2018 Spartan Sprint D.C. – Fast and Furious

Spartan-DC-A-Frame-and-Carving

Maryland International Raceway, just south of our nation’s capital, is usually filled with revving engines, screeching tires and roaring cheers. This weekend, the cheers were still there, but the tires were replaced with the sound of feet running through the woods. The engines were replaced by splashing water, ringing bells and spears hitting hay. Spartan Race had returned for its popular Sprint distance.

Parking and Registration

Personally, the two biggest things that make a race great, other than the course itself, is parking and registration. Parking at D.C. was on-site, which is always great. Generally, if I see there’s a shuttle, I’m less likely to add that race to my list. Parking at Maryland International Raceway was extremely easy, and the lot was only about a 3-4-minute walk to the registration tent. Check in was smooth and quick early in the morning and I didn’t notice any long lines in the afternoon.

Spartan-DC-Registration-Lines

I know a lot of Spartan diehards were down in Dallas for one of their bigger stadium races of the year, but turnout still seemed relatively strong. There weren’t a ton of vendors, but this made the festival area seem less congested and easy to navigate. Regardless of festival vendors, there were still plenty of free goodies to be had both at the finish line and around the festival area.

The spectator area didn’t extend far into the course, but after watching racers start, they were able to view Hercules Hoist, Multi-Rig and Rope Climb all within about a quarter mile of the course. There was also an area outside of the festival to watch Monkey Bars and Vertical Cargo. At the finish, spectators watched racers emerge from the woods to take on the A-Frame and finish with a Fire Jump.

Spartan-DC-Spear

The Course

Out of the handful of Sprints I’ve done in the past, DC was by far the flattest. Though there were plenty of short hills with varying inclines, the total ascent was low for your typical Spartan. Though 300 feet over a little over 4 miles is nothing to scoff at, many other venues easily hit 1,000 feet or more in the same distance. This led to quick times for the Elite racers, with the male winner, Tyler McCredie finishing in 39:48 and the female winner, Tiffany Palmer, coming across in 50:42.

Most Spartan Races and obstacle races, in general, only include a few obstacles in the first mile. Mostly, this is to keep the field spread out so there isn’t a lot of backup. The D.C. Sprint, however, included seven obstacles in the first mile. And not just hurdles or barbed wire, either. Those were included, but so were the Spearman, Bucket Brigade and Olympus. Initially, I expected this to cause some unusual backups. But, to my surprise, I didn’t face any significant obstacle lines. That went for both heats I ran, once in Age Group at 8:00 am and the second being Open at 11:30 am.

Spartan-DC-Sprint-Finish

In all, the course tallied up about 4.25 miles and racers faced 22 obstacles. That early run of obstacles meant no crazy gauntlet at the end of the race. The last half mile only included Monkey Bars, Vertical Cargo, A-Frame and Fire Jump. So, if you had enough juice in your legs, you could make a solid finish with the lack of strength or grip obstacles. Personally, I like having a string of obstacles right before the finish, but each design has its strengths and weaknesses.

 

 

Photo Credit: Spartan Race and the author

Spartan Race Launches Irish Debut

 

‘NOVICE HURDLERS’ SET TO SPRING SURPRISE ON PUNCHESTOWN GRANDSTANDERS

 


One of world’s biggest sporting series, Spartan Race, launches Irish debut

Dublin racecourse forecast: Going will be ‘Soft to Very Muddy’ 
Spartan Sprint welcomes all newcomers: Sunday, 27 May 2018

 

 Grandstand crowds at Punchestown Racecourse, the home of Irish National Hunt Racing, may rub their eyes in disbelief when ‘novice hurdlers’ romp home up the final furlong this spring.

Organisers announced today the famous Co. Kildare course, 18 miles south of Dublin, is to stage one extra thrilling day’s racing in May – but cheering spectators won’t spot a single horse or jockey in the parade ring.

