There is nothing like getting all beast mode on an obstacle course. And of course, what could be better than getting beast mode on a Spartan Beast. Spartan Races have become the most popular and widely recognized OCR. With that, the Spartan teams have to do more and more each year to improve the events, the turnout, and keep the OCR faithful coming. South Carolina is the state, Carolina Adventure World is the venue, and a Spartan Beast is the challenge. The final Beasts of the year. Challenge Accepted.
For me, a Spartan Race is more than just OCR. In fact, it is an excuse to visit someplace new, see some old friend as well as meet new ones, and all this revolves around the adrenaline pumping OCR experience. South Carolina started for me as a trip to North Carolina to a small town just outside of Charlotte. When I told her, you know… my wife, there was a Spartan Race in SC that I was going to run, I got a strange response… it was “OK”. Little did I know that she had her own plans. My wife has made a number of close friends in North Carolina through animal rescue and this Spartan Race facilitated a chance to meet these folks face to face for the first time.
Friends welcomed us into their home for the weekend and provided us with plenty of entertainment while I got my game face on. This was already one of the best Spartan Experiences I have had to date… and I haven’t even hit the venue yet. The days passed, and game day arrived. The venue was exactly 1 hour and 15 minutes from where I was staying in North Carolina. I woke early to get to my 11:30AM start, well before they released the racers to take in the festivities. You know, the Spartan Air… the smell of smouldering wood that Elites were just starting to jump over and cross through the inflatable gates of heaven leading to the coveted piece of that Spartan Pie.
Minutes away, I make the final turn before the Venu Entrance… WHAMMO! The parking… Venu parking is bad, real bad. Waiting in a line for more than an hour to enter the park. Seems as though Spartan is getting too big to accommodate OCR enthusiasts. Arriving amped and ready quickly transforms into frustration and agitation. I want to arrive and stay pumped to take on the Beast. Instead, I find myself losing steam before the gods release us. My sprint to the beast (you see what I did there?) resembles more of a wayward stagger instead. The car in front of me, with North Carolina plates and a sales sticker from NJ, became silent quickly. The screams and bursts of enthusiasm that seemingly drowned the tunes in my rental car faded and the partially tuned station returned. Get me to my parking spot. This first obstacle seems to be beating everyone. I am late for my start time…
Minutes turn into hours, time flies by, enthusiasm disappears. I finally drive through the dust filled make shift parking lot following the directors with their orange wands and bright yellow jackets until my Corolla found its final resting spot, inches from a nice steep cliff. Thankfully the awkward need to relive myself was broken up by a herd of followers with the same need. With my head hanging low, I started my journey towards registration. I am the type that has my documents printed days in advance and all the essentials in hand. Entrance is fast.
The festival area started to slowly revive my interests in the event. The music is pumping hard and the Spartans, covered in mud and wrapped in barbed wire tattered clothing, were brandishing their Spartan Pie pieces and photo bombing each other. Smoke filled the air and the festival area grounds proved to foreshadow the upcoming course, it was muddy… very muddy.
12:45PM and it is time to make my way to the start line for an 11:30AM start.
The course, as it started, seemed to be pretty much a level course. SC didn’t seem like a repeat of the Killington experience. The course layout was technical but didn’t present any steep inclines. Very early on into the race, it was evident that mud was going to be one of the primary obstacles. We, the racers, found ourselves trudging through a nice long muddy stretch to emerge on the other side completely caked.
- Mud Trudge – The mud trudge was deep. I tried walking most of it, but quickly found that my 5’11 (and a half)” frame wasn’t tall enough to keep my head above the water. Swimming the cold and muddy water was the only way to get through. Early into the race, a cold swim will surely wipe the cobwebs from your eyes and get you motivated to get moving. Exiting the mud trudge proved to be an exciting event. Many were slipping from the cascading mud, thankfully my Talons were able to grip and move me out faster than many of my less informed competitors.
