The first Spartan Ultra in the United States was this weekend in Vernon New Jersey. The Ultra consists of 2 laps of the Beast with an additional 4 mile Ultra only loop added on. There were also 4 additional obstacles on this loop, for a total of 65 obstacles. Because of the length of the loop, you only had to do it on your first lap. The mileage count varies, but most people seemed to agree that it was about 32 miles in total.
After you had completed your first lap, you are able to enter a transition area where you can access a drop bin you have placed before the race starts. In it you would typically have water, fuel, and any other supplies you may deem necessary. Most people have an extra pair of shoes and socks in there, in case something happens to the starting pair. Also you would want a small first aid kid since you would not be able to receive any medical aid during the race without suffering a DNF (Did Not Finish). No one besides racers are allowed in the transition area, and between the 2 laps is the only time you would access it. You are able to stay there as long as you want, however the time cutoff was 2:30 pm. If you were still there at that time, you would be a DNF. You do not get a Beast Finisher medal for completing 1 lap. There were also 2 other obstacle time cutoffs that you had to beat in order to not be pulled off the course.
The Ultra starts at 6am for the Elites, 615 for AG, and 630 for Open. The venue closes at 9pm, so any racers still out on the course at this time would be a DNF. The course gets dark very quickly, so Headlamps are required after around 5 or so o’clock. Packet pickup starts at 2pm Friday during Open House. You can also pick it up Saturday morning starting at 5am.
Mountain Creek Resort is home to a lot of skiing and outdoor activities. It has a large venue area on the side of the mountain. Almost all of the venue area is outside, there is very little inside the resort itself. Because of this weather does play a big factor. There were several Vendors there and more than enough room to walk around. It did rain most of the day Friday and Sunday, so the venue area was pretty muddy
One new addition this year was a large Merch tent right after the registration area. This was pretty nice because you could try on all the new Craft gear that is out, rather than have to wait in long lines just to see an item you were interested in purchasing. Some of the Craft gear is pretty top-notch fitness apparel, and there were a lot of items to choose from.
However because of were the venue area is located, there isn’t much for spectators to do. On the right hand side the spectators can see the race start and end. The middle area has the Rolling Mud and Dunk Wall. The left has the Herc Hoist and the Rope Climb. If you journeyed up the hill you could see Twister. Due to the length of this course, any spectators hoping to see their friends race will have a pretty big gap between times they are in view. You would be able to see them at the Start, Mile 6, and then Mile 13.
So Vernon is not the best venue to be at if you’re planning on spectating the whole day. Make sure to bring a book or something to entertain yourself while you wait.
At this race, several obstacles were labeled as “Beast Mode”. For instance, Vertical Cargo had a platform in front of it that you had to get over. Twister was 3 full sections. The Monkey Bars were quite far in distance, and the Multi-Rig was a good mixture of rings, short ropes, and a bar. I had never seen this before, and it was nice to have some new challenges.
Also this is the first time any of us in the Northeast had a chance to try out some of the new obstacles like: Beater, Helix, and the Box. All 3 were unique and had their own challenges to them. It was good to see some new stuff at the race, since the last 2 years had been the same obstacles.
The course was well-marked, and there was never any spots were you would be unsure which way to go. There was also a water station about every mile and a half, so staying hydrated was pretty easy.
The course directors were pretty brutal in their design. They used every inch of ascent on this mountain. Most calculations were around 11,000 feet of combined elevation for the Ultra. They made it feel like you were always climbing uphill. Despite all the rain, the ground wasn’t a muddy sloppy mess, except for a few sections. Obviously by the time you would go through for the second lap, the conditions were a little worse, but never any major issues. I had a great time and it was a very well done race
However, there were still a few issues with the Ultra. First, the parking lot that was the closest to the venue was closed for some unknown reason, which caused a lot of confusion among racers. Still not sure why this was the case.
Also Bag check was closed for the Ultra racers. So this lead to a lot of space being taken up in the transition area with not only drop bins, but also bags. Now I was told that I should have been aware of this because it was written in the Ultra racers handbook. However, if this was the case, why did we still have to pay the $3 bag check fee if we couldn’t actually use bag check?
During my second lap, several of the water stations had actually run out of water. Sorry, but no excuse for this, especially with the length of this course. I finished well before any cutoffs, so I’m sure it got even worse later in the day. Also, only one food vendor for this race? Cmon, give us more options, especially since there is nowhere to eat for miles!
This race was a lot tougher than the same one held at this venue last year. Despite the fact that the course map was almost the same, it seemed to have added elevation. The weather was also a factor, as there were some extreme 30-40 mph wind gusts throughout the race. The water was so cold that in the afternoon, the water obstacles were closed due to several racers getting hypothermia.
As you can imagine, the DNF race was pretty high for this race. Some groups as high as 40%. So if you earned your buckle, big congrats to you!
Lastly, if you are a female racing the Ultra, please consider racing Age group. Of the 8 Age Groups above 18 for this race, 4 of them had 5 or less racers. Some were so small, as long as you finished you got a podium spot! So it’s a great chance for a female racer to earn an extra medal!
Thanks again for reading my race review. Feel free to send me any questions or comments you may have. I look forward to seeing everyone at the next race!