Spartan Race San Jose Super and Sprint

Spartan Race San Jose was no joke, even if it did fall on April 1st! Things were a little different at this race, beginning with the wall at the starting corral which was much taller. We started with an “Aroo, Aroo, Aroo” and came to the first obstacle which was a noticeably higher set of hurdles. A mud pit came shortly after which was very deep and didn’t have footholds. I was getting a little nervous to see what the rest of the race would bring as it was starting out more challenging than usual.

Next up were hills, hills, hills. The cumulative elevation gain was approximately 2,000 feet. It was a mental challenge as well as physical. When you climbed to the top of the first hill and thought you were done, you would look to the side and see the next hill. This happened about four times before finally receiving a much-needed break and spectacular view.

There was a short trail run and then, once you thought it was safe,  there was another hill which held a special surprise, the sandbag carry! It was steep, long, and enough to make you say shucks! They used wreck bags instead of sand patties.  I like both and this was a nice change of pace. I heard an unofficial weight estimate of 30-35 pounds for women and 55-60 for men.

Finally, the hills eased up and the trail was heading down. It was a perfect time to look around and take it all in. The cows that dotted the hillside seemed more like goats and were quite impressive on this steep terrain. One person did a shout out to them with an “AMOO”. I think the cows thought the farmers must have gone crazy!

We approached the festival area which included several classic obstacles such as the over walls, inverted wall, A-frame cargo net, and monkey bars. It was set up really well for the spectators, who were lining the course like a golf tournament and cheering everyone on.

One thing I kept thinking about was the bucket brigade. I had visions of straight up hills that never ended. I was completely shocked when I reached it and it was a fairly flat, short loop! I don’t remember when I was ever so excited about the bucket carry! One quick lap and I was done and heading towards some of the newer obstacles which included the multi-rig, which is now a series of rings, and the Olympus. I’m still trying to conquer these, but I get a little further each time.

We ended with the spear throw (made it…yes!), slip wall, and dunk wall. Both days brought two different gals who were a little hesitant to go under the dunk wall. We went together and they were both so excited when they got to the other side. They rocked it! A huge part of what I love about Spartan is the friendships you make along the way.

I was surprised to find there wasn’t a fire jump. That’s always such a perfect end to a race. I defiantly “fire jumped” over the finish mat and received my medal.

It was a beautiful venue and perfect weather. This is a race I definitely enjoyed and will do again!

Photo credit: Kim Collings and Spartan Race

Spartan Race UK Peterborough Weekend

Last year was the first year that Spartan Race UK used the gorgeous Elton Hall as a Spartan Venue, and it it was one of the main turning points for the company in the UK; it also very quickly became a favourite among the UK racers, This year’s Sprint & Super cemented that.

Spartan-Peterborough-Sprint-Super

This was a long week for me, but as always with a looming Spartan Race, I was looking forward to a brutal exciting weekend. We weren’t disappointed.

Finishing work at 5am, quick walk to the train station and it began. 4.5 hours later and a lift from the train station by a dear friend, I arrived at the venue.  If you’ve never been to Elton Hall, you need to visit. Spartan UK has a habit of picking iconic, beautiful venues and Elton Hall is near the top of that list.

Saturday was a bit of a washout when it came to the weather, lovely and sunny in the morning and then the rains came.

After spending most of the morning volunteering on the finish line. We lined up for the final wave,  and I was glad we skipped the warm up. Usually I’d enjoy the group burpees in the start corral, but at this stage we just really wanted to get out on the course.

While they change the format, Spartan usually use the same type of obstacles per race. Peterborough was no different. The first kilometre was a nice mixture of 4ft walls, inverted walls & OUT’s. (Over, Under, Through for those who don’t know). Running through the forested area provided a nice break from the rain and for me, it always adds to the beauty of a run.