Instead, only TWO-legged, human runners will feature on the racecard, with the special day’s adrenaline-fuelled sport being hosted by the world’s leading Obstacle Course Racing company, Spartan Race. Now staging races in over 30 countries, the company is proudly making its debut in Ireland this year.

The use of riding crops will be strictly forbidden, and the going will officially be declared ‘Soft to Very Muddy’ as Punchestown’s equestrian fences are swapped for even tougher cross-country challenges. Runners will have to wade through muddy bogs, scale slippery, 7-foot ramps, clamber up 25-foot-high cargo nets, lug 10kg sandbags up steep hills, climb 15-foot ropes, crawl under barbed wire on their tummies, then leap a ‘fire jump’ finale over blazing logs as their Grandstand finish.

Nobody needs to be a thoroughbred to take part though, as the ‘Spartan Sprint’ on Sunday, May 27 is an ‘entry-level’ race suitable for beginners and all levels of fitness. The Sprint, Spartan Race’s shortest event, 5km+ (3 miles) and 20+ obstacles, is a firm favourite with both new and experienced racers. Spartan hosts 250 races worldwide attracting more than 5 million runners in under 10 years, and the fixture at Punchestown, near the county town of Naas, is expected to draw participants and family spectators from across Ireland.

With Dublin now one of Europe’s premier tourist destinations, organisers also expect the event to draw a wider international audience, with other sporting enthusiasts flying in from across Europe and the US.

Spartan Race Regional Director Sean Meehan, (now available for interview), who lives in County Fermanagh and helped plan the Punchestown event, said: “Like the horses before them, our racers will discover a fast, exciting racecourse that’s both challenging and diverse – plus water, mud, forest and rolling hills. Runners will head off cross-country, then return to a rousing Grandstand finish up the famous Punchestown final furlong.

“Spartan is the world’s biggest endurance brand and we’re thrilled that our debut Irish event will open up a new market for Ireland, locally hosting obstacle course racing, which is now also the fastest-growing participation sport in the world. The timing of our Ireland race is perfect as it fits the current trend towards fitness, wellbeing and adventure sports. There’s a boom in adventure sports in Ireland, particularly along the West Coast, with trail running, kayaking and mountain biking. I hope they’ll all welcome Spartan with open arms.

 

“More than 1 million participants in over 30 countries ran a Spartan Race in 2017, and absolutely anybody can do one – people of all shapes and all sizes. There is no prior fitness required: you will get to the finish line.”

 

Meehan, an endurance athlete who helps stage Spartan races across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, added: “We also attract elite athletes, but beginners receive lots of helping hands and assistance on the course. The atmosphere and camaraderie are awesome. Crossing the fire jump in front of the famous Punchestown Grandstand, receiving your Spartan medal round your neck, and enjoying the buzz from the festival, will create a very special day out for racers and spectators alike.”

Obstacle course racing is now a worldwide craze, attracting millions of runners and keep-fit enthusiasts, including 5km and 10km racers, half marathoners and marathoners seeking a fresh challenge. Contrary to the misconception that the sport is dominated by testosterone-fuelled men, 40 per cent of Spartan Race runners are women. Obstacles are always kept top secret on race day on purpose to surprise racers. Failure to complete an obstacle incurs a compulsory set of 30 ‘burpees’, or squat-thrusts, meted out irrespective of gender.

A packed Spartan Race 2018 programme of 30 UK races will run until October – a fixture calendar increased by a record 50 per cent from 2017, reflecting booming British interest in the sport (now one of the UK’s fastest-growing). This year, around 30,000+ people are expected to run Spartan Races, which are named after the fearless Ancient Greek warriors. Punchestown has hosted major music festivals in the past, welcoming bands such as Kings of Leon, R.E.M., The Killers and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but has never before hosted a Spartan Race.

There are three main types of Spartan Races, a Sprint (5km+), a Super (12km+) and a Beast (22km+). An average racer takes around 2 hours 40 minutes to complete a Sprint. Some elite racers can manage it in 40 minutes.

