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Spartan Race – Arizona

Spartan ChickThe Arizona Spartan Race has come and gone. The bumps, bruises and scrapes have faded away, but the memory is still fresh. The best part of this Spartan Race was running with my youngest sister. Turns out, she was born to be an obstacle racer! She may disagree, but Janell rocked that course like she’d been doing OCRs for years. It was her first one. The only thing I enjoy more than mud runs, is running with the “first timers.” Maybe it’s because of the nervous energy brought on by the unknown. Whatever it is, it makes it a bit more exciting.

A few weeks before the race, the officials moved the course to McDowell Mountain Park, about 30 minutes outside of town. I was kinda glad for the switch, as I had run the event last year and a change of scenery was nice. The 2012 Spartan course was pretty flat terrain, and I hoped the venue change would bring, well… a mountain.

We parked in the designated area and boarded the buses for our 20 min ride to battle grounds. At first I didn’t like being shuttled in away from my car and found it a bit inconvenient, but as we went along, it was cool to hear all the nervous chatter. Some of the people talking about obstacles they feared, while others talked about other OCRs they had completed. As we approached, we caught a glimpse of the course and some of the competitors who had already started their heat. For some, the reality of what they were in for seemed to set in as the nervous chatter increased. I loved it.

Spartan-MikeAs usual, the registration process was quick and easy, as we had already signed our waivers and just needed our race packets. I always enjoy walking through the crowds and seeing the diversity of people. This year didn’t disappoint. Many competitors had already completed the course and looked as though they had come straight from a battlefield–which they had.

Once we met up with the rest of our crew, we headed to the starting gate. We briefly talked about a game plan and if we should stick together as a team or was it every man for himself. I knew the competition was “on” when Robert said he was running for time. We’ll save the team work for the next event, as this time it was every man (and girl) for themselves!

Not sure why it’s so cool to run through smoke, but it is, and that’s how we started out.  Keeping tabs on Janell, we headed out with the pack.  I noticed Robert jockey for position early and made a mental note to keep an eye out for him. Didn’t want him to get too far out where I couldn’t reel him in.  The trail quickly narrowed to a single lane, which was very frustrating.  At times we would get stuck behind slower traffic and either walk or bolt out into the dessert to pass, jumping cactus and sage brush. This happened a few times on the course but was worst at the beginning.

Spartan Race obstacle Over UnderWe went for a good half-mile before the first obstacle. Our group was…no longer a group, as we had spread out, each running at a different pace.  Janell, Randy, and I stuck together for the first several obstacles, and I kept my eye out for Robert who was out in front with Aaron.  Wasn’t sure how far.

Spartan Race Monkey BarsWe all breezed through the monkey bars with no issue. I think the last time I did monkey bars was at last year’s Spartan Race. This was the first penalty obstacle, meaning that if you fell (couldn’t do it) you had to complete 30 burpees before continuing on the course.

Spartan Race WallJanell went over the walls like it was a prison break, wasting no time getting over. Some of the obstacles had a “girl” option which Janell did, as she didn’t want us guys to feel bad. Positive she could have done either with no issues.

Spartan Race Atlas CarryThe Atlas Carry was next and consisted of picking up a sizable chunk of concrete, carrying it  approximately 10 yards, completing 10 burpees and then bringing the concrete back.

Spartan Race log hop

After a bit more running we came to the log hop. I remember telling Janell to take a second to to catch our breath and to make it count. One bad step and you would be penalized with 30 burpees. I found it easier to keep my balance if I had my feet on two stumps instead of matching feet on a single. We made it with out incident and headed out.


