Spartan Race Boston Sprint – Aug 29 2015

Entering BarreThe “Boston” Spartan Race Sprint has been a staple in New England for almost as long as Spartan Race has been around. After last years announcement that Amesbury Sports Park was no longer able to host the event, Spartan was forced to relocate out to Barre, Ma (not quite Boston – but it sounds better than the Barre Sprint). This course has now been utilized, albeit underwhelmingly, by BattleFrog, Warrior Dash and earlier this year it was the site of the first New England Spartan Super.

While Spartan’s sites are still set on prime-time TV ratings and Olympic aspirations, they showed this weekend that they’re still capable of putting on extremely entertaining events, even if it was their shortest distance. “Do less with more” is a cliche we’ve all heard, but to me, that’s exactly what Spartan managed to do.

Walking from the farmhouse to the festival area afforded you a view of the fog-laden  countryside you were about to traverse as well as a small taste of what obstacles you were in for. Upon walking into the festival area, it was clear that Spartan had laid this one out much better than the past events here. Wide open spaces, great food and merchants, and a full stocked “Biggest Team Tent” including cases of water, Powerade, and Cliff bars. The 400+ New England Spahtens who were awarded the Biggest Team for both Saturday & Sunday certainly appreciated that.

While the festival area was nice and spread out, Spartan turned around and packed in a solid 25+ obstacles into a short 5-mile race, which truly celebrated the obstacle portion of obstacle course racing. The order was also mixed up a bit, as an added change of pace. Within the first 1.5 miles you had half a dozen obstacles to immediately exhaust you:

Hay Bails – because, you all know as kids when you saw these on farmlands as you drove through the country, you wanted nothing more than to climb atop them and scream “I’M ON TOP OF THE WORLD!” No? That was only me? Oh.

O-U-T Walls – A Spartan staple, but also followed up immediately by a handful of 4-foot walls.

Monkey Bars – They opted to go with straight monkey bars, no varied height of the bars this time around but still challenging, as they were covered in moisture from the night before.

Atlas Stone Carry – This is always a pain in my arse, but usually I’ve got miles or hours to warm up to the idea that I’ll be carrying a huge stone that I might drop on and destroy my toes or the toes of some unlucky racer near me. Not today – this one was right away.

Rope Climb – Again, very early in the race from Spartan’s last New England events but also a welcome change. I like the challenge of the rope climb but also struggle to climb it without knots, as I am usually exhausted by the time I get to it.

Rope Climb Spartan Rig

 

 

 

 

 

The list goes on, with rolling mud, dunk wall, an EXCESSIVELY muddy barbed-wire crawl and log hop, and we hadn’t even reached Mile 2, yet.

Spartan has turned up the difficulty a notch or two in their obstacles as well, adding a Spartan Rig with those god-forsaken tarzan ropes, triple 8 foot walls, and a plate drag/Herc Hoist that would make even the Elite’s grimace. The finish and famed fire jump was only achieved after conquering a fireman’s log carry, slick wall, and final cargo net within the last half mile of the race. For me, it was everything a Sprint should be – packed with obstacles while still allowing room to run when necessary.

Medal. Banana. Race Shirt. Beer – the perfect way to finish.

To me, this is what obstacle course racing is all about. Conquering obstacles alongside your friends, sharing stories over a beer afterwards, then sharing a nice awkward freezing cold shower with a hundred of your new muddy friends!

The inspirational moment of the day, goes to Team Believe, who brought a couple of their wheelchair bound members through the whole course, walking on their hands with the help of a few other members, wheelbarrow style. Even their service dog jumped the fire and got a medal. Dream big, live bigger Team Believe!

Before and after my race, I was amazed at the droves of Spartan Racers who were flooding into Barre for this one, and if they’re like me, they’ll definitely be back again – if this is what we can expect from Spartan going forward.

