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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The Ultimate Beastmaster

Ok boys and girls.. What do you get when you cross American Ninja Warriors with the Olympics? You get The Ultimate Beastmaster, a new show available only on Netflix. Premiering on February 24th, this show came across my radar so I decided to see what it was all about and share my findings with you all. One of the first things I noticed was that Sylvester Stallone is the executive producer of the show. Hmm, why does this not give me confidence?

Basically we have contestants from 6 countries, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Mexico. South Korea and The United States. But wait, there’s more.. the show has 6, count’em 6, county-specific versions, each with their own hosts. So not only do we as the US audience have the US hosts, Terry Crews and Charissa Thompson, but we snippets of the host from the other 5 countries, Anderson Silva and Rafinha Bastos (Brazil); Seo Kyung Suk and Park Kyeong Rim (South Korea); Ines Sainz and Luis Ernesto Franco (Mexico); Hans Sarpei and Luke Mockridge (Germany); and Sayaka Akimoto and Yuji Kondo (Japan.)

There are 4 levels of the course within the “Beast.” And yes, the course from the outside looks like a giant chinese mechanized dragon. The contestants move thorough the levels by finishing among the top at each level. Level 1 starts with 12 contestants (2 per country) and the top 8 finishers move onto Level 2. The top 5 contestants from level 2 move onto level 3, also known as the Energy Pyramid. And the top 2 contestants from that level move onto the final level 4, known as the The Power Source. With all scores wiped out at this level, the person that scores the most points during this level wins the title of Beastmaster.

The Beastmaster’s from each episode meet in the season finale in the hopes of becoming “The Ultimate Beastmaster.”

The athletes come from various sports; triathletes, rock climbers, gymnast, military, an NFL player, parkour athletes, who I would think would excel on this type of course, crossfit instructors, Olympic swimmer Ed Moses from the 2000 Summer Olympics where he won a gold and silver medal (and at the age of 35, one of the oldest contestants on the show), and yes, even an Obstacle Course Racer, Shaun Provost, seen in episode 1.

The first thing I DID NOT like about the show is the fact they they released all 10 episodes at one time. Really Netflix, while that may be good for shows such as Daredevil and Luke Cage, it does not seem like a smart move to give viewers the ability to skip all 9 episodes and get right to the season finale.

I have never been a fan of the American Ninja Warrior shows, finding them a bit too cheesy for me. But the Ultimate Beastmaster is cheesier than the Hickory Farms kiosk at the mall during Christmas. The host do nothing for the show other than to act as glorified national cheerleaders. And having 6 different hosts teams (yes, we see all 6 of the county host teams at various times throughout the show) just added to it. And to have the water colored red and called “beast blood.” Seriously!

Another thing that irked me was that during some of the shows, some of the contestants who started later in the flow of  the 1st level knew they had enough points to advance so they purposely failed an obstacle. While this may seem like a strategy for keeping healthy for the other levels, I felt like as an audience member I was being cheated in some way. I mean just imagine if an Olympic runner started to walk during a race because he know that the other contestants had fallen down and gotten hurt and he/she they did not have to push themselves.

But there were some things I did like; the design of the obstacles themselves; challenging at first and getting progressively harder at each level. And a contestant could get “Point Thrusters” along the course, each worth 10 additional point, so this could add to their point lead which came in handy if they failed the last obstacle on each level. One of my fav obstacles in the show was the “Mag Wall.” Basically a climbing wall, but some of the holds are attached magnetically and subject to “falling” off the wall, thus dropping the contestant or making it harder for the contestant to complete the wall. Another fav of mine is the “Prism Strike” on level 3. Here the competitors must hold onto the rope handle as it swings through a curved track. And if they are good enough, they can snag some points at the Point Thruster along the track.

Was the show worth watching all 10 episodes? NO! I felt that I wasted the first 9 hours I spent watching the show leading up to the final. You really do not form a relationship with any of the contestants while watching the show. And despite my earlier comment about Netflix making all 10 episodes available at once, if you are interested in the show, watch episode 10; you see all the obstacles and only have to endure it for 60 minutes.

If you are a Netflix member, you can watch the show here.

All images courtesy of Netflix.

Christian Griffith – Roster #11 From The Selection

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Christian Griffith Roster #11

Christian Griffith stopped by the day after the finale aired for History Channel’s The Selection.

He talks about how the experience has changed his life for the better. His opening up about his personal history with sexual abuse has already touched thousands if not millions of viewers. Christian hopes he can help even more with the platform the show has provided him.

Listen in to learn all about that, how he promised himself not to leave the competiton in anything other than handcuffs, and much more.
Todays Podcast is sponsored by:

Obstacle Guard –  Get it on because Monday’s a workday! 

Show Notes:

ORM’s recap of all History Channel The Selection episodes.

Roster #11 Facebook page

History Channel The Selection website

Listen using the player below or the iTunes/Stitcher links at the top of this page. 

