From Bozeman to Sparta
Submitted by Greg Stewart on March 5, 2013 - 9:52am
Sliding sideways on the iced-over interstate, I overcorrected and careened toward the median. With solid steel and cable fast approaching, I gripped the wheel and thought, "Okay, God, whatever you have for me, I'm ready." When it was all over I sat in my totaled car, shaken but okay. And then I wondered, what on earth was a 38-year-old father of five doing seven hours from home at 3:30 am in the middle of an ice storm?
Heading to Sparta, of course.
Spartan races have become my recreation of choice. Instead of skinning up the Bridgers or hopping on the tram at Big Sky, I'll drive 17 hours one-way for barbed wire, mud pits, fire jumps, and gladiators with pugil sticks. It's like no race I've ever seen, like nothing southwest Montana has ever seen—and I'm hooked.
This journey actually started three years ago, after the birth of my fourth daughter. I was a miserable 310-pound man. At a men's retreat high in the Beartooths, God laid it on my heart that I needed to lose weight. I needed to do this so I could be a positive role model inside the home and out.
16 months and 130 pounds later, I was smaller than I'd been in junior high. While on vacation, I decided to go on a run with my wife. I couldn't make it a quarter-mile. I was skinny but weak. I knew it was time to rebuild.
I started training with my brother for the Peaks to Prairie Triathlon in Red Lodge. He went out with a back injury and I didn't want to do the whole thing alone. Late one night, while surfing the web, I found the Spartan race.
The intro video blew me away and knew I had to do one. I signed up for their Workout of the Day (WOD) and started training. Three months later, a short 13-hour jaunt to Portland, and I was anxiously walking through the festival area. Pre-race jitters, upset stomach... all the symptoms were there.
The smoke bomb flew and my heat started. We ran through the smoke and Greek columns, up the hill to a steep singletrack. Top of the hill, over and under walls, more singletrack. Then around the corner to more walls. Next up was a 200-foot slip-and-slide—here's where the mud began. After the sandbag carry it was off to the barbed-wire crawl (on the whoops of a motocross track), fire hose blasting us the whole time. The West-coast mud stuck all over as we ran down more singletrack to the tractor pull. A short sprint later to the tire flip and rope climb, across a wall, and then the simplest but most-missed obstacle: the spear throw.
After sticking the spear, feeling pretty good about myself, I rounded the corner and looked uphill at the next obstacle. A 400-yard, uphill, muddy, barbed-wire crawl. Steep enough that they laid ropes in the middle to assist. After this grueling struggle, caked with mud, it was off to the monkey bars, more singletrack to a cargo-net climb, fire jump, and then finally the Gladiator arena.
Taking a few mighty blows from three burly dudes brandishing pugil sticks, I staggered across the finish line. There were high-fives all around, and clutching my finisher's medal and tee shirt, the story-swapping with fellow racers started immediately. There was no talk of times or finish places, just the race itself and how people overcame the obstacles. Battle-weary, grinning from ear to ear, I knew I'd found a new passion.
Since my inaugural race I've competed in four others, traveling as far as Chicago. This year is special, though: I don’t have to drive 800 miles or risk my life on an icy road in the middle of the night. This year, Montana is hosting a Spartan race, in Kalispell. Now my neighbors and friends can all participate in the spectacle and my car will hopefully make it there in one piece.
- O/B Store