Last Saturday, I ran my first ever Spartan Race outside the Mohegan Sun Casino in CT. I was scared going in because they don’t release course maps in advance like most other races so I didn’t know what to expect. What made this even worse is the people/teams I follow were complaining immensely the few days prior to the race because people who were volunteering revealed a bit about the course and said there would be road running included. Apparently, this is blasphemy to people who have competed in multiple Spartans and love the muddy aspect of it. I just went into it with the attitude that I would face whatever was thrown at me and not worry about other people’s opinions.
The ride there was easy as we only live about an hour away and there are plenty of signs leading you to the casino from the highway. The only issue came about when you arrived there. There was a lack of signage telling you where to park and there are multiple garages at the casino. Luckily, I had seen a thread on Facebook that said the Winter garage was closest to the festival, so we made sure to follow signs to that garage and it was right across from the start line.
I think we arrived around 8:30 and our Team Unleashed heat wasn’t until 10:30. We got there with enough time to spare so we were able to see our Elite team members finish their race. We parked ourselves right in front of the fire jump to cheer them on to the finish and they did awesome! While we waited, we were just basically in a parking lot for the festival area and it was HOT. I think it got into the high 70s that day, but luckily wasn’t super humid.
Once we saw our Elite folks all finish, we were just kind of milling about here and there for a while. We checked bags, hit the portapotties (no waits, ever, which was awesome) and made sure we got some team photos.
I got really anxious when we headed over to the start because we had to climb a wall just to get into the start corral. I had the volunteer stationed there help me over with a 10-finger boost since I still can’t even do the smallest walls. By the time I got into the corral, found my team and was making my way up there, they started the race! Yet again I missed out on a pump-up session in the start corral at a race! I guess the 10:15 wave was so far behind, they were trying to make up time but it still sucks. I did high five the emcee on my way through, though, so there’s that.
In this video you can hear the end of the dude getting everybody pumped up and see us start:
The course itself was listed as 4.5 miles (long for a Sprint) and showed 20 obstacles, however the final obstacle, “The Gauntlet” was taken out of all Spartan Races as of this year so it shouldn’t have been on the map. One of the admins of the New England Spahtens posted the below picture of his GPS which was just shy of 5 miles.
As always, I’ll do my best to recap but I always forget the order of things. Luckily, I have the course map to help me, but even that was out of order in some spots. After we got over the start wall, my friend Zak from Unleashed caught up with me (he hadn’t even gotten over the wall yet when they started the race!) and he said he’d stay with me and help me through the race. He was a rock star all day!
We started out running out of the parking lot and ended up running through the Winter garage, up a hill and to our first obstacle – hay bales. There were 3 I believe and we had to jump up and over them. From here we hit some 6 ft over/under walls (3 I think). We had to climb one wall, go under netting, rinse, repeat. Following that were 2 mud pits. The water was probably not even knee deep and the hills weren’t too bad to climb to get out.
We then did a decent stretch of running until we came to the inverted wall. This was a doozy. It was probably 10-12 ft high and you have to climb the angled side up using only a couple of wooden slats that stretch across it. This was where I had mini-breakdown #1. I literally had all 3 volunteers for that wall hoisting me over this thing. Two guys each had a foot and boosted me while I used the steps, however once I got the top under my arms, I couldn’t get enough forward momentum to swing my leg up and over and I panicked. The third guy ran around the front and grabbed my hand and pulled me forward enough that I could do it and I managed to get over and down by myself. It was horrifying.
From here we went straight into the next obstacle, barbwire crawl. I have to admit, for a barbwire crawl, it was fairly high off the ground at the beginning. I was comfortably on my hands and knees without touching the wire. The second half, unfortunately, was a lot lower and I had to army crawl the rest. No big deal though, finished that one easy enough.
From here we went downhill to the next obstacle – the sandbag carry. I don’t know what the weights were, but there were men’s and women’s sizes. I grabbed a women’s bag and then we had to go back UP the hill we just came down, walk across and back down it. That’s just mean. I managed to do it without stopping, but had to keep switching shoulders. It was a round little bag, so it wasn’t easy to have it draped across the back of the neck like the Wreck Bags at Unleashed.
Here is where I’m a little foggy. I know there was a decent amount of trail running where we eventually came across a cargo net climb. I had mini-breakdown #2 there. It was straight up and down. I can do a cargo net climb at an angle (where you’re leaning into the net forward), but straight up and down is an issue for me as I don’t have enough arm strength to feel confident I won’t fall backwards. I attempted the net twice, with help from Zak and another teammate, Corrine (who caught up to us shortly before this obstacle on her SECOND lap and stuck with us), but just couldn’t handle it. I would get halfway and freeze. It wobbled SO much and not only that, people were holding the bottom taut on the other side, creating almost a backwards angle (like the inverted wall). I gave up after my two attempts and did some burpees.
We ran a bit more through the woods and came across a few balance beams and then some small tires we needed to quick step through. Nobody was manning those obstacles, so we basically just did what we thought we should on them.
