Spartan Central Florida Beast 2019

Central Florida Beast

 

December 7th 2019 in Mulberry, Florida

Venue: Sunshine and Quick Times

The repeat venue of the Mims Co. Ranch in Mulberry, Florida was shined upon by the ideal weather for a Spartan Race of any kind. With a low in the mid fifties increasing to the low seventies by mid day Spartans could not have asked for better weather, aside from some dry air. The easily accessible ranch made for close parking to the festival area and though parking was a bit bumpy it was definitely sufficient. The course layout was a simple reverse of last years which did not seem to cause much of a problem.

Flat and Fast

The Ranch was flat for the majority of the Beast. Spartan did a good job of utilizing some rolling hills on a power line in the beginning of the course to slow down many who barreled out of the starting gate. They also used one very steep cliff on the ranch for a couple of short climbs and steep descents.

This broke up the consistent running through the ankle sprain mine field that was the Mims Ranch. The terrain was fairly technical considering the many divots and uneven ground throughout with many crawls under fences throughout. Tall saw grass and some toe catching tufts of tough dry pasture grass were also the culprits of a few bruised egos along the course. As always, the South Florida Beast gives out some of the best Beast completion times considering the landscape.

Course Layout

Aside from the main obstacles in the festival area, only as few were sprinkled throughout the backside of the course. This makes sense if you consider the great additions it made to the festival and spectator area. Many had gripes about the large gaps of simply flat running along fence lines. I agree with this. I feel that the running portions could have possibly been spiced up more, but it is really had to say considering we are not aware of what Spartan was allowed to clear out as far as trail.

The fact also remains that the majority of the land was flat and grassy regardless. Running along fence borders could have also been a good method of preventing racers from going off course. To my knowledge, the course markings worked quite well and there were not many who veered off course.

Multi-rig

The Spartan multi-rig was the typical Beast format of: rings, pipe, some other holds. Interestingly, rather than a ball or Force 5 grip of any kind spartan implemented two slick black ropes as the last two holds on the rig. This led to MANY failures throughout the day. Though it was early on in the course, staying high on those ropes proved to be difficult. Staying high was definitely a necessity because they placed the bells REALLY high on the rig.

Aside from increasing difficulty, I am sure this was meant to reduce the probability of the bell wrapping onto the top of the rig. Sadly, it did not, but more on that later. Spartans rigs usually aren’t very special, but this one offered a different challenge than most of the Beast rigs I have encountered.

 

Twister

With many open lanes and no grips on any of them, Twister seemed to go quicker than I have personally seen in other Spartans. The fact that I came off of it with silver paint on my hands makes me wonder if it had been freshly painted the night before, but it worked just as it should have. It was a long twister with three separate turning portions separated by trusts.

Some may consider this a negative and some a positive. Rather than a burpee pit, a penalty lap was offered for twister. The rub here being that the loop was only a quick quarter mile detour off of the race course. There was no elevation. There was no barbed wire crawl. This offered the potential to go a few rungs on twister, drop, and save grip while utilizing running speed to compensate. I’ll allow the reader to make their own judgment on whether or not that is “fair.”

Stairway to Sparta

Though it was much more difficult for many racers, I really enjoyed the adjust Stairway to Sparta. Stairway to Sparta is essentially just a large wooden A-frame with a difficult initial ascent placed at the bottom. For years, this was just a steep slip wall with a large board at the top racers could jump or climb to. The stairway now has a portion of planks which is rounded outward, towards the racer as they approach the stairway.

These planks do not continue on to the ground, but leave the bottom half open (i.e. no foot placement). On these planks are rock climbing grips. In order to ascend the stair way racers must utilize grip, core, and body awareness. They must pull themselves up using the grips until they can manage to sweep a leg and get a toe hold on one of the climbing grips. I found this a fun and welcome adjustment to an otherwise dull obstacle. Major kudos to Spartan on this design.

Olympus

The adjustments made to Olympus have certainly upped the difficulty. Course designers made the clever/sadistic decision to put racers through the sloppiest mud pit that they could find in Florida before forcing them to tackle the new, steeper, and slipperier Olympus. For those of you who have yet to encounter it, Olympus still consists of the same mix of chain holds with a ball grip, holes, and rock climbing grips.

