I had heard a lot about Mountain Creek—Super, Beast, Ultra Beast, and multiple friends have completed Spartan Races at this venue in the past few years. It was my first time, however, and quite a way to kick off my Spartan season and the first of hopefully two Trifectas, even if it was an Open Heat and on a Sunday. With only one other Beast under my belt and not feeling as conditioned as I would have liked, I was excited, but also a bit anxious to give the Tri-State New Jersey Beast a go.
Living in NYC, the travel out to the course was easy enough. A friend purchased VIP parking, but was refunded the week before with a note that not enough people had purchased and they would open the VIP lot for regular parking. This was not the case when we got there, however. Ultimately, we were allowed to park in the lot. Not a huge annoyance, but a bit confusing. Registration was very easy with the new barcode scanning option in place of filling out the waiver. Bag Check, port-a-potties, changing tents, and shower set-up all as expected. The last few obstacles were visible from the festival area, with the new Twister among them. I hadn’t seen it yet so I had that dread in my head the whole race. The festival set-up was smaller than I imagined, but it had a decent amount of vendors. I usually race on Saturdays so I was pleased to find that there were plenty of folks completing the course on a Sunday, despite what the parking e-mail had implied. The energy was a bit subdued to start, but it was a Sunday morning and we were all about to do a Beast so I guess that would be expected.
Not going to lie, I was hoping for a bit more of a pump up from the Emcee at the start. I love some good campy tradition so the whole Spartan speech at the beginning really helps to get me pumped up when done right. Though it doesn’t take too much past the start line to get things going regardless. There’s a moment, a few yards into every Spartan Race, when I have the thought: “Well, I guess here we go.” The direct uphill climb from the start line (and the walk up to it) certainly shot that thought into my head quickly. Thanks to some good company from my teammates as well as a few friendly faces from NYC, the first hill passed quickly.
And so we get to the course! I like running in the woods, and this course definitely gave me that. The spread of the obstacles felt fairly even compared to races last year. There were some solid portions of straight trails, but enough obstacles we placed in the thick of the course that they didn’t feel like an afterthought at the end. We were told the course was 13.8 miles at the Start Line. I had heard two other distances, but I mentally, the 13.8 worked. Also new for me, Spartan graced the course with lovely motivational signs. As mentioned above, I do like all things campy, so these were fun. The terrain was rocky with the downward portion sticking in my mind (and the stiffness in my thighs) more than the upward climbs.
In addition to the Twister at the end, NJ also hit us with two new obstacles: Olympus and an odd inverted metal ladder, the Bender. The Olympus proved trickier than I expected. I like the Z-Wall and mistakenly thought Olympus would be similar. Fellows racers provided advice on how to tackle it, and I look forward to attempting it again. The Bender was placed only about two miles from the end of the race, a point at which I’d been through a second and even third wind, and fatigue was just winning. Out of every obstacle, this odd ladder was the only one that really scared me due to the angle and height. Here’s hoping to NOT see that one again soon.
Similar to several of my races last year, there were delightful obstacles right at the end of the race. In this case: Bucket Carry, Twister, and Rope Climb. The Bucket Carry was visible from the camp ground and didn’t appear particularly long, just steep, but it’s the Bucket so looks are often deceiving. The twisting path proved more than steep, especially the last portion on the way down. Tough, very tough, but expected. I wasn’t surprised that the Twister was at the end of the race, very Spartan to do that, but I barely had the grip to just attempt to start the dang thing it so it’ll take a few more races for me to be able to give it a solid review. I’m also a fan of the rope, but by this point, all I could do was a couple of attempts before resigning myself to some pitiful burpees. Then it was up a small hill and down and over the Fire Jump. 04:48:43. I’ll take it!
Overall, I had a blast on this course. I do wish there had been more photographers. I’m still trying for an epic Fire Jump photo and was very sad that there wasn’t a photographer placed there consistently for this race. There was one in the area, but not strictly taking photos of the Jump. Oh well, one day I’ll get that “super cool” photo. For this race, I’m happy with the course, the obstacles, the new shirts, and even the new medals. If you live in the Tri-State area, this race is a solid staple. Though why anyone would want to do it twice for the Ultra Beast is beyond me…
Next up in the Trifecta: Citi Field!