(Opinion Piece by our OCRM Reporter/Insider)
This will be my 5 year attending the spartan race in Palmertion, PA. It is hands down one of my favorite venues Spartan continues to return too. It's brutally steep climbs and more often than not scorching heat keep this course always in the back of my mind. I had signed up for the age group competitive heat and knew there was going to be a ton of competition as this is one of Spartans more popular races. On the starting line with anticipation high and the adrenaline coursing through me the announcer sounded of for the three "AROO"s. Then quickly we were out of the gate tackling the first steep climb leading into the double sand bag carry. Now this may be my 5th year doing Palmerton but I have never had signed up for a competitive heat here - so this was going to me first double sandbag carry. I've always ran open here because I didn't want to be that guy who signs up for elite and gets passed by all the open runners. After placing 1st in the open last year I felt like I was ready for some competition on this mountain. As we approached the sandbag I could see the distraught look on everyone's beat red face after tackling the black diamond loop. This was the same loop spartan has been using for years for the sandbag carry so I knew this wasn't going to be easy. After grabbing the newer long black sandbag and draping it over my neck I grabbed the green utility sandbag and held it like a little baby in my arms haha It was time to go! Heading down the hill wasn't too bad..sure the extra weight and braking the whole time as not to not go crashing down the hill was tuff on the legs but this was the "easy part".
After reaching the bottom of the loop it was time to climb, and a steep climb at that. I ended up dropping my sandbags at least four times before reaching the top. I wanted to race smart and didn't want to totally blow my legs up which I'm sure is why spartan race had placed this as the 2nd obstacle. Reaching the top was such a relief and now it was time to open up a little after clearing the 8ft wall at the top. Running down the mountain was treacherous and technical with a ton of grass/moss covered rocks and downed trees. I rolled my ankle several times and had to hold back a little. After making my way through a bunch of obstacles burpee free it was time for the Spear throw. I always pay attention to the hay bails..you want to find the ones that are still tightly packed and fresh that way when you sink the tip of that spear in it will stick! I found my spear tossed the extra line over the fence and let it rip. BOOM - bulls-eye and like that it was on to the rig which was near by. The rig was a pipe, ropes and rings - honestly I don't have trouble with the rig so I was able to get right through it and kept it moving. I knew ape hanger was going to be soon because we were toward the last leg of the race. Ape hanger is probably one of my favorite obstacles because of its uniqueness and it really sets apart the serious competitors. I was able to scoot right up the rope out of the water making sure my hands stayed dry and grabbed onto the rope style monkey bars. The hardest part is always making your way up the monkey bars because they peak.
Reaching the peak wasn't bad and I made my way down to the bell and gave it a big slap! It was a relief because this was the last obstacle I could see posing a problem. The only thing that was going to make a big difference now was the bucket brigade. The new buckets with lids are nice because I was able to hold it upside down - the bucket lip wont cut into your hands like the bottom. I made it though bucket brigade only stopping a few times..I like to make my way up the hill in sections. So if you notice spartan usually has "cliff" bar signs leading up to the top. I use these as section markers that I allow myself to get a short rest at. After making it to the top it was time to hammer down to the finish! In the last stretch to the fire jump I probably passed 10 people..I had saved a lot in the tank for some reason and was now letting loose. I jumped from the top of the dunk wall pit into the water and popped up on the other side. The fire was in sight! I made my fire jump and sprinted to the volunteer who draped the medal around my neck. At last, 2hrs of effort had come to an end and that post race glow was upon me. For me there is nothing sweeter than finishing a race and that feeling you get..it just a feeling a of content. Overall I'm feeling okay about my performance - just outside of the top 10 in 12th place is where I finished. I believe next time ill make sure let go and not play it so safe!
Spartans super in Palmerton PA has to be one of the most popular venues the brand has to offer. It's known for its brutal climbs and many people refer to it as the "mini beast". Upon arriving at this venue for the 5th year in a row..I could see something was different! No lines to get into the parking lot! I think they were able to manage the parking much better this year and had a better understanding of how to approach it. Registration was fast and the new electronic signature made it a breeze! No need to mess with that pesky paper waiver. The festival area was alive with energy and chest bumping music. Elites were in the corral ready to go and the announcer was pumping everyone up. The announcer at this race seemed more connected with what was going on.
Many other Spartan races if feel like they just handed someone the mic and gave him some lines to repeat. This guy while sticking to the classic "aroo"s and "what is your profession" mixed it up a bit and kept things interesting. He had racers shake hands and gave brief descriptions as to what to expect on the mountain. Spartan had made the 2nd obstacle the double sandbag carry which was a nice way to mix things up. In the past its always been in the middle of the race. (found that they ran out of sandbags for competitive racers that showed up later..this seems to happen every year) The rig was the new standard for Supers containing a pipe, ropes and rings. This is a good move by spartan to keep things standardized for the sprint,super and beasts. The water crossing was different and you only had to go half way through the pond and back. Many of the trails were rocky and covered with grass and moss which made it very difficult to go fast. The Spartan medal at the finish was very cool! Palmerton is apart of the Mountain Series so within the medal was a chain of mountains! Good call by Spartan..everyone loves unique medals! Overall Spartan held another great event at this iconic venue and I for one will surely be back!