By Scott Prater
Mike Manor struggled to catch his breath as he exited the trench. After crawling with a rubber M-16 rifle through mud and freezing cold water for more than 100 meters, the 1st Space Operations Squadron commander was relieved and thankful to finally be done with the obstacle. He quickly climbed over a stack of hay bales, dropped to the ground and looked up only to discover the exact same obstacle laying in front of him.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Manor thought as he ducked under the hanging barbed wire for stage two of the low-crawl obstacle. As it turned out, Manor, his Team 8-Ball teammates and all the other Colorado Spartan Military Race competitors were met with three low crawl obstacles within the first 2 miles of the event May 5 at Fort Carson, Colo.
“Going into the race I thought the obstacles would give us a chance to take a breather between the running stages,” Manor said. “Instead, it ended up being the other way around. The obstacles were the hardest part.”
Competitors ran a 5-mile course on various terrain and encountered numerous obstacles designed to test their strength and endurance. They climbed cargo nets, carried 70-pound ruck sacks, flipped tractor tires and dragged concrete blocks up a hill. If that weren’t enough, they did most of it either sopping wet or covered in mud.
Team 8-Ball, made up of Airmen from the 1st and 7th Space Operations Squadrons as well as a few other Schriever members, finished the competition 32nd out of 266 teams.
“We were happy with our results, but next year our goal is to finish in the top 10,” Manor said. “We learned quite a bit from this year’s race and have a much better idea of how to train for it.”
Shaun Phipps, 1 SOPS, described one obstacle where racers exited muddy water by reaching for a soap covered rope.
“From there, you had to pull yourself up some 20 feet,” he said. “You’re covered in mud, the rope is as slick as can be and if you fail the obstacle the penalty is 30 burpees.”
Robb Owens, Dan Coleman and Phipps, agreed that at times during the race, they were completely miserable, but none ever felt they couldn’t continue.
“That was one of the aspects of this event that made it unique, I think,” said Coleman, who competed alongside his brother Paul Coleman. “You’re never at a point where you’re comfortable and some of the obstacles were just brutal, but once you cross the finish line you feel this tremendous amount of accomplishment.”
All four signed up to compete at next year’s Spartan race within minutes of finishing this one and seven of Team 8-Ball’s 11 competitors are already on board for next year.
“I think we’ve got a good shot at being one of the top teams next year if we train hard enough and continue to push each other during the race,” Manor said. “The mental challenge seems easier to tackle if you have teammates who are enduring it along with you.”
Despite being the first Team 8-Ball member to cross the finish line (No. 150 out of more than 2,500 competitors), Manor said he was simply trying to keep up with Owens, who set the team running pace.
“I was lucky to get past the last obstacle while some of our guys were penalized there,” Manor said. “That’s the only reason I finished ahead of them. One thing is for sure, I’m going to ramp up my cardio training prior to next year’s event and I currently run at least three times a week.”
Owens, by contrast, will focus on upper-body strength training, while Phipps and Coleman said they’ll try to incorporate more CrossFit type workouts into their training.
“Spartan race organizers post workouts of the day on their website, so it only makes sense to follow those,” Owens said. “We won’t, however, be using any mud. We’ve had enough of that.”