Malaysia Spartan Sprint – Kicking off the Racing Year in Asia

While the USA is seeing freezing race temperatures, most of Asia is still sweltering in 95 degree heat, which was certainly the case for the Malaysian Spartan Sprint on March 12. The first race of the season saw a strong turn out with competitors flying in from Singapore, Hong Kong and as far as Abu Dhabi to join the fast-growing obstacle racing community in Malaysia.

As the sun rose, we were told there would be a slight delay in the start times due to a storm the previous evening, and an issue of wild boars and cows knocking over course markers! That announcement set the tone for what was an extremely challenging Sprint course – I use the term ‘Sprint’ loosely, as the race was almost 6 miles in distance.

spartan-malaysia-women-elite

As we set off it started with a set of walls, hurdles, the vertical cargo and then into the jungle for what seemed like a never ending hill climb which continued to the sandbag carry. The terrain was either knee deep mud or uneven trails, and this didn’t let up for the whole course. There were so many river crossings that I lost count in the end, but they were actually a welcome relief from the heat.

The middle part of the race saw a whole heap of obstacles grouped together that were testing people’s stamina and grip strength. The Hercules hoist, a cliff climb, barbed wire crawl, rope climb, Olympus (making its debut in Asia), atlas carry and then rounded off with the spear throw, saw most people hitting the ground for at least 30 burpees.

spartan-malaysia-olympus

Another hilly run followed by a long bucket brigade on a muddy track, and then the end was in sight as you could hear the noise from the race village. A dunk wall, A-frame, more water and then a 200 foot swim which saw victims fall to leg cramps so close to the finish. An unexpected challenging river run against the tide, and on to the dreaded multi-rig which of course saw more people fail than master it.

spartan-race-malaysia-river

I have never been so happy to see a slip wall knowing the fire jump was straight after it.

As I said, a Sprint course like no other, where people were posting times closer to doing the Super distance.

The great thing about obstacle racing in Asia is it seems age is no barrier in participating. Colleen, the woman that won the elite category was only 18 years old and Tess, who came in third in the elite is 47 years old, both inspirational in different ways.

Next in Asia sees a Hong Kong race in April, followed by Singapore in May.

spartan-malaysia-jungle

Photo credits – Raimi Zakaria, Patrick Yap and Ruifeng Seet

Greek Peak Winter Spartan

The first ever Winter Spartan Race on U.S. soil was held March 4th at the Greek Peak Ski Lodge in Cortland, New York. The logistics of the race with start time temperatures around 10 degrees and the wind chill just below zero with light snow were extremely difficult. Registration computers outside were frozen up, literally, and the whole registration process was brought inside causing the whole race to be an hour behind schedule. Spartan told me after the race that they asked the resort numerous times to hold registration inside but were continually told no until there was no other choice. This also caused numerous slight bottlenecks along the race due to people jumping the gate and overcrowding waves. The 3.45-mile course climbed up just under a thousand feet and wound through the ski runs and surrounding forest in typical Spartan fashion. Volunteers were just as frozen as the water at the aid stations and the footing was treacherous at best making this the longest quick sprint I’ve ever raced.

At 9:30am, the first wave of the day finally started off with a dash up one of the ski slopes that had the effect of immediately thinning out the herd of racers before making a right turn away from the festival area and into the surrounding forest. A single lane path of ice led racers down the distance we just raced up until we were presented with our first “hurdle”. Yes, the Spartan 5 foot hurdles were our first obstacle to navigate over before being presented with our first wall to climb. Once up and over, a short jog took us to a short barbed wire crawl on a sheet of ice where the wind was blowing chunks of snow and ice chips right into our faces. Now back on the icy trail, Spartan led us through another short jog through the woods and another wall climb leading up to the Spartan Rig. This was the basic ring only rig and we all were happy about that as the brutal temps had our hands frozen and stiff. The more difficult multi-rig would have been brutal to traverse under these conditions, and I feel Spartan made the right choice only using the rings.

