I have a small confession to make regarding Spartan Races – I’m kind of over them.
In 2015 I had a goal to get as many Spartan Race Trifectas as possible. I ended up with five Trifectas – two from the US, two from Australia and one from Spain. I almost made it to seven Trifectas but narrowly missed out on two Supers (14km race).
For anyone unfamiliar with Spartan Race, a Trifecta is achieved when someone completes three races of different distances in a calendar year. The races that make up the Trifecta include the Sprint (7km+), Super (14m+) and Beast (21km+).
One question a lot of people in the Spartan Race community are asked is “How many trifectas are you going for this year?” My response this year was “only two or three”. People would still comment that that’s a great goal but I just brushed off their comments as I am not feeling the Spartan love.
Since trying new race series this year such as Savage Race, Conquer the Gauntlet and Bonefrog, I’ve realised that I have fallen out of love with Spartan Race. In Dallas, I felt so dejected by the layout of the course that I didn’t actually want to do the Trifecta in Bright, but as I’d already bought a ticket I still decided to race. I also wanted to spend time out on course with my Australian friends and just have a fun time.
Despite my feelings about Spartan Race, I walked away from the weekend having had a good time.
The weekend kicked off upon my arrival in Melbourne at midnight on Thursday. I was met by my friends Kirsty and Joe (who had flown all the way out from LA) before heading back to the hotel for some sleep. The next morning, we picked up our other two international friends – Kari and Gary – and the five of us hit the road out to Bright, Victoria.
After four hours on the road we arrived in Bright and headed straight to the venue to check out the ‘mountain’ that everyone was talking about. We all commented that whilst it looked high, it was a hill and not a mountain. It was however the biggest hill that has been included on any Australian Spartan Race so it would be interesting to see how people fared. It was later nicknamed ‘that hill’ by fellow racers.
By the time Saturday morning rolled around I was feeling excited to be racing on home soil. Any time I saw a friend and went to say hello I was met with the same question – “what are you doing here?!” Apparently my Australian friends are more surprised and excited to see me than my American friends 😉
I joined Kirsty and Joe in the start corral and a few minutes later we were off. We clambered over the toblerones and a 5’ wall before running along towards the first creek crossing. It was only ankle deep but the water was incredibly cold. I crawled under another wall and continued running after Joe and Kirsty. Joe may have nicknamed himself ‘the tortoise’ but after running a Spartan Race every weekend for the last two years he’s become a pretty quick runner. A few minutes later I caught up to Kirsty and we agreed to let Joe run off on his own and we continued together. We were later joined by my friends Jamie, Kathie and Nadine, and soon we’d adopted another lady named Danni.
The six of us decided that enough was enough with the running, so we slowed to a fast walk and kept powering on in the search of obstacles. Our balance was tested at the balance beams before we headed up a hill and were met with a sandbag carry. This one was up a gradual slope and through the trees for about 600m. It was a walk in the park compared to some other carries that I’ve done in previous races so I maintained momentum and kept walking until I could dump the bag.
When it was our turn to climb ‘that hill’ we all grumbled before starting the walk straight up the hill. As we reached the plateau our lungs, quads and calves were all burning, but a cargo net crawl and spear throw distracted us from the pain. The path down led us through the trees and the shade provided us with some relief from the heat.
After returning to the very bottom of the hill it was time to wade through the waist-high river. The cool water provided welcome relief for our aching muscles. Emerging from the water we weaved through more trees before returning to the festival area and hitting what one person referred to as “obstacle alley”.
There were nine obstacles in the space of about 500m, starting with a traverse wall and ending with monkey bars. We worked together as a team and got through eight obstacles without needing to burpees (thanks to the spear throw a few of us had burpees).
We headed out of the festival area and back to the hill for a short climb and a few more obstacles.
By the time we hit the 14km mark we were all feeling tired and there was talk of not going back out for the Sprint. “I don’t even need the Sprint” was the main comment coming out of our mouths, but we all knew that we’d be upset if we didn’t head back out.
