There's just nothing quite like watching the sunrise over a Spartan course!
Especially when it signals the dawning of the 2019 Race season, both figuratively and QUITE literally!
This past weekend my 17-year-old-son (formerly my 16-year-old-son) and I woke up at 4am, piled into the car, and drove the 68 miles to Chino, CA, in order to work a couple of volunteer shifts for the very first Spartan Super and Sprint weekend of 2019. We had signed up to work the AM Course shift both days, which entails working at a specific obstacle from 6am until 1pm. For helping out, you get a free long-sleeve OR short-sleeve volunteer T-Shirt, your choice. Since we worked 2 days, we both decided to get one of each.
You also get the option to run the course after your shift if you’d like OR you can take the option of getting a voucher for a free entry to a future Spartan Race. We were signed up for the later. We had run the Sprint at Chino last year and it was a LESS than pleasant experience, so we didn’t want to repeat it just yet. . .but earning a couple free races each fit VERY NICELY into our plans to earn 2 TriFecta’s this year! I must say though, volunteering at Chino helped to change my mind about the venue. I couldn’t help but wish I was running! It’s very difficult to be at a Spartan event and NOT want to run and play on the obstacles! However, I feel I got a lot out of simply volunteering. Being able to help encourage fellow Spartans as they run is rewarding in and of itself, but when you get to encourage someone who is struggling with an obstacle. . .when they don’t think they can do it. . .and then to see them succeed for the first time ever. . .now that feels about as good as conquering the obstacle yourself!
For both the Super on Saturday and the Sprint on Sunday, my 17-year-old-son and I got the pleasure of working with Chad. Chad is a VERY pleasant Zone Leader. He’s VERY happy to watch racers suffer on the course he helped to build. He seemed to get a bit TOO happy when telling us how he loved to spray runners in the kids race with a hose while they crawled under barbed wire! If you ever volunteer on the West Coast and see someone zipping around in a Predator (golf cart on steroids) with something strange attached to it, that’s probably Chad! This weekend he had a skull he’d found on the ground while working on the build crew hanging from the roll bar like a pair of fuzzy dice. He wanted to know if I knew what it was, which I didn’t. He thought it might be a coyote. Seriously, Chad is a lot of fun and it’s hard not to be in a good mood when he zips up in his skull-cart to see if you need anything! When he handed out the radios to us volunteers at the various obstacles he told us that we were not to describe any medical issue over the radio. Simply call for medical to come to your obstacle. He then added that ‘If you DO describe a medical issue over the radio I’ll come over and personally whip you.’ There’s a glint in his eye when he says it, so I’m sure he’s joking. . .but deep down I think he’s secretly hoping that you’ll mess up! Just kidding! Chad’s awesome (don’t hurt me Chad!)
Saturday morning Chad loaded us up into his Predator and zipped around the venue. He dropped off my 17-year-old-son and myself at Mud Misery and the Rolling Mud / Dunk Wall, both obstacles only about 50 yards apart from each other, but about a mile from each other on the course.
The racers would pass thru Mud Misery around mile 5.25 on their way back into the Festival area for a few spectator friendly obstacles before heading back out and thru Rolling Mud / Dunk Wall around mile 6.35. This was the first time I’ve worked at the Rolling Mud / Dunk Wall obstacle and it just so happened to be the highlight of the entire course!
This was the most epic Rolling Mud that Spartan has EVER created! I’ve never seen this obstacle have such tall mud walls and deep water pits, and from what I could gather by all the Spartan Staff members who kept coming over and eating popcorn while watching racers try to claw their way up the muddy walls that trapped them in the deep, cold water. . .neither had they!
Some Staff member by the name of T.J. had dug the pits. . .I only know this because throughout my 7 hour shift I got used to hearing over the radio “have you seen the pits T.J. dug?” and “you’ve GOT to see what T.J. did at Rolling Mud!” I don’t think that the runners were QUITE as thrilled with T.J. as the Staff members seemed to be, but I was more than happy to be entertained. . .I mean WORK. . . at Rolling Mud!
There were VERY few runners that complained about the obstacle. There will always be a few that do, I suppose. One racer (who I assume must have just hydrated herself with a dozen lemons) made a point to inform me about just how deep the water was, and how muddy the bottom of the pit was, and that it was impossible to swim in muddy water, and the whole setup was extremely dangerous. EXTREMELY! To which I calmly let her know not to worry about it because she signed a waiver. Ok, so I didn’t actually say that, but only because I didn’t think about it until later. I DID wonder what exactly she thought she had signed up for though. A few other ‘spunky’ ladies chose to proudly inform me that they would NOT be doing the Dunk Wall because they had BLADDER INFECTIONS and didn’t want to make them worse. Now, these ladies had already trudged up two mud walls and submersed everything BUT their heads in two different muddy-water pits, so I’m not EXACTLY sure where they thought their bladders were located. But dunking their HEADS under the water would some how. . .you know what? I guess sometimes, it’s just best to ‘let it go’, but I do worry about our Public School system. It also seemed like their BLADDER INFECTION was of the type to kept them from doing Burpees, since they chose to skip those as well.
A few of his buddies went over to help him out and I noticed that they each had a prosthetic leg. I was very impressed that even though they were missing part of a leg they were still running the course. Then I noticed that their buddy had NO LEGS and was still making his way thru the course! Not a word of complaint from those three. They didn’t make sure I knew how bad, or dangerous the course was. No skipping the Dunk Wall for them. I watched in awe as they finished the obstacle and continued to make their way down the course. I hope I NEVER complain about a physical challenge again!
Sunday, Chad gave me the opportunity to work a couple different obstacles. I started the morning out at the 6′ Wall and then moved to the Vertical Cargo net a couple of hours later. Again, it was a great experience. From time to time I would see a racer struggling with the obstacle but getting nowhere. When they seemed to be about to give up I’d call out to them and instruct them on how they could get over the wall without needing much upper body strength. Some just ignored me, but some would actually try what I was saying. Seeing an ear to ear smile on the face of someone sitting on top of a 6′ Wall when moments before they were certain it would be impossible. . .that’s worth an entire volunteer shift. I think I love helping out fellow Spartans about as much as I love actually running the course. It took me a long time to sign up for my first Spartan because the thought of NOT being able to do the obstacles was paralyzing. Maybe that’s why I love encouraging other racers who are struggling. I love the fact that they showed up and are willing to try! I want to see them succeed where they may not think they can. Not everyone I encouraged was successful, but when racers decided they were done struggling and were honest enough to do their 30 penalty burpees INSTEAD of simply walking past the obstacle, well, I was just as proud of them and would make sure to let them know that I knew this would be the LAST time they ever burpeed that obstacle, because next time they would make it.
After this past weekend, I’m really looking forward to my first Spartan Race this year. It’s not until the Beast at Big Bear, May 18th, and I have a Marathon to run before that, but I’m also looking forward to my next volunteer shift!