However, rather than being made completely of plywood the bottom portion is now covered with the same slick high durability vinyl like covering as “The Box.” The angle of Olympus is also a good bit steeper. The combination of these two factors along with wet shoes eliminates the technique I’ll admit I always utilized. I used it because it was fast. I strictly used chains and my leverage to always keep my feet under me I could make large strides across Olympus and get it done quickly which saved my grip.

Spartan must have caught on to many utilizing this and made the necessary adjustments. I’m completely okay with that. I discovered a hole in my game and I am going to fill it. That’s what new or adjusted obstacles are supposed to do.

Final Obstacles (Carries, Spear, and a Jump)

 

After the infamous box, racers faced: another wall, a short sandbag carry which required sinking into a pit of mud both on the way in and out, the vertical cargo (with killer Irish table), the spear throw, Atlas, the A- frame cargo, and a fire jump. This portion of the race was very spectator friendly all the way to the finish. I found many spectators enjoying themselves which is becoming a more frequent sight at Spartan Races. The exclusion of burpees on Atlas is a welcome change. It causes much less back up at the obstacle. The only draw back here was a lack of volunteers at the sandbag carry and vertical cargo.

Spectator Area

The spectators were able to view a slew of obstacles from start to finish along easily accessible routes. The rope climb, the rig, herc-hoist, spear throw, sandbag carry, vertical cargo, the a-frame, Atlas, the fire jump, and one of the walls were all easily visible and not far from the festival itself. The box was only a short walk for spectators. The spectator route was one of the better ones I have seen at any Spartan.

Festival Area

The festival area featured much more to do than I have seen at previous races. Body buff had a free massage tent set up which was nice. There were quite a few vendors and contests. Alcohol and food tents seemed to be getting a lot of business. However, if you ask me, seven dollars for one beer is outrageous even for Spartan. All in all the festival areas have seemed to continue to improve which I greatly appreciate. There were many great areas for Spartans to get their much desired photo ops. All big teams were well represented. This was one of the better festival areas I have personally seen at a Spartan which was not a Stadion.

Now for the Negatives

The largest shadow cast over this sunshine was a problem that Spartan seems to have been dealing with all year- a lack of volunteers. I will give them credit. They were up front about it when the heats began. However, when I hang on the last rope of a rig asking for acknowledgment that my bell is wrapped on TOP of the rig and there is no way for me to hit it I would prefer an official be present. I dropped and did my burpees. It is what it is.

There were recurring issues such as racers continuously dropping bags at the herc-hoist only to be told to do burpees after the fact. That is a problem. There were no volunteers in sight at Armer which could have been easily ran past, racers could easily shorten the carry. That is a big problem. There were only a couple of volunteers at the vertical cargo (mostly after the Elite and Age group heats) who aren’t making it a point to tell racers not to use the pipes on which the Irish tables are mounted to climb- that is a big problem. Female racers wer not told IMMEDIATELY what sandbags to grab at a carry. That is a major issue.

Add Some Incentive

To my knowledge, Spartan values integrity. Spartan wants to remain top of the game. Spartan wants to become a globally recognized and televised sport. If all of these notions are true please show me how much you guys care about the integrity of your product. Offer better incentives to your volunteers. Pay some judges. The regulation Spartan upholds, when done correctly, is one reason that many die hard competitive athletes stay in the Spartan game.

Do not tell me all about how you are going to video my form on burpees ensuring I get full extension if you cannot first make sure that I properly have the ability to complete my obstacle avoiding them. Also please ensure that volunteers are at EVERY OBSTACLE. I had never seen Armer. Had I not asked before the race, I would have had no idea what to do. There were no lines. I saw only the giant Armer balls all in a row. My point is: Volunteers at a Spartan Race probably work harder and longer than at any other OCR. Give them reason to do so. Care about your people. Do not go the cheap corporate route or you lose the core values of Spartan as a brand.

Final Thoughts

Tweaks could have been made to the course, but all in all the Florida Beast was a pretty good experience. It was a good way to end my race season and I enjoyed it. I was happy with the course. I was happy with the obstacle quality for the most part. I was happy with what Spartan did do in order to spice up a otherwise bland chunk of terrain. If my schedule allows it, I will return next year. I would recommend this beast to anyone in the south who is close. However, if you aren’t there are many better options unless you just really want to run a flat, warm Beast, but who doesn’t want to do that?

