Spartan Race Palmerton Sprint #1 – Going Up?

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Twister

Last year, I ran my first ever Spartan Race at the Blue Mountain Sprint in Palmerton, PA. Whenever I told someone that, their response was along the lines of, “Well, you picked a heck of a race to start with.” See, Palmerton has a reputation. The word infamous comes to mind. The climbs are long and steep. And, with an NBC Series Super only the day before, Sprint racers could expect a difficult course on Sunday.

THE FESTIVAL AND PARKING

Out of the handful of OCR races I’ve been to, Spartan has had the largest festival area. Although, it’s worth noting that I have not been to a Tough Mudder yet. And I’m not sure if Palmerton’s festival is larger because of the NBC race on Saturday, but there was plenty of space and plenty of vendors. I have heard that the line to park can grow long as the day goes, but early in the day it took no more than a few minutes to get in. Check in was simple as well and the lines moved quickly.

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Elite-Men-Start

THE HILLS

Maybe “hill” is an understatement. Palmerton offers a straight up mountain course for anyone willing. The Sprint course only has one climb to the top of Blue Mountain, whereas the Super had two. This may lead you to think that the ascent on the course wouldn’t be too bad then. If you were there, then you know that’s wrong.

First off, my GPS watch thought the course was about half a mile longer than it was. I’m chalking that up to the climbs. Overall, it logged a total of 1,755 ft of ascent. On a course that was roughly 4.5-4.75 miles, that’s almost 400 ft per mile. Checking my splits, not a single mile averaged a descending number. In fact, each mile had over 125 ft of ascent. So, even when coming down the mountain, you were still going up. Mind blowing, right?

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Map

THE COURSE

The layout of the course was pretty similar to 2016. Some thought that was going to be a negative, but with some of the minor route differences and new obstacles, I thought they improved on last year’s design.

Racers start out with a short climb up a snow tubing hill, followed almost immediately by a longer climb up a couple skiing hills. Almost the entire first mile is making your way up the mountain. Total ascent on the first mile is over 750 ft. The extended climb, with minimal obstacles, allowed for a spread out field.

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Atlas-Carry

THE OBSTACLES

Spartan included many of its new obstacles, such as Twister and Olympus, plus several classics. One I expected to see, but didn’t, was the monkey bars. They were included in the section of the Super course that veers from the Sprint course, along with Z-Walls and a few others. The layout of the obstacles was pretty spot on. The hurdles and walls were mainly early, with the tougher obstacles coming after the mile-long climb to the top. Once the top was reached, racers almost immediately were faced with the Atlas Carry.

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Ape-Hanger

A couple permanent Palmerton obstacles reappeared, of course, as well. First was the swim through Blue Mountain’s pond. A life jacket was optional for the Sprint (the day before it was mandatory for Super racers). Shortly thereafter, competitors had to try their grip strength on Ape Hanger, just shy of 4 miles in.

There were two heavy carries on the course: single sandbag carry and bucket carry. The hill that the sandbag carry was steep enough that many racers were walking. The earlier waves were told that it was a bit slippery from the overnight dew and were advised to be extra cautious. The Multi-Rig was all rings, but no bell. Instead, after swinging to the final ring, racers had to transition onto, then over the ladder wall. It didn’t add much difficulty, but was a nice little curveball to keep Spartans on their toes. Twister was saved for the final 100 yards, so that the only obstacles left on the downhill finish were Dunk Wall and Fire Jump.

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Elite-Women-Finishers

THE FINISH

A volunteer awards you with a medal and even a hug as soon as you finish. One thing Spartan is great at is post-race snacks. Even though I didn’t plan on having much more than water, I grabbed each of three Clif Bar flavors, a banana, some organic chocolate milk and, of course, a cup of water. Once you’re done stocking up and leave the finisher’s corral, the finisher’s shirt pick-up is right there.

Another worthy note is that many Elite/Pro racers from Saturday stuck around for Sunday’s Sprint. Ryan Atkins, Ian Hosek and Angel Quintero took top 3 for the men, with Lindsay Webster, Rea Kolbl and Faye Stenning finishing on top for the women.

