What follows are some of my thoughts regarding the AZ Super Spartan on February 11, 2012. I was in the 9:00am Elite group, more because I like to run early than because I fancy myself an Elite competitor. To be clear, I am by no means an expert obstacle racer, but I have competed in some local obstacle races (“mud runs”) and have completed several typical races (half marathons, 5Ks, and such). This was my first Spartan Race experience.
I arrived early in order to get a good parking spot. I was familiar with the venue and knew that parking was limited and would be pretty crazy later. I had cash for parking ($10) and was directed to a spot right up front with the volunteers. I had picked up my number and everything the night before, but could have easily done so onsite — I was 90 minutes early for the first wave (60 minutes was recommended)
Apparently, they do waves of 250 racers every 30 minutes. I found this to be a good system for reducing congestion at the obstacles. Maybe it was being in the first group, but I never waited more than 60 seconds at any obstacle (technically, there was a “before sunrise” crowd in the Hurricane Heat, but the 9am wave was the first official group). I did appreciate that the event organizers did not spend a lot of time talking on the loudspeaker. We basically had a welcome, the call to get into the start corral, a bit of encouragement, and the start signal. Overall, the event was very well organized and staffed with many helpful and encouraging volunteers. The only snag I had was in retrieving my bag from bag check, but it was just a minor delay in locating it. My takeaway from that experience is to get a bag with more unique coloring since having the poor guy search for a “black backpack” amongst all the others bordered on cruel.
The obstacles were very well done and the course was great — maybe a bit too much wading through water for some people, though I found it nice to be able to ice my calves in the water halfway through the event. I found it somewhat difficult to successfully clear a few obstacles due to the ordering (going through mud, carrying sandbags, THEN hitting the monkey bars). Mind you, I’m not complaining, I know that I need to be more prepared next time. The course was pretty well marked, although we had some confusion about a quarter mile in where the outbound course came close to the inbound. We were hopping over fences as part of the race, and I think some of us hopped one too many. Other than that, strategically placed volunteers and signage kept us on course. If I haven’t said it enough, the course was very well designed, a lot of fun, and very challenging. For example, carrying two sandbags through part of the course, including a crawl under lines and over hay bales, was pretty rough.
As an event overall, it was an interesting setup — spectator tickets were $15 with a $5 ‘Spartan Bucks’ credit to spend at the various booths. Due to that cost, I didn’t have anyone watching me race. It would have been $45 for my family to come watch, so they’re hoping for some good photos from the event photographers. For those spectators who showed up and paid, there were some activities available for them to take part in at the start/finish/expo area, and the course wrapped around about 1/2 way through so that several obstacles could be witnessed from that area. The fire jump took place right there, the wall, the spear throw, as well as a some climbing obstacles, and the finish. I would imagine that there was good entertainment to be had for $10.
Spartan Race Specifics
I think the Spartan Races are unique in their policy that you get one shot at the obstacles then have to perform the punishment task (usually a set number of burpees) before continuing. I could be wrong here, but I’ve never seen it before. I’ve got to say that this practice kept the obstacles clear and reduced backup. If you’re less than coordinated, like me, all of those burpees could be rough. I ended up doing many, but it was my first race of this intensity and I think I know where to focus to reduce the punishment tasks next time.
I have finished other events almost mud-free, but this one had me covered EVERYWHERE. I blame the barbed-wire crawl for a lot of that since that wire was LOW and the mud was thick like clay. We have interesting mud in Arizona, and it worked its way into every part of my clothing. Even the showers at the finish were no match for it. The following is a photo of my race number, after hitting the showers and heading home.
A medal, t-shirt, and beer were provided to finishers as well as hose off/shower and gender-specific, tented changing areas. As the Spartan Race saying goes, “You’ll know at the finish line.” What I know is that I have some work to do before I attempt another Spartan Race, but I’m pretty sure I will do another one. Next year in Arizona is a “Spartan Sprint,” which is a 3+ mile version of the course instead of the “Super Spartan” 8+ mile race. I expect less running but just as much of a challenge from the obstacles.
After the Race
One detail I failed to mention in the original posting here is that high-resolution photos of your race experience are available for download after the race — FOR FREE — from Nuvision Action Image. Most of the races I’ve run require you to purchase any photos you’d like, and even the downloads are $14-20 apiece! Not so here: put your race number into the website and it pulls up a catalog of photos that probably have you in them. For those times when your number was obscured by mud, a stray limb, or another racer, you can search the ‘Lost and Found’ section (sorted by date/time of your wave) to locate additional photos of you and your friends. I’ve got to say that the folks at Nuvision take some really cool photos.