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Madness? This is Sparta! - Saturday, October 2, 2021
Call it madness or something else, but it seems that I've been bitten by the Spartan bug. After my Spartan Race in August, I was hooked. And two weeks ago, I did my Spartan Trail Half Marathon at Sanborn County Park.

The trail race was actually run by a company called Pacific Coast Trail Runs and they had a 50k, half marathon, and two 10k courses. I woke up really early (had trouble sleeping due to excitement) and got to the park before 7am, in time to help cheer on the 30 or so people starting the 50k. The half marathon started at 8am and check-in took just 10 minutes or so. I probably would've had enough time to park at the shuttle pickup location in Saratoga and take the shuttle in order to avoid paying the $6 parking fee at Sanborn, but I didn't want to chance it.

The different courses shared much of the same route and I crossed paths with a good number of people, though it didn't feel too crowded most of the time. Most of the trails were single-track, and of course the trails couldn't be closed to non-racers since these are public trails.

The half marathon course was manageable but tough. It was over 3,200 feet of elevation gain, including a steady incline for the first 3 miles. We had to run to a point at the Lake Ranch Reservoir and grab a wristband there before running back. The climbing didn't feel too bad, though I did alternate between running and power hiking and tried to pace myself. I did push myself harder than on a typical trail run, and my official time was 2:48:27, placing 38/104, 32/80 for males and 12/26 for my age group. So basically, slower than the people who run competitively but faster than those who probably don't trail run regularly.

The one thing that messed me up was that I was running in new shoes. I'd bought a pair of Saucony Peregrine 11 trail shoes to replace my Saucony Mad River TR's which were starting to wear out. I felt like all my previous shoes hadn't needed much breaking in, the new shoes felt comfortable enough when I walked around the neighborhood in them, and it was the same brand as my other shoes. So I took the chance of doing the race without having run in them before.

Well, that ended up being a bad decision. A few miles in, the shoes were starting to rub against both ankle bones. The fact that I was wearing thinner, low-cut socks might've also exacerbated things. So my ankles were chafing and hurting, then the sides of my calves started hurting (that's never happened before), then both legs started cramping around 9, and then I had to just power through with occasional stretching. I literally hobbled across the finish line with both calves cramping. Needless to say, my mistake cost me a bit of time and turned what would've otherwise been an enjoyable trail run into somewhat of a slog. But overall, I still enjoyed the event, and finally finishing after all of that felt awesome. As did eating the free Mexican food that we got from a food truck that was set up in the parking lot.

Having now done both a Spartan Race and a Spartan Trail, I would rate the Spartan Race as more enjoyable due to the obstacles. I've since committed to doing a Trifecta next year - my church buddy Daniel and I both purchased the Trifecta Pass and we'll be doing the SLO Beast and Monterey Super together (we're still figuring out what we want to do for the Sprint). Also, Ruth from church shared with me that an organization that she's been promoting, Foster the City, is putting together a team to do the San Francisco Spartan Stadion this December. Registration through the organization is only $50 since they want participants to fundraise. So Daniel and I and a few people from church ended up signing up.

The Stadion seems like it'll be the easiest of the four events that I'll be doing, but it will be a good checkup to see if my training is paying off and if my muscles are holding up. I guess I've had some issues with my right shoulder and my event in August exacerbated it, so I've been having some shoulder pain when working out. I probably have at least a partial tear in the rotator cuff. I've been trying to strengthen the shoulder and go to the gym to do exercises that I don't have the equipment for at home (though I need to be more consistent in going, despite the gym not being that close). And I found that pullups exacerbated the pain, so I'm laying off of those for now. Hopefully with the right exercises, sufficient nutrition and rest, Lord willing, I'll be able to rebuild and take on the obstacles this year, next year and beyond.

Spartan events are pretty pricey, so I'm not really itching to do these all the time. But the events will give me extra motivation to train since I want to do well. The fellowship aspect is nice, too. But I must do all this with the right motivation. Fitness and health are often idols for me, so I have to remember that they are impermanent and that they must glorify, not take the place of, Christ. When (not if) they are taken away, I must be able to say like Job, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."
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