AAR by Travis Hoard
As participants arrive Matt made his rounds with participant packets, waivers and an introduction to our team weight that would be with us for the long haul…and what a long way we would go. As the time came for the event to begin, we waited for some late arrivals while our anticipation continued to build. Two of the would-be participants would end up leaving with excuses provided, but not required. When all is said and done the challenge stepped off with 9 brave souls from various states and event backgrounds. We started with a group picture outside of Gate D where we would be getting our race packets for the Spartan Sprint the following morning.
For the first stage of the challenge Matt took us on a tour of the Spartan obstacles outside of the stadium. We scaled the Inverted wall in our rucks, completed the rope climb, and ran up the dirt mounds and through the muddy pits in-between. With the preview of the following day’s challenges behind us we set our sights on downtown and started putting down miles. Along our way we discovered some construction sites offering up their own challenges and ‘coupons’ (read: more heavy stuff to carry) which Matt eagerly added into the mix.
Next was visit to the Spartan Track & Field complex at Tampa College. Here our guide put us through various PT exercises on the field; 400m relay runs around the track, a stadium stair run, and wrapping up with some hand stands. Leaving the complex we headed through the campus towards the river to get a better view of our next destination across the Hillsborough River. As we exit the campus we encounter another construction zone and struggle with the choice to go through our around. With our next goal in sight we head through… only half the group makes it around the “Do not enter” sign before campus security shows up!
After our close encounter we make our way across the river to Downtown Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Park. Once there we completed some more PT exercises utilizing the large grassy area in the center. Onlookers shouted encouragement and offered idea’s while we worked, then we even got some volunteers as we attempted a human pyramid. PT, Shenanigans, push-up contest with unsuspecting bystanders, all in a night of good living! Next stop – Davis Island Beach.
It was a long walk to the next destination, and the miles were starting to add up now past the half-way mark. With a quick stop for munchies at a gas station we re-fueled and set back out for what Matt promised would be a fun surprise. Along the way he revealed that we would be practicing the Spartan Spear throw on the far end of the Davis Island Beach. He and Carey had stashed two spears and a hay bale for our target, I like to think of this as the Beers and Spears portion of the challenge (Good thing we signed death waivers!) We each took a few rounds at the spear throw, then set off on the final stretch of our ruck heading straight back to Raymond James.
The final stretch was a one step in front of the other process. Our 65 team weight was now too heavy for the majority of our team to carry so we rolled it along with the group in an effort to keep a good pace. With the Spartan race kicking off for some at 8:45am it was important that we make the time hack. That final stretch brought us to the end of the challenge after nearly 10 miles of steady movement. This last Long Walk was a fitting end to the 11+ hour journey our team completed. Standing there with the other eight finishers brought a feeling of accomplishment that made me more determined to tackle the upcoming Spartan Sprint knowing that it would be a walk in the park compared to the feat of endurance we had just completed.
I want to say thanks to Matt for putting this on and leading us on this great adventure. It is no easy task keeping a group of people moving through this type of event, but he pushed us and the pace to the limits and made the whole thing live up to its name!