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Epic Series Phoenix

OCR and Crossfit, Crossfit and OCR. The two seem to go hand in hand as many OCR types train in Crossfit gyms and many Crossfitters can be seen running on the obstacle course race circuit. So how does a hybrid event combining the two sound to you? Well, to me it sounds pretty damn interesting and apparently it does to the folks who run Epic Series OCR as well. Now, there are plenty of hybrid events popping up all over the country but Epic is specifically designed for the OCR enthusiast. Based out of Southern California, Epic has recently branched out to states in the North and East. I happened to be lucky enough to compete in their inaugural Phoenix event on December 14th, located on the grounds of the spring training complex of the Chicago Cubs. If you’ve never heard of Epic Series let me briefly break down their course model before I get into the nitty gritty of the actual event. Epic contains their entire course in an area the size of a standard Olympic 400 meter track, so they can set one up virtually anywhere. All of the obstacles\functional movements are set up in a series of rows inside this small area. The only running that takes place is around the rows of obstacles/functional movements when a row is completed, and Epic usually has competitors pick up something awkward to run such laps. In each row there are separate workstations which have 3 separate intensity\weight levels for racers to choose from. Open class, Women’s class Elite, and Men’s class Elite with the movement\weight made harder from Open through Men’s and color coded for easy picking. In the Elite wave athletes must pick the corresponding weight\rep scheme for their division.

 

Epic starts every race with their “flag lap.” Contestants grab a large flag with “Epic Series” printed on it and run their first circle around the event area. I believe this mainly serves as a way to spread racers out and keep the first obstacle from becoming jammed with occupants. The first actual obstacle along the Phoenix course was called the over\under. Epic set up a metal pole suspended horizontally about 18 inches off the ground. 20 repetitions were required here, dropping to the ground, rolling under the bar, then standing back up and hopping over the bar was considered one rep. Once complete an athlete then picked up a slosh pipe for their second lap around the work area. The next two obstacles in lane 1 consisted of jumping over a few low hurdles and picking your way through a spider web of ropes intertwined together. Epic then sent racers out for another lap; this time farmer carry style with a set of jerry cans that weighed approximately 10-20 pounds. Your grip then got a quick reprieve, but not your legs so much as burpee box jumps for reps was next up followed by overhead squats. The weight for the overhead squats wasn’t much more than a broomstick, but after the burpee box jumps the movement was still quite taxing. Did your grip recover? Hope so, because one more lap around the event area was now required, this time carrying a beer keg. The keg varied in weight as some were empty and others were full making the full lap taxing.  I witnessed many competitors lugging the keg in front of them or setting it down to rest midway. The last movement performed in Lane 1 was the Russian twist with a medicine ball for 20 reps.

After completion of each of the three lanes Epic required a pass through their “obstacle lane”. This lane consisted of having racers climb over a series of walls. A 6 foot wall, ladder wall, and inverted wall all needed to be scaled before climbing through a bouncy house and continuing to the next lane. Yes, I said bouncy house. At first, I thought it was kind of a joke, but after climbing through and over it numerous times during the day I found it to be no joke as you just never seemed to be able to stand up in the damn thing! The bounce house also seemed to tear off racing bibs as competitors dove through it, but it was a fun addition with the slide.

 

Lane 2 started by having athletes climb up and over a wall using only small rock climbing holds. This was followed up by my nemesis, the Epic balance beam. These balance beams are made up of 5 sections of horizontal planks, each topped with a series of pegs spaced a couple of feet apart. This thing gets me at least once every time I try it. It wobbles all over, the pegs are small, and it’s long. Any time I see someone fly across them I silently curse them. Once you finally got across the beams a set of battle ropes awaited you for a quick 15 reps. The Atlas Stone over the shoulder for 10 reps really got your blood pumping before moving on to the squat wall. What’s a squat wall you might ask? Well, wall sit is another name for it, and at Epic they’re timed by having the athlete hold an hourglass filled with sand out in front of them while sitting in the squat position against the wall. Male competitive time, which is the longest, is 3 minutes and not many racers make it through the entire time unbroken.  Blah and double yuck. From here you duck walked over to the last obstacle in lane 2, the keg hoist, which was like the Spartan Herc Hoist, only Epic used a beer keg. You had to hoist the keg up twice to complete Lane 2 and move onward with a second pass through the obstacle lane.

