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!

Conquer the Gauntlet: Dallas/Forth Worth

Conquer the Gauntlet: Dallas/Fort Worth

On the hottest day of the summer thus far at the time of this writing, Conquer the Gauntlet kicked off their series with a big bang.  While the Texas heat beamed down, competitors filed in to take on one of the most brutal Obstacle Courses known in America.  Don’t allow the down-home, local feel of the race series to fool you.  Conquer the Gauntlet is as serious (if not more so) than any other OCR series out there.  I’ve run several areas of Texas.  I’ve faced tons of treacherous terrain.  However, I’ve never experienced the type of challenge that Conquer the Gauntlet presented me with.  This review will focus primarily on those obstacles as I feel they deserve the most limelight.  I left physically broken so to speak, but spiritually energized.  I loved every minute of it.

Masters victors

 

The Venue

As far as terrain goes, the Village Creek Motocross Park track didn’t offer any daunting ascents or downhills.  However, Conquer the Gauntlet utilized it to its utmost potential.  Within the first mile or two competitors made many up and down runs on the tracks biggest jumps.  The sandbag carry finished with one of the steeper ascents making it extra draining with the Texas heat already sapping racers’ strength away.  Racers later cooled down in a few water crossings including a beautiful creek offering some great scenery.

The last stretch of obstacles brought competitors back around to the festival area allowing spectators a superb view of Pegatron, Tarzan, Stairway to Heaven and other favorites.  CTG knows what obstacles are fun to watch and they made sure they were front and center.

The Obstacles

CTG’s major strength in its own right as well as against all other series is its obstacles.  Three words that should consistently be used when describing this course are challenge, innovation, and fun.  Strategic placement of these challenging beasts made sure that they took everything they could out of competitors.  This made those well-earned podium spots that much more special.  All of the favorites went off without a hitch and were well manned by volunteers.

As someone who has run many obstacle course races, walls are rarely more than an annoyance in most courses.  This was not so at Conquer the Gauntlet Fort Worth.  Not one.. not two… not three… but FIVE 8 foot walls in a ROW drained more out of me than I expected.  I do not mean in the same vicinity.  I mean immediately after one another.  Stamina killers may have been lacking in hills, but Conquer the Gauntlet knows how to utilize their tools to break you even more efficiently than most terrain can.

Challenge

Cliffhanger brought the next somewhat daunting challenge as they were probably the most challenging set of monkey bars I’ve faced.  Though the bars aren’t fat or necessarily slick,  some aren’t welded in and they WILL spin on you.  On top of that, they ascend and descend adding a bit of extra kick of difficulty.  Technique and grip are key in monkeying your way across these bad boys and they should not be taken lightly.

The Z beam brought forth an unusual challenge as well.  Four very long, very narrow boards are lined up edgewise in a Z pattern. Competitors had to make their way across without falling off.  A simple concept proved to be very difficult and requires a lot of focus especially when placed after a long running portion.  This required racers to lower their heart rate and focus on foot placement and center of gravity at a time when their mind is just screaming “GO!”

Later on came the daunting challenge that has taken the belt and pride of many, and it claimed mine as well.  Pegatron was a large approximately 20-foot long horizontal pegboard that loomed over competitors much like the large evil robots from its namesake.  With a few footholds in the first and last five feet, the most difficult portion was the ten-foot portion in the middle with no footholds.

Never having practiced on a pegboard, I tried my best to develop a nice technique again… again.. and again.. to no avail.  Pegatron offered many different choices of peg sizes.  Offset holes added difficulty.  Some holes were fake.  This allows pegs to go all the way through forcing competitors to use strategy.  If that wasn’t enough, the occasional fake hole could turn a great attempt into failure.

The Mystery

I stayed at Pegatron for an hour.  I made it halfway across and even further, but never fully reached the other footholds. A handful of racers made it through, but even more threw down their belts to continue on.   I tried until my hands, torn and bleeding, gave out. I walked away knowing I had given it my all.

