This past Saturday was the Gladiator Gauntlet and it was tough…way tougher than I thought it would be. I’ve been having mixed emotions about the event for the past few days because it challenged everything I feel like I’ve been working towards and made me feel weaker than I have in sometime. But let’s start from the beginning…
Three of my CFM friends and I signed up for the Gauntlet a few weeks ago as the Honey Badgers…yeah we don’t give a f*ck. We had been talking about getting customized shirts leading up the event, but nothing ever materialized. So the day before, a few of us met at Dick’s Sporting Goods to try and find some matching outfits. Clearly we like color since this is what we came up with…
Um…those are some short shorts…can’t you see the skepticism on my face?!? WAY too short for me. I was starting to chafe just walking around the house, so I couldn’t imagine what a 2.5 mile trail run would produce…yikes! You can read more about my feelings on shorts here. Needless to say, I decided to go with my tried and true Moving Comfort Fearless Bermudas for the event and Keira was nice enough to switch her neon striped socks for my black ones since my shorts were black.
We were in the 5th heat, which was set to go at 10:15 am so we had time to see some of the other teams go through parts of the course. We didn’t know a lot of details about the race, but we did know there was mud, a river, a wall climb, air squats, burpees and a 2-person wheelbarrow. The order was unknown…I hate unknowns! We figured we’d finish in about 45 minutes…that seemed totally doable!
The waiting area was right in front of a large field where the wall climb was set up, so we were able to see those attempts and I was immediately terrified. My upper body strength is severely lacking and I’ve never even attempted to jump a wall before…I’m going to look like a complete ass in front of my entire gym! Lovely…
We were also able to see teams in the first few heats finish and they weren’t as dirty as I had expected, so that was comforting. I had never attempted a trail run or mud run before this, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. All I know, I was worried about running in wet shoes.
I wanted to stretch a bit before heading out, so I decided to start with some lunge complexes. I do these EVERYDAY at CFM, so how I managed to pull my right hip flexor/psoas while doing my first one is a mystery to me. Now my fear of the Gauntlet was getting worse! Having sustained this injury last year in my left leg, I knew this could be bad. I didn’t want to say anything to my teammates right away because I was hoping it would work itself out with some targeting stretching and walking. It helped a little, but I was still sore. I decided to let them know, but that I should be ok. Fingers crossed!
Our team was called and we were ready to go. There were 3 other teams in our heat and after a very brief run down from our coach we were off and into the woods! After a short trail run, we came to our first obstacle…air squats. The team had to complete a total of 200 air squats while standing in a muddy stream. Yay! Wet shoes right off the bat! We broke the squats up into 25 a piece for 2 rounds so we didn’t tire our legs out too quickly. We blew through this pretty fast and were back off into the woods.
We came across a giant tree down across the path that we had to go over. I gracefully slipped in my wet shoes as I was going down and landed right on my left shin. This was going well. It hurt like hell, but not bad enough that I couldn’t keep going. I brushed it off and kept moving. After probably half a mile, we came to a small field where our next obstacle was…burpees…ugh. The team had to complete 100 burpees and while one person was doing them, the other 3 had told hold a plank. This was where things started to unravel for me. Burpees are hard, but after running a half mile faster than my usual pace, holding a plank, and being in wet slippery grass, these were daunting. All I could think was…what did I get myself into.
The burpees took a while and we were the last team in our heat to finish. The worst part was that a team from the heat behind us actually came into the area just as we were finishing…ahhh the pressure! After we burpees, we had to run up a hill to that open field where the wall climb was. I already felt like I had no gas left in the tank and there was NO WAY I was getting over those walls. Ari was awesome and got on all fours so we could step up over the wall, but I couldn’t even do that (plus I didn’t want to break her!) so I just walked around the first wall. We had to army crawl our way between the 2 walls, the second of which was higher than the first! So clearly I walked around that as well. The penalty for that was 5 additional sit-ups (25 were required) on the other side…oh I’ll gladly take the sit-ups.
I just wanted to stay lying in the grass, but nope we were back into the woods for more running, mud and water. This area was very muddy and I walked through a lot of it. Partly because I was tired and partly because I didn’t want to fall. It was also around this time that my colitis decided to kick into gear and every time I ran, I felt like I had to go! This just kept getting better!!
