Thursday, April 17, 2014

Miami Super Spartan 2014

I've run this race every year since it's been held in Miami-- so this was my fourth year. Each year Spartan has used the same location, Oleta River State Park. I really felt the 2013 course was exactly the same as the 2012. Although bad calf cramps slowed me down last year, I finished the race clean-- no burpees. It seemed easy. I mean, 8 miles of obstacles isn't all that easy, but it wasn't as challenging as I had expected.  Had Spartan made the race easier to please the masses?

The 2014 race was a completely different experience. Personally, I had an excellent race-- no cramping, so I felt I raced at my potential. I ran the Sunday Elite Heat and finished in 1:57, placing 7th. This was my first event relying solely on a high fat, low carb diet, and I completely attribute my lack of cramping to having more stable blood sugar and electrolytes. 

Registration: I always register early to take advantage of the lowest pricing. Because I run in the elite heat, I pay an extra $30 which is annoying, but worth it to me. However, this time registering early backfired. My sons both had events in different locations, so at 5:30 on Friday night I was emailing Spartan Race to request a transfer from my Saturday heat to Sunday. I received a prompt response and was able to pay a $24 transfer fee to change days. I just showed up the second the gates opened, and the transfer was a smooth process. (*If you need a transfer, it's key that you show up to the registration area early. The line was fairly long as start time neared.)

The Start: I was really surprised at the difference in a Sunday vs. a Saturday start. I knew the elites (the ones who win the races) generally show up on Saturday, but I had no idea that so few show up for Sunday's elite heat. A friend told me that the elite wave on Saturday was about 70 deep. I lined up Sunday with about 15 other women. 

I'm in the pink socks.
The Course: Flat and fast. I was thrilled to see that the course was pretty radically altered from last year. There was less running on the flat roads and more running on the "hillier" bike trails. Miami's obstacles offered the expected: walls, some over/unders, barbed wire crawls, tire flips, a bucket carry, sand bag carry, short swim, traverse wall, Herculean hoist, rope climb, and a "slippery" wall. The bonus obstacles (these for me were new and/or extra challenging)-- 
  • Inverted wall-- I loved this! It was just different. Not too difficult to overcome, but it required a little more thinking than the typical wall.
  • Monkey cargo net-- I have no idea what this is really called. Basically instead of monkey bars, we had to traverse the high cargo net over water. No elite women completed it that I saw. 
  • Atlas stone carry-- Again-- I LOVED this! It wasn't a long carry; we had to basically power clean the stone up and carry it, set it down, complete 5 burpees, and clean and carry it back. CrossFit pays off!
  • Bucket carry-- while this wasn't new, the placement of it was absolutely diabolical! Well played, Spartan Race, well played! (I was worried about a twisted ankle as we carried it up and down gravelly inclines.)
  • Log hop-- My advice on this one-- take your time! Running through is a bad plan. Same for the traverse wall-- being careful might save you 30 burpees. 
  • Spear throw-- definitely not new to Spartan Race, but new to this location. (Actually, the first year there was a spear throw for the first few heats, but then it was shut down for some reason.)
  • Added weight-- The Herculean hoist was heavier than last year. Last year I stood and pulled it up fairly quickly. This year after feeling the weight, I rode it down to the ground to use my body weight, and then reclined and pulled, using my feet for leverage on the fence surrounding the obstacle. Not sure I'm winning points for style, but by doing that, I was able to go hand over hand. 
The Finish: So, the big drama of late has been the removal of the Gladiators at the end of the race. Frankly, I don't care if they are there or not. The gladiators don't make Spartan Race (contrary to all those who lament). I found them so random-- in my 3 previous races, once I was relatively ignored as I ran through, once pushed hard backwards, and once pretty much given a tap. Spartan Race is all about overcoming the grueling length and scope of the course, not about guys in a costume. The gladiators aren't the "You'll know at the finish line."

Positives Changes: I was so impressed with the entire event this year. The course design was truly challenging-- given the flat, fast course, I really feel that they toughened up some obstacles. The set up of the festival area was smart. They provided changing tents for post-race.  Elite racers weren't charged for bag check-- a minimal amount anyway, but at least I got a little break for paying extra. There was a nice variety of merchandise available onsite, and those who paid the $5 bag check were given a coupon for $5 off at the merch tent-- again, a small gesture, but it was nice. There were plenty of buses providing transportation to and from the parking area. Overall, this was just a really great experience!  

Check out this awesome video of Saturday's race put together by Arnel Banawa:

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