Upon arriving at Vista View Park in Davie, FL for the last Spartan Race of the year, racers were greeted with 6 inches of water pooled around the registration and bag check tent areas. Before even entering the course, we were trudging through ankle deep water, giving us a preview of the course to come. As a volunteer, I registered at the tent prior to going over to bag check to hang my bag off of a fence so it wouldn’t be submerged. Everything went smoothly and then I was left to wander the festival area for about 45 minutes before my wave time started. It was slightly awkward, as I usually am surrounded by MudRunFun members, but this time I was alone. I did meet up with two MRF members a few minutes before my wave time and they helped reduce my nerves before I started. This was my first race where I didn’t have any friends running with me.
Lining up in the start corral, we hoisted ourselves over the wall and waited for the start line speech. Still tense at the thought of racing “alone,” I managed to make friends with a couple next to me in the start chute who were running their first Spartan race. It seemed as if no time passed at all and we were out of the start chute beginning the five mile trek of my second Sprint. The very first part of the race took us straight uphill- Spartan managed to find the hilliest park in southeast Florida. I kept a pretty even pace for the first two miles, feeling pretty good overall. There weren’t that many obstacles in the first two miles- a few walls, hurdles, and the vertical cargo net. Typically the vertical nets really freak me out, but I managed to get over this one with little issues.
Around mile 3 we reached the Bucket Brigade, the first “lifting” obstacle on course. Racers are required to fill a bucket with small stones up to a specified part in the bucket and then carry it for a particular route. It was challenging because we went through water and up hills- definitely a longer route than the one at Tampa Sprint earlier this year. Right after that we hit the memory test (MIKE-326-8127), where Spartan makes you memorize a code related to your bib number and then asks you to recite it at an unspecified later location. I spent a mile memorizing my code, but was never asked for it!
The rope climb came next and I was happy to make it up the rope my first try- especially since it had no knots! This was an obstacle that I was unable to complete at my first Spartan, so I was determined to complete it this time. After passing that it was on to the Atlas Ball carry, inverted wall and sandbag carry. I opted to take my penalty burpees at the Atlas ball because it was sitting in several inches of mud which I knew would make it heavier. After several more hills which had me walking and out of breath, we were finally along a straight chute of terrain that led down into the area I’d been volunteering the previous day. Since we were at the end of the course, I told myself to keep pushing because I knew we were close to the end.
The plate drag obstacle was more challenging due to being submerged in several inches of water; it was hard to even find the plate to start pulling it! After that we hit the Z-walls, the second obstacle I failed at the Tampa Sprint. Luckily I had spent some time the previous day playing on this obstacle as a volunteer, so I had a pretty good idea of how to tackle it. After finishing the walls and ringing the bell, I had to stop to catch my breath. I have exercise induced asthma and sometimes when I overexert myself and breathe heavily it’s very hard for me to catch my breath. I walked over to the 8 foot wall, where I was helped over by fellow Spartans.
The Spear Throw was next; this is an obstacle that is coined a “burpee maker” by Spartan race, as the failure rate is astronomically high. I tried and wasn’t able to make it, so I took my burpees over in the burpee zone. Despite having been a volunteer at this obstacle the day before, I was unable to make any of my “practice shots” on it either, so I was expecting to have to burpee here. Right after that was the A-frame cargo net, another obstacle that typically freaks me out due to the height. I was able to make it across that one fairly easily however. Next up were the Herculean Hoist and Spartan Rig; I failed the rig, falling off the rings after attempting the beginning portion. I could have tried again, but I was tired and wanted to finish the race, so I opted not to make another attempt.
Finally we were close to the end; I kept having to tell myself “Only four more obstacles” and “You’re almost done, just a few more minutes.” Entering the barbed wire crawl, I began to roll, which is in my opinion the easiest way to tackle a barbed wire crawl. The women ahead of me were crawling rather slowly and I kept accidentally rolling into their feet; eventually they stopped and let me pass which I thanked them for. I actually refer to Spartan’s barbed wire crawls as the “barbed wire crawl from hell” because they are so long. Right after the barbed wire crawl was the slip wall- I grabbed the rope and climbed all the way to the top but was stopped by two women who had stopped to rest atop the wall. This caused me to slip and lose my momentum, but they grabbed my arms and helped me over. Into the ditches we went, wading through waist deep water and over piles of dirt and rocks towards the dunk wall. I submerged my head under the muddy water to clear the dunk wall and came up on the other side right in front of the fire jump. Climbing out of the muddy water pit, I summoned the last bit of energy I had and leapt over the flaming logs to finish in 1:51:54.
PROS and CONS
Spartan did a really great job of handling a not-so-great situation: despite the rainy weather which caused flooding in several different areas around the race site, they kept on their toes and communicated with racers and volunteers to make sure the event went as planned. There were a lot of last minute parking switches and some confusion ensued with volunteer parking, but it was all handled with the professionalism we have come to expect from Spartan Race.
The course was challenging and fun; Spartan used the terrain to their advantage in true Spartan Race fashion, combining challenging inclines and hill climbs with muddy and wet terrain (some by accident due to the rain). The obstacles were placed fairly skillfully; I do wish they had more in the beginning, but the entire course felt very well laid out.
The festival area, while underwater and not something Spartan could have controlled, was successfully modified to ensure that the merchandise and racers bags didn’t become submerged in the muddy water. Signs were pretty well placed so racers were able to successfully navigate the area to find everything they needed. I would have liked to see more signs leading up to the event from the parking; it was very sparse and sort of confusing trying to walk from the second parking area to Vista View Park, especially for those doing so in the dark.
Volunteers were treated pretty well; they gave us food upon arriving, although I think they could have afforded better food for us. We got soggy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a whole day of volunteering. Definitely not the best volunteer lunch I’ve had but thank goodness I have some experience with this type of thing and thought to bring protein bars to sustain me over the course of my 12 hour shift. I also felt like communication was a little lacking in the end- they had us at the obstacles, told us to pack up and get in the truck to be brought back to the festival area, only to be told by medics that there were still racers on the course and we had to remain at the obstacles! After a long day in the cold rain, this was sort of an annoying portion of our shift. I did have a really cool “zone leader” Bobby, who let me sit in his truck and turned the heat on when I became seriously cold from the constant barrage of pouring rain from 1 pm on Saturday.
Overall, Spartan Miami was a great experience, and I liked it much better than the Tampa course. I’m glad I gave Spartan a second chance and had a better experience, as I can’t wait to find out their schedule for 2016 so I can aim for my Trifecta!