Spartan Race Cambridge Sprint Sept 2015

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Trek and Run were supported during this event by;

Salba Chia 

Columbia Sportswear

&

Helly Hansen

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By Stuart Obbard and Dave Sherman

The Cambridgeshire Spartan Sprint took place on Saturday 5th September 2015 at Elton Hall, located on the border of Peterborough and Cambridgeshire. This site is situated in a 3,800 acre estate owned by the head of the National Trust, and Trek and Run entered 5 runners in two separate heats. The course is described as 5km+ in distance with 15 obstacles and billed as ideal for new and seasoned Spartans looking to set a personal best.

As you arrive on site the first thing you see is The Hall, a huge Gothic House, situated next to the parking area and as we parked the helpful Spartan crew were full of smiles as they greeted us. As we headed towards the race village plenty of other racers were getting kitted up. As we’re used to at OCR’s the range of people racing was vast with ages ranging from 15 upwards, and people of all shapes and sizes. These races really are for everyone.

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Checking into the race was easy and the process took no time at all, and before you could say “I am a Spartan” we had our headbands, chip timers and wrist bands. A number of obstacles surrounded the race village so we could see large parts of the course, and it was clear just how spectator friendly this course was as they could pretty much walk round the entire course to see you attacking the majority of the obstacles. The support at these points helps push people that little further and helps get the adrenaline going that little bit more.

As the Sprint is only a short course, it hits the body hard from the start to incorporate the 15 obstacles and you could see in the distance that even the running parts involved plenty of hills! After a brief warm up and the traditional Spartan speech and cries of “Aroo! Aroo!” we set off and were immediately going over a set of energy sapping 4 foot walls!

The rest of the course involved slogging through boggy ditches and over mounds of mud, balance posts (penalty burpees if you touch the floor!), a swim through the freezing cold River Nene, and of course plenty of carries including; builders buckets filled with rocks, sandbags and huge logs. Of course the usual Spartan staples were there including monkey bars, spear throw, Herculean hoist, loads of barbed wire, the 25ft rope climb and Spartan’s new Z-shaped traverse wall and of course the fire jump just before we crossed the finish line. We later learnt the course was closer to 6 km and it definitely felt like more than 15 obstacles but who’s counting.

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To discover how our team members found the route and the event as a whole we asked them a few questions about their experience…

Having raced an OCR before, how did this race leave you feeling after finishing?

Laura – This has been my favourite OCR so far. I raced the Cambridge Sprint last year and loved it but the new location this year allowed for a lot more to be packed into the route. It was a beautiful location and the sun came out which just added my good mood. I think the course was tougher than last year but because of that I felt a greater sense of accomplishment when we finished.

Vijay – Having raced an OCR before, how did this race leave you feeling after finishing? This was the shortest distance I had done for an Obstacle Race so I wasn’t running as far as I normally would throughout it. However, they made up for it with the obstacles, for a short race they had so many obstacles! I didn’t feel too bad when I’d finished but I still had a few aches the next day!

Steve – As somewhat of an obstacle race veteran, I was feeling an unusual level of achievement upon finishing. I feel that through focusing more on the obstacles themselves and the best ways to overcome each one, I was able to appreciate and enjoy each one a lot more. Also, the fact that I was able to complete each obstacle first time (avoiding any burpee penalties) was a real morale boost.

Stu – I personally felt like I had been pushed hard, my body is aching and I am wondering how I will get around the Beast in a few weeks.

Dave – I started this race feeling sluggish and not in the slightest bit prepared (I wasn’t supposed to be running but took a team member’s place who dropped out the day before) but I finished feeling really happy I’d taken part and over the moon I’d managed to complete every single obstacle without incurring any penalty burpees – flawless victory!

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Favourite part of the course?

Laura – Loved the swim even though it was freezing. I think having a proper swim in an OCR is something that little bit different so it makes the event more interesting. It’s also nice to wash off most of the mud.

Vijay – I always like something a bit unique at these events and the one I was looking forward to was the spear throw, what’s more Spartan than that!! Now I would have happily made this my favourite bit except I missed the target. The race marshal at this obstacle said I could go double or quits on another attempt (the double been twice as many burpees as a forfeit); I ended up walking away with 120 burpees to do! So I can’t make this my favourite. Instead, for my favourite part, this is the first event I have ever had to jump over fire which, come on, is pretty freaking awesome!