What immediately followed was a super fun new “mystery obstacle.”  Much like other CTG staples, this new obstacle brought in some of the best elements of Ninja Warrior like obstacles to the OCR series.  The obstacle began with a quick set of widely spaced quintuple steps.  A series of walls with bars lining the top followed.  Competitors had to jump from wall to wall grasping to the bar to keep them up.  However, the next to the last wall brought a surprise.

Instead of a bar, this wall had a nun-chuck, a ball grip, and a rope hanging from the top.  This made shimmying and leaping to the last bar wall extra difficult.  Not only was this a great challenge, it was a lot of fun and I hope to see it in future races.

More Grip and Upper Body Destruction

As if Pegatron and the “mystery” obstacle didn’t kill our grip enough, later competitors faced Tarzan.  It was not a particularly long rig, but that did not matter.  With bloody and battered hands I attempted it, but of course to no avail.  The rig began with a nunchuck.  There is no grip on this nunchuck.  These nunchucks were metal and SLICK.  Competitors must get a big swing going.  That sweet little ring on the next hold appears to be 15 feet away.  IF you even make it to that ring you are forced to grab hold of some little bungee cords. Hold on for dear life and attempting to keep your swing going until you can reach the final hold.  Needless to say, even for those who made it through Pegatron, their elite journey ended here.

IF THAT WASN’T ENOUGH for your grip and upper body to be screaming, next came stairway to heaven.  Don’t let the heavenly counterpart of a name to Ninja Warrior’s devil steps fool you.  These wooden bad boys are steeper and higher than almost any set of devil steps I’ve encountered.  Bloody and battered I clawed my way to the top and even made the transition only to have my screaming, throbbing hands give out on me as I plummeted into the water below.  A nice little tube slide ended my journey to one of the most difficultly obtained medals and shirts I’ve ever earned.

A Fun Learning Experience with Truly Elite Athletes

Many have often described OCR as a mixture of Ninja Warrior and trail running.  In fact, I often use it to describe OCR to those who have never heard of it as it makes the concept easier to grasp.  Conquer the Gauntlet is the truest example of that definition.  To every Ninja who reads this: sign up.  To every OCR racer ready to test themselves in a new way and ready to push limits they may not have known they had: sign up.  Even to those who love to run with friends and just take it easy: sign up!  This challenge will bring you either closer to those you run with, closer to yourself, or closer to the OCR community as a whole.

As someone who became addicted to OCR because I kept learning that I could achieve feats I never thought possible, Conquer the Gauntlet awakened that feeling in me once again.  I was beaten, badly by a greater obstacle challenge than I’ve ever experienced, but I walked out with my head held high.  I hadn’t only had a lot of fun, I was inspired. In my heart… that’s what the number one goal of all OCR companies and racers is… to inspire.  Thank you Conquer the Gauntlet for a wonderful experience.  I will be back.

I give it 5 torn callouses out of 5.

https://conquerthegauntlet.com/

Tough Mudder Unveils New 2018 Obstacles

TOUGH MUDDER UNVEILS 2018 NEW OBSTACLES

 

3+ Million Participants to Receive a ‘Happy Ending’ on Biggest Challenge in Obstacle Course Racing History

 

BROOKLYN, NY (January 11, 2018) – Famous for the company’s epic Innovation Lab, Tough Mudder Inc., the leading sports, active lifestyle and media brand, announced today its revolutionary twist on obstacles for the 2018 event season by unveiling the biggest structure to ever hit the obstacle course racing industry, Happy Ending, presented by Merrell, and Kong Infinity, the first obstacle in company history to be designed by members of the global tribe of more than 3 million Mudders. The company also revealed the iconic “Vault” obstacles (previously retired) coming back to course in 2018.

 

A physical embodiment of the organization’s 2018 yearlong “Tougher Together” campaign, Happy Ending is the new Tough Mudder Finisher Obstacle requiring teamwork by participants of all levels. Sitting at nearly 25 feet tall and over 80 feet wide and 100 feet long, it marks the biggest structure ever featured on course. To complete Happy Ending, participants must climb and push their way up an angled structure (40 degrees) creating human pyramids as they ladder over one another up multiple slippery inclines. At the summit, participants then dive feet-first down a 30 foot slide into a water pit.

