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 AG Etiquette

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I’ve been racing with Spartan for almost three years now. Although I haven’t been around a long time, I’ve seen several changes. Not with their obstacles per se, but with some of the ways that things are run.

One of the more significant changes in the system has been the addition of the Age Group Category. Formerly known as Competitive, the Age Group category provides an opportunity for people to challenge themselves to elite rules, who may not feel entirely confident for the elite competition. Or, they see more of an enticing opportunity for recognition among peers. No matter the reason, the Age Group category has become very popular.

I normally run elite, but wanted to give AG a shot during the Asheville Super. Although a fun course, I can say that I was frustrated with a lot of it. Not necessarily the course, but the attitude of several other runners. Now, this article is not meant to say anything negative about AG runners as a whole. Again, I had a great time, just a few things stood out to me that I felt the need to address. I’m also well aware that most of the people who don’t follow general race etiquette won’t care to read this article, but maybe someday they’ll stumble upon it and feel curious.

So, here are just a few things I’d like to address:

1) Let’s Talk Start Line
The start line can be one of the most nerve-wracking elements of the race. It’s where all of the emotions are pent up and released, all at a single moment. It can also be one of the most crucial places for athletes–how you start may not only determine your overall start place but the attitude that you will carry through the entire race.

Which is exactly why, for many, this portion of the race is the most important. It is also one of the most aggravating portions of a race.
When you race, you have goals in mind. Whatever your goals are, know that they are respected, and they are not any more or less valuable than the goals of the Spartan racing beside you. The goals that you set for that particular race should help you determine where you will line up at the start. I know I don’t have to say it, but if you are aiming for a top finish, you go toward the front of the pack. If you are an athlete who is not concerned with your time or place and intend on doing a lot of walking, please head toward the back.

One thing that is also important to note is that in the Age Group Division, you’ll often see men and women have heats together. Listen fellas, just because you’re big and do CrossFit 6 times a week does not mean that it’s not cool to let a girl line up before you. Some of the girls who race are intense, and, if you know the running isn’t your strong suit, it’s totally okay.

Please pick a start line placement that is appropriate for your current physical capabilities.

2) Passing on the Course
During a race, there is a chance that you will need to pass at least one other athlete. If you do, it’s totally cool, and I promise their feelings aren’t going to be hurt that badly. But, if you’re going to pass someone, be a doll and let them know you’re coming. There’s nothing like being in the zone and then all of the sudden you’re getting knocked over by a sweaty stranger flying down a hill with no heads up. Just give them a heads up! My personal favorite is to alert by letting them know which side I’m going on. Just the phrase: “coming on your left!” lets them know to expect you.

3) Getting Passed on the Course
It happens. It stinks, and nobody enjoys being passed, but it’s a part of racing. My suggestion to you is: we all know you don’t like to get passed, but don’t be a jerk. If someone is running down the trail and shouts “coming on your left!” to you, move to the right.

This does not mean you are expected to completely stop your race so that they can run theirs. Keep your pace up, but move it over to the right. I see a lot of “coming on your left!” which is followed by the passee turning around, assessing the runner, and then sprinting on the left, making it difficult for the other runner to proceed. Don’t be that guy. If you get passed, it’s totally fun. Just run your race!

4) Single Track Trails
As a runner, I love single track trails. During Age Group races, I really don’t like the single track trails. Why? Because if you are in a later heat, they tend to get stopped up really easily.
If you’re running single track trails, please move as quickly as possible. That sounds obvious, but these areas are not great for casual strolls, because there are others who want to move around you. If you’re in an area that you’re struggling in and you know it’s going to take you a while, it’s okay to let other runners pass you. Single track trails are definitely not a place to stop for selfies or snack breaks.

Speaking of breaks…

5) Taking a Break on the Course
You don’t know how you’ll feel at all points during a race, and sometimes, you just need to take a break. Totally cool! But, if you do, please move off to the side. Whether it’s a break for a snack, getting something out of your hydro-pack, pictures, cramps, or just because you’re tired, please move over to the side. I don’t feel like I need to really explain this one much further. Plus, if you’re cramping, I’m sure you will get some offers for mustard packets!