Photo Credit: Spartan Race

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Tough Mudder Colorado: Uphill, All Stars, Dogs, and Da Goat

Tough Mudder returned to Colorado this past weekend, and for the third year in a row, the beautiful community of Snowmass was the host. With a base elevation of 8,100 feet and a course that seemed to go uphill the entire time, the only things burning brighter than the sun were your lungs and calves.  This was my first trip ever to the Centennial State, and it certainly did not disappoint. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the highlights from the event.

THE COURSE:
The base altitude alone was enough to slow you down, but this course had a handful of brutal climbs and some fun single track trekking through forested areas. Depending on whose GPS you believe, the course distance was right around 12 miles, with an elevation gain of about 3,000 feet. The first mile or so brought you through the Snowmass Village and downhill along the parking area. After that, it was pretty much all uphill…or at least it certainly seemed like it.

TM Colorado Map  

ALL STAR ATTENDEES:
Runners in the first wave on Saturday morning shared the start corral with some of the biggest names in OCR. Three-time World’s Toughest Mudder champion Ryan Atkins (and his dog Suunto) was there, accompanied by his new bride (and 2016 Spartan U.S. Championship Series winner) Lindsay Webster. Alongside them was Broken Skull Champion (and self-proclaimed Macho Man) Hunter McIntyre, and current American Ninja Warrior and former Spartan Race Pro Rose Wetzel (watch for our interview with the woman who loves to challenge herself).  They all shared the start with Jim “Da Goat” Campbell, who was in CO to run his 100th Tough Mudder (but this story is coming soon).

NEW (TO ME AT LEAST) OBSTACLES:
Paying homage to the gold rush history of Colorado was an entertaining obstacle called Mine Shafted. The obstacle required participants to crawl down a sewage tube, which would drop them into  and 8-foot deep pit that had knee-deep muddy water. The pit itself is covered with dark screen, which blocked out a good portion of the sunlight. After trudging across the pit, there was an 8-foot wall that needed to be scaled in order to get out. The wall got muddy and slippery in a hurry and required a good amount of teamwork to get out.

TM Colorado Mine Shafted

FOUR LEGGED ATTENDEES:
Of all the venues that I’ve been to, Snowmass is easily the most dog-friendly Mudder that I’ve ever attended. Whether it was in the hotel, or in the village, or on the course…there were dogs of all shapes and sizes everywhere. As if I needed a reason to run slower, it was very difficult to resist running off course for the opportunity to give a healthy ear rubbing to these warm and fuzzy spectators.

Suunto

MOTHER NATURE:
Colorado is right up there with Lake Tahoe and Whistler as the most visually spectacular venues that I’ve ever attended. At almost any point along the course, you could look up and your eyes would be treated to absolutely wonderful views. Mountains, streams, Aspen trees, annoying thistle things that get stuck in your socks, there’s just so much scenery to feast upon up there. There was also plenty of deer and fox sightings. It’s truly an amazingly beautiful place to hold an event.

Dude, where’s my shirt?
On a slightly negative note, not that merchandise is considered a major part of an event…but if you’re going to have it, please make sure that you have an ample supply. The first wave on Saturday launched at 8am. According to the merchandise employees, the Tough Mudder Colorado specific t-shirts were sold out by 9am.  There were even instances in the afternoon where people were offering cash to buy the shirts off the backs of people who had purchased them earlier. I’m not sure how you gauge merch demand so poorly, but Tough Mudder has been doing this for a while now, and this kind of a thing just shouldn’t happen. At least not on the first day of your event.

Despite my lack of event shirt, I’m happy to report that Tough Mudder Colorado was still a wonderful experience. A demanding course with fun and creative obstacles, spectacular views, and lively festival area. Throw in a few OCR All-Stars (and dogs….don’t forget the dogs!), and you’ve got one of the best events that TMHQ has put on this year.

TM Colorado Dogs

 

Photo Credits: Matty Gregg (Suunto) and GameFace Media for Tough Mudder

Spartan Race U.S. Championship Series: Lindsay Webster Dominates Field on way to First Place

2016 Spartan US Champ Lindsay Webster

The Spartan Race U.S. Championship Series (USCS) is a five race series to determine which male and female Spartan Race athletes will hold the title of U.S. Champion. The series is televised on the NBCSN network.  Each athlete’s final score is determined by the cumulative number of points she earned across each of the five races. The lowest individual point score is dropped leaving each racer with her four best races counting toward their final score. A first place finish is worth 300 points, a second place finish is worth 299 points and so on down the line. A perfect score with 4 (or 5) wins in the series is worth 1,200 points.