I usually don’t have many pictures of myself as I’m always wearing the camera. This time I got a good one with Janell sprinting up the trail behind.
I got my wish, kinda. It wasn’t really a mountain but more of a hill, which got fairly steep, and the loose gravel made it a bit sketchy. It wasn’t too bad, except it narrowed down to a single track, which made it difficult to pass slower Spartans. I still hadn’t seen Robert at this point, and it was starting to worry me. He must have been kicking some butt, because I felt we were moving at a good clip and had no penalties so far.
After climbing to the top of the hill, twice, we came to the sand bag carry. Nothing fancy, just carry it. Good chance to catch your breath, as it was too narrow to pass anyone. I think this is where I first saw Robert… on the climbing wall, a whole obstacle ahead of me. Wow! He was cruising.
Spartan Wall
After a quick loop we were back to the climbing wall ourselves. Like the rest of the obstacles, Janell dominated the traverse with no issue, ringing the bell at the end. Several people were doing burpees, but we headed out with little hesitation.
Spartan Rope climb
Finally!  We caught Robert at the the rope climb.  I think he stepped off the climbing wall, and got called to burpee duty.  Rotten luck!  And to make it worse, the guy behind him at the rope climb didn’t hold the rope for him.  This makes it really difficult, as the rope swings wildly, and you can’t get your feet on it.  He was halfway through his burpees when we finished and were heading out.  Very impressed with Janell’s climbing skills, and I think she was relieved once was passed that obstacle.
Spartan Spear ThrowI was determined to stick this stupid hay bale!  I picked a nice strait “spear” and got some quick tips from Janell, who actually threw the javelin in college.  I gave it a good heave and hit it dead center…only to watch it fall out.  UGH!!!  I also realized that javelin throwers go for distance, not accuracy, as Janell sent her spear clean over the top!  Robert arrived and gave his best shot, and in the end, we all did our burpees together. They about killed me, and Robert was on his third set.  Not sure how he was able to do it, but he did!  Very impressed.
Spartan Barbed Wire
This was the home stretch, with a little over a half mile to go. We climbed over a big cargo net and went under a couple of fences before we came to the final few obstacles.  First up was the the low crawl under the barbed wire.  This isn’t so much a crawl as it is a “roll”. Everyone has figured out that it is easier, faster and less painful if you just roll.  The problem is that it’s a LONG ways and you get pretty dizzy.
Spartan Slippery_WallWe went directly from the low roll to the Slippery Wall. Lot of fun watching people trying to get up this thing. The end is in sight, and we waste no time getting up and over this thing.  Almost There!
Spartan Fire JumpThe fire jump isn’t so much of an obstacle as it is just fun to jump over fire.  I mean who doesn’t wanna do that?  Jeff and Mike from our crew come jumping through fire and flames!
Spartan GladiatorsThe last obstacle is to make it through the gauntlet of gladiators to the finish line. Don’t try to skirt around these guys, they will take you out. Best to take it like a man and blast through the middle. Robert is demonstrating perfect form as he completes the course in true Spartan fashion! ( I never would have caught him if it weren’t for his extra burpees.  He was pure grit all the way to the end.)
Spartan Gladiator
Spartan Gladiator
Spartan Race CrewWe all finished in the upright position, with a smile on our face, and I think most of us are looking forward to the next one.  This is always our goal in pretty much everything we do.  Good times with good friends. Can’t ask for much more than that.

Race Feedback:

Things that  SUCKED!
  • The showers.  I wouldn’t even call them that.  They had little pressure and NO water would come out if you raised the hose a foot off the ground.  Raise the main pipe to 5 or 6 feet.  Should be an easy fix.
  • Shuttle ride back to the car.  Had to wait in line for 45 minutes (some reported an hour) waiting for a bus back to the car.  Add more transportation or better scheduling.  We don’t mind the shuttles and understand the parking limitation at the site.  Just don’t hold us hostage.  Heard a lot of complaints about this.
  • Narrow, single track race route.  Nearly impossible to pass slower racers during the first part of the race without tearing up the desert, running off trail, etc.  This is a timed event and other competitors shouldn’t be your main obstacle.
Things that ROCKED!
  • The overall atmosphere was great.
  • Registration was super quick and easy.
  • The obstacles never disappoint.
  • Venue and varied terrain.  Great Arizona desert scenery.
  • It was fairly cold (for Arizona) and the fire pits were awesome!
  • I didn’t use the changing area but all the girls raved about it.  I was told they were heated.
  • Heard from a few spectators that it was nice to be able to see more of the event (even though it was a bit of a walk).
  • Couple days after the event I received a email with a link to photos and videos.

Conclusion:  With a few inconveniences,  Spartan Race Arizona was awesome!  It’s a great event that I look forward to every year.

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