Friday, January 06, 2017

A Review: RUNNING THE 8.5 MILE SPARTAN SUPER AT 58...December 10, 2016 Florida Cracker Ranch

At last...
A Spartan Race. 
After 4 years of OCR running, including one missed Spartan Race due to an eye injury three years ago, and one delayed Spartan Race due to a change of venue ... I finally got to run one.
And of course, I jumped over the 4 mile Spartan Sprint and right into the 8.5 mile Spartan Super.

The race is done and this is my review.
My comments are based on over 30 OCR runs, starting in 2012 with the now defunct Superhero Scramble.
Some of those early "mudruns" have not survived in the survival of the fittest OCR organizations food web.
Spartan Race prospered during those shake out ... natural selection years, and is now one of the big dogs.
With Reebok as a sponsor and Spartan races on TV, the Spartan organization has risen to the top of the food web.
And finally, I got to be a Spartan at the Florida Cracker Ranch near Bunnell, Florida.

I love watching the Spartan Races on TV, so I was eager to see what the bucket of gravel felt like.
Not surprisingly it felt like Earth's gravity had multiplied to Jovian levels. The trek toting the gravel laden bucket was plenty long ... like talking to yourself at the end, "I WILL NOT SET THIS BUCKET DOWN", long.
I did not.
But ... and this is a HUGE "but", at least it wasn't uphill like in other states.
Too flat for that silliness here in Florida.

Not really an obstacle, but hey, it's a free picture.
Most of my OCR photo-memories are POV GoPro shots, so I am always happy for a shot taken from somewhere besides my head.

The Spartan obstacles were good. I liked the variety and the spacing was well done. True confession, I do OCR for the "O" ... obstacles. I love them. Give me things to climb on, pull up,  jump over, and carry.
Running ... meh, it's an inconvenient truth.
At 58, when I get tired of running, I speed walk at a very fast, steady pace, conserving energy for the next challenging obstacle.
For me, each OCR run is all about the obstacles. My goal is to beat each one and I care not a bit about my overall time.
I never skip an obstacle either.

Like most OCR's, Spartan jams some of the best obstacles near the finish line so spectators have something to see.
The Spartan monkey bars were staggered with one high and one low, but not extremely difficult.

My reference here is the Savage Race obstacle called Sawtooth.

It is the most beautifully challenging monkey bar of any race in my opinion.
I would make the Spartan ones longer, but keep the up,down, up, down pattern, that was good.

That's a happy grimace.

Every race seems to have a platinum rig near the end now and these seem to have a high failure rate ... or is it just me?
No pictures of that, but Google it and you will see some variation of it.

The barbed wire crawl was insane. That was the lowest and longest barb wire crawl I have ever done in an OCR. I thought I would be there forever, rolling, and rolling, and rolling.

The Spartan rope climb was near the end of the race and it was a really good one.
The rope was long... (20 feet?) ... with no knots. Knotless rope climbs used to intimidate me, but not anymore.
Once I learned the Navy Seal foot lock, a knotless rope became ... still challenging ... but no longer a thing to fail at.

The Spartan obstacles were challenging over all with a nice mix of difficulty levels.

They were great. 
Helpful, friendly, and plenty of them.

Way more than I expected from the website. I think there must have been one about every 2 miles... and one of them had high carb/protein refuel food.

A reasonable $5.

All fine ... the one free beer was a Michelobe Ultra ... kind of like drinking beer flavored air ... but beer should not be the highlight or goal of your obstacle runs.
The finisher medal is primo!

Okay, now here is where there is room for improvement, but to be fair, this was a new venue for Spartan, Inc., so we accept some WTH things in this category.

Case in point, Unless you paid for some pretty limited VIP type parking, you had to park FAR, FAR AWAY from the starting area.
AND ... you had to walk a really long way just to get to the bus area to board a bus for the race start/registration area.

Spartan is new to this venue, but the FLROC obstacle course used it for years. I did that run about 6 times.
FLROC parked us in the same area as Spartan, (In a vast field next to a pretty lake), but they set up their race HQ right next to the lake.
This gave everyone a short walk to the registration and start/finish area, plus the lake beach provided an awesome rinse off station post race.
For some reason, Spartan parked us there, had us walk a quarter mile to a bus pick up, and then ride school buses through the woods on twisty, narrow, dirt roads.
This plan came back to haunt them (and us) when after the race, a bus got stuck on the dirt roads, effectively blocking the other buses.

We waited in an ever growing line of tired and dirty finished racers for about 45 minutes while the hard working Spartan crew wrangled tractors to pull the stuck bus out.
Once the lead bus was unstuck, the others followed and we got moving again pretty quickly.

Of course,  they still dropped us off at the original bus pick up site far from most of our cars, so we got to do the quarter mile hike back to our vehicles.
I'm pretty sure I put in close to 10 miles that day, not just the 8.5 race miles.

Overall, it was a great OCR course and I really enjoyed the experience.
Based on just this one Spartan Race and many Savage Races, I think Savage has them beat for numbers of obstacles and obstacle innovation. 

This Spartan Super was a REALLY good time though.
Were it not for the little transportation issues, I would have given it an A+.
Just like I tell my students ... and myself, there is always room for improvement.

I'm looking forward to more Florida Spartans in 2017!


Check out the add below to learn more about the new season passes that Spartan Race has come out with.
Sounds like a deal if you love the Spartan Life!!


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you've realized a dream. (Time to retire?)

So how many participants? I ask because you were able to find your photos, but you aren't wearing a bib (which I suppose would hamper your obstacle success).

And, c'mon. A quarter mile is nothing for a man like you.

(Ima stick with road races nonetheless.)

R.Powers said...

The headband had my Bibb number on it... It's a Spartan thing.

R.Powers said...

Number of participants was almost 3000 I think.