Spartan Sprint Las Vegas NV/Littlefield AZ Race Recap

They say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!  Well, I guess it’s lucky for you then that the Las Vegas Spartan Race was actually just a stone’s throw across the Arizona border in Littlefield!

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Our adventure starts on Sunday, March the 19th at 3am when I woke up to my alarm telling me to get out of bed & to get ready to head to Bellingham Airport for our flight.

To backtrack a bit..  My Wife Charity & I were planning on heading into Las Vegas where we were married 10 years prior & a few of our friends were planning on coming with us.  After we booked our flight tickets we found out there was a Spartan Sprint Race in Littlefield Arizona on the day that we were landing & that it was only about an hour drive out from Las Vegas.  I created a Facebook event to let all of our crazy running & non-running friends know of our Anniversary weekend & our intent to start the path to our very first Trifecta but running the Sprint in Las Vegas.  Well, we ended up getting a few more friends come along to run the Sprint with us & join in on the festivities.  Back to Sunday..  We got picked up by our friend Shelley & then we picked up our friend Troy & headed from our hometown of Vancouver, B.C.  Shelley was just coming to enjoy Las Vegas but Troy was also coming to run the Spartan Sprint with us.  We crossed the border & got onto our flight with no issues & we landed in Las Vegas at 10:30am where our friends David & Taylor picked us up & drive us to Littlefield Az. Our gate time for the Sprint was 1:15pm which gave us about an hour & a half to get there.  Luckily David had run the Super the day before & knew the route & where to park.  The drive was luckily rather dull & after showing our parking pass, finding a place to park & getting changed seems to have about 20mins until our start time.  Charity, Troy & I all wore most everything we were going to race in on the place as we knew we had a limited time if we wanted to get out on the course as the last heat was at 1:30.  It was hot!  The Thermometer in the car said it was approx. 36c/97f (Apparently it was a few degree’s hotter the day before for the super) but I could still hear everyone having fun & I could feel the energy in the air.  People driving by were honking & hooting & I could hear the call of the Spartan off in the distance “Aroo!”

We had already filled in all of our waivers & printed out our scan/barcodes to make check-in go the fastest it could & fast it was!  One quick scan, review of our ID & another scan of the kit bag & we were told we could join the 1pm heat.  It was 12:50pm, so we had to get moving!  I quickly brought the bag that we all placed our change of clothes into with the Drop Bag crew & joined my friends in the corral.  We were at the back of our group as we were pretty much the last one’s in.  After they closed up the gates, I realized that I hadn’t had the chance to run to the restroom or get any water, this “decision” would be one I regretted for most of the course.  After a quick pep talk with a shortened version of the Spartan Credo we were released into the fray of the course.  The course was well laid out I thought & used the lay of the land & the MX Course quite well.  Up & over a few humps, then some short walls, then O.U.T. (Over, Under, Through) meanwhile we had to trudge through sand that was dry and loose as heck.

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I swear you lost more than half of your forward momentum due to the sand just moving out of the way when you placed pressure on it & tried to move forward.  We then got to the first classified obstacle, it was just a trudge through a stream that went through the property.  The stream was moving at a good pace & only about passed knee height for me & was rather warm.  I am a wimp when it comes to cold.  I rarely ever participate in the cold water obstacles.  I’m getting over that slowly now with the addition of proper OCR gear & time.  Just doing them more often & slowly working them in seems to be helping me get through more and more of these obstacles.  The cooler water was nice, as trudging through that sand & not having water before the water really dried me out.  Next was Atlas Carry, this was the first time I had ever come across this obstacle & I wasn’t sure how I would do as I have no grip strength, but I got passed it with little to no issues at all.  After a few other various obstacles we came across our 1st water station, it was a welcome sight!  A few more obstacles came & went & we were then greeted with another water station at the bottom of a rather large hill that we were going to have to hike up.  The water station honestly should have been at the top of the hill, or better yet after the next obstacle which was the sandbag carry.  After hiking up that darn hill & then carrying the sand bag all over hell’s half acre I was incredibly thirsty already, unfortunately water wouldn’t be had for at least nearly another mile & 8 or 9 more obstacles.  This is where the course changed a lot, for the first 3 miles/5 kilometres we had conquered about 10 obstacles that were quite spread apart, now we had about 12 or so obstacles left but only 1.5 miles/2.5 kilometres to do it in & doing it in the hot mid day sun was taking it’s toll in on me.