We soon came across the rope climb (or in my case the start of my burpees). Another run through some forest and we came across the barbwire crawl. In all my Spartan Races I have to say that this barbwire crawl was second only to the French Beast last year. It wasn’t long but the twists, turns and mud pools made it fun. I’ll admit we may have spent more time than needed playing around in the mud.

Spartan-Peterborough-Barbwire

(Side note – it was here that the Sprint & Super course separated, but more on that later.)

Continuing on we had the atlas stones, Z-walls, and the block drag.  A bit more running through a forest and finally the finish line was in sight. A couple of 6 ft walls, made slightly more difficult by the rain and mud, Herc Hoist, 8ft walls and the sprint to the fire jump.

I’ll admit by the time we got to the finish line for the sprint I was looking forward to a shower, food, and sleep. The super was coming and I had a time limit to run it in.

Spartan-Peterborough-Block-Drag

So, after a cheeky Nandos with friends, curling up on a surprisingly comfy air bed, my wonderful band of misfit friends & I arose to tackle the Super. Now I mention that I had a self imposed time limit to complete the run. Well, I had a train booked back to Edinburgh at 1300 as I had work at 1800. My time limit worry wasn’t just for myself though. I was running with a friend who is somewhat new to our wonderful world of OCR.

Back on site and back in the start corral for the Elite wave. Now, I’m by no means elite. I run purely for me and the joy it brings, but sometimes the extra 20 mins can be handy.  Once more into the fray, and once again we spent more time than needed in that barb wire crawl. The course change from the Sprint to the Super led us through a gate and into a darkened forest.  I may run too many Spartan races (is there such a thing?). The forested area had a nice hilly chicane where my first thought was that it would have made a great area for a sandbag carry.

I may run too many Spartan races (is there such a thing?). The forested area had a nice hilly chicane where my first thought was that it would have made a great area for a sandbag carry.  The forest opened up and led us to a rather lovely reservoir to wade around. I wasn’t expecting that to be as killer on the calves as it was. Nice to wash the mud off though. A rather slippery cargo slip a frame followed by the the Z-wall rope traverse (Burpee time again).

Back on course, we’re once again hit with some firm favourites, another barb wire crawl, multi rig, Bucket brigade, log drag and a lovely vertical cargo net climb. Side note – I really do need to learn the flip technique at the top of these. Onto the log carry and the finish line is in sight again just across a field so we know we’re near the finish again, or at least close to rejoining the sprint.

More trail leads us around towards the A-Frame and spear through. I’m actually quite happy that I nailed my spear throw in the super, not so much in the Sprint though.
On a note one of the Spartan did well within this course was that the kids course ran alongside parts. Both the kids and the big kids started from the same start line which I think really brought it together as a family event.

Spartan-Peterborough-Finish

Back down to the walls, hoist, and onto the finish.

Spartan Race is one of the companies within in the UK that folks like to complain about, but ever since Peterborough last year, I think they have fewer legimite reasons for those complaints.

I’m aware that I’m biased. My first ever OCR was a Spartan, but they have come a long way since then (2014 Edinburgh sprint!) I know that race back then couldn’t hold a candle to the courses they build and put together now.

Overall, Spartan Peterborough was a huge success. With the support of the Volunteers and Spartan staff it was a day to remember for all involved.

On that note, I can only look forward to the Sprint & Beast in Windsor with excitement. Shall I be seeing you there?

Spartan Race Chicago Super: Heat, Mud, & Friday Night Lights

The Spartan Race returned once again to Chicago, but brought along some friends for the ride: the heat, mud & cast of Friday Night Lights. The bright sunny sky and 72 degree weather wasn’t a problem for the early morning runners and only pumped up the runners anxiously awaiting their turn. Spectators claimed their land on what they thought was the best place to view their competitors.

