Tag Archives: Spartan Super

Colorado Super & Sprint Weekend 2017

My favorite race of the year has come and gone. Despite being in the beautiful state of Colorado for a full 6 days, it definitely isn’t enough time to see everything there is to offer. Race weekend felt even shorter.

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Maybe it was the heat or the fact that this would be my first ever back-to-back race, but something about it just felt shorter. Come to think of it, every race this year has. The laws of physics and time hasn’t changed so could it be that every course has been shortened?

For the second straight race to start 2017 (minus Greek Peak as it was the first ever held there), us racers received what could be described in most running sports as a ripoff. The Ultra Beast in Vernon was shortened by most accounts around 4 miles. According to my records, Fort Carson was cut by close about 1 and a half miles. So then why did my time increase on what was still a runner-friendly course?

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Steve Hammond has done a commendable job in my opinion. Following in #effNorm’s footsteps isn’t easy especially with how most of 2016 played out, highlighted of course by Killington’s Death March. Looking at the course map for Fort Carson ahead of time, it looked nearly like a carbon copy of last year despite starting and finishing on opposite sides. 2016’s course was fast and while there was a lot of single track, the obstacle locations made it easy to get past other racers with ease since most were in open territory. It looked like much of the same… in and out of the gorgeous valley with the only difference being that we could actually enjoy the scenery this year.

Wrong.

Sure, the parachute team dropping out of the helicopter with the American flag to start was just as awesome as last year, as were the Army Colorguard members on horseback roaming the grounds blasting guns loaded with what I hope were blanks. But deep down this year’s course was a wolf dressed in sheep’s wool.

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If a race starts with a downhill, it’s going to be all uphill afterwards. Write that down, memorize it, because Fort Carson proved it to be 100% true. That downhill led to some quick and easy obstacles (wall, wall, O-U-T, wall, herc hoist) with plenty of room to open up in between. Just make sure you watch out for all of the cacti out there because as I learned during the barbed-wire crawl it doesn’t feel any better than that wire does. Once again, just like in New Jersey, the bucket brigade proved to be the most onerous obstacle of all. That first 2 mile stretch was a major tease because once that bucket hit, the fun was all over with. While not as treacherous as Vernon’s, this bucket brigade found itself traversing dry and loose sand and rock making for a slippery affair. Add in the heat and the sun beating right down on you and you have the makings of a memorable time.

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The best part about the Military Series races are hands-down the added obstacles. After getting my first taste of them last year I was stoked to be able to do one in particular that was exclusive to Elite and Competitive waves, the target shot. To my extreme disappointment, it was not included in this year’s festivities. Maybe it had to do with cutting certain obstacles out to include the new ones like Twister, Bender, and Olympus, but I really do think if it was considered another arbitrary obstacle such as one of the net climbs or even the Herc Hoist. Unlike the target shot, the Ruck Sack carry was spared although I don’t think anyone was extremely thrilled to be doing it when it came time for it on the course. The likely explanation was Steve Hammond thought it would be a brilliant idea to increase the weight of the ruck by ten-fold. Seriously, it was that heavy.

One of the trends for this year’s races I’ve noticed is that there are points in the race with a bunch of obstacles in short order that all focus on one particular aspect. More times than not, that aspect has been upper body strength. 2016 had some similar parts on the courses but when you add in the new obstacles, it really manages to magnify that point in the race. When the rope climb is followed by Twister, the spear throw, and the multi-rig within maybe 100 feet of each other, there really isn’t a chance to get your bearings or give your arms and shoulders much of a break. All that tells me is this is going to continue to be a theme this year, and that I had better get to work on increasing my upper body strength quickly.

If Joe de Sena and Spartan Race wanted to standardize every race to fit within a certain parameter they’re definitely sticking to it. They’re also managing to keeping things difficult, especially for the running specialists. To me, that’s a challenge. Challenge accepted Spartan Race… Challenge Accepted…

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Colorado was nothing like I expected. But I’m okay with that. I had pictured mountains and hills everywhere. Trees and shrubs littered in between vast arrays of rocks and boulders. Not sweeping plains as far as the eye could see. The backdrop to the east was the great plains all along the horizon. The west… exactly the opposite. That alone made it worth it. Arriving at the base was a breeze and the instructions were clear and concise on their website. It was interesting to note that security was rather light getting onto the base which is the last thing I expected for a military base. The other thing I expected at the race was little to no hills and a ton of mud. Was I ever wrong.

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The course itself was amazing. Dry, desert-like terrain that allowed me to breeze by people. It wasn’t too difficult to find places to bushwhack when the main paths were bottle-necked. Cacti were plastered everywhere but they did a pretty good job of clearing most of it out and I can thankfully say I made it through the entire 10+ miles without getting pricked. That being said, I can imagine my thick-soled Inov-8’s helped me escape cactus needles penetrating my feet. I can’t imagine how those poor souls wearing Air Jordans or Chuck Taylors felt. For my first race in the Inov-8’s, I may have a new favorite pair of OCR shoes. I’ll save a review of them for another post, however. Now back to the course… It was a sight to see with all of the military vehicles parked all over, whether it was a tank, the crane at the starting line, or the helicopter flying overhead during most of the race. The picture opportunities proved memorable with some of these as the backdrop.

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As far as innovation goes for the obstacles I loved the rucksack carry but was bummed I didn’t get to try the “laser-shot” obstacle. The ruck-sack photo is sadly unavailable for me as I crossed paths with the photographer during a well-deserved potty break. I very seriously considered going around a second time if only because I enjoyed it that much and would have loved the photo op. The “laser-shot”, or whatever they call it, was only for the competitive and elite heats. I can’t say for sure I would have succeeded at it but it would’ve be fun to try. The first half of the course was a bit sparse with obstacles, relying more on hills and surprisingly steep cliff edges that, if running too fast, you really could fall quite a few feet into some very friendly cacti. This really was a race that suited runners. There were the typical upper body strength parts like the rope climb, monkey bars, and Multi-Rig, but surprisingly the Herc Hoist was absent from this course, not that I’m complaining. The Herc Hoist may be one of my least favorite next to the Multi-Rig. Miraculously I only failed two obstacles for my best effort yet. I overpowered my spear throw and it literally edged the top of the haybale. The Multi-Rig may forever be my Achilles Heel as long as I work through my torn labrum. On a much more solid note, I finally conquered the Z-Wall! I apologize to any racers I may have scared or intimidated afterwards since I slightly got worked up after finally overcoming my demons on it. Other than those, you had your standard walls spread throughout the course, the Stairway to Sparta on a plateau which was great for scoping out the landscape, and only maybe fifty feet worth of mud and the dunk wall. There was actually probably more barbed-wire than anything on the course and to make things even more interesting it was kinked halfway through and over a hump, so just when you thought it was over, you get over the hump and see you’re still only halfway done.

The best part of the whole race? I lost my timing chip. For someone like me who is very stat-oriented and takes everything like that to heart, not knowing if my time will count meant that my efforts may go unrecognized. In the heat of the moment though I actually used it as motivation and rocked the remainder of the course. Knowing that I conquered the course as best as I could meant more to me than I thought it would. It was just a cherry on top that the results tent was able to mark down my time based on my friends photograph of me crossing the finish line. To make things even better, when she asked what my start time was, hearing the doubt in her voice that I finished in the time I did, that was all the satisfaction I needed for my efforts. So out of 3,148 total Super Spartans, I finished 135 overall and only 9 spots out of qualifying for the OCR World Championships. Finally having a passion and goal in life is the greatest thing to come from these races.

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