Spartan-Sprint-Las-Vegas-2017-Barb-Wire

We got to go back down the hill a bit & crawl under some barbed wire, I was able to use some new side walking techniques I had seen someone try in a Facebook video, with that, and crawling & cinching through it, I got through it unscathed for once!  Technique on a lot of these obstacles are key, especially when you’re a guy like me & you’re not very fit or athletic.  The Rolling Mud Obstacle was a nice relief & I wallowed in it like a little piggy would & covered myself & had a good ol’ time.  If you can’t have a good ol’ time at these races & unleash your inner kid, why do it!?!  Well, that’s my opinion.   I’m not here to finish in the top half, I’m here to have fun, help others & enjoy my time with those around me.  Next, onto a first for me, the Dunk Wall!

Spartan-Sprint-Las-Vegas-2017-Dunk-Wall

Again, I was kinda worried about this one, every time I have tried to go into water past my stomach as soon as it hits my check my body just locks up.  Well, hello warm water!  Other than pausing because I thought the water was just too muddy to submerge myself into I realized just how ludicrous that sounded & under I went!  I was rather surprised, for the first time ever I tackled the Inverted Wall on my own & got over it, although cramping up my calf by bashing it into the top of the wall when I heel kicked myself up & over.  Oops, forgot the Mustard, oh well!  A few stretches and some lunge type steps while walking I was good enough to go again.  Climbing the hill after that took quite a lot out of me, they were rather mean & tossed a bunch of larger tractor tires on the hill & they were “fun” to climb over.  They were also rather hot so that kind of helped add to the pace.

Spartan-Sprint-Las-Vegas-2017-Tire-Hill

We could see the finish was coming upon us rather quickly.  We got through the Herc Hoist, an A-Frame Cargo net, a Plate Drag & then onto Twistah.  It’s a rotating bar with hand holds on it.

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Well, due to my lack of grip I only got about 2 rungs in & dropped.  The Monkey Bars were about the same distance, by this time I was just wiped, but, the last obstacle was upon us, the Fire Jump!

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We all gathered together in our group and took our last few strides together & jumped that fire!  Victory!  We finished off with our very well deserved beer, talked to a few fellow Spartans & then we headed out.  It had been a very long day for some of us & we just wanted to get back to our room & rest.  After all, the next day was our 10 year wedding anniversary & we still had 3 more days in Vegas that we were going to have to use our legs for.  In the end, we traversed about 4.5 miles/7.5 kilometres & had about 24 obstacles to pass & we did it in about 2:20.  We may not have been the fastest out there, but we didn’t want to be.  It was hot & we took it at our own pace & had a great time!  I hope to bump into ya sometime in the mud, if you see me, be sure to say hi!

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Epic Series Race San Diego 2017 – Be Epic.

Epic Series Women's Strength

With an event that coincided with the arrival of Pacific Storm Lucifer, the Epic Series race held in San Diego California lived up to its name and more.  The first Epic Series race of the year was held in the parking lot of the artists formerly known as the San Diego Chargers (too soon Chargers fans?).  This race truly had something for everyone, not only capable of challenging elite athletes, but able to provide a fantastic first race for those new to the world of Obstacle Course Racing.  You may be asking yourself what about this race allows it to appeal to such a wide audience.  Read on to find out.