Dedicated to the development of new products and entry points that enable millions of people to be part of Mudder Nation, Happy Ending brings participants together no matter the person’s athletic ability, the number of events run or event (Tough Mudder Full 10 miles; or Tough Mudder Half 5 miles). Teamwork and camaraderie – the Tough Mudder spirit – will be felt as participants cross the Finish line together.

 

Tough Mudder is an inclusive brand committed to connecting people. As a global tribe, we break down social barriers such as race, religion and politics. By using our sport as a vehicle for change, our events highlight the everyday heroes and elite athletes who together bring positive transformation worldwide,” said Will Dean, Tough Mudder, Inc. CEO and Co-Founder. “We look forward to welcoming thousands of new and returning participants to Mudder Nation in 2018 to face these challenges together – from completing the best-in-class obstacles on course to overcoming issues off. We remain dedicated to engineering ways to challenge our participants, both physically and mentally, all while giving millions of people a ‘Happy Ending’ and creating an exciting environment that showcases how we are stronger when we are united.

 

Happy Ending replaces the infamous Electroshock Therapy (EST) obstacle in which participants ran through dangling electrified wires. Although EST is “retiring” as a finisher challenge, it will transition to the Tough Mudder Full (10-mile) course and will be optional for all participants via bypass lanes – as not all are ready to get shocked with 10,000 volts.

 

Participants who are looking for a new shocking challenge may choose to exit Happy Ending by sliding down Third Rail – the bonus electricity challenge featuring more than 10,000 volts hanging from wires on a 30-foot slide into a pit of water. This optional challenge is for the bravest of all participants. Those not wishing to give it a shock – shot – may slide down the regular Happy Ending exit.

 

Tough Mudder is making a concerted effort to invest in Tough Mudder Half to provide accessible, yet rewarding experiences, to so many runners and outdoor enthusiasts who are not being challenged or excited by ordinary runs or half marathons,” said Dean. “From people who have never tried a mud run to seasoned Legionnaires who would like to bring friends, the Tough Mudder Half events serve as unique entry points to the world of obstacle course races and exclude the more extreme elements like fire and ice, in addition to making electricity completely optional. Tough Mudder’s commitment to innovation and dedication to enhance short distance challenges further positions the company as a global leader in the active lifestyle and sports categories.

Kong-Infinity – Obstacle Design Challenge Winning Obstacle

2018 marks the first year a Tough Mudder Obstacle Design Challenge winning innovation will be featured on course globally. A literal “spin” off of the iconic Kong obstacle, Kong Infinity is engineered to test even the most experienced Tough Mudders by being one of the most technically challenging obstacles on course. Requiring upper body strength and agility, participants start by climbing a 15-foot structure to reach a barrel which has handles fixed around its circumference on a set of tracks suspended more than 20 feet off the ground. By using momentum, participants rotate the barrel along the tracks to the other side. Kong-Infinity was designed by Ross Munro and Jonny McDonald of Glasgow, U.K.

For the first time since its inception in 2016, Kong, the giant, 30-foot obstacle in which participants swing like Tarzan, traversing from one floating ring to another, will be featured on the Tough Mudder Full course where everyone will have the opportunity to conquer this massive challenge.

 

Tough Mudder Vault

To celebrate Tough Mudder’s long and epic history of obstacle innovation, the company wants Mudder Nation to select which obstacles will return to course in 2018. The company unveiled the 25 historic obstacles Mudder Nation may vote on today through Friday, Jan. 26 at ToughMudder.com/obstacles. The winning “Vault” obstacles will be unveiled Feb. 5 with two-to-three historic challenges featured on every course in 2018 giving participants the chance to relive their favorite classics or for new Mudders, the chance to experience the best obstacles Tough Mudder has had to offer. A full list of the 25 obstacles is available online at ToughMudder.com/obstacles.

As an upgrade to the Vault obstacles for Legionnaires, participants who have completed multiple events, every course will have mystery vault features designed specifically for the Mudder Legion that include unique, never-before-seen modifications and design elements. Another Legionnaire-only obstacle coming to course is T-Boned – an added challenge to the classic Skidmarked, a slanted 10-foot wall. Participant’s upper body strength will be put to the test with an added twist of a 90-degree horizontal ledge to overcome 9 feet off the ground.