Spartan Race will also be hosting a Spartan Kids race at Punchestown. One of a record 11 Spartan events scheduled for junior competitors this year, it is open to children aged 4-13. They run a 1.5km course and youngsters must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian onsite.

To register for the Dublin event visit http://bit.ly/2DvIJv3

SPARTAN RACE SCHEDULE 2018: SPARTAN SPRINTS (5KM+ / 3 MILES; 20+ OBSTACLES)

Spartan Sprint South-east – Sunday, 8 April: St Clere, London Road (A20), Wrotham, Kent TN15 7NS

Spartan Sprint Dublin – Sunday, 27 May: Punchestown Racecourse, near Naas, Dublin, County Kildare

Spartan Sprint South-west – Sunday, 24 June: Aston Down, Aston Down Airfield, Gloucestershire GL6 8HR

Spartan Sprint Midlands – Sunday, 15 July: Marston Lodge, Marston Trussell, Market Harborough, Northamptonshire LE16 9TT

Spartan Sprint Scotland – Sunday, 16 September: Kinnoull Hill & Deuchny Woods, South Inch, Perth PH2 8AX

Spartan Sprint Windsor – Sunday, 7 October: Rapley Farm, Bracknell Road, Bagshot, Berkshire GU19 5PN

 

For full details of all UK Spartan Race events in 2018, visit www.spartanrace.uk

Follow Spartan Race UK on social media:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/SpartanRaceUK or https://www.facebook.com/SpartanRaceIreland/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/spartanraceuk

Twitter: @spartanraceuk

Spartan Race Mountain Series: Montana Beast and Sprint

The Spartan Race Mountain Series kicked off in Big Fork Montana on May 5th. The Beast and Sprint weekend was a challenge to say the least! With a cumulative elevation gain of approximately 4,000 ft., distance of 13.1 miles, 31 obstacles, and a bear….it was one heck of a race!

The course took a left turn right away, taking us up the first of many hills that we would encounter during this race.  We had a couple of muddy shallow water crossings, over walls, and the monkey bars. The second bar was the one that was the highest and for some reason I just couldn’t get myself to reach for it. I stared it down for at least 5 minutes! I finally went and made it.

The 6 ft. and 7 ft. walls were next. When I reached the 7 ft. wall I noticed a wire fence to the left of the wall and on the other side was a bear! It wasn’t a baby and not full grown. It was having a lot of fun frolicking and jumping around like a puppy! I was thankful there was a fence between us. When I reached the top of the wall I saw a large opening in the fence…..which we were supposed to run through next! The bear trotted off further into the woods and I waited a little bit to be sure he was gone and then continued on.

The first sandbag carry overlooked Flathead Lake. The beautiful view took your mind off of the work you were doing. The Z-Wall and 8 ft. wall were next, followed by the longest Tyrolean Traverse I’ve ever done. I usually don’t have a problem crossing this obstacle but I was so spent by the end that I fell straight down when I hit the bell. My forearms burned for a while, but I shook them out on my way to the first barbed wire crawl.

There were a few more obstacles and then we came to a large clearing in the woods that held several obstacles. The rig, herc hoist, atlas ball, rope, dunk wall, slip wall. It was a great viewing area for the spectators. I didn’t make the rig but pulled the herc hoist right up with no problem. Then, up and down hill after hill. My calves burned and I was wearing out a little at this point.

Next was the hill that really got me. The second sandbag carry was steep and long. We used the old school sandbags which were a little harder to get a hold of. Going down hill was fine, but you knew that every step you took would mean a step back up. At one point I thought we were nearing the end but it just kept going. We turned to go back up and I remembered my mountain climbing tips and did a step-pause the whole way up. I made it without having to stop, but it was a pretty slow ascent. After reaching the top it was off to the cargo net and Spearman. I made the throw! I was thankful as I really didn’t want to do burpees after that sandbag carry.

