June 23rd, 2018 I found myself in Payette, Idaho and two years ago to the day, this is the race that gave birth to my love for the sport that is OCR. It is also one of only 3 Spartan Sprints that can be run in the Pacific Northwest (Yes, the PNW isn't all rain and gloom, we have deserts and sun as well) so it is always one of my home area races that I try to get into the roster.
Thomas Pence Ranch is located in Payette, ID just north-west of Boise by 45 minutes, there is plenty to do around the area in the way of hiking, trail running, bicycling or just about anything else you can think of so it isn't a bad place to make a vacation out of your race weekend. The weather on the course is usually between 95 and 105 degrees this time of year, but this time around we was in for a very “relaxed” climate with the temperature in the mid 70's and light breeze blowing most of the day. You have the typical vendors in the festival area, and if you like free stuff, then you can usually take home a bag full of anything from laundry detergent to water bottles. Parking is the usual $10, and bag check will run you $5 with a $5 merchandise credit. Keep in mind if it is as hot as it normally is, one of the downfalls is that there is limited shade to get away from the sun, so plan accordingly.
Terrain and Obstacles
Having run this race before, I halfway expected it to be the same with nothing new to offer, but I came to find that this was a false expectation on my part. While the terrain was the same, the course route was entirely different and offered new challenges (mostly for the calves). The crew that set this race up and its director did a very good job with the flow and tempo of the course, the terrain is very up and down with a lot of powdery ash like dirt that gets kicked up by all the participants running together up the steep hills and tends to get into the nose and mouth of all.
As far as obstacles go, there wasn't anything that I wouldn't find at most other Spartan events, pretty much the standards such as Multi rig (all rings), Olympus, Twister, Atlas Carry, Rope Climb, Herc Hoist, etc. But that didn't make it any less interesting, the placement of the obstacles was well thought out and put some strain on the body, but not so much that you weren't able to keep a steady pace. In fact, it is a pretty fast-paced course if that is what you are looking for, fastest time for the day was 38:11 at 4.5 miles (this number is debatable, some said four even and others 4.25, but as the master of ceremonies said, Spartans can't count). But after all the hills, crawling, pulling, dragging and Burpees, you climb the Cargo net, trot through some rolling mud and then you are at the fire jump to collect your fuel and swag.
So, first off, I have to be a little bit negative here. The finisher shirts……are garbage, not because of the design, I like the design, but the quality of the material is lame sauce. I have heard this from a lot of different participants, they stretch horribly, they have poor stitching, and the sizes aren't very accurate. So, to keep this short, bring back the old shirts!
Now, for the positive! I love this year's medals, they are well designed and have a good deal of detail to them, but most of all, I love the Greek inscription on the back of each of the trifecta pieces, that was a pretty cool touch and depending on whether it is a Sprint, Super or Beast, they are all different. The sprint (if my amateur Greek serves me well) means something like “Commit” or “To Commit.” It is a small but neat detail to this year's medals.
So, I am partial to this venue because it is what got me hooked into the OCR world. It is for that reason that I think this venue is one of the best to get someone into the sport, it isn't so hard that it discourages people from continuing with the adventure that is OCR, but it is also not so easy that those who finish it cannot help but walk away with a sense of accomplishment and a strong desire to set new goals for their future. So if you know someone who needs that spark to start the fire, then I recommend this sprint as the starting point.
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