Spartan Palmerton is, perhaps, best summed up by a woman I ran into on the course — hauling a bucket of rocks up a steep incline yelling a certain four-letter word with every single step. Five minutes later, she was helping me complete the Hercules Hoist because my back strength was beyond shot.
At the end of the day, this is what I love about the Spartan Race. As tough as the course is — I may or may not have used the word sadistic at one point — you’re surrounded by hundreds of people who are just trying to be a little faster, a little stronger, a little better than they were yesterday. And there is more than enough helping hands to go around.
The Race Day
I had the great pleasure of being joined by the amazing Becca Rhebergen — the Kit Cox to my Kelly Sue DeConnick. The ardent supporter of me getting off my butt and actually doing things. We hopped in the car just before 8 am to make the trek out to the Blue Mountain Ski Resort, with only a pitstop for carbs and caffeine on the way.
Luckily, we avoided any major thunderstorms, but that pre-storm humidity was heavy in the air and the sun was intense even at 10 am when we arrived at the site. With a high of 90 degrees, at one point I saw two racers duck off the course to buy an ice cream from a stand set up for the spectators! Well, that’s one way to get your carbs!
The heat and subsequent dehydration was definitely a major factor in the race. One racer took a nasty downhill spill when his calf cramped up mid-stride. Stay hydrated, loves, and don’t forget your electrolytes!
The upside? The resort had its snowmakers going in a few locations, delivering a refreshing mist along the route.
As much up-the-mountain-down-the-mountain as there was in Tuxedo Ridge, Palmerton was even more intense. The first mile was straight up the mountain, which was deceptively high in many areas. In my naivete, I thought that the half-hour slog would end up being my slowest mile. How young and innocent I was in the early hours of the race!
Palmerton proved to be an exciting course, with adventures beyond the installed obstacles. One upward portion required a rope to climb up the muddy banks. Another section of the mountain had racers clambering down large — sometimes unstable! — rocks and boulders, a recipe for a twisted ankle if you did not step carefully.
The second trip up the length of the mountain was physically more challenging than that first mile, but luckily it was completely through the shaded woods. At that point, I was not even looking to see if I could reach the top. When you have that far to go, all you can do is keep your head down, watch where you’re putting your foot, and focus on the next step.
If you are planning on going to Palmerton in 2019 or any other time in the future — make sure you get your climbing in and have good ankle support.
Longer race. More obstacles.
I did not anticipate making any great improvements considering there had only been 6 weeks between Tuxedo and Palmerton. I failed many of the same obstacles. Despite some extra help from Coach Bhakti Patel at Crossfit Hoboken, I still couldn’t manage the rope climb.
But I still managed to surprise myself a couple of times! I lost to some old foes — Z-Wall and Multi-rig, I am looking at you — but managed to get further than I ever had before. And shockingly the slip wall — which directly followed the dunk wall, like I said, sadistic! — only needed a single attempt to get up and over.
My favorite obstacle that I encountered for the first time was the Bender — a series of vertical monkey bars that slanted backwards. Some people had the ability to just jump and pull themselves up and over. I, on the other hand, felt like a kid on the jungle gym, turning myself upside down to get my legs up and then slowly inching my way to the top to get up and over.
Metal bars leave epic bruises.
The biggest relief of the race was the swim! Some time between miles 6 and 7, was a nice trek through water that came up to my shoulders. I don’t think I saw anyone actually swim the length of it, but my joints were so relieved to just float a little bit. This was immediately followed by Rolling Mud, leaving everyone complaining that the muddy water should have come before the marginally cleaner water!
The worst part of the race was the sandbag carry, down and up a steep portion of the mountain early in mile 2. I definitely fell and feared that I had damaged by knee but luckily everything was okay. Not only was the weight difficult to bear but the path felt very unsteady and had me moving slower than usual.
“That sandbag carry was brutal!” said the guy in the Finisher shirt at Red Robin. Clearly, Spartans know where to go for burgers when the race is done. Our waitress told us she was going to be doing the Sprint the next day, her very first! I left her a nice tip and some words of encouragement. Aroo!
Lessons Learned & Next Steps
I need to make a few investments before my next race! First I need some trail shoes as opposed to my Nike Zooms. I need some more stability in my ankle and I am planning on some compression for my knee as well. I did not reinjure myself, but it definitely became sore as the race went on and became a distracting factor.
The beer at the end of the race is 100% worth it. I never felt the need to grab my free beer after any of my Sprints, but at the end of the Super? FRAK YEAH. Gimme that Coors.
By all accounts, it looks like the Dallas races tend to be fairly flat with rolling hills at most. Thank goodness! I am done with mountains for now.
I’ve actually snuck in another Sprint at West Point with a team from Crossfit Hoboken, so that should be fun! It’ll be a nice detour from going it on my own.
How can you support the last leg of Trail to Trifecta?
My goal is to raise $1200 for travel for my Spartan Beast in Dallas on October 27th.
Also, you can sign up for your own Spartan Race. Save 10% off when you use the code FINISH10.
Lenny & Larry’s Protein Cookies. 15% off your first order with code – BA100084.
The links below (and above) will get you some goodies, and get me a small commission to help towards the goal at no added cost to you.
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