On September 17-18, 2016, Spartans conquered a new venue for the Spartan Race SoCal Sprint and Beast races: Pala Raceway.
For several years, Vail Lake in Temecula has been the go-to location for not only Spartan Race but also Tough Mudder. However, all events got the boot by the new Vail Lake owners and now there is a new stomping ground for SoCal Spartans. After trading Malibu for Castaic Lake as their Los Angeles race venue, they should be used to change by now. So what’s the deal?
The start line might have been up a solid incline but beyond that, not much climbing was required. The Sprint course offered merely 600ft of elevation gain and, from reports, it appears that the Beast only had one bigger hill thrown in for good measure. The race was mostly narrow single trail covered in rocks, gravel, and sand, which made the surface very technical. The rest was the exact opposite: right on the motocross track with all those lovely little steep ups and downs. Where usually bikes fly through the air, Spartans were fighting against their burning quads and calves. It definitely was a very fast course for those who were sure-footed and nimble.
Vail Lake had much more and steeper climbs and descends, however, the mostly broad trails and roads made it far easier to navigate them safely. By the way, local media was still worried about the heat taking out runners. Two years ago a Sunday race had to be canceled less than 24 hours before the start time. In turn, the one and only “Hurricane Heatwave” was created.
Water stations were plentiful and other than a dog getting abandoned in the parking lot (who does that?!) on Saturday no unusual heat related mass casualties occurred. If you were wondering why Spartan staff had a dog out on the race course during the Sprint, now you know why.
Sprint racers were surprised to find a trail run instead of an obstacle course race for most of the event with a high obstacle density towards the end. The bucket carry was very tame and a sandbag carry was absent. A last minute emergency forced course designers to get creative and course markers to work long hours. Sadly, the terrain did not give them much to work with and the available space for obstacles on course was very limited. At least the mud mounds before the slip wall right before the finish line gave runners a welcome cool down at the end.
When the dust settled, the majority of racers appeared to be happy about the venue change. Not many miss the stinking mud of Vail Lake or the long inclines and steep descents of the hills around it and are just glad about a change of scenery… Not having to walk .75 miles from parking to the race venue along a road might also play a part in the increased satisfaction.
Weights N’ Dates
Something else that popped up at the SoCal Spartan Race was the Weights N’ Dates dating app with cleverly designed stickers for the male beauties and female beasts. While I personally have not looked at the app, I would imagine it could help OCR addicts to find people to carpool to races with. If you pay for lunch, maybe they will take cool pictures of you for social media!
SoCal Podium Winners
(All pictures were taken by the author unless specifically mentioned otherwise)
He can be found at endurance events like the Spartan Race HH12HR, WTM, GORUCK, SEALFIT or at most "elite" heat starting lines on the West Coast.
A blog about his journey is at https://www.flownotforce.com/