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


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


Tough Mudder Virginia – The First of Many

Since my first OCR event last summer, I’ve added a lot more strength training to my routine, which was very influential when I recently participated in my first Tough Mudder in Virginia.

As soon as my 10:45am group was unleashed, I kept a steady pace with a determined group of fellow participants as we made our way to the first obstacle, Devil’s Beard, just beyond mile one. This was a nice obstacle to begin with and I kept as low as possible while moving under the heavy netting.

The next obstacle was the Mud Mile 2.0, and after I slid down the first muddy embankment into the water, I started trying to find small grooves in the next slippery mound. Another mudder reached out his hand for me to climb up, and I returned the favor to two more mudders. After reaching mile two, it was on to the Hero Carry, which involved carrying another person for about fifty yards; the fireman’s carry position worked well. I continued on through the Quagmire, which was a long stretch of muddy water where I carefully placed each next so I wouldn’t slip into the random two-foot drops in the deep mud.

With each stride, sweat began to mix with the dried dirt on my skin. Closing in on mile three, the Kiss of Mud 2.0 included getting as low as possible and staying under the barbed wire, while crawling and sliding throughout the terrain. There was almost a mile until Shawshanked, and taking a plunge into the water felt good as the temperatures continued to rise. Next up was the Berlin Walls, which involved getting a good sprint before strategically placing your feet to help you get up and over a series of high walls. I was glad I did a lot of pull ups and chin ups over the past year because they were essential for this obstacle. Hold Your Wood 2.0 involved carrying a large log for a few hundred yards, and I found it helpful to switch positions from shoulder to shoulder. Everest 2.0 was next on the agenda. I wasn’t able to practice for this obstacle or sure how to approach it, but I just ran as fast as I could up the angle of the halfpipe, jumped and reached for the hands of the other mudders. I then turned around and got in position to help a few more mudders that were making their run up the hill. Then it was through the Birth Canal, which was a tight squeeze under the heavy tarps full of water. The journey continued on, all the way to the Artic Enema where I slid down into an ice cold tank of water that you had to traverse throughout the fenced in area to get to the other side. A few people slid into the frigid water and then hopped out immediately because it was such a shock to the system.

After warming up with some steady hill running, it was on to the Bale Bonds, that involved sprinting up and over a large stack of hay bails. Timing and foot placement were very important. Upon arriving to Funky Monkey: The Revolution, I was hesitant because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it across the series of inclined monkey bars followed by two rotating wheels and a straight bar. The key component to this challenge was momentum and swinging from one grip to the next.

Not long after this, the Stage 5 Clinger involved climbing up, across, and then above a wooden ledge to finish the obstacle.

Upon reaching mile nine, the obstacles were more frequent with minimal recovery. Skidmarked tapped into what upper body strength I had left, followed by going up and down a slope during Pitfall. It felt good to be back in the water facing The Blockness Monster, which was another team effort to get up and over the large blocks in the muddy water. The Pyramid Scheme was a similar approach to Everest 2.0. The ElectroShock Therapy soon followed, which was about keeping your composure while running through the dangling high voltage wires.

After a little over 10 miles, the finish line was finally in my line of sight. As soon as I crossed it, I was motivated to start preparing for the next Tough Mudder adventure – pursuing the Toughest Mudder and World’s Toughest Mudder.

Overall, an event that I strongly recommend to anyone looking for a great challenge!

My bulldog, Daisy, enjoyed it too.

Rugged Maniac VA – Spring 2016

Rugged Maniac has made a seasonal home at the Virginia Motorsports Park in Petersburg, VA in early May starting at least as early as 2012 and expanded to have a second race at the same location in October in 2014.   In 2016, at least in my humble opinion, Rugged Maniac continues to improve and provide a really fun experience to newbies and experienced runners alike.

This time around, waves started at a nice casual 10 a.m. start time, unless you decided to run as a super fancy elite, providing a little extra sleeping in time.  I opted for the 10 a.m. wave this time around to catch the early experience of a fresh course.  This was a good choice as, at least early in the day, Rugged Maniac had their parking game on point for 2016 (bring your $10 for parking).  Unlike previous years, there was no line down the street to access the parking area so I was quickly parked, grabbed my bag, and met up with my race partners to hop through a fairly speedy check-in.  After everybody was registered, stretched, and ready to go we hopped the starting line wall ready to go for the 10:15 a.m. wave.  Rugged gave a short starting line speech to pump up the group and the wave was off.

Rugged followed a fairly similar trail to last year’s May event.  However, the constant rain of the week prior definitely changed the course experience.  In prior years the first obstacle out the gate has been a soupy mud pit known as Shoe Catcher that has the suction power a vacuum would be envious of that breaks the crowd up into smaller groups to continue on.  This year, that changed.  Shoe Catcher now consisted of an ankle deep mud puddle with a slightly slick below-water surface that lacked its typical suctioning power.  This would become somewhat of a theme of the race with several water-logged sections that could slow one down with a cautionary tale of uneven footing.

