Spartan Virginia: Sprint and Super Weekend

Yes, sprint and super, not the other way around. Virginia was the first time I’ve run a Spartan where I had to complete the sprint first, and then the super. Let me tell you- that was significantly more challenging than it was the other way around! There were several differences between the two races, making them equally as exciting regardless.

Saturday Sprint

Check-In/Festival

I knew it was going to be a great day when I pulled into the venue. Why? This venue had something special that not all venues have– PARKING! There was a parking lot rather than pulling up to gravel! It was absolutely amazing. I knew it was going to be a great day.

Going into the festival area was a bit different than usual. When we got to check in, the volunteers did not have us show them our barcode in order to get through. They just grabbed our ID and looked up our names. It was so much faster, and the volunteers were extremely pleasant!

Once we got through, which only took about 45 seconds, we were met by a security officer. He was very friendly, but if you did not have your wristband on, he would not let you through to the festival area. I had not seen this before. It’s a fantastic idea for Spartan in order to ensure that people aren’t sneaking their way in (although I confess, I’ve literally never seen that happen), however, the implementation could have used some improvement. The wall keeping out of the festival area was really close to registration tent, so it started to clutter quickly. People were standing right in front of the security guard putting on their wristbands and headbands, and it got a little clustered. Perhaps if they are going to use this in the future, they will give people more room to get themselves situated.

This festival area was organized very neatly. Everything was packed together really well, with the merchandise tent being the center of it all. The merchandise tent has grown so much since the beginning, and they had a lot of the new Craft items on display. Right next to the merchandise was the timing station, so you can guess where everyone was hiding.

Course

Registering online for this course was a little shocking. In the elite division, there were only 16 females. You read that right…only 16 elite females in the entire race. It was weird. While we were on the start line, the race director informed us that this sprint was going to be flat and fast. With only 4.25 miles and 21 obstacles, I figured as much.

When the gun when off there was a short run before the first obstacle: hay bales. Followed by another short run before going down a hill via barbed wire. The wire was low and sharp, but definitely do-able. There were a lot of people running around with holes in their shorts later from it getting ripped. Followed by that, monkey bars. Then the dunk wall. And then, a run into the woods.

The obstacles were fairly easy. One obstacle to note was the bucket carry. I’ve never seen a bucket like this. The bucket was pretty early on, and one of the next obstacles after the dunk, so we were a little slick. The buckets had lids and were color-coded, so it was easy to grab one and go. This was honestly one of the, if not the, easiest bucket carries ever. It couldn’t have been more than 200 meters, in a dry, relatively flat loop where the grass had been matted down and was easy to get through. The buckets even felt lighter than usual–so I’m not sure if they didn’t fill them as much as usual, but it was an enjoyable bucket carry. Wow, I never thought I’d say that!

The next obstacle after the bucket was the sandbag. They only had us carry one, and it was nothing special. Just another loop (longer than the bucket, of course), down and back through the woods. The only thing really to note was there was a drop-off, and several people fell. Nobody fell enough to get significantly hurt from what I saw, but several people fell. The people who didn’t had the sandbag resting on their shoulders and used the trees for leverage. Again, nothing special. Spartan being Spartan.

There were a few differences in the familiar Spartan obstacles. The biggest and one of my personal least favorite differences was how loose the straps on the A-frame and vertical cargo net were. It had rained all week leading up to the event, and the straps were so loose that I honestly thought I was going to fall through it! But, everyone around me made it through.

Spartan Race Cargo Climb

Another difference that was to be noted was one of the walls. Once you ran out of the woods in one of the final fields, you came across rolling mud hills that were pretty shallow, and a little further of a run for a 6-foot wall. Now, I figured this was a six-foot wall because there were no red steps on the side, but as I ran closer, I realized that it was definitely taller than 6 feet. Spartan had fooled me! It was seven feet with no step. Which, accomplishable (even for my 5-foot-self), but it threw me a little off guard. I wonder if Spartan will continue this trend for elite races in the future.

A little run led to an incredibly dry rope climb on top of a short hill, another little woods run, and then the spear throw. I was really impressed by the spears here because I noticed that the hay bales were really tight. Normally, I try to look for neater and tighter hay before throwing the spear, but this time it was almost all of them! It was awesome. One extremely dry inverted wall and a short hill later, and it was over the fire jump and through to the finish.

Volunteers

I wanted to make sure to add a separate section just to talk about the number of volunteers in the race. Okay, so, we all know that Spartan has been lacking on the number of volunteers present at obstacles lately. Actually, the number of volunteers that have been at OCR races, in general, have been depleting–and not just Spartan.

Now, one thing that was a little shocking again, that I’d like to step back and talk about was how hardly anyone registered to run the sprint. Again, there were only 16 elite females in the entire race. That’s insanely low! I was talking with one of my friends about possible theories as to why people weren’t registering. One thing we came up with was that people weren’t racing because they were going to volunteer the sprint, so they can get a free race code, now that Spartan is giving race codes again.

We were probably right on the volunteering for race codes thing. I honestly had never seen so many volunteers in my life.

