Josh Grant, Winter Death Race winner, Healing Tree Yoga studio owner, and awesome nice guy, offered to write up his perspectives on the race from the perspective of an elite wave racer – check it out below (he’s the one on the left)
This past weekend we went back to the laboratory, returning to the event that, more than any other, spawned, defined and unified the NE Spahtens. 300 of us went out there and trashed the course in our own way and at our own speed, shedding blood and worries along the way, laying down a category 5 beating and coming away once again with the largest, fastest team. That’s how we roll.
At the start line, 8:00 am, we were jostling one another, shaking hands and listening to the MC tell us how tough we were. We didn’t need him to tell us. We had all been through enough obstacles of wood, steel and emotion to have primed ourselves without the practiced words. With a yell, we were off, up the hill and into the woods and three and a half miles of adventure. The sun disappeared as we bushwhacked through some bramble and came out to the over/under/through walls. I won’t walk you through every obstacle, but the course was fast, primarily through the woods on narrow trails or no trails, with steep descents coming up quickly, forcing you to decide how you would be racing. Take little steps to slow yourself down and pound your quads, or just take off the brakes and see what happens. Exhilarating. It can be a surreal experience at times in the elite wave, the clomping sound of racing feet all around you as you pass some and are passed by others running down an incline, no words are spoken. We breathe, we run, but otherwise remain silent, our focus intense. In later waves, the atmosphere is more cordial and relaxed. It is good to experience both.
The Hercules Hoist was laying waste to the men’s field. Six were doing burpees when I arrived, grabbed a rope and leaned back with all 200 pounds until I was flat on the ground. Every once in a while it pays to be big. I ran on through the woods. Behind me I heard someone hyperventilating. He ran past me breathing comically fast. He was one of the lads doing burpees at the hoist.
The hoist was unique at this event as it was the only obstacle that was harder than usual. Most of the obstacles at this (and many other recent OCRs) seemed to be toned down from years past. This event had no cargo nets, no rope traverse, no 10 foot or higher walls, the barbed wire crawl was shorter and flat, and a couple very easy obstacles were tossed in, the climb up/across/down ladder being a good example of this. I don’t think this is a bad thing for most people. Harder isn’t always better. I do think that the elite wave needed more of a challenge. As Junyong Pak suggested, make the elite waves carry two sandbags, go out and back on the traverse wall/monkey bars, two rope climbs, and so on. The course was also shorter, and I think that was a good move. Folks pay for a race expecting a certain length and that’s what it should be. If you really want to get beat up, tricked, and lied to, then the Ultra Beast, Death Race, or WTM are always waiting.
One other new obstacle for this sprint were the angled walls. These debuted at World’s Toughest Mudder last year, and now they are everywhere. The Spartan version is a bit easier as there are hand-holds on the underside. Still, a cool addition. People seemed to be having fun with this one in the later heats.
We soon ran out to the monkey bars, the hyperventilator was doing burpees so I passed him again. This obstacle is definitely one that rewards practice. Hit the playground or go climbing! A good tire drag came soon after that. It was reasonably challenging, particularly if you got stuck with a big tire or aren’t used to dragging them around. The spear throw followed. The hyperventilator threw his and it banged off the target sideways. Burpees. I was lucky enough to stick mine and ran off. This was the last time I saw him. Felt bad for the kid. Fast as a rabbit, but not ready for the obstacles.
A quick roll through the barbed wire, a hop over burning logs, and a sprint down the hill and through the gladiators and another Spartan Sprint was in the books. Amesbury Sports Park is kind of like Ol’ Faithful. You know there will be an OCR there if you show up on a weekend, and it will be pretty cool the first few times, but eventually you will be ready to move on. I’d like to see a couple of these companies try a different locale out next year, but Amesbury Sports Park will always be worth a visit or two each year. Junyong defended his title successfully, and many of the NE Spahtens placed very well. A very well run, fun, moderately difficult course, with an excellent group of racers. Good job, Spartan Race! See you next year.