Friday, October 23, 2015

Spartan Race Atlanta 2015...Another Pure Mud-Fest - Race Review

I have to admit, I'm a bit behind on my posting.  I was unexpectedly at the OCR World Championships last week...an absolute eye-opening experience...and now need to get back on schedule.  The Spartan Race Atlanta, like the Savage Race two weeks before, was an absolute mud mess!  Late in the build week, the rains had stopped and the venue was just starting to drain and dry up some.  But of course, Saturday morning came and so did the thunderstorms...again.

Hearing the thunder early Saturday, I decided to sleep in a bit, feeling that the early heats would be postponed and oh....it was raining again, for the second race in a row.  I realize that makes no sense, given that I'm going to be wet and muddy anyway.  But I do like to arrive and leave relatively dry...if not clean.  Sooner than later though, I got my lazy, broken ass up to get to the venue.  Having checked the weather, I saw that there might be a break in the rain mid morning, so my plan was to get off by 10am or so...hopefully missing at least some of the rain.

Arriving at the Durhamtown Resort, the race site, it didn't take long to see the impact of the morning's rain.  Mud!  And where there was no mud, there were puddles...covering more mud.  Joy....  After checking my bag...and praying that we built the bag check racks securely as the ground below was nothing but puddles...I headed to the start corral as quickly as possible.  In just a few minutes we were off and about 20 yards into the race we hit mud.  Slick, red clay that would be the norm for the next 8 or 9 miles.  Another day of slip and slide.

Given the conditions, there was not a whole lot of running going on that day.  For me, that just evened things up since my injuries really kept me from doing much more than a quick walk.  In fact, the only place I can remember not having mud was at the fire jump, where they deliberately put down gravel.  A good thing too as they built themselves a nice size fire to hop over at the end.  Unfortunately, this was only about 30 feet from the finish line.  Surprisingly though, there were a number of places where the mud wasn't slick but was more of a sticky, solid mud.

Most of this sticky mud was on the carries...take pleasure in the little things!  One of the two log carries and the sandbag carry were on what looked like dirt bike race tracks.  So I suppose they use a different mix of soil on those which made for much better footing than expected,  We weren't so fortunate on the long bucket carry though or the first log carry.  Slogging and slipping throughout.  And the atlas carry?  Splashing through puddled grass and mud made me think of pointless punishment in some ancient prison camp....I can't imagine why.

I also did a 'double take' at the second log carry.  Deja-vu hit me and because of a small trail marking mishap, I swore I'd done this already...even though the terrain was a bit different.  My mind was probably rebelling over having to carry another log!  Once again, thanks be given for small gifts.  This log carry and later on, the uphill barbed wire crawl were the same sort of sticky mud on the dirt bike tracks.  Now I'm not saying it was a joy, but by digging your elbows in slightly you could make pretty good time rolling.  And there must have been a lot of newbies on the course that race too.  Very few were doing the roll and there was a lot...I mean a lot...of groaning and slow, slow body dragging that day.  You know you're doing something wrong when an old man rolls by you on the barbed wire!

There were, of course, many of the usual suspects in terms of obstacles.  Various walls to get over, including the 7' and 8' varieties.  Along with the over, under, through wall series.  And as I approached the 8' wall, Taylor Cuevas, one of the build foreman, gave a shout to the crowd from his cart to "get that guy over the wall".  Which I took exception to immediately...mostly because there was no way I could do that wall without help.  Then there were the rig and monkey bars.  Rain and mud were a factor here too...although I still wasn't ready to test my arm on those.

Then there were the cargo and vertical cargo nets...made more challenging from the mud that was on everything.  Including the climbing ropes!  I had tried out the rope climb in the festival area before heading out and felt, despite my shoulder being only about 50-60%, I could 'technique' my way up.  We'll, in spite of the fact that there was no water pit below, the ropes proved to be the new 'rig' that day.  In all the time I watched...before, during and after my race...I don't think I saw more than a handful of people make it up.  There was just no way to get a grip on the rope with all the mud on it.  Iron grip...gloves...handfuls of straw...nothing seemed to work.  Oh well...there's always next time...

All in all, I enjoyed this race and liked the rolling terrain.  Mud levels the playing field for me!  I also enjoyed running into (no pun intended) several racers I had met at the Asheville Super...Brian, Molly and Shana...still out there doing what they do.  Helping others through the course and doing something they never thought they could.  Props to you guys!!  And also seeing Heather the super-photography.  One of the best photographers you'll find out there and certainly the most enthusiastic.  And also seeing my former Spartan crew leaders Steve Oh' and Tracy.  Steve as always, roaming the course in his ATV.  Tracy, in what looked like more than half a hazmat suit...a smart move that day...was doing her thing in the festival area.  I did not envy her this day...but enjoyed running into her again.

Besides the rain, there was another water related issue that day however...the showers stopped!!  Unfortunately, so had the rain and we were covered in mud...and slogging through mud everywhere.  Not sure what the problem was exactly, but there was certainly grumbling and the feeling of "Woodstock" got much stronger looking around at mud covered people sitting in every relatively dry spot within sight.  When the water did come back on...and I'm sure it wasn't off as long as it felt to us...they went to rationing.  Sounds like that would suck, but as I thought about it, they really should institute that as a regular process for the showers.  We all have our plastic bags to carry the wet clothes in and there really is no need (guilty as charged) to clean them off at the showers. So bringing in groups of racers for 2-3 minutes of rinsing is more than enough time to get respectable...if not actually clean.  Just saying....

One more thing...which happened after the race.  In fact it happened at the campsite later that day.  Something that seems to happen more and more in my personal experience.  When I got back to my site, there were a few young guys next door.  When I asked if they minded me rinsing off my race clothes...they were within the potential splash zone...I found out that they had run the race as well.  Three college students from AL...Travis, Jacob and Kyle...two of whom had run this race for the first time.  One thing led to another and before I knew it I was treated to steak, beer, a roaring (think: thank god the woods were still wet) fire and some great company and conversation.  Mostly about obstacle course racing (OCR), different races and college football (very quietly about college football as we were surrounded by GA Bulldog flags and they had just lost!).  Just another example of the impact OCR has...both on and off the course.  A pleasure meeting them and a big thank you for sharing their dinner with me!!


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1 comment:

  1. The beer selection at this place was great and rotates often. Everyone who works at venues in NYC makes you feel welcome. They remember your favorite drink and you will be glad to tweet about them.

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