2018 Spartan Sprint D.C. – Fast and Furious

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Seattle Super 2018 – Muddageddon the Sequel

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Prelude:
Yeah, I know that “Just do it!” is the Nike slogan, but that’s how I felt about writing this Race Recap. “Git `er Done” would be another quote I could use… I was really on the fence about writing it, but I knew I really just needed to sit down & suck it up & bash away at the keys for a bit & get this out. I apologize if this race recap doesn’t hold up to most of those that I have done in the past but it was a rather in & out experience this year. Just a heads up right now, this is more of an account of my experience up to & during the race than a race recap.

 

Day Trippin’:
It all started Friday, my buddy Troy & I headed out the door midday on our 2-hour drive to Seattle. The border crossing was quick & easy but the whole drive into Seattle was just horrendous due to the sheer amount of rain that was coming down. It was so thick it was almost like a fog. We arrived in Seattle in the early afternoon & decided we would wait a bit longer to head to the Open House at the site to see if the rain would subside. The rain never did subside & even though the site was only a 25-minute drive away we decided to skip going as we didn’t want to get soaked & miserable the night before the event. In the end, we regretted not going so we decided we might just as well take a stab at it. The rain let up a bit finally around 5 pm. When I checked Google Maps the traffic looked rather bad as the trip time was now at 1:30 so we decided to just stay where we were & not fight the traffic & bad weather.

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Getting to the Event:
Our wave time was at 9:30 am so we decided to head out at 7:30 am. Well, it looks like everyone else decided to do the same thing as Google Maps stated it would take just over 2 hours to get to the site. We grabbed our stuff & headed out. The weather was a bit better on Saturday, it was now only raining slightly & in spurts so I was optimistic that the day would go well. Our drive to the event site was pretty easy going & we were making good time so I was unsure what Google Maps was talking about & then we saw it… We were driving along the two-lane highway & we saw the Event Site off to our right just within grasping distance. I also, however, saw in the distance what looked like a line of cars parked in the shoulder on the Highway. I figured it was just a bunch of desperate people parking on the side of the Highway then walking to the site & then realized, nope, that’s a lineup of cars trying to get to the exit! We were still 4.5 Km (2.8Mi) away from the entrance to the site. We still had an hour & a half to make it to the site & it looked bleak. The line moved quite slowly & luckily didn’t seem to stop much. We didn’t end up getting to registration until nearly 10:30 am! It ended up taking us 3 hours to get to the site when it should have only taken 25 minutes in total!

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The Event:
Despite all of the rain, this year seemed to be less muddy than last year minus the parking lot. I read posts from others stating they thought it was worse, but I don’t think they recall the sheer amount of goopy shoe & leg stealing mud that there was last year. Yes, I can say now, it was muddy, but I still think last year was worse. The parking lot seemed worse than last year as we saw several people stuck just entering the site & getting towed out of their ruts. Registration & bag check went quickly. We set off in the 10:45 wave & headed straight up the first hill. It wasn’t all that slippery yet & it wasn’t very long. The released map had the course @ 13 Km (8 Mi) & was strangely accurate as my Garmin clocked it in at just over 13.75 Km (8.5 Mi). For me, the rest of the event was a bit of a blur. Head down & determined to finish. It rained lightly most of the time I was on course, at one time there was about a 15-minute downpour. I wasn’t in my normal happy go lucky talk to everyone & splash people with mud head space during this event. Probably due to missing the Open House & all the darned rain.

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Luckily I put on multiple layers. There were many that were wearing WAY less, but I am glad I wore those layers as I was relatively warmer than I was last year. Towards the end of the race, we came across a young girl that we had seen earlier on course, she was only wearing a shirt & shorts & was shivering & delirious. I gave her & her dad one of my Mylar blankets & a pack of hand warmers to help her. Volunteers had called medical & I saw them coming so I left them to it & kept on. I got ahead of myself there, sorry… 28 Obstacles, they didn’t seem as hard as last year. I was able to get the Herc Hoist without much trouble where I barely moved it last year & needed a second person to help get it done.

