Spartan U.S. Championship Series 2017: Emerald City Open

Seattle is home to coffee, grunge, and the Pike Place Market. This weekend it was home to the first race in the 2017 Spartan U.S. Championship Series. Not only was it the first race in the series, it was also live streamed. A playback video link can be found at the end of this article.

It was surprisingly dry and relatively warm on race day with just a few showers and temperatures in the low 60’s. Storms rolled through earlier in the week, ensuring there was no shortage of mud. The race would incorporate this natural obstacle in so many ways.

This is my hometown, so the race is extra special. Our team, BeastsOCR, received the biggest team award! They are an amazing group of people!


The Elites lined up and were underway. Hobie Call was back and placed 2nd, with Ryan Atkins placing 1st, and Robert Killian 3rd. Alyssa Hawley, Lindsay Webster, and Nicole Mericle rounded out the top three elite women. They are so fast and just amaze me every time I see them.

It was time for us to jump the wall and enter the corral. We took off and started with a pretty long run through corn fields and a trail that followed the river. We kept our pace moderate as it was going to be a fairly long super today at approximately 9.7 miles. We came to the hurdles and the O-U-T (over, under, through).


We made our way to the back section of the race venue and the mud hit with a vengeance! It seemed as though it was about a mile of solid mud. Probably wasn’t quite that far, but it sure did make the legs cry for mercy. There was one section that was particularly sticky and it looked like people were sinking in quicksand.


The double sandbag carry was up next! It was probably a quarter mile or more, with rolling hills and mud on the upper portion.


The new obstacle, Bender, was hard for me the first time I tried it, but I found it was all mental as I was able to go right up and over without a problem this time. Guess it’s a good lesson to not be intimidated by new obstacles and just jump in there and try it.


We trekked back through the mud and up some pretty steep hills towards the festival area. Seattle is known for a relatively flat course, but there are some sections that are definite challenges. We came to a second carry with wreck bags and then the spear throw. Missed and did the required burpees, along with several others. I believe these Spartans all made it.


Back up the trails and through the forest. The mud was thick and sticky again. We tried to do controlled slides going down, but they weren’t always successful. We found the inverted wall and then the Bucket Carry! It was a little unusual in that it went downhill first. The trail was muddy and uneven, making it very difficult to navigate. Several people fell and dropped their buckets. They had to get all of the gravel back in or start over. We rounded the bottom and made our way back up. Once the end was in sight, we realized this wasn’t the end at all! We had to go back down and up one more time! It was mentally defeating, but we gritted it out and got it done.


The dunk wall and slip wall were next, followed by the atlas carry. They had the big tires here today, 200 lbs for women and 400 lbs for men. They are very flat on the bottom, making them hard to get under. They were also being held to the sand with suction from the water. Flipped one way and then the next and we were off, to what we dubbed, “burpee hill”. The new obstacle, twister, was perched on top of a short hill. With exhaustion setting in, in addition to wet muddy hands, I didn’t stand a chance. Gave it a shot and dropped right off. 30 burpees!

Only a few more obstacles and we would be approaching the finish line. There was a waterway with cording, similar to barbed wire that we floated under. Then, we came to the Herc Hoist and the classic Multi-Rig. The Herc Hoist felt a little heavier than usual as the bags were wet from the rain the night before.

Finally, we jumped over the fire and received our well-earned medals!


Photo credit: Kim Collings, Adam Birgenheier, Jenn Reed, Spartan Race

Spartan Race was live streaming at this event and can be replayed here:

Beasts ELITE – Sara Knight

Chances are that if you have had something delivered to you by UPS from the North West, Sara Knight touched it. Sara Knight is one of obstacle course racing’s up and coming elites out of the Pacific Northwest (PNW). By day, Sara works at UPS unloading semi-trucks, but she also works as a personal trainer and is the owner of Obstacle Elite (a permanent obstacle course in Washington). What I learned about Sara when I met with her is that she is a Determined, Versatile, and Easy Going athlete. What I also learned is that she is a loving wife and an incredible mother of 3 beautiful kids ages 11, 5, and 3.

Sara Knight Spartan Race

One of the things that amazed me about Sara was how long she has been involved in OCR. “I first tried it out in 2014, did Warrior Dash with a bunch of friends,” Sara says with a smile and excitement. “That’s when I fell in love with it (OCR) and when I started training.” It wasn’t much longer before Sara moved from Lake Stevens, WA and purchased her house on 23-acres in Mount Vernon, WA which is also the home to her permanent obstacle course, Obstacle Elite.

Sara Knight on the Beach

I was curious what motivated Sara to move and open Obstacle Elite, and when I asked about it, I thought her answer showed just how determined she really is, “I was training for obstacle racing. I had fallen in love with it. I decided that a gym and going out and running wasn’t cutting it. I couldn’t climb a wall or rope or anything and there wasn’t anything in the area that had anything like that. So I was like, well… I’ll just have to create it.” And create it she did, and the new training regimen started to pay off.

Sara Knight Warrior Dash

In 2015, Sara had some outstanding accomplishments considering it was only the second year of her OCR career. She placed 1st at Warrior Dash Washington, 2nd at the Spartan Sun Peaks Beast, 16th at Spartan World Championship, 2nd at the Spartan Seattle Super, and an amazing 2nd place finish at World’s Toughest Mudder.

Sara Knight Worlds Toughest Mudder Jump

Even though Sara is new to OCR, she has always been a versatile athlete. “I enjoyed soccer, swim team, volleyball, softball, dive team, and track & field in high school. In college, I was a walk-on to the University of Washington crew team, and also was a snowboard and downhill mountain biking instructor.”

Sara Knight Spartan Race Coin

Today though, life is much different than in high school and college. Sara currently works 4 jobs, is a mom, a wife and an Elite athlete. When asked what a normal day looks like; Sara smiled and said, “I wake up at 2AM to get some weight training in. Then I head to UPS to load and unload heavy boxes. Next, I head home to get my kids breakfast and load them in the car as we drive around taking pictures of houses for my appraisal job. At nap-time I run or row. Then lunch, followed by kid sports. Then dinner and on Fridays, setting up signs around the local neighborhood for open houses. Finally, I get my kids to bed and I have another small workout session with body weight exercises or stretching. On the weekends I focus on obstacles, rock climbing, long distance trail runs, and my fourth job: training others at Obstacle Elite.”

Sara Knight Tire Pull

Sara is also excited about her newest venture in OCR. She was recently selected as one of 6 Elite Obstacle Course Racers in the North West for an OCR team called Beasts ELITE that is sponsored by GHUnders. As a member of Beasts ELITE, she will be racing competitively at many of the largest races in the North West Region.

Sara Knight Beasts Elite

Sara Knight Bench PressIf anyone can learn something from Sara, it is that you need to maximize the hours you have in a day. We all start the day with 24 hours, but it is how we fill the time that makes the difference. With a strong determination to succeed and a willingness to be versatile in your training time, perhaps you too can become an easy going elite like Sara Knight.