In the run up to another Spartan weekend, I'm reminiscing about my last adventure in Ireland and I can tell you now I am already looking forward to going back next year. The Irish weekend not just about a new venue, but a new country altogether for Spartan; so I don’t think anyone really knew what to expect but I certainly don’t think anyone was disappointed!
The venue was Punchestown racecourse which offered a very different type of terrain for Spartan, which I know a lot of people really enjoyed. The elevation was around 600ft, there was grass, horse jumps (including the water ones) as extra obstacles, and even a nice concrete stretch to really open up!
I know there will be some who will say they missed having 2000ft of elevation, however that is what made this race so exciting. Terrain like that makes for an incredibly speedy race, and watching the male elite racers made for an nail biting race, as a big group was able to stay together to vie for positions. This brought the element of surprise in to the race rankings, and made the series in the UK and Ireland a bit more interesting. Forcing racers used to hills to sprint like actual horses shows how well rounded we need to be for these events. Some will have you hiking up hills (then probably sliding on your bottom down them), some running flat out with your heart pounding out of your chest with lots of other people around you, some will be bone dry, some will have water and mud! Variety is the spice of life as they say!
For the elite and age group competitors, Ireland made for a fast, adrenaline infused race with no time to breathe with fast, flat running, long, heavy carries and a whole load of obstacles and upper body strength tests coming one after the other in a short space of time. This, in full view of all the spectators within and around the grandstand area. For spectators I think this was by far the best event Spartan UK have put on (you could see almost the whole sprint course from high up in the grandstand). This created a huge buzz for the racers as people cheered you on and places swapped like mad in the last few hundred metres. It’s certainly a feeling I will remember, and I hope it will encourage new Spartans to return.
I have to say the staff and volunteers were fantastic; they all work so hard and keep the upbeat atmosphere going all day and sorted any small problems very quickly. Spartan Phil was on usual form and I think he probably got asked for more photos with competitors than at any other race! The Irish have been missing out on him for too long. I hope the success of this race (and the draw of Spartan Phil) will encourage some of the Irish racers to come over to the UK to try one of the venues here and get to know some of our fantastic OCR community. One of my highlights of the weekend was myself and Dan meeting up with Jack Carpenter, Luke De-Benedictis and Jesse Betts in the evening after the race. The chat (and food) didn’t stop and it makes me realise how inspiring I find my fellow racers, who ultimately become friends.
So here's to widening our community reach: if you did your first Spartan in Ireland and are considering another, or just want to come have some fun and maybe learn some new skills on the way why not come and join the Mudstacle fun lap at Aston Down! There will be some Mudstacle members there along with a couple of the Mudstacle Machines team to join you on course! Craziness guaranteed!