Spartan now led us away from the festival area and ski slopes to more moderate pasture type terrain where the sled drag and carry was located along with the Atlas Stone. The Atlas Stone ended up being one of the tougher obstacles on the day because they were all covered in ice! It was truly humbling trying to get a grip on that sucker. A frozen creek crossing was next up on our way to the bucket brigade along a single path through the prairie type terrain. After dumping our buckets, we were on our way back towards the festival area where the vertical cargo net and rope climb sapped our strength before hitting the Herc Hoist. The frozen ropes seriously tested a racer climbing skills and grip strength. Ice on the rope with frozen hands made this way tougher than usual. The spear throw was next up after a short jog and the strong winds really played tricks with the spear’s accuracy. Now Spartan led us back towards the festival area for an inverted wall climb and then back up the ski slope where the A-Frame cargo climb was set up.

Now climbing our way up the slope, once again Spartan created a unique snow quarter pipe with ropes anchored from the top to help an athlete get to the top. Now athletes were led through the forest where the frozen sandbag carry was located. Up the slope through the woods along a single path filled with ice and downed trees along the way made the climb a tough one. The way descent back down the slope with the sandbag was almost as bad as going up because the footing was so slippery! Now, finally on our way back down towards the festival and the finish Spartan placed a series of icy snow mounds for athletes to climb over before a steep, speedy, and slippery decent down to a very slick slip wall. The normal dunk wall was replaced with a wall over a dugout snow pit where the hardest part was trying to climb out before finally getting to the fire jump and finish where, once I crossed, I promptly slipped and fell on my rear end. First time ever I received my medal while seated.

I consider the first Winter Spartan to be a huge success. After the initial delay described above, I found the course and conditions to be plenty tough. The weather really made the normal Spartan obstacles much more challenging. All the racers I spoke to afterwards agreed that they all had a great time and really enjoyed the course. Hopefully this success will lead to more winter OCR events around the country. My personal view is that OCR is tough, and that’s why we do it. But OCR below zero really will test what you’re made of!


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Train Like a Pro: Rea Kolbl

Rea-Kolbl-Bucket-Carry-MontereyIf you haven’t heard the name Rea Kolbl before, there’s a good chance that will change soon. One of the newest members of the Spartan Pro team, Kolbl has excelled in the early stages of her career.

Because she mostly ran local Spartan races, Kolbl was a virtual unknown at last year’s Golden State Classic in Monterey, one of the five Spartan U.S. Championship races on NBC. So much so, that one of the race referees had asked her to spell her name while she was finishing burpees. Kolbl went on to finish 4th, under a minute from hitting top three in what was her first ever elite race.

Despite being caught off guard by the cold (like many were) at the 2016 Spartan World Championship in Lake Tahoe and having to complete 150 burpees, she still managed a 7th place finish at the site of the 1960 Olympic Games. That included an untimely fall on the descent, one of her typical strengths. “Usually I’m pretty fast on the downhill because trail running is what I do, but I was so cold that I was shivering and couldn’t see the ground at all,” Kolbl recalls.

Rea-Kolbl-Snowy-Mountain Climb

Originally from Slovenia, Kolbl came to the United States almost seven years ago to attend U.C. Berkeley before moving to Stanford, where she is currently a full-time grad student.

Like many other athletes on the team, she’s had to find a healthy balance of work, training and personal time: Working full-time, this means a morning run, a full day of work, then getting in a second training session with her husband, Bunsak. Kolbl attributes him for most of her ability to keep up with training. “He does all the cooking beforehand and all the cleaning and shopping,” she says. “I do dishes to do my part, but I’m definitely lucky from that perspective.”

Having a full schedule is nothing new to her, however. “Being on the gymnastics team when I was younger,” she recounts, “I had like seven hours of practice (every day)…and I still did school full time so there was always a balancing of the two.”

Rea-Kolbl-Fire-Jump-SoCal

This year, keep an eye out for this up and comer as she takes on more of the Spartan U.S. Championship Series races and looks to improve on her finish (and burpee count) at Tahoe. She’s already started 2017 with a bang, winning both the Sprint and Super races at the SoCal event in January.

Below is one of Kolbl’s favorite training sessions. She generally performs it the day after a rowing session, and follows it up with a low impact cardio day. As you’ll see below, the Stairmaster is one of Kolbl’s favorite forms of low-impact cardio. “It really pumps my heartbeat, but it doesn’t really work hard on my knees or ankles,” she explains. The rest of her week includes some training on a track, trail/mountain running and another HIIT session.