Spartan Race Wintergreen 2015

Spartan MedalPhoto credit – Jenny Turak

“The crowds roll by and I’m falling in
Everyone’s invisible but it’s just pretend
And we all freaked out, what a shame
When only tears know how to remind us
We all break the same”

-Mutemath

I’ve been hearing about Spartan Wintergreen since 2013, and for a very physically demanding race, I have a plethora of haunting images burned into my mind. From Operation Enduring Warrior masked athlete Todd Love ascending the rope climb unassisted to the dense fog and sloppy conditions that overtook the mountain in 2014, I had spent a fair share of time visualizing what the race was like. The time had come to experience it for myself. Not only would this be my first time on this section of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but it was also my first Spartan Race.

I should add that, while I had thought about this race for quite some time, I ran this race with my wife, who had no clue what I had gotten her into. We pulled into the parking lot for the shuttle to the resort at around 8am. For a race with only a few roads in, there was literally NO traffic. Parking was very smooth and getting on the shuttles was clear and simple. It took roughly 20 minutes to get up to registration. I am typically not a fan of shuttles, but in this case, it saved me gas money and my car strenuous miles up the mountain. I was glad to let the shuttle take the abuse. When we got to registration there was no one on our bib line, and we were processed in under a minute. Bag check was easy and cost $5, which could later be used as applied credit towards Spartan merchandise. I’ve done a lot of races, and this was the smoothest and fastest I have ever been processed at an event with this many people. The festival area flowed well in the sense that everything was visible, which made it easy to navigate so you could experience everything. My favorite part about the festival area was the merchandise booths. I really liked the look of them, and if not for a lack of size,s we would have left with a Women’s racerback tank top for my wife. Make no mistake, they had tons of other clothing to choose from, but our household takes the saying “Sun’s Out Guns Out” very seriously.

The race started off with an incredibly funny and witty send off from start line emcee Dustin Dorough, which was nice as it was the last funny thing we would experience for a long time. We headed off onto the course and quickly hit a log jump and then departed into the woods. When we emerged, we began the first of many climbs. Some took the climb fast and others began to walk. Having seen the projected elevation map from Race Director Jim Snyder on the event page, I knew that this was the first of many climbs so we kept a moderate pace. The beginning of the race concentrated on running, and the obstacles were spaced very far apart. If the reasoning behind this was to spread out the crowd then it worked, as we did not wait on a single line the entire time on the course. Once we got to the obstacle dense areas, we hit the standard menu of obstacles like walls, A-frames, Herc Hoist, Tyrolean Traverse and other Spartan staples. While these were all enjoyable obstacles, when I think back and remember the day what set this course apart for me are my defining moments of Wintergreen.

Defining Moments of Wintergreen

Spartan Sandbag Carry

1. The Mountain: A rumored elevation gain of 5,183 feet over 9 miles is 575 feet of gain per mile. GPS watches from participants (including my Garmin) ranged from 3,500 feet to 5,500 feet leaving it at an average of 500 feet per mile. Simply put, there was a lot of climbing. Once we would reach the top of a climb we were often sent back down the mountain through the technical and rocky wooded trail area. This was mostly single track and resulted in a lot of single file walking through the woods as many were wary of going too fast over the wet rocks to pass. Once we left the woods it was back up the mountain. People were cramping early and often and many participants were sharing gels, salt pills and mustard packets in hopes of helping them through the course. We carried logs up and back down. We finished an ascent and were met with a sled pull. When we finally got to the dreaded sand bag carry we were sent down the mountain only to come right back up. Many participants were resting on the side of the incline with their sandbags waiting for their energy to return. At the sandbag drop off many people opted to sit down and rest before continuing on. This obstacle and climb left a defeated and glassy eyed look on many who passed.

2. The incline barbed wire crawl: This sloppy mess was constantly showered by multiple sprinklers. It was a soupy thick mud that was set under extremely low hanging barbed wire. Since I had a camelback I was unable to effectively utilize the roll technique as I kept getting stuck. As I crawled up what seemed like a never ending hill in the mud I repeatedly cursed the obstacle. There were many people going through at the same time which made it tricky to maneuver. This is the type of obstacle that makes people in online communities say things like, “It was nothing like the uphill barbed wire crawl at Wintergreen!”

