Spartan Honor Series West Point Sprint was a trail of tears, fears, and cheers. Before the race even started, social media was full of tears about the poor parking logistics. More on that later. Many fears were faced as the terrain of this “easy rolling hills” advertised race was anything but. Cheers echoed around those hills as Spartans and veterans conquered obstacles of every sort. The highlight was the WWII vet paraded around the course lifted high on the shoulders of volunteers. Children and adults stood mesmerized as the troupe paused to share stories and memories. It was a day of great celebration.
For me, it was redemption following the horrors of Palmerton. The day after that race, I built an Olympus in my backyard. No way was I going to fail that one again. But fail I did. Thankfully, those were my only 30 burpees of the day. Yesterday I modified my Olympus to make it steeper and muddier. Never again.
My buddy John and I arrived plenty early. Got plenty of pictures. Talked to lots of people. The VIP parking was a short walk to the festival area. Lines were short so that left us plenty of time to get familiar with everything. This was by far the best festival area I have seen for a Spartan race in six years. Perhaps the military influence had something to do with this? Parking lot shuttle buses even pulled up and dropped off like LSTs at Normandy. I discharged a number of my Mud Run Guide stickers to deserving volunteers like Patrick who helped us get smoothly through registration.
I thought this race might not be crowded since WV was the same day. But by the time of my 1100 corral, there were hundreds on the course and hundreds more behind me waiting their turn. Was this going to turn into a long waiting line at obstacles? Turns out that was not a problem because of the terrain. Just like the steep climbs at Palmerton thinned the herd, so too did the mud at West Point. I loved it. I wished it was deeper. Almost the entire course was ankle deep mud. Not twenty feet from the starting gate there was a huge pit of shoe-sucking mud that immediately stopped a number of racers.
Also like Palmerton, West Point had a lot of running along its 44.7-miletraverse of Hudson Valley hills. The terrain was very hilly, technical, with lots of single track and wide creek crossings. Obstacle placement was brilliant for the most part. There were only two things I would change. Number one, and this message I hope goes right to the top at Spartan HQ, is please get rid of the smoke bombs. When I noted them absent at the starting line I was thrilled. Hopes dashed a quarter mile later as the toxic fumes covered the hurdles. Number two, and this is a positive, was I wished there was a monkey bar or twister at the bottom of the bucket carry. That carry was nasty. Bodies littered the trail. It was great. I carried the bucket upside down with both hands finger gripping around the lid. While that was a very easy grip, it was also taxing. A grip obstacle right after would have been a great punishment. Instead, there was about a half-mile of downhill open running. I took advantage of every step to shake my hands loose.
My hopes were somewhat fulfilled however with a dense pack of obstacles to follow through the last mile or so. Just when you thought it was all over and downhill easy from here…nope! There was still the twister, double sand bag, spear throw, Herc hoist, and rope climb to go. The sand bag carry was a hoot through slip sliding mud and steep climbs. Some people just gave up and left their sandbags in the mud. Uncool folks. That’s where teamwork comes in.
I sure needed that at the slip wall. It was right after the rolling mud hills/pits. So it was a slick mess. I made three attempts. I tried to have John climb up using me as a backstop. But my shoes had no traction so Laurel and Hardy just slipped right back into the line of people waiting their turn. Finally, we got smart, spied a dry corner, and zipped up. That and the A-Frame were the two biggest delays of the day. Not even minutes though so no complaints.
John cramped up bad at mile 4 but told me to go on. I knew he’d be OK in a few minutes as someone had already generously supplied him with a salt tab or mustard pack or something. So off I went to finish the rest of the course without a hitch. As I walked up the line of the spear throw looking for just the right one, I told others to take their time, find a straight one (some were ridiculously bent and warped), throw the rope over the front of the barrier, and a few other technique tips. Mine was a bullsear Catnip.
I finished in 1:43, a respectable time that landed me in the top ten for my Open age category (55-59). I hoped my #8 would hold but there was plenty of afternoon left with hundreds of racers still cued up. John trailed in about 5 minutes later.
MWR provided volunteers at the beer station and the West Point Club. They earned some respect and MRG stickers. The hose area was large with decent water pressure. One guy had a great idea to make the whole thing overhead to gain the gravity advantage for additional water pressure. Suggestion #3 Spartan Race. The changing tent was incredibly dark and danky. A bare lightbulb would have been nice, I think. Maybe not. There were already enough bare lightbulbs in there, careful not to bump into one another in the dark. The floor was all driveway rock. Wood planking or pallets would have been nice instead.
We cleaned off, polished off our gratis Fit Aids, and walked back to the car. It was there I noticed a huge line of racers waiting for their buses back to the remote parking lot. Then I noted a volunteer about halfway down the line speaking loudly to the crowd. He explained that there was an active Amber alert. So everything was on hold. As soon as I got to the head of the line, the walkie-talkies squawked the all clear and the buses started rolling again.
Two hours later we were down the shore at Seaside Heights. My family met me there and we spent the rest of the evening on the Boardwalk. I enjoyed a balcony view of the Atlantic Ocean while feasting on a huge burrito bowl at the Spicy Cantina. I shared stories of the day with my wife and son. It was a great day. Spartan, Spartan volunteers, USMA, and MWR did a magnificent job. I gave out plenty of MRG stickers as well as a 5 for 5 to West Point.
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