Rea-Kolbl-Spartan-SoCal-Sprint-2017

MORNING

RUN
This part should always be done in the morning. Go for a nine-mile run at an increasing pace. The second half of the run should be at maximum sustainable effort. For Kolbl, this consists of a sub-7 minute per mile average pace on a loop that has almost 800 feet of elevation gain.

Rea-Kolbl-Monterey-Sand-Bag

AFTERNOON

PART ONE
20-MINUTE STAIRMASTER CARDIO
Begin at 96 steps per minute. This is usually level eleven. Incrementally increase each level at the following times:

  • 2 Minutes – Increase to 103 steps per minute
  • 5 Minutes – Increase to 110 steps per minute
  • 8 Minutes – Increase to 117 steps per minute
  • 11 Minutes – Increase to 126 steps per minute
  • 14 Minutes – Increase to 133 steps per minute
  • 17 Minutes – Increase to 140 steps per minute

Pro Tip: If a Stairmaster is unavailable, substitute 20 minutes on a rowing machine or exercise bike. Any form of low impact cardio will work.

Rea-Kolbl-Beach-Swing

PART TWO

TABATA
Perform each set of two exercises in alternating fashion, executing 20 seconds of work with 10 seconds of rest. Complete each one four total times so that each set ends up being four minutes long. Rest 30 seconds between each set. Kolbl usually does this part with an elevation mask set at 12,000 feet.

  • Set 1
    • Burpees: If you’re an avid OCR fan, chances are you know what a burpee is. Just in case: Begin in a standing position with your feet together. Touch your hands to the floor and kick your legs back so that you are in a push-up position. Perform a push-up, then bring your feet back up in between your hands and jump straight into the air.
    • Star Jumps: Stand with your feet slightly spread apart and arms at your sides. Bend at the knees and explode up, spreading your arms and legs out. Your body will create a star shape. As you land, bring your arms and legs back in. It’s similar to a jumping jack, except you aren’t landing on the jump out.
  • Set 2 
    • Squat Jumps: Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Squat down and jump up in the air. Land softly.
    • Lunge Jumps/Split-Squat Jumps: Get into a lunge position. Jump up into the air while simultaneously switching legs. You should land so that your front leg is now your back, and back is now front.
      • Writer’s Tip: This one is not fun. If you run out of gas, rather than stopping, modify if you need to. Instead of jumping straight up in the air, bring your back foot up with your front, sending the previously front foot back almost instantly. If you can, still try to ensure each foot is off the ground at the same time (at least a little) during the switch.
  • Set 3 
    • High Knees: Run in place, but make sure you are bringing your knees to at least a 90-degree angle when it leaves the ground.
    • Mountain Climbers: Get into a push-up position. Bring one knee towards your chest and tap your toe on the ground. As that foot returns to its original position, bring the opposite foot up and tap that toe. Be sure your butt does not stick up. Your body should form a straight line from head to toe.
  • Set 4 
    • Back and Forth Frog Jumps: Squat down and bring your hands to the ground in front of you. Jump forward, briefly bringing your hands above your head. Then do the same, but backward.
    • Kettlebell Swings: With a 25-pound dumbbell or kettlebell, stand with your feet at least shoulder width apart. With a slight bend in the knees, hinge at your waist so that your back is parallel to the ground and the weight is between your legs. As you transition into the standing position, thrust your hips forward so your body forms a straight line. Simultaneously swing the weight in front of your chest, while keeping your arms straight.
  • Set 5 
    • Push-ups: Your hands should be at least a little wider than shoulder width and your back should remain straight through the each repetition.
      • Writer’s Tip: If doing a push-up normally hurts your wrists, grab a pair of dumbbells that won’t roll (hex-shaped or adjustable normally).
    • Elbow Plank with Knee to Elbow: Get in a plank position with your elbows touching the ground. Your first set, bring your left leg up to your elbow and back. Alternate to your right on the second set, so that you are doing two total sets per leg
  • Set 6 
    • Russian Twists: Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet touching the ground in front of you. Lean your torso back, while keeping your back straight. It should be roughly 45-degrees off the ground. Straighten your arms and clasp your hands together. Rotate your arms to the right, pause, then back in front of you and to the left.
    • Sit-ups: Lay on the ground with your knees bent and feet touching the ground in front of you. With either your hands across your chest, or touching the side of your head, use your core to lift your torso up to your knees. Return to the starting position.

