Spartan Race: Miami Sprint Review – 05 Dec 2015

Spartan Race Miami 12052015 - Start Line - Courtesy of ROGUE USAInto the gates of Vista View we marched – Spartans! As famously said by Leonidas, King of Sparta, “It does look like rain”.  Rain would be an understatement. With record breaking rainfall hitting the South Florida area over the past week, Vista View Park, the site of the 2015 Spartan Race Sprint Miami, would be mostly under water by the start of the first Elite wave on Saturday morning.

Vista View Park, located in Davie, FL (not Miami at all), is one of the highest points in South Florida.  Located on 270 acres of man-made hills, Vista View is popular among local runners and cyclists for training but is rarely used as a race venue.  When I heard that Spartan Race was bringing the show to Davie (again, not even close to Miami by the way), I was eager to see how one of the big dogs in racing would take advantage of the unique terrain.

Being based in Miami, I was able to visit the site during the days leading up to the event.  Spartan HQ was wise to get a head start on obstacle setup just before the torrential rains began. I had an opportunity to speak with Woody Peters, a veteran member of the Spartan Staff who has worked alongside the dreaded Course Designer Norm Koch at numerous venues, including Killington, Vermont.  Woody explained that the course designers for the Miami Sprint were pleasantly surprised with Vista View’s elevation changes, which are not typical at Florida races.  The course would measure in at a distance of five miles, “5.1 miles if you go wide on the turns”, according to Woody P.Spartan Race Miami 12052015 - Start Line 1

On Saturday morning, the first of two race days, the Elites waded into a shallow pool of muddy water that doubled as the start line.  What began as a rainless morning would soon become a steady downpour that seemed to be timed perfectly with the pre-race announcements.  As the first wave began, trudging through the standing water would be the first obstacle racers encountered.  This would be repeated frequently throughout the course.  Soon after, the terrain would take its place as the next unexpected challenge.

Having trained numerous times at Vista View, I was quickly surprised by the route that was set by Spartan HQ.  The first mile was without obstacles but traveled up and down one of the largest hills at the park on what appeared to be a newly made gravel path.  This seemed to be the case for most of the course, with the majority of the paths going through high grass and overflowing ditches.

Spartan Race Miami 12052015 - Atlas CarryAlong with fighting off swarms of blood thirsty bees and ants, obstacle placement along the hilly terrain made for a challenging experience.  An example of this was the Atlas Carry. For those not familiar, this involves carrying a 70 lb. (male weight) cement stone approximately 20 yards, then doing five burpees, followed by bringing the stone back to the starting point.  What made this version extra painful was that the 20 yards was through a ditch filled with knee high water.  I’m certain a few of those stones are still at the bottom of that ditch.

Spartan Race Miami 12052015 - ZWalls - Courtesy of Arnel BanawaThe Z Wall, Hercules Hoist, and Spear Throw seemed be the major burpee generators for the Miami Sprint.  The Z Wall, a traverse obstacle with zigzagged walls, had many failing to ring the bell due to the last wall having a sharp angle.  The Hercules Hoist was a testament to how certain obstacles require technique versus strength.  A sandbag that seemingly weighs 500 lbs (actually 50+lbs.) must be raised and lowered using a rope and pulley.  Seasoned Spartan racers took advantage of the metal railing and used leverage to defeat the hoist. Many of the muscle bound newcomers fell short of their goals; I’m certain the mud made technique the winning choice.Spartan Race Miami 12052015 - Hercules Hoist

Spartan Race Miami 12052015 - Spear Throw - Courtesy of Arnel BanawaThe Spear Throw, AKA “Burpee Maker”, once again earned its nickname. Along with bad aim, a new reason was to blame for the countless misses. Due to the standing water from the week of nonstop rain, many competitors (me) didn’t realize that they were standing on the rope connected to the end of the spear. This resulted in throws falling way short of the target. Damn rain!

Spartan Race Miami 12052015 - Courtesy of Maria StackerWith OCR events in Florida frequently using the same venues, Vista View Park was a good change of scenery for the Spartan Sprint Miami. One thing that seemed to stand out at this event was the low turnout.  The weather may have been to blame, but attendance didn’t appear to be as large as at most Spartan Races.  Either way, Spartan Race delivered on bringing South Florida an event that was both challenging to the Elites and enjoyable to the weekend OCR warriors.  Aroo!

Spartan Race Miami 12052015 - ROGUE USA

BattleFrog BFX Miami Review 11/21/2015

BattleFrog Miami Start - Courtesy of BFBefore competitors would take on the wrath of “The Beard” at the BattleFrog Miami race, the first and most painful obstacle at OCR events would have to be defeated. Parking and Packet Pick-Up!  How organized an event will be can usually be determined once you pull into the gate. At this event, both parking and registration were run with efficiency and among the quickest I’ve experienced. Staff had packets ready with minimal delays and were funneling participants into the festival area in no time.

