Washougal MX Park to host Spartan Sprint Race

Fire, mud, barbed wire will test thousands of participants

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter



If you go

What: Spartan Sprint Race. About 6,000 participants will compete in an extreme four-mile race with obstacles that could include crawling under barbed wire, fire walking, gladiator battles and heavy lifting. Spectators can watch the race in several areas and will have access to raffles, live entertainment and other festival perks.

Where: Washougal MX Park, 40205 N.E. Borin Road., Washougal.

When: Saturday, June 16. Heats start at 8 a.m. and last until sundown.

Cost: $15 cash at the gate. Admission includes $5 in Spartan bucks redeemable at the merchandise tent, a festival map, access to some obstacles and the gladiator pit and vendor tents. Free for kids age 13 and younger.

Information: Spartan Race

There's nothing like the smell of mud, blood and barbed wire in the morning.

At least there isn't for Judith Schoenberg, 55, of Vancouver. She's been training hard and says she's ready for whatever comes on Saturday's Spartan Sprint Race in Washougal.

The extreme race — with obstacles that aren't revealed until the runners actually encounter them — could include any number of grueling challenges, including a fire pit, freezing ice bath, gladiator fight or, of course, a field of barbed wire.

Schoenberg, her husband Rob, and other family members make up the 6-person team "Crixus," named after the character on the TV series "Spartacus." As a family of fitness enthusiasts, the notion of the race, which has come to the Pacific Northwest for the first time, seemed exciting, she said.

"I think it will be an interesting race," Schoenberg said. "We're in the woods a lot anyway, running around and hunting -- you'd be surprised what you come across there. So yeah, I think we're ready."

The Spartan Race began in 2004 when founder Joe Desena and six friends in Vermont decided to create a race designed to break the contestants. Since then, versions of the race have expanded across the United States, but not to the Pacific Northwest -- until now, Desena said.

"We had a lot of interest, a lot of demand in the area," Desena said of Oregon and Washington. "It's a full-day, 12 hours of insanity. We purposefully run the course right through the spectator area so people can watch."

Participants could end up climbing walls, carrying heavy weights and shimmying up ropes. The goal is to encourage fitness and hopefully give racers a life-changing experience, he said.

"We're really just trying to break people, even though a lot of the things we make them do would be normal for people hundreds of years ago," Desena said. "When people finish, when they break through, we guarantee their lives will change."

Schoenberg said she's fairly confident her family is up to the challenge. When asked if walking through a fire pit or crawling under barbed wire scared her, she laughed.

"Oh no, I'm not afraid of that," she said.

There is one obstacle, though, that oddly strikes fear in her heart, she said.

"Climbing the rope," Schoenberg said. "When I was in gym class as a young girl, the ropes didn't have knots on them and I never made it up to the top."

If you can't make it through an obstacle, you can compensate by doing a set amount of burpees, which are sort of a combination jumping jack and pushup exercise.

"I've been practicing those things just in case," Schoenberg said.

About 6,000 people from all over the region will compete in the race, including several groups from Clark County.

Kyle Stricklin, 30, signed up with a group of four friends for the event after thinking it sounded unusual. Their team is called "Sex Panther."

"You can blame my friend for that name," Stricklin said, apologetically.

To train, he's been doing extra workouts, trying to pump up his endurance, but he said he's not particularly worried about finishing.

"The challenges look challenging, but it's nothing I feel I can't do," he said.

His goal? Stricklin wants to beat his friends to the finish line.

"That, and finish the race without injuring myself," he added.

His wife and kids, along with several friends, plan to watch the team compete.

And spectators for the race should expect a daylong event-filled show, said Dienna D'Olimpio, a spokewoman for the race.

"We always have mini obstacles for spectators to participate in -- like the ice tub dunk -- you can challenge your friend to see who can stay in a tub of ice the longest," D'Olimpio said. "And we'll have paramedics on hand, just in case."

It's too late for adults to sign up to participate in the race, but visitors who want to watch can still enjoy live music, pulled pork sandwiches, Deschutes beer and a host of smaller games and challenges for $15 admission.

Kids 13 and younger can still sign up at the event for the Junior Spartan Adventure Race for $25.

"It's the cutest little thing," D'Olimpio said. "We have smaller obstacles, sometimes we use hoses, and they have to jump through hay bales, walk through tires, things like that."

Schoenberg said she's looking forward to the entertainment after her group finishes the race -- that and a celebratory beer with her family.

"We're going to work as a family, create a memory of us all muddy and grumpy and tired, and then we'll all celebrate with a beer," she said. "It's going to be great."

Sue Vorenberg: 360-735-4457; sue.vorenburg@columbian.com.