Into the gates of Vista View we marched – Spartans! As famously said by Leonidas, King of Sparta, “It does look like rain”. Rain would be an understatement. With record breaking rainfall hitting the South Florida area over the past week, Vista View Park, the site of the 2015 Spartan Race Sprint Miami, would be mostly under water by the start of the first Elite wave on Saturday morning.
Vista View Park, located in Davie, FL (not Miami at all), is one of the highest points in South Florida. Located on 270 acres of man-made hills, Vista View is popular among local runners and cyclists for training but is rarely used as a race venue. When I heard that Spartan Race was bringing the show to Davie (again, not even close to Miami by the way), I was eager to see how one of the big dogs in racing would take advantage of the unique terrain.
Being based in Miami, I was able to visit the site during the days leading up to the event. Spartan HQ was wise to get a head start on obstacle setup just before the torrential rains began. I had an opportunity to speak with Woody Peters, a veteran member of the Spartan Staff who has worked alongside the dreaded Course Designer Norm Koch at numerous venues, including Killington, Vermont. Woody explained that the course designers for the Miami Sprint were pleasantly surprised with Vista View’s elevation changes, which are not typical at Florida races. The course would measure in at a distance of five miles, “5.1 miles if you go wide on the turns”, according to Woody P.
On Saturday morning, the first of two race days, the Elites waded into a shallow pool of muddy water that doubled as the start line. What began as a rainless morning would soon become a steady downpour that seemed to be timed perfectly with the pre-race announcements. As the first wave began, trudging through the standing water would be the first obstacle racers encountered. This would be repeated frequently throughout the course. Soon after, the terrain would take its place as the next unexpected challenge.
Having trained numerous times at Vista View, I was quickly surprised by the route that was set by Spartan HQ. The first mile was without obstacles but traveled up and down one of the largest hills at the park on what appeared to be a newly made gravel path. This seemed to be the case for most of the course, with the majority of the paths going through high grass and overflowing ditches.
Along with fighting off swarms of blood thirsty bees and ants, obstacle placement along the hilly terrain made for a challenging experience. An example of this was the Atlas Carry. For those not familiar, this involves carrying a 70 lb. (male weight) cement stone approximately 20 yards, then doing five burpees, followed by bringing the stone back to the starting point. What made this version extra painful was that the 20 yards was through a ditch filled with knee high water. I’m certain a few of those stones are still at the bottom of that ditch.
The Z Wall, Hercules Hoist, and Spear Throw seemed be the major burpee generators for the Miami Sprint. The Z Wall, a traverse obstacle with zigzagged walls, had many failing to ring the bell due to the last wall having a sharp angle. The Hercules Hoist was a testament to how certain obstacles require technique versus strength. A sandbag that seemingly weighs 500 lbs (actually 50+lbs.) must be raised and lowered using a rope and pulley. Seasoned Spartan racers took advantage of the metal railing and used leverage to defeat the hoist. Many of the muscle bound newcomers fell short of their goals; I’m certain the mud made technique the winning choice.
The Spear Throw, AKA “Burpee Maker”, once again earned its nickname. Along with bad aim, a new reason was to blame for the countless misses. Due to the standing water from the week of nonstop rain, many competitors (me) didn’t realize that they were standing on the rope connected to the end of the spear. This resulted in throws falling way short of the target. Damn rain!
With OCR events in Florida frequently using the same venues, Vista View Park was a good change of scenery for the Spartan Sprint Miami. One thing that seemed to stand out at this event was the low turnout. The weather may have been to blame, but attendance didn’t appear to be as large as at most Spartan Races. Either way, Spartan Race delivered on bringing South Florida an event that was both challenging to the Elites and enjoyable to the weekend OCR warriors. Aroo!