 

3 Million Mudders

With more than 3 million participants to date across five continents, Tough Mudder has offerings ranging from accessible yet rewarding challenges, such as Tough Mudder Half (five-mile event excluding fire, ice, and electricity), to competitive events, such as Tough Mudder X (the toughest mile on the planet), and World’s Toughest Mudder (24-hour endurance event).

This year, Tough Mudder, Inc. and its licensees will host an unprecedented 150+ events across nearly a dozen countries, such as the United States, The United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Canada and two new countries, South Africa, Philippines, welcoming participants worldwide into a global community that lives courage, personal accomplishment, teamwork and fun.

For more information on the 2018 Tough Mudder obstacles, or to purchase tickets to 2018 Tough Mudder events, visit ToughMudder.com.

 

 

About Tough Mudder, Inc.:

Founded in 2010 with the launch of the Tough Mudder obstacle course event series, Tough Mudder Inc. has become a leading global sports, active lifestyle and media brand. With more than 3 million participants, the company hosts more than 130 non-competitive (Mini Mudder; Tough Mudder 5K, Tough Mudder Half, and Tough Mudder Full) and competitive (Tougher, Toughest, Tough Mudder X and World’s Toughest Mudder) events annually in 11 countries including China, Dubai, Indonesia, and Australia through its partnerships with IMG, Seroja and Sports Media and Entertainment 360 (SME360). The company’s content arm provides the more than millions of engaged online brand enthusiasts with fitness, nutrition, and wellness content delivered daily across social and digital platforms. Tough Mudder broadcast, OTT and Live Stream programming can be seen worldwide through partnerships with CBS Sports, Facebook, Sky Sports, The CW Network and ESPN Media Distribution. Other sponsorship and distribution partners include Merrell, Amazon, KILL CLIFF, Jeep, Aflac, Guinness, Vega, Samsung, Olympus, Lucozade Sport, Nexcare, For Goodness Shakes, Bosch, TREK, Head & Shoulders, L’Oreal Men Expert, Käserei Loose, Snapchat and Live Stream.

 

A Day at the Ball Park – Spartan Stadium Series AT&T Park Sprint Review

Take Me Out to the Ball Park


AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Stadium-View

Home of Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants, AT&T Park is situated in downtown San Francisco right on the San Francisco Bay with a beautiful view overlooking the water. This view was highlighted from the top of the rope climb; located in the stands above right field which overlooks McCovey Cove. Fun fact: home runs hit into “The Cove” are known, unsurprisingly, as “splash hits.”

AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Rope-Climb

This was my first Spartan Stadium Race, but I had done my research beforehand as well as watched the Spartan live stream that morning. I felt prepared and honestly, most of the reviews that I had read of the Spartan Stadium Race Series indicated that they were the easiest of all Spartan race types.

This was an interesting race for me. It was the first race where going as fast as I could wasn’t my goal. My ultimate goal was to help a first time Spartan, and good friend, not only complete the course but actually enjoy himself. Running with my friend allowed me to really take in the venue and focus on how this race was laid out. This gave me a unique perspective on the course design.

Batting OrderAT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Obstacle-List

From my perspective, I thought it was a fast and furious course with few potential hang-ups. Once the Spearman was completed it was essentially a time trial for the rest of the course.

From the other perspective, and the focus of this article, I saw a course designed to exhaust untrained/new racers. Having the Spearman (the most failed obstacle) as the 2nd obstacle on the course, it was almost guaranteed that anyone who was not prepared for this race was going to be pumping out 30 burpees early on. Shortly after the Spearman, there were multiple low crawls up an incline and then the Z-Wall. For someone unpracticed in grip strength and balance, the Z-Wall can be a difficult obstacle. For these people, they are looking at 60 potential burpees within the first 5 obstacles.

