My brothers keeper

So after the beating at the Blue Mountain Super, I was signed up to also do the Sprint the next day. The was my 12th race of the year. However, this race was going to be much different than the others. This race I wasn’t racing alone. 

Now if you’ve raced a Spartan race before, you know you are never “alone”. There is always another Spartan nearby to offer an encouraging word, smile, and maybe a mustard packet. But when I say I wasn’t racing alone, I meant I had a partner for this race. My brother. 

Now he has never done a race before. The only other races he had done were 5ks we had run together. Working out isn’t really his thing, like it is for me. He has other responsibilities that don’t offer him as much free time. However he decided he was going to do the Blue Mountain Sprint. I had suggested doing a Stadium Sprint first, since it would be a good intro. But he was determined to do a “real” Spartan race. 

So I told him I would of course race with him. I also told him I would stick with him, for 2 reasons. 1: because he has never done something like this before. 2: I was legitimately worried about him hurting himself or even passing out. I’ve seen it happen at many races where people are having to be helped by “strangers” on the side of a mountain because they either fell, or where unprepared for what the mountain would have in store for them. 

So my first advice to him was to get some good trail sneakers. That’s a must, especially at a race like Blue Mountain where the elevation was a killer. He went with my favorites, the Saucony Perrigine 7s. Also long compression socks. I told him not to worry about a Camelbak because the water stations were more than plentiful on the course, plus they are kind of pricey. 

So race day comes and we’re ready to go. He’s pumped and excited to race. We made sure to get in a couple glasses of water prior to joining the starting block. Also I brought some gu packets with me in my pockets. Told him he would set the pace. I would stay behind him, because I was afraid if I lead I wouldn’t realize when he would need to stop.

Race starts and we’re off. Up that hill. That steep hill. It definitely quickly separates everyone. Finally get to a slightly flat portion and we’re jogging. Get to the hurdles, and we’re up and over. Up another hill. We’re walking but we’re moving. Over a wall. No issue. Through the woods we go. Slight elevation but a good jogging portion. 

We come out of the woods and the climbing begins. Longest climb of the day. We’re walking up the hill, and so are most of the people around us. Stopping occasionally to rest. Walking backwards up the hill to give some muscles a break. I told him not to look up, can’t see the top anyway. We’re still walking up, having to stop more often. Finally we have to stop. He takes a seat. He’s having trouble breathing and he’s feeling dizzy. I give him one of my gu packets and he proceeds to tell me it is the nastiest tasting thing he’s ever had. I disagree but I’m glad he’s in good spirits. Tell him to take his time, there’s no rush. He looks at me and says, “You just did this yesterday and you’re perfectly fine right now!” I tell him yes but that doesn’t happen overnight. Lots of training. 

Slowly but surely we make it up to the top of the mountain. Huge relief, cause I know the biggest climb is behind us. Little flat section we walk through, getting our breath back. Then the Atlas carry. Not a big deal for him, strength isn’t an issue. He gets it to his chest, walks it over, does his burpees, then brings it back. 

Cargo net. Again no issue. Up and over. Water station afterwards. Much needed, it was quite hot that day. Then we begin our descent downwards. Pretty steep descent actually. Lots of people slipping and falling. I notice most of them are wearing flat running shoes, a bad choice for this mountain. We had no issues with our shoes, the grip held quite well as it always has. 

Sandbag carry followed. After carrying 2 sandbags Saturday, carrying only 1 felt good. However there was another obstacle with this carry; other Spartans. Because we were racing in the Open group, there was many people in front of us. Which normally isn’t an issue, but most of them again weren’t wearing proper footwear so they were falling all over the place. It was an obstacle just to swerve around people and avoid getting taken out by all the falling Spartans. Just glad we didn’t see anyone get hurt. The walk back up the hill was slower, but a little easier. Had to stop several times, but he powered through, and kept moving at a good pace. 

Next up was the Herc Hoist. I wasn’t sure how his arms would feel after carrying the sandbag. I offered some assistance by stabilizing the rope while he pulled the weight up. The pulling it up was all him. Then he brought it back down. After he finished, I went and did it myself. My arms were pretty tired, probably from a combination of the whole weekend, so I didn’t get the sandbag up as quickly as I usually do. But we finished and moved on. 