We had a few more obstacles and found ourselves back at the atlas carry and ropes. I made the rope and then headed to the dunk wall. Cold is my kryptonite and when I dipped my foot in I knew this was going to be one of the coldest ones I’ve done. I stared it down just like I did the monkey bars (I really don’t know why I do that….silly). I finally went and got through it. The slip wall had short short short ropes. This was followed by the Olympus and the bucket carry. I was actually wondering if they forgot about the bucket since I hadn’t seen it yet, but there it was. The good news was they took it pretty easy on us. It was still a challenge but it could have been much worse with all of those hills they had to work with.

Just four obstacles to go until the finish line. The second barbed wire crawl was extra low and loosened up a bit, making it hard to navigate. Next was twister, the inverted wall (I love this one), and finally the fire jump! I always think to myself, “don’t fall in the fire, don’t fall in the fire”. I made it, got my medal and victory banana and made my way back to the biggest team tent with my team, Beasts OCR! They are such an amazing group. My second family! We were all tired and humbled, but proud of our accomplishment after tackling such a grueling mountain race!

 

Photo credit: Kim Collings, Spartan Race, Adam Birgenheier

North Florida Spartan Sprint

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The North Florida Spartan Super and Sprint weekend was hosted at the Diamond D. Ranch in Jacksonville, Florida.

North Florida did not disappoint on the amount of mud and obstacles for the Super on Saturday, April 28th. I had originally signed up for the Super but due to a family emergency had to cancel it. I was able to switch my registration for the Sprint on Sunday with no issues once I arrived. Great first impression, Spartan. Customer service is a top priority of mine when it comes to racing at such large events. Nevertheless, I had a great, fast-paced 4-mile sprint to kick off my first Spartan of the 2018 season!

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Super on Saturday took racers through a mile of waist-high mud.

Video Credit: Jessica and Corey Carter, Palmetto, Florida

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Course Map – Super and Sprint presented by Jax Sports

Obstacles

In typical Spartan fashion, obstacles really have not changed much over the years. We’ve got some carries (sandbag, buckets, and logs), a spear throw, walls, burpees, and monkey bars. I’m not sure if the monkey bars were a tad bit closer together, or if I’m just getting better. We’ll go with the latter. They seemed very easy to swing across so much that even the photographer screamed: “WHOA, you flew by”!

Spartan_JessikaPoppe_Sprint

Bucket carries were VERY efficient this year. I’m going to be 100% transparent with you, ORM. I, Jessika Poppe, slack so hard at the bucket carry. 7 times out of 10 I am that person that will fill my bucket halfway to make the carry easier. The other 3 times are when I am running competitive age group and will always fill it up cause “I ain’t no cheater.” Regardless, I was pleasantly surprised how well the lids stayed on top of the buckets and kept the rocks inside. So much, that racers flipped the buckets upside down in order to get a better grip and the lids never faltered.

New-Spartan-Buckets

Photo Credit: Spartan Race Facebook
North- Florida-Spartan-Buckets

Photo Credit: Kellie Murphy

One obstacle did seem to falter, however. The cargo net A-Frame typically found right before the fire jump and finish was placed very early in the race. When I was climbing up it I can honestly say I felt unsafe. It was so loose that I was shaking the entire way waiting for my body to just fall right through. I expressed my concern to two nearby chatty volunteers and they shook off my request to call to have the directors tighten it. They claimed “Spartan wants it this way,” but when I asked Jessica Carter who completed the super the day before, she claims it was so tight she could “walk up without hands.” Hmmm, some confusion in the communication here, Spartan.

Regardless of losing some time on the A-frame, I managed to complete this sprint fast enough to qualify for OCR World Championships (yet again). London here I come! To end on a good note, I must say, the t-shirts for 2018 are AMAZING! The quality is almost like a polyester dri-fit material and they are very comfortable and fitted. Maybe parting ways from Reebok was a good move. I did have to get a size bigger when receiving my finisher shirt because they do come in Male and Female sizes.

Spartan-Sprint-Shirt-2018

This one sells on Ebay for a starting bid of $30. HAHA. Get yours today, without completing a race. 

