Spartan Sprint: on surviving and recovering

On this Workout Wednesday, I want to tell you about my workout Sunday…it was not my (or anyone’s!) average day of gettin’ in some good old physical activity: it was a Spartan Race.


Also known as “mud runs” or “obstacle races,” Spartan races are in the vein of Rogue Runners and Tough Mudders, and the concept is simple.  You pay money to have some sadistic neo-Vikings set up challenges (like high walls, weighted pulleys, rope climbs, and barbed wire) along a course of already challenging terrain (muddy grass, hiking trails, swamps, rivers, steep inclines, etc) and then see how fast you can get through all of this with body and clothing intact at the end.  Fun.

In all seriousness, it WAS fun, at least for the first 3 miles…swimming in mud felt awesome, and running through damp woods made me feel like I was in the Hunger Games (ie, pretty badass).  I had a great team (wooo Horse-Sized Ducks!*), made some new friends, and we got to road trip to North Carolina, where the average temperatures this time of year are usually in the 60’s.

On our race day, it “felt like” 34 and was raining.


Having driven for 7 hours, paid our money, and gotten ourselves pretty psyched up, there was no way we were NOT going to do it.  If my panther-fighting-a-snake-on-a-spiderweb-gas station-car-applique tattoo tells you anything, it’s that I was READY TO BE HARDCORE.


But afterwards we all agreed that we’d rather eat live beetles than do a race again in those conditions.

According to the Mayo clinic, by the end of the race we all had hypothermia:

  • Shiveringlike never before.  My hands and legs were quaking hard enough to shake up nail polish
  • Clumsiness or lack of coordinationdefinitely
  • Slurred speech or mumblingwe only said what we had to say, and sometimes couldn’t get the words out
  • Stumbling – oh yes
  • Confusion or difficulty thinking – I, for one, felt hazy and half delirious
  • Poor decision making, such as trying to remove warm clothes – all of us have at least one post-graduate degree, and could not figure out how to coordinate getting back to the car after the girls and guys went into separate tents to change
  • Drowsiness or very low energy – 2 people fell asleep on the half-hour car ride home
  • Apathy or lack of concern about one’s condition  – this one, not so much, I was pretty darn concerned
  • Progressive loss of consciousness
  • Weak pulse
  • Slow, shallow breathing  – ok so maybe not these last four.  But I’m betting we would have gotten there in another hour or so.

Not only were our bodies depleted of energy, they were fighting to keep us at 98.6, which burns a lot of calories.  And any soreness you’d feel after a normal race is exponentially increased after a race like this because you’re jumping and falling and pretty much slamming your body around on every obstacle.  There are bruises in some places I won’t show you, let me just say.

Here were our finishing stats:


(That’s a 28 minute mile, folks…or about triple my half marathon pace…to be honest I’m not sure what’s going on in that grid; clearly we were not in the top 1%.  If you know how to read this I’m listening.)

All in all – we had a fantastic weekend, and are now stronger and tougher and know our limits a lot better.  Any day you can do about 8 things you’ve never done before is a good day!

Here’s a little recovery recipe I developed to help refuel and reduce aches.  Tart cherries have been found to help reduce joint pain, inflammation, and soreness, so they’re the base, and carbs and protein in a 4:1 ratio are ideal for replenishing muscle glycogen and preventing lean body breakdown.



For coating:

  • 1/2 c rolled oats
  • 1 Tbsp PB2

Grind the oats in a blender.  Add the PB2, cocoa, sugar and cherries and blend on high until evenly mixed.  Add the water a little at a time until a thick dough forms.  Scrape onto a clean surface and roll into golf-sized balls (should yield 16).  Blend the coating ingredients in a small bowl and roll balls until coated; chill in refrigerator.


Nutrition Facts (2 balls):


* “Horse-Sized Ducks” refers to the “would you rather” question: Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?  Well…which would you rather?

**PB2 is just dehydrated peanut butter – the fat that makes it creamy and smooth and slow to digest is removed, so it’s a great high protein ingredient for recovery snacks!

6 thoughts on “Spartan Sprint: on surviving and recovering

  1. WOW Sarah, what a race! I really wondered why all the mud. You should all receive medals….24 carat gold. I didn’t like those feelings you had after the race since we need you to cook for us soon! I Stay healthy! I do like the fact that you challenged yourself and made it. Congrats! The recovery balls look good, may have to try them but first I better expend some energy.

    • I’m a bit banged up but should be in tip-top shape by your dinner party, and looking forward to it! And yes, definitely run a few miles and make some recovery balls; my tasters gave them rave reviews!

  2. Hi,

    I did the Spartan Beast race on Saturday. It took like 9 hours! Including the lost trail. Today, everything on me hurts. Especially my bottoms of my feet, Back and Knees. Do you recommend any special foods to eat today? I took like half a bottle of ibuprofen, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Thanks Scott at Streetzblog

    *the Cherry Balls look good, but a bit too complicated for me to make today.

    • Yikes, that sounds intense! But awesome job, that is no small feat. Water, gentle movement, a balanced protein intake (30-40g per meal) and some dried cherries to snack on would help. Give yourself a day off!

      • Thank You for the extra tips. Sunday and Monday I loaded up on the protein and liquids. Today i bought some dried cherries and am giving them a try. I couldn’t have gone anywhere even if I tried on Sunday. Was so ouchy. Today I made it to work, no injuries, but wow do I feel soar. Thanks again for your help.

      • Cool! Sorry my replies are so belated, my blog isn’t notifying me of added comments. Hope you are feeling better by now! In my experience (limited to the half marathon and one spartan race) the extreme soreness is from pushing much harder during the event than the training.

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