The race was held on Saturday February 18th, a day which started overcast, but warmed up as the day progressed with a good amount of sunshine for all those attending to appreciate.  Though the course was somewhat wet due to the massive amounts of rain which fell the night before, it dried up throughout the day.  The weather and some technical difficulty with electric generators caused the race to be delayed by about 45 minutes with the first scheduled heat taking off at about 0845 as opposed to 0800.  This didn’t seem to cause any issues as the music was blasting and multiple vendors were set up peddling their wares and enticing the crowds.  Though the race had a cut off time to register on their website, onsite registration was available for those interested.

The Epic Series race is broken up into two separate events.  The first, the Epic race, is open to everyone.  Both Elites and those running the Open waves run the Epic race.  The second part of the race is the Elites course and as you could probably guess, is open only to those in the Elite heats.  The Elite heats are released every five minutes during the first hour of the race.  More on the Elite course later.  Epic Series races bill themselves as being obstacle heavy with short race courses and no mud.  The race states that weather may cause mud at a race depending on the Venue, but the race will never intentionally create mud.  In this case they delivered as promised.  Being that the course was on asphalt, mud was not an issue.  In total the distance run on the course came in at about 1.75 miles, approximately half the distance of a normal Obstacle Course 5K.

What makes the Epic Series race so good for athletes of any ability is the unique design of their obstacles.  The obstacles are color coded, green for beginner, blue for intermediate, and black for advanced and are designed with differing degrees of difficulty.  For the Elites, women must complete at least the intermediate obstacles while men must complete the advanced.  Failure to do so will result in disqualification from competition, though the racer is encouraged to continue the race.

The race starts out with a full lap around the course with an Epic flag in hand.  After the initial lap the racer comes to the first obstacle, a wall jump.  Three walls, all color coded, are available to jump over all based on the level of difficulty you choose.  After the wall jump comes a quick net crawl, and then on to the atlas stones.  The atlas stones are also color coded, with the advanced stones being heaviest.  After 10 Atlas Stone over the shoulders, it’s on too burpee box jumps.  The height of your box is dependent on the level of difficulty you choose.  After burpee box jumps, it’s on to the ladder wall, which is basically a regular wall with cut outs.  You then move on to overunders.  This was one of the few obstacles I took issue with not because of the obstacle itself, but because there were only two ropes set up.  This meant that even if you shared and alternated only four people at a time could use the obstacle.  A few more ropes set up would have been nice.

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From the overunders, it was on to a balance beam.  After the balance beam was the first of four laps of the course, not including the initial lap.  Three of these laps involved carrying something.  This first lap was the slosh pipe, which was weighted and sized based on difficulty level.  After the lap you went straight into overhead squats using a weighted PVC pipe.  Next was Russian twists using a weighted ball, then another ladder wall followed by the first inverted wall.  After the inverted wall was the inflatable obstacle, which due to the aforementioned generator issues was not working.  After a quick detour around the inflatable you arrived at the rope climb rig.  What I really liked about this rig was the way they set up the levels of advancement.  2 rope climbs for advanced, one for intermediate, and a cargo net climb for beginner.  Epic Race did a good job at providing obstacles of varying levels so that anyone truly could participate in the course.  After the rope climb came a timed plank using an hour glass.  I don’t know what the time was for the advanced hourglass but I would estimate it at sometime between 2 minutes and eternity.  After the plank it was a quick unweighted sprint around the course to the other side of the rope climb rig which had a keg hoist.

After the keg hoist, came the lumberjack.  For those who haven’t seen the lumberjack before, myself included up till this race, it’s a heavy weighted bar on a pivot which must be lifted up and pushed until it falls down on the other side.  After that came an exercise using strength bands (see giant rubber bands).  After shimmying into a band you were required to do a set distance there and back of side steps, bunny hops, and a run/hobble.  From this it was on to the squat wall.  You placed your back up against the wall, got into the squat position, and keeping your arms extended, held another hourglass to time yourself.  The same 2 minute to eternity hourglass was employed for this exercise.  After the squat, I was more than happy to get moving into the gas can carry lap, which involved carrying a gas can in each hand.  After this lap came a fun obstacle, the bow and arrow, Epic Series spear throw if you will.  A regular re-curve bow was the weapon of choice.  You had 5 chances to hit an approximately 1ft by 1ft metal plate roughly 10 feet away.  Luckily the arrows were tipped with giant balls of foam to avoid any serious injuries.

