Palmerton Spartan Super
Going into the Palmerton Spartan Race Super marked my one year anniversary racing an NBC elite event when I came out of nowhere as the dark horse to finish 3rd. Looking back on the past year I still can’t believe I’m able to live out this dream of mine being a professional athlete and represent the United States of American as the defending Spartan Race World Champion. It’s truly a blessing. I want to thank everyone who supports and motivates me to keep pushing my limits.
After the level of difficulty put into Palmerton last year I knew this year would be equally as difficult or harder with that added level of heat and humidity. I was excited to learn that all the previous world champions would be toeing the line; Jonathan Albon, Cody Moat, Hobie Call, and me. To my knowledge that many previous world champs have never races together. This Spartan Race Super was building up to be an epic battle along with Ryan Atkins who is the current US National Championship Series leader and Hunter McIntyre back in a strong way after focusing on Boundless much of last season. However, despite taking down Atkins at BF Utah and posting on his FB page “I am going to win the NBC Spartan race in Pennsylvania on July 16th because no one thinks I can”, Hobie Call was nowhere near the start on race day.
That morning I was feeling a little sluggish after putting in some hard weeks after Monterey, but that’s what’s made this season so difficult with the championship series; figuring out when to really back off and when to train trough a race. However, for me this race was do or die as far as winning the series since Atkins had already won the first two races. I wasn’t going to give anything less than 100%.
We started the race on a hill and continued up the mountain to the spear throw right out the gate. I knew this would be a hard one with a high heart rate coming off the climb so I took my time and made sure to nail it. However, I probably took a little too much time b/c I went from first to fourth with Albon, Woods, and Moat passing me. Although, this was still early in the race so no big deal and I didn’t see Atkins anywhere, but I already knew he was waiting for the carries to attack.
I fought the downhill as best I could to catch back up to Albon who was leading, but his downhill and overall running abilities are incredible. However, I was able to get all the time lost back on bucket brigade before again losing about 40 seconds to Albon on the massive decent to the z-walls. It wasn’t until I finished the plate drag right after that I saw Atkins for the first time as he sat down on the same lane I had just completed so I knew I only had about 25 seconds tops. I tried to motivate myself to close the gap to Albon during the barbed wire craw right after the monkey bars, but since it was uphill you actually had to do a proper high crawl. No time was lost or gained and Atkins wasn’t moving up either, but I knew we had another uphill climb coming up to the bucket and I really needed to put more of a gap between us.
I put in a surge to try and real Albon back in, but in the process probably put in more effort than I wanted. When we got to the sand bag Jonathan had about a 40 second lead on me and it looked like Atkins had dropped back a couple spots. I grabbed the two 50lb bags and darted downhill taking a bit of risk, but it paid off as I was already passing Albon before we got to the turnaround point. I looked up at the black diamond ski hill appropriately named “nightmare” I was about to climb and thought; this one obstacle is probably going to decide the outcome of the entire race. I knew Atkins and Hunter were going to make big gains and I was right. They went from not being in the top 5 to first and third respectively. I felt like I had a good carry considering and held on to second place with Atkins just a stone’s throw ahead. However, at the time I was totally exhausted and my heart rate was at its max of 200bpm according to my TomTom Spark.
I tried running to the herc hoist but that wasn’t really happening since I needed a bit of recovery and it was only about 40m away from the end of the sandbag carry. I was able to muscle through the hoist and headed after Atkins. What I wasn’t expecting is to not see him after dropping down on a short decent through the woods. Well once I calmed down a bit after the sandbag right into the hoist I realize that I had gone off course. I was in full panic mode, not only had I given Atkins a huge lead, but I thought that Hunter had probably gone by as well and I was now in third. Once I got back up to the hoist I saw that Hunter was still there so I had cut a two minute gap into about 30 seconds since my GPS calculation was 1:19 off course.
Frustrated, I headed back uphill and hit the O-U-T as I watched Atkins climbing the Stairway to Sparta. I really wanted to battle it out for first but now I was playing the game of looking over my shoulder to make sure Hunter wasn’t getting close. We hit some really rocky and rough terrain on the decent so there wasn’t a whole lot of room to gain any ground thanks to Norm. I did have a little concern for gauntlet of obstacles waiting for us at the bottom to include the new Spartan Apehanger, but knowing I didn’t have to rush through them was a bit of a relief.
