A Salute to Service – Spartan West Point (2017 Honor Series)

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West Point

Duty, Honor, Country. The motto of West Point Military Academy are words to remember and words that were ever-present at the West Point Spartan Sprint.

At the handful of Spartan Races I’ve been to, honoring the military was always part of the event in some way. Aside from having, in my opinion, one of the coolest medals in OCR, the Spartan Honor Series took that to the next step. Not only were several current members of the military present and/or racing, but many veterans were able to come out as well.

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COURSE

The race was located at the Lake Frederick Recreation Area, which is a 25-minute drive from the West Point Academy, but still owned by the military. The course was just over four miles and included over 1,000 feet of ascent. The terrain featured plenty of uphill climbs and downhill runs through semi-technical wooded trails and a few gravel paths.

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Obstacles weren’t any different from normal Spartan races. There weren’t any military-themed obstacles. It would be awesome to see Spartan incorporate some sort of military tribute in an obstacle or two for 2018, but to keep races consistent, I can see why they may not.

One surprise was seeing Olympus within the first mile. Generally, it’s in the last half of a course. Because of this, I did notice some small lines later in the day. As a note, I ran the Elite Male wave and didn’t necessarily have to wait, but did have to start before another person finished. At the Sprint in Palmerton, the lane was fully clear when I began.

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FINISH HIM!

As is becoming the norm, many of the obstacles were saved for the end of the race. The first half featured seven total obstacles, with the second half having fifteen. The last half-mile had eight of those fifteen!

I’ve noticed a lot of Spartan races lately have a sort of, “gauntlet” at the end of the race. I mainly notice them at races with a time trial, which makes sense. The time trial requires a lot of obstacles in a short distance. Logistically, it’s easier not to move those obstacles for the next day.

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There was no time trial the night before West Point. Yet, the course designer saw fit to have the Bucket Carry followed immediately by Twister, with the Rope Climb just around the corner. After a quick Rolling Mud, racers then hit Atlas Lift, Multi-Rig (all rings), Spear Throw, and Herc Hoist, all within a few hundred yards of each other. And before the finish, a pretty long barbed wire crawl that included a slight turn, slip wall and, of course, fire jump.

COMPLAINTS

The main complaint I saw from other racers was the parking situation. Personally, I had no issues since I ran in the first heat. I arrived at the parking lot, which was 20 minutes from the race venue, at 6:00 am. Got right in, and walked right onto a bus. I hung out a bit after the race and went to catch a bus back around 11:00 am. Again, no wait. That was not the case for some later racers.

On my ride back to the parking lot in the late morning, I noticed quite the traffic jam going the opposite direction. In that traffic jam were shuttles going to the venue. As we pulled back into the lot, I could see a long line of people waiting to board shuttles to get to the race. Later, on social media, pictures showed long afternoon lines waiting to board buses back to the parking lot. Some racers said they waited over 2 hours just to get on a bus.

This was my first Spartan, and second OCR race ever, where parking was off-site. As much as an inconvenience as it may be, I’m not sure how much control Spartan has over traffic. It is definitely something they can look into, though, if they decide to go back in 2018.

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WHAT SPARTAN DOES BEST

I’ve now done a total of four Spartan races. Every single one has challenged me both in the course layout and obstacle order. There are always plenty of water stations and post-race snacks. The Honor Series medals are absolutely fantastic and a must, if you’re into that sort of thing. The finisher shirts, however, were your standard Sprint finisher shirts. It would be cool to see an Honor Series finisher shirt, but the venue shirt made up for it!

Spartan is really good at getting people race photos. The pictures were up Monday, less than 48 hours after the race finished. As I’ve mentioned before, a helpful hint to finding all of your pictures is to use Chronotrack. The Chronotrack checkpoints are each at photo spots. Find what time you crossed that checkpoint, then search the photos for that time frame. That’s an easy way to get each of your pictures from the various stations.

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SHOULD SPARTAN GO BACK?

I absolutely hope Spartan goes back to West Point next year. I usually only go to races within an hour, or so, but it was easily worth the 2+ hour drive. Lake Frederick makes for both great terrain and even some scenic views during the race. If Spartan can improve the parking situation, they really have a keeper.

What did you think of the West Point Sprint? Leave a comment below!

