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Aug 3 / Jane

PA Spartan Sprint 2014

Several weeks ago now, Alex and I completed the first third of the Spartan Trifecta, the Pennsylvania Spartan Sprint at Blue Mountain.  We signed up as a team with friends, Dan and Issy, and were joined by a couple of their friends, but we decided to race on our own this time.  Staying together as a team didn’t go very well for us last year: too many different paces and abilities, it was better just participating with Alex this year.  We went into it knowing what to expect from last year and hoped to just get a good time this year.

We arrived early, but with a 12:15 start time, we ended up in an auxiliary parking lot with a 20 minute wait for a shuttle bus.  It was a little disorganized, and a little disappointing: no where in the pre-race info did they mention shuttle buses.  Nevertheless, we got to the start in time, and met up with Dan and Issy and their two friends with enough time for a warm-up before heading into the chute.

Our "before" photo.

Our “before” photo.

12:15 hit and we were off up the mountain and over some walls.  I’d read in the pre-race info that the course would be longer, approx. 4.9mi, which meant we probably wouldn’t be doing one long trek up the mountain, then one long way down. And I was right.  We came to a second set of walls (over, under, through), then headed back down, over a cargo net, to the base of a ski lift.  Alex and I were jogging up to this point, then we had to head back uphill.  Here’s were we decided to hike it and save our energy for the obstacles and flat or downhill running.

We hit the inverted wall, then another 8′ wall before heading into the woods uphill.  And uphill, and more uphill.  We hiked and made our way through groups of people.  There were a couple steep sections that had a rope available to help walk you uphill, a couple little downhills before more uphill.  Then we reached the summit and the sandbag carry.  It was on the same slope as last year, but opposite direction.  I appears the earlier groups did the entire loop; when we went, it was just down and up the “down” side from last year.

Eyeing the camera at the Sandbag Carry.

Eyeing the camera at the Sandbag Carry.

Next was the spear throw, which Alex made and I missed.  I did my burpees and we continued to the Hercules Hoist.  The weighted sandbags were definitely heavier than last year, but I was able to get mine up with minimal difficulty.  Alex did assist me on the way down though.  Then it was time to head downhill.

We really opened it up on the downhill and I became incredibly grateful for my choice of footwear.  I wanted trail shoes for the Trifecta, so I did some research and bought a recommended pair of Invo8 Trailroc 236.  I’m used to minimalist running shoes though, so when I tired them on they were just too different.  Before the Spartan, I ended up finding the Merrell Pace Glove 2‘s at Marshall’s for $49, so I had to have them!  I went back and forth about what pair to wear, and Alex convinced me to try the Invo8’s.  I’m SO GRATEFUL I did.  They are fabulous!  I had no issues going up or downhill, they gripped perfectly and were very comfortable.

Near the bottom of the mountain we encountered the rolling hills of muddy water.  In a water pit, over a mont of dirt, into another pit, etc. Then a little more downhill before we hit the swim.  No slip & slide this year, bummer, but the swim was still very refreshing with the mid-day heat beating down on us.

Out of the water, was the tractor pull, a cement block down near the water and back uphill.  The earlier heats travelled through the water, we did not.  Next, we had a choice of obstacles (really? why not both back to back?): Monkey Bars or the Log Hop, both of which we were told you could assist with.  The Monkey Bars looked larger (the actual bar) than last year and likely very slippery out of the water, so we opted to assist each other on the Log Hop.  This year, we both made it safe and sound and rounded the next corner to a water stop and the barbed wire crawl.

 

Tractor Pull, part 1.

Tractor Pull, part 1.

Tractor Pull, part 2.

Tractor Pull, part 2.

Barbed Wire Crawl.

Barbed Wire Crawl.

