Before we get into the actual race, I want to say that I think Spartan SERIOUSLY stepped up their operations (at this location) since last year. It was only my first Spartan Race of the year, so I'm not sure if this will be a theme at most races this year, but the venue set up was a huge upgrade! On a very very muddy location, they put up extra tenting with gravel at the entrance (might as well be a red carpet!), better arrangement for vendors...it was set up exceptionally. Huge step forward over last year! Well done, Spartan Race.
ON TO THE RACE!
I traveled to the race with my brother Luke the morning of. It was a two hour drive for us from Raleigh so we left at 4:30am so we'd get there with about an hour cushion before the elite heat starts.
Thank God, it was much warmer than it had been the previous year. If you've read many of my articles, you'd know that I don't mind racing in the cold, but I HATE being cold before and after races. 7:30 came along very quickly, and before I knew it, I was off on my first Spartan of 2019.
They set up the course much differently than in 2018 which was also nice for keeping things fresh for racers! Taking off from the start line, we all raced down a slight decline in the muddy, wet terrain. The course took us into the woods pretty quickly, and the rest of the race would be lots of transitions from open-path to very untamed wooded running.
The beginning of every race is trying to find the balance between not getting behind many people and having that slow you down, and not pushing your pace to the point where you blow up. I think I was behind more people than I'd normally like, but thankfully the course was wide with very few single track areas, so passing was a real option!
I forgot how much I loved doing the obstacles at these races. I felt awesome a few miles, and several obstacles, into the race. Made it through Z Wall with no issue, and completed the Herc Hoist...though the bag felt MUCH heavier which is to be expected since it was soaked by the rain the day before.
I had two main focuses during this race. The first was to keep my mind on every bit of it as possible. Sometimes when you're running, and especially if you're struggling at all, you'll find that your mind wanders so it doesn't have to deal with the difficulty. Well, I want to be focused because I believe I'll race better when focused.
The second goal was to spend as little time as possible transitioning from running to obstacles. This has been something I've practiced, but that I've neglected many times in races. But I killed it at this race. I ran up to the start of the obstacle and the only pause I took was to make sure I started well. Transitioning quickly is so important, but making sure you have your first grip and are focused is far more important. Making a mental mistake could cost you 30 burpees worth of energy and lots of time.
While on Olympus, I heard some of the volunteers say something about, "5th or 6th place", so I thought I was somewhere in that realm at the time. Further down the line, during the final quarter of the race, I passed two competitors on Beater. They both fell on the obstacle and had to go do their burpees. It was my first time attempting it, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but I made it through cleanly and with the thought (if the volunteers were right) that I was close to a top 3 finish if I could keep my spot.
Having looked at the course map in advance, as everyone should, I had planned my "sprint zone" for right after the Spear Throw. If you've read some of my other race recaps, you'll know that I determine a "sprint zone" for every race. It's at a point in a race where I memorize exactly what obstacles are left, and roughly how far there is left to run, and when I get to that point, I turn things up to as high a gear as I can.
Coming up to the Spear, I was confident. I'd been practicing spear throws and developed my own unique spin (literally) on it that I thought would get me through. As I ran up, one of the volunteers said, "Grab any spear...they're all the same" to which I responded, "They are not all the same!" If you've raced before, you'll know that the tips of the spears often get bent, and I have no interest on failing the Spear Throw due to a faulty point. Well, I found one I liked pretty quickly, took a second to steady myself, and lobbed the spear at the target. I threw it harder than I usually do because the target seemed further away than normal. I hit it dead center.
Not 30 seconds after the Spear Throw was the Bucket Brigade. It was shockingly long. When I first looked at it, I didn't notice that the course wound through the field and then into the woods before coming back. I thought it was just in the field, so half way through when I saw I was headed into the woods, it wasn't the most fun surprise I'd ever had.
I finished the carry, sat the bucket down, and took off. After a quick bit in the woods, I came out right before the finish line. I scaled the Rope Climb, made my way through the Monkey Bars, and jumped over the fire to cross the finish line!
Turns out, the volunteers who were talking about places were either not talking about me or were wrong entirely, because after having passed multiple racers post-Olympus, I finished 6th in the Elite heat. I'm very happy with 6th, but of course, higher would have been nicer...guess I need to get faster.
It was an awesome race! I loved the obstacle arrangement, I loved the course. It was one of the more fun races I've ever had. Everything felt good, though I hadn't done a full-fledged OCR in 5 months, I didn't feel rusty or awkward on any obstacles.
If you ran the Charlotte Super as well, what did you think about the obstacle arrangement? AND, if you raced at that location last year, do you also think they hugely upgraded the festival/staging areas?
For OCR Coaching designed to match your abilities, resources, and goals, click HERE. My brother Luke and I would love to help you take your next steps in the sport!
Joel Hayes (Article Author)