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The Barbed wire crawl was quite long & broken up into three sections. I remember people finishing one and then gasping that there was another & yet another as they were all quite long. I would have had a solid hit on the Spearman if it wasn’t for the large knot in the rope. Everyone around me agreed it was still a viable throw so I tied the rope up so no one else would use it & moved on.

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The Yokohama Tire Flip was next. Those tires were freakin’ heavy & I ended up having to get help with flipping it so I did half the normal amount of Burpees.

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The Bridge they built out of Storage Containers over the entrance was pretty awesome. I recall them trying to do this last year at Mt. Seymour but they ran out of time to get it done which is too bad as it was fun to climb up & over those waiting to come into the event area. After the Bridge came the Rope Climb. Only recently at my local gym had I gotten about halfway up a rope & it’s something I’ve always struggled with. Well, today was a new day! I actually got all the way up that freakin’ rope climb hung on like hell with one hand & rang that bell! If there was one take away from this race, it’s that I finally got to that darn bell! Sure, I’ve gotten most of the way up with knots in the past, but I’ve never gotten up one without help before. Yay me! It looks like the training & techniques are finally rubbing off! The second Barbed wire crawl was broken up into sections again but the whole thing was more like a swim as it was totally submerged under water & it looked like some were struggling to even keep their heads above water at times.

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The newly sealed Bucket Carry was also pretty brutal as I’ll admit I typically leave about an inch or so of space when I fill it up just because I’m a wuss. But, not this time! It started to rain a little heavier & that sure didn’t help me with my normally non-existent grip. But, I remembered what someone else wrote & also saw others doing, flip the bucket upside down & use the edge of the top to hold onto. Genius! I ended up carrying it like that until about 3/4’s of the way through where I started to hold it sideways & ended up having to put it down more than I’d hoped. I got through it though, even though they had us go up, down & back up & down the hill again. Hello, lower back & forearms!

Seeing the Fire Jump as we came down the last hill was a great feeling. I knew that I would actually finish my first of three Spartan Races this year to get my first pie piece for my Trifecta. The fire wasn’t exactly roaring, but I could smell the smoke & feel the heat right as soon as I got to the Multi-Rig. In the end, seeing we would have finished together if I hadn’t decided we should get individual Fire Jump photos, I am stealing my Buddy Troy’s time as I let him go & jump across the fire first & he crossed the finish at 2:29:59. Just UNDER 2 & a half hours! I was quite happy with that! We managed to shave just over an hour off of our 4:40 time from last year which was a 16 Km (10 Mi) 21 obstacle course.

 

 

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In Conclusion:
They can’t all be fun in the sun races, & this one left me wondering why I do this at the start. As I was walking up to the entrance I ended up bumping into someone that had recognized us from the Sun Peaks race last year. (http://obstacleracingmedia.com/race/spartan-review/spartan-beast-sun-peaks-2017/) He told me that he loved my Recap & forwarded it to others to read as a form of training for any others that may come. With that, getting up that darned Rope Climb & jumping that finishers fire, I remembered why I do this! To test & push myself. I may not be my own biggest fan, but having people cheering out on the course REALLY helps! Next time you’re out there, scream, holler, & shout encouragements to the racers because it DOES make a difference.

Wrap Up:
The Race was great after you got over all of the rain & the mud. The Festival area was quite well organized. Even though I was in & out quite quickly. I remember there being sufficient restrooms outside & inside the festival area. There was also a lot of vendors that I just didn’t end up paying much attention to. If I do come back next year, I really hope the rain lets us be for once.

PS:
I’ve mentioned last years race quite a bit in this article. Feel free to go check it out here http://obstacleracingmedia.com/race/spartan-seattle-super-emerald-city-open-2017/

 

Your Muddy Buddy,
-Ryan Fick

 

All photos are credited to Spartan

Warrior Dash Washington 2017 Race Review

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Overview

Warrior Dash is one of the oldest companies putting on obstacle course races in the US and have been running events in Washington State since 2011!  With all of those years under their belt, a certain level of polish can be expected and Warrior Dash delivered on those expectations.

Taking place about a 1-hour drive south of downtown Seattle, the Kelley Farm venue provided a mostly flat, wide open area for everything to be set up.  Unlike some other races, both parking and the bag drop were included in the price of admission which made for a smooth experience from beginning to end.