Are you into archery? Ever wanted to give the bow and arrow a try? Because the first obstacle in Lane 3 required an athlete to shoot a rubber tipped arrow at a target hung in netting. Striking the target was required before strapping an elastic band around your ankles for a short bunny hop. Kick off that annoying elastic band and you were almost finished! A quick duck and roll under one incredibly low cargo net, a plank hold for time, and last but not least, a rope climb. One last pass over the walls in the obstacle lane, through the bounce house, and a slide into the finish was all that separated you from that unique and very “Epic” medal!  The medal even has a nifty bottle opener on the back so it’s functional!

Now, you remember back at the beginning of my article when I talked about OCR and Crossfit going hand in hand? Well, if you signed up for the competitive waves you also got a chance to try your hand at the Epic WOD, where the female and male winners received a WWE style winners’ belt! Normally Epic offers an Endurance Elite option and a Strength Elite option with winners both getting belts. But due to the fact that they shipped everything from So Cal to Phoenix they just offered one hybrid course and I’ll now explain the setup. First off, all the exercises and reps were the same for male and female, only the weights were changed and there was a judge who followed you through the whole course. The WOD started off by strapping an athlete into a harness for a Nissan Titan truck pull. This was followed by picking up a long sandbag and tossing it over a 5-foot wall. The racer then followed the sandbag by jumping over the wall themselves, this was done for 5 reps. The same sandbag was then picked up and carried for a lunge for distance. The bag was then ditched in favor of a barbell for 10 reps of a clean and press. Kettlebells were then utilized for a 10 rep step up walking between 2 boxes. Your next movement again required a sandbag, this time heavier, circular version, for 10 reps of an over the shoulder toss. A true outdoor WOD wouldn’t be complete without a tire flip, right? You got it! 10 flips of the tire got you moving on to last movement, the deadlift. All it took you was 10 more reps here before crossing one more balance beam which led to the finish.

To add to the enjoyment of the day, Coach Pain lent his iconic voice as the emcee reminding everyone to Conduct Your Business! I’ve always found the Epic Series to be extremely challenging, yet fun. If you’re a Crossfitter curious about OCR, or an OCR racer who’s tired of the endless running then this series is for you! I’d also like to give a shout out to local resident Jamie Hines for bringing his supreme photography skills to the event. Jamie, it’s always so nice to see you and your lovely wife filming while I’m on the course!  Now get out there an BE EPIC!

 

 

 

 

Montane’s Cheviot Goat – England’s Loneliest Winter Ultra

In most races we do, our friends and family offer encouragement and say things like “good on ya” for trying.  The Cheviot Goat Ultra is not one of those races.  In the lead up to this event, the few times I’d honestly explain what the Cheviot entailed I’d watch facial expressions turn from curiosity to horror.  Then I’d get the exasperated follow up: “why would you do that to yourself?”

 

Well, the Cheviot Goat is billed as England’s Loneliest Winter Ultra.  As the crow flys, it’s an unmarked course that traverses 54 miles along the hills and bogs near Scotland.  By most standards, the individual mountains are fairly small but they collectively manage to gain 9,800 feet.  The weather’s cold, the winds are strong, and the “Bogs of Eternal Misery” are truly awful. The exposure is so real that runners are required to carry a survival bag and GPS tracker with an SOS button.  If people quit anywhere past the halfway point they’ll likely need both to make it long enough for Mountain Rescue to extract them.

 

After reading about this last year, I was so turned on that I flew in from Alaska to join 278 like-minded runners from across the globe last Saturday for the 2019 Cheviot.  Despite jet lag, pre-race insomnia and daily panic attacks leading up to race, when the 3-2-1 start happened all the nerves went to zero.  In almost all of the N+1 challenges I’ve done, once the safety of the starting corral is gone and the body has no other choice but to continue forward the near crippling anxiety and self-doubt invariably stops.

Shortly after the Start

Despite a bazillion false summits, the first five miles of climbing were amazing.  The initial course was muddy and truly sucked (literally and figuratively), but the steady stream of headlamps snaking through the respective elevations was surreal.  When the sun finally started to rise, the early morning lit up the multi-color hills so vividly that it felt like we were running within a work of art.  I lost several places stopping to take in the morning vistas, but didn’t regret the decision one bit.