 

Photo Credit: Spartan Race

GORUCK Tough: Sleepy Hollow Halloween

GORUCK Tough: a 12+ hour team building endurance event. Participants carry weighted rucksacks, cover 15-20 miles and do whatever the cadre tell them to. Events are often jam packed with heavy carries and PT (physical training) exercises, such as squats and presses with your ruck. Every team must have an American Flag as well as a team weight. Halloween events are done in costume.

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Our event started at 9 pm at Peabody Field in Sleepy Hollow, NY. From the very beginning, we could tell it would be a cold night. However, no one was complaining about the cold during the welcome party.

THE WELCOME PARTY
The event began with a bear crawl down the hill in front of us to a soccer field. We then had to sprint down the soccer field and back. Once everyone returned, we performed a drill for advancing on enemy lines across the soccer field. “I’m up, they see me, I’m down.” Beginning on our stomachs, we popped up, sprinted as far as possible for about one second, and then dropped to the ground.

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Upon arrival at the other side of the field, we formed 4 ranks and were told to complete 100 ruck thrusters, a squat to an overhead press. We also had to repeat every rep we did not complete together as a team. When the cadre felt that people were really cheating, we all had to hold our rucks over our heads for 10 seconds and restart if anyone dropped. By the time we got to 100, we had probably completed about 150 thrusters, counting all the reps we had to do over, and held our rucks over our heads for a total of 2 minutes. But it didn’t end there. The cadre told us to continue the exercise until they said so and we didn’t stop until we got to 200. With the same rules in place, we probably completed around 300 thrusters total.

Next, we had to bear crawl back down to the other end of the soccer field. Some people really struggled with this, especially after all of the thrusters. While we waited for everyone to make it across the field, we formed 2 ranks and cheered them on. One participant told someone else what to do (a huge no-no) and he then got a lot of individual attention. He was brought back to the far end, and from what I could see, he did lunges, burpees, and thrusters. On his way back down the field, not only did he bear crawl, but he also had to do the “I’m up, they see me, I’m down” drill. In the meantime, the rest of us had to hold our rucks over our heads waiting for him.

Upon his return, he apologized to all of us. The welcome party had ended. A few people already dropped out from the event, but I don’t think many, if any, dropped out after that.

THE MAIN EVENT
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We were a large class with 3 cadre so we got broken up into 3 groups.  (Side note: I do miss the days of smaller classes, where by the end of the night you knew everyone’s names, but with the inceasing popularity of these events, small classes seem to be few and far between. Breaking us up into smaller groups works too, but it’s not the same.) One group ended up carrying a log and a bunch of sandbags, the largest weighing 120 lbs, as well as 2 team weights, each weighing 25 lbs. One group, amongst other things, went in the water in the middle of the night to do hydro-burpees. They  forgot to take their team weight with them from the start point which is why the other group had 2.

My group carried our team weight and 2 of the most massive logs I have ever seen at one of these events for 2 miles. We had a 45 minute time hack, but it took us 2 hours and 15 minutes. This was probably the most miserable part of the event for me. We all took turns and tried to help as much as possible, but the log was so short and wide that we couldn’t get many people on it at once. Those who were carrying it were carrying a ton of weight. Additionally, it was extremely awkward to carry because it was so bulky, which is ultimately why it took us so long. Surprisingly there was no punishment. We were right near the water when we dumped the logs and everyone thought we were going in, but we didn’t. I personally believe it was only because we were running way behind on time.

We began rucking for quite some distance with no additional weight and hopped 3 different fences to get where we were going. We arrived at Sleepy Hollow Middle & High Schools where we met back up with the other 2 groups.

At this point, we were given a substantial break to refill our hydration bladders as well as share paranormal activity stories. Once the break ended, we split up into 2 new groups.

The group I was not in ended up going in the water, which meant that some people ended up going in twice. By some Halloween wizardry, my group did not go in the water. We knew that our cadre was looking for a way to get to one particular pond from where we were, but it wasn’t working out and he was wasting a lot of time so he decided to scratch the idea. He told us that he’d rather spend time doing quality things with us. So at the end of the event, there were people that had been in the freezing water once, slightly bitter people that had been in twice, and then a few lucky ducks like me that hadn’t gone in at all.

What our group did instead was travel a substantial distance carrying multiple casualties (designated people that had to be carried) as well as the smaller log, the 120 lb sandbag, and a team weight. Cadre Cleve spoke to us on many occasions about keeping our heads on swivels, staying quiet, working together, and tactics to help us complete our missions more efficiently, which definitely added value to our experience.