Off in the back, away from the peering eyes of the crowds, 4 more individuals were preparing for their run as well. Zach Gilford, Minka Kelly, Taylor Kitsch, & Aimee Teegarden, best known from the hit TV show Friday Night Lights were reunited to tackle the course together.  For the past few weeks, they have teamed up with two of Spartans top competitors to prepare for the battle to come. Spartan Pro Team member Ryan Kent and Elite Obstacle Course Race competitor Rose Wetzel helped get the acting team ready for the course, then made sure to run it with them side by side on the day of the event.  The whole thing was spawned from the minds of the marketing team at the Marriott Rewards.  Yes, like the hotel. So here’s the sales pitch: If you become a member of the Marriott Rewards program, you’ll get 10-20% off your registration for any Spartan Race, receive discount pricing (15% off) for the closest Marriott to the race, free VIP bag check, $5 off coupon for Spartan Gear, free training tips and more. It’s free to sign up, and yes, you can sign up at any race. The program started this year with their first introduction down in Atlanta in March. On June 11th, the Marriott Rewards members had the chance to run the course with the cast of Friday Night Lights and it was fun to watch. I sat down with Zach and Minka prior to the race to see what their preparations were for the run.

Chicago-Spartan-Super-Friday-Night-Lights-Zach-&-Minka Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Marriott Rewards

For Zach, coming “home” to Illinois had it’s ups and downs. “I’ve not been in a Chicago summer in so long…it’s really humid and hot here, which won’t be fun for the race but the flatness will be very appreciated.” With temperatures working their way up to the mid 90’s, the course alone wasn’t the only challenge.

But that didn’t stop Minka from wanting to participate in the event either. When the Marriott Rewards reached out to her, she had two words for them. “It took me no time to answer. I was like: Hell Yes! I was excited.” What about it though made her want to do it? “The physicality of it. The training…I love this kind of stuff. I love adventure, I love getting dirty, I love challenging myself…I love seeing how far I can push myself to see what my body is capable of.”

“I remember back when we shot the pilot, Minka was definitely a girl who likes to get down and dirty.” Zach didn’t seem to have any doubts about her physical ability for the course. “She would go do boxing training while we were doing the pilot. She would come back and her knuckles would be all cut up.” As Spartans, we can all appreciate that. As for the training, that was entirely up to the Pros. “We do whatever he says. Tons of crazy stuff.”

Chicago-Spartan-Super-Friday-Night-Lights-Rope-Climb Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Marriott Rewards

“I had to do push ups on my finger tips,” Minka recalls, “which strengthens your grip strength…so I could pull myself up the rope. I’ve never been able to do that.” But it’s not all in the arms. Or as Zach says, “It’s all about the foothold, it makes a HUGE difference. Cause even if you’re strong enough to get yourself up there, by the time you need to hold yourself up and hit this bell…it’s difficult.”

“The monkey bars I know are going to be a challenge for me…carrying your own weight as a child playing on the monkey bars is very different from carrying your own weight as an adult.” Even though Minka is petite, she’s spot on. We used to do this sh*t for fun, now we have to train for it.

As for diet, how did that change? “I just was hungrier. I was working out so hard that I was just eating and eating and eating. But it was more guilt free, cause I know I earned this.”

Chicago-Super-Spartan-Fire Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Marriott Rewards

But all of it was worth it for the two of them. Some say we’re crazy for doing these races, to that Minka says “You’re right. I’m okay with that. What’s fun about being not crazy?” THAT is what Spartans are all about. A little bit of fun, mixed with a little bit of crazy. But much like the Marriott Rewards program (see what I did there?) this is not an exclusive club. Anyone can join and, at least in the opinion of these Spartans, everyone should. “In training for this, I’ve learned, of course, there are things I can’t do. But once I push myself past that point of discomfort, that’s where you grow and that’s where you realize maybe I can do this. That feeling is addicting.”

“Just do it.” Zach’s statement is to the point. “Honestly, just give it a try. Worst case, you walk part of the course. But you can finish if you want to. Just work for it.”