We all got through the last few obstacles before crossing the finish line together and receiving our medals and t-shirts. After a quick food break we gathered once more in the start corral for the Sprint.
The Sprint course ended up being about 8km long and avoided ‘that hill’ which we were all grateful for. By the time we all crossed the finish line for a second time we were well and truly done for the day and in desperate need of food.
Sunday’s Beast was going to be an interesting one. All we knew was that we’d be going to the very top of ‘that hill’ twice throughout the course. After Saturday’s trek up the hill we were all dreading going up it twice more. Some friends decided not to do the Beast as they were too tired and sore from the previous day, but I wanted to get it done so I headed out with Kirsty, Nadine, Kathie and Danni on the Sunday morning.
I wasn’t in the mood to take it seriously, so I took a small inflatable pool toy with me on course. The plan was to use it in the creek walk but after inflating it I realised just how small it was. It probably wasn’t going to hold my weight but I was going to give it a go.
We meandered through the trees and got past the first few obstacles before we got to ‘that hill’ for the first time that day. The walk up on the Sunday seemed a lot easier to me as I knew what to expect, but others still struggled. After reaching the cargo net we had to continue to the very top and get a screw to prove we’d been there. The volunteer told me to ensure I got a screw for the inflatable croc so that’s exactly what I did.
At the peak we were met with an obstacle (throw a ball over a 9’ pole) and the most incredible scenery. We stayed for 10 minutes and watched paragliders take off from the launch pad. Eventually it was time to head back down so I grabbed two screws and followed the others down. My toes were starting to hurt from all the downhill jogging and all I wanted to was get the race over and done with so I could take my shoes off.
When I reached the creek walk I saw a guy just sitting in the water away from others. I commented that it looked a bit suspicious and he just winked. Anyone who says they haven’t used a water crossing as a pee break stop is lying. I grabbed my pool toy and lay on top of it, only to float for a few seconds before ending up completely drenched. Clearly kids toys aren’t made to hold adults.
We meandered through the obstacles at the festival area before heading back out for a second hike up ‘that hill’. Unlike the first climb, this one was gradual as we followed the BMX track and walked from switchback to switchback. After a few switchbacks I was starting to think that the path straight up was much easier than the gradual but long climb.
We walked for almost an hour before hearing a road and people coming in the opposite direction. We speculated that we must be near the top yet all we saw ahead was more switchbacks.
The path led us up and across a road before leading us to a steep section through more trees. The uphill climb was relentless. After what seemed like hours we finally made it to the top. I filled up my Camelbak with water and climbed under a cargo net that was at the top of the hill before saying a quick hello to people and heading back down the hill.
Thankfully the downhill was easier and not as monotonous. There were a few obstacles on the path (including some walls, a dead ball carry and jerry carry), just to remind people that they were doing an OCR and not a trail run.
As I walked back down the hill I realised how much I missed doing races in Australia. I missed the tall gum trees and the sounds of the kookaburras in the trees. Apart from Hawaii, I think that the Australian courses are the most picturesque. Having grown up next to a national park I used to spend all my spare time on bush walks and enjoying the sights and sounds of the Australian bush. Being on the course that day just made me appreciate the beauty of my country.
Eventually we crossed the finish line almost eight hours after starting. I was glad to be done and the beer at the finish line never tasted so good. The highlight of my day was when I finally got to take my shoes off and walk around barefoot.
I enjoyed the weekend and am glad I went, but I was a bit disappointed at the layout of the course. The terrain meant obstacles couldn’t be placed in many places on course, but the fact that there were 9 so close together was frustrating as I prefer more of an evenly spaced course. Or at least a course where there’s not an onslaught of obstacles and then kilometres of running with nothing in between.
Spartan Race Australia did a great job with the first Trifecta weekend and hopefully it will only get better with time.
Event: Spartan Race
Type: Obstacle Course Race
Distance: Sprint – 7km+,
Super – 14km+,
Beast – 21km+,
Ultra Beast – 42km+
Location: Bright, Victoria (Australia)
Date: 26-27 November 2016