Speaking of free races, I won entry for the Miami Spartan Sprint from a great blogger and better human being, Jeff Cain of On my Way to Sparta. Like the entry I'm giving away, it was for an open heat for any Spartan Race in the continental US. I chose Miami because it's in my backyard. And I also chose to pay the extra to transfer my open heat to the elite heat.
The weather forecast came trickling in with the rain on Wednesday before the race weekend. Chatter around Facebook warned of wet conditions as the day approached, and the forecast of rain remained. I didn't believe the hype. A forecast with a chance of rain in South Florida is common-- the rain can blow in and right back out within a few hours. And sandy soil means great drainage. So a rain forecast, definitely doesn't mean a wet and muddy Spartan.
Except for this race. The rain started on Wednesday, and the skies were relentless. Friday evening, the night before the race, Spartan was forced to change plans for parking because the parking lots were under water. I went to bed not knowing where I would be parking.
I awoke early and checked my email, only to find nothing from Spartan Race. So, I headed to the source of all knowledge, Facebook, and found out that I would be parking at the Sawgrass Mills Mall, closer to my house, but farther from the venue. I would be cutting it a little closer than the recommended hour and a half before start time. Because I would be running in the first heat of the day, I wasn't too concerned about back ups at registration and bag check.
Parking and the bus ride to the race proved to be fairly quick and easy for me (although some Spartans missed their start times and were forced to run later). Check-in was simple, and that early on a Saturday of a race weekend, the port-a-potties were fairly sparkling clean. The festival area was under water and just as the elite men were called to the starting line, the rain began again.
The women's race started on time and fast. The leaders set a blistering pace, and we were soon beginning our first hill climb. "Hills" in South Florida are really nothing more than glorified ant mounds, but Spartan Race chose the venue with the largest hill in all of South Florida. And they really made sure we got our money's worth out of that hill. Total elevation climbed is embarrassingly low compared to South Carolina or other races in the US, but for the natives, it was tough.
The course was amazing. I've done every Miami Spartan (all Supers except for this one) since 2011. Although this was only a Sprint, I was really impressed with the course. Walls were taller than I remembered from years past. The bucket carry seemed longer and steadily uphill and down. The atlas stone carry, a sled drag (full of water and sticking to the uneven ground), a (relatively light) sand bell carry, and the Hercules hoist all meant that athletes had to be strong as well as fast. The rig was brutal in the rainy conditions-- it cost me 30 burpees as did the spear throw and the traverse "Z" wall.
I was pleased with my placing-- 13th female in the elite race and 5th in the masters. But I was even more pleased with the sportsmanship. All the elite racers were chatting before the race and happily getting to know each other after the race. And the competition was ferocious.
Overall this was a really great experience and reaffirmed my love for Spartan Race-- as commercialized and as large as it has grown. I personally think there's nothing quite like a Spartan Race. They really know how to put on a quality event and take care of their racers.
Check out this great race video by Arnel Banawa:
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