Views that Validate Months of Training

The first genuine ordeal along the course was navigating the fabled Bogs of Eternal Misery.  They’re hilly and go on for miles!  I’d only read about these bogs, but the descriptions usually involved expletives and fear.  I can testify: the stories are true.  Bogs are crap things to “run” through.  There’s no straight path between them, they can be quite large and it’s anyone’s guess how deep you’ll sink if you fall into their water.  They’re a simple but terrifying thing to negotiate: line up from a tenuous position on one side to a landing spot on the other side you hope is stable enough to support your weight, then jump across several feet of water with the aid of prayer or trekking poles and hope you won’t fall into something that swallows you whole.  Screw it up and you’ll sink to your knees or worse.

The reward for graduating the bogs was climbing to the courses’s highest summit and namesake: The Cheviot. Since there were 80 MPH winds forecast for the evening, the race directors had us run the course in reverse so we’d hit this highest and most exposed peak early in the day.  It was a smart call.  Near the summit, the course marshals were supporting us in truly awful conditions.  The tents they had for shelter were being blown around like rag dolls, it was misty and cold!  I can’t adequately express how much I appreciate them for being out there in that weather to keep us safe.

 

From the start line to the Cheviot Summit, through to the halfway point at Barrowburn, navigation wasn’t really an issue.  The terrain often sucked, but finding the right path was manageable.  There were the treacherous stone slabs along the Pennine Way to guide us or clusters of people to follow.  But once we reunited with our drop bag at the halfway point and night fell, it became a different race altogether.

Luckily for me, I started the back half with a fighting chance because I’d made a friend.  Somewhere around mile 20, a group of us guys stopped to pee (#hydrateordie) and when we started running again I found myself pacing with a cool guy named Tim from Newcastle.  We’d both watched beaucoup navigation tutorials on YouTube, but if our lives came down to orienteering via compass we were as good as dead.  Continuing on like we did at night might have been more an act of faith than smart racing, but sometimes the dice are what you’ve got… At the very least, we felt safe having company.  We went off course a lot, but somehow always managed to find our way back and avoided dying.

 

Once it got colder and dark, it also started to rain and my glasses (which I really, really need to see) became useless for several hours.  The 80 MPH winds showed up a bit later and amplified the rain’s suck factor by a lot.  I was able to follow Tim’s feet and check my GPS for bearings when need be, but only briefly.  At its peak, the wind was so strong it ripped the glasses off my face so many times I had to secure them in my pack.  If it hadn’t have been for Tim’s help here (and elsewhere), I would not have finished this race.  Functional blindness wasn’t a contingency I’d planned for.  Friends matter.

 

The back half took so long that I stopped looking a my watch.  There were bogs, hills, bogs on hills, more bogs and more hills (with bogs). I got depressed, sleepy and started to hallucinate somewhere around mile 45.  Coming down from a hill (through more bogs), there was an unusual amount of glistening green grass that was covering grave markers spaced out through the mud.  I couldn’t figure out why they’d route us through a cemetery until I realized the gravestones I was seeing weren’t real.  Apparently, the 12 hours of sleep (total) in the days leading up to the Cheviot was enough to induce my first ever race day hallucination.  Despite this epiphany, the gravestones wouldn’t go away! For about another mile, I continued watching one gravestone after another pass underfoot without saying a word.

 

When I finally mentioned how sleepy I was feeling, one of the runners (aka Guardian Angel) pulled out a thermos of coffee and Tim handed me a caffeinated gel.  Literally within minutes, I got my mind right.  Over the remaining hours we’d get lost again, climb a bit more and muddle through more bogs, but after 19 hours and 21 minutes we finally ran through to the finish line.  At the close, the staff and race director were waiting to shake our hands, pass out medals and make sure everyone got a finisher pic.

Technically and physically, the course was brutal.  Including screw ups, our route spanned roughly 57 miles with 11,500 feet of gain. It also entailed a lot of time stopping to ask “where the hell are we?” and trying to find our way back to where we were supposed be.  Of the 279 people that started, 237 finished.  One of those finishers was John Kelly (last person to finish the Barkley Marathon) – who finished about 9 hours before we did.  The others?  I’m not sure what the profile was of a representative runner, but at my pace I was chatting with some fairly experienced people with big races under their belt like the Dragon’s Back.  It was a super welcoming crowd, but definitely not the place to make a run at your first ultra distance.