Rea-Kolbl-Monkey-Bars-Monterey

PART THREE

GRIP STRENGTH
Perform one minute of jump rope. Once finished, immediately dead hang from a bar for one minute. Repeat this five times with no rest, totaling ten minutes of work.

Writer’s Tip: As odd as it sounds, jumping rope may be a bit difficult if you aren’t used to it. If you can’t quite get the hang of it, just keep going. You’ll find that you’re rope jumping will improve each round!

Writer’s Note: Thank you to Rea for sharing her favorite workout. You can follow her on Instagram and catch her training at King’s Camps and Fitness.

Photo Credit: Rea Kolbl, Spartan Race

Check out past Train Like a Pro articles:

Spartan Race SoCal Super 2017 – New Venue, New Obstacles, New Medals!

The first Spartan Race of the year is in the book, in a “SUPER” big way.

The race was held at Lake Elsinore, about 20 miles north of last year’s venue in Temecula.  It rained extensively the week before and everything was green and fresh. The rain also made for some wet, muddy conditions, which is the way I like it, but the weather on race day was perfect, bringing sun and comfortable temperatures.

The festival area was electric. It was the first race of the year and you could feel the energy and excitement in the air. For many, it was the first race after the off season. It had been three months since my last race, and I know I had been waiting for this day like it was Christmas, and it was finally here!

I watched the Elites line up and take off. They are so fast and it just amazes me every time I see them.

Spartan Race - SoCal Women's Start

As 8:15 approached, I knew it was time to head to the starting corral. This was my first race running in the competitive heat. I was nervous, excited, and ready to take it on. Aroo, Aroo, Aroo…and we were off!

The course was flat and fast! We got the walls out of the way right off the start.

Spartan SoCal - Walls

We ran through the trails and dry shrubs. I did a terrific superman impression when my foot caught a root and propelled me into a flying crash. I’m sure there should have been points for style! All was good. I dusted myself off and rounded the corner and came to the first of many water crossings.

Spartan SoCal - Mud

The water was so cold! My feet would become numb during each crossing. There was usually a break between waterways with an obstacle or two. It was just long enough for my feet to thaw out and feel the dirt and rocks in my shoes. Then, back in the water and numb feet again.

Spartan SoCal - Water Crossing

We came up to the Z-Wall. One of my favorites. My buddy did great and I was able to get across too.

Spartan SoCal - Z Wall

Next, came one of the new obstacles. TWISTER!!! The bars have rungs that are offset. As you grab one, the entire bar twists, and so it goes, all the way to the end, until you hit the bell. I watched a couple of people to study their technique. Some went across sideways, but the ones who went hand over hand seemed to have the most success. I made it five or six rungs before falling. I can’t wait to try this again.

Spartan SoCal - NEW OBSTACLE - Twister

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one trying to get the hang of it. There were a lot of burpees going on! 30 burpees complete and I was off to the next obstacle. Oh yes….more water along the way.

Tyrolean Traverse is one of my other favorites. I’m glad they kept this one. I keep trying different ways of traversing but still find that the hand over hand and leg over leg works best for me.

Another new obstacle came along called Bender. It’s arched back, a little like an inverted wall, and the first bar is maybe 6 feet from the ground. This one looked so intimidating when I was standing under it, but once I got going it wasn’t bad at all. It was a little awkward on the transition at the top, but it was a fun new challenge and one I’m looking forward to again.

Spartan SoCal - NEW OBSTACLE - BenderThe gal on the right cruised right up and over. She rocked this obstacle!!

Spartan SoCal - Breezing over Bender

The standard Multi-Rig didn’t make an appearance, but this one did. Rings, rings, rings!! I really liked it. They are grippier than the standard metal rings. It definitely tested your grip strength, but I liked having a more secure hold while going across.