Lindsay Webster dominated her competition in the 2016 Spartan U.S. Championship Series. Her performance was so overwhelming that her series victory was secure before the last race had even been run.  Lindsey won each of the first four races in the series for a perfect 1200 points. Right behind her in the points total and at every race was Faye Stenning. Much like Webster won every race she ran, Stenning placed second in every race she ran. Like Webster, Stenning had already secured her place on the series podium with her four second place finishes. However, when Webster opted to sit out the final race in the series, Stenning was finally able to bring home a first place finish.

If Webster and Stenning can maintain this level of competition, Spartan will have a legitimate rivalry on their hands. With former world champion Amelia Boone finally on the mend after a serious leg injury, 2017 should be an exciting year of elite Spartan Racing for the women.

With the top two spots in the U.S. Championship Series already decided, the final race in Breckenridge became a battle for USCS third place. The two athletes with the best shot to join Webster and Stenning on the podium were Rose Wetzel and KK Paul. Wetzel finished Breckenridge with a strong third place finish, winning her spot on the podium. Paul finished a disappointing sixth, eight minutes behind Wetzel.

“The Summit” Results – Breckenridge Beast Elite Women

“The Summit” Results – Breckenridge Beast Elite Women’s Results

Lindsay Webster finished the 2016 U.S. Championship Series in first place with 1200 points. Faye Stenning finished in second with 1197 points and Rose Wetzel finished in third with 1191 points. With dominating performances and budding rivalries, Spartan has much to be proud of. The five-race format has been a great success on both the Men’s and Women’s sides. OCR enthusiasts have much to look forward to from future Series Championships.

Congratulations to all the women who raced in the inaugural Spartan U.S. Championship Series and congratulations to Spartan U.S. Champion Lindsay Webster.

2016 USCS Women's Final Point Totals

2016 Spartan Race U.S. Championship Series: Rose Wetzel and KK Paul Battle at Breckenridge

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 10.20.07 PMThis weekend is the fifth and final race in the Spartan Race U.S. Championship Series. The race is held in Breckenridge, Colorado and is called “The Summit”. It is a Beast-length course with 13-plus miles and 30-plus obstacles. No matter what happens on Saturday, Lindsay Webster, who has finished 1st in each of the first 4 USCS races, has won first place and Faye Stenning, who has finished 2nd in each of the first 4 USCA races, has won second place in the 2016 Spartan Race U.S. Championship Series. However, 3rd place is still up for grabs this weekend in Breckenridge.

In the driver’s seat is Rose Wetzel, with two third place finishes and one fourth place finish. Rose did not race at the Blue Mountain Challenge in Palmerton but still has the best shot at third place overall. This is because the lowest individual race score is dropped from each racer’s total. With a strong performance this weekend, Wetzel’s absence at Palmerton will have no impact on her final overall score.

The athlete with the best chance to challenge Wetzel for the USCS third place trophy is KK Paul. She has one third place, one fourth place, and one fifth place finish, as well as an eighth place finish she will be able to drop with a strong performance Saturday.

By dropping the low scores from both Paul and Wetzel we can see Wetzel holds a narrow edge over Paul in Series Points. A first place finish is worth 300 points, second place is 299 and so on. Wetzel’s three best finishes are 3rd, 3rd, and 4th, for a total of 893 points. Paul’s three best finishes are 3rd, 4th, and 5th for a total of 891 points. 

If Wetzel beats Paul this weekend or finishes one place behind Paul, Wetzel will win third place overall. 

If Paul finishes Breckenridge three (or more) places ahead of Wetzel, she will overtake Wetzel  and win the overall third place. 

If Paul were to beat Wetzel, but if Wetzel finishes EXACTLY two places behind Paul (1st and 3rd, 2nd and 4th, etc) then Paul and Wetzel will share the podium step for overall third place in the 2016 Spartan U.S. Championship Series.

For our analysis of the Men’s U.S. Championship Series, read here.

For all the results as they happen this Saturday, follow ORM on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

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Photo credits: Spartan Race and Screengrab NBCSN