The Fab Five Females Of OCR

In OCR’s relatively short history, we have not seen intense competition from this many rivals near the top from either gender.

If you have viewed the Spartan on NBC series in recent years, you may have watched Amelia versus Rose, Hunter battle Hobie, or even Atkins and Woodsy go back and forth for the top spot, but we never have we seen anything like this.

5 women, vying for 3 spots on the podium. Any one of which can win on any given day.

All 5 are around the same age, so all 5 of them can still get stronger (and maybe even faster), and all have plenty of races left in them.

Nicole Mericle – Boulder, CO – 30 years old

Nicole Mericle

Background: Collegiate cross country and track runner, rock climbing enthusiast

First OCR: May 2016 Fort Carson Spartan Super  –  (She placed 3rd to KK and Faye)

Stats: 38 races. 27 podiums. 11 firsts.

Titles: 3K OCR World Champion 2017, Tougher Mudder World Champion 2017, USA OCR 3K and 15K Champion 2017

Strengths: Running fast on flat and uphill terrain, grip and pull up strength obstacles, (and apparently slip walls with short ropes). Despite being the shortest of the Fab 5, I have some jumping, explosive power.

Weaknesses: Carrying heavy things

Give us one word to describe the following women:

Faye – Passionate
Rea – Adventurous
Nicole – Spirited
Lindsay – Champion
Alyssa – Lionhearted

Who out of these women is your toughest competitor?  Lindsay has her training and lifestyle so dialed in. I know she’s always going to be prepared, she knows how to race smart and she’s a fighter when it comes down to it. That’s a hard combination to beat and it’s why Lindsay is oftentimes unbeatable. In order to beat Lindsay I have to be firing at 100%, nothing can go wrong for me and usually something has to go wrong for her.

What else did we not ask you, that you want the world to know? I will not lead the race at the start in Tahoe.

Faye Stenning – Manhattan, New York – 28 years old

Background: Track and Cross Country

First OCR date: 2013

Stats: 69 races to date. 56 podiums. 33 firsts.

Titles: 2nd place at 2016 and 2018 USA Spartan Championship Series , 3rd at Spartan World Championships 2016

Strengths: Speed and endurance

Weaknesses: Technical descents (and the slip wall apparently)

Give us one word to describe the following women:

Faye- Work horse
Rea- Passionate
Nicole-Sassy and speedy
Lindsay- Gold Standard
Alyssa- Down to Earth

Who out of these women is your toughest competitor:

All of the above, depends on the day and the race conditions.

Lindsay Webster – Caledon, Ontario – 28 years old

Background:  Cross country skiing and mountain biking

First OCR date: Spartan World Championships in 2014 at Killington, VT (4th place)

Stats: 80 races, 70 podiums, 40 firsts.

Titles: OCR World Champion 2015, OCR World Champion short course 2016, OCR World Champion long course 2016, 1st place Spartan US Championship Series 2016, OCR World Champion short course 2017, OCR World Champion long course 2017, 1st place Spartan US Championship Series 2017, 1st place Spartan World Championships 2017, 1st place Spartan North American Championship 2018, 1st place OCR North American Championship 2018 long course, 1st place OCR North American Championship 2018 short course, 1st place Spartan US Championship Series 2018. 2018 Tougher Mudder Champion

Strengths: Technical running, descending, hills.

Weaknesses: Flat running, sometimes long carries depending on the day.

Give us one word to describe the following women:

Faye-  Driven. This girl works hard and races harder. She always gives 100% and you can tell if you’ve ever heard her breathing during a race lol.
Rea – Mountain Goat
Nicole – Speedster
Lindsay – Chameleon 😉 Because if you saw me off the race course I think I’m fairly unassuming haha.
Alyssa- Strong. Both physically and mentally.

Who out of these women is your toughest competitor: I’d say Rea or Nicole, depending on the race course.

What else did you not ask you that the world should know:
Rebecca Hammond! Watch for that girl 😉 She’ll be giving me a run for my money next year, I’d bet on it haha. She’s smart… she both races and trains smart, and doesn’t get flustered when something goes wrong in a race. She just figured it out and keeps moving, which is a seriously desirable quality in OCR.

Rea Kolbl – Boulder, CO – 27 years old

 

Background: Slovenian National Team member gymnastics, pole vaulting, trail running

First OCR date: One open heat 2013, Elite heats began in 2016

Stats: 53 races, 47 podiums, 26 firsts

Titles:  World’s Toughest Mudder 2017 champion, 2017 Spartan World Elite Series Champion & Spartan US Elite Series Champion

Strengths: Long climbs, steep ascents

Weaknesses: Technical downhills

Give us one word to describe the following women:

Faye -Fierce all around
Rea -Hill climbing queen
Nicole -Running rabbit
Lindsay -Technical descents magician
Alyssa – Heavy carry and muddy course monster

Who out of these women is your toughest competitor:
Each venue is different enough that any of them could be my toughest competitor. Course with lots of technical descents makes Lindsay tough to beat, and a race like Seattle with lots of mud puts Alyssa on top. You can bet that Nicole will take it away on a course with lots of flat, runnable terrain, and Faye can bring out her redlining abilities on any course. But make it super hilly without any significant bushwacking on the course, I think my chances of doing well are pretty high.