The Z-Wall was followed by more stairs and then 20 slam balls before you could move on. While the slam balls aren’t difficult from a technique perspective, it really ramps up the heart rate. Moving on from the slam balls there were more low crawls followed by low crawls, and once again… Low crawls. It seriously felt as if we were going to low crawl from the very bottom of the stadium to the top (and we may have). Once we made it through all the low crawls we just had to clear the 8-foot wall before the sandbag carry.

Foul Ball 

In my opinion, the sandbag carry, which was really a Spartan pancake, was by far the most difficult obstacle in this race. Not because of weight or distance or any actual factor relating to the obstacle, but because of the DISGUSTING stench of the sandbags. These things smelt rancid. Even as I approached the sandbag carry I could smell them from a good ten yards away. At first, I thought I had come upon a group of Spartans that did not believe in personal hygiene, but I could not have been more wrong. The carry was only a short route and yet nobody wanted those things anywhere close to their body. That scent attached itself to any body part or piece of clothing that it came in contact with. I do not know what Spartan did to make them smell so terrible, but there were people at the end of this struggle that were on the verge of vomiting.

Once everyone’s stomach settled from the smell of the sandbags, we did some more stairs and approached the box jump obstacle. This was another obstacle that wasn’t necessarily difficult in terms of strategy, but rather conditioning. My one issue with this obstacle was the lack of coordination between volunteers. Some volunteers would tell Spartans to stand straight up after jumping on the box while other volunteers just let people do it however they wanted.

Seventh Inning Stretch 

Up and down some more stairs (it’s a Stadium Sprint – shocker, right?) and there was the rope climb. Really the only reason to discuss this obstacle was the view. I finished my rope climb quickly, but my friend was unable to make it to the top and had to do his burpees. Being the good friend that I am, I enjoyed the view while he did all his burpees. I actually did offer to do some for him, but he wanted to do it all on his own no matter how long it took, which definitely earned him added respect from me.

AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Assault-Bike

After a couple of staple Spartan obstacles – the Atlas carry and Herc hoist – there was a brand new obstacle: the assault bike. This was another take your heart rate through the roof type of obstacle. Burn 10 calories and then move on. Simple enough, but being so close to the end of the course, a lot of people were already exhausted. Right around the corner from the assault bike was the jump rope. 20 revolutions to advance. The only caveat being that you had to have an exercise band wrapped around your ankles. This was more of a nuisance than any real added difficulty.

AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Multi-Rig

The Multi Rig was next and turned out to be a tricky obstacle due to the fact that the rings/baseballs were hanging precariously low to the padding. Being 6’2” myself and my friend being 6’3”, this made things more difficult for us and it was crucial to keep our knees up and arms bent in order to complete this obstacle.

Sliding Into Home Plate

There were only a few more obstacles left to finish the race: the A-frame cargo, some military hurdles, a couple walls and then the gladiator. I have only been doing Spartan races for a couple of years now, but I have read that they used to have actually “gladiators” at the end of a race that you had to get past. Unfortunately, now they just have some punching bags hanging from a structure that you need to run through.

AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Hurdles

Going back to my perspective, I found the course to really be too easy. I completed the race burpee free, and I didn’t feel like there were any true challenges. With that being said, I did enjoy it and would love to do another Spartan Stadium Race. Plus, the medals are really cool.

I did regret not being able to run the course as fast as I could. In hindsight, I could have run it earlier in the day and then run again with my friend. More importantl, though, I was able to introduce another person to Spartan races and he is already talking about signing up for his next race! No matter what time I could have run on my own, I consider this a far better result.

AT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Medals

Warrior Dash Gulf Coast 2017

Warriors are Willing to Work for It

Warrior Dash holds a special place in my heart despite its lack of EXTREME CHALLENGE.  The lack of difficulty is not a good reason to pass on the “beginners race.”  If Savage, Spartan, and Conquer the Gauntlet are super healthy foods like organically raised salmon, fresh farm raised avocados and naturally grown kale then Warrior Dash is a spinach/chicken wrap.  While it may not be on the “superior” level of the other races, it takes on an extremely important role in being the bridge for many into OCR or even into a healthy lifestyle.