Parking was very close to the check-in and festival area, so no shuttle was required.  Waiver signing and packet pickup were quick, but it certainly didn’t hurt that I showed up early to run in the first heat of the day.  After picking up the participant shirt and fuzzy helmet before the race, everything was loaded into a bag and dropped off at Bag Drop before heading over to the starting line.

The Competitive Heat

Warrior Dash marks their first wave of the day as the Competitive Heat and it acts as a qualifier for the OCR World Championships taking place in Canada this year.  While there is no official timing of the race, someone was actively monitoring the finish line to record the top 10 finishers of each gender.

Top 3 qualifies you for the Pro Heat, while Top 10 qualifies you for the Age Group competition at the OCR World Championships.

This opening wave was an interesting mix of people containing some determined (very fit looking) people vying for those top spots and several others just excited to get out on the open course and push themselves to their own limits.

The top 3 male and female runners were announced and invited on stage to receive OCRWC Qualifier t-shirts.

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The Course

After a brief delay to get word from the medical team that everyone was in place and ready to go, the start line was counted down and we were sent off as flame shot into the air above us.

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The very beginning of the course took advantage of a small hill off to our right which we climbed up right off the bat.  After zig-zagging back and forth a few times over small rolling hills, we returned to the level surface that the rest of the race was run on and our first obstacle, a small set of tall, spaced out wooden stairs.

After that was a fun obstacle called Upslide Down where we laid on our backs and pulled ourselves along using acargoe net above us.  Next was a short balance beam before we crawled down into some very long, muddy trenches.

A water station was located at the half-way point of the 5k distance and soon afterwards the course turned into a winding single-track run through a large set of trees that led us to a rather tall barb wire crawl.

Next we ascended a steep wall with the assistance of a rope, navigated through a pipeline made of cargo nets, and balanced our way across a set of pallets suspended over water.  The finish line was within sight, but we still had to navigate through a tricky obstacle where you could balance your way across a cargo net, with or without using a variety of hand holds suspended above you.

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After a quick fire jump, we conquered the largest obstacle on the course, Goliath, which consisted of of ~2 story cargo net climb followed by a steep slide down into a deep pool of water.  Despite the water mostly cleaning us off, the final obstacle made sure everyone finished with a thick layer of mud on them.

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This final obstacle took place in a deep pit of thick mud that also had barb wire suspended above.  Impossible to move through quickly or with any grace meant everyone came across the finish line ready for an epic post-race picture of their muddy adventure.

After crossing the finish line, we were given a very unique finishers “medal” consisting of a cube with a something different on each of the six sides.  It’s even numbered if you want to use it at your next board game night!

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Verdict

Overall, Warrior Dash remains the perfect gateway event into the world of obstacle course racing.  The 5k distance combined with a modest number of non-intimidating obstacles makes for a very fun time that doesn’t require a strict regimen of training leading up to the event.

The Competitive Wave was handled very professionally for everyone seeking to challenge themselves and others during the run and the festival grounds made for a great place to relax after the event and sip on the free post-race beer (even if it was 9 in the morning!).

Whether you are a seasoned OCR pro or someone thinking about trying their first ever OCR race, it’s worth checking out the next Warrior Dash near you.

Spartan Seattle Super / Emerald City Open 2017

Mudageddon & Crampfest – Two very accurate words that describe the course which was set out before the sold out first stop of the Spartan Race U.S Championship Series for the Emerald City Open held at the Meadow Wood Equestrian Center in Snohomish Washington.

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Perhaps the 16k/10m course didn’t start out so bad, but for those of us who started mid-day after the 1000’s of racers in the morning, the mud was plentiful & very hungry! I personally got stuck in it up passed my knee twice & required the help of others to get out.  I luckily kept my shoes on my feet, but I heard rumors that not everyone’s shoes made it out intact.  Think, ravenously hungry Sarlacc pit from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.  There was also more than ample waist high to chest deep back woods cold water trudges to cramp up your legs.  The weather was on a bit of the cooler side (68f/20c) with some light to mid rain & some sunny breaks.