I am not exaggerating when I say that every single obstacle had at least two volunteers stationed. Even the barbed wire. It was crazy! Because there were so many people out there, the atmosphere was great also. Double the volunteers meant double the encouragement, and all of the Saturday volunteers were awesome. If you volunteered Saturday morning and were on course during the elite women’s race, I personally want to say, thank you!

Other

Honestly, it was one of the quickest and most fun OCRs that I have ever done. I was super impressed with the atmosphere. It was so small, flat and fast, that it was extremely enjoyable and everyone there just seemed so happy. Congratulations to Ryan Kent and Heather Gollnick on their first-place finishes!

One thing that I really enjoyed was that while we were running if you looked around you for a moment, you could see blue mountains in the background. It was amazing.

 

Super Sunday

I was really surprised this day. I wanted my friend and me to leave early because this race sold out in the elite and age group divisions. Whatever didn’t sell out, was really stinking close. We assumed that the glorious parking lot was going to be completely full.

My race started at 7:45, so our goal was to be there super early. You know, because the parking lot was going to be crazy busy.

Well, we were wrong. It had been just as empty and easy to maneuver as the previous day. If anything, it was even easier than the day before because we had gotten there so early.

Registration had been just as easy the second day. The security guy, instead of having us put our bands on first, had us show him our packets and then let us gear up inside the festival area. Which made way more sense than the day before. He was very pleasant to talk to and I think did a great job.

When you got into the festival area it was very similar to the day before: ghost town. You could see a few more elite women and men trotting around but it was mostly people who ran the day before.

Course

Holy smokes was this an amazing race. The race director met us at the start line in order to inform us that there was going to be 8 miles and 26 obstacles. Was this supposed to be a super, or a little bit longer of a sprint? Either way, it was an awesome time.

The beginning of the race started out the same. After the very cold dunk wall, it was off to a run in the woods. Rather than being greeted by a dunk, we were greeted by Twister in the woods. Followed by obstacles. The beginning of the race held the first few “tougher” obstacles. The hay bales, over walls, barbed wires, monkey bars, dunk wall, Twister, A-frame, and Herc hoist were all in the first two miles. I would like to add that Twister had the black grips on the right half of the obstacle, and the left side did not. I appreciate that Spartan kind of gave options, especially since this has been a great controversy. After that, it was smooth sailing, and a whole lot of trail runs.

Mile 3 was very interesting because you ran on single track trails for about .7 miles before hitting the next obstacle. One thing that Spartan does well is to place the Stairway to Sparta obstacle in beautiful places. It was really put in an amazing place in Virginia. When we ran out of the trails, it opened onto this open field. Beyond the fields were these beautiful blue mountains and fresh air. It honestly felt like Julie Andrews was going to pop out of nowhere and start singing beautiful songs.

After another trail run was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. We came out of the woods and were greeted with this huge pumpkin patch. They were legitimate pumpkins too; separated by vines and everything. There were hills of them! It was honestly one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen during a race…if not the coolest. With those of you who struggle to make pictures in your head while reading, I really do apologize that I was unable to get a picture.

At the top of the hill with all of the pumpkins, there was the Z-wall. It was one of the open z-walls that, to be honest, I don’t like as much as the ones that were filled. I looked around though and strangely enough, there was no volunteer at this obstacle. Weird.

As we kept running, we eventually came to an obstacle that causes a lot of people some trouble: the bender. Now bender isn’t hard because it is hard, it is just one of those that you look at, and it looks so scary that it honestly trips a lot of people up. I’m sure because of it’s scary-ness, it is one of the more dangerous obstacles in a Spartan Race. I’m very thankful that this obstacle was pretty much completely dry by the time we hit it, but, something has been off with bender. Spartan has sometimes not been putting anything underneath it but hay. This time, there were mats, but the way the mats were placed was a little strange. They are placed in a way that would ensure a safer landing from the top, but there is no coverage at the bottom of the obstacle. Weird.

After you kept running, you came back to the 7-foot wall which, this time, was sided with those little steps. The carries were toward the end of the race rather than the beginning like the previous day, and they were not any more difficult. The rig was in the last mile also and it had rings and ropes. That was it. One of the ropes I grabbed was a little more slick than usual, but it was nothing to write about. The end of the super was the same as the sprint. Spear, inverted wall, hill, then fire jump, then a sweet sweet finish line.

Just like the day before, it was another fast and overall flat run.

Volunteers

The volunteer situation was completely different on Super day than it was during the Sprint. During the Sprint, as previously mentioned, there were SO many volunteers. Two at every obstacle. It was amazing.

During the Super, there was only one volunteer per obstacle. There were some obstacles that did not have anybody.

Now, I am not someone to judge. I have never had to be a volunteer coordinator, and I can’t imagine that it is easy. For some obstacles, I do think it’s okay to not have a person there. I feel that the obstacles that are more in isolation (kind of like how that beautiful Stairway to Sparta is) should maybe have two people. That way, if something goes wrong then they aren’t left all alone to survive.

Overview/ Other thoughts

I really enjoyed this race. This race was very flat, fast, and more than that, fun. Personally, I like courses where you can run through the race rather than have to do a lot of hiking. I think that if anyone wanted to do a race where they like to run as opposed to the hike and wasn’t in Virginia, well, then you missed out.

