Sometimes, you need to sit on things awhile before you comment on them. This year’s Palmerton Spartan Race is one of them.
Holy Crap on the Cracker!
One does not simply do a Spartan Race. If you’ve done a Warrior Dash, the local YMCA mudrun, and a couple of benefit 5ks, you can finish a Spartan Sprint….but it will have its way with you. Just being clear here…these things are tough.
This was my 4th race and I knew what to expect. Spartan Race has a ‘be prepared for anything’ attitude, and they mean it. There’s always a new obstacle or 3, different layout of the course, and fun ‘challenges’ along the way…you know, like hiking for 2 miles up a double diamond ski slope. You get to the top and breathe a sigh of relief that it’s all downhill from there. No, no it’s not. It never is. You’re going to descend through highly technical terrain, get wet, get muddy, scare yourself (if you’re lucky) and finish with the right to be REALLY obnoxious about it for at least a week.
Spartan Race, to me, has trouble balancing the “We want to get people off their couches” philosophy, with the “THIS RACE ISN’T HARD ENOUGH. IMO DRAG A TIRE WITH ME” meatheads. Some volunteers seem to want to mess with you, and they suck the fun right out of the race. There’s one punk with a megaphone at the bucket o’rocks carry who was asking for an airborne bucket of rocks in his direction. Then there were the volunteers yelling “You’re not going to do burpees on this. You’re going to make it over, you can do it.” They’re also cagey with the exact distance of the race. Advertised as 3+ miles, I’ve been told everything from 4.9 to 5.5 miles.
None of the obstacles were THAT difficult. I bailed on the rope climb because I was just SO tired. I landed the spear for the second year in a row (my trick, just. throw. hard.) The Hercules Hoist was a real challenge: For a brief moment I wasn’t sure I could do it. I’m disappointed there was no water slide this year. The Tire Pull was fun.
I took issue with the cargo net monkey bars at the end. You’re suspended about 10 feet over water (maybe 3 feet deep?) and mud. Hand over hand it across the cargo net and ring the bell; then drop. First, that’s a scary drop. I wonder how many injured ankles came out of there. Second: it’s one of the last obstacle in a very tough race. It’s where the spectators are….you don’t want to fail in front of your family. When I let go, I was mad at myself and Spartan Race. Finally, if most people are failing the obstacle, AND the obstacle is at the end, maybe it’s not right for the homestretch.
I limped to the finish line thanks to some leg cramps. Surprisingly, I saw a TON of people with cramps this year. I emptied my Camelbak twice, had 3 GU packs plus electrolyte tabs. I was greeted with a medal (1/3 of the Trifecta medal is attached this year), plenty of water, bananas, power bars, protein shakes and my lovely wife, daughter, and good friends Ed and Darlene.
Spartan Race needs to beef up their after-race party. Props on the choice NOT to make the free beer Miller Lite (like last year.) They have to give people a reason to stick around afterwards, though. They need a better party/festival atmosphere. For spectators, I’m told it’s brutal. Once you check out the handful of vendors, there’s NOTHING to do. For the price we pay, and the fact there’s a steep spectator fee, there really should be something more than ‘watch out for the muddy people.’
Am I doing it again? Of course. That feeling at the finish line energizes you in a way you have to experience to understand. I’m a Spartan, and that means something to me.
PS: Check out my Spartan Race 2014 Video