A big thank you to ORM and Spartan Race for a kick ass event!

Stay Muddy my friends!

Check me out on Youtube, Instagram, and Facebook !

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Spartan Citi Field Stadium Sprint 2018

Citi-Field-Home-Plate-View

Citi Field is no Killington. But this concrete mountain provides plenty of challenges of its own for Spartans looking to push their bodies to the limit. Though this year’s race didn’t have the torrential rain like last year, the early morning racers faced chilly April temperatures and a brisk bay breeze.

 

Getting In

One thing to keep in mind when selecting your heat is travel time. Usually, Spartan recommends arriving 60-90 minutes before your start time. If you’re in a later heat, traveling into Queens, NY, you’ll hit traffic. Also, the registration line may be a bit longer. The benefit of running in the earlier heats means less traffic and less wait time on-site. Parking was run by Citi Field, which meant $12, instead of the usual $10. The benefit, though, was that credit cards were accepted for us non-cash carriers.

Outside-Citi-Field-Spartan

Stadium vs. Trail

This was only the second stadium race I’ve ever done. To me, a normal Spartan is a trail run with obstacles spread throughout. A stadium race, however, is more like a 40-plus minute circuit workout. It completely challenges you in ways that a normal Spartan doesn’t. Sure, it’s shorter. There’s no Twister. There’s no “Death March.” There’s no Bucket Carry. But it still requires very specific training. Completely different from your average race.

Spartan-Citi-Field-Assault-Bike

Obstacles

Perhaps the toughest obstacle for most, is the one that isn’t on the course map list: the stairs. I’m not sure the exact number of flights climbed and descended, but if you weren’t tackling an obstacle or exercise, you were most likely going up or down steps. Some obstacles, like the Jerry Can Carry and Sandbag Carry, wouldn’t even give you a break from those climbs.

 

Some obstacles you’ll see out on the mountains and trails, you’ll also run into at a stadium race. Included at Citi Field were the rope climb, Z-Walls, and Hercules Hoist, to name a few. There are a few that are the same as trail races, with a minor twist. The Spear Throw target is a bit different. Rather than a bail of hay, it’s a foam block. It seems a bit smaller than the usual target. Citi Field also included the Atlas Carry, however, the stone at a stadium race is considerably smaller than the other races. The rings are almost identical, with one small difference: two hanging baseballs at the end before the bell.

One new obstacle to the stadium series this year is the Assault Bike, where racers need to burn 15 calories as quickly as possible. For reference, this took me about 90 seconds.

Spartan-Citi-Field-Awards

Less Is More?

In October 2017, I competed at the Citizens Bank Park Stadium Sprint. That was my first and only previous stadium race before Citi Field. One thing that changed between then and now is the number of reps Spartan enforces. Last year, exercises/obstacles such as Hand-Release Pushups and Slam Balls, required 25 reps. At Citi Field, those and others like the Box Jumps and Jump Rope only required 15 reps.

 

Perhaps the biggest surprise to Spartans was the burpees for this race. Spartan decided to try reducing the number of penalty burpees. That’s right, reducing! Instead of 30 burpees for a failed obstacle, the penalty was down to 15. This was definitely a help for anyone who may have failed an obstacle or two, though perhaps seemed like a punishment for competitors who ran clean races. These rep reductions seem to be Spartans way of keeping stadium races challenging, but quick.

Citi-Field-Spartan-Race

Stadium races are a great way to try something new, especially if you enjoy obstacle races but want to try something a bit faster paced. Citi Field is an excellent venue and it’s easy to see why Spartan comes back each year.

Photo Credit: Spartan Race, The Author

2018 Spartan US Championship Series Kicks Off in San Jose

The first race of the 2018 Spartan U.S. National Championship Series was held on March 24, just outside of San Jose, CA, in Diablo Grande. The hills provided a leg burning challenge with very few breaks and the obstacles included all of my favorite classics.