If you were one of the volunteers who came out and supported everybody, I want to sincerely say thank you. I know that it is difficult to give up your time, and I hope that you know you are greatly appreciated! Special thank you to Saturday’s 7-foot wall guy, Saturday’s inverted wall girl, Sunday’s Olympus guy, Sunday’s water by Olympus guy, and Sunday’s Bender guy for being especially awesome. If I can remember who you are, you should know that means something!

The group of elite women on Saturday were some of the best people I have raced against. Often in Spartan, people tend to get a little more competitive than in other races, and sometimes this doesn’t mean being the best toward no-name athletes like myself. I really felt like the women on Saturday did a great job cheering for each other and being supportive, even during an elite race. So ladies, thank you for being awesome, and it was an absolute pleasure to race against you.

Aroo!

Rain, Rain Stayed Away: Seattle Spartan Weekend

When you think of the city of Seattle, Washington you usually think of rain, but Seattle Spartan Beast and Sprint weekend had different plans.  What Seattle actually got was incredible weather with some of the most breathtaking views you can find.

First off let me talk about something that can be an absolute pain for obstacle course racers: Parking!  Parking for both days went extremely fast and smooth.  Plenty of volunteers were out there guiding you both in and out of the area, and the payment lines split into four, so there was no traffic getting backed up.  All of the volunteers for this event were very helpful with questions and the ones on the course were very enthusiastic and encouraging to all the racers.  This is always a positive, especially when you feel the struggles after a bucket carry and need to keep pressing forward, it’s nice to get that sound of encouragement.

As I get to registration it was also pain-free.  For the Beast, I arrived just about noon and there was a 2-minute wait to get in, and on Sunday I ran the age group race and there was no wait for registration.  Again all the people working the registration area were very helpful in answering all my questions.

As always, Spartan knows how to put on a race.  From the minute you walked into the festival to the minute you walked out, there was something for you to do.  The Army was there with a mini obstacle course which included a heavy sled push, pull-ups, an army crawl, and a that sled you just pushed you now need to pull it back.  Food, clothing, and more were on hand during the entire weekend and did not disappoint.

The courses for the weekend were fast with not a lot of major climbs.  The Beast course ended up being just over 13 miles while the Sprint was just over 4.5 miles.  The course was a perfect mixture of water, mud, sand, and dirt and was both challenging and fun.  Steve Hammond does an incredible job and designing these courses, but more importantly, he and his team do an incredible job at marking the courses.  There is nothing worse than being on a course and getting lost, but with Spartan races that won’t ever be a problem as the entire course was marked for both days, and this is something I am very thankful for.

After I finished my race I was greeted by volunteers handing out the finisher medals and then by a photographer who snapped a couple pictures of me in front of the Spartan wall while I held my shield.  As I walked down the finish shoot I was offered a variety of post-race food and drinks including of course the infamous race banana.  Fit Aid was also offered, as well as water and Cliff chewy blocks.  Finally, I came to another volunteer who cut off my timing chip and made small talk while doing so, which was a nice little touch.

After I left the finishing shoot I went over and sprayed myself off with the Spartan “showers” that were surprisingly refreshing and then into the changing tent to get the dirt out of places it shouldn’t be.  Lastly, I went over to bag check to retrieve my bag, which was super convenient and no hassle at all.

Spartan is the leader of the OCR sport for a reason.  It has changed the lives of a lot of people, and they know how to put on a race.  I hear negativity now and then about it, but at the end of the day as I said above, Spartan knows how to put on a race and I can’t wait for the next one.

Spartan Chicago (Indianapolis) Beast and Sprint

Let’s jump right into this fire. The Spartan Chicago, which on Spartan’s own website declares that it is “Just 2:30 hours away from Chicago and 1:30 hours away from Indianapolis”, is in the Eastern Time Zone.

Yep, you read that right. The Spartan Chicago is an hour closer to Indianapolis, is hosted in Attica, Indiana and, oh yeah, is in different time zone!

Map of Distances between Chicago,IL Attica, IN and Indianapolis, IN

Exhibit A: Incredibly compelling, scientific evidence that the Spartan Chicago should be renamed to Spartan Indiana.

Now perhaps there is a strategic reasoning behind this naming decision and it might just be that I’m ranting, but that’s my right and I will exercise it as I wish!

Spartan Chicago

Naming convention aside, the Beast and Sprint weekend hosted at the Badlands Off-Road park was an experience that I won’t soon forget. Scheduled on the weekend of September 8th and 9th and competing with the Brickyard 400  (which ended up being rain delayed until September 10th), an Indianapolis Colts Season Opener and a Warrior Dash a few miles away. This Spartan weekend delivered a wonderful experience for competitors of all levels. Even if, the number of fellow racers, was fewer than expected.

The Venue

The venue seemed as if it was custom designed to host an Obstacle Course Race. For example, the parking was on-site and the registration line non-existent! This meant no buses, no wait and a friendly group of volunteers and staff made this one of the fastest, friendliest, in and out experiences I’ve ever had at a Spartan/OCR event.

Expedited lines and smile filled faces, however, weren’t the only thing we were met with during our time in Indiana. From the second my brother John and I touched down at Indianapolis International Airport, we were met with buckets of rain.

Apparently, leftovers from a storm system earlier in the week. These soggy conditions made everyone’s cheery attitude and excitement that much more impressive, as everyone there was slopping through mud and water on and off the course!

