The 2021 season for me was all about training up to win a Spartan AG podium. I came in 7th, a personal best this past weekend at the Spartan Sprint Vernon. Enough about that. The real highlight of this race was the venue. Let’s start with Spartan+.
If you received an email from Spartan last year talking about some class action lawsuit, I hope you opted in and took the Spartan+ settlement. It was absolutely wonderful. They had a huge private tent set up in the festival area overlooking the finish line. This perk-filled tent included FitAids and ImmunityAids, private toilets (with no lines), water jugs, and space to hang out with friends before and after the race. They also gave out custom-made Spartan+ race packs designed by Joe DeSena himself.
After signing in by showing my Spartan+ ticket, I took full advantage of this area all day long. To staying cool in the shade to hydrating to post-race Thera-gun massage in a nice recliner chair, I loved this perk. I might actually pay for it next year.
Now onto the festival area. In my nine years of OCR, this has to be my favorite festival. First, it’s huge. And that was a good thing this year because the place was packed with racers, vendors, and spectators. Nothing like a packed house to get a great vibe. That feeling exploded with this food vendor, a pit barbeque. Wow, pigs and chickens on the spit. They looked so good. For the thirsty, there was Athletic Brewing Company, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and a beer vendor.
The SGX Coach’s corner was busy all day with folks learning how to climb the robe, scale a wall, and throw a spear. To the left was the free bag check. Yes, free. Parking was free too. Yes free. Don’t know how long that will last or if they were all just built into the price tag. But it made things so much easier. To the right was the results tent. Sure, I kept checking it all afternoon hoping to move up from lucky seven.
Then there was the volunteer’s tent and the finisher’s tee shirt tent. To be honest, I did not notice too many of the volunteers out on the course while I was racing. Too focused. Or maybe because they weren’t there. It was quite strange and rather sad really that sometime just after three in the afternoon, the DJ asked over the loudspeaker for three volunteers immediately. All the perks and none of the strings attached. Whether you could give thirty minutes or all the rest of the day, they needed you now. What a great deal for a free race. But sad that volunteers were lacking at this clearly packed-out race. Honestly, I don’t know why more folks don’t go for this perk. Free race. Come on.
Now for the best part of the festival area. This was a spectator’s race. In and around the festival area fringe there were seven obstacles and the Kid’s Race. Tents were set up to keep spectators cool and comfortable from the weather. They had unobstructed views of the bucket carry, rope climb, Herc hoist, vertical cargo net, fire jump and finish line, rolling mud, and slip wall. Folks lined the fences with their easy chairs, cameras ready, picnics by their sides, drinks in hands. It was great to see a cheering audience.
What about the race? Well, in addition to being a spectator’s race, it was definitely a runner’s race. As in lots of downhill bombing on very technical surfaces. I had so much fun doing this yelling out “On your left”. Everyone was really cool about it. Even on the single track. My Salomon Speedcross 5’s were the right choice for this terrain. I only slid once on some muddy loose rocks. Everywhere else was solid and sure so I could really open up.
But there was a downside to all that. Soon after two big downhill runs when my legs were nice and shaky, the sandbag carry and the bucket carry awaited. They slowed me to a crawl. Now I know what to work on this off-season. Leg day.
Other than that and a slip off the Z-wall (with the obligatory 30 burpee penalty), I ran a fast, clean race. Afterwards, I wanted to watch my friends race. They’re newlyweds and this was the capstone of their honeymoon. I walked into the 3pm corral and looked everywhere for them. I hung out with the start line DJ, a very cool guy. Chatted up the corral volunteer who could easily pass for a doorman at any posh NYC restaurant. Still no sign of them. I watched the corral start and then retreated to the Spartan+ tent one last time. Somehow, I missed them. But they were there. Their medals are on their new rack that my wife and I gave them for a wedding present.
This race weekend for me just felt like such a celebration of life. There were thousands of happy people there. Glad to be outdoors. Glad to be racing. Glad to be cheering friends and family. Glad to be pushing the envelope of personal performance.
For a great race, a great festival, and a great new Spartan+ perk, Mud Run Guide awards the Spartan Trifecta Weekend at Vernon five of five stars.
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