A Day at the Ball Park – Spartan Stadium Series AT&T Park Sprint Review

Take Me Out to the Ball Park


AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Stadium-View

Home of Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants, AT&T Park is situated in downtown San Francisco right on the San Francisco Bay with a beautiful view overlooking the water. This view was highlighted from the top of the rope climb; located in the stands above right field which overlooks McCovey Cove. Fun fact: home runs hit into “The Cove” are known, unsurprisingly, as “splash hits.”

AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Rope-Climb

This was my first Spartan Stadium Race, but I had done my research beforehand as well as watched the Spartan live stream that morning. I felt prepared and honestly, most of the reviews that I had read of the Spartan Stadium Race Series indicated that they were the easiest of all Spartan race types.

This was an interesting race for me. It was the first race where going as fast as I could wasn’t my goal. My ultimate goal was to help a first time Spartan, and good friend, not only complete the course but actually enjoy himself. Running with my friend allowed me to really take in the venue and focus on how this race was laid out. This gave me a unique perspective on the course design.

Batting OrderAT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Obstacle-List

From my perspective, I thought it was a fast and furious course with few potential hang-ups. Once the Spearman was completed it was essentially a time trial for the rest of the course.

From the other perspective, and the focus of this article, I saw a course designed to exhaust untrained/new racers. Having the Spearman (the most failed obstacle) as the 2nd obstacle on the course, it was almost guaranteed that anyone who was not prepared for this race was going to be pumping out 30 burpees early on. Shortly after the Spearman, there were multiple low crawls up an incline and then the Z-Wall. For someone unpracticed in grip strength and balance, the Z-Wall can be a difficult obstacle. For these people, they are looking at 60 potential burpees within the first 5 obstacles.

The Z-Wall was followed by more stairs and then 20 slam balls before you could move on. While the slam balls aren’t difficult from a technique perspective, it really ramps up the heart rate. Moving on from the slam balls there were more low crawls followed by low crawls, and once again… Low crawls. It seriously felt as if we were going to low crawl from the very bottom of the stadium to the top (and we may have). Once we made it through all the low crawls we just had to clear the 8-foot wall before the sandbag carry.

Foul Ball 

In my opinion, the sandbag carry, which was really a Spartan pancake, was by far the most difficult obstacle in this race. Not because of weight or distance or any actual factor relating to the obstacle, but because of the DISGUSTING stench of the sandbags. These things smelt rancid. Even as I approached the sandbag carry I could smell them from a good ten yards away. At first, I thought I had come upon a group of Spartans that did not believe in personal hygiene, but I could not have been more wrong. The carry was only a short route and yet nobody wanted those things anywhere close to their body. That scent attached itself to any body part or piece of clothing that it came in contact with. I do not know what Spartan did to make them smell so terrible, but there were people at the end of this struggle that were on the verge of vomiting.

Once everyone’s stomach settled from the smell of the sandbags, we did some more stairs and approached the box jump obstacle. This was another obstacle that wasn’t necessarily difficult in terms of strategy, but rather conditioning. My one issue with this obstacle was the lack of coordination between volunteers. Some volunteers would tell Spartans to stand straight up after jumping on the box while other volunteers just let people do it however they wanted.

Seventh Inning Stretch 

Up and down some more stairs (it’s a Stadium Sprint – shocker, right?) and there was the rope climb. Really the only reason to discuss this obstacle was the view. I finished my rope climb quickly, but my friend was unable to make it to the top and had to do his burpees. Being the good friend that I am, I enjoyed the view while he did all his burpees. I actually did offer to do some for him, but he wanted to do it all on his own no matter how long it took, which definitely earned him added respect from me.

AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Assault-Bike

After a couple of staple Spartan obstacles – the Atlas carry and Herc hoist – there was a brand new obstacle: the assault bike. This was another take your heart rate through the roof type of obstacle. Burn 10 calories and then move on. Simple enough, but being so close to the end of the course, a lot of people were already exhausted. Right around the corner from the assault bike was the jump rope. 20 revolutions to advance. The only caveat being that you had to have an exercise band wrapped around your ankles. This was more of a nuisance than any real added difficulty.

AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Multi-Rig

The Multi Rig was next and turned out to be a tricky obstacle due to the fact that the rings/baseballs were hanging precariously low to the padding. Being 6’2” myself and my friend being 6’3”, this made things more difficult for us and it was crucial to keep our knees up and arms bent in order to complete this obstacle.

Sliding Into Home Plate

There were only a few more obstacles left to finish the race: the A-frame cargo, some military hurdles, a couple walls and then the gladiator. I have only been doing Spartan races for a couple of years now, but I have read that they used to have actually “gladiators” at the end of a race that you had to get past. Unfortunately, now they just have some punching bags hanging from a structure that you need to run through.

AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Hurdles

Going back to my perspective, I found the course to really be too easy. I completed the race burpee free, and I didn’t feel like there were any true challenges. With that being said, I did enjoy it and would love to do another Spartan Stadium Race. Plus, the medals are really cool.

I did regret not being able to run the course as fast as I could. In hindsight, I could have run it earlier in the day and then run again with my friend. More importantl, though, I was able to introduce another person to Spartan races and he is already talking about signing up for his next race! No matter what time I could have run on my own, I consider this a far better result.

AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Medals

Spartan Seattle Beast 2017

On Saturday, September 16, 2017, I ran the Spartan Seattle Beast at the Meadow Wood Equestrian Center in Snohomish, WA in an attempt to obtain the last medal for my Spartan Trifecta.

I’ll begin with a little bit about the venue. This is my second time completing this particular Spartan Seattle Beast and I have also done the Spartan Seattle Super once. For the most part, its a really easy location to reach and there is plenty of parking. Upon arrival, you immediately notice multiple horse arenas surrounding the registration area. This is a world-class equestrian show facility and it really does look like it. Not to mention the SkyKomish River creating the Southern border of the property.

Spartan-Seattle-Beast-Map

Before the Race

Registration/checking in was pretty rough. I arrived a little over an hour until the start time of my heat and had to wait almost 30 minutes in line to scan my barcode and get my packet. Wasn’t a big deal for me as I gave myself plenty of time, but there were quite a large number of people that I overheard talking about missing the start of their heat due to the long wait.

Normally, I like to run in the competitive heats, but due to the fact that I was driving up that morning from Portland, I was forced to sign up for the open heat and a late morning start time to avoid a wake-up time in the very early hours of the morning. Thus, I started the race at 11:15 AM.

I wear my Garmin VivoActive HR during the race to keep track of time, distance and elevation. My watch tracked the distance at 12.94 miles. One of the volunteers after the last barbed wire crawl and slip wall stated that the course was 13.6 miles, but the few people I talked to ranged from 12.7 miles to 13.4 miles.

I won’t hit on the all the obstacles as some are self-explanatory and don’t need a recap. The first half of the race differed greatly from last year if I remember correctly. The first mile flew by with only the hurdles and over-wall to get through. Then we hit the river and ran along the shore. Had to do a low crawl through sand and then coming back a low crawl through the water. This part of the race I actually really enjoyed the scenery. Running along the river with trees surrounding us made it a little tough to watch my step on the treachery terrain and not take in the view.

 

Spartan-Seattle-Beast-Start-Line

From there we came back towards the equestrian center. This year the dunk wall was early on made sure no one came away clean. Shortly after the dunk wall, I saw the monkey bars in the near distance. At first, I thought that we were headed straight there and I assumed I would be screwed. My hands were covered in mud and still not dry. I did my best to rub them in some dirt/grass, but luckily I was wrong and we actually did a little loop that allowed my hands to dry prior to the monkey bars.

 

Spartan-Seattle-Beast-Dunk-Wall

Obstacles

About a mile later came my personal nemesis. The Twister. I am not sure why, but in my 2 attempts so far, I haven’t even made it to the second half of the obstacle. Not this time. This time I easily made it through. I had prepared by watching the Spartan “Ring the Bell” video and other videos as well as reading strategy for completing the Twister and it definitely paid off.

After a couple more obstacles, including the atlas carry, I came upon the Z-Wall. I found what appeared to be the shortest line without looking at the path of the blocks and waited. This turned out to be a big mistake. The path that I chose had a grouping of blocks in the middle that had the foot and hand placement only a few feet apart. This may not have been so bad, except I am 6’2” and was essentially bent in half trying to keep my grip and move forward. This ended up being the first (and only) obstacle that I failed. Did my 30 burpees and moved on.