Spartan SoCal - Rig of Rings

The bucket brigade made a very flat loop, which is unusual for this obstacle. I made it around the loop without stopping and moved on to the monkey bars. Next was the spear throw. I’ve only made it one other time in a race. I threw it and was so happy that it stuck! No burpees! Then, came the rope climb. That’s usually one of my best obstacles, but the rope was very different. Instead of feeling fibrous, it was slick like blond hair and much thinner. I got half ways up and wasn’t confident about my grip. I didn’t want wounded palms, so I jumped down. Time for my second set of burpees.

One more semi-new obstacle was the tire flip. Spartan has had several races with tire flips, but these were special. The women’s tires weighed 200 lbs. and the men’s were 400 lbs. Much heavier and flat on the bottom so very hard to get a hold of. You flipped it one way and then back a second time.

Spartan SoCal - Tire Flip

We wound our way around the course and came to the Herc Hoist. I like this obstacle. The bags felt good and went up fairly easy. Next were the rolling mud hills and the dunk wall. I’m a cold wimp and must have had a certain look on my face. One fella came over and said he was going to go under with me at the same time. He counted to three and we submerged. The water wasn’t actually as cold as the earlier water crossings, which I was very grateful for.

Spartan SoCal - Dunkwall

The slip wall and fire jump were next! My buddy and I stopped and high-fived and then remembered we still needed to cross the finish line. We high tailed it the last few feet and completed our first race of the year, the SoCal Spartan Super!

I had to go to the chalk wall and scribble my name and that was it. First race of the year in the books!

I like the new shirts. The neck seemed a little tight last year but this one is comfortable and fits true to size. I thought I had it on backwards at first as the circle is in the back instead of the front. Once I saw others with it the same way I was reassured.

Spartan Race - 2017 Super Finisher T Front

Spartan Race - 2017 Super Finisher T Back
The medals are great. They remind me of an old Incan coin. They are heavy and rugged. Definitely a winner in my opinion.

Spartan Race - 2017 Super Medal FrontSpartan Race - 2017 Super Medal Back

Photo credit: Kim Collings

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Train Like A Pro: Ryan Atkins

Podium-At-Palmerton-2016

Few athletes dominate their sports the way Ryan Atkins has dominated OCR in recent years. He has emerged victorious at World’s Toughest Mudder four years running, most recently completing 105 miles with partner Jon Albon, and Atkins also finished on top in the first ever Spartan U.S. Championship Series.

At the Spartan World Championships, he has finished in second place three years in a row, missing first place by just 00:27 in 2016. The fourth main event in the sport, OCR World Championships, hasn’t slowed him down either. He won the 3k short course this year and finished second in the 15k Classic.

Ryan-Atkins-and-Suunto-in-the-snow

If you follow him on social media, you may not be surprised at all of the accolades. Atkins is an avid climber, runner, mountain biker and skier, not to mention proud Alaskan Malamute owner. A typical winter day for him includes a morning ski, fatbike ride and even a snowshoe hike or run for up to three hours. That’s usually followed by an afternoon climb or workout.

Below is one of those afternoon workouts, with climbing included. Atkins will generally warm up with four or five easy bouldering routes. 

Ryan-Atkins-in-Yosemite

Do part one followed by part two and repeat four times.

PART ONE

BOULDERING 

Boulder near your limit for approximately 20 minutes. If you are unable to find a place to climb, perform the following six exercises as a circuit, doing 30 seconds of work followed by 30 seconds of rest. Repeat four times:

Dead hang – Plank – Pinch-plate carries – Kettlebell swings – Pull-ups – Wall sit

Pro Tip: Try to avoid using chalk to make previously easy routes seem harder, or to simulate wet hands in a race. After you have warmed up, go hard for the bouldering session. You’ll want to rest about one minute between difficult routes.

Writer’s Note: I don’t normally have easy access to a rock wall or mountain, so I opted to do the 30/30 circuit. I also used my homemade hang board, at times, to feel a little more like I was actually climbing. To mimic bouldering, I placed a chair a bit behind the board so that my toes were the only part of my feet touching. I then worked back and forth on the board, sometimes moving my feet from the left side to right side of the chair. Because I added this in, I did the circuit three times as not to over-exhaust my muscles and increase injury risk. 