Spartan-Seattle-Super-Emerald-City-Open-2017-Course-Map

Location: In between Everett & Bellevue & off over to the East.  The Google’s failed us a few times when we got closer to the site.  A sign along the Highway would have helped as the exit wasn’t very clearly marked.  There was a sign deeper off the road but I hadn’t seen it until after we passed the small little turnoff.  We finally arrived around 9:30 am & it took us about 40mins to get to the Parking Lot.

Parking: Quite ample but it was in a rather soft grounded field.  I understand not being able to put down some gravel, but we ended up getting stuck on the way out & needed a push to get out & we also ended up pushing a few others that got stuck too.

Registration & Packet Pickup: Easy to find & quick to get through for those that had their bar codes printed out, you didn’t even need ID to gain entry.  I somehow printed everyone’s bar codes but my own & there was a separate section for those like minded individuals that did the same.  A quick ID check & I had my timing chip & headband.

Amenities & Showers: The water trudge from the 3rd to last obstacle did a pretty good job of cleaning me off & my dry robe was more than roomie enough to get changed in so I didn’t end up checking out the showers or the changing rooms.  I did, however, have to make a few pit stops before & after the race & there were more than ample Port-O-Potties outside of registration near the parking area & at the back of the festival area.  I think a lot of people may have missed the ones at the back & went to the one’s outside the festival area as they were cleverly sectioned off & surrounded by cloth walls.

Food & Vendors: I thought there were quite a few options for food, everything from sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers to slushies, ice cream & ice cold soul quenching beer.

Obstacles & Course: There were ~28 obstacles to challenge those of all skill & fitness levels with ~5 water stations.  One of the stations stocked halved Cliff Shot Bloks at it.  I cannot remember if there was anything else on course.  There were additional recovery bars, drinkable yogurt, life-giving bananas and other goodies at the finish line.

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The double sandbag carry & bucket carries were both respectively evil! Is it me, or are course designers getting more maniacal? The distance you had to carry weights was lengthy & filled with multiple hills.

Spartan-Seattle-Super-Emerald-City-Open-2017-Tire-Flip

Who found these new ~400lbs tires? Dear lord, these things were brutal! My buddy that was with me easily flipped the water filled balloon bags which I have no hope of flipping for a while yet, but when it got to the tires he was defeated by them.  The Herc Hoist was on-site & I recently encountered it in Las Vegas, well, someone apparently decided to easily double the weight of those ones.  Many people contributed the raised toughness of the obstacles to this being a Championship race.

This race was my second OCR race that I have run in the United States & it provided me my second pie piece for my coveted Trifecta or Tri’Fick’ta as my wife & I are calling it.  Volunteers & Spartan staff were all quite courteous and had smiles on their faces.  We arrived after most of the hype from the Championship had subsided & the cameras had been put away so to me, it was just a regular old Spartan.  It’s a shame they didn’t keep the live feed going till closer to the end, it wouldn’t have been hard, even just at the finish line to watch some fire jumps.  I’m not the fittest of individuals, but I’ve run my fair share of 5k/3m OCRs in the past.  I’ve participated in an 18k/11m Tough Mudder but for some reason, this ~15k/9m Super was freaking me out a bit.  After finally completing it, I think it earned it’s dread.  I hadn’t known there was going to be so much sticky gooey mud & most people told me it would be a pretty flat course which I was quite happy about.  In the end, one foot in front of the other got me through it.  Recently while doing some light training at home on my treadmill, one of my knees started to act up a bit.  I’ve seen a physiotherapist but I wasn’t happy with the visit so I’ll be going to see another one that’s more geared toward sports medicine.  During the race, I had the same knee act up.  I believe it was due to all the pulling pressure from getting constantly stuck in the mud as it subsided rather quickly after the race.  I really wish I had brought my camera on coarse & wasn’t running late to head back home so I could have taken some pictures as there was more mud than there was grass.  =/

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For some reason, I have signed up for another Spartan Super in Vancouver/Mt. Seymour on June the 11th, so be on the lookout for a recap on that.  Until then Spartans… Aroo!

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Photo Credit: Spartan Race