I’m incredibly grateful to the race staff at Cold Brew Events and the North of Tyne Mountain Rescue Team for hosting a truly epic event.  This thing was intense, but the objective dangers were managed so well that I had zero doubt if I needed to push my SOS button someone would have been there to save me.  Happily that wasn’t needed.  If you’re considering a race-cation like this or want to get in on the action for the challenge’s sake, I’d recommend not putting it off.  This was year number 3 for their series and it sold out. My hunch is that it’ll become an increasingly popular event and progressively harder to get into as the years go by – rightly so.

Safety doesn’t Just Happen – They Worked Hard to Make Sure we were Okay

If you’re so inclined, I posted roughly 3 minutes of live footage from the event set to holiday music (from one of America’s great treasures) to my YouTube Channel.

 

Photo Credit: Mari-Ann Secker, Cold Brew Events, Course Marshals

Ottawa City Chase Rush

City Chase is a Canadian urban adventure race, taking teams of two+ to various checkpoints by-way-of a scavenger hunt throughout the city. While the traditional City Chase distance of events past was longer, this past weekend’s Ottawa City Chase Rush offered participants a more condensed version. It comprised of a map including twelve clues, which teams used to navigate around Ottawa’s Downtown, Centretown, Byward Market and Sandy Hill neighbourhoods. Participants had three hours (10am – 1pm) to find and complete 8 of the twelve checkpoint challenges, three of which were mandatory. City Chase always had a huge charity component. Three local community organizations that support children and their families who are faced with the diagnosis of a serious illness benefited from Ottawa City Chase Rush. These include: Kids Kicking Cancer Canada’s Heroes Circle Program, Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation and CHEO Foundation.

The race began at the Startline located at the Royal Oak at 180 Kent Street in Downtown Ottawa just after 10am, with chasers locating the course map on the other side of the building. Chasers then proceeded to decode the checkpoint challenge clues and strategize as to their route of choice, or simply run to the first checkpoint they recognized. City Chase is truly a “choose your own adventure” type race, as not all checkpoints are mandatory. Although there are always a few overachievers who attempt and even complete ALL checkpoint challenges. My team located and completed the following checkpoint challenges in order:

 

  1. Money, Money, Money (a scavenger hunt at the Bank of Canada Museum
  2. Let’s dive in (Locating the hockey puck at the bottom of a pool with a number that corresponded with the rubber ducky you selected)
  3. Power, Peace, Purpose (Karate instructed by Kids Kicking Cancer Blackbelt Volunteers)
  4. Tug-o Truck (a firetruck pull)
  5. Can you find him? (Finding Waldo at Bayward Market)
  6. Tasty Treats (Fish heads, dog biscuits, hot peppers, M&Ms, gummy worms)
  7. Stretch it out (Bunny Yoga!)
  8. The Yard (a scooter and hopscotch obstacle course)

City Chasers were to locate all checkpoints by foot. This resulted in a total of 14kms (8.7 miles) ran by my team. This was excessive due to critical errors. The atmosphere is cooperative with an emphasis on fun and charity over the competition.

 

 

 

Ultra Spartan Trifecta Weekend- Krynica Zdroj, Poland

The only ultra beast for Spartan in Central Europe was held august 24th weekend in Poland at the mountain Jaworzyna Krynicka. This was the Ultra Spartan Trifecta Weekend!
In preparation, you needed to have some source of hydration, a race lamp, and a emergency blanket. They were mandatory and the volunteers checked prior to the race at the transition area.

Spartan Krynica Observation Tower

Course outline

Unlike your original Ultra Spartan Trifecta Weekend where you had to repeat the beast course twice, this ultra in Krynica, Poland had one giant loop. This race was very unique like none other. You encountered different terrain throughout the whole race like open hills, single trails, running upstream in the water, rocky terrain, and maneuvering through trees and shrubs.  The course marking was easy to follow. The trails consisted of one big outer loop followed by 2 smaller loops inside. The course was outlined in such a way that you stopped by the transition area 3 times. The first stop at the transition was at 28km.  Spectators had amazing views of the transition area which was surrounded by obstacles. Competitors were doing these obstacles each time they stop at the transition area. The obstacles included the vertical cargo net, the rope climb, Hercules hoist, and the spear throw.