Ryan-Atkins-Palmerton-Crawl

PART TWO

WEIGHT ROOM CIRCUIT

  • Wall Balls (20 reps): Stand in front of a wall and assume a squat position. When you come up, throw a medicine ball up in the air towards a target above you on the wall. As you catch the ball, return to the squat position. Atkins uses a 35-lb medicine ball.
  • Mountain Climbers (40 reps): Get into a pushup position. Bring one knee towards your chest and tap your toe on the ground. As that foot returns to its original position, bring the opposite foot up and tap that toe. That is one rep. Be sure your butt does not stick up. Your body should form a straight line from head to toe.
  • Side Planks (2 minutes per side): Lay on the ground facing sideways, with your hand, forearm and elbow on the ground. Your elbow should be under your shoulder. The only other part of your body touching the ground will be your bottom foot. Raise your body up so that you form a straight line and hold that position. Your free hand can either be on your hip or in the air. Focus on not allowing your hip to dip down toward the ground. 
    • Writer’s Tip: Use a yoga mat to make it more comfortable for your supporting arm.
  • Toes To Bar (8 reps): Grab a bar with an overhand grip, your hands shoulder-width apart. Engage your core and bring your toes to the bar. Be sure to perform each rep slow and controlled. Your body shouldn’t swing at all when you come into the lower position.
  • Weighted BOSU Ball Lunge Squat (20 reps per leg): With a BOSU ball under each leg, stand in a lunge position. Hold weights at each side or at your shoulders. Lower until your back knee almost touches the ground, making sure your front knee doesn’t pass over the toes. Return to the starting position. Atkins uses 20 lbs. 
    • Writer’s Tip: If you struggle too much to have a BOSU under each foot, start off with one and work your way up. 
  • Weighted Goblet Squat (20 reps): Hold a kettlebell or one end of a dumbbell at your chest, with your palms facing in. Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. Squat down, retaining a straight back, and return up to the start position. Atkins uses 30 lbs.
  • Calf Raises (30 reps per leg): Stand on one leg, either flat on the ground or on a step with only the toes and ball of the foot touching. Raise your heel up, then lower it back into the starting position. 

Pro Purpose: Part two is a great way to allow your arms to recover from climbing. It also gives you some good leg and core strength training.

Pro Tip: Pace yourself during the strength section. The main purpose is to rest your arms and build functional, injury-free fitness.

Ryan-Atkins-Log-Hop

Writer’s Note: Thank you to Ryan for sharing this workout. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram. For more workouts from Ryan, check out his Obstacle Course Training (a joint venture with Jon Albon and Matt Murphy): they are offering 20% off for the holidays.

Photo Credit: Ryan Atkins, Spartan Race, the author

Check out past Train Like A Pro articles:

Jacksonville Spartan Weekend 2016

Jacksonville Super/Sprint weekend finished off the 2016 Spartan season this year in Bunnell, Florida outside of Jacksonville.  A vast and remarkably lively crowd of racers showed up, including loaded elite heats with several familiar faces.  

jacksonville-super-high-five

Saturday and Sunday races both kicked off with a flag ceremony followed by our national anthem performed by yours truly, and the energetic Robert Lyday with his infamous pre-race speech!   

jacksonville-super-robert-lyday 

Both the Super and Sprint started with the elite men, chased down by the elite women, then the competitive heat, followed by the open heats for the day.  Elite athletes battled for the top 3 podium places.

jacksonville-spartan-podium-finishers

This course was designed by Norm Koch and he was present at both races. This flat, fast course allowed for no mistakes if athletes wanted to finish on top.  Race designer, Norm Koch, made great use of this flat land and undoubtedly challenged athletes.  Signs of Norm Koch could be seen everywhere!  

jacksonville-spartan-race-trail-run

Elite masters athlete, Kevin Donoghue who placed 3rd in the Super masters and 1st in the Sprint masters, stated,

Well, it was the flattest/ fastest Spartan I’ve ever done.  I set a PR for a Super by 3 minutes due to the incredibly low 22 feet of elevation gain!  Having such a unique course gave it the feel of a stadium race. That in regards to importance of not having a penalty.  One mistake and you would fall hopelessly behind!  It was a step on the gas and go as fast as possible for the entirety of both the Super and Sprint.  But it was by no means easy terrain.  Constant changes from loose sand, to hard baked sand, to thick mud, broken up by dense vegetation kept you on your toes enough to keep it interesting.”

