Special Ops Spartan Sprint Race Review, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
The Special Ops Spartan Sprint at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, was more than just your normal sprint and different from previous stadium events. For the first time, Spartan was able to combine the uniqueness of a stadium event with mud obstacles. Not only were you running stairs, you would also be crawling through dirt and running through mud.
Florida is not known for its hilly terrain but Spartan made sure you felt like you were running hills. Right out of the gate you ran up about 6 levels of ramps in the stadium. This was a great way to spread out the runners from the very beginning.
After a small obstacle, you came upon the Hobie Hop for a few flights of stairs and while it is not normally too difficult, going up the stairs was a little challenging. I probably found it the most difficult of the day. Through most of the first part of the race, you were in the walkways of the stadium where you encountered a few walls and an over/under/thru. Into the stadium, you ran up, down and across multiple levels of stairs. Although running stairs is not the easiest, I liked them and used this as a great opportunity to make some headway on my overall time. After the traverse wall, you had a gamble which was either run another 6 levels of ramps or do 15 burpees with 120 stairs. I took the run up the ramp along with most people who were around me. The sandbag carry was also up, down and across the stadium stairs.
From the stairs, we encountered a new obstacle which was pretty much a burpee fest. Trashcans were set up side by side and we were given a Nerf style football to throw into the trash can. Rumor has it that the success rate for this obstacle was pretty low. Given the amount of people doing burpees when I attempted it, I would believe the rumor to be true. I, like many, took my burpees on this one. Interesting obstacle but given the nature of the race and location, it made sense. While at a lot of Spartan Races, you can hear people saying how they are concerned about the spear throw, well at this one, you heard more about throwing a football.
Next up, right in the middle of the field was an 80 yard barb ware crawl. This was probably one of the biggest bottlenecks of the race for the open heats. For most people it was a very long crawl or roll through damp sand. To me, it seemed the barb wire was also a little lower than normal. It took a little maneuvering to make it through all the people and the barrels stuck in the middle but it was easily achievable. This was the last of the stadium obstacles before we were on to normal sprint obstacles.
The Herc Hoist was next and seemed to be weighted heavier than previous races. Still achievable, many people struggled to lift the weight up and slowly down as needed. The atlas lift was next followed by rolling mud. To add to the Special Ops theme, the next obstacle was weighted ammunition boxes which we had to pick up 2, carry them out and back. We had an inverted wall, spear throw, rope climb, slipwall, fire jump and gladiator pit.
Nothing really stood out to me to complain about. I heard a few grumblings about not enough volunteers at obstacles, but this was not something I encountered myself. There were also some runners towards the end of the day who did not get the Special Ops medal. Had this occurred to me, I will admit, I would be upset. Probably the biggest conflict of the day was many of the front elite males going off course. Different reasons were given for this but as a result, the runners who went off course were allowed to run the race again. Current times for the male elite only shows up to the sandbag carry. I am sure there will be more to come on what occurred and what changes may happen in the future to ensure this doesn’t occur.
I really enjoyed this race. I felt they made really good use of the stadium to put on an interesting and fun race for the over 5000 runners from all over the country. Check in was efficient by using the ticket windows, which I thought was really smart. The race used a lot of the stadium and then when it went outside it almost looped around the festival area making it pretty spectator friendly once the runners were outside. The festival area seemed to be in a smaller than normal area, but still not over crowded. Overall, from my perspective, great job Spartan!