Through the woods and downhill some more. Again more steep descents. Again more Spartans slipping and falling. Thought for sure one of them was gonna twist an ankle but luckily it didn’t happen. Down to a flat section and the rope climb. Unfortunately this was his first fail for the day. The rope climb is hard to do without practice and lots of grip training. Not a big deal, told him to stay positive he was doing his best and everyone struggles with some obstacles especially in his first race. We kept it moving. 

Plate drag. No issue for him. He actually finished before me. My arms were not as strong as normal. I can usually pull the plate standing up but today I had to sit down and leverage myself against the stake. Give my brother a pound and we kept moving down the hill. 

To Olympus. He got really far on the wall. About 3/4ths of the wall. But his arms gave out on him. Again, was really happy with how hard he tried. It sucked to see him fail because I could tell how much he wanted to ring that bell. I went across it no issue. I haven’t failed this obstacle since nj in April, it’s one of the few I feel like I’ve mastered. 

Water station. Much much needed. Spear throw was next. My nemisis. Of course today of all days I nail it. Go figure. He had a good throw but it just went a little wide. Tough obstacle to prepare for. 

Rings to lattice wall followed. Again one of those obstacles I feel like I’ve mastered, last time I failed it was in Ohio when it was very slippery and my arms were exhausted.  Unfortunately my brother struggled with the rings. 

Grip strength is one of those things I’ve kinda taken for granted that I forget how hard it can be. I train grip strength in almost every workout, so I can hold up my body weight for a good amount of time. Plus I only weigh about 140 now, so that helps. 

However if you’re not training for it, and carrying extra weight, obstacles that require your arms and hands to be able to hold up your whole body weight can be really hard. It looks easy on Ninja Warrior, but those people are pro athletes. Much harder in real life, especially after the elevation that we just went through. 

Think it was about this time when my brother gave me a pound and said he gives me props for doing all of this. I was glad he got to experience it firsthand, because it gave him an appreciation for what it takes to be successful at one of these races. 

Walked up the hill to the A Frame. Over and down. Then through the rolling mud hills. Even though it stank, it felt good to get cooled off a little. Followed that up with a swim across the lake. This felt even better because the water was cold. My brother had a big smile on his face while doing this, as we’ve both been swimmers since we were little kids so he had no problems getting across. Did a quick flex for the cameras then continued back through the woods. 

Over the inverted wall. Was a little slick, but we both had no issues. I did the optional obstacle quick, just to try it out again. I like it although I wish it was a little higher so it would be harder. Felt too easy. 

Ape hanger followed. After my success on it Saturday I was feeling confident. However I picked the wrong lane. I should have picked the same one I did yesterday. However this lane hung down lower and I was unable to reach the top middle bar. Swung up to reach it, missed, and landed in the water. Disappointing but it was a learned lesson. Scouting can be the difference between success and failure. 

So one thing I noticed throughout the race was my brother was having no issues chatting it up with other Spartans and I think this helped keep his spirits up as well. Stairway to Sparta up next. No problem. We even helped talk a girl with fear of heights down the steps. Always feels good to help people overcome their fears. 

A much much shorter Bucket brigade was ahead of us. I for one was very happy with how short it was, as the Supers Brigade had been brutal. Down the hill we went then back up. Not very fast but steadily. Stopping for rest when needed. 

Barb wire crawl. We rolled through the first section since it was downhill then climbed over the slip wall. The uphill portion of the barb wire was a different story. Hard to roll so we resorted to crawling up. 

Finish line in sight. 2 obstacles left. Twister and dunk wall. My brothers family were all waiting and watching us. No pressure! I’ve had a decent amount of success with twister, and my arms were still ok at this point so I powered through it no problem. He struggled with it. It’s a very very tough obstacle for a rookie to come in and do. Hard to practice for. 

Under the dunkwall and then over the fire jump together! My first fire jump picture with another person! 

This race was a great experience for me for multiple reasons. Seeing someone succeed and fail put into perspective for me just how far I’ve come. Plus I enjoyed mentoring him through the race. It helped me see a side of Spartan races that I haven’t seen in a long time. Also helped me to not take for granted the hard work I’ve put into my training. I would welcome the opportunity to continue to race with my brother, as well as help others with their rookie journeys into OCR. 

For any experienced Spartans, I highly recommend occasionally running with a rookie. Gives you a good perspective on the journey that OCR can be. 

Thanks again for reading! I appreciate it more than you may realize. I welcome any questions or comments. Also feel free to follow me on Instagram @damenacelo37ocr 


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