Let’s start this adventure down memory lane with a quick backstory. The Spartan Super in Palmerton this past weekend was my first time stepping foot on a Spartan course since a stadium race in 2016, my first time on one of their mountain courses since 2015, and this was my 3rd time running the Palmerton course. See, the Blue Mountain venue is sort of a home course for me. It’s only 90ish minutes from my house, I’ve been there for winter activities, it’s a nice drive up, and it’s truly a beautiful place. You may be asking, “well why the hell did you skip the last couple years then?”. The answer to that is simple; I wanted to scale back how often I was racing, and honestly was a bit bored of Spartan Races. Blasphemy, I know.
With that out of the way, I was excited to get back out there on the mountain and see where the day would take me. I wasn’t going there to “race” and had no expectations going into this other than being excited for a nice sunny day on a mountain with my wife. On the ride up, we were discussing the course/venue over the years and talked about all the epic sandbag carries up/down the double black diamond slopes, the swim across the pond, and the ever so popular chairlift that terrifies me and my fear of heights. I was curious to see how the event and course had changed since my last go of it, or if I was in for a new experience.
Before getting into the race, and to save both my time and yours, here’s the quick and dirty of what Spartan Race did really well.
- Registration, parking, and bag check were all a breeze.
- Festival area was well spread out and they had several sitting areas for spectators in the shade.
- They had a water station every mile given the 90+ temps and they even had the snow machine spraying mist on the course and in the faces of chairlift riders (still not enough to make this guy get on it). Well played, Spartan.
- Sponsors – Clif and Body Armor were great. There were Clif Bloks at one water station and having Body Armor at the finish on a super hot day was great.
- Post race food – Impossible burger! They had the famous plant-based burger for all us non-meat eaters. Normally the only stuff I get to eat after events is beer and french fries, totally not a complaint, but having a plant-based burger option was extremely appreciated.
The race started as expected, straight up the mountain for about a mile’s worth of climbing. At the top, we grabbed a sandbag and went down those double black diamonds, then came right back up. Did another obstacle or two, and proceeded to run down the mountain. Then we did something different and hiked up the mountain, but this time in the shade! Yay shade! This was the fun and more technical climb of the two. We got to the top, did a few more obstacles, and then started our descent back down the mountain. Noticing the trend here? This continued but with shorter climbs and more obstacle density toward the last two miles of the course through the finish. In the last mile or so we had 12 of the 26 obstacles including ape hanger, rope climb, bucket carry, and inverted walls.
Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the obstacles. I’m a fan of twister, the rig, ape hanger, and even the old-school staples like the carries and rope climb. I have fun doing all of those obstacles and they certainly give you an extra challenge, but this race was exactly what it’s been for as long as I’ve been coming here. Sometimes when on course I felt like I should have just signed up for a mountain trail race and occasionally picked up a rock to carry for a bit. Other times I appreciate the fact that without this event I’d likely not be out playing on a beautiful mountain and acting like a kid on a really steep playground.
The race was everything I had known it to be before as well as everything I expected it to be now, and THAT’S OKAY! Spartan Race isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel here. They know the formula that works and they deploy it annually in Palmerton to borderline sold-out crowds that keep coming back for more. This race is one of the best venues out there, and the experience you get is exactly what I wanted it to be.
I’m usually not one to throw an overarching theme on something complex like an obstacle race, but when you ask me if there’s one thing that sums up my day in Palmerton, it’s a line from legendary NFL Coach Dennis Green “They are who we thought they were!”, and this time that’s a good thing.
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- Spartan Race Palmerton – They are who we thought they were! - July 23, 2018