I feel the crawl was a little shorter than last year, and maybe less messy since we completed it on the first day this year.  There was a volunteer spraying a fire-hose over everyone and the cold water was welcome.  We then headed onto a slope with a new obstacle (new to us, at least), the Tire Pull.  A tire (men & women’s specific) was attached to a chain on the slope and you had to pull the tire up to you, then drag it back downhill for the next participant.  Alex had packed gloves for both of us, and this is the first time I thought I needed them. Unfortunately, I had the thought after Alex was already working on his tire and I was ready to do mine, so I just completed it without.

Back at the base of the mountain now, we hit the Rope Climb.  I was wiped out and knew I wouldn’t complete the climb, so I did burpees while Alex rung the bell at the top of the climb, with ease.  I took the time off also to rid my shoes of rocks accumulated during the water obstacles.  At this point we assessed we’d been on the course for nearly 2 hours, 30 minutes more than we thought it was take us based on last year’s time.  Of course last year the course was a little simpler and much shorter (3 miles or so).

The following obstacle was also a new one for us: the Bucket Carry.  Carry a 5 gallon bucket filled with rocks up the designated slope and back down.  I cheated a little and picked a bucket with a very small amount of rocks in it.  The earlier heats had to fill the buckets themselves and dump them at the end for the next person.  I don’t understand why they modify the obstacles so much; I don’t feel like it would have caused any bottlenecks, but would have kept some people on the course a little longer…

Anyway, after the Bucket Carry, we headed back uphill for the Traverse Wall.  This one is one of my favorites because I’ve been able to nail it each time; this time was no exception.  But I did think I lost Alex, I finished and could not find him anywhere!  He was in line to go on the other side of the same wall I was on, and then he wasn’t.  Turns out, people on that wall were moving so slowly and someone suggested going left to right was better for right-handed people, so I was looking for him on the wrong side.

Reunited, we headed back to the base for the FINAL obstacles(!!).  Of course another new one, the Monkey Bar Cargo Net had a massive bottleneck of participants waiting to get onto the net via four short ramps.  It was terribly inefficient, as I remarked to those around me.  Alex got fed up and we tried to exit the line and complete burpees to move on from the obstacle when a staff member indicated that this was a required obstacle and could not be forgoed.  I argued they were not regulating the obstacle well and the wait was too long; Alex completed his burpees.  I got the OK to head in-between participants waiting and get on the net to make my way across.  I took some people in line with me and started a trend.  I also completed the obstacle with minimal difficulty.

Out of the water under the net, we hit a short barbed wire crawl and a short sloped wall before the fire jump to the finish.  My official finish time is 2:23:25, which, believe it or not, puts me in 21st place in my age group (out of 456, top 5%!); I also placed top 5% out of all females and top 15% all finishers.  This is from the Saturday Open race only and excludes Elites.  For comparison, the top Open female finished in 1:47:18 and the top Elite female in 1:14:27.

Finishers!

Finishers!

We got cleaned up and changed and chatted with a high school friend of Alex’s while sipping the free beer, Shock Top (yum), until Dan and Issy finished.  Our friend Brad (from the Bordentown Running Club) was also participating, so we chatted a bit about the race as well (and planned a 25 mile bike ride for 7am the next morning).  Issy and Dan were over an hour behind us, we waited while they cleaned up then met for a late lunch/early dinner in town before heading home for a nap.

It was a rough race, definitely more difficult than last year.  I’m not sure if it was mainly because we started in the afternoon (which sucked), or that it was longer with newer more difficult obstacles.  Either way, it was worth the trip to Blue Mountain and it was a nice way to kick off the Trifecta.  It did open my eyes to some changes I need to make in training though.  I do not want the Spartan Beast to be a bad surprise.  Time to plan some more hill runs and quad strengthening exercises!

Cheers!

Cheers!

 

EDIT: I totally did not remember all the obstacles while writing this.  Major thanks to rem6a on youtube for his first person video of all the obstacles.  Want to know what I went through?  Watch it here.

One Comment

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  1. love the barbed wire pic! Nice job being in the top 5%.

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