Ahhhhh, Miami in the winter. Mid 80 degree temps, white sandy beaches, and turquoise blue water. Then the SPARTANS invaded South Florida turning Oleta River State Park into a wet and muddy Spartan Super complete with scantily clad women and bare chested men.
Gretchen and I flew from freezing cold Philadelphia into warm, bright and sunny Fort Lauderdale on Friday morning. Since we couldn't check in to our hotel until later that day we decided to take a quick peek at the race venue. With the usual white tents, red shirted volunteers, and Spartan Race signs everywhere, there wasn't a lot to see. We soon met up with Spartan superstars Andi Hardy and Jeffrey Bent and went to the beach by their hotel for some pre-race R&R. After some planking, sandy headstands and slight sunburns we made our way to our own hotel for a restless night before the race.
Morning came quickly and we met up with the usual suspects at the starting line minus a few and plus some new. Junyoung Pak, Shawn Feiok, Elliot Megquire, and David Magida were lined up elbow to elbow ready to go for the mens heat. The Saturday race was now split into Elite men starting at 8am, followed by the Elite women at 8:20. This meant that Gretchen and I wouldn't be running together, but we were fine with that. We usually end up running together for a short time before she leaves me in the dust anyway. I think that Spartan Race split the genders for all elite races now to make the points and scoring a bit easier.
I never actually saw the fire, but from all the reports after the race, there was a portion of the course in the woods that was burning. From what I was told, some runners ran right through the area thinking this was a part of the race. Once the officials realized this was happening, the race directors had to quickly reroute any runners coming up that portion of the course which cut out at least a mile of twists and turns through the woods. I was just a few minutes behind the faster runners in the lead and had no idea this was going on. When I got to the tractor pull (a cinderblock attached to a 4’ length of chain) I was surprised at how short a distance we had to pull it. Because this race was in Miami, the course was extremely flat – easily the flattest Spartan Race I’d ever run, so the pull did not seem very difficult. We were then directed to the sandbag carry just a few hundred meters down from the tractor pull. I realized something was wrong when I saw Shawn Feiok and Pak emerge from the woods and directed to the tractor pull behind me. There is no WAY I am faster than those guys. It wasn't until after the race that we figured out what had happened. The early runners went through the woods and the later runners were directed to a shorter course making the faster runners appear behind them once they emerged from the woods.
I kept going to the atlas carry/burpee station – a heavy stone you have to carry about 10 yards, put down and do 5 burpees then bring back to the other side. Next were the tire flips followed by the 8 foot walls and a longer stretch of running. We were directed to a bridge embankment near the entrance of the park where we traversed down a 30 foot decline using a rope (a new and pretty cool obstacle) where we had to fill a weighted bucket with water 3 times from a stream below and dump it into a trash can then dump back into the stream. After that we climbed the other side of the embankment with a rope and made our way towards the final stretch of the race and the last set of obstacles. At this point the sun was baking and I was glad to have my Geigerrig filled with water and electrolytes. The last set of obstacles was the rope climb, traverse wall, muddy stretch barbed wire crawl, slippery climb over the triangular wall and the gladiator pit. I was pretty disappointed that there was no tyrolean traverse, spear throw, or fire jump (controlled fire jump). From what I was told, Florida does not allow spears or controlled fires – bummer.
Gretchen and I reran the race on Sunday and the course was definitely longer by at least 1.5 miles. Both of our times on Sunday were approximately 20 minutes longer than the day before. Gretchen took an impressive 4th place on Sunday. All in all, I am glad we raced in Miami, but compared to a lot of the Spartan races around the country this seemed somewhat lacking.