This weekend Spartan returned to Cambridge for their second Sprint of the season. There was a lot to live up to following their incredibly successful London event (registration queues aside). By all accounts it was a really great day, all be it at a very different venue to Pippingford. The flatter terrain made it far more of a "sprint" and London’s winner Thomas Blanc proved that he can adjust to anything that Spartan can throw at him by notching up another gold at Cambridge. Well done Thomas!
Anyway, today’s story is not about the Flying Frenchman. We are very happy to introduce a long standing friend of Mudstacle, Krissie Kirby, as our guest writer for this weekend’s Cambridge Spartan. As well as writing her own blog (No More Mrs Fatty McFat), she’s a personal trainer, runs bootcamps and pole dancing classes in South Wales (see www.krissiekirby.com) and even has time to be the lead singer in a pretty darn awesome metal band called Triaxis. Basically, Krissie is beyond human, and if anyone could destroy the Spartan Cambridge course then she could. Take it away Krissie…
Fire is no match for Krissie Kirby \m/
There is nothing quite like sliding on your backside into a clay mud pit, four times in a row, in the name of fun.
Having missed the start of the UK Spartan season on August Bank Holiday weekend, I was eager to get my season under way at the Cambridge Spartan Sprint. After running my first OCR at the Midlands Sprint last year, I was excited to see what improvements and changes Spartan Race UK had made and how they had expanded the sprint. Upon hearing the reports from Pippingford Park and the London Sprint the previous weekend, I was nervously excited and more than a little apprehensive. I have to admit I’m starting to like that knotted sick feeling in my stomach before a race, and with the inclusion of a playlist full of angry metal, I was getting very pumped up for the race.
Registration for the events has improved significantly. Entry this year was far smoother and even though the car park was full to bursting when we arrived, and we arrived early, the queue to enter wasn’t too long and we were quickly processed. I have to admit I do like the new headband ‘bib’, very handy for those of us with fringes that tend to get in our eyes. The only thing that would help registration even further, is to have the signs for which queue is which over head rather than stuck to the ends of the table where they are easily obscured by the sheer volume of people. Otherwise, it’s a far smoother operation this year and was fairly quick and pain free.
You can just about catch a glimpse of winner Thomas Blanc here underneath Bruce Willis's elbow.
The spectator arena has been enhanced this year with the course following a ‘more or less’ figure eight pattern, meaning that the approximate halfway point comes back to the paddock, allowing for great scenes of the weighted pull, cargo net A frame at halfway, and the final home straight. The layout in this manner, allows races and spectators to really get into the spirit of the event, and not just leave it all to the start and finish. This is a welcomed addition, as it heightened the whole atmosphere.
The MC geared everyone up to attack the course, with the aid of Spartan UK Head coach Michael Cohen, offering up some words of advice in a fabulously over the top theatrical manner which had everyone chuckling, and really getting into the hype. A few practice burpees and a quick warm up courtesy of Michael and we were off to thunderous sounds of O Fortuna blearing from the P.A. The following account of obstacles will not be in any semblance of the order that they were laid out, mainly as I now realise why a GoPro at these events is so handy, particularly if you get asked to do a review… I know this for next time!
I need one of those mud repelling faces... where do you get them?
Cambridge was a very different animal to what I had read and heard of the London course. The course was very flat and being on an army barracks airfield and firing range, it was littered with divots in the ground making for interesting running and I dare say a few sprained ankles. That said the course itself, all seven kilometres of it, was nicely spread out and good use of the natural obstacles was made. There were few water obstacles, and no river runs at all, although there was plenty of smelly mud. The site has some wonderful copse runs with fallen logs and natural dips and climbs, giving a great variety of terrain. And although the course was fairly flat, the event team had done a great job of including a vast array of man made rises of mud/soil/shale. The standard Spartan obstacles of the spear throw (this year with proper spears, making embedding them in the hay bail more likely), barbed wire crawl, ice pit and fire jump were included but the ammo box carry, tyre drag and water pail carry were welcomed additions.
The first half of the race included a low bridge crawl, copse runs, natural rises, the usual hay bail jumps just to keep us on our toes across some of the long open running sections, ammo box carry, lots of ditch jumping and spear throw. The guess that we were not far from half way through came when we saw the straight of Over, Under and Through walls. The first high wall of around seven foot was a nice warm up for what was to come later, but you could hear the cheers and music from the spectator paddock clearly from this point. Once back on the edge of the paddock came the weighted pull, with the option of a lighter weight for the ladies (yes, I took on the boys), and the first of my four nemeses, the cargo net climb. I loathe heights but nothing was stopping me and over I went. And we were off running again.
This years bigger & better cargo net climb
Leaving the cheers behind, with an enormous sense of achievement in mind, the second half included the tyre drag, water pail carry, more hay bails to jump, various man made mounds for running with a variety of extra weight such as large rocks and sandbags, another through wall and the nine foot wall (which after a few attempts at being hoisted over by the other half, I finally made it without using the blocks.) It also included the barbed wire crawl into the now melted ice pit which undulated into 3 further muddy pits, forcing me to say to hell with dignity and slide on my arse into the awaiting murky soup. Great fun!
The rope climb was included (I believe it is a staple for this year’s races) but unfortunately there wasn’t a knotted rope option for those of us who suck at our technique to complete it (and no, climbing a pole isn’t the same). Perhaps future races can include the option of knotted and unknotted ropes, so the racer has the choice. The first of my honour burpees were forced as the ropes where caked in mud making getting any purchase impossible. I don’t mind, as I genuinely love burpees, the evil little blighters they are! The barbed wire crawl into the ice pit and through the undulating mud baths followed, it made the dip walk very slippery once reached, causing a number of us to lose our grip and once again opt for the burpees. Thankfully for me these were the only two occasions that burpees were called for, and I know what I need to work on for future races.
One of several Spartan walls
Finally running through the car park, between the two beautifully wrapped Spartan Nightliners and the home straight brought us back around to the spectator paddock with the final obstacles of the monkey bars (I must say a huge thank you to the crowd for giving me the much-needed energy to get through the monkey bars, without their roar I’m sure it would have been burpees 61-90), the fire jump, slippery wall, and finally the signature Gladiators wielding their pugil sticks.
All in all, a great variety of obstacles and excellent use of the terrain made for a great race. The race still has the issue with queues at obstacles in the later heats, but I’m not sure that there will ever be a solution for that issue unless the heats are limited to number of runners, or the obstacles are widened (unless of course they are natural). It is something that I feel will be a perpetual problem, and the only real solution is to get there early and run with the first two packs or final two packs.
I'm not sure who's more scared here! 😀
Pippingford’s top man, Thomas Blanc once again claimed victory in the elite heat, with a winning time of 37mins 18secs showing that although this course was flatter, faster and slightly shorter, it was still enough of a challenge. I’m now looking forward to Ripon this weekend, bring it on! AROO!
Thanks so much for such a great write up Krissie and good luck in Yorkshire this weekend!