Earlier this season, I read a fascinating article on proper race nutrition. It described what to eat before, during, and after a race. This article came to mind about a half hour after my son and I ate our pre-race lunch up at the Tri-State NJ Sprint yesterday. We just started our warm-ups and I wondered why I felt kind of groggy. Never mind that we got up at 0530, drove three hours to the venue, then waited in the cold for our noon corral. This just felt…different, familiar, like after Thanksgiving dinner. I told my son, who is studying exercise science in college, to remember this day and this lesson. Like the article said, don’t eat a big turkey sandwich before a race.
I’m pretty sure that was a first (and a last for me). Fortunately, I think the pre-race jitters held the turkey tryptophan torpids at bay. This was my last race of the season and I still had a big goal to achieve. I’d been placing top ten all year whether in AG or Open class. I wanted top three. Would this be the day, or would the turkey narc put me down?
The race held a few more firsts for me. It was my first time at this venue. I loved it. The ride up was gorgeous, just past prime for fall colors. VIP parking was right across the street and multiple shuttles regularly took athletes to and from the remote parking area. We walked right up to registration (which as I reported back in July is now extremely efficient as long as the internet is up), got our packets, then walked into the festival area, checked things out, and took pictures.
This was a very compact location containing the festival, multiple obstacles, kid’s race, and vendors all within a very tight base camp. That made it very convenient to find friends (of whom I spotted none, a first for me in seven years of racing), food, family spectators, and fast racers zooming through the course. The layout was prime for optimal race viewing whether at the finish area gauntlet or just across the way at the two-mile mark for the dunk wall.
That obstacle was another first for me. I paid attention to seasoned racers who had some advice about cold water swims at Tahoe. Spartan paid attention too and shut down the Dunk for early periods of the Super. Although it was open for the Sprint by the time I got on the course (a first time for me running the last heat of the day), I still tripped down to my skivvies, put my stuff in a dry sack, and took the plunge. It felt really good to put dry clothes on and finish the last two miles in relative comfort.
So good in fact that I really opened it up for the second half of the race. One more big climb after the dunker, then all the heavy carries. But first there was the barbed wire crawl. I had it all to myself. I thanked the volunteer and commented on the nice shiny wire. He told me it was also electrified. What? Did Spartan go TM on us? He dared me to touch the wire. Of course I did. But he was shocked. He said I was the first person all day who actually touched it. Everyone else was afraid and stayed really low. I zoomed through.
This was my first year of racing without injury or souvenirs. Richard Diaz calls this bullet-proof running. I’d have to say the things he taught me back in his March clinic worked. That was a major goal of mine especially after my 2016 ACL surgery and recovery. But even more important this year was competing with and against my son. This was his rookie season and we had a blast together.
Thankfully he waited for me at the finish line, not just to cheer me on but also to see how well he beat me. At Palmerton it was by a mere 30 seconds. This time it was about six minutes. But he had one more key job to fulfill. I crossed the line, and for the first time in seven years of OCR, I lost my chip. My son marked my time. I told the finish line volunteer what happened and asked her what to do. She told me to see a Staff member. They told me to see someone in the Results tent. My son corroborated my time while they checked to see when my last chip registration occurred. Looked like it came off under the barbed wire.
The volunteers were abundant on the course. I talked to a lot of them, thanked them, and truly appreciated their ability to do their jobs for a very long and cold day. Although they were well-prepared with winter clothing, fuel (courtesy of Spartan), and support, it was still tough weather to bear on the north face of the mountain. I noted Garfield Griffith’s (Spartan Race Director) abundant praise for the volunteers too.
Unlike years past, aside from the cold, it was optimal racing weather conditions for the Sprint. The view from the top of the mountain was spectacular and I stopped for a second to take it in, wishing I had a camera. The Mountain Series of Spartan are my favorite and I’m thankful that most of them are on the East Coast. Perhaps next year I will finally get to Killington. I just hope that FitAid continues to sponsor Spartan because I don’t know what I’d do without them, even ice cold on a day like this, at the finish line. (Racers could also get a banana and some kind of peanut protein bar (I can’t do peanuts.))
Congratulations Spartan Race on putting on some great venues this year. For the many firsts at this particular race, Mud Run Guide is proud to bestow five stars.
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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.