Chicago-Spartan-Super-Friday-Night-Lights Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Marriott Rewards

The course itself didn’t hold back. Zach, Minka and thousands of other athletes took on the 8.5 mile journey with the sun beating down and getting hotter minute by minute. You’d seem to have no idea that the night before the area was hit by heavy rains (which redirected parking to an off-site location). That is, until the mud started taking over. Now, we all expect the mud to show up at some point (or at least we should, I mean seriously people, stop wearing your Air Jordans or Converse or no-grip running shoes or hiking boots, you only slow yourself and those behind you. I swear by my Icebugs!), but this mud seemed to drag on for miles. Shoes were abandoned, lines got long, and the sun was only getting worse.

Chicago-Spartan-Super-Mud

It started to take its toll on all the runners, especially in the afternoon. The streams and creeks were a welcomed part of the course, but the Spartan organizers did a great job making sure everyone was hydrated. Water stations were placed every 1.5-2 miles and runners were allowed to fill up their hydration packs. God knows we needed it.

Chicago-Spartan-Super-Sun

Unlike previous Spartan locations, this course was flatter.  Normally, you’d have someone complaining that “it was too easy,” but that wasn’t the case for Chicago. The heat and mud made the flat terrain a welcome addition.  Around mile 7, the heat really started to take it’s toll. More runners were walking, stopping, cramping or taking their time with the last few obstacles that seemed to be loaded up at the end. Atlas Carry, Rope Climb, Hercules Hoist, Spear Throw…and for some that meant a lot of burpees in a row in (did I mention) the heat.

With athletes pushing themselves to the limit both physically and mentally, the mid-day and afternoon waves had to deal with an unintended obstacle: spectators. It took the onlookers a little bit of time to realize, they could walk around the course and try and watch their loved ones mid-race. The negative was that they didn’t always stay out of the way. Runners would often turn a corner to find a small family or group of people right in the middle of the course runway, having to stop or dodge passers-by.

Chicago-Spartan-Super-Spectators

But at the end of the day, we’re all Spartans and we all know Spartan Law: No Retreat, No Surrender. And once again, Chicago proved that we’ve become a tight community of athletes that regardless of the ability, have grit. Oh, and to the cast of Friday Night Lights: You may not know it yet, but you’re addicted. Welcome to the family.