Beast Mode Bros 412 at the Spartan Chicago (Indianapolis) Badlands Off-Road Park

Evidence of ridiculously friendly volunteers

The Course

The Badlands Off-Road Park served as a vast, fast, canvas to build the 13-mile Spartan Beast and the 5-mile Spartan Sprint upon. With a variety of terrain; from rock-filled streams to slick black mud, it offered it all; but the predominate surface we found ourselves trudging through was a super soft, squishy, yet; packable sand/gravel mixture. Regarding elevation, the map could best be described as a “roller coaster”. Meaning that what went up, eventually came back down and ultimately; the course balanced itself out to be a nearly perfectly flat surface. Back at the same elevation where it started.

Climbing up the hills with this mix of terrain and elevation was technical, but once you got the hang of it, very manageable. Your reward for climbing up the 50-70 foothills was a thrilling breakaway (or bomb away, depending on how fast you wanted to approach it) that included curves, berms, and divots that you could run down as fast as you wanted, without fear of major consequence. The sand mix was such that even if you lost your line and “yardsaled”, you would be able to pop back up and get back up to speed without so much as a scrape.  In my opinion, this terrain was the highlight of the entire course which was awesome because it represented a majority of the surface found at the venue.

The Beast

All the major obstacles showed up at the Spartan Chicago (Indianapolis) and the rain made them extra challenging once completed. Of note, the course had 2 different sandbag carries, one using the standard Spartan bag and another using a generic bag with an evil zig-zag path to walk it around. The downpour of rain also affected the A-Frame and Tyrolean traverse in ways I hadn’t seen before. For example, the A-frame had more give in the net, to the point that as one Spartan would hop off the end of the fixture, the racer at the beginning would drop down 2-3 feet. I have never experienced that before and it added a new tier of challenge to a typically straightforward obstacle.

As for Tyrolean Traverse, the rope was so wet that it sagged to the point that my back was dragging on the ground, while I was simultaneously holding onto the rope.  Looking into future races, I will certainly pay closer attention to rope sagging and use that to decide which lane to choose going into the obstacle.

Also, the finishing sequence of the 2-segment twister, Spear Throw and a raging fire jump to wrap the day up added a lot of excitement and drama for participants and the amazing spectators that braved the elements to see the day’s events unfold! Well done. One issue we did experience was that the weather conditions seemed to affect our timing chips, which reported at the results tent that we had crossed the finish line in 15 hours! A quick chat at the results tent remedied that and had us back in business in no time.

Beast Mode Bros 412 at the Spartan Chicago (Indianapolis) Badlands Off-Road Park

Evidence of a great Beast.

The Sprint

On Saturday, temps dropped by about 10 degrees, from 75-ish to 65- ish and the rain stalled to a slight drizzle. Which somehow converted the wet and slick obstacles from the Beast, into the muddy and more slippery obstacles of the Sprint. The 5-mile highlight reel of the Beast Course, had all the same hanging obstacles, along with a devastatingly difficult Bucket Brigade and Atlas Carry. Perhaps it was our diminished forearm and grip strength from the day before, but those buckets seemed to be approximately 100 pounds heavier than the ones we carried in the Beast.

Not to mention the fact that the Atlas Carry had turned into a water obstacle in a few sections. I almost asked for a PFD before grabbing my, affectionately titled, Burpee Boulder! Overall, the Sprint was challenging and differentiated enough to ensure that it will be remembered for its own reasons by those of us ambitious (i.e. insane) enough to attempt it the day after the Beast. That tall task was accomplished, while also being an accessible test for the Novice racer. (Of which we saw and high fived aplenty throughout the day.)

Conclusion

At the end of the Spartan Chicago (Indianapolis) weekend, there was nothing but good things going on at the Badlands on the Spartan Chicago 2018. And naming controversy aside, I would highly recommend any racer looking for a friendly, fast and fantastic experience to give this location a look in the future!

 

Beast Mode Bros 412 at the Spartan Chicago (Indianapolis) Badlands Off-Road Park

Evidence of a great weekend @ The Badlands!

Spartan Race Romania Trifecta Weekend

This is the first time Romania is having a Spartan Race and it’s the Trifecta weekend! The Spartan Race Romania is located in the mountainous regions near Brasov. This popular destination is famous around the country for those who love to go alpine skiing. Poiana Brasov, is where the Spartan race took place and it peaks at 1799 meters.

The weekend consisted of a 7.5km Sprint with 400m of vertical ascent, followed by the 13km Super with 1000m of vertical ascent and lastly the 21km Beast with over 1500m of vertical ascent. The course consisted of some rolling hills, technical downhill rocky areas, and some stream running.  In Romania, there is also some stinging nettle flowers throughout the course which made the race very exciting.  Stinging nettles will burn on contact with your skin for a couple minutes, so if someone was wearing shorts they were in for a surprise! You can see some of the tall flowers/plants in the picture below.

romania-spartan-stinging-nettles

Comparing Central European Spartan races to North American Spartan races

Top 3 in the Age group and top 3 in the Open heats are rewarded with little Spartan trophies. Also in Europ,e there are multiple teams from many different countries. Team awards are given for the top 3 fastest finished teams.  The teams must consist of at least 3 people, and the top 3 must finish within 1 minute of each other.