The early wave breakup occurred instead with the second obstacle, a big mud hill that had people slipping around trying to get over.  My small group got up and over and continued our jog through the 5k.


From here it would get a little boring to go over all the obstacles.  Many are standard OCR fare, e.g., a few different types of walls, barb wire crawls (3 in total), cargo nets, balance beam, and a fire jump.  But with a total of 28 obstacles on course, Rugged Maniac definitely has a few shining stars: 

  • The Blobstacle: A giant inflatable structure that had a cargo net draped over it.  The cargo net was basically a second skin on this day which made for a little tougher purchase to get the shoes to grip in.
  • The Gauntlet 2.0: Rugged’s decision to change the footing from a solid structure to a floating rubber-ish pad was a refreshing change.  A nice run across to keep footing without sinking into the water lets you run through the air-filled hanging bags to see if you can successfully cross without going down in the water.
  • Bang the Gong: I’m all for any and every obstacle I have seen so far that includes trampolines.  This was absolutely no different.  Talking to friends that ran later in the day, it did get a little more difficult as the trampolines got muddier from the wet course.  The one criticism on this obstacle was the landing pool was fairly shallow.  While it may involve more of a swim a little deeper pool would probably be better to prevent potential for injury.
  • Antigravity: More trampolines!  If you do not enjoy an obstacle where you get to jump from one trampoline to another and then perform your best Spiderman impersonation to catch the cargo net wall, I don’t understand you as a person.
  • Warped Wall/Mount Maniac/Accelerator: A quarter pipe is always fun to do and watch (for both the personal and teamwork successes and the amusing slide back down from missing).  Adding in a short cargo climb to a higher purchase afterward and a slide down to the finish line is just a cherry on top.  Remember though, always stop to encourage and help your fellow racers, everybody appreciates it.


Once you get past that, the course is complete and you get your medal, swag, and free Harpoon brewery beer.  This year the post-race collection included a bottle of water, bananas, orange slices, and some Dude Wipes to cleanse your muddy hands before you dug in.  The 2016 medal is a sharp addition and the t-shirt picked up at registration is super soft and comfy as usual.  After the race there is a decent size festival area that included regular contests throughout the day (stein hoisting, pie eating, and pull-ups), room to sit down and socialize with fellow racers over food and/or beer, inflatable bouncy house structures for the kids, and the generally necessary rinsing and changing areas.


Register early on in the process and it’s a fairly inexpensive race experience that will provide plenty of fun.  Hint:  Right now the Virginia fall race in October is $49 plus tax without the additional processing fees that plague the rest of the OCR world.  Shameless plug—ORM has a discount code posted for a better deal!  Sign up and have some fun.

Spartan Virgin No More

Spartan Super in Virginia

Standing at the entry to the Mid-Atlantic Super Spartan, I could see across all of Wintergreen resort. Set against a bright blue sky, the lush green mountains were beckoning the runners to devour the course. With perfect weather and a turnout of more than 4,000 over the weekend, the energy of the racers was tangible. I joined at least thirty other Corn Fed Spartans at the start (CFS) as Coach Pain Dwayne was leading the traditional Spartan pre-race chant. “What is your profession?” “I AM SPARTAN?” “Who are you?” “AROOO!” CFS stirred up the adrenaline of everyone at the 11a.m. start time and before I had time to register what I’d just stepped into, we were off running.

The start was a gentle downhill that quickly sloped up into one of the numerous hills encountered in the Mid-Atlantic Super Spartan course. We began with an over-under obstacle about halfway up the hill and then hit our first mud pits. Neither were particularly extreme with the over-under-through walls only hitting about 4 feet tall. Covered in red, Virginia clay we received the course’s first serving of dirt. The first mile spaced out the pack as we reached the bottom of the first hill, a descent down one of the resort’s ski slopes, and up the first technical incline. Typical of many northeast hiking trails, we went straight up through the woods over treacherous rocky terrain without the mercy of any switchbacks. For many racers, this was the end of running for almost a full mile as we ascended and descended through fairly dense woods.

Kaitlin carries in the Spartan Super

We found our first water stop at mile 2 back to the very top of the mountain. The ascent up to the water station was grueling. The first two miles had only contained a mere 3 obstacles and already 4 major hills. Directly after the station, we descended back through the woods over slippery, ankle-breaking rocks and back up to the sandbag carry. We trudged a quick, but difficult, loop with the bags and were rewarded by the next obstacle less than 1/4 mile away: the Slip n’ Slide! While some of the slides weren’t quite wet enough for speed, I flew down into the refreshing, albeit muddy, water. We climbed out and passed the mile 3 marker ending another section with just 2 obstacles. From miles 3-4 we hit only one obstacle. The entire mile was a winding and extremely technical trail of hills and rocks. A runner by me commented, “You know it’s steep terrain when rocks that were buried are now flying down the hill behind us.”