We arrived at Rockefeller State Park Preserve and learned how to tie swiss seat harnesses. Once the cadre and a few GRTs established a single rope bridge, we boosted each other up, locked in with carabiners, and traversed the bridge. This was definitely the highlight of the event for most.

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ENDEX
Cadre Cleve told us that the other group was ready to wrap up the event and the other cadre were wondering where we were. Once we finished up with the rope bridge, we began hustling toward the endex. Once we met back up at the start point after those final few miles, we were given a few closing words, lined up in ranks one more time, and were patched. The event ended right around 10 am: 13 spooky hours.

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Although I did not, some went on to complete the GORUCK Light that same day and even the GORUCK Scavenger the next. At the Light, however… EVERYONE went in the water. I think I left just in time!

Photo Credit: Jirina Harastova, Deanna Dawn, Jessica Madura, Delilah Talbot, Alex Stavdal

Civillian Military Combine – Introducing an OCRWC Obstacle

From start to finish, the Civilian Military Combine (CMC) was an event that truly had options for everyone to challenge themselves or just have a fun time. As a one of a kind hybrid obstacle course race and fitness competition, CMC provided options for the elite obstacle course racer as well as the weekend warrior, and even kids too. For those seeking a challenge, CMC’s Diamondback obstacle was announced as an OCRWC obstacle for this year – a true testament to their innovative and tough obstacles!

THE PIT

Having a CrossFit background, The Pit was one of my favorite parts of the day. CMC is advertised as a hybrid obstacle race series because of the 5 minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible) style workout before the race. With divisions for all abilities: Alpha – bodyweight, Bravo – kettlebell, and Charlie – barbell, it truly is for everyone. After 5 minutes of burpees, lunges, and other exercises, racers get 5 minutes before queueing up and hitting the course.

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The first elite wave went off 30 minutes behind schedule, which set the rest of the heats back. The number of racers waiting outside The Pit quickly grew to a crowd and those in front went in for the next heat, regardless of wave time.

THE COURSE

The majority of the course was grass, weaving around the buildings on base and making use of every last hill. One particular slope was used for the Wreck Bag carry which had racers ascend the hill four times. Small portions of the course crossed paved roads and sidewalks and even some small sections of stairs.

Course marking seemed sparse in one particular section of the course that was crossed several times. A little extra tape or spray paint would have gone a long way in directing racers, but after a few heats, volunteers made sure racers knew where to go.

THE OBSTACLES

Racers seemed particularly pleased with the obstacle innovation. In addition to the typical obstacles such as the 8-foot wall and rope climb, CMC added in a few that threw even your seasoned obstacle racers for a loop. The first worth mentioning is Diamondback, which has now been revealed as an OCR World Championship obstacle. Diamondback begins and ends with inverted climbs on wide bars which makes this twist on a classic obstacle that much more challenging! The bars were quite wide and fairly spread out testing both your grip strength and flexibility.

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Other notables include a wreck bag carry with 25 and 50-pound options, as well as a dummy carry later in the race which was an awkwardly shaped 60 pounds for everyone.

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The mud pit was quite small and there was only one, but with the wire hanging just over the mud, you had to get low and dirty.

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Thankfully immediately after, there was a refreshing dip in a dumpster of water covered with plywood, forcing you in, but also rinsing you off.

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There were two different rigs, the second harder than the first. One was similar to Spartan’s and the other was unlike any other rig I had ever seen. The first began with a rope climb to a floating bar. From there you had to swing across 3 rings and traverse another floating bar before hitting the bell. The second rig was the last obstacle before the finish. It began with a climb up a free hanging pole. From the top of the pole, you had to grab a hold of a ring which spun freely on a wheel. Two more of those and you’re on to floating monkey bars before hitting the bell.

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THE REWARD

After crossing the finish line, racers received a hefty gold finisher’s medal which definitely delivered a sense of pride in your accomplishment. Although the finisher shirts were cotton, they were a military coyote color with a simple CMC Finisher logo on the front, an American flag on the sleeve, and came in a wide variety of men’s and women’s sizes. The festival grounds offered several food options including food trucks and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, as well as quite a few popular OCR merchandise vendors, such as Obstacle Guard.

The course seemed to be about a mile shorter than expected, but it was overall a really fun event. It was a hot and sunny day in New York and everyone said they were glad to see CMC make a return and hope they do again in the future.

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