Today we get to recap the race weekend in Asheville, NC that Spartan Race held on July 27/28. Spartan put some awesome courses together at a fantastic, challenging, beautiful venue! Joel will be recapping the Super on Saturday, and we'll get Luke's recap of the Sprint on Sunday, so make sure you read all the way through for both experiences!
I ran this venue in 2018, and I think this year's course was a little easier. That being said, easier doesn't mean easy.
This is the only venue I've been to in my 45ish races where my muscles seem to get VERY tight and close to the cramping point without actually cramping. Other hilly courses like Vernon, Wintergreen, Palmerton, and Tahoe have never given me that feeling in my muscles. There must be something special about Asheville!
At the start of the race, the course wound around a bit in the field before heading into the woods and onto the mountain. There was a ditch about 50 yards from the start line, and while everyone was staying to one side of the course, I decided I'd be smart and take the outside lane to pass some people. It was not smart. I ended up running right through a very prickly bush, and have the scrapes all over my legs to prove it. I didn't gain any places for my pain either.
Once we hit the woods, it was only a short bit before the course fed us into the stream for the first time. I thought I'd move faster than I did, but the rocks were very slippery. I decided that staying upright was more important than trying to gain places in the stream, so I focused on my footing and slowed down.
After the water, there were so many wide-open trails (in comparison to lots of OCRs) that made the running very smooth and consistent. The obstacles were spread all throughout the trail system. I noticed a few people doing burpees as I went through the Monkey Bars, and later the same was true with Beater and Twister. Every time I start one of those obstacles, I think to myself, "you know you can do this, so don't make a dumb mistake." Thankfully, no mistakes!
The whole first section of the race was gradual uphill running. Gradual enough to lend themselves to running almost the entire time. There were a few steep points that required power-hiking, but I was happy to keep my feet chopping for the majority of the race.
The most exciting part of the race for me was the long downhill that followed the initial climb. Chunks of the downhill were wide open. The decline wasn't too steep either, so I was able to simply let gravity do it's job and I hit some great paces down those sections without needing to, or trying to, put the brakes on at all.
I could go on and on for thousands of words about the course, but for the sake of the reader, I'll jump ahead to the last mile. Within the last mile was the second entry into the stream. The rocks were just as slippery as the first section, and this time there was a portion deep enough to require a few seconds of swimming (at least for my 5'9 self). Not long after the swim, the course opened back up on the field we started in.
The rope climb was first. I rarely ever use my feet, so it was all arms going up and I was done and out of the Rope Climb in just a few seconds. Then the Tire Flip happened. This course last year was the first course I'd encountered a tire flip, and I wasn't able to flip it in 2018. I'd been to a few other courses since Asheville in 2018 that had the tire, and I'd completed all of those successfully. However, my initial attempt to lift the tire didn't even budge it. I wasn't able to get 2 hands underneath the edges on that tire. After two tries, I went to another tire. THANK GOODNESS I was able to get both hands under the tire's edges. I had enough strength to lift it, set it back down on the other side (with my fingers underneath still) and flip it back. Though I completed it, it took a ton of my energy and I struggled with it.
Happy to have completed the tire, I saw the Spear Throw up next and tried to calm my brain and body down as I ran to it. I found a good spear with a straight point, reeled it in, set the line on the backside of the fence, made sure the balance on the Spear was where I needed it in my hand, and let it fly. Direct hit!
Another athlete finished the Spear at the exact same time and he and I were inches apart heading up a narrow muddy slope to the final hundred yards of the race. The Multi Rig was first. We both got on at about the same time. He was faster getting through, but only by a second. Next up was the Slip Wall. He got there before me, and climbed to the top faster. However, he took a safe approach coming down the back side, while I walked most of the way down before jumping off closer to the bottom. We both sprinted. It was an ALL-OUT dash over the Fire Jump and across the finish line.
When the final results came out, he and I had the exact same time, but he was 1 place ahead of me in the standings. I guess he won the sprint at the end. Of course I wish I'd won that mini in-race battle, but either way, it's such a fun experience when it comes down to those last-second efforts. I've been in that position several times this year, and it's been exhilarating every time!
The course was awesome. It was challenging. It constantly changed from dirt to sand to rock to water and made for a really fun OCR experience. I HIGHLY recommend the Asheville race to anyone and everyone.
The Asheville Sprint proved once again why it is one of my favorite venues. The course was challenging to say the least. However, all the pain was beyond worth it because of the beautiful views and fantastic course design. In 2018 the Sprint course was a complete mud fest. Not only had it rained a ton in the days leading up to the race, but the course had also been torn up by the Super runners the day before. With all that mud, athletes were failing obstacles like crazy. This year was not quite so muddy but some of the obstacles were almost just as challenging.
The first mile of the race was basically flat so everyone came out of the gate blazing. Within that mile we had the barbwire crawl and some walls which definitely broke up the pace. It didn't take long before it was time to start climbing. At the top of the climb, we reached the quarry which had both the sandbag and bucket carries. Both were on mostly flat ground so it wasn't too difficult, but it opened the opportunity for some stronger athletes to pick up some ground. The quarry was my favorite part of the course because it had such a beautiful view of the Black Mountains! Not that I had much time to look...
This was the first time I ever looked very intently at the course map before the race. Usually I just skim over to see what the obstacles are and in what order. I really wanted to be prepared for the climbs this time, so I looked over every detail. I wish I hadn't. The course was not much like the map at all as far as the climbs and descents were concerned, so it messed with my mind a little bit, and looking back, I felt like I could have pushed my pace more in the first half of the race.
On the downhill, I went as fast as a possibly could to see if I could make up some time on the other athletes, and I did. We crossed through a stream (which felt so refreshing) and made our way onto the home stretch where they piled up the rope climb, tire flip, spear throw, rings, and the slip wall. I spend a decent chunk of my training practicing for obstacles because I hate the thought of failing them and because I enjoy that type of training. When I got to the rope climb, I made my first attempt and slid right back down. I took a deep breath, focused on my technique, and was able to smoothly climb up. Then came the tire flip. This is an obstacle I work on regularly by doing deadlifts; where I've maxed at 405lbs. I got the first flip pretty easily but the second simply did not happen (maybe my legs were fried from hitting the downhill so hard). I was so frustrated because I was ready to make up 5 spots over the athletes who had failed and here I was failing it myself.
I made it through the rest of the obstacles without any issue but crossed the finish line disappointed. I'm not sure what happened with the tire, but I'm going to make sure it doesn't happen again. All in all it was a fantastic race and I was happy to be able to challenge and better myself with an awesome group of athletes in such a beautiful area!
Also, Spartan has done a great job with their festival area this year. There are so many new vendors and things to do! 5 stars to the coffee/pastry shop! The coffee and cheddar croissant hit the spot on the drive home!
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