OCR On TV

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episode-216

On this last episode of the year, J.D. Allen, Keith Allen, and Matt talk about the Christmas Day airings of the Spartan World Championships on NBC, and the World’s Toughest Programs that were on CBS and CBS Sports.

Find out if their take, jibes with your thoughts. We’ve never used the word jibe in a podcast description. We just did, so there. Happy end of 2016!
Todays Podcast is sponsored by: 

Ascent Protein – Food For Athletes. (“And no protein farts!” – MBD)

Listen using the player below or the iTunes/Stitcher links at the top of this page. 

History Channel’s -The Selection: Evolution 4 Recap

Evolution 4: Weeding out the Weak

When I saw the preview for episode 4 I knew this was going to be a tough one for the candidates. 14 candidates remain as we start episode 4, mid-season for the 8 part series. By now they have proven that they are physically able to move on, but are they mentally capable of moving farther into the show?

At the start of the episode they are taught some basic concealment skills for tonight’s evolution. Basically they are given 4 hours to create a place of concealment in the hopes that the instructors do not find them. They are divided into 4 teams;

  • Team 1 – Candidates 12,19,28
  • Team 2 – Candidates 3,14,15,17
  • Team 3 – Candidates 6,11,20,27
  • Team 4 – Candidates 2,7,22

The Selection - search

At 0200 of day 5 the search begins for the teams. The instructors have 3 hours to find them. After about 90 minutes, Team 3 is the first team found, followed by team 1 and team 2. Team 4 manages to stay concealed until 3 minutes remain. And that was only because the instructor walked on the head of one of the candidates. Very good job of concealment on their part.

The candidates are then handcuffed with zip-ties and have a blackout goggle placed on their heads preventing them for seeing anything, It is at this point during the instructor recap that they state that they think # 20 will be the first to break as the move into what can best be described as the “torture” segment.

The Selection - Praying

The candidates are brought as a group into a “resistance lab” where they are subjected to a number of different types of “torture.” This is where the “psych ops” begin on the candidates. They are subjected to being placed in a small box for long periods of time, having ice cold water poured over them, subject to “repetitive noises” (such as a crying baby), being moved into uncomfortable positions and being told to hold that position, and as #11 experienced, having electric sparks fly near your head. All of this going on while being “blind” , your hands are tied by zip-ties and the candidates are starting to feel the effects of sleep and food deprivation. This is also where the candidates start to drop, beginning with #20 (as predicted by the instructors) followed by #27 and #22. While they are physically able to do what is expected, they just don’t have the mental strength to go on.

The Selection - In The Box

Nine hours into the lab # 28 quits leaving 9 candidates. Into the 10th hour we lose another candidate leaving us with 8 remaining candidates remaining; candidates # 2, 3, 6, 11, 12, 15, 17 & 19. By this time they been in the “resistance lab” for 11 hours, and have gone 36 hours with no sleep. If you have ever gone without sleep, you know that one becomes irritable and unable to think clearly. And not having a sense of time (or sight) adds to the difficulty of the evolution.

They are finally freed from the handcuff and have the goggles removed by the instructors. They have completed this evolution. The instructors give them praise for completing this grueling segment and are told to eat and rest because as one instructor stated, “Now that we have cut the weak, we need to start cutting the strong.”

So we have 8 remaining candidates at the halfway point. Interesting to note that according to the shows beginning screenshots 80% of candidates fail special ops training. Based on that figure, we could expect to see 6 candidates to complete the show. With only 2 candidates needing to drop to make that percentage, and only half way through the 8 episodes, one can’t help but wonder if more than 80% will fail. Only time will tell.

Of the remaining 8 candidates, 4 of them come from OCR backgrounds; #6, #11, #12 and #19 . Way to rep the sport guys. And for you GORUCK fans, we have 6 GRT’s still in the running; #2, #3, #6, #11, #15 & #17

Read recaps of other episodes here:

Watch the episodes here.

All photos courtesy of A&E Television Networks  ©2016 A&E Televisions Networks

History Channel’s -The Selection: Evolution’s 2 and 3 Recap

Ok boys and girls. A lot has happened since the first episode. We will get to the recaps of episodes 2 and 3 in a moment.

Being an Obstacle Race media site, we of course want to highlight OCR athletes when talking about an event. In my first review I pointed out folks that were OCR racers based on those my editor and myself knew were involved with the sport. The History Channel bios for the candidates don’t always mention OCR/GORUCK affiliations. so we may have missed a couple of folks. Just want to give a shout-out to a couple more candidates from those worlds:

  • # 6 – Dylan Davis
  • # 14 – Johnny Larios

Good luck guys. Now let’s look back to our regularly scheduled review.

Evolution 2 : Hell & High Water

Good Morning Candidates!!! Anyone that has gone through military basic training can relate to the awakening that was given the remaining 25 candidates. The look on the faces of the candidates is priceless. WTF in a major way. It was also during this sequence that we heard one of the instructors refer to candidate #30 as “Time Short.” While this was happening 2 of the candidates dropped leaving 23 as the day begins.