The trail led to the spear throw where I saw the highest number of people doing burpees after a failed attempt, than I would at any other obstacle. We came out of the woods, back into the sunshine, and at the 4 mile water station. Delighted to find packets of electrolyte replacement in numerous flavors, runners grabbed handfuls of them in anticipation of the second half of the race. There were two sets of rope ladders directly after the water station. The spirit of the race thrived as runners steadied the ladders and assisted those around them over the top. A girl in a lime green t-shirt shook as she reached the top. A teammate gently talked her through getting over the top.

We shot out onto a clearing and hit the ground to crawl 300ft of barbwire. In some places, the wire was high enough just to crawl- a welcomed break. This was the first obstacle since the start that spectators had direct access to the course and the cheers of many supporters pushed tired runners on. Little Spartans sloshed through mud pits of their own adjacent to us on the kids’ course. Completing the barbwire, we hopped over hay bales and back into the woods. We encountered close to a mile of brutal descent through a running creek. The wet rocks made for many teetering moments and breathless steps over waterfalls, into trees and through several inches of water.

We passed mile 5 at the bottom of the hill and came to another clearing. One glance up ahead eliminated any hope of a respite from hills: in every direction runners were running up, down, up and down the mountain above us. This hill would be revered as the most ruthless in the course. Devoid of obstacles, the climb to mile 6 up a black diamond ski slope was made more difficult for our mental endurance by the line of racers proceeding back down the hill beside us.

The parade of Spartans trudging up the hill was surrounded by exhausted participants dropping to hands and knees on both sides of the trail. Deceitful corners only turned to reveal more hills. Incredibly fit and seasoned racers stared ahead, motionless where they’d finally stopped moving. This would be a tipping point for many who didn’t finish the race. I finally heard the shouts of volunteers at the top that water was just ahead.

We reached the 6 mile water station. At this point on the mountain, we were at the highest elevation in the race and on the opposite side of the course from the finish line. The spirit that reverberated through the first half of the race had died off. Most people were fighting to continue and the shouts of encouragement had quieted. The Hercules pull was directly opposite the water station and gained us entry to the next decent. On the way down, we hit the 7 foot wall. Here, the life of the race revived a little as racers hoisted their friends up over the wall. The vitality the 7-foot wall started in us, the log carry continued. Finally, runners were shouting out team names again and laughing as they crumpled under the weight of giant logs. “This tree makes me feel like a little girl!”, said a sizable racer near me. Expectedly, a Spartan female replied, “What does that make me?!” “A WOMAN!”

Throwing logs down, we headed up again on the trail. We struggled over the 8-foot wall and up and over the hill to mile 7. Considering the relatively few obstacles we’d encountered so far, we expected the several between mile 7 and 8. This part of the course took place just under the chairlift spectators used to climb the mountain. We saw supporters for the first time since mile 4 as we dragged cement blocks in the tractor pull and climbed the inverted wall. The most difficult obstacles were saved for the end: the 10-12 foot rope climb and the now very muddy, slippery traverse wall. Because of the level of exhaustion in most racers after the rigorous hills, burpees were seen in plenty. The music from the finish and smell of the fire jump wafted over the final mud pits and gave us all a second wind. Over a not-so-slippery slip wall, one leap over the fire, and a dash through some not-so-tough gladiators and the race was over.

Kaitlin jumps the fire

While the course itself was incredibly rugged and demanding, many of the obstacles themselves were not at the usual level of difficulty. Many racers commented that they were surprised, and somewhat disappointed at the shift in challenge placement. Frequently, racers described to me their most trying experiences as hills and the obstacles instead as a break. The race took a grueling average of 6.5 hours to complete with the winner, Matt Novakovich, clocking in at 1:50:14- a first timer out of Alaska. The race was touted by many as more difficult than the Spartan Beast courses they had done, with times significantly longer despite a 2-3 mile difference in distance.

Kaitlin fights

As a first-time Spartan racer, I thought the course was expectedly hard and incredibly enjoyable. With unbeatable weather and gorgeous views from the many hills we scaled, I couldn’t have started my Spartan saga off at a better place. I am an avid runner and felt challenged, but not to the point that the race was no longer fun. The spirit of the racers was contagious and their perseverance made every moment of sweat worth it. The entire race was very organized with all the volunteers being well trained and efficient. Staff were readily available to answer questions and solve problems and the course was prepared to provide medical attention if needed. Family activities were abundant in the Festival as well as affordable food and drinks. While many have voiced mixed opinions, the event was a success.

Super Spartan racers