6) Taking a Break on Obstacles
WHAT?!
Let me explain this one.
I was running Asheville and had just hit the 8-foot-wall. I am a small person, so I have to use the red blocks to help me get up. I went over to the left side of the wall, and a woman was sitting on top of the wall touching her toes and chatting with a friend who was already off the obstacle. I went to line up to complete, and the volunteer told me I needed to wait…which was fine, except the girl wasn’t moving. The right side started to line up with women. After a couple of paces between sides, I committed to the left side because the girl wasn’t at the top anymore. The volunteer told me I still couldn’t proceed though because the girl was sitting against the wall on the other side due to a cramp in her foot. It wasn’t for another minute or two that I was able to complete the obstacle.

Don’t be this girl. If you can, muster through the obstacle, and when you’re done, head off to the side of the trail for your mustard or pickle juice. Please please please do not stop in the middle of obstacles if you can avoid it. Obstacles only have limited carrying capacities, and by stopping on them for stretch breaks is limiting the number of runners that can pass through.

7) Taking a Break at Water Stations
If you see a line of people, I don’t recommend standing in front of the pitcher if you are refilling your cup. Again, there is only a limited number of people who can go at a time, so please be respectful toward those around you.

8) Thank your volunteers
We see this all of the time, and this will come as no surprise to you. We know that volunteers receive either free or discounted races because they are volunteering. But, by doing so, they may be giving up the start time that they’d prefer to run. And, these volunteers are people, using their time to ensure that you have a good race. Please thank them!

9) Be a Good Sport
At the end of the day, all of us are in this for the fun of it. We all pay lots of money for training, gear, and races. We all come to races with the expectation that we are going to have a positive experience, and part of the positive experience includes the community. Make an effort to smile at someone, to high-five a stranger, or make someone’s first Spartan Race feel like the best thing they’ve ever done.

Did I leave anything out? Add any additional “etiquette” suggestions in the comment box. Happy racing!

Asheville Spartan Super-Southeast Showdown


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Southeast Showdown

“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it”
-Moliere

Never fear, ORM is here
In case you missed the NBC Sports and Spartan Live coverage of the Spartan Super in Asheville, North Carolina, I am here to save the day. Below is the good, the bad, and the muddy of what you missed at the Spartan Super in Asheville.

        First off, I was unaware this was a U.S. Championship Series Race when signing away my life… I mean registration. I just saw, “Asheville, North Carolina” and thought, hell yeah, good beer. After doing a tad of research before this event I found out that last year’s event was nothing shy of absolute torture. So, since I’m a sucker for a good craft beer, I thought “better get to work” and laced up my sneakers and hit the pavement.

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Time Trials

Spartan Race introduces a new way to spend your Pre-race Friday night by attending the open house and time trials. The time trials will run you about $49 if you chose to compete, or free to spectate. The course is a mile dash through 10 of the most popular obstacles, including Twister, Slip Wall, and the Hercules Hoist. Athletes were sent out in small waves to battle each other to be the top 20. After the top 20 were chosen, one final heat remained in order to award the top three male and female winners.

If you don’t wish to compete, you can still practice on the obstacles to get a feel for the madness. Certified SGX Spartan Coaches are on site to help with any tricks and tips to aid you in conquering the obstacles before race day. As usual, Spartan had its swag for purchase along with light refreshments and water. I was disappointed that there was not a pre-race discount on shop items for time trial competitors and spectators. Maybe next time ! 😉

 

Start_Line_Asheville_Super

The Elites

       Hobie Call, had an astounding time of 1:18:02, just fast enough to beat out Ryan Atkins with his time of 1:18:48. Brian Gowiski and Robert Killian fell just shy of the top two with insane speeds of 1:24:37 and 1:26:48. Obstacle Racing Media spoke with Robert at the time trials and he let us in on a secret of his. Robert is able to keep up his endurance at these races with the added help of Tailwinds nutrition. Robert pre-mixes the electrolyte and hydration fuel in a collapsible bottle to have on hand during longer events. Thank you for the tips Robert! Going to have to give it a try!

