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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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…