- 6′ Wall – The 6′ wall proved to be a nice and muddy experience. The waves of racers before me got this thing nice and wet for me.
- Classified – Cargo Net
- Sandbag Carry – The sandbag carry wasn’t terribly difficult. A small run through the woods lead to a tight rope act between the course limits and a lake. A few didn’t traverse the narrow walkway and found themselves in the “drink”. The walk was very muddy and the additional weight of the sandbag helped to get you just a hair deeper in the mud.
- Mud Trudge 2
- Inverted Wall
- Rope Climb – The rope climb was your standard rope rig, less the water. The hay bales were strewn about leaving the ground below the ropes dry. There was less mud than expected on the ropes and if you looked closely at your surroundings, there was a hose leaking some water that I used to clean off the mud on my hands. The ropes were visible from the festival area, just enough added inspiration for completion. No one likes doing burpees in front of everyone!
- Vertical Cargo – At the top of the vertical cargo was a fantastic view of the festival ground porta-potties.
- Z-Wall – There was little officiating at the Z-Wall. Personally, I didn’t complete the obstacle and was one of the only few that stopped to complete my punishment.
- Classified – Tall Wall – Not sure of the height on this wall. It had to be taller than 8′ though. Many had difficulty scaling the wall and for the first time in a long time, I had to use my leg to pull me over. The other side of the wall was nice and muddy, so the landing was less than graceful.
- Classified – Memory
- 8′ Wall
- Barbed Wire
- Herc Hoist
- Classified – Over, Under, Through
- Log Hop
- Plate Drag – The plate drag was beat up pretty good by the time I got to it.
- Classified -Bucket Brigade – The bucket brigade was one of the shortest I have ever seen at a Spartan Race. Don’t get me wrong, this is one of my least favorite obstacles. However, this is where I usually start to make up time when compared to other racers. Having a short bucket brigade means there is less chance that I can catch up or build a lead against those that I am competing against.
- Atlas Carry – The obstacle requires performing some burpees on one side. Unfortunately, there was little room to complete them and racers were kicking each other in the face. Mine were done right in the middle of the obstacle as there was really no other place to complete.
- Farmer’s Log Carry – The farmer’s log carry was extremely short as well. Many were searching for the smallest logs, I just grab and go.
- Classified – Barbed Wire – This was by far the best barbed wire obstacle I have ever seen. The barbed wire was stretched over mud filled trenches that lead to shallow crawls. The mixture of standing and crawling lead to one of the best barbed wire experiences I have ever had. The snake was a nice touch.
- Classified – Log Carry
- Classified -Mud Trudge
- Over Walls – A series of 4 small walls. Just like hopping the fence at the candy factory, without the barbed wire.
- Classified – Memory, I can’t remember it now… ? NANO 740-9577?
- Classified – Rope Traverse – Don’t bother with the leg over leg hand over hand technique. Just fly… rope burn heals.
- Classified – Spear Throw
- Slip Walls
- Fire Jump
31 Obstacles completed, 13+ miles and you are jumping over fire running faster towards your piece of the pie than you did when they released you. The course was a lot of fun. While the obstacles can seem to get stale after doing so many races, the small changes are what get you going again. I have hated the barbed wire crawl since I was introduced to it. This time around, I enjoyed it.
The layout of the course was designed to bring you through mud and trees while providing open areas to put the pedal down. While running the course the only indication as to how far you have gone, or how far left, was someone next to you with a GPS watch. Unlike many of the previous Spartan Races, there were no mile markers or indicators to help you plan your pace.
If the folks over at Spartan had done a better job of coordinating and planning the parking, this could have easily been one of the best Spartan experiences I have had. The course was tons of fun and provided enough technical touches to make it challenging. Some of the obstacles were shorter than previous races, like the sandbag, log, and bucket brigade, which lends itself to a less experienced crowd. I can’t help but teeter on the edge of disappointment and pleasure on this one, simply because of the parking fiasco.