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New Jersey 2018  

Eric Sirois's picture

Last weekend of April was a Spartan series race, one that is expected for many every year: The New Jersey beast / Ultra. Being the first long distance in Eastern America for the company that no longer needs presentation, the latter attracts athletes from everywhere and not necessarily only those on a quest for multiple trifecta! In addition to the beast of Saturday and Sunday, there was also the possibility to register for the Ultra, the new version of the ultra beast that wants to be longer than the latest version. A beautiful village was set up on the site with several products available, but the facilities for spectators were, in my opinion, not yet developed enough. There were two tents with chairs and tables right next to the multirig, but I would have liked to see more.

The course of the day is quite similar to previous years, even to other events combining beast and ultra in the same day: ultras starts from 6am and beast waves, a little later in the morning. It is well noted that for once, the time of the first wave was respected within a few minutes. Many will remember the 30 min delay last year. When the course layout was released a few days before the race, we could see that the ultra would once again be two laps of the beast in addition to an additional two-mile loop. Even if the organization had announced that the ultra would not necessarily be two rounds of beast, it's still what they offered us. On the other hand, the course of the beast goes from 13 miles to 15 miles. Which in all allows the ultra finishers to have completed a total of 32 miles since they had to do the extra loop on their first lap.

Let's briefly talk about this famous extra loop. It begins with a beautiful route that runs along the lake and offers a nice running section for the participants. Then, the path leads the runners to an infernal descent filled with rocks, holes and branches: a festival of twisted ankles and monumental "spill". Obviously, climbing back up was just as long with more than 1.5km of constant climb strewn with false flat here and there. The "unique" obstacles in the loop left a bad taste in runner’s mouth. The first was the worst of all: a "crawl" under bungee cords. Then there was a sled with a sandbag to pull over a short distance and finally an eight foot wall at the end of the loop. The funny thing about the loop, if we can say so, is the presence of a bird's nest directly on the running path that the bird mom fiercely defended with her strident cries. To continue the animal chronicle, did you saw the black bear who came to visit the runners? Oh yes, a mother bear and her young one force the temporary interruption of the race by the time they finish crossing the path that borrowed the runners!

The main course is well dispersed on the mountain. The climbs are not too wild even if the accumulation ended up still draining the energy of the runners. There were great running sections all along the course which allowed the participants to increase the pace following the long climbs. Even if the race was taking place in a ski center, Spartan makes a good use of the undergrowth rather than constantly sending its racers directly into the ski slope. The markup was excellent and one of the easiest to follow I had the opportunity to see at Spartan Race. By cons it was missing a sign (arrow) at a specific place, following the vertical cargo where runners went back down the mountain. Many made the mistake of continuing straight ahead rather than turning in the woods where the caution tape started again. They obviously had to turn back, going back up the section travelled to find the course! Certainly, there was no lack of water stations on the course. A total of eight stations were present on the course of the beast and an additional one in the loop of the ultras.

On the obstacle side, there were all the classics of Spartan that were there last year. The Olympus was a source of trouble for many as well as the Twister. The latter had a bypass loop as a penalty, but it was way too short, in my opinion. The one of the spears, on the other hand, was legitimate in length and difficulty. The carry of the sandbag was brutal just before the final climb of the race. The new bags that replace the pancake allow to have a greater load to carry without necessarily taxing the arms since it was possible to place the bag on the shoulders. The famous bucket carry is now closed with a lid and so it is assumed that the amount of rocks/sand is the same in all buckets. There was a new obstacle that many people were discovering for the first time: "The Armer". Which is simply a big atlas stone with a chain that must be transported on a short distance. The obstacle seems to replace the old log farmer carry. By cons, a single ball rather than two logs.

Mother Nature came to be the trouble maker for several racers while the thunder accompanied by heavy rains pouring down on the course forced the officials to temporarily close the course. Several were almost at the end and had to wait more than half an hour in a shelter too small for the amount of runners on site. They were able to resume the end of the course and finish the race a little later. If the site was filled to capacity for the race of Saturday, it was not the case for the next day. Indeed the site was virtually empty compared to the day before. Some brave souls have embarked on the course for a second day inline, even some who had completed the ultra the day before. To these, I salute you! The use of bibs to identify ultras was great because volunteers could identify racers long before they arrive at the obstacle and direct them to the lines reserved for them. A comment came back time and time again: why purple? Oh yes, the color representing the ultra is purple. In short, beautiful event, beautiful race course, but a fail on the color choice!