The next “obstacle” of sorts was a flooded out field where we had to trapse through water that was up to our knees out to a parked truck and then back. My teammates made it to the truck and I was about 100m behind them as which point I just motioned for them to head back. Here’s where all the self-doubt started really kicking into high gear. I felt like I was slowing them down and I didn’t want to disappoint them! They were working just as hard as I was, but I couldn’t keep up. Aren’t I the marathon runner of the group?!? What’s going on?!?
The next obstacle we came across was actually fun and refreshing. As a team we had to cross a rapidly moving stream. The water was about up to our waist and there were large rocks on the bottom which made the footing difficult. So we all grabbed hands for balance and crossed…it was actually a nice break and we got a few laughs in. But before I knew it we were off to the next obstacle and I was just praying for this to be over.
This was the final real obstacle…2-person wheelbarrows. This is when one person holds the other persons legs as they walk on their hands. We had to go about 100m down and then back. I was really worried about this and my lack of upper body strength. I knew I could carry Ari, but could I walk on my arms? We started by holding each other by the ankles, but it was tough to support that position and walk on your hands. About halfway down the field, we noticed another team that was holding each other higher up on the thighs so we gave that a shot. WAY easier and we ended up flying through the 2nd half. Keep that in mind if you ever find yourself in a wheelbarrow situation!
Now it was down to the final stretch…a sprint back up that first hill we hit after the burpees, tag a coach, go back down and sprint back up to the finish. I had to walk some of it…I just couldn’t and I LOVE hill sprints. I can’t thank my teammates enough for their encouragement and Ari’s slaps on the butt to get me through that last hill. I’ve got some awesome friends!
We finished in 42:58 which I was actually shocked by…it felt like we were out there forever! I’m so proud of the whole team for getting through the race faster than we anticipated! I was so excited to see B waiting for me at the finish line. He rode his bike 15 miles to be there…he rules! We hung out for a bit to see who the winners were and then headed for some much needed food and beer.
Oh and there might have been some cupcakes. This place won Cupcake Wars…we had to try it!!
This was definitely one of the most difficult things I’ve done and it made me very frustrated because afterwards I just kept feeling like I could’ve done better! I’ve completed 5 half marathons and 1 full marathon, how could I not keep up for 2.5 miles?!?!?! I didn’t even TRY the wall climbs. Really?!? I couldn’t give it the ole college try?!? It was incredibly disheartening and I was actually beating myself up about it for the rest of the weekend. But I’ve come to realize that this was just a completely different experience and here’s why:
- Competing with a team is totally different! I felt a lot of pressure to keep up with them and not let them down. All of the girls on my team probably weigh at least 30-50 pounds less than I do, so running and burpees are just harder for me due to simple physics and I felt like I was just slowing everyone down. I know we were out there to have fun, but it’s hard to get past that feeling. They were incredibly supportive, but I still couldn’t help put that pressure on myself. It’s much easier when you’re just competing against yourself.
- We ran the majority of the time. I think I went out of the gate much faster than I should’ve instead of properly pacing myself (like I ALWAYS do!) and then instead of doing my typical run/walk pace, we strictly ran. I’m really not used to this and it killed my endurance early on.
- The obstacles. There is something to be said about doing strenuous exercises between runs…it’s DAMN HARD. We do this often at our WODs in the gym, but usually for must shorter periods of time and often with rests in between. To keep up that level of endurance for a long time is no joke.
- Uneven terrain. Trails and mud force you to really pay a lot more attention to where your stepping and you can’t just run with your head held high and looking forward. Surprisingly though, I didn’t find the wet shoes as horrible as I would’ve expected. I think the fact that I chose lightweight, mesh sneakers helped with that.
I don’t think I went into the Gauntlet fully prepared for what lied ahead. I was looking at it as more of a 2.5 mile fun run, which would be no big deal! This was something completely different and I can’t beat myself up over it. Needless to say it was a humbling experience and I did actually manage to have some fun along the way. At least I now know what to expect for events like this in the future and will go in with realistic expectations!
Have you ever done a competition like this? Do you like them? Would you consider doing one in the future?