Steve – I really enjoyed the strength-based obstacles such as the rope-climb and monkey bars. For some miraculous reason, the metal monkey bars were not all wet and slippery as is usually the case on obstacle races. Their placement was also well spaced out across the race to give you a regular reminder that this course was going to keep on taking.

Stu – The 8 foot and 10 foot walls, these have been a struggle in the past but today my technique was spot on. These were also after the Atlas stones which are a favourite of mine.

Dave – The whole course was well laid out with runs between most obstacles offering a chance to recover ready for the next strength drainer, however I really enjoyed the muddy sections and ditch runs and as sadistic as it sounds, the lake swim offered a change from your typical OCR event.

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Any sections of the course you didn’t enjoy so much?

Laura – I don’t have the best upper body strength so I really struggle with the rope climb and monkey bars. I’ve never been able to do them and even though I gave them a try on the off chance I don’t like the feeling that I’m just wasting time even trying. On the whole though there were only 3 obstacles that I didn’t manage so not actually that bad in the grand scheme of things.

Vijay – To be honest there’s nothing I can think of that I didn’t enjoy. If I had to pick something I guess I’ve never been the biggest fan of barbed wire, but mainly because it slows you down as you navigate around it. But I really didn’t mind it to be honest.

Steve – As much as I enjoy jumping into mud and swimming in obstacle races, I felt as if on both occasions I found myself stuck behind people who were moving much slower that I would have liked to, which was rather frustrating. In fact on the swimming section I found myself stuck behind two men swimming alongside one another (thus making overtaking an impossibility) who literally seemed incapable of swimming and should really have opted out and done the burpees.

Stu – I struggled at the Monkey bars and on the rope climb today due to a shoulder injury. So for me it was burpee time.

Dave – I really didn’t like the barbed wire on this course as there was so much of it and it was spread wide so it hung quite low. At one point another participant flew past me and the wire snagged on his shorts, was pulled to its limit, then flew back hitting me straight in the face! Not Spartan race’s fault obviously, but avoidable if the wire had been a bit more taut!

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What was your personal highlight?

Laura – The barbed wire was lots of fun. I pretty much rolled my way through and apart from snagging my ponytail a couple of times I made it through unscathed. Also the muddy trenches near the beginning that you needed to take a run up to get over were really worrying to watch as loads of people were getting stuck and slipping back down but I made it over all 3 first time so was really pleased.

Vijay – I liked a lot of the obstacles at Spartan and I enjoyed the whole event so this might sound a bit of a cop-out but for me, the highlight was that we did not really having to queue for anything. I have had a few events this year where I’ve spent far too long stood still getting cold waiting to get onto an obstacle and at Spartan I didn’t have that anywhere. As soon as we turned up we got straight through registration, straight into our wave barely any waiting at obstacles. So that was an all round highlight for me. That and funky looking branded sand bags…which just looked cool.

Steve – As I’ve already mentioned, completing each obstacle first time was a personal highlight, but course-wise I really liked the location and layout of the race itself. The scenic backdrop juxtapositioned by the punishment of the race itself seemed almost poetic.

Stu – Getting over both the 8 foot and 10 foot walls using the leg hook technique, these came near the end of the course when I started to tire as well.

Dave – I’m torn between the rope climb and the monkey bars… I’ve struggled with these two obstacles in the past but loads of practice and effort meant that on the day I flew up the rope and across the bars! Perseverance pays off!

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Any advice for future Spartan Racers?

Laura – Definitely do it! It’s so much fun and it really is something that you can achieve no matter your fitness level. Some people run alone and some go in teams and drag each other over, under or through things but make the race your own and enjoy it.

Vijay – Obviously getting in the training before the event helps and Spartan Races have workout plans on their website you can follow before race day. But if you’ve trained enough or not my advice would be, do it at a steady pace for yourself and enjoy it! There are so many great obstacles and they are fun so just take it in and have fun.

Steve – My biggest advice would be to practice lifting your body weight. You’ll have no chance at avoiding burpees on the rope-climb or the other bar-related obstacles without a degree of skill in holding up your body weight. There are plenty of techniques to make it easier so my advice would be to practice them and find what works well for you.

Stu – Trail shoes are a must and consider what you are wearing to race in. You will be getting wet and too many clothes will weigh you down

Dave – Definitely do these events as part of a team if possible (even if only a team of 2) and wait for each other – some of you might be better at certain obstacles than others! Attempt everything, have a laugh, enjoy the experience and take home some awesome Spartan memories!

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To find out more about Spartan Race UK, visit: http://spartanraceuk.uk/

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