb, spear throw, and traverse wall (you can read all about the obstacles, my experience last year and general Spartan tips in my Spartan Race Citizens Bank Park 2013 recap).

So this year’s goal was just: do less than 120 burpees.

Jeff made me a practice spear to throw like 2 days before the race; I basically practiced by flashlight the night before. He and the boys got pretty good at spear throwing… I hit the target the first couple of times and got steadily worse after that. I missed, but not by much at all. Result: 30 burpees

The monkeybars were just as ridiculous as I remembered. The bars are way thick in diameter and far apart. I made it to the 2nd bar, starting swinging to the 3rd, came to the conclusion that there was no way I’d make it to the end and dropped to save my arms & shoulders for the rope climb. Result: 30 burpees.

Traverse wall (long horizontal rock climbing type wall): I did a LOT better on this than I did last year, but still slid off before the end. Result: 30 burpees.




I asked for some help with the rope the week before the race— more on that below. Rope climb was higher than I remembered. The landing not as soft as I remembered. The people climbing on either side closer than I remembered. I got maybe halfway up and then couldn’t figure out how to get a grip on the rope with my feet when I was also dealing with the knots tied in it. And then I just got spooked and came back down. Seeing pics afterward, I’m pretty mad at myself about this one. I feel like if I’d had someone barking at me to move my ass, like my coach or my husband, I’d probably have made it. But left alone with the voice in my head saying “30 burpees isn’t such a big deal” and then reopening my rope burn wounds from earlier in the week— I copped out 🙁 Result: 30 burpees.

So, I still got penalized 120 burpees. But other than the rope business— and make no mistake, I will get up that rope and ring that bell next year— I’m pretty happy with this year’s race.




Why? Because progress:

  1. At no point did I feel like I was going to die. I didn’t have a moment where I seriously questioned my sanity about paying cash money to torture myself this way. I felt pretty good the whole time, I just couldn’t do what I couldn’t do.
  2. I wasn’t completely spent and broken at the end of the race. I looked shockingly happy, in fact, as you can see in the above photo.
  3. I ran most of it. And most of the running was stairs and seats.
  4. I did better at the rope climb (I couldn’t even get off the ground really last year) and the traverse wall (my grip strength is much improved).
  5. I totally got up and did a 5k trail mud & obstacle run with a smile on my face the next day.
  6. I met some fun new people, found some people from last year’s run, and our friend Tracy joined our team last minute. He killed it and I think has caught the OCR bug now too.


Spartan Sprint Citizens Bank Park



We found Andrea, who ran with us last year, in our corral at start time 


The gladiators with their oversized battle Q-tips were gone this time around, as well as the “500m row in 2 minutes” obstacle, which I was VERY bummed out about since that was one thing I knew full well I could do. The heavy jump rope made up for it though; this year we had to put a thick rubber band around our ankles before doing our 30 (40?) jumps. Lots of guys were saying it was tough but I aced that one thanks to my time with the Muscle Rope.



The “Herc Hoist” (pulley rope lift) was a big sandbag rather than concrete block, and I struggled with it a bit. It felt heavier and it took me a minute to figure out how to angle the rope and my body to get the most lift.


Spartan Race Herc Hoist


More about learning rope climb technique:

I did take some initiative here and asked one of my coaches to show me how to do the climb the week before the race. He demonstrated the “fast climb” movement from this video that I love but called it “Captain Morgan, pee-pee dance.” Basically, your knee goes high on the outside of the rope (Captain Morgan) and the rope goes on top of your foot, then you use your other foot to wrap the rope around and clamp down (pee-pee dance) to create a step.

After 10 minutes or so I got the hang of it I suppose, but it was definitely a whole different ballgame at the race. I got hung up on how to navigate past the knots, we don’t have those in the ropes at the box.

And in the end I just got scared. I need more practice before next year.


Quick rope climbing tips:

  • It’s a good idea to find out how to get down before you go up. Trust me.
  • Start by jumping.
  • Wear high socks and take your time coming back down, unless you’re looking to show off your war wounds.
  • The Nano 4.0s Reebok sent me have “RopePro protection wrap” and yes, I believe they do a lot to help foot grip and save your shoes.
  • I’d advise practicing the coming back down. Even if you don’t have a rope at home or if you have the technique down, go lower yourself down the fireman’s pole off the slide at your local playground to make sure you have those muscles built. My arms KILLED the next day AND the day after that, and I’m pretty sure it was from the lowering motion; using muscles that I don’t normally.

Now let’s take a moment to admire my Nano 4.0s. They so pretty.



reebok nano 4.0s


All right, that’s it. I loved it, I can’t wait for next year, and I resolve to do better.

Tomorrow I’ll recap the Delaware Mud Run.

Then I’ll let you know what ridiculous, totally-out-of-our-league nonsense Kelly and I are up to next.

You’d think we were athletes or something. We just play them on the internet 🙂




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