As many of you know, I live in Portland, OR, but travel across the nation to compete in the Spartan Race Age Group series. I’ve seen all kinds of courses and experienced the little nuances that make racing in each individual venue great, but I’ve always said the Portland venue (well, Washougal, Washington) is the best one on the circuit. Yeah, it might sound biased, but believe me, it’s not.
For the eighth time, Spartan Race held its annual one-day sprint about 40 minutes from Portland, Oregon, at the Washougal Motocross Park. This was my seventh time participating in the event, and it was just as amazing as my first time in 2013. From the beautiful weather to the rolling hills, you really can’t beat the PNW in the summer. We’ll save all anguish for the Seattle Super in April.
While Spartan Race has reduced the number of more challenging obstacles like Twister, Olympus and Tire Flip at sprints to make the red-medal-race more enticing for beginners, the Portland venue offers plenty of natural trials within its strong course layout to ensure racers are put to the test.
The course started out on a fast downhill, with footing that wasn’t a sure thing. Fun fact about the Washougal Motocross Park: it hosted a national tournament for dirt bikers two weeks before. The track was torn up, with loose dirt and divots that could slow down even the fastest Spartan Pros. After the quick start and a four-foot wall, racers were dunked into the rolling mud. From there, it was a jaunt through wooded areas before hitting the Bucket Carry, which was relatively flat, but quite a bit longer than normal, and immediately into the Spear. With racing heart rates, there seemed to be a lot of competitive racers in the burpee pit for the projectile toss.
Classic obstacles were next, including the Rope Climb and Vertical Cargo, but then racers were pulled back on the motocross track. Rolling hills and unsure footing looped those courageous Spartans around the course until turning the corner and facing one of the most notorious Barbed Wire Crawls in the nation! No, it’s not a rocky uphill mountain crawl, but an extremely long crawl up and over dirt bike moguls, or small repeating hills, for about 30 yards. While this year the wires were a bit higher and the dirt a bit dryer, in previous seasons, Portland course directors have been known to instruct volunteers to soak participants with a fire hose, while muddying up the crawl, making it almost unbearable to cross. We lucked out this year!
The next challenge was Sandbag Carry, which was seated at the bottom of the tallest and steepest section of the course. This area was the starting gate last year, and has been known to host the wire crawl in previous years. Straight up and straight down with the bag, racers were feeling the burn until they finally were able to take the weight off their shoulders.
The rest of the course followed a few more ups and downs over the motocross track, then looped through another wooded area, before the Dunkwall, Slipwall and Monkey Bars.
For a fun little addition to the course, it rained before elites went off. The bars were slick for the first few heats. However, being placed immediately after the Dunk/Slipwall, made for a tremendously muddy and slick Monkey Bar experience for later age groupers and open heat participants. Even more of a challenge, the Hercules Hoist was right after the Monkey Bars, so whether or not you completed the Monkey Bars or had to do burpees, you had to take on a muddy rope challenge just before the finish line.
There was no Fire Jump for Portland, as the area has been plagued with intense wildfires over the years.
Congratulations to female and male elite winners:
1st: Megan Flanagan and Greyson Kilgore
2nd: Sara Knight and Josh Fry
3rd: Jackie Landmark and Jesse McChesney
I can’t stress enough how much fun and challenging this one-day Spartan Sprint is. The mix of terrain and amazing weather is the perfect combination that Spartan must continue to offer! There is hope that one day Spartan will add a Super or Sunday Sprint to the venue, but until then, the enthusiasm for this race day, highlighted by the always excited biggest team, Beasts OCR, will set the standard for the top races of the season.
Also, it’s great that Spartan has included its parking fee into registration. This venue is a bit off the beaten path, and due to the one-lane road into the park, has wreaked havoc on those arriving later in the morning in previous years. For this race, with the large parking lot, it was a breeze!
The only downside to this race? White Claw being served as the free adult beverage.
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This author is part of the Mud Run Crew and received a free race entry in return for an independent review. All opinions are those of the author and were not influenced by the race sponsor or Mud Run Guide.