Within the festival area, there were the typical merchandise and food vendors. One thing that stood out was the “Largest Team” Tent.  By the size of the crowds, it seems that BattleFrog Series has been able to keep people coming back for more by promoting group participation yet still keeping competition at the forefront. There Largest Team competition motivates groups of people to take on the course with their friends and families.  With such perks as free bag check and parking, a VIP team tent and a bunch of sexy BF swag, there are plenty of incentives to compete for the title. Team FIT4LYFE walked away with two consecutive wins by rallying over 280 participants.BattleFrog Miami Biggest Team FIT4LYFE - Sandy Tocci

As usual, BattleFrog would bring out some of the big names in OCR for their Elite Waves. For this showing, the female competition would be the one to watch with returning BF winners Corinna Coffin, Claude Godbout and K.K. Stewart. All of who would finish among the Top 3 in that division.

After the Elite Females blazed the start of the course, it was time for BattleFrog Xtreme competitors to head to the start line. For those not familiar with this division, this is where obstacle course racing meets ultra-marathon running. BFX competitors would have to complete as many laps of the 8k (5 mile) course between 8:30AM and 4:00PM (No additional laps could be started after 3:00PM). After each lap, competitors had access to a Pit/Transition Area where refueling and gear adjustments could be done.
Battlefrog Miami Tunnel Rat - Scotty JackmoreFrom the start, the BFX course would mirror that of the Elite’s. A mandatory swim was thrown at us seemingly right out of the gate. This would be a mandatory obstacle for the first lap only. A bypass route was offered for BFX competitors. Out of the six laps that I was able to complete, I opted for this route only on my last lap, mostly because the path wasn’t clearly marked and I didn’t want to waste time finding a volunteer to point me in the right direction. This was the only portion of the course where I thought the path could have been marked better.

The course would have a total of three water crossings. None as long as the first. These obstacles usually had a few people pausing due to fear of swimming. I welcomed the water. For those familiar with running in the scorching Miami heat, multiple water obstacles and the forecasted thunderstorms would be a much-appreciated reprieve from the sun.

A good portion of the course would take place on the rock and coral trails through the park. Walls varying in height seemed to be the theme on the course. For the first two miles of the loop, six different wall obstacles would have to be completed.  For me, the Inverted Wall seemed to increase in difficulty as the day went on.

The Wreck Bag Carry was the halfway point of the 8K loop and also a mandatory obstacle for Xtreme runners. During my first two laps I wasn’t too happy about this obstacle because it was a time killer. Later in the race I didn’t mind it so much because it gave me a reason to hit the brakes and take a leisurely stroll through the trails.

The last quarter of the loop brought you the Jersey Cans. For those that don’t know about these dreaded green gas cans, the best way to describe them is “they suck”.  Each weighing 40-50 lbs., competitors had to carry a pair of them through a winding trail obstructed by logs and branches. After six laps of carrying them, they really suck.

BattleFrog Miami Platinum Rig - Scotty Jackmore

The tail end of the 8K course is where the real action began. What I thought to be the three toughest obstacles were all in close proximity to each other. The 12′ Rope Wall, Tip of the Spear and Platinum Rig. I’m sure that the spike in difficulty was by design. While on the course I caught up with Trevor Hoadley, a BFX veteran who had a similar opinion, “The last few obstacles are really challenging. I like the Rig, it’s extremely hard”.

With mud from repeated climbers and the addition of the falling rain, the 12′ Rope Wall was getting more dangerous as they day went on. With grip strength fading, the transition from the slippery rope to the top metal support beam became extremely challenging. Tip of the Spear, a collection of grip strength obstacles appeared to be uncrossable for most but could be defeated with proper technique rather than strength. This was the same for Platinum Rig, a frame consisting of multiple ropes and grips that has grown in popularity due to its difficulty.Battlefrog Miami 12 Foot Wall - Scotty Jackmore

The only major flaw that I saw with BF Xtreme was that competitors are not required to complete all of the obstacles. While on my last lap, I was talking to a couple of fellow BFXers and was told that most of the competitors were opting for the 8 Count Bodybuilder Penalty instead of completing the Jerry Can obstacle as a strategy to increase lap count. I later found out that this was the case with multiple obstacles, especially Tip of the Spear and Platinum Rig. Although BFX doesn’t have a cash prize, a BattleFrog Paddle is presented to the competitor with the most laps completed, making it a title that many strive for. With that, I think the event needs to take on a format that is similar to their Elite waves.
BattleFrog Miami Finish - ROGUE USA

Overall, BattleFrog Miami was a great event, especially due to the BFXtreme course.  For those who are “WTM Addicts” like myself, BFX is a welcomed addition to the OCR race catalog.  With new OCR companies still popping up like weeds, none have focused on ultra-endurance competition like the World’s Toughest Mudder.  BFX is relatively new but seems to be building steam in this department. Can it be that another one of the big boys on the block is inching towards a 24-hour OCR event?? If anyone has the capability and strong following to make it happen, BattleFrog Series is the one.