Spartan Race Romania Team Finish

The results tent was also above par in comparison to some of the Canadian Spartan Races. There is a screen dedicated to show the top 3 racers in every category including the elite waves, age groups and open heats and team heats. Other than that they also had the iPads which showed your time and ranking in your given field. I wish I saw a big screen televising the entire race. I have seen that in a couple of the Spartan Races and I think that is a great feature.

romania-spartan-results

Overall the Spartan Race Romania hosted a great trifecta weekend. The temperature was adequate, perfect for racing. The course was well marked on both days.  The festival area was located in a big open field where many spectators can watch some of their favorite obstacles. Food and beverage were nearby which is really helpful. And lastly, the atmosphere was positive. Friendships were made, medals have been won, and another trifecta is checked off the bucket list.

 

 

Asheville Spartan Super 2018

Every year for the last three years, I have made the nine-hour drive to tackle the Asheville-Black Mountain course. Over the past three years, the Ashville course has consistently ranked in difficulty at the highest level. In comparison to other courses, it’s put in the same category as Killington and Wintergreen.  The terrain and elevation provide a physically and mentally tough course, one that provides challenges to the strongest OCR athletes and pushes many past their limitations.

With that in mind, I drove to Ashville this year with a hopeful mindset. Each year I have managed to improve my time and overall performance and this year I had the same intentions. In typical Asheville fashion, just parking on race day was a difficult task. The rain had been falling hard for the last few weeks and the parking lot was a muddy mess with many Spartans stopping to help push out vehicles and navigate to safer parking.

Standing in the start line corral, feeling the normal butterflies and anxiousness that one faces staring at a monumental task, I took a deep breath, shouted AROO, and took off running to face the rugged terrain.

The course began much like years before, swooping hard right and heading towards the cold streams that run throughout the mountain. Soon I was jumping into the cold water and maneuvering around the slippery rocks and divots. Vertical Cargo and Plate Drag were the very first obstacles we faced. I really enjoyed the cargo climb and the way they used the terrain.

Cargo Climb Plate Drag

6ft wall followed by 8ft wall and Z-wall were the next obstacles we faced. The new design on Z-wall provided increased difficulty and many athletes were forced to do burpees in several inches of muddy water.

Z-Walls

Moving forward we faced lots of climbing and navigating muddy terrain, the rain made this particular course that much more difficult and the climbs alone were taking many Spartans a great deal of time.

Technical Terrain

After a few miles of climbing we were brought down the hill and close to the festival area. Here we faced the multi-rig and several other Spartan favorites including tire flip and dunk wall.  The dunk wall was extra gross and left us all orange and muddy.

Circling out of the festival area and heading back up the mountain we began another ascent. Most of the climbs and ascents were in areas where it was nearly impossible to actually run. Rather Spartans moved in a march up the side of the mountain. One thing to mention about this venue is the amazing views. While the climb is rugged, the view from the top is absolutely breathtaking.

Mountain View

Several miles of climbing up and back down was next; stopping only for the incredible views or next obstacle tends to be the right of passage for any Spartan who tackles the Asheville Spartan course. Adjacent to Cargo Climb we came upon a newer Spartan obstacle similar to a great wall with rock grips. The rock grips were muddy and made the obstacle very difficult but equally fun.

Great Wall

Similar to years past, the last mile or so of the course brought us back down the mountain and into the festival area to finish out the last few obstacles. First, a long barb wire crawl with many spectators and finishers watching and cheering us all on. Next, the spear throw and Hercules Hoist tried our reserves.  The last few obstacles and finish line were in the heart of the festival area. It was a lot of fun to have so many cheering you on as you finished this grueling and laborious course. Jumping the fire and smiling for the customary photo danced in my memory as I collected my medal and shirt.

I do, however, feel obligated to mention that when the small rain storm rolled in during the afternoon heats, many racers were taken off of the course with no medal or finisher shirt. The Spartan Staff at this particular event (I’ve been to many and never experienced this) chose to yell, scream and curse at racers to get out of the festival area. I was very surprised by the unprofessional display and lack of organization they showed over such a small storm; by the time I had trudged back to my car the rain had stopped and the clouds had cleared.

However, outside of the storm and festival uproar, overall the 2018 Asheville Spartan Super did not disappoint; it was the perfect combination of the 2016 and 2017 courses. I am looking forward to the next event…AROO!

Spartan Portland/Washougal WA Sprint and Hurricane Heat {Journal Entry}

Hello #OCRCommunity!

After all this time together it seems that I still don’t have the capacity to write a simple Race Recap & that I tend to babble on & on about my experience getting to the race, the participation during it & then the aftermath of the whole experience.  I tried, oh lord I tried, but it just seemed so foreign to me.  This is why I plan on writing my Race Recaps as more of a Journal Entry than a traditional Race Recap.  If that bores you, then go find another author & leave a big thumbs down in the comments section.  If you happen to like it, also let me know!