The Selection - WAKE UP

During the first candidate review by the instructors of the episode we learn that candidates #11’s age is 45 years old and that he is the oldest candidate. They also picked a new team leader for the day, during this segment tagging #23 for the job.

During the breakfast consisting of MRE’s, candidate #18 drops because of health issues. We also lost candidate #29 when they were being loaded up for the next evolution I refer to as “BUDS” leaving 21 candidates remaining.

At the beach, this is when the “Hell and High water” happens. Candidate # 23 is made the team leader. It was during this segment of the episode that we saw the loss of an early fan (and instructor) favorite #30. The swim to the buoy just was not in the plans for him. He gave 110% of himself but sometimes that is just not enough.

The Selection - #30 Drops

It was also during this segment that I had a letdown in regards to the reality of the show. During the buoy swim, some candidates were allowed to use flotations devices. I understand the safety aspect but it only adds fuel to the fire in regards to those that say it is not realistic.  I know that all the candidates had to pass a basic military PT test to even be considered, so why was a swim test not given if it was going to be part of the show?

The audience also saw candidate #11 take more of a leadership role. After the swim he could be seen trying to get other to overcome the cold. When all was said and done, 19 candidates remain.

The candidates end the episode with Zodiac Boat Drills. They may look light but they are a bitch to carry any distance. It was in this segment that #11 is made the class leader. During this segment we saw 4 more candidates drop, the sisters; #8 and #9, #23 and we see the first med drop of the show, #4.

By the time this episodes ends 10 candidates have dropped. A pleasant day at the beach was not in the works for many.

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Evolution 3: Man in the Arena

There are 15 candidates remaining at this point and this is where it becomes more of a mental game for the candidates.

Candidate #11 is still the team lead when the group has their first barracks Inspection and it is not pretty. It was also during this segment that #11 gets reamed for calling the instructors “Inspectors.” He did this first in episode # 2. Because the instructors are starting to play more mental games, #11 seemed to be challenged a bit more than the other class leaders. But at this point it is to expected. As a team leader #11 did not follow-up through with his team to make sure things are done. Also during this time #11 was asked who he felt were the weakest candidates and he picked 2 females, #27 and #3. Will this come back to bite him? Or create dissention among the team?

The Selection - Inspection 2

Since this episode entailed a lot of walking, #20, whose toenail came off during episode 2, was questioned about his ability to continue. He sticks with it and moves forward. Also at this point #11 is replaced by #19 as the team leader.

The rucking aspect is comprised of 40lbs in their bags as well as their normal gear. The instructors also expect them to maintain a 12-14 min mile pace. While this sounds doable, jogging/walking with a backpack with that much weight is hard on both the back and the legs for those not used to it. It is during this evolution the team is to perform a Downed Pilot Drill. Basically create a litter with the materials given to them and transport a 200lb duffel bag (representing the downed pilot) back to the team pit. Multiple ideas were being thrown out by the candidates on the best way to do this causing confusion and potentially causing a time hack penalty in which one of the candidates would be tagged as a causality and would also have to be carried back to the pit. They finally got things moving with no time left. For those that have done a GORUCK event, you can probably relate to what was going on. This is something many GORUCK participants have experienced during tough’s and heavy’s. Along the return route there were issues and one of the candidates was tagged as a causality. It was also during this time #2 replaced #19 as class leader. We learn that candidate # 2 is a firefighter and he was better able to organize the team during this evolution and was able to complete it with only 2 casualties.

The Selection -Downed Pilot

There were a number of interrogations during this episode. It was during his interrogation that #19 admitted his faults during the evolution. He was also asked who he felt were the strongest candidates remaining and he choose  #11 and #12 and had high praise for #11’s mental fortitude.

The PT also gets a bit more challenging as the team is subjected to “sit-up” hell. Over 1000 done!! Kudo’s to completing that PT.

The Selection - 1000 situps

In the closing moments of the show the interrogation of #11 took place. Candidate #11 has become a fan and instructor favorite so it was interesting to hear of his reasons for being there. This was an emotional segment for #11 .We also learned that they were required to memorize a creed for the show and #11 repeated it (This is where the title of episode comes from.)

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”Excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic”  delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910 (Source: http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/trsorbonnespeech.html)

The Selection - Number 11

Only 1 drop during this episode, smallest amount to date. While some may say this evolution was too easy so drop rate was low, I tend to believe that the 15 candidates that started the episode were more prepared mentally and physically for what awaited them.

The show enters episode 4 with 14 candidates left. While there are still a couple that I am surprised are still remaining, I am impressed by those that are. As I mentioned in regards to the “floaties” used in episode 2 this took something away in regards to the realism, but for the most part they are being pushed. I reached out to a couple of people that I knew that had gone through Special Ops training and they generally had positive things to say about the show. Again they, like me, realize it is a TV show and that the reality of it may not be as authentic as some viewers would like.

By now many viewers have picked a favorite candidate. Would love to know who yours is. Reply in the comments and let me know.

Read recaps of other episodes here:

Watch the episodes here.

All photos courtesy of A&E Television Networks  ©2016 A&E Televisions Networks