After a bit more running, we came to a clearing with a group of 4 obstacles: 8 ft wall, Spearman, rope climb and OUT walls (over/under/through). Tara and Julie were able to take a shuttle to this area so they were able to see me do these. Zak, Corrine and the volunteer helped me out again at the wall and then we went over to toss our spears. I thought with all my practice on Thursday, surely I’d be able to hit it, but alas, I did some more burpees. After we did them, we headed over to the rope climb. I attempted it 3 times, but couldn’t even get my feet to plant on the bottom knot in the chest deep water. The water felt awesome on such a hot day, so I didn’t mind staying in there a few extra minutes. After I got out, did some burpees and grabbed some water, we headed over to the OUT walls. Zak boosted me over the first one and then I rolled the second and hopped through the third, no problem.
We ran for a while after this, through some single track, plus a pretty decent hill. One of the secret obstacles I believe was up next – the atlas stones. From what I’ve been told, the women were 65 lb and the men were 90 lb. You had to pick it up off the ground, carry it however far (maybe 10 ft?) , put it down, do 5 burpees and then pick it up and carry it back over. That sucker was heavy, but I did it all myself.
More running, more trails, more hills, more road. Next up was the tire flip. I got to see my friend and fellow NE Spahten Sylvia who was volunteering at that obstacle. She told me which one to do and turns out she had me do the men’s weight for the tire (the women’s were smaller in size/weight). I don’t know how much it weighed but it was way heavier than the ones at Unleashed, that’s for sure! We had to flip it twice in one direction, then twice back. I did manage to do it myself though so that felt pretty badass. So thanks for that, Sylvia!
We ran some more and came up to the finish/festival area for our final obstacles. First, we had to conquer a beast that they built over the road that actually had cars driving under us! We had to climb up (maybe 20-25 ft??), walk cross a board bridge and then climb down the other side.
After this were the traverse walls. I’ve practiced at Unleashed, but even with Zak’s attempt at keeping me up on the wall, I only made it halfway. And I’ll admit – I didn’t do my burpees because at this point I was just exhausted.
After the wall, we headed over to the Herc Hoist. Supposedly, the weight was originally 70 lb for women, 110 for men, however EVERY person you talked to said it was one of the heaviest hoists they’ve ever done at a Spartan. Apparently, the sand that filled the bags had gotten soaked in rain a couple of days before and made them immensely heavier. Even people who practice with 130 lb hoists had trouble, so people were estimating somewhere in the neighborhood of 140-150 lb. All I know is they were DAMN heavy and Corrine and I did it as a pair, got ours to the top and then I went over and helped Zak hoist his up and back down.
After the hoist was the slip wall, which is basically an angled wall with a rope to help you climb it, however before you climb it you have to walk through a small pool of water that gets your feet wet. I thought I’d have an issue with this, however I went right up it without any help until the end. As I was trying to figure out how to swing my leg(s) over to climb down the other side, this chick came up right alongside me out of nowhere as I tried to swing one leg and I almost fell completely backwards down the wall if Zak hadn’t already had a hold on my hand. Very scary moment, but yet again, Captain America came through!
Now, the best part of it all – the fire jump to the finish line! I was so worried about it because as we watched the Elite heat finish the race, we saw a girl trip on the logs and take a digger face first right into the sand and her knees landed on the fire. We were all pretty concerned about her and it made us just a little nervous about it. Turns out, some people say it was a little larger than normal. I wouldn’t doubt that because the width we had to jump was probably around 2-3 ft if I had to guess. All I know is that when I jumped with all my might, my front foot still landed on burning logs in the front. It was kind of tough jumping over it from sand, but I know it was there for safety so there’s not really anything you can do about it. And I managed to get a couple of badass pics out of it.
Once we finished, we got our medal, banana, water and some Core Power (the vanilla wasn’t bad). I found Tara and Julie and tried eating the banana, but that just wasn’t happening. Zak and I then went over to check out our initial results on one of the iPads they had available. He then went off to find his ride home and I went to rinse off. My time was 2:11:51, placing 5468/6039 overall, 2183/2518 female and 383/437 age group (female 30-34).
They had really powerful hoses to rinse off (awesome) plus an actual power washer that a volunteer would spray you down with from head to toe if you wanted. I opted to just rinse myself off with the hose. They also had a changing tent not far from there where I changed into some dry clothes.
Originally we had planned to go into the casino because Julie wanted to play a little, but in the end she decided she’d rather have some pool time at our house since it was such a gorgeous day. We packed it up, grabbed some lunch on the way and then spent a good amount of the afternoon in the pool. It felt nice to cool down and let my muscles chill after what I put them through. I’ve got some massive bruises on both inner thighs and under my right knee from all the walls we climbed, but I’ll consider them badges of honor.
Overall, I would do this race again. It was very challenging for me personally and I thought it was well-organized. I have no frame of reference for comparison, so for me it was just a new OCR. Once I run my 2nd Spartan of the year I’ll know what people were talking about and can compare, but for now, I’m happy with what was done.