Nathan Beisser

Competitor Nathan Beisser after having a great time during his run in the pro wave

 

Helping Start the Addiction

While I may not have encountered obstacles that pushed me to my brink, I did see and meet far more newcomers who were there to make an effort at slowly improving their unhealthy lifestyles than at any other race.  I also encountered more “running for a cause” teams than I have seen recently.  Warrior Dash is that beginning step that is necessary for many.  We can’t all dive head first.  Some of us have to begin with dipping one foot in at a time (not charging for parking or a bag check helps.)  This is where the average working Joe or Jill can see the potential to become greater than they thought possible.

Mud Pit

Venue

The venue of the Harrison County Fairgrounds in Gulfport, Mississippi proved to offer more challenge than most would have anticipated from a mostly flat area.  Though any sort of incline was very rarely found, running three miles in a soggy field that gave way with every step proved to take away some of the speed many competitors would have normally had on a more dry or packed terrain.  Muddy areas were easy to create and find, though they weren’t as large as I have seen before from Warrior Dash.  Even at the finish, each mud pit seemed less like a pit and more like a hole.  The trail was cleared and marked extremely well.  It would have been extremely hard to get lost.

Nets…. Nets Everywhere

The obstacles were a lot of the usual Warrior fare.  There was a lot of crawling under wire and a lot of net usage.  From normal cargo climbs to pipeline to the new (and really fun) Upslide Down I saw more cargo nets during this race than I could shake a stein at. Cargo nets serve as a great introduction to new racers as an obstacle that can burn you out.

Warrior Dash also earned positive points for its new obstacle Upslide Down.  It was a simple, fun obstacle though it could have been longer.  A flat slide lay under a cargo net.  Competitors laid on their backs and proceeded to utilize the cargo net to pull themselves down the slide.  I had a blast with this one and hope to see more like it in the future.

Pallet Jacked

Rather than placing Goliath at the end, Warrior Dash left their new obstacle “Pallet Jacked” front and center for spectators to check out.  I can rightfully say I underestimated this obstacle.   I assumed running across pallets suspended from straps wouldn’t be a problem.  However, the pallets swung and moved vertically depending on weight distribution.  I enjoyed the slight challenge of this obstacle as well as the creativity of Warrior Dash race designers in utilizing simple construction to create a very fun obstacle.  Much like a good hamburger, both of Warrior Dash’s new obstacles offered a lot of satisfaction for something so easily and affordably constructed.

Stein

Stein Holding Competition Trophy

Party Time

Warrior Dash knows what it does well and continues to improve on it year after year by offering more after race competitions and activities than any other race series.  The push-up contests let the macho bros show off for the crowd.  The tug-of-war competition gives families and teams the opportunity to work together and have a good time.  The stein holding competition allows warriors to prove their grip strength and grit and walk away with a free stein.  Even if warriors don’t want to join in on these competitions there are rigs to play on, beer pong setups to play around with, an awesome DJ, and lots of cornholing… I mean the game with the bean bags.

Tug of War

Tug of War Competition

Warrior Dash offers many of the best beer choices and food around as well as the ability to refill your stein for a moderately steep price. A plethora of patrons seemed to be having an amazing time at the festival.  I will be surprised if Warrior Dash doesn’t return to the coast next year given the huge turnout.  Seeing so many newcomers and groups of friends discovering the joys of OCR together filled my heart with glee. I left the festival with a huge smile on my face – not for my own accomplishments, but because I saw something I loved growing and I saw people spreading fitness, love, and no hate all in one place.  That’s one of the better achievements that any of us can achieve in this lifetime.

 

Mr. Incredible

Mr. Incredible receives his newly designed Warrior Dash Medal

Savage Race Dallas

Getting Savage Again

Every Savage is a unique experience.  On a hot day in October at the Beaumont Guest Ranch in Grandview, Savage Race Dallas began in great weather. Everyone was having a great time with a smile on their face.  Savage brings a unique feeling to the OCR community which allows serious athletes to compete and test one another, but to joke and share a hug at the same time.

