Boston Spartan Sprint – Mud Anyone?

Barre-Sprint-Bucket-Carry

Mother nature isn’t always going to be on your side. Rarely is there such as thing as “perfect” race conditions. Though the race day conditions for Sunday’s Boston Spartan Sprint were very good, the damage had already been done.

 

Throughout Saturday’s Super, thousands of racers faced an already muddy course and afternoon rain. That, combined with more rain overnight, made the perfect recipe for a wet and muddy Sprint course on Sunday.

Barre-Sprint-Corn-Field

Venue

The venue is located a couple hours away from Boston, at Carter and Stevens farm in Barre, MA. Because it’s on a farm, there wasn’t a crazy amount of ascent, totaling just over 300 ft in the roughly 4.5-mile course. That makes the Boston Sprint a great course to check out if you’re looking to try your first Spartan race.

 

Parking was off-site, requiring a shuttle, but only a few miles away. The Stone Cow Brewery and a BBQ pit was right at the shuttle point for anyone who wanted some food and drink before and/or after the race. Naturally, the path down to the registration tent led right by a group of cows and even parts of the course. This can be great, unless you let the muddy mess of Twister psyche you out before you even walk in the door.

Barre-Sprint-Bridge

Festival

The festival area was nice and muddy, but well organized and spread out. Spectators were able to watch the start, Twister, Bridge, Olympus, Spearman, Hercules Hoist, Monkey Bars and the finish all in the same general area. With a bit of a walk, Bucket Carry and Multi-Rig were also visible. The U.S. Army was on site with a timed challenge for anyone looking to test their athleticism, plus other vendors with free giveaways or sign-ups.

 

Because it was a Sunday, there weren’t as many competitors as a Saturday race may have seen. It was also the same weekend as the North American OCR Championships in Vermont. Because of the lighter race load, the Elite heat went off at 9:00 am, letting everyone sleep in a little. Ideally, this would have also given the course a bit of time to dry out. With the amount of rain and mud, though, not much could be done.

Barre-Sprint-Burpee-Zone

Course

The design of the course was typical to most Spartans, but also one of my favorites. Obstacles were pretty spread out through the first half of the race, with just seven obstacles in the first two miles. Many of those seven were hurdles, mud mounds, or other less taxing obstacles. Then, over the final mile or so, racers hit a gauntlet of upper body and grip obstacles. Most of the terrain was either through fields (corn or otherwise) or wooded trails. There were one or two road crossings, which was sectioned off by police.

Something that I’ve noticed is that when there’s a Beast or Super the day before the Sprint, typically some of the obstacles will be set up more difficultly than if it were just a Sprint weekend. For example, at the DC Sprint, Twister had just two sections. Here in Massachusetts, it had three.

Barre-Sprint-Hercules-Hoist

From what I’ve gathered, Spartan wants to make the longer races more challenging, with the Sprints being a sort of “gateway” into the sport. Typically, that means easier set ups. They still only do rings on the Multi-Rig, but some obstacles are harder to switch out. It’d be tough for them to take out an entire section of Twister overnight. The Hercules Hoist was set up with a heavier weight for the Super as well, which is another one that gets left for the next day’s Sprint. With the extra weight, plus rain and mud, that made the hoist one of the toughest obstacles for the day.

 

Hopefully Spartan returns to Carter and Stevens Farm next year, as it makes a great race venue, whether mother nature cooperates or not!

 

Photo Credit: Spartan Race, the author

Spartan Race Boston Sprint 2016: Built For Runners & Bovine Manure!!

spartan-boston-2016

Photo Courtesy of Brandon Narciso

While the Spartan Pro Team and other highly ranked Elite Spartan Racers had their sights locked on the large payout and potential face-time on NBC courtesy of the Golden State Classic Super in Monterey California; many North Region Spartan hopefuls toed the line this weekend with dreams of conquering obstacles and claiming their one-way coin West to the Spartan World Championship in October.

SpartanRaceBostonSprint2016-Map Photo Courtesy of Brandon Narciso

The 5.2 mile runners dream came true with just Hay Walls and Monkey Bars in the first mile followed by a few additional walls and sporatic obstacles in the second mile. The proverbial cherry on top revealed itself in mile three where A net, A-frame, and A speedbump of a Sandbag Carry helped these speedsters continue to crush all 15,840 feet of the course thus far.  The Rolling Mud with Dunk Wall and Barbed Wire Crawl of Mile 4 provided little resistance for the sprinters however the obstacle assault of the last half mile bogged down the racers with the Herc Hoist, Rope Climb, Bucket Brigade, Spearman, followed by the Atlas Carry to finish the course but…too little too late for those who favor the physical demands of the obstacles over the faster pace of uninterrupted mileage.

spartan-boston-2016-2

Photo Courtesy of Nelson “Runaway” Diaz

To add insult to injury, the 80+ degree heat and hives, reportedly from the hay, did not make things any easier. Translation: Other dreams were simply buried in the bovine manure surrounding the Carter & Stevens Dairy Farm. Yes, my dream included.

SpartanRaceBostonSprint2016-bovine Photo Courtesy of Nelson “Runaway” Diaz

The Saturday Elite male landslide, all from Massachusettes, consisted of Ryan Kempson 1st, Junyong Pak 2nd, and Joshua Fiore 3rd of Nor’Easter OCR who now owns a streak of 3 podium finishes in 3 weeks including 2nd at the Endurance Society Infinitus 88k and 3rd at the Bone Frog New England.

