This weekend marked the last Spartan Races on the 2015 calendar, and it’s been quite a ride. Spartan Race started off the year with new medals, new shirt designs color coded by race distance for the first time, more obstacles per race than previous years, and a host of new obstacles. Of the latter, several such as the Plate Drag and Stairway to Sparta have become staples of the race series, while others, such as the infamous Tarzan Swing, were problematic and were formally removed after only a few races.
They had some highs, such as the successful move of the Spartan World Championships to Lake Tahoe, some mixed experiments like the Spartan Cruise, and a few lows including a disappointing race plagued with issues at their home base of Killington, Vermont. 2015 saw the end of the Death Race and the debut of Spartan Agoge.
At one of the last races of the year, Spartan had one more new thing to debut: a new race venue in LA. Previously, Calamigos Ranch in Malibu was the site for this race, which presented some unique logistical challenges including busing thousands of participants in from remote parking.
Parking at the new venue was onsite, but quite spread out – it paid to get there early, as latecomers had a fair hike to the festival area. The festival itself was on the beach in front of the lake, which was kinda cool, although, since Castaic Lake is a state park, it was also a dry venue; hopefully they’ll honor the beer tickets in Temecula early next year.
For many brave individuals, the fun started on Friday night with the Spartan Hurricane Heat. Lead by Tony Matesi, Spartan Race’s Endurance Director, and his partner in crime Steffen Cook (Cookie), the Hurricane Heat saw several other SGX coaches recruited to help with the festivities as 163 showed up to play in the dark and the surprisingly cold wind that was blowing.
For those unfamiliar with the Hurricane Heat, it’s a tradition that started when one of Spartan’s races was drowned out by a literal hurricane (Irene), and some hardy (or foolhardy) souls went out to play on the course lead by founder Joe De Sena. Since that inaugural event, the Hurricane Heat has been a ~4h long event about forging teams and pushing participants past their limits.
Highlights from this weekend’s offering included splash fights in the cold water mud pits, three-person races in which two were tied together at wrist and ankle doing a bear crawl, while the third person rested their feet on the shoulders of the other two and did wheel barrow instead, carrying “wounded” team-mates on makeshift litters made from sticks and duct tape, and maneuvering a simply enormous, 60-70′ tree trunk through part of the course.
Saturday dawned crisp and sunny, and provided a sharp contrast to the last two years at Malibu, which were best described as wet, muddy and cold – real cold, not just California cold. It was time for the LA Sprint, which many would repeat on Sunday as well. The course itself was 5.2 miles of mostly single track trails. Spartan started things off with Rolling Mud and the Dunk Wall, getting us all wet right from the start. This was the only water on the course, which then wound uphill for the next 2 miles or so with a few walls, the big cargo net and a fairly long sandbag carry along the way. At the top, we were treated to spectacular views of the upper and lower lakes, as well as the vertical cargo net, monkey bars, barbed wire crawl, and the slant wall, eventually leading to the long downhill towards the finish line. Once we hit the bottom of the hill, we had to complete the bucket brigade, plate drag and rope climb, followed by a couple of tall walls with the inverted wall sandwiched between them. The spear throw, herc hoist, atlas carry, and the multirig were all stacked near the end of the race, before the iconic Fire Jump to the finish line.
The weather was perfect for running, with a cool start to the day that warmed up to the high 60’s later on. Most of the day, there was a brisk wind blowing, which kept runners cool but also kicked up quite a bit of sand and dust, particularly on top of the ridges, that added difficulty at times.
For those who follow the elite results, winners on Saturday were Hunter McIntyre, with Glen Racz taking second and Ryan Kent in third for the men, and Laurel Shearer taking first for the women, followed by Mary Colburn and Rhonda Bullard in second and third.
Another milestone was hit at the LA Sprint as well, with Kirsty O’Donnell of Australia setting a new and astonishing record of 18 trifectas in a single year. This represents upwards of 54 races in 2015, averaging more than one race per weekend, and this feat brings new meaning to words like perseverance, dedication, and obsession. Kirsty was chased in pursuit of this goal by Steven Marlon (16) and 59 year old Joe Forney (15, pictured above). Just remaining healthy enough to make it to the finish line week in and week out for the entire year is truly impressive.
Overall, it turned out to be a fast 5+ mile course that had a couple of decent climbs along the way with a long downhill to the finish line. It is a fun new venue with plenty of possibilities, as alternate trails abounded, and there appeared to be plenty of space if Spartan Race Directors decided to include some longer race lengths there. The Los Angeles Sprint was a fitting capstone to end the Spartan year on. I, for one, can’t wait to see what Spartan introduces to the world of OCR next year.
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I enjoyed the new venue even though the parking was a little bit of a schlep to the start line it was a nice Paved path that wound around the edge of the lake. Beat the tar out of being bussed! There was a lot of wide open spaces and it seems like plenty of room to expand the course. I am hoping for a trifecta weekend in Castaic next year.
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