What else did we not ask you, that you want the world to know?
While all of these ladies are my competitors, each and every one of them is an amazing human being and I’m honored every time to share a course and a weekend of racing with such an incredible group.

 Alyssa Hawley – Spokane, WA – Age 28

 

Background:  OCR Division 1 College Softball

First OCR date: May 2015

Stats: 40 podiums with 19 overall wins.

Name of titles: 3rd place Spartan World Champion 2017

Strengths: Heavy carries, technical and muddy courses

Weaknesses: Flat and fast courses

One word to describe the following women :

Faye – Gritty

Rea – Mountain Goat

Nicole – Speedy

Lindsay – Unstoppable

Alyssa-  Hard worker

Who out of these women is your toughest competitor:

Lindsay. She doesn’t seem to have any weaknesses.

Related : How will all the top women fair in Tahoe for the 2018 Spartan World Championship.

 

 

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 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.

 

 

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 2018 North American Championship Recap

We know it may be difficult to keep track of all the Championships this time of year, especially since Spartan keeps coming up with different ways to celebrate champions. Just two weeks ago, the 2018 Spartan US Championship Series winners Ryan Woods and Lindsay Webster were crowned in Utah.

Here are the remaining Championships that Spartan Race will deliver in the United States alone by the end of the year. The Stadium Series (Fenway), Mountain Series (Tri-State), Honor Series (???), World Championship (Tahoe).  There are additional regional and national championships in several countries, but the events most North Americans will be interested in are the Trifecta World Championship in Greece and Ultra World Championship – 24 hour event in Iceland.

Adventurey will be putting on their World Championship in England in a few weeks after already producing their North American Championships (NORAM) with Ryan Atkins and Lindsay Webster taking both the 3K and 15K titles.

Tough Mudder will also be crowning their Tougher Championship in Seattle next month, and doing that 24 hour thing aka World’s Toughest Mudder in Atlanta in November. (Oh shit, I almost finished this article, and forgot Tough Mudder X)

Exhausted yet!? Awesome, let’s get to yesterday’s results.

Robert Killian, who finished third to Woods and Atkins in this year’s US Champs Series, beat both of his closest rivals to take home the win and $12,000 first place prize. This might be the biggest win for Killian since he shocked the world back in the fall of 2015. Back then, he was an Army Ranger that came out of nowhere to beat the best OCR athletes in the world including multi-title champions Atkins, Cody Moat, and Jon Albon in Tahoe.

These days, “The Two Ryans” and Killian are separating themselves from the rest of the men’s field and will certainly be the favorites to battle it out for supremacy in Tahoe in a few weeks.

On the women’s side, Lindsay continues her world domination with a smile on her face beating out the other 3 members of the “fearsome female foursome” Nicole Mericle, Faye Stenning, and Rea Kolbl; who finished 3rd through 5th respectively. Relative newcomer Rebecca Hammond had a very strong showing, and finished a little less than 3 minutes behind Lindsay to take 2nd.

One more important note  about yesterday’s race was the improved live Facebook coverage. Spartan has given us several pairings of Spartan Pros (and dare we say Spartan Pro Wannabees) over the past year in the broadcast booth.

The results have been decent to cringeworthy since David Magida left the booth a few months ago. For this event, Spartan hired veteran action sports broadcaster Pat Parnell , who brought a great rhythm and a level of professionalism previously not seen. Pairing a pro like that, with a knowledgeable Spartan athlete, in this case Kevin Donahue, seems to be what Spartan needed to make for a great broadcast. It’s the standard straight man  (non athlete)/color man (athlete) combination that works most of the time in sports. In addition, they seemed to have ditched the super cheap “cell phone/no graphics coverage” that we’ve seen on the recent broadcasts and gone back to a more expensive production package.

Here are the top 10 men and woman along with the payouts for the 2018 Spartan North American Regional Championships:

1st Robert Killian/Lindsay Webster: $12,000

2nd Ryan Atkins/Rebecca Hammond: $8,000

3rd Ryan Woods/ Nicole Mericle: $5,000

4th Cody Moat/Faye Stenning: $2,000

5th Mikhail Gerylo/Rea Kolbl: $1,000

6th Jesse Bruce/Alyssa Hawley: $900

7th  Ian Hosek/Amelia Boone: $800

8th Ryan Kempson/Kristin Saad: $600

9th Logan Broadbent/Cody Mezebish: $400

10th Mike Ferguson/Kaci Monroe: $300

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!