Spartan Race Rope Climb

 

3. The Upper Body loaded final mile: The final stretch of 8 obstacles included Bucket Brigade, Monkey Bars, the Clif Rig, and the Rope Climb. All in the final mile! The byproduct of this was a solid amount of burpees and what seems to be a common trend of people holding up participants as they attempt the monkey bars and the rig to avoid “failing” the obstacle. I find this practice silly as it seems as though people aren’t truly attempting and experiencing the obstacle, but to each their own. I enjoyed how they back loaded these obstacles as it really put participant grip strength endurance to the test.

Mountain credit: Jason Lever

Final Thoughts
I actually spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I felt about this race after it was over. Much like our ascent up and descent down the mountain I had varying feelings about my experience. On one hand this race is not for the faint of heart and is probably a very bad introduction to an unassuming new participant to OCR who signed up because they thought a Spartan Race would be fun. On the other hand, those that took the challenge head on and completed it are left knowing that they conquered one of the more challenging events on the Spartan circuit and will have those memories burned into their minds forever. I personally participate in OCR to continually try and push my limits further than before and Wintergreen delivered. If you are making your race schedule for 2016 and are on the fence about Wintergreen, you should sign up. Just make sure you dial your treadmill incline up to 30 and start hitting the Stairmaster.


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Spartan Ottawa Ultra Beast Canada Review

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Well, I figure it’s best to start off with the negative, whether it be rumor or factual, before ending on a high note with the positives about the race.

Cheating.

Spartan Race released a statement of Facebook stating the following a few days after the race:

“Dear Spartan Racers,

We take allegations of cheating very seriously here at Spartan Race. We ask all our racers to face the course with integrity and honor; however, contentions have surfaced which could compromise the results of the Ottawa 2015 Ultra Beast at Mont Ste Marie. We are investigating these claims and are exploring solutions for future races.

Thank you. AROO. ”

I think it’s safe to say out loud that there were cheaters at the race. Rumors of elites sharing burpees, refusing to do them entirely or denying that the obstacle had been failed were just some of the examples of chatter amongst racers. When volunteers repeatedly tell you that you have great burpees one quickly realizes that not many use proper form. Spartan makes it pretty clear what good burpees entail yet so many cut the movement short as well as the number of reps to complete. For open racers it is really a personal choice whether or not to do burpee penalties but, in my opinion, elites should be held accountable. Regardless, it is still up to the integrity of each individual racer to give a solid attempt at obstacles and accept the full penalty upon failure. Burpees are such a clever penalty because they are not only time consuming but also gassing and incredibly frustrating. If one doesn’t care for burpees there is always the option of nailing every obstacle. I’m not going to lie, there were many times during the race (more than I’d actually like to confess) where I was about 12 burpees in and that dang devil on my shoulder told me that I was an idiot to be doing said dreaded burpees when no one was paying attention. But nothing feels better than knowing, at the end of my race, that I earned that metal by completing the entire course and all those magnificent burpees.

Many racers posted comments to the Spartan Facebook post suggesting how they saw racers cheat.   The UB seems prone to people cutting the course and/or taking off wristbands to avoid heavy carries or the dreaded extra lap. I cannot even imagine how great of an advantage it would be to have skipped the 2km course of 4 steep carries in a row. Not only would it save one a lot of time but a ton of energy as well. That part of the course was the hardest I have ever encountered in a race. Let’s just hope that the top 3 men and women elites from the event completed the course in it’s entirety earning their spot on the podium. At this moment Spartan has only released preliminary results.

DQ

I think this is important to express that there are instances where honest athletes end up being disqualified from the race by unintentionally missing some of the course. I believe this happened to a potential podium racer in Ottawa. She has stated that she was misdirected on her second lap and missed 6km of the race. I’m sure this kind of thing happens frequently and, unfortunately, it often goes unrecognized resulting in leaderboard inaccuracy. I’ve been a part of a mix up myself. At World’s Toughest Mudder 2014 I finished with 50 miles, my glorious brown bib and was 10th on the female leaderboard. I was so pumped. My second race ever and I somehow made top 10!   But, about 5 days after the race, I looked at the leaderboard closer and notice that it said I did 51 miles. I realized that when I had my picture taken at the finish line after my final lap that the timing mat picked up my chip and gave me another mile. I can relate to anyone’s struggle to confess the truth but I can promise you that writing in to have my score corrected felt amazing. Now I can confidently boast my 13th place finish and feel proud of dragging my over 40 year old tail around the desert for 22.5 hours. I earned that title fair and square – bragging rights now legit.