 

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -01

-The Adventure Begins

Let’s start this tale off by pointing out the fact that this race wasn’t in Portland, it was situated about 30mins northeast from the edge of Portland in Washougal, WA at a local Motocross (MX) Park.  My wife (Charity), 6-year-old daughter (Sierra), & two friends joined us on our trip to the event.  Our friend Erin came along to enjoy the sights & watch over our daughter for us during the events & Troy also came along to participate.  If you’ve read any of my previous Race Recaps, you’ll know that Troy is a long time friend and has been getting increasingly addicted to OCRs as he continues to ferry my wife & I to & fro.  I really don’t know how he puts up with our crazy!

We left Vancouver Canada at approx. 8 am on Friday, swung by & picked up Erin, & headed south on our adventure to our AirBNB in Vancouver, WA.   It’s an odd thing to say that you’re traveling from Vancouver to go to Vancouver & you know the trip according to Google should take approx. 5-6 hours.  The first hurdle of our trip was the sheer magnitude of the traffic.  I figured leaving early on a Friday morning & getting near Seattle just after the morning traffic would be the way to go. Well, I was wrong!  Traffic was at a crawl the whole way through Seattle, Tacoma, & Olympia.  The trip ended up taking us close to 11 hours in total due to mainly traffic, lunch, & rest stops & the fact that a 6-year-old has the bladder the size of a pea!  We finally arrived tired and in one piece at our Vancouver, WA based AirBNB.

 

-The Sprint Awaits

We left the AirBNB around 8 am knowing full well that it would take longer than the anticipated 30mins by Google to get to the site. We also knew we wanted to start earlier so we could finish and have plenty of time to say hello to people, go back to our room, perhaps clean up some, change if needed & then head back for the event that evening.  Parking was in a field of rolling hills & was well marked and flagged by volunteers.  We were pretty early & the absolute sea of vehicles that were already parked had me pretty giddy at the sheer turn out.  I believe someone mentioned that the site sold out, well, if it didn’t, you would have fooled me, there were a LOT of participants at this one!  We didn’t get to the actual starting line until 10:45, 15 mins after our posted starting heat time.  Lesson learned, show up even earlier!  You think after 4 years of doing these that I would have learned by now!  We got on-site, parked & slowly made our way through registration.  We found the ‘Beasts OCR’ tent which wasn’t hard as they were awarded the largest team tent and introduced ourselves as part of the Vancity OCR team which merges with Beasts when we run in the USA, the Beasts will often do the same with Vancity when they come to play in Canada.

 

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -02

-Let’s get Dirty

The event map showed 21 obstacles, approx. 7 km of distance and a pretty flat terrain compared to those from previous race experience at other venues.

Charity’s start time was for 11:15 and the starting corral was pretty full but she was allowed to start early with us as there was still a small amount of room for those that wanted to join in on our heat.  After the initial short climb, as I mentioned before, the course was pretty flat.  The initial hill I would say was the steepest & wasn’t really all that long.  There were a few other hills strewn about here & there but maybe I’m just finally getting used to and acclimated to this stuff as I felt it was a pretty easy going course.

See the Course map for a full list of obstacles, I only failed the Multi Rig & the Monkey bars so I know I’m getting stronger & finally starting to use proper form.  I ran into no issues at the first few obstacles & then came up to my old nemesis, the Rope Climb.  I’ve only ever done it 1.5 times in the past but it was still pretty early in the race & I felt pretty good.  I made it up & back down with no issues other than getting a good rope burn on my ankle, reminder to self, wear high socks to Spartan Races. My wife finally got to see me complete the rope climb, that was a good feeling to show her how well I am progressing.  I guess that’s one more obstacle that I can hopefully continue to train for and conquer on an ongoing basis!  The dunk wall had about 4 inches of air between the bottom of the wall & the mud.

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -03

The barbed wire crawl seemed abnormally long, not as long as Vegas mind you.  I didn’t want to exaggerate the distance so I fired up Google Earth & did the best that I could to determine the actual length.  It looks like the barbed wire crawl was in the section of the course that has the Whoops/Moguls in it and is approx. 250 feet long.  It was tough with all the little bumps to get through it, maybe they just made it feel worse than it was?  We’ll come back to the wonderful barbed wire crawl later!  The Plate drag was dusty as heck & most of the lines had some pretty good bumps in them that made me walk to the plate, lift it up a bit, go back & continue to pull it, there was also a volunteer stating there were bees in the area & to beware.

We actually saw “Warning: Bees” signs strewn all about the property.  The Cliff Bucket Brigade was next, and I feel very odd about this one.  Am I crazy for saying it was just way too short & too easy?  I honestly felt like I needed to do it a second time to get the normal experience!  I didn’t do it a second-time mind you!  I just shook my fist in the air and vocally cursed Spartan for going easy on me.  I got a few chuckles & groans back from others & continued on…

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -03

I ended up bumping into Amelia Boone at the 7’ Wall.  She had already done the course earlier that day & came in 2nd place for the Elite Women.  She was now doing the course again with her dad and he was wearing a shirt that said ”Amelia will do my burpees”, man.. I should get a shirt that says that!

The Rings & Monkey bars were the last two obstacles to fail (although I’ve done the rings that ONE time!) & then the finish line.  It was at the top of what I would figure was a tabletop jump, and well, there was no fire or photographer there which was a bit sad.  I understand no fire due to fire bans and all and at least  Spartan made up for the no finish line photographer by placing a bunch of wall backdrops & props with photographers right after the finish line.   All in all, it was a pleasantly cool day, with one small shower in the middle & another larger shower at the end, but it was perfect for cooling you down.   The course wasn’t overly hard or muddy.

