Las Vegas Super. With a name like that, you would think that the Super would be in Las Vegas, nope. Instead, Hafen Ranch in Arizona is the destination. A short 1:43 drive (from where I was staying in Henderson) is all that separates me from my start time. I wasn’t exactly sure what I should expect from Hafen Ranch, but it sure doesn’t look like the mountains of Vermont, or NJ for that matter. Open mind, open heat.
If you were to make a cocktail of the sun, punishing obstacles, and a muddy course designed for off-road motorbikes, you would have the venue that will be waiting for you at the Las Vegas Super.
At Mesquite MX/Haven Ranch in Littlefield, Arizona, a new chapter of Reebok Spartan Race will challenge those brave enough to tackle a venue that typically requires engines and wheels. Located only a short drive from Las Vegas, this course is just as fast as the Nevada nightlife. At an elevation that never exceeds 900 feet, this course suits runners of all ages and abilities.
The drive starts early for me, 5:30AM for an 8:45 start time. The morning starts with a short walk from the hotel room to valet to retrieve my vehicle. The mornings here are colder than I expected, 54 degrees. The forecast is clear and so are the highways. The drive to Hafen Ranch has me speeding down the highway passing, as well as being passed by, many would be Spartans, AROO!
The venue welcomes the OCRAddicts with little in the way of obstacles. Traffic seems to be moving along and parking is much less of a problem than it was in South Carolina Beast in 2015. The staff collects my 10 bucks and directs me to my vehicle’s final resting place, not far from the festival grounds. The lines for the port-a-johns are short, better than I have experienced at other events. The required stop (3 bottles of water on the drive there) takes less than a few minutes.
Waiver and license in hand, getting my bib and timing chip is a breeze. The festival area is yet to really see any action, but the morning heats usually don’t bring in the crowds. There are plenty of merchants, plenty of Spartan swag, and plenty of things to keep you busy until you climb over the first teaser obstacle at the starting gate. Monster Music took care of the sounds.
The bag check lines are short and quick. It is especially helpful that I have a season pass and can take advantage of the V.I.P. bag check. Having to shell out an additional $5 and waiting on a longer line is not my idea of a warmup.
At first glance, this isn’t anything like what I expected; perhaps I should have read the event description better on the Reebok Spartan page. Spartan for me has always been hosted on the steep side of some ridiculous mountain. This looks like ridiculous amounts of sand instead. Having never run in sand, this should prove to be an interesting experience. Maybe I should have taken a bit more time to think about whether or not I was going to run with my hydration pack… I can taste the sand just walking around the festival area.
The air is dry and breathing becomes increasingly difficult as you speed your way past the start line like a herd of cattle. The clouds of dust and sand overwhelm the lungs and coughing quickly ensues.
The course is mostly flat and there are plenty of obstacles, 28 of them to be exact. Unfortunately, there weren’t any new obstacles, just the Spartan staples save one modification, obstacle 17.
The classified obstacles:
Obstacle #4 – I am not completely sure I remember exactly what this was. Perhaps it was a creek?
Obstacle #8 – Inverted Wall
Obstacle #11 – Sled
Obstacle #14 – Rope Wall
Obstacle #17 – Tires – This replaces the hay bales I am used to hopping over.
Obstacle #23 – Bucket Brigade
Obstacle #24 – Rings
There are a few areas that provide enough of a base to get some speed, but not many. Having never run in sand, this is more difficult than I had expected. We quickly move through some windy paths and past thorn bushes and crushed dry vegetation to discover ourselves trudging through a rocky stream. The bed is uncertain and a couple of quick ankle scares leave me walking instead of running. This tastes better than sand… but not by much.
The Atlas Carry threw me for a bit of a loop. While the racers took to the carry, the staff indicated that there were no burpees required. Just pick up the rock and start your carry around the pole and back. Quick and easy.
The Spear Throw was much cleaner than I had experienced in the past. Arriving early in the day makes for a tighter hay stack and the spear sticks a bit easier. The 8:45 heat still had me waiting in line for those racers that require the Babe Ruth style hand measure… I could have done 30 burpees and moved on quicker, but I like sticking the spear… so I waited.
Monkey bars are by far my worst obstacle. As a smaller guy, my hands have a hard time wrapping around the larger bars, but this race was dry. This allowed me to use the grip strength I have to hold on tight and complete the obstacle. Had there been some wetness or moister on the rig, I might not have completed it. This is the same for the Z-Wall. The wall was dry and navigable. Typically, my Inov-8s will slip and send me right onto my backside. Instead, I decided to make a show of it and hit the bell with my head while performing a superman punch (Fight fans will know what that is).
The first of the barbed wire crawls was extremely easy. I could kneel for the entire length of the crawl and the dry ground made traversing the obstacle extremely easy.
The sandbag carry was pretty short. The bags were dry and easy to manage. However, the terrain we were navigating was extremely unsettled. The obstacle had us navigating through a narrow path up and down an incline. There were plenty of loose rocks and the loose sand made getting a good footing challenging.
The second of the barbed wire crawls was muddy. There were also points in the crawl that required rolling to keep up speed as crawling itself wasn’t an option.
Bucket brigade was also pretty short. This appears as one of the classified obstacles on the map above. Again, the loose terrain was the hardest aspect of this obstacle.
To finish things out, the good folks at Spartan felt it was a good idea to test your remaining grip strength. After the bucket brigade, the rings, and a few muddy lengths of course, you were presented with the Tyro Traverse, the Rope Climb, and the Herc Hoist; all of which were refreshingly dry.
This course was the exact opposite of what I was facing in SC. This dry and fast course left my lungs in pain and my skin as dry as the sand that made up the course. Mud wasn’t prevalent and the few areas we saw water in front of us was more than welcome. The short patches of dry packed ground allowed the racers to pick up the pace a bit, but the true test was moving through the sand. Perhaps this was the idea. The sand should have been obstacle # 1 on the list.
While running, I did notice that I had passed by a marker that indicated I was at 8 miles, but my TomTom was indicating something different. According to the GPS watch (stay tuned for the review), the total distance for the race was 7.86 miles and totaled 331 feet in elevation.
As a member of the open heat, the inevitable lines at obstacles is a downer. Had I not signed up to be racing with a team member (that bailed on me… thanks Jake), I would have taken advantage of the Competitive Heat. For the later heats, I can’t imagine having run the race during the peak of the dry desert heat… even if it is only March. For the natives, this might not be an issue. However, for many of us that travel, coming from “freezing” weather, anything above 80 is toasty. Add 10% humidity to the mix and it becomes uncomfortable quickly.
Post finish, the results tent proved to be the final obstacle. Having run an early heat, I did not expect that there would be lines to get our final results. However, I was wrong. This wasn’t caused by a large number of racers… Instead, only a few of the tablets were operational. I did meet a black furry friend while waiting.
I had thought about competing in the pull-up competition; last time I nailed 19 post race. However, when I saw the board, I decided against it. Not quite sure how Jeff S. was able to accomplish 44 pull-ups post race… but, nice work Jeff, whoever you are.
Overall, this was a good experience. Although the course was vintage, there was nothing that really set this one apart from any of the others. The sand and relatively flat surface made it different, but it definitely wasn’t as fun as South Carolina Beast (perhaps the most fun of all the Spartans I have run in). All the elements are there… but it was just “meh” for me. Another piece of the Spartan Trifecta Pie.