Up until this point, I was feeling really strong and confident. More than half the race was done as I had just passed mile 8 and I was riding the high of completing the Twister for the first time, despite my failure at the Z-Wall. Then things picked up.

We were back into the trails and beginning the really technical climbing. Unfortunately, I got stuck behind some people that weren’t aware that others would be trying to pass (I have no doubt they were trying their best to move quickly for them) and I wasn’t willing to take the risk of knocking them off the trail (some spots would have had a pretty nasty fall). After climbing for what felt like forever, we finally emerged near the festival area for a quick set of 3 obstacles: the new vertical cargo, rope climb and an updated version of the multi-rig. The vertical cargo had a 5 foot (by my estimate) platform that you had to climb on before you got to the cargo net to climb over. The multi-rig started with a straight bar, followed by some rings and then a baseball. It ended with a dismount onto a wooden wall that had spaces in between boards to climb up and over.

Next was the bucket brigade. I had studied the map prior to the race and knew that there wasn’t anything that I considered extremely grip intensive for the remainder of the race. I didn’t worry about saving my grip and just held onto the bottom of the bucket with both hands and moved as quickly as possible. Shortly after this came the sandbag carry. This was a single sandbag and I picked the first one I saw that looked to be evenly distributed and threw it on my shoulder. I believe I only switched shoulders once during the sandbag carry – it was not very long.

Spartan-Seattle-Beast-Bucket-Brigade
The Home Stretch

Following this was more and more trails. For every climb, there was a fairly significant downhill. It was at this point that I started to feel the cramps coming on in my calves and quads. I was prepared though and went through a couple of packets of mustard which shortly cured my cramps. I did my best to at least power walk the ascents if I wasn’t able to run them and then power down the descent. We popped out of the woods at one point to do a barbed wire crawl and the slip wall and then we were right back in. It was after the slip wall that the volunteer told us we were at 11.4 miles of 13.6.

After some more up/downs in the trails, we were finally in the home stretch. Next obstacle was the Spearman. I was somewhat nervous for this as not only is it easy to fail, but I barely managed to succeed at the Spartan Portland Sprint. In Portland, I actually stuck it into the head of the wooden figure. The volunteer told me to move and so I did, but I didn’t know if that technically counted. I did check later and confirmed in the rules that sticking it anywhere on the figure/hay counts as a completed obstacle. This time I aimed a little lower and managed to stick it in the top of the hay bail without issue.
Herc Hoist and Olympus were the next two obstacles. I liked having Olympus near the end. I normally find this obstacle pretty easy, but with the exhaustion of 12 miles on my legs, it made being in that tight position a real struggle.

The final obstacle (no fire jump due to a fire ban in the area) was the ladder climb. Tons of controversy surrounding this obstacle. I personally did not struggle with it, but I easily see how many could. I used a reverse grip with my left arm to hook it around the next rung and then stepped up. I actually found going down more difficult as I got my hands a little too close to my feet and felt like my feet were close to slipping through the ladder a few times. I looked it up afterward and the general consensus seems to be that you are meant to climb up the side of the ladder, rather than the front. Shortly after I completed someone had a pretty bad fall from near the top of the ladder. I have seen the video posted on here recently if you want to search for it.

Finishing The Trifecta

The only thing left after the ladder climb was the sprint to the finish. At the end of the day, I finished in 2 hours 51 minutes with only 1 failed obstacle. Beat my Spartan Seattle Beast time from last year by 30 minutes, and I feel I could definitely have been faster. This concludes the third and final race in my Spartan Trifecta for 2017!

Spartan-Seattle-Beast-Trifecta-GroupSpartan-Seattle-Beast-Trifecta-Medals

Spartan Agoge China 2016 – What the heck was that?

2016spartanagogechinaSpartan Race Endurance is always pushing the envelope.  Agoge 003 was billed as a unique opportunity to test your physical fitness, mental readiness, and to capitalize on a once in a lifetime training regiment around and on top of the Great Wall of China, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. However, it quickly became the proverbial Annual Check-Up at the Doctor’s Office for Agoge Finishers with information regarding our overall health that we were not ready to receive, much less confront.