 

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -05

-Halftime wrap up

I would say the layout of the festival area was nice.  There was plenty of room & porta pottys throughout the area & along the course.  American Spartan races seem to have the best vendor and sponsor areas. I’m not sure why, I found this when I was working Event Sales for Spartan Race Canada.  Keep up the great work guys!  The course was a perfect one for someone new to Spartan.  I’m starting to feel Spartan is changing up their dynamic for the Sprint & making it a gateway into Spartan.  The Super is tougher & well, the Beast even more so!  I’m reading more and more people posting the same revelations.  Do the Sprint if you’re just starting out, do the Super if you’ve been doing this a while, and if you want to see what you’re made of, do the Beast.  Heck, you did the Beast & you wanna take it up one more notch!? Do the Ultra! This Portland Sprint ended up being about 6.69Km (4.15Mi)

All above photo credits go to Spartan Race

 

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat

-The Portland 4Hr Hurricane Heat #146 (My first!)

My apologies for the quality of these following photos, they were are all screen captured from and are credited to Spartan Race/Dingo Dominguez’s Facebook Live Videos
Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -14

Once we were done the sprint we headed back to the AirBNB, dropped off Erin & Sierra, quickly showered, changed, grabbed some grub & headed right back to the site.  Yes, we were just there earlier that day but probably due to the fact there wasn’t a slowly moving train of vehicles headed back to the site & the fact that we were now allowed to enter from a different direction we somehow took a wrong turn.  We were supposed to be on-site for 4pm as the HH started @ 5pm.  We ended up getting to the meeting spot around closer to 4:30 due to our directional mixup.

I’m going to back peddle a bit here, Troy was freaking out about the HH.  He felt he wasn’t quite ready & where he needed to be physically or mentally but knew deep down inside that he would be able to get it done.  It sure didn’t help things that I wasn’t able to give him any help with preparing for the event as there is very little to no information about these HH’s.  I tried to not give him the disparaging information that I had been able to glean from the internet.  That of the fact that the HH’s can go anywhere from 4-6 hours, and are varying distances etc..  I tried to not play on that but I didn’t want to try to pass it off as a cake walk either.   We had all our gear & our special item was to bring two bricks, the kind you build a house with.  We ended up carrying those bricks throughout the day.  Doing Burpees with them, hand claps, more burpees, more hand claps, carrying them through the dunk wall.  You get my drift, they went with us, in our hands, everywhere.

 

Krypteia Dingo oversaw our little group of if I recall 59? Sorry, I have THE worst memory! Along side of ‘Beast OCR’ President Adam Birgenheier.  Again, memory fails me, but I believe that original # was supposed to be closer to 90?  Going by a fellow team mates GPS as I totally forgot to even start mine due to my brain going in overload from the days events, we ended up going for approx. 4h 13m & with a total distance of 4.2Km (2.65Mi).  The HH isn’t about how far you go, sure, it’s an endurance event, but that doesn’t always mean distance.   We started our night off owing Dingo 300 burpees in which we did like 50 of them facing down hill right at the start.  Two members dropped out during this initial barrage and a few others went up to Krypteia Dingo, had a quick chat session with him and then got back in line.  I wish I was a bit better at this & that my memory wasn’t so bad as I know I’m not doing the HH any justice.  It wasn’t an easy feat at all.  Doing those burpee’s SUCKED!  But, I dug deep & got um done!  Maybe slower than some, but I still managed to get um done & not slow down the group.  After a bit more of this and that with the bricks, we ended up getting put into 4 groups of 14, I believe another dropped out just before we grouped up so we ended up having even groups.  I was picked to be the initial leader of Team #4.

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -10

We jogged to what was the 6’ walls.  I believe we were supposed to make use of them, but they had already been taken down.  Adam openly asked what we should do instead, the Cargo Net was directly beside us so I stated we should do the cargo net instead.  Evidently, that was a good idea because that’s where we ended up going.   We had to get our team & our bricks over to the other side, only caveat was that we could only have one man at the top.

 

As this was our first group session doing something like this we awkwardly made our way through it.  We ended up having a few people hold some of the bricks, sending those people over, fireman lining their bricks up & over the cargo net then repeated it.  I believe we came in second for that task.  All of us were awarded Burpee’s or Hand Claps (basically jumping jacks without the leg movement, of course with our bricks still in hand, or some sort of torture as our reward.

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -11

After that we made our way over to the Kids Rolling Mud section.  We were asked as a team to make our way through it with a brick in each hand & to keep the bricks out of the water & mud.  This one wasn’t so bad as the kids ditches & hills weren’t so that deep or that high.  We made it through that section pretty unscathed.

