Spartan Super – Palmerton, PA

superlogo* From: Sean Gifford

* Event Details
Reviewed By: Sean Gifford
Date: July 11, 2015
Location: Blue Mountain, Palmerton, PA
Pricing: varies – make sure to click the banner at and then use any discount code
Parking: Onsite $10!!! .
Course: 8.2 miles of mountain, mountain, mountain and some obstacles
Check in: Easy – just show up, they have waivers, bib numbers and fast moving lines.
Bag Check: Yes, $5 – you do get $5 merch credit when you pick up your bag.
Wash Station: Yes
Changing station: Yes
Bathrooms: Port-a-potties – lots – some were even still fairly clean after the race.
Vendors: Lots at this race – I cannot remember them all.
Schwag: Finishers tee and medal
Post- race nutrition: Organic Valley chocolate milk, Cliff Bars, Bananas, water

* Race Details
The course
Distance: Approximately 8.2
Terrain: This is a good ski hill – plenty of steep inclines Spartan made good use of, the trails were rocky and very technical. Good trail shoes are a must.
Course marking: Was very good – Spartan tape and signs all around.
Water Stations: There were lots – I would say about every mile and a half – one station near the end had Cliff Blocks for samples.
Difficulty: It is well known that Norm Koch designs the course at Blue Mountain – so anyone that is watching Spartan blog, webpages, Facebook and other social medial will see the hashtag #EffNorm – there is a clear reason for this. Norm is known in the community as the hardest of the Spartan course designers – he seems to have a sadistic madness to his methodology and gets you to push your body and mind to and beyond its limits. He does not disappoint and you will get your money from his course – others, besides Palmerton include, VA, Killignton VT, Lake Tahoe

Overall Review:
While some Spartans are welcoming to racers at all levels – this one, as Norm courses do, will put to the test all racers, but will really make “average Joe’s” like me push themselves beyond what we do in a normal race. Its hard to compare one Spartan from another, but for new folks that might be reading this, I wanted to share a time comparison. I am very average, not a fast runner, but I love to do OCRs- My 2014 Spartan Super, SC – finish time: 3:31. My 2015 PA Super finish: 5:07 #EffNorm

Here is a list of all the obstacles (not in any order – thanks Kevin Pearson for the help), then I will share my feelings/insight and my #EffNorm moments:
Log hurdle x2 – imagine telephone poles you hurdle
Cliff Climb x 4-5
Vertical Cargo
Hercules Hoist – 2 weighted bags women/3 for men
A-Frame Cargo
Up-down monkey bars
Sandbag Carry – standard guy/girl weight
Inverted Walls
Stairway to Sparta
Atlas Carry
Plate Drag – 45lb on sled – pull up mountain, drag down
50lb log carry – big heavy logs that you carried down the mountain and back up
Walls (lots)
Spear Throw
Rolling Mud
Swim – a couple hundred meters in 8 foot deep water, you had to swim under floating intertubes – if you could not swim you could bypass or walk the edge.
Log Hop to Balance Beam
Tyrolean Traverse
Bucket Brigade
Rope Climb
Barbed wire crawl x2 with slippery wall in the middle – down the mountain under barbed wire, over the slippery wall, up the mountain under the barbed wire
Cliff Multi Rig – rings to pole
Dunk Wall
Fire Jump

Since 2013 I have run well over 40 laps of Spartan races from the sprint, super, beast and stadium events – I can honestly say that my experience today rivaled that of the 2014 World Championship Beast in Killington, VT.

You see, it is not the mountain -I like to hike/run mountains. It was not the obstacles – I really like obstacles. It was, however, the relentless combination of the mountain, the obstacles and the placement of each obstacle sequence.

Innovation? I am not sure how to answer that – I think every Norm course has something unique – maybe in this race it was the “carry two logs by the chains up and around the flags” or the “carry this 50lb log down and up the mountain” or the “carry this sandbag down a double black diamond and right back up the double black next to it”. The Cliff rig is neat – they seem to change it depending on the course designer, but isn’t that just a rip-off of that company from Canada? Certainly there was not the obstacle “innovation” we would expect from Rob Butler at Shale Hill, though I would contest that the “innovation” in this race is Norm’s mind and how he expertly strings together someone “standard” obstacles in a way that makes your body question its capabilities, your mind question your decision to “sign up and show up” and your sheer will to continue on.

I am sure that everyone has their #EffNorm moments – think the “death march” at Killignton – and this race was no different. For me, I had one such moment after besting the Tryolean Traverse and began to jog along… then came the swim – not just any swim, it must have been a good 300 yards, during which you had to swim under floating intertubes. We were told, “once you get in, it is 8ft deep throughout”. There were no life jackets. You had to make a choice: 1. Swim 2. Walk around 3. Walk on the edge. I tried to swim, I really did, even tried to use my ruck to help me float. Then I cramped. Game over. I went to the shallow part. You feel bad for yourself, but you move on. You move on to the z-wall. For me, the Z-wall has never been a big deal – especially with by studded Ice Bugs. Well, thanks to Norm, my legs continued to cramp as I stretched from one hold to the next. I made it, but it was definitely not as easy as what I was used to from Spartan. #EffNorm.

There were many such moments at this race – for each racer they came at different moments, perhaps on the mountain during the 5th climb. Perhaps it was pushing yourself through the bucket carry up and down the mountain, and turning the corner to find the rope climb but being told, “Black rope for men, white for women” – the black had no knots, the white had knots. #EffNorm.

My final reference: If you ran the “Boston” Super – you probably pushed yourself, had fun, and were hopefully challenged in some way. But it was a flat course with predictable obstacles and nothing really surprising. But it was Spartan and what you might have come to expect from the brand. Boston was “Days Inn” of Spartans – nice but not where you go if you want a mind-blowing hotel stay. Blue Mountain was like the Ritz – exceeded your expectation and I’ll will admit it – left me wanting more. So, tomorrow the Sprint awaits – on the same mountain, with the same obstacles strung together in Norm fashion. And right around the corner Killington awaits. #EffNorm

* Rating

1 thought on “Spartan Super – Palmerton, PA

  1. Excellent review. Spot on if anything. I myself earned a new appreciation for the spartan race and the community. I’m always impressed with what this lifestyle has to offer but Palmerton was a special experience for me. By far the hardest race I have ever run and I have an even greater appreciation for Mr. Norm Koch. I have not had the pleasure of running Killington YET but I will be there in September to claim my first double Trifecta ever and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of my Battle Buddies and the NE Spahtens for making this dream possible every weekend. See you all on the course soon.

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