Erick Hernandez (AKA Leeroy Jenkins)
ROGUE USA

Spartan Race Super- “What Happens in Vegas!”

After months of anticipation, the Spartan Race in Las Vegas has come and gone. With an opportunity to achieve the Trifecta, along with visiting one of the most electrifying places on Earth, thousands of OCR heads converged on Las Vegas to see what the course designers at Spartan Race would throw at them this time.

Spartan Race Las Vegas – Atmosphere

Participants competing in the Elite and early open waves enjoyed a brisk 58 degree starting temperature. As expected, the heat climbed quickly to a dry 85 degrees. With no water obstacles, the heat and dust provided an additional challenge for those not accustomed to running in the dessert.

Spartan-Super-las-vegas-Review

As with most Spartan Race’s, the event was run like a well oiled machine with a strong emphasis on attention to detail. Shuttles to and from the event were executed efficiently and packet pickup went smoothly.

Spartan Race Las Vegas – Course

The race started with an elite wave of over 400 male participants anxiously waiting while receiving a number of geographically centric public service announcements. After the final warning of the possible dangers of encountering rattlesnakes on the course were spoken, a smoke grenade was deployed signaling commencement. A relatively congested start would soon open up as the field took advantage of the wide expanse of land. The first two miles would be somewhat obstacle free and consisted of a number of quick wall over-unders. The terrain for this first portion of the race was a challenge in and of itself due to a gradual and continuous incline over some of the more rockier portions of the course.

Spartan-Super-las-vegas-Review

A memory game was thrown into play early on. Racers had to remember a code consisting of one word and a seven digit number that was associated to their bib number. They would have to provide the code later in the race or pay the ultimate burpee price. It added a little thinking into the mix, at least for those who didn’t sneak a sharpie on the course to write down their number (Shame on you!).

Although the catalog of obstacles included the standard Spartan Race fare, a few changes were made to up the ante. The Hercules Hoist, an obstacle where sandbags tied to a rope must be raised and lowered, was given a weight upgrade. This seemed to be a problem for many and was a meeting place for large groups finding comfort in each other as they paid their penalty. I guess misery does have a tendency to love company.

Spartan-Super-las-vegas-Review

The theme of the day seemed to be focused on carrying and dragging. Following the tire flips, racers were introduced to two obstacles involving weighted sleds. The first had competitors doing a seated sled pull, which was filled with some of the Sierra-Nevada’s finest dirt and rock. Shortly after, a slightly easier standing version was required to be completed.

A generous distance winding around a small hill was put to good use as the site of the bucket carry. Troughs full of gravel were used to fill buckets before taking the short hike. The loop was littered with mounds of gravel marking the sites of the many casualties around the hill.

Spartan-Super-las-vegas-Review

A sand bag carry was done prior to meeting the atlas rocks. Fortunately both obstacles were done on relatively flat land. The designated distance for the sand bag carry was challenging and made up for the easier elevation.

The rope climb was late in the race and immediately after completing a rugged incline. Being one of the few obstacles that incorporated water, most were taking a quick second to wash away the heavy dust before ringing the bell. Straight and knotted ropes were assigned based on gender.

Spartan-Super-las-vegas-Review

Towards the end of the course, a traverse, barbed wire low crawl and the spear throw were all located within close proximity to each other. The traverse was one of the more fun obstacles out there, having racers climb across with the help of swinging pipes and multiple ropes. The barbed wire low crawl was one of the longest I’ve seen at an OCR event. Being that the ground consisted of bone dry gravel as opposed to wet dirt made it one of the more memorably painful obstacles of the day. The spear throw brought many spectators and was an exciting place to be. The crowds were full of cheers, especially when the female elite leaders made successful attempts at the throw. The 9 mile trek would be completed following a rope swing and a reward of blue Spartan swag.

Spartan-Super-las-vegas-Review

Spartan Race Las Vegas – Conclusion

With the exception of a few gaps in the course markers, the Las Vegas Super was well thought and executed with precision. Course designers ensured the race was challenging as they properly analyzed the terrain and integrated the natural changes in elevation seamlessly. The total distance was slightly over 9 miles. Congratulations to all who battled the dessert, especially those who walked away with that most desired tri-colored medal.


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*Photos By: Rogue Miami and Leeroy Jenkins