Organization

Unfortunately I can’t give a rave review of race day organization. Racers were emailed out race information about 2 weeks prior to the race but updated information was never put on the website. We were asked to arrive 1.5hr prior to our start time to register and drop our bins. By 7:30am there was a long line up and the crowd was growing restless. We had 30mins to gun time and the line hadn’t even started moving. Finally, by 7:45am we started filing in and it was suggested by volunteers that the start time would be delayed. I made my way outside at 7:50am and started to look for my friends that were also racing. At 7:59am it was announced that the race would be starting in one minute – what?! A mad dash to the start line began as athletes started stumbling out of porta potties half dressed and wrestling with their hydration packs. Off went the gun and a random selection of racers. From what I understand, some of the top elites were still in the line up when the race started.

Another big complaint would be the lack of timing mats – there were only two – one at the start and one at the finish. There was no way to track racers and, apparently, the timing mat at the start line wasn’t always working when UBers commenced their second lap.

Finisher Swag

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I like the new glow in the dark metal but I thought it was kind of sad that belt buckles weren’t given out. You could buy one if you wanted but I think we should have been given to maintain the same standard as other UB races. In addition, we were only given Beast finisher t-shirts when we completed the UB. I, personally, didn’t get a Beast metal but many did. I’m on the fence on this one but lean towards the masses in feeling that if you sign up for the UB and DNF you DNF – no metal, no shirt. Having the option to opt out of the second lap doesn’t feel right to me.

Phew, done, now we can move onto the positive.

Course design

Ultra Beast race director Dan Luzzi promised a difficult course similar to Killington, VT for this years Ottawa Ultra Beast. He suggested the course would be roughly 50km, have around 70 obstacles and see only 25% of the field finishing. From what I understand, the course was just over 50km with more than 70 obstacles, roughly 3,214m (10,545 ft) of elevation gain. The obstacles were equally, if not harder than Killington but Vermont wins the elevation gain contest by a long shot. Roughly 700 registered for the Ottawa UB but, at this moment, it is still unclear how many started and how many finished.

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The start line was in the Festival area and racers gathered after clambering over a short wall. After an initial steep climb with a log to jump over called the “Hurdles”. Further up the climb was the “Cam Net” found in the glades and was essentially more annoying than anything as you had to duck while walking under it. At the top of the climb was an “Under Wall”. Upon completing the descent to the Festival area there were a few obstacles in a row.

The first was the “Cargo Net” followed by two “Platinum Rigs” which resulted in 60 burpees for the majority (racers got to choose from both on their second lap to complete only one rig).   It was a tough recovery while walking back up a steep climb only to face a long, low and uphill “Barbed Wire Crawl”.   UB athletes were not allowed to take off their hydration packs for any obstacle/penalty, which made this obstacle even more difficult. After another trek uphill athletes faced a fairly treacherous “Sandbag Carry” in which UBers had to carry two sandbags (only one on the second lap). Upon completion racers went on a long run uphill and then back down to “Over and Thru” walls. More running through the woods lead athletes to the “Dip Walk” closely followed by the “8 Foot Wall”. The course led back down to the Festival area to a “Rope Climb” with knots on the edge of a Platinum Rig, the “Hercules Hoist” and a very tall “Rope Climb” with no knots.  Upon completion racers headed all the way up the mountain, which was mostly on a mountain bike trail with switchbacks. At the top of the mountain racers faced the “Slack Line” followed closely by the “Ammo Tin Carry”. A short descent leads to an “Inverted Wall”. The “Sled Drag” and then the over under bar obstacle followed wooded trail running. The course then made it’s way back down the mountain towards the lake to the tough and treacherous “Jerry Can Carry” – men had to carry two, women only one (one was still brutal). This obstacle was shortened for the second lap as racers were struggling with the difficult route. Shortly after was a “Tractor Pull”.