As for the females, Lindsey Webster delivered amazing times of 1:34:01 for the race, with Rea Kolbl and Faye Stenning right on her tail with their times of 1:34:30 and 1:34:50. Close finish for these top three females! Lindsey states that she really had to push to come out with the win at this year’s Asheville. “I caught second place with Faye on the log carry and we bombed down the final hill together. So fun to race side by side again with this girl, just like last year!” She adds, “It took me a little while to internalize that I had won!” Congrats Lindsey!

Entrance_Asheville_Spartan

Top athlete, Brakken Kraker and NBC sports host, David Magida state that this year’s Asheville Super was quite “easier” than last year. Although I did not race the course last year, it has been the topic of discussion for some time now how difficult last year was. The last 1.7 miles of straight mountain climb were excluded from this year’s race. I do like to Go Big Or Go Home, but I was ecstatic to hear the deletion of the last mile, (and so were my calves).

The Obstacles

“The moment when you want to quit is the moment when you need to keep pushing”

        Black Mountain without a doubt caused some damage that day. In typical Spartan fashion, the challenging venue just wasn’t enough. Spartan made every obstacle “championship” hard, meaning, heavier, taller, and slipperier. The noted tire flip increased in weight to a total of 400 pounds for the men and 200 pounds for the females! It took three females to get the men’s tire to flip just once! Another, incredibly difficult obstacle was the already dreaded Spartan Bucket Carry. Imagine carrying a full bucket of heavy stones and rocks up the side of a mountain when you’re already 4 miles in and about 2,000 feet in elevation. Talk about murder for this Florida girl.

Tire_Flip_Asheville_Spartan

Spartan Race course designer, Steve Hammond states that the “signature” moment for this race was the water crossing. I would personally agree with Steve on his statement!! The scenery was absolutely breath taking!! The only problem was, at that elevation, I didn’t have enough breath to give! There was even a shark sighting out there! That’s definitely memorable! Haha!

 

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Bucket_Carry_Asheville_Spartan
Sandbag_Asheville_Super

“It is then when your heart takes over and takes the lead.”

Based on the terrain and elevation alone, I would not recommend this particular course for a beginner OCR athlete. I have done many races in my short two year career and THIS one right here made me question myself and my athleticism. I had to push myself past a mental barrier that I have never felt before. The race was designed to make or break athletes and I can say I felt broken up until I actually crossed that finish line. I genuinely cried at how proud of myself I was to have finished the race and that I didn’t quit even though my mind and my body both told me I should.

My heart proved stronger that day and carried me to finish! I rewarded myself with a complimentary Zombie White Ale from Catawba Brewing Co., a North Carolina craft brew. I also scored this sweet Asheville Southeast Showdown dri-fit t-shirt for $30.

Medal_Spartan_Super

 

If you have decided to make this Super a MUST DO on your race schedule for 2018, I suggest these breweries and restaurants to visit when in town!

Asheville Brewing
Hole Doughnuts
Tupelo Honey Cafe
Wicked Weed
Sunny Point Cafe

Thank you to ORM and Spartan Race ! Stay Dirty and Stay Fit 💪🏻😊

Jessika_Poppe_signature

 

Photos by: Myself and Spartan Race

Asheville Spartan 2017 Part One


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2017 Asheville Spartan Race weekend was dare I say a hootenanny. We recorded at least two episodes worth of podcast content. Today’s show kicks off with conversations with:

  • Rea Kolbl
  • Faye Stenning
  • Steve Hammond
  • Brakken Kraker
  • Kevin “Bubbles The Clown” Gregory
  • Jaxson Davis

Listen using the player below or the iTunes/Stitcher links at the top of this page.