Savage Race Venue

The Beaumont Ranch is a quintessential Texas venue.  I enjoyed the “Texas” feeling this venue offered more than anything.  Savage did a great job utilizing what little elevation and technical terrain they had access to on the ranch to provide some challenge.  Occasional hills, dried creek beds, and patches of brambly grass provided a technical challenge in a state not known for running elevation.

The scenery in the creek beds and the occasional tight spot through some trees was a sight to behold.  These routes gave me the feeling of fleeing outlaws in the old west. The winding path of the race course was well thought out and utilized every natural obstacle around.  Despite its lack of extreme elevation, the scenic Texas venue made up the difficulty with a good bit of heat.   The lack of any foliage to block the sun can take its toll on runners and hydration was a must.  Savage did a great job providing a total of three water stations spaced out quite well and before key obstacles.

Beaumont Ranch Savage Race Dallas 2017 venue

Beaumont Ranch Facebook

Volunteer Performance

Well-informed volunteers did a great job of being sure the pros were aware of all the rules.  They were also quick to call out any pro who did not follow them.  The volunteers also did a superb job of being sure to repeat safety concerns to competitors at each obstacle such as Davy Jones Locker and Sawtooth.

Obstacles

Designers placed “warm-up” obstacles over the first mile of the course quite well.  A good mix of crawls, under overs, and climbing walls lead you into the second mile which also upped the ante in the terrain.

In the extreme heat Shriveled Richard (Savage’s always super cold ice bath) was almost a welcome sight.  Shriveled Richard immediately led into Squeeze Play which wasn’t under water this time around.  After a bit more running and a water break, we moved through Back Scratcher, Big Cheese, and Big Ass Cargo before hitting the third mile-marker.

Savage did a superb job at keeping rhythm with the obstacles. There were about three obstacles per mile.  All of the difficult obstacles were not placed at the end of the course.  Savages “spectators are allowed anywhere on the course” stance can benefit in the course design in this way.

Savage

Savage Dallas Anthem

Summon your Inner Savage

Next came the upper-body grinder with three obstacles in succession: Tree Hugger, Wheel World, and Kiss My Walls.  These well thought out designs can annoy, challenge, and push competitors to the brink.  We train even harder to be ready for the challenge the next time around.

Each bit of terrain traversal leading to well-placed obstacles felt like a pleasant progression in difficulty to the finish line rather than a slog.  Nearing the end of the 6.5 miles, competitors encountered the new obstacle: Hang-a-rang.  This balance obstacle consisting of two logs suspended from chains is a welcome break up to the usual OCR fare.  Competitors were not allowed to touch the chains but only the tiny rope midway through each log.

Savage Hang-a-rang Savage Facebook

Savage Hang-a-rang

The adventure ended with Davy Jone’s Locker, the time consuming Mad Ladders, the infamous Twirly Bird, and Blazed.  Many competitors speed through until the end: shoulders worn out, forearms burning only to see Twirly Bird standing between them and the finish.  Nothing compares to seeing the smile on racers’ faces as they conquer a well-designed, just difficult enough obstacle like Twirly Bird.  They then jump over the flames with gusto to the cheers of a crowd able to comfortably witness it all from the festival area.

Final Thoughts

Other than one skimmed-over piece of stray barbed wire in a creek bed that could have caused an injury, Savage Race Dallas had no other detriments.  Designers utilized the venue to their utmost and created a hella good experience for racers and spectators alike.  Savage Race Dallas succeeded in cementing my love for the race series and showing me that they continue to improve as a company in providing both challenge and experience for the money.  I would also like to note that upgrading to Pro from Open on-site was quick and simple.  I have never had such an easy time with a company in modifying a registration.

Bling

I will say the new syndicate medals and state pins are a welcome adage to my collection.  These medals are high quality.  You don’t have to buy something extra to put them on OR pay extra money to get one.  Savage seems to have continued to grow and excel while still maintaining that care for their customers and appreciating what they do. Just like the words from amazingly talented Emcee Matty T, “Savages are a family.”  We are all there for one another, and that sense of family is something that is truly felt from the festival area to the course, to the finish.

 

Savage Race Syndicate Medal

My second Savage Race Syndicate Medal