A nice run through lake side trails led to the “Tire Flip” where men and women had separate tires to flip 8 times. A fairly flat trail run allowed for a fast paced run to the creek where racers ran through very cold water, under a “Cam Net”, walking on all fours at the “Over Water Barbed Wire Crawl” and finally crawling through a “Tube Crawl”. A short walk was up next to the “Atlas Stone Carry” where men and women had different stones yet they were all fairly light followed by a short, waist deep “Water Walk” in the much warmer lake leading to the difficult “Mass Monkey”. This is a new obstacle made up of three infinity bars interspersed by monkey bars that were spaced quite far apart. An easy jog leads to the base of a steep climb that had two signs “Ultra Beast” and “Beast”. The UB lap featured steep climbs and four, essentially back to back, carries; “Atlas Carry”, “Sled Drag”, the brutal, heavy “Log Carry” where men and women had to carry the same log, and the long, technical “Tire Carry”. Upon completion of the extra lap athletes faced five obstacles at the base of the mountain on the way back to the Festival area; “Z Traverse Wall”, “Monkey Bars”, “Spear Throw”, “Slip Ramp” and, finally, the “Fire Jump”. Off to Bin Drop we went for some refueling before commencing the second lap. Athletes had to start the second lap by 3pm, cross the 32km cut off by 8:30pm, the 33.7km cut off by 9:30pm and the course closed at 10:30pm.

The course had very little in the way of water obstacles. By the time I reached the cold creek I was pretty desperate for some water. The weather was beautiful and sunny for the race but long stretches in full sun made for a hot, sweaty course. My feet were very happy to be in cold water and I nearly took a moment to lie down in the water and cool off. During the second lap I did dunk my whole body in the lake on the way to the “Mass Monkey” as I realized how unpleasant I might smell at the finish line. It was a long, hot and extremely sweaty day.

The course may not have had the elevation gain that Killington boasts but I think the Ottawa Ultra Beast race director, Dan Luzzi, did a great job using the terrain to increase difficulty and host a tough race.   The extra UB lap was a killer addition. Mt Ste Marie was a beautiful and tranquil setting for this tough course.

Volunteers

The volunteers at each obstacle were among the best I have encountered at a race. Many of them tried to enforce burpee penalties by counting for athletes or demanding we count them out aloud. It always floors me when, 10 hours into a race, the volunteers are still positive and encouraging. Huge props to the volunteers who made the course a great one

Overall it was a great race on a beautiful mountain with plenty of time to take in and enjoy the view.

*Photos courtesy of Randy Gordon


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Spartan Stadium Sprint- San Francisco

If you take away the mud and barbed wire, the hills and narrow trails, and the finishing fire jump, is it still a Spartan Race? I took my family on a road trip to San Francisco last weekend and joined several thousand athletes at the sold out Stadium Sprint at AT&T Park to find out.

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This being my first Stadium Sprint, I observed that many of the obstacles were similar to what you’d see at any Spartan Race; walls of varying height, a couple of sandbag carries, the iconic spear throw (albeit on a considerably smaller target than usual), rope climb, cargo net, Herc Hoist, Z-walls and monkey bars. There were also a number of other obstacles that are more often seen at a Crossfit gym than on a race course including box jumps, ball slams, battle-rope jump ropes, pushups, and a plank-roll contraption that acted like a miniature skateboard. And there were stairs. Lots of stairs. I suspect we may have touched every single stair in the ballpark at some point or another.

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The start corral was on a ramp inside the stadium, and groups of 15 athletes were unleashed on the course every minute to minimize backups at the obstacles. The race started up these ramps, then hit the first obstacle; bungees across the ramps that you had to bear crawl under before reaching the top of the stadium and a slightly modified Z-wall. Shortly after that, we were in the upper bleachers, zigzagging up and down the stairs high above the field, with the San Francisco Bay spread out before us. In all, the journey took us from the top of the stadium to the street outside and back up to the top again, through the locker room and dugout and finally finished with several obstacles on the infield.

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The stadium itself is gorgeous, and we got to see far more of it during the race than most people get the chance to while watching the Giants play ball. Energy levels were high throughout; most of the race was within earshot of stadium speakers playing a decent mix of music. As always, you could see Spartans helping Spartans throughout the open heats, whether it was a boost over the walls when needed or splitting burpees with a friend to help them along.