I jumped into the corral for the 8:30 a.m. heat. The sun was barely over the ridge and just beginning to warm the air, which was most welcome. We were off and headed to the first obstacle, the over walls. This was followed by “Mud Misery” and a shallow water crossing. My frozen toes thawed quickly as we ascended the first of many hills. Just when we thought we had reached the top, there was another hill to climb…and another. When we finally did reach the top, we found the monkey bars perched all alone, with the most amazing view.

I met a couple of people I had been pacing with, John and Karen. It was her first Spartan Race and she crossed the monkey bars the first time! I was so impressed! I made it across as well, enjoying the scenery as I hit the bell.

The hills continued and I found that going down was just about as challenging as up. It was so steep that it made it very difficult to run a large portion of it. We came to the Sandbag Carry and it was definitely a challenge. It was long, slow, and steep. I was very thankful that it didn’t start raining yet because the downhill portion of the carry would have been brutal if it was muddy.

The Bucket Carry 2.0 had sealed lids so you didn’t have to fill them. I really like this version as it saves time and there’s no way to spill the gravel. The route didn’t look as bad as I was expecting, which seemed a little odd for Spartan. Sure enough…once we rounded a corner there was a little hill of doom staring back at us! It was short and super steep and definitely provided a challenge. Next, was a 6-foot wall and, finally, a nice long gradual downhill portion that took us back into the festival area. This is where it gets fun…..it was jam-packed with obstacle after obstacle: the Tire Flip, Sled Drag, Atlas Carry, Olympus, Herc Hoist, and Spear Throw. Not only was this fun for the racers, but it was really nice having a viewing are for the spectators which included so many obstacles.

Next was the back half of the course. Last year this section was somewhat forgiving, with rolling hills and obstacles, but this year they surprised us with several hills and one very special one towards the end (I think I may have heard a bad word or two here). It was probably the steepest hill we had during the entire race. We trudged up, putting one foot slowly in front of the other, until we finally reached the top. The rain had started and it made it very slippery coming back down.

As we continued, we came to a second barbed wire crawl that went uphill. It was built pretty high so we were able to make quick work of it with a bear crawl. The final few obstacles seemed to be set up in an odd order. We reached the Dunk Wall, which had very steep mud mounds, proceeded to the Slip Wall, and then the Inverted Wall and the Rig. The Rig was going to be hard with wet hands. There was a cute little gal on the sidelines sharing her towel and cheering us on. I dried them the best I could but still dropped off the rig. She blew me a kiss as I thanked her and ran towards the finish line….so sweet! I “fire jumped” over the finish mat and the San Jose Spartan Super was in the books!

I ran the Sprint the next day and ended up pacing with John and Karen again! What are the odds of running into them with all of the other racers? The hills didn’t seem quite as bad and the company made it a lot of fun. Two successful races, a beautiful venue, and terrific people….who could ask for more?! Definitely, give this venue a try if you have the opportunity.

Here’s a little trivia to wrap things up:

  1. According to SpartanRace.com, the fastest time for completing the San Jose Super prior to this race was 80 minutes (2018 results were not official at the time of writing this review). 1
  2. “Mount Diablo is sacred to many California Native American peoples; according to Miwok mythology and Ohlone mythology, it was the point of creation”. 2
  3. “What animated film boasts a San Jose State University Spartans scoreboard in the background of a track race scene? If you answered “The Incredibles,” then you’re correct! Animation/illustration alum Doug Nichols showed his Spartan Pride”! 3

Stay tuned for the remaining U.S. National Championship Series races:

4/14   Seattle
5/19   SoCal
6/23  Chicago
7/28   Utah

Live strong, be kind, play hard… Aroo!

Photo credit: Kim Collings, Spartan Race, Mike Suelzle

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References:
1 Spartan Race Results: http://www.spartanrace.com.au/en/race/detail/3154/results
2 Mt. Diablo Point of Creation: https://www.spartan.com/en/race/detail/3154/overview
3 San Jose State Spartans Scoreboard: https://www.facebook.com/search/SJSU Scoreboard