Spartan Krynica Barbed wire

Also, in this ultra spartan in Krynica, Poland there were 2 heavy sand bag carries. Both uphill. The sand-filled bags and the 1km loop around the lake made it feel heavy! For males it was 40kg, females 30kg.  Soon after you were rewarded with the transition area.  My sunto calculated 51.5km and 3300m of elevation gain of this terrific terrain.

Spartan Krynica Markings

Observation Tower

In addition to this course, a new observation tower has been built this year. It opened to the public just 3 days before the race! I appreciate the amazing opportunity to race this ultra and run through the new observation tower! This was part of the ultra! At first, you had an intense hill to climb which lead towards this observation tower. Next, you climbed multiple floors of stairs that lead to the top of the observation deck. It was truly a great experience and a fantastic view.

Spartan Krynica Ultra Course Outline

 

Burpees

Without a doubt, never have I seen such disciplined and proper burpees. In this Ultra Spartan Trifecta Weekend, there are multiple volunteers at each obstacle and are making sure everyone is doing their burpees. They have cameras as well. The participant calls out every 5th burpee. For each burpee, the chest has to touch the ground, and on the return is jumping with their hands above their head. The volunteers will call you out if you don’t. All these strict rules applied even in the open heat. This was the greatest thing I’ve seen for spartan races. All the open competitors are doing proper burpees and all 30 of them! I didn’t see any squats or sit-ups or any of that joke in the race for the penalties. Spartan in Central Europe really stepped it up when I’m comparing this to Spartan Canada, or even Spartan USA.

Spartan Krynica Burpees

Atmosphere

Definitely the atmosphere was positive here at Krynica, Poland for the Ultra Spartan Trifecta Weekend. The festival area was really big and connected to obstacles near the transition area. They have vendors that sold ice cream, food, coffee, beer, and more! A big tent in the middle with the DJ where the announcements were held. They set up a big projector showing recaps of the race and race highlights. Surrounding this area registration tents, medical, merchandise, physio, and sponsored tents.

Spartan Krynica festival panoramic view

 

Spartan Krynica Start and Vendors

Pre-Race Warm up

Also, for every open heat there is a coach from the Spartan training group. These pre-race warm-ups are quick stretches and exercises to get your blood flowing, heart pumping, and get you ready for the race ahead. Many people take part in this every heat. They even have warm-ups for the kids’ races! Adriana, who also completed the Spartan Ultra on the 24th, was providing these warmup sessions all day on the 25th. She will be heading to Lake Tahoe to compete in the Spartan Worlds Championship!

Spartan Krynica Open heat training

Medals and Podium

Importantly, racers received the classic Spartan belt buckle with this one labeled Krynica-Zdroj, Poland after completing the ultra. With this Spartan Ultra being the only one in Central Europe, many people from different countries came to compete. Top 3 male and top 3 females elite competitors also received an entry to the Spartan Ultra Championships along with a bag with contents from a sponsor Sonrisa, and suitcases. The top male and female in each age category received a free entry as well. Alas, the top 3 in the open category received the free entry as well.  With this all said, Spartan Poland adds in something extra. Each top competitor in each division received a glass Spartan trophy. Overall my years of racing, I only saw this done in Spartan Central Europe.

Spartan Krynica 1st place trophy

Sponsored Challenges

Furthermore, Spartan Poland has many sponsors. These sponsors provided tons of water, snacks and sweets and nuts for all stations, and the Spartan team decided to have a few giveaways. The competition here was a dead hold from standing position which you held the water bottles as long as possible. This hold activates your front shoulder muscles. Winner for male and female gets a prize with all said goodies.

Spartan Krynica Challenges

Volunteers and Finish Line

Along with the well-established event, the volunteers in Krynica at the Ultra Spartan Trifecta Weekend were organized really well. First, they knew their duties. Second, they had a training meeting prior to the race. In fact, for any competitor that didn’t bring their own printed signed waiver had to do 30 burpees to get a waiver. Third, everyone was strict on the burpees which was nice to see. They even put some extra love at the finish line with motivated notes on the bananas haha. Without a doubt, nonalcoholic beer, Lech free (0% alcohol) was also given at the finish line, although you could purchase alcoholic beverages at the vendors.

Spartan Krynica Volunteers

Overview

To summarize, Spartan Poland organized this ultra and it was one of my favorite Ultras. Coordination was amazing, the atmosphere was cheerful, and determination to finish the ultra was there! Out of ~1000 competitors over 900 completed the ultra and received their medal.