For the Saturday Elite females Kathleen Lanphear, Orla Marie Walsh, and Nicole FitzGerald finished 1st through 3rd respectively.

The Sunday Elite Male heat re-introduced the Nor’Easter OCR storm to the Spartan Race community led by Kiaran McCormack 1st, Michael Miraglia 2nd, and Shane Leighton 3rd.

While the Elite females kept it in high gear with Debbie Koch 1st, Kelly Sullivan 2nd (also of Nor’Easter OCR), and Serra Langone 3rd.

Could this race have uncovered an underdog in the Nor’Easter OCR Pro-Team for us to rally behind? The fact is that at least 5 of their members have qualified for the Spartan World Championship at this race alone, and there is still plenty of time for the rest of their team to earn some coin. Do they have enough to upset the Spartan Pro-Team? Can Nor’Easter OCR run with the big dogs or just bark from the porch? Time will reveal.

Spartan inspiration provided by Adaptive athlete Misty Diaz at the rope climb reminded us that we have officially run out of excuses for our laziness…again.

SpartanRaceBostonSprint2016-MistyDiaz Photo Courtesy of Spartan Race

A friend recently reminded me that most of us understand fear of failure and some of us are accustomed to living with that fear. At the same time, some of us have a genuine fear of success and are accustomed to living with this fear. Fear of success is equally real and a true hindrance to our God-created potential. Fear in any form and for any reason is futile. However, there is a reason to fear NOT – so find it – and be prepared to be amazed on the Spartan course but more importantly throughout the course of your life. #inspiresomebody

Spartan Race Boston Sprint – Aug 29 2015

Entering BarreThe “Boston” Spartan Race Sprint has been a staple in New England for almost as long as Spartan Race has been around. After last years announcement that Amesbury Sports Park was no longer able to host the event, Spartan was forced to relocate out to Barre, Ma (not quite Boston – but it sounds better than the Barre Sprint). This course has now been utilized, albeit underwhelmingly, by BattleFrog, Warrior Dash and earlier this year it was the site of the first New England Spartan Super.

While Spartan’s sites are still set on prime-time TV ratings and Olympic aspirations, they showed this weekend that they’re still capable of putting on extremely entertaining events, even if it was their shortest distance. “Do less with more” is a cliche we’ve all heard, but to me, that’s exactly what Spartan managed to do.

Walking from the farmhouse to the festival area afforded you a view of the fog-laden  countryside you were about to traverse as well as a small taste of what obstacles you were in for. Upon walking into the festival area, it was clear that Spartan had laid this one out much better than the past events here. Wide open spaces, great food and merchants, and a full stocked “Biggest Team Tent” including cases of water, Powerade, and Cliff bars. The 400+ New England Spahtens who were awarded the Biggest Team for both Saturday & Sunday certainly appreciated that.

While the festival area was nice and spread out, Spartan turned around and packed in a solid 25+ obstacles into a short 5-mile race, which truly celebrated the obstacle portion of obstacle course racing. The order was also mixed up a bit, as an added change of pace. Within the first 1.5 miles you had half a dozen obstacles to immediately exhaust you:

Hay Bails – because, you all know as kids when you saw these on farmlands as you drove through the country, you wanted nothing more than to climb atop them and scream “I’M ON TOP OF THE WORLD!” No? That was only me? Oh.

O-U-T Walls – A Spartan staple, but also followed up immediately by a handful of 4-foot walls.

Monkey Bars – They opted to go with straight monkey bars, no varied height of the bars this time around but still challenging, as they were covered in moisture from the night before.

Atlas Stone Carry – This is always a pain in my arse, but usually I’ve got miles or hours to warm up to the idea that I’ll be carrying a huge stone that I might drop on and destroy my toes or the toes of some unlucky racer near me. Not today – this one was right away.

Rope Climb – Again, very early in the race from Spartan’s last New England events but also a welcome change. I like the challenge of the rope climb but also struggle to climb it without knots, as I am usually exhausted by the time I get to it.

Rope Climb Spartan Rig

 

 

 

 

 

The list goes on, with rolling mud, dunk wall, an EXCESSIVELY muddy barbed-wire crawl and log hop, and we hadn’t even reached Mile 2, yet.

Spartan has turned up the difficulty a notch or two in their obstacles as well, adding a Spartan Rig with those god-forsaken tarzan ropes, triple 8 foot walls, and a plate drag/Herc Hoist that would make even the Elite’s grimace. The finish and famed fire jump was only achieved after conquering a fireman’s log carry, slick wall, and final cargo net within the last half mile of the race. For me, it was everything a Sprint should be – packed with obstacles while still allowing room to run when necessary.

Medal. Banana. Race Shirt. Beer – the perfect way to finish.

To me, this is what obstacle course racing is all about. Conquering obstacles alongside your friends, sharing stories over a beer afterwards, then sharing a nice awkward freezing cold shower with a hundred of your new muddy friends!

The inspirational moment of the day, goes to Team Believe, who brought a couple of their wheelchair bound members through the whole course, walking on their hands with the help of a few other members, wheelbarrow style. Even their service dog jumped the fire and got a medal. Dream big, live bigger Team Believe!

Before and after my race, I was amazed at the droves of Spartan Racers who were flooding into Barre for this one, and if they’re like me, they’ll definitely be back again – if this is what we can expect from Spartan going forward.