Photo Credits: as noted, Katie Leiva and Spartan Race

Spartan Race Las Vegas Super 2016 Review

Spartan entrance from aboveThe Las Vegas Spartan Super was held on March 19th at Mesquite MX/Haven Ranch in Littlefield, Arizona. This was a new location for Spartan Race, and though farther away from Las Vegas itself, well worth the drive. This location was set in a hilly region perfect for off-road vehicles. I know those who went to the Las Vegas Super last year remember how bad that location was: an 8-mile desert run with almost all the obstacles at the very end. That was also my first Spartan Super and made me worried about this year.Spartans Dustin DoroughRight from the start, this race was one of the best Spartans I have had the pleasure to run in. I got there early so the parking and registration were smooth and painless. The energy was high and positive from a fantastic Spartan send off by Dustin Dorough, one of the best in the business.The race started out with Hurdles , O.U.T. , and a mile later the Atlas Carry and Memory Banner. The main obstacle for the first couple miles, and for a large part throughout the run, was soft sand terrain, even though we were expecting a more muddy area. The first of the few water obstacles we came across was a pleasant 3/4 mile hike up the river starting at mile 1 to, of course, more soft sand. This sand made up for other missing terrain and I found it challenging enough since there are not many places to beach run in Las Vegas. The only problem with this area of the obstacles was that the volunteers were telling people to only do 5 burpees…. no really 5! Not cool, but I’m sure that won’t happen at other races.Spartan mile one Mile 2 had more sand and then came the 6ft wall, Spear Throw (one of my favorites), and the Stairway to Sparta. I actually had a hard time remembering some obstacles because this year I found them so much easier with proper training. Mile 3 found the Inverted wall, Monkey Bars, and the 7ft wall. This was the easiest Inverted wall I have ever done with no mud and great grips on the cross beams, chalk it up to training at a climbing gym. The Monkey bars were fun and alternating heights, which made for a more challenging obstacle. Mile 4 – 6 were evenly spaced with the Plate Drag, Vertical Cargo Net, Z Wall, and 8ft Wall.  I was a bit discouraged by the lack of cameras for the first 2 thirds of the race, as well as lack of water or mud obstacles from mile 2 to about mile 7, which I really started to notice about this point. The next obstacle, for instance, the Slip Wall, was dry with a nice dry ditch in front of it. No Photographers is why I can’t find pictures of these obstacles. I did have fun teaching others to do the obstacles and noticed the terrain was a very pleasant flat grassy field.Spartan cargo net distant shotAt mile 6 is where it starts to get interesting with the Memory test, A-Frame Cargo, and Sandbag Carry.  At this point, the course became hills and rocky terrain typical for the region and perfectly timed to introduce some serious leg work and mental focus. Here is also where we have our first camera on the downhill run from the sandbags.  Now the home stretch from mile 7 on and the hardest obstacles of the race starting with a new obstacle – VERY large tractor tires going up the beginning of the large hill adding to the terrain and difficulty before the barbwire crawl.Spartan Tractor Tire HillThe Barbwire crawl was found both at the top of this impressive hill and then at the bottom. The second Barbwire Crawl was watered down some for a pleasant cooling mud. This is the beginning of the mud.spartan barbwire crawl topSpartan Barbwire round 2Then came the Rolling Mud with multiple pits to get dunked in as well as a Dunk Wall. If you were wanting water obstacles, this is where they were found. Of course, the mud happens before the Bucket Brigade and the Multi-rig, which makes this a high burpee zone. The Multi-rig was especially hard following the mud.Spartan Bucket Brigade The arms are feeling fatigued and up comes the Tyrolean Traverse. A dry one but still very fun right before the rope climb. I did notice that a few of the ropes were too low to the ground, which makes it more like a rope climb of itself. At least here you can see the remnants of the mud from earlier.Spartan Tyrolean TraverseI was happy there were dry ropes for both the Tyrolean and the Rop Climb, but a part of me wanted a water pit under them for difficulty and a good rope swing after, though no Rope Swing this time around. The Hercules Hoist was the final obstacle before the Fire Jump and I have to say, the guy running the Burpee Zone for that one was right on, nobody got away with anything – which is the way it should be.Spartan Fire JumpOverall I loved this Spartan Race event, not only the location but the course itself. I found it challenging and yet doable by even a beginner. The Staff was very efficient and hard working with many aid stations and positive attitudes all the way through.  Many people started having the normal physical issues that start to happen around mile 6. The right training and practicing on many different terrains and courses was why I found this to be a fun race and just challenging enough. Recently coming back from an injury, I wanted to take it easy and help others. If you come prepared and have proper hydration and fuel for the duration, any race can be accomplished. Believe in yourself and Spartan Up!Spartan Las Vegas by Tripp Capitan

medals by mike colbum

Photo Credits: Jeremy Lampkin, Alena Dawn, Mike Colburn, Tripp Captain, and Ade Ade 

Spartan Race – New Jersey Super 2015 – Race Review

Welcome to the Spartan Race New Jersey Super 2015!  Welcome to HILLS!  Welcome to TIRED LEGS!  Welcome to SMILES and TEARS at the finish line. For many people in the Tri-State area, this is one of the yearly races that is a true test of determination, courage, and athletic ability. In my experience, it is a bit emotional. A lot of people in the area come from doing the Tuxedo Park Spartan Sprint to the New Jersey Super, since the venue is only about thirty minutes from that race venue, and its very close to the border óf New Jersey and New York. For many beginners, this is the first time they are running a difficult and lengthy distance. On average, the race takes about three hours to complete. This year was no different. Overall, this year was a challenge against the mountain and against self.

THE VENUE

Spartan Race - Pig Roast at NJ SuperLike years past, the New Jersey Spartan Super was held at Mountain Creek in Vernon, New Jersey. This has been the site of the New Jersey Super for the last few years and is overall a great venue for an obstacle course race.

