They were not kidding when they said mud. I grabbed the rope for the Herc Hoist and pulled hard, leaning back to use my body weight. I did this a few more times and looked at the sandbag on the other end thinking it had to be at least 6 feet off the ground. It was barely hovering. The rope was so coated in mud I couldn’t lift it further than a few inches. This has got to be the sign of a good race.
A few days before we got there, the sprint course at Porter Farms outside Charlotte, NC was entirely covered in water. After the race, we ran into Spartan employee, Todd Sedlak, who explained to Matt Davis and I that the race was set up smack in the middle of the flood plain. This made for a very interesting set up and a festival area as muddy as the racecourse.
The muddy conditions certainly didn’t stop anyone from coming out though. The weekend was a massive success with over 10,000 finishers between Saturday and Sunday. So, by the time we rolled up at 7am to set up the tent, there were already swarms of people in the Festival area waiting to see off the elites. Despite the forecast for beautiful weather, it was quite cold until later in the afternoon. The Festival was situated right in the middle of the larger obstacles that curved around the perimeter. Even in the later heats, this kept the energy level up with crowds cheering at all the largest obstacles.
I have to admit, I’m a total baby about being cold. So, the luxury of not being thrown into muddy water the minute we crossed the start line sealed the deal on how much I loved this race. (Don’t tell Spartan or next time they’ll have an ice bath waiting at the corral). It was also the first race I’ve done where many of the most challenging obstacles were encountered early in the race instead of near the end. You either got the worst over first, or you faced hundreds of burpees in the first couple miles of the approximately 4.7 mile course.
I ran through a group of gawkers to jump on the rope climb. I hit the top knot and reached up to climb just a bit higher when I found myself involuntarily descending . I caught myself on the knot and tried several times to get my grip in the thick mud at the top of the rope. When I finally realized I physically couldn’t grip the rope, I switched ropes to the one directly next to me. The name of the game at this race was being strategic in which rope, traverse wall, or Herc Hoist to choose. Thankfully, rope number 2 was dry enough for me to scramble to the top.
Staying close to the festival, we then hit the very muddy inverse wall and over the cargo net, which this time had boards instead of the net- a recent change, and slightly more nerve wracking for anyone afraid of being any distance off the ground. I was sure I’d slip off the traverse wall given that Amelia Boone did, but we picked a nice dry wall and made it across. I was not a huge proponent of doing burpees in mud up to my elbows, so I was fairly relieved.
The course itself wound around the farm and smelled suspiciously of cow patties. When the Festival music faded out after running behind a barn, we were kindly serenaded by a heard of cattle. I heard a rumor they booed the elite heat. No manners at all.
We ran in and out of the woods up some pretty fantastic hills and back onto the fields. We hit the relatively short barbwire crawl. We ran around noon, so we figured the mud would be horrendous by the time we hit the obstacles, making them impossible to complete. But, it worked to our advantage on a few. The barbwire crawl was so slick, we essentially slid our way through the entire thing.
We busted through the tire pull and tractor pull and into the woods for another split in the trail. We could go the long way around, or face a steep wall of mud up to the fields and out of the woods. Matt had to brag about his Reebok All Terrains the whole way up, and I once again found my Inov-8 Bare Grips to be more than reliable for the climb.
We got to see some of Spartan’s experiments with changing up obstacles. This was the first time I had gotten to do the new Atlas Carry with the concrete balls. It’s significantly more difficult than the bucket shaped Atlas Carry. It was like carrying a bowling ball that was set on using gravity to break my arms.
I didn’t have a single complaint about this race. It was well organized, extremely well laid out, and had an unbelievably good turnout. It was a great testament to the growth of the sport and the enthusiasm in the South for OCR. Spirits were high at the race and a lot of fantastic elites showed up for a lively competition. The only objection I had was fully submerging myself into what I am convinced was mostly cow poop with a little bit of water to pass under the barrier directly before the slippery wall. But, I’m quite a princess, so I’m sure I’m just being picky.