After several years of trying, the West Point Spartan Sprint and my personal schedule finally coalesced. The race isa great experience, and one that I am very thankful finally worked out on my schedule.
If you are new to Spartan racing or thinking about Spartan or other OCR races and live within a reasonable distanceof West Point, New York, this is an ideal race for you to run.
The course is challenging but not overwhelming. The mixture of obstacles is a great set of intro Spartan raceobstacles, which means it is easier to get that sense of accomplishment we crave.
Plus, the scenery is amazing. Just check out some of my photos!
West Point, home of the United States Army Academy, has so much history, another reason why anyone should attend thisrace. The West Point Spartan Sprint is part of Spartan's 'Honor Series'. These are a set of races placed on or nearmajor military establishments.
This was my second Spartan Honor Series race, because the Washington Nationals Park Stadium race is also one piece ofthe series.
Spartan created the Honor Series not only to honor our many veterans and active service members, but to make it easyfor them to attend. One of the things the announcer said is Spartan recognizes it's not always easy for an activeservice member to get leave to attend a race and have a good time with friends and family.
So Spartan tries to make these races close enough to bases to make it easy for active duty service to participatewithout needing to consume active leave.
As a civilian, I applaud Spartan for making this sort of effort to make it easy for our active service men and womento attend and participate races. I think they even made the race free for academy cadets. A pair were registeringwhile I was signing up for my 2nd lap.
This was a great weekend for a set of races at a great venue. The venue itself is a campground used by the Academyfor Training, and that's partially what was going on around this. As you got near the vertical cargo net plate dragand the multi rig, there was some sort of life fire exercise going on nearby and during the open class heats. Youcould hear the constant popping of guns and the smell of gunfire, which really set the scene for the military themedevent.
The weather was perfect for a race. When I arrived roughly, 6:30 in the morning, the temperature was sitting at 54degrees. By the end of the day, after my second lap, we were still in the mid seventies. Combine low humidity andbarely a cloud in the sky and you had a chamber of commerce day.
I couldn't have asked for a better set of weather. West Point and the area is set in the middle of some small butbeautiful mountains in eastern southeastern New York. You can see some of them in the distance from some of thephotos included in the article.
The course itself stayed off of what I would call a mountain. It did have a challenging set of hills, but notoverwhelming. This makes it a really good course for a beginner or intro level Spartan racer.
The terrain was a little more technical than I expected. Doing a little bit of groundwork before I arrived, I noticedthe course used a campground. It didn't look like it was pure raw forest, like I have seen at Palmerton, MountVernon and Tuxedo.
There was a pretty decent amount of technical terrain the course wound you through. What I found most challengingabout the trail was the bucket carry.
The first half of the bucket carry was pretty straightforward, just straight out, down a kind of a fire trail kind ofthing. At the turnaround point they had you go down a reasonably steep grade and through some uncharted woods. Partof that you had to negotiate over and through downed tree limbs.
I thought it was interesting and a challenge at the very end, because there were a collection of tree limbs and rocksyou had to negotiate to get back up the hill to finish the bucket carry circuit. So that made it a pretty goodbucket carry.
Plus, this was the first race that we got to do the bucket carry since the rule change. Now you can carry it on hershoulder. That made the bucket carry so much easier. I talk about the rule changes in another article.
As with any Spartan race, even the easiest obstacles can be somewhat changed or modified to make them just a littlebit more harry or take you out of that comfort zone where you've gotten pretty good at a particular set up of anobstacle now. Typically, I don't fail the Z-Wall, but the way the Z-Walls were positioned and constructed made it alittle bit more challenging.
Normally, I like to take the right-hand side of the Z-Wall. That way I get the blind curve out of the way early, andthat's what I decided to do. Unfortunately, the wall that I took had a extremely large reach to get around thatblind curve. And at the same time, the wall was tilted a little bit downhill just slightly enough that it made thetransition a little more challenging.
My shoes were still kind of a muddy and wet from the rolling mud and dunk wall down at the bottom of the hill. Andunfortunately, I could not swing around and secure a foothold on the blind wall side. I lost it and had to doburpees, like several others.
So, rule of thumb, always look to see if the Z-Wall is built on a slight angle. And take the one where your body isgoing to fall into the wall. On my open class lap I did that and had no problem. It was so much easier than mymorning lap.
The rest of the course was pretty straightforward. The most challenging obstacles left were the multi-rig, which isnot a problem for me anymore and the monkey bars, which also is not really a problem, for me. It's just a matter ofgetting the momentum, and swinging through it.
The sandbag carry was pretty easy and straightforward just straight down a gravel path and then just a quick uphillturn-around. Then down a gravel path alongside of a beautiful lake.
At that point the course is just about complete, just a few challenging obstacles as you enter the festival area.
The official Spartan announcements said the course was about 3.8 miles, which is probably about right. It was prettyshort course. The winning elite times were sub 40 minutes. The winning age group times were roughly in themid-forties. I was not near that, unfortunately, because I failed off z-wall and spear throw. Plus, I'm just notfast on trails and technical running.
I came in an hour and 18 minutes, which is probably longer, and I should've been, but I never really felt tophysically taxed on this one.
I highly recommend the West Point sprint, even if you're a seasoned Spartan racer. This is a great venue to go visit.Being an Honor Series race one makes it even better. If you want a little more practice on some official SpartanObstacles this good course to get that reps.
If you are new to Spartan. If you're thinking about getting into Spartan and OCR racing and live in the anywherewithin reasonable distance of South East New York, you definitely should put this on your calendar and let thisstart your Spartan and obstacle course racing experience.