Thursday, May 2, 2013
When the Citi Field Race was announced I knew immediately that I was going to run it. Whether I ever ran another stadium event, I just had to do this first one. Besides the opportunity itself, I wanted to know what a stadium race was like...and not just from reading what someone else thought about it. In the end, I'm very glad I did!
I have to admit, when I got there and sat down in the stands to watch some of the race, I really wasn't feeling it....maybe it was the cold!! There have been mixed reviews about the race, like this one in Obstacle Race Magazine...(Obstacle Racing Magazine/Heather Gannoe - Spartan Citi Field 4.13.13: A Mixed Review). I think that those who were disappointed were more likely the hard-core mud racers (like myself, I admit) who really weren't prepared for this "clean" course. As a matter of fact though, I did take some of the warning track clay and rub it into my shirt...but that's just me I guess...one way or another, I was getting my "mud".
One thing I knew going in was that there would be stairs...a lot of stairs! They also made great use of the ramps...which I also feared. True to Spartan Race, they come at you hard right from the start. The first obstacle was a series of ramps from the first level up to the top of the stadium. Of course, just running up a ramp is too easy...so they strung rubber cords across virtually the entire length. Some you had to high-step over, some you had to go under and a few series where you had to alternate between them. Not surprisingly, that was brutal for me. Seems no matter what I try to anticipate, they make it worse. And I suppose these stadium races also lend themselves particularly well to some unique obstacles too. Like the "Hobie Hop", where you have to climb up a number of flights of stairs with a giant rubber band wrapped around your ankles. Yes...it feels (and looks) as stupid as it sounds...but that is one tough climb!...which is all that counts in these races.
This course was also packed with obstacles. I guess what they couldn't do in mud and barbed wire, they would make up in sheer quantity. The typical obstacles were there like the rope climb, wall traverse, sandbag carry, cargo net and spear throw. The Hercules lift was there too, but they seem to have found a frictionless rope to use...which you can't seem to actually hold on to...clever! Naturally, there were also a number of walls to climb over, under and through. They had a water jug carry too (of course it was up and down stairs...you have to ask??!) This probably replaced the tire carry...watching tires careening down the rows of seats and ramps might have been a sight to see, but I doubt the Citi Field management would have seen the fun in that.
There were new obstacles too...which seemed to be right out of gym, or maybe Crossfit, training (I'm not really sure since I've never been in either one). One of the first ones I ran across was the Ball Slam. No...really!!...you lift a 20lb semi-deflated ball over your head and slam it down in front of you...twenty times. Then they had the giant jump rope...about 3 inches thick and weighing who-knows-how-much...try fifty of those suckers. I'm only too glad that there were no videos of that little fiasco. Just one more time I would have been thoroughly out-performed by an eight year old. And I suppose the 5 gallon concrete block carry with burpees, that I first saw in Miami, was just too much fun to leave off the list. Another interesting change were the monkey bars...although they weren't quite traditional. I did manage to do them...however, since there was no one there in front of me that I could watch, and no one offered any explanation, there is every reason to believe that I may have invented a whole new way of traversing them! One challenge, which I'm going to fail to mention, is the "box jump" on the home stretch by the visitor's dugout. I will leave it as an independent assignment for the reader to determine how wonderfully this one must have gone, to be left out completely!
The thing about this event, was that the race was only a part of it. Even with some long delays at the traverse wall and spear throw....not to mention (and I didn't) the rowing obstacle...the course was challenging, surprising and enjoyable. Besides that though, it was also a spectacle and a festival, in a way that none of the other races can be. There will be those that never grow to love these...or even like them...but if you can let go of the need for the mud and barbed wire for a day, you'll find a great way to share the racing experience with family and friends.
[For more on the state of obstacle racing and the evolution of stadium races see (The tale of two races or is it three?)]