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When we finished the race, we settled down in the bleachers for a little while to watch and enjoy our free beer (3 different taps from Gordon Biersch were available here, including a hard cider), and it was fun seeing different obstacle areas up on the jumbotron.

All in all, it was a fun, fast, high energy race, but it definitely felt a little weird not being in desperate need of a shower afterwards. It was a great excuse for a road trip, and I’ll likely do another one, but I personally prefer the outdoor venues with all of the great variability that comes with them.


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*Photos By: Chris Cow

Spartan Sprint – Palmerton, PA 2015

How do you make a Spartan Race Sprint feel more like a Beast? Park it on the side of a mountain with a vertical of over 1000 feet and throw in torrential thunderstorms right before the start. Anyone thinking they’d have an easy time completing their Spartan Sprint at Blue Mountain in Palmerton, PA was in for a real surprise. The course begins with a steep climb up a grassy hill just to get your hamstrings burning. A couple of log hurdles follow and then the real fun begins. The next 1.5 miles are straight uphill on a narrow trail of loose rocks and slippery mud. Every time you think it is about to end, you turn a corner and up you go again! The vertical cargo net was set up at one of the few relatively flat spots along the way, but it wasn’t much of a break. The last part of the climb actually had ropes in the ground to help you pull your way to the peak.

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Upon finally reaching the summit, you were faced with a number of key Spartan Race obstacles. The taller, A-frame cargo net came first followed by the Hercules hoist and then the sandbag carry. While the bags should have been 50 and 25 pounds for the men and women respectively, they were soaking wet and had to have weighed a bit more. The course for the carry went down and up two of Blue Mountain’s steeper, double black diamond trails making this a real beast of an obstacle. With your arms nicely warmed up, it was time for the spear throw. In the time I was there, I saw no one actually nail it and a whole lot of burpees going on.

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Completion of this set of obstacles put you past the two mile mark and it was time to run through the woods again. One of the best features of the races at Blue Mountain is the absolute beauty of the scenery. If you can shift your focus from your pain and suffering and take a look around, it has some of the most stunning views of any OCR course and the runs through the trees are shaded and fun as long as you can keep your footing.

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Somewhere along the trek in the woods, the over, under and through walls were set up in a clearing which provided for an enjoyable exercise though not much of a challenge. Continuing the descent, you eventually encountered the mud pits which had you climbing up slippery hills and down into some of the most putrid water I have ever had to traverse! Many people were literally gagging from the stench. Luckily, after a relatively short run, you were treated to a pleasant swim in a clear lake. There were six lines of inner tubes to duck under but that was a totally refreshing diversion. Unfortunately, now that your feet were wet, the traverse wall was next. The lower blocks were entirely encased in slippery mud allowing for very little grip. Add that to the new angles in the walls and this obstacle defeated nearly everyone that was there at the same time I was. Time for more burpees!

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Upon finishing the descent to the festival area it was time for the bucket carry, one of the most difficult obstacles of this course. The descent was steep and brought you past a spectator area, where your friends and family could watch your misery as you turned the corner and climbed back up. The volunteers at this obstacle, while friendly and encouraging were adamant that everyone complete the challenge with a full quota of rocks, and they were checking! I managed to make it through with hardly a stop, which resulted in seriously shaky arms, just in time for the rings and subsequently more burpees.

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At this point many participants probably wanted it to be over, but the hardest challenge was yet to come. I have completed quite a number of OCR’s of varying degrees of difficulty including the monster Beast in Vermont, but this was by far the hardest barbed wire crawl I’ve ever encountered. It began with a long roll down a hill under wire strung so low it was essential to hug the ground. At the bottom was a mud pit followed by a rope climb up an angled wall which gave you a bit of a break but then the crawl continued. The terrain for the upward portion consisted of almost entirely sharp rocks. It was extremely painful to roll or crawl through without any way to ease the pain. Thankfully, upon completion of that nightmare, the fire jump and the finish were now in sight.