As soon as news started trickling about the happenings in China, we began questioning Spartan leadership (Krypteia), the event’s goals, and Spartan Founder Joe DeSena’s mental state…and rightfully so. But WE, the Agoge Community, strayed when we began critiquing and passing unfair judgment on these entities without input from all parties involved.

Contrary to some of the past elitist mindsets and conversations I’ve witnessed from our community, we rallied support for those who at that point technically “did not belong among us” due to the absence of an “Official Finisher/Graduate” title or Spartan Delta Wedge which signifies successful completion of the Training program. There were alot of sacrifices made by some to cross waters in pursuit of the perfect Spartan Trifecta Delta in this first year of its existence. Many sold possessions while others were able to raise funds in very creative ways. Time away from loved ones and other invaluable resources were used without the expected return on investment.  We saw a fire but WE brought stockpiles of wood and gasoline to put it out. There were personal attacks and assertions made towards the female Graduates, Joe DeSena, and Krypteia which revealed some underlying issues that perhaps we should individually and/or collectively look into.

Why did WE feel it necessary to judge prematurely? Why do WE think personal attacks are acceptable? Have WE forgotten how valuable and impacting our words are? Have WE truly evolved in the areas of wisdom, discernment, and discretion?

I don’t have definitive answers but I know that growth happens slower for me when I look outward examining others instead of looking inward examining myself. I know that some Agoge 003 China Participants, Finishers, and Graduates are ok with the change in wedge distribution aka MedalGate. And I know that since details of Joe’s 10/23 Agoge conference call were released, WE have been identified as 3 groups of people that get 3 different “its”:

Group 1 was in China and able to accept “it”, meaning whatever came of what may have appeared to be “on the fly” program modification made by Spartan leadership.

Group 2 was also in China and able to accept “it”, meaning Joe acknowledging possible shortcomings, his thoughts, and resolutions offered to satisfy even the unknown variables that may have been overlooked during wedge distribution.

Group 3 are the well rested Stup”its” that had nothing to lose as WE prematurely and negatively Monday morning quarterbacked a situation we heard was happening halfway around the world without letting the dust settle.

I had a friend who would proudly introduce me as a “Death Racer” knowing I DNF’d both of my DR efforts confirming that even in my failures and in your successes WE are inspirational. Many aspire to emulate our efforts as part of their bucket lists but many have been turned off by us because of our words while discussing this event.

WE know that Agoge Participants, Finishers, and Graduates are mostly comprised of fun loving, adventure seeking, and sometimes emotionally unstable, unique, God created beings that find refuge in endurance events for sifting and rediscovering of ourselves.

Unfortunately, we now know that some of us have forgotten what we’ve overcome to get to where we are today and are now just focused on where we are today. Our list of accomplishments has grown but our character flaws remain so, have we evolved? We’ve forgotten that these Spartan programs have challenged and changed some of us, defined and defeated some of us, refined and redeemed some of us. As such, they deserve our sober judgment, respectful correction, and then our endorsements.

I believe that speaking as if our words do not have power is a greater disservice to our communities than not speaking at all.  I also believe that a little humility and a few apologies may be in order.

I hope that our 2017 Annual Check-Up will reveal more of the greatness WE are truly capable of.

“Life’s silver linings mean more than any metal means, more than any meddling, more than heavy medal dreams they can change your frame of reference and transform you into true mettle beings.” Author Unknown…jk, I just made that up 🙂

Joe Desena Talks Spartan Delta

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On today’s show, we talk to Joe Desena about the Spartan Delta.

What is it? Why did he create it? Who is it designed for? How do you earn one?

We attempt to answer all of those questions.

First up, however, is a new feature which will run from now through SuperBowl 50. Carlo Piscitello joins the show to discuss the previous weekend’s NFL playoffs and makes predictions for the upcoming weeks games. Enjoy.

Today’s show is sponsored by

Rugged Maniac – CODE ORM5 gets you $5.00 off registration to all 2016 events. 

Mad Anthony Mud Run-February 27th-Only $50 until February 10th.

Show Notes

The Pis and Cox Show

Spartan Delta

Podcast where Joe launched Agoge

You can use the player below to listen or use the iTunes or Stitcher buttons at the top of this post.