Spartan North American Championships – West Virginia Beast 2019

Obstacle-Gauntlet-in-West-Virginia

If there’s anything Spartan Race does well, it’s finding one of a kind locations for their races. Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia proved to be the perfect place to not only put on a Trifecta weekend, but host the 2019 North American Championship race. 

The Venue

Summit Bechtel Reserve is absolutely perfect to host an event like this. Those unfamiliar with West Virginia’s terrain were greeted with numerous climbs that ended with gorgeous views. Elite and Age Group racers had to qualify to take part in Saturday’s Beast, while everyone else could run in the Open waves. In total, the Beast ran about 14.4 miles with close to 2,900 feet of ascent. Anyone unfamiliar with West Virginia’s terrain were greeted with numerous climbs that ended with gorgeous views. 

Climbing-the-Mountain-in-West-Virginia

This was only my second Beast ever and happened to be the last piece to complete my second Trifecta ever. My first Beast was the 2018 Ohio Beast held at the Southington Off-Road Park. That venue was very flat with altering terrains, while West Virginia is mostly trail but a good variation of climbs and descents. 

 

The West Virginia race was definitely more difficult, but if I was left with a choice between the two, it’s an absolute no brainer. No matter what distance you want to do, West Virginia is a must race. 

Spartan-Trifecta-Weekend-in-West-Virginia

Why A Beast?

Maybe you’ve only ever run Sprints because 5 miles seems like enough. Or you’ve done a Super and are wondering if you should take the next step up. So, before we get into the specifics of the course and the obstacles, let’s talk about why a Spartan Beast at all.

 

I would recommend everyone set out for a Trifecta at least one time. If you would rather stick to shorter races, great! But there’s something special about running over a half-marathon with obstacles. 

 

On top of that, the open waves are more spread out than the shorter races. This is great for people who want to get in some running between obstacles. Granted, the climbs and some obstacles do still get jammed up some in open heats. Despite that, even some of the more narrow trails had space between runners. 

The-Views-at-the-North-American-Championship

Oh, The Obstacles!

Outside of what I needed to get a Trifecta in 2018 and 2019, I usually stick Sprints and the occasional Stadion (Stadium). But the way Spartan has moved over the last year or two, you see a lot of the same obstacles. So at that point, the more Sprints you run, the more you’re just looking at the venue itself and the course design. Don’t get me wrong, I love the short distance of a Sprint, but I also love obstacles!

 

If you really want to be exposed to Spartan’s full gauntlet of obstacles, you absolutely positively must run a Beast. This year’s West Virginia Beast had 38 obstacles, many of them I haven’t seen since last year’s Beast in Ohio. Though I didn’t run the Sprint and Super on Sunday, they each had 20 and 31 respectively. 

 

There’s really no room to complain about what obstacles Spartan had because, well, they pretty much had them all (Though I wish they included that Twister/Monkey Bar combo this year). The Beast threw at you everything from the Yokohama Tire Flip to Helix to Tyrolean Traverse and even a Spartan helmet-shaped Bucket Brigade course. The Beast even included a nice little swim late in the race. 

Ryan-Woods-finishing-Helix

Quite A Warm-up

If I had one complaint about the race, it’s that parking was incredibly far away from the festival. Our heat wasn’t until around noon, so 10:30 am seemed like a good time to arrive. But we still ended up on the outskirts of parking. I’m not sure exactly how far of a walk it was to the festival from our car, but I would guess it took around 10-15 minutes. That’s a great way to warm-up for the race, but made the walk back pretty daunting. 

 

Spartan could add a few shuttle stations throughout the parking area. This would allow small shuttles to take racers to the festival entrance. Though parking and bag check were both free this year, so the there would probably be some trade off. 

North-American-Championship-Spartan-Medal

Ya’ll Come Back Now, Ya Hear?

The venue is great. The area around the venue is gorgeous. Southern hospitality is a real thing. Biscuits and gravy are everywhere. There’s a lot to love about going to West Virginia for a couple days. Not to mention the North American Championship Beast medal all Saturday finishers walk away with. 

 

I told myself after this year I would stick to short races and not need more Trifectas in the future. But as long as Spartan keeps coming back to Summit Bechtel Reserve, I have a feeling that so will I.

 

Photo Credit: Spartan Race