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After the fun came a tire drag and then another round of atlas stone over the shoulders.  This was followed by the second inverted wall, and then another regular wall.  After the regular wall it was a set of box jump chest to ground.  This was followed by the largest wall on the course.  Depending on the difficulty, the climber was given less or more hand and footholds to ascend the wall.  After this wall was the final lap, carrying a keg.  With the last lap completed and the keg dropped off, it was a short sprint to the finish where your bib number was recorded for your time and you received your medal and a bottle of water.  Quick side note here, shirts are also included as part of the race but are picked up at check in.  With that there is nothing left to do but give yourself a pat on the back and enjoy the good vibes.  That is unless you were running in the elite class, in which case it’s on to the elite’s course.

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This is another thing that sets Epic apart.  The race itself is no longer considered to be enough.  The Elite course truly separated the wheat from the chaff and was a difficult course all its own.  The Elite course itself is further broken down into the strength versus endurance course.  Strength obstacles are higher weight but less reps.  Endurance obstacles are lower weight but more reps.  I opted for the Endurance course and was glad I did, as it was difficult enough as it was.

Epic Series race winners are determined based on the Epic race run time combined with their Elite course time.  Competitors run the course one at a time, with someone going every fifteen minutes.  Each competitor has a judge who goes with them throughout the entire course.  Special shout out to my judge Moe Bautista for motivating me the entire way through.  Each competitor gets 15 minutes to complete the 10 obstacles with mandatory obstacle completion for everything but the first obstacle.  The first obstacle, which is a truck pull, has a time limit of 90 seconds.  Failure to complete the truck pull results in a two minute and thirty second penalty assessment added on to a racers final competitive time.  Any other obstacle not completed also incurs the 2:30 time penalty.  With mandatory obstacle completion for all but the first obstacle, this means failure to complete the second obstacle would add thirty seven minutes and thirty seconds onto a racers final time.

As stated, the first obstacle was a truck pull, a newer year model Chevy Colorado quad cab to be exact.  The racer used an over the shoulder harness to pull the vehicle.  This obstacle was made slightly more difficult because it was on asphalt which remained somewhat slick due to rain from the night before.  The next obstacle was the overhead barbell press.  You were required to get it up from the ground and then press it for reps.  This exercise did quite a few people in and I saw people struggling all day with this particular obstacle.  I believe this was due to the fact you had to lift the bar into position instead of getting it from a racked position.  From the press it was on to deadlifts.  After deadlifts was an atlas stone lift over the wall.  After lifting the stone over the wall you were required to yourself jump over the wall.  Next was a farmer’s carry, followed by a tire flip.  After the tire flip were kettlebell box step ups followed by sandbag lunges.  Then it was a simple sprint to the finish.  Normally the sprint would have instead consisted of a rope climb.  Epic Series announced on its various social media pages the night before the race that the rope climb would be cancelled to due high winds that day, up to 60 mph gusts, which did not allow for safe set up of the obstacle.  Good on Epic Series for watching out for the safety of both its racers and set up personnel on that one.

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Overall, I would say the Epic Series race truly lives up to its name.  With something for everyone, from competitive athletes to those new to the sport of OCR, Epic Series allows you to challenge yourself at whatever level you’re currently at.  I liked that instead of simply not doing an obstacle or taking the penalty, you were given a choice based on your comfort level and ability.  Epic Series is currently only based in the Southern California area but is well worth the trip if you’re considering going.  For those interested, the next race is currently scheduled for April the 23rd, at the LAPD police academy.

Photo Credit: CSDC Photography