Having been to three consecutive PNW Spartan Sprint races, it’s interesting to see how they have progressed, though in some areas digressed.
Don’t get me wrong, Spartan will probably always be one of my staple races and remains as one of the smoothest running, well organized events I’ve attended. But, the world of Spartan is growing, and it shows.
First, let’s just recap this year vs last year. The obstacles were nearly all the same, though the course was much longer. Thankfully, they calmed the heck down with the hills this year. The venue is an MX park and has lots of terrain to choose from. The hill climbs were exhausting and mildly dangerous on the decent last year. To the relief of the participants this year, there were simply more, though slightly less grueling hills.
I do have to say that the obstacles were pretty perfectly spaced and the water stations and water obstacles showed up right when you needed them.
New obstacles this year included a bucket carry, typically seen in the Spartan Beast and Super races. The first challenge was to fill your bucket with gravel, then carry is up and down various small hills, over and down a grated ramp, and back around to the starting point when you would then dump out your bucket. This. was. horrible. I had seen tips, indicating that the best way was to hug the bucket high on your chest, which is all fine and dandy, if you have strong back muscles. That lasted about 25 feet for me. Then it was down to the killer forearm workout of holding it from the bottom.
Racer etiquette tip: ASK another racer IF they want help. Don’t assume a female racer can’t dump her own bucket and tip it for her as you saunter on by… it makes us angry and steals from our experience.
While not necessarily new, they apparently decided that one tire obstacle was enough, so they gave the option of doing either a tire flip, or a tire drag at one point. I felt like that was a little lame. The tire drag was one of my favorites last year, but the tire flip is a staple and not to be passed up. I chose the tire flip, for authenticity purposes.
The bucket hoist was turned into a sandbag hoist, and disappointingly, there were no Marines at the station loudly encouraging racers to “DO NOT DROP MY BUCKET!” Oh, well.
They brought back the inverted wall which was great, and of course the horrifically-awesome hill climb under barbed wire. At one point I looked up to see a hill of writhing muddy bodies. It was simultaneously amazing, and disgusting.
Racer etiquette tip: If the masses are not moving, it’s because we have no where to go. DO NOT crawl over other racers to get to the top faster. Instead, try helping your fellow racers, as is the Spartan way. Otherwise you’re just slowing other people down as they are forced to move out of your way on an already precarious perch.
My one big complaint this year was the lines at the obstacles. They were actually sending people around the water slide without a penalty because the wait was over 40 minutes. We lost over an hour standing in line at obstacles and our GoPro died halfway through because it took so long. (It’s never not made it through a race before.) If we cared about our time this year, we would have been quite upset.
Happily, there was a fire jump. Last year, presumably due to burn bans in the area, there was none. However, true to the rumors I had heard earlier in the year, there was no Spartan gauntlet at the end. I understand it to be due to insurance reasons, but it was still very disappointing.
While the festival area was fun, with a lot of activities and good flow to vendor tents and bag check, the food options left much to be desired and no one seemed too excited by the beer, though I believe it was a step up from the previous year. (I don’t drink beer, so this is hearsay.)
My last overall impression of Spartan this year is that it’s getting big — really big. And it’s starting to show. It is starting to feel almost like a corporation. They have done so much to promote it and raised it to such a huge level that it’s starting to feel like a thing, rather than an event. I noticed it first when I attended one of the free Spartan training events in my area and received my free shirt, and were basically drilled with Spartan inspiration the entire time. Like a motivational seminar, with exercise. This was one of many across the country. During the registration process they were recruiting gyms to sign up for an SGX (Spartan Group X) certification. I feel like they are taking any avenue to filter people into their races. I’m not saying it’s bad, or they’re bad for doing it. I think it’s brilliant advertising and I don’t disagree with their overall goal. It’s just starting to feel like something scarily large, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. I can’t be mad, their goal is to get people off the couch and that’s admirable. I just get an ominous feeling about it that I can’t put my finger on.
All that being said, it is still one the best races I’ve been to. I always feel like they have their stuff together, and I would love to compete for a Trifecta one day — money, time, and energy permitting.[spartanracerate]
*Photos By: Katrina Blackwell