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.

Ann Marie Reilly

Ann Marie is a freelance writer and photographer who spends her free time as an avid skier. Her off season is filled with running, cycling, and prep for OCR events. At 52, she has two adult sons and two grandchildren.

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Comments

  1. Spot on review! You nailed it. I love that you did a Beast and said this barb wire crawl was evil!
    We had our asses kicked!

  2. Some would say that Norm’s Palmerton course was way harder than the beast in NJ.

  3. Jeff Whetzel says:

    Palmerton has been my second Spartan Race with my first being the 2012 Carolina Beast. For a while there, I was thinking that I was just getting out of shape comparing the two as near equals in difficulty.

    This is also the first time I really realized that not all Spartans are created equal. The swim, as short as it was, totally kicked my butt, and while the wire-crawl left me a little bloody, I didn’t find it “challenging”.

    My biggest takeaway from the course in Palmerton was that simply improving your run-times might not always be the best course of action. There where very few opportunities on the course to even get into a running stride between rock climbing and catching your breath.

    I don’t think we’ll get many races more difficult than this one. Reebok has to sell tickets to turn a profit, and if that had gone on much longer, or had gotten much harder, I think you would see a few “Spartans” leaving without the cute little medals that made them feel like they accomplished something that Saturday. No, I’m afraid this is about as hard as we’ll get from the normal races; any harder and people wouldn’t pay to do it again next year.

    TL:DR – PALMERTON SPRINT 2015 = 10/10 would get crushed again.

  4. Is there going to be a Palmerton race next year (2016)?

    it doesn’t seem like it looking at the Spartan Web site. What’s the deal? Anyone know.

    • Matt B. Davis says:

      Since this year’s just happened, they may be waiting a few more weeks to open it up. Especially if there are other nearby Spartans yet to come for this year.

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