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -12

That had to have been practice as we then worked our way over to the Adult Rolling Mud & Dunk Wall.  Our instructions were to get through the same as before.  Getting no mud or water on our bricks.  A few of us bailed pretty hard through this section and one of the other teams lost a brick in the water.  Once the rest of the teams were done, Krypteia Dingo recruited the rest of their team to get back in the water and help.  As it was taking them a bit longer than Dingo anticipated, he ordered them into quadrants & had them sweep their area.  That found it in under 20seconds again showing the versatility of working as a team.  From there we were brought to the Slip Wall.  Oh, don’t forget all this time we were doing our rewards & trying to pay back the 250burpees that we owed Dingo.  The task was pretty much the same, get our guys & their bricks to the other side.  This time we decided to just get enough over to make a firemans line, get the bricks over & then storm the wall as we had 3-4 ropes per team to make use of.  We flew through that task with ease & took first place buy a large margin.  Our reward, 50 clap ups.  Thank you Krypteia Dingo!

It seemed evident that he was teaching us that coming in first wasn’t always the best tactic.  I know at this point we all started to ask each other if we should sandbag ourselves to not come in first.  But, in the end, we knew that just wasn’t the absolute lesson we should take away from it.

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -13

We then Bear Crawled up hill from the Slip Wall to the Herc Hoist.  Again I did my best on Google Earth, it looks to have been about 350ft or so.  Once there, we made a wall with our bricks so we could use our hands & we all did the Herc Hoist one at a time as a team to completion.  I didn’t have an issue with it earlier that day, but the bags were heavy.  I was the first to tackle it & was fearful that I’d slow us all down, but I finished second & then moved on to the back of the line to allow the next person to continue on.   I don’t recall who won, because by this time it wasn’t about who won, it was how well did they accomplish the goal. 1st or last.  In the end, I want to say that’s what Dingo was trying to get through to us the whole time.

 

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -15

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -16

-Gettin’ er done!

Lastly was the Barbed wire crawl/dead body drag.  We all made team walls with our bricks, Dingo picked out a few dead bodies from each team we were told to break up into groups of three all with one dead body each.  We then had to drag that dead body across those moguls & under the barbed wire.  Ta boot, we were told we had to stay below the line of the barbed wire at all times as it was actually “Grazing machine gun fire”  I ended up dragging the first dead body through the moguls with my partner, luckily Adam brandished himself a firehose & started to hose us all down.  Yes, I said luckily.  Sure, it was a bit cold & rather annoying, but it helped lube up our path.  This is when Adam gained the nickname of “Hoser” which I will henceforth be calling him.  You’re welcome Adam! It was a struggle getting our dead body through, but we made it! We were about a quarter of the way through & then we were told we would all have to be the dead body. Oi!  I really didn’t wanna get dragged through that as it looked like it was worse than doing the actual dragging.   At this point the daylight was starting to dwindle so we were asked to snap on our Chem Lights.  The second go round had me dragging the other team mate through the gauntlet,  I questioned his decision, not because I wanted to be lazy & get dragged, again, as it looked worse, but because he was visibly shaking & cold.  He also mentioned he may be close to hypothermia.  I offered up some advice that he may be batter to do the dragging as it may keep him more active & therefore warmer.  He opted to be dragged.  Again we slogged through it, with the task absolutely sucking the whole way, halfway through we were told this would be the last team to go & were asked to turn on our headlamps. We got to the end battered, scraped & a bit bloody from rocks & barbed wire but we made it through.  I was so happy I didn’t end up getting dragged through it too.

 

-Wrapping up the whole day, finally!

From there we were told we were going to the extraction point.  I think we were let lose still owing Krypteia Dingo around 200 burpees.  Well Krypteia, I want you to know that during the time that it took to write this I banged out 75 of them & I plan on doing the rest over the course of the day.  I got my Dog Tags & Shirt & proceeded to get stung multiple times while trying to change back at our car.  I can tell that I am getting stronger & that my body is getting more used to doing these types of activities because I was able to make it through this experience pretty unscathed & not too sore.  I’ve been getting fewer bruises as medals & the DOMS the days after aren’t so bad.  But… Let me tell ya, that wasn’t the case this time!  Maybe it was the 6+ hours of physical activity on Saturday, or the 11+ hour drive back sitting crammed in the car with 4  others or it IS the DOMS, but I was rather sore & stiff this go round.  So much so that I booked myself in for a massage on Tuesday.  Best decision of my life right there!   Today it feels like I normally do after an event like this.  Hello muscles, yes, thank you for getting me through that now rest up before tonight’s’ Bootcamp Class.  *Passes Out*

 

 

The Spartan Warrior Ethos (Memorize the bold lines, there will be a test!)

I will always place the mission first.

Every participant soon learns that their own personal needs and goals must be sacrificed in order to succeed. Though many teams fight with each other early on, once egos are set aside success is achieved.

I will never accept defeat.

Defeat is something that occurs in the mind, not on the field. It is not an impossible task or an opponent that will defeat you but rather giving up in your own mind. Personal courage and perseverance will see you through.

I will never quit.

If you do not accept defeat, you must still have the fortitude and strength to go on. Not quitting is more than just refusing to stop, it is the will to continue.

I will never leave a fallen comrade.

Really, this is what the Hurricane Heat is all about. The strength of the team is worth more than the sum of its members. Each task presented in the Hurricane Heat cannot be accomplished alone, and no team can move on without all its members. Someone will always be slower, someone will always be hurt, but it is not their weakness that causes failure, but the strength of their team that assures success.