Spartan Games 2.0 Presented by U.S. Air Force Special Warfare pits 16 elite athletes against each other in the ultimate test of fitness. The five-part series airs weekly on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET. You can watch each episode on Outside TV, SpartanTV, and Spartan YouTube.
This season's first day of events primed the 16 elite athletes for competition with despicable weather, heavy weights, and a swim that some just couldn't complete. Day 2 allowed for many of the endurance-based athletes to open up their stride, put their blinders on, and get into a groove. But Day 3 — more than halfway through the competition — officially began to wear the competitors down.
While some began to battle nagging injuries (half from rocky Barbed Wire Crawls, others from imparting personal record running mileage on their bodies), the Games' lengthiest day of events was just getting started — this season's only three-event day.
Spartan Games 2.0: Day 3
Much like the ancient Spartans, the athletes kicked off the early morning with a sport virtually as old as time: wrestling. Matched entirely at random, the women entered the Spartan Combat pit first to take one another on, one-on-one, followed by the men.
Challenge 1: Spartan Combat
With weight divisions being logistically out of the question and last season's round-based system being eliminated, the Spartan Combat event pitted athletes of differing weights, sizes, and statures against one another in single-elimination style.
Despite tossing and turning throughout the night over the knowledge that she'd be wrestling three-time CrossFit Games individual qualifier Meg Reardon, Corinna Coffin persevered to the finals, eventually beating out ultra runner Kris Rugloski — a surprising additional to the culminating round. And while Hunter McIntyre had expected to dominate the wrestling game — even expressing his desire to "f****** twist [Ryan Kent] up into a pretzel" — it was four-time Tactical Games Champion and Spartan Games newcomer Tim Simansky (possibly avenging a busted eyebrow) who ultimately overtook the self-assured reigning Hyrox World Champion in the pit.
"At that moment, I was thinking, 'Wow, this is what Spartan Games is all about,'" David Watson, Spartan's Vice President of Product, said.
Challenge 2: Multi-Stage Fitness "PACER" Test
After dusting off the dirt from the early-morning challenge, the athletes laced up their sneakers to — as Watson put it — run their guts out.
An event many may remember as the most puke-inducing day of physical education class, the multi-stage fitness PACER test is designed to test participants' aerobic capacity by having them repeatedly run a 20-meter distance between increasingly-fast beep tones. Beginning at Level 1, the time between beeps shortens every 20 meters. If an athlete cannot cover the distance by the time the second beep is heard, they have one final chance to make it to the line on time before being eliminated.
While all of the women made it to at least Level 6 and the men to Level 8, many of the strength-focused female athletes began to peter out past that mark, leaving some of the strictly-endurance and hybrid athletes to, once again, shine.
At Level 12, Lindsay Webster and Lauren Weeks remained neck and neck before Webster — who felt as though she actually could have gone just a bit harder — underestimated her remaining time and, having missed two beeps in a row, was eliminated.
The men's PACER was a battle of the Ryans through Level 14, with Atkins beating out Kent by just four runs. But after being eliminated at Level 12, both Veejay Jones and McIntyre were scorned by what they felt was a lack of judging integrity. But with Jones failing to get his foot across the line in time and McIntyre leaving the line before the appropriate beep sounded (yes, even when you "see the tape"), the event's standings were upheld.
Challenge 3: La Ruta Mountain Biking
After a long day of blood, sweat, and tears (literally), the 16 athletes geared up for the day's final event: La Ruta mountain biking.
The Spartan Games 2.0 La Ruta challenge — named after the Costa Rican-born event by the same name (or "one of the most difficult stage races in the world," as Watson calls it) — tasked the competitors with completing two hours worth of mountain biking, bobbing, weaving, and climbing the stunning (and harsh and rocky at times) San Bernardino Mountains.
In the late afternoon beneath towering ponderosa pines, each of the competitors embarked on what quickly became the favorite event for most of the athletes.
"It was like riding a roller coaster," Mack Roesch said. "It was like Christmas Day felt like I was on a Cadillac going down those hills, we had the most epic scenery and trails and bike that I could ever ask for, and the amazing athletes."
The technicality of bike equipment did pose a struggle for some athletes, including Coffin, who rode a good portion of the first two laps without a seat before swapping her malfunctioning bike out for an airman's to finish the race, and Ariana Scalfo, who needed a tire change after suffering a flat on lap three.
But despite any complications, all of the athletes ended the event thrilled with the final descent and its breathtaking views, where they rode feverishly from the very top of the mountain down to the finish line, concluding Day 3's competition.
The Final Day 3 Leaderboard
The longest day of Spartan Games 2.0 competition concluded as the sun began setting over Big Bear Lake. And while not everyone was pleased with their performance (or the judging) of the day, most were more than psyched to get some hard-earned rest before their final day on the mountain. How much can two final events shake up this week's leaderboards?
U.S. Air Force Special Warfare takes mental and physical toughness to the next level, which is why they were the perfect partner for this year’s Spartan Games. To learn more about the heroes who make up the top 1% of the 1%, click here.