I got to the swim and could still see Atkins but it wasn’t much of a swim since the water was shallow enough to touch the entire way. I pushed forward through the Tyrolean Traverse and headed down to the new Apehanger obstacle. At first I wasn’t sure what to expect, but had the opportunity to watch Ryan the entire time as I ran down the hill. It seemed the hardest part was the incline up and it was all downhill from there. However, when I got close I realized the rope was much smaller and a bit slicker than normal, but nothing a foot lock couldn’t handle and I was up in two pulls. I hit the bell just as Hunter was climbing the rope and stared to pick up the pace a bit since we still had the rope climb, log carry, and Spartan Rig before the finish.
As I approached the log carry Ryan was already at the bottom making his way up and I knew he had the race won at that point. I ran as far as I could down and back uphill with the log on my shoulder while keeping Hunter in sight. I knew the rig was a little harder than normal with the addition of baseballs, ropes, and two traverse pipes but I didn’t put in all that work to take third. I got to the bell and made my way to the finish still disappointed in myself for making a wrong turn at the top but with the amazing field of athletes racing, it was an honor to take second.
I beat feet over to the Ascent Protein tent for my 25g of native fuel to help recover my muscles and went for a quick cool down before heading into the Spartan Endurance Hurricane Heat. After Chicago I knew it was going to be another long night with little to no sleep before I was back at it again for the Sprint in the morning.
Palmerton Spartan Endurance Hurricane Heat
The Hurricane Heat was another awesome experience and I earned another piece to my Spartan delta. It’s one of those events you have to get out there and do to truly appreciate it. We went through some challenging moments and great team building events. After holding a bucket over my head for almost the entire time I’ll have to say that I don’t use those muscles enough so thanks to the Krypteia for identifying that. Although, my big takeaway was remembering why I do what I do.
One of our tasks before showing up was to write our “why” in the bottom of our bucket and any time throughout the night if we felt like quitting we had something to remind us that it wasn’t an option. We ended the Hurricane Heat by carrying a full bucket of murky pond water down the mountain and got to dump it over our heads, a great way to cool off after a long hot day. But more importantly a reminder to sometimes empty your bucket from whatever obstacle is blocking you from seeing your “why”.
Palmerton Spartan Race Sprint
After the Hurricane Heat all I could think about was food, but there wasn’t much open so I hit the local Sonic next to the hotel for a midnight snack. I showered and got about four hours of sleep which was more than I was expecting, but still a kick in the teeth after the day I had. I wanted to hit the course hard again, but realized it might be best to back off a bit and use it as more of a training day. Well sometimes that easier said than done and before I knew it I was in a battle with Angel Quintero.
Throughout the course we changed the lead a few times. I made it to the top of the mountain first, but Angel was right on my heels. We both made the spear, but I just didn’t have the speed I needed on the downhill to keep the lead. I held onto first through the buckey carry, but Quintero passed me about half way down the mountain and already had a good lead going into the barbed wire. I tried to close the gap but it just wasn’t happening; he wanted it more.
The gap to the next group of guys was already at about three minutes so I thought it best to just step off the gas to prevent a possible injury. For the rest of the race I really focused on obstacle technique, especially on the new Apehanger and some other obstacles I feel I can improve on. Angel pushed on to a well deserved victory and I was again humbled to take 2nd two days in a row with a Hurricane Heat sandwiched in the middle.
A big thanks to all my sponsors who make it possible for me to represent the USA at Spartan Race and other OCR events. Ascent Protein: for rapidly helping to rebuild muscle with the new benchmark in protein purity. HyperWear: for the one of a kind Hyper Vest Pro and SandBells keeping me ready for those heavy carries. CeraSport: for electrolyte support. Tailwind Nutrition: for fueling me during the Spartan Endurance Hurricane Heat. WearBands: for the great resistance system keeping my legs strong. Mudgear: for the best socks. Reebok: for the all-terrain Super ORs keeping me in contact with the ground.