THE FESTIVAL
If you came for just the race and left, you definitely missed out on a lot fun attractions in the festival area. There was a new and shiny merchandise store. It’s presentation was a lot nicer than the tent that has the merch just hanging up. It looked a lot more professional and more accessible. Plus, there was a lot of Reebok Spartan merch that I have not seen at previous races. If you are looking for that 2x Trifecta hoodie, you came to the right place. If shopping wasn’t your thing, you could always play on the rig. While waiting for friends and family to finish the course, you could “hang” for a bit or practice your rope climb. I saw a lot of kids playing on it and swinging from bar to bar better than some of the athletes (I kid though)! You had more traditional areas such as the finisher shirt pick up, main stage, podium, and Panasonic area where you could film yourself in a 2 second video slowed to the time of about 15 seconds. And what Spartan Race in New York would not be complete without the epic pig roast (see picture above)! Truly, a Spartan’s appetite was present at this race.

 

Kid on RigTHE OBSTACLES (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly)
There were A LOT of obstacles on the course and perhaps many of them you know. Rather than go into each obstacle on the course, I narrowed it down to my top ten picks including challenging obstacles (those of which may have been near other ones to make it harder aka dunk wall), different obstacles (those that may not be on the usual course), and easy obstacles. Before I get to that, I definitely want to give a shout out to the amazing team who decided to make the course more creative and pile burpees upon burpees on many participants. I also want to say that the course was a lot tougher according to a bunch of participants I spoke to, mainly due to the steep incline for the first half of the race and the steep incline of the second half of the race in addition to the line of obstacles set up in their path.

  1. Swim – I have to start with this one because it was a joke of an obstacle. It may have been from the scare of a storm in the area but rather than an actual swim across the lake that they normally do, they just had people walk or run through the shallow, knee-deep portion. It took literally thirty seconds to cross and continue uphill.
  2. Walls featuring Rolling Mud + Dunk Wall – Definitely a pace killer, this combination of obstacles slowed a large group of runners down since they were right next to each other. The runners had wet hands and if you weren’t a 6-foot giant, then you really had to focus on gripping the top of the 6-, 8-, and 10-foot walls to get over.
  3. Monkey Bars – Another killer of Spartans, this was an obstacle that ended with a lot of burpees. Because of the water from previous participants and the weather, there were many slips, falls, and splats on this obstacle.
  4. Bucket Brigade – Everybody’s favorite obstacle made an appearance at this race. If memory serves, it was in the same place as the previous year but made higher.
  5. Rope Climb – A traditional obstacle at Spartan Races, the rope climb looked to be a challenge. You had a choice of knotted or straight climbs. For elite, you had to use the straight rope climb.
  6. Hay Wall – This one was not necessarily tough, but it was set before a steep incline. Once you jumped over the four feet of hay, you better have hoped you stretched your legs well enough.
  7. Sandbag Carry – Another hike up the mountainside with either a 40lb trademark sandbag for men or 20lb bag for women.
  8. Log Carry – Surprisingly short and easy if you ask me.
  9. Downhill Barbed Wire – A bit different than what I am used to; people were forced to crawl downhill toward the finish line under the barbed wire. For me, it was the first time, and I thought it was pretty easy, with the exception of pointed rocks bruising every part of my body that wasn’t already bruised from the rest of the race.
  10. Rig – The last obstacle before the fire jump and finish. If you defeated this monster, you are definitely on your way to being an elite athlete.

Spartan Barbed Wire Crawl.

Spartan T-Wall NJ.

 

Elite FinishersOverall, I liked the race – with the exception of twisting my ankle halfway through. Some words of advice though, WORK ON GRIP! It helps a lot with obstacles that may have slip. And run incline if you have some hills near you. If you don’t, find some stairs.

Grade: A

All pictures by Alexander Sallahian.