In summary, the Spartan Race Sprint at Blue Mountain was easily one of the most challenging with the upside being the beautiful natural setting. The festival area had all the typical Spartan attractions of rope climbs and other challenges as well as merchandise booths, food and beer. The only major detraction was the changing tents. This was the second weekend of Spartan racing at this location and the ground in the tents had become extremely slippery with mud making it nearly impossible to use. I only saw a few brave (shy?) people utilizing the tents with many of us opting to change behind a towel in the open. Modesty is not a Spartan trait.

If you completed any of the events at Blue Mountain over the last two weekends, Aroo to you! You know you were tested. If you plan on doing one next year, be prepared to be challenged. This sprint was no walk in the park.


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*Photos By: Matthew G. Reilly.

Spartan Beast – Breckenridge

On June 13, 2015, Approximately 6000 Spartan Race invaded the quaint ski town of Breckenridge, Colorado to tackle Spartan Race’s highest ever race venue. Starting at roughly 9500′ above sea level and ascending to a high point of 11,238′, both the 5.3 mile Sprint and the longer 12.2 mile Beast posed unique challenges to racers, and registration was split pretty evenly between these two options.

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Before the race, it was obvious that many runners had used this locale as an excuse to travel and visit Colorado. Although Colorado Obstacle Racers (COR) easily secured the biggest team tent for the race (and were very friendly and welcoming), there were multiple representatives of all major OCR groups present; from the Weeple Army to Lone Star and Cornfed Spartans to members of GORMR, most dressed in their best team colors/jerseys.

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Designed by the infamous Norm Koch (#effnorm), the course featured an uphill start and an early water crossing that went from knee to chest deep, along with two barbed wire crawls over snow (the first steeply uphill, the second in the final gauntlet before the finish line). The Beast course in particular featured a large number of strength obstacles – two bucket brigades, two log carries, the herc hoist, and a sandbag carry close to the maximum altitude of the course. Burpee makers included the ever-present spear throw and the new multi-rig obstacle, although at this venue, non-elite racers were encouraged to use teamwork on the latter to make it through.

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The end of the race had runners exiting a beautiful trail through the woods to confront a final obstacle gauntlet consisting of the slippery wall, rope climb, the second barbed wire crawl over snow, the dunk wall, and the fire jump, which were all downhill to the finish line.

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The Breckenridge Sprint was being recorded and will be televised on NBC Sports, and because of this, the elite field was stacked in a who’s who of obstacle course racing. Hobie Call took the win on the men’s side a scant week after announcing his retirement as a professional obstacle racer. Cody Moat and Ryan Atkins took second and third. K.K. Stewart won the women’s elite division, with Amelia Boone taking second and Lindsay Webster securing the third place finish.

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With the extreme altitude, the Breckenridge Beast had the potential to be the hardest Beast ever, but Spartan Race staff clearly took this into account, and compensated with a course that was on the short end for a Beast and had less climbing than many with ~3000′ of gain on the course. Spartan course designers reportedly had to follow strict restrictions from the ski resort, which meant that most of the course utilized existing gravel-paved trails or service roads, with only a couple of sections of single track trails or areas where racers were able to bomb down the still-snow covered slopes. That said, this was easily one of the most spectacular Spartan venues, and while running the Beast, many stopped frequently to take pictures, while others just gasped or said “wow” as they took in the views.

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Having traveled there a week early to acclimate to the altitude and enjoy the incredibly scenic area, my wife and I quickly figured out that weather forecasts in the region were to be taken with a grain of salt, and that conditions during the day could change very rapidly. With reports of rain and intermittent thunderstorms (and at one point, hail) all week long, we were relieved to find race day dawn clear and sunny (if quite chilly), and this lasted until shortly after we finished. Unfortunately, many runners from later heats were still on the mountain when a thunderstorm appeared, and Spartan staff paused the race with racers and volunteers sheltering in place due to lightning near the venue. Once the storm threat had passed, the racers were able to continue and finish.

The mountains of Colorado are breathtaking, wild, and not to be taken lightly. The Breckenridge Spartan Beast reflected these qualities, and was a spectacularly brutal race in one of the most beautiful and extreme landscapes I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. I sincerely hope that in spite of the challenges and restrictions for the course designers this race becomes an annual event so we can return next year.


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*Photos By: Chris Cow and Spartan Race.