The Super course was definitely a course for the seasoned runner, lots of running through ATV trails, creeks, and woods, mixed up with obstacles for the most part a couple at a time.  The race started off with 2 hurdles in an attempt to slow down some of the runners.  Next, racers climbed over a 6’ wall and a 7’ wall, followed by a very early spear throw, leaving many racers completing burpees while the lucky ones continued on.  

The rugged terrain and lush vegetation made it difficult for footing and Spartan Race, mapped out a challenging course on the flat terrain.  

jacksonville-spartan-race-mud

Ryan Kent, first place elite finisher at both the Super and the Sprint said this about the course:

“When you think Florida, you think flat. But the Palm Coast venue was anything but easy. Flat running becomes quite challenging when you add sand, mud, and Florida jungle to it. I was really impressed with what Spartan was able to do with that place. The terrain was always changing, and they did a phenomenal job using natural obstacles. The last mile was super fun, too. They packed a ton of my favorite obstacles in the final 2 kilometers, such as the Bucket Brigade, Herc Hoist, and Multi Rig. That Barbed Wire Crawl on Sunday sucked, though. I came out of that thing covered from head to toe in dirt and mud. Thank the lord for that Dunk Wall just before the finish. I’ve raced all over the country, and this was definitely one of the more unique venues I’ve been to.”

After the spear throw racers tackled a sandbag carry, the 8 foot wall, Z wall, atlas carry, and finally the Tyrolean Traverse.  These obstacles were the ones removed from the Sprint on Sunday.  The course continued through the mangled brush and large tropical roots, where racer’s had to be very careful where they stepped.  As racer’s turned the corner, the much loved, Bucket Brigade was in sight!  By Bucket Brigade standards, this was a remarkably mild one.  Racers walked through sand and some thin mud and climbed a few small mounds at a short distance of maybe 200 meters.  

jacksonville-spartan-race-bucket-carry

Next on the list was the Hercules Hoist, followed by an extremely long and low barbed wire crawl, and an immediate Stairway to Sparta.  Runner’s once again, entered narrow trails with complicated footing.  As runner’s emerged from the woods,  the infamous Multi-Rig appeared.  This obstacle was in view of spectators, ninja skills were tested to the max,  and the burpee zone was full of racers!  

jacksonville-spartan-race-rig

Upper body muscles were getting taxed at this point and the next two obstacles, the rope climb and cargo net, pushed racers close to muscle exhaustion.

jacksonville-spartan-race-rope-climb

 Racer’s once again, entered back into the brush of the Florida woods on a trail run, before winding up in another spectator friendly series of final obstacles.  These included the monkey bars, muddy trenches, slip wall, and the final fire jump to the finish.   

jacksonville-spartan-race-trenches

Athletes were awarded with the 2016 Spartan medals by a very friendly volunteer crew.

jacksonville-spartan-race-finish

Aside the actual course, Spartan Race impressed me with a larger than normal festival area.  They also had local food trucks selling food, rather than having their own.  This was a great marketing move, focus on what you do best Spartan Race, and contract out the other stuff.  

jacksonville-spartan-race-food-truck

Spartan also included a kids race of various shorter distances and had a nice turnout of kid athletes in attendance, making this experience a nice family atmosphere for athletes of all ages.

jacksonville-spartan-race-kids-race

The parking was a bit of an organized frustration.  Racers that paid extra to park in the VIP lot, found themselves walking near a mile to the festival area, meanwhile being passed by shuttle buses from the economy lot.  The rest of the racers parked in an offsite lot where they were shuttled to the festival area.  Talking with Spartan staff, venues are all unique  in terms of size and capacity and fitting that many racers into a small area is a complicated art.  Spartan Race did the best they could with the venue they had.  

jacksonville-spartan-race-racers

All in all, Jacksonville Spartan weekend was a hit for racers.  Norm Koch made great use of the flat land to provide racers with an excellent, yet challenging obstacle race.  The Spartan season in Florida ended on a high note and racers were satisfied with their experience.  People from all over flew or drove to Florida to experience the last race of the year.