If you think you're just going to walk onto a Spartan course and crush it, you're in for a rude awakening. You need to prepare: You need to know the venue, the course, the terrain, the level of difficulty, and the likely conditions. Every month in OCR INSIDER, we look at the upcoming races on the U.S. schedule and tell you everything you need to know so when you reach the start line, you're ready. On the docket this month: Palmerton, Utah, Angel Stadium, and Asheville.
Palmerton Spartan Super 10K and Sprint 5K Weekend (Was on July 9-11)
Held at the Blue Mountain Resort in eastern Pennsylvania in the Poconos — about a two-hour drive west from New York City and a 90-minute drive north from Philadelphia — the Palmerton weekend features a Super 10K (25 obstacles), a Sprint 5K (20 obstacles), two Hurricane Heat events, and racing for the kids. Also, for those wanting obstacle-free romps, a 10K Trail race and 10K Night Trail race.
The Venue: Summer Adventure Land
Unsurprisingly, Blue Mountain is a ski destination during the winter. Throughout the summer, the 165 acres of skiable property is available for mountain biking, hiking, and challenging yourself on a rope course.
With a good mix of grassy slopes and technical mountain bike trails, Blue Mountain is obviously a good fit for a Spartan race, notes race director Dan Yotive.
“The course will run up, down, and across one of the best skiing, trail running, and downhill mountain biking mountains in the northeast part of the country,” Yotive says.
The race director recommends prepping for the course with some solid running-strength work, and adapting your quads, hamstrings, and calves to the rigors of both uphill and downhill locomotion.
“Get your hill workouts in," he says. "Even if you don’t plan to run uphill, make sure your legs and lungs know what it will feel like to do an extended uphill climb and a long, winding downhill run.”
Weather: Hot and Muggy, But With Opportunities to Cool Off
“It’s a mid-July weekend, so it’s often hot and muggy," Yotive says. "We’ve often seen heavy downpours on race days, which always keeps things interesting!”
In addition to potential rain, Yotive says there will be a good amount of water crossings and mud pits to keep things cool and wet.
That said, if the sun is out, racers will be exposed, with very few places to hide.
“Come prepared with lots of fluids, sunscreen, and loose and light clothing,” Yotive says, to keep hydrated, avoid burns, and stay cool, respectively. “We will have some areas available to sit in the shade, but for the most part, the course and festival are in the wide open.”
Yotive adds that this is an especially fitting event to wear a hydration belt or pack (and use one in your training so you’re used to it).
“You want water with you on the course between the water stations," he says. "On the Super course, there will be a place to fill up your pack with more water if you run out.”
Palmerton is an especially spectator-friendly course. Friends and loved ones watching your race will get to join you in savoring the views on Blue Mountain.
“The views from the top of Blue Mountain are stunning and there will be a free spectator chairlift running to the peak all weekend,” Yotive says. “You’ll be able to take in the scenery, buy some much-needed ice cream, cheer on the trail runners and watch the obstacle course racers tackle the Rope Climb and Spear Throw up close.”
Utah Spartan Trifecta Weekend (Was on July 17-18)
The Venue: Site of the 2002 Winter Olympics
Perhaps the most demanding location in the Spartan world, the races will be held about 30 miles northeast of Salt Lake City on Ogden Mountain, on the east side of the Wasatch Mountains. This was home to the 2002 Winter Olympics, alpine skiing events in particular.
How does this translate to Spartan? Climbing, says race director Garfield Griffiths.
“We start at about 6,000 feet and go from there," Griffiths says. "This is a ski mountain for half the year, so expect to work the legs more than usual.”
In fact, Griffiths suggests that you make climbing the heart of your training.
“I would say a solid training tool would be the Stairmaster or any kind of hill running, like setting your treadmill at max incline,” he says.
But there’s a direct payoff for all the heart-pounding, leg-burning climbing you’ll do on race day, Griffiths adds.
“This is one of the most picturesque venues on the Spartan calendar," he says. "The views are absolutely spectacular. So while you are slogging it out on the course, be sure to take a moment to stop and take in the incredible views the mountain has to offer.”
It’s mid-July in Ogden. Temps typically reach the low 90s and don’t drop below the high 70s, so be certain to prepare the best you can for a hot day.
“Expect a very hot race weekend,” Griffiths says, emphasizing that heat and altitude pack a harsh dehydration punch. “Hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate, adding electrolytes to your water.”
Utah is part of the Spartan National Series, so you’ll be mixing it up with top OCR speedsters.
For those traveling to Ogden and the greater Salt Lake City area, farm-to-table restaurants are a big thing and worth searching out.
Looking to reward yourself for all of the upward climbing work you’ll do in the race? Balance things out with a visit to Ogden’s I Fly Utah indoor skydiving facility.
Stadion 5K with 20 obstacles at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif.
The Venue: The Big A
Angel Stadium is the longtime home of Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Angels. A unique opportunity for baseball fans to tour the historic ballpark (once also home to the Los Angeles Rams) while maintaining hummingbird heart rate levels.
Meaning: Get in some stair climbing to help prepare for the event.
Anaheim is (of course) famous for Disneyland, about three miles from the ballpark.
The Weather: Welcome to Southern California
Expect high 80s and humidity — best described as muggy. If you’re visiting from a relatively cool climate, do your best to work in some acclimatization to support your body’s transfer of heat through the skin.
Anaheim has been called the “epicenter of fun.” It’s easy to map out a vacation. Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm (celebrating its 100-year anniversary), 42 miles of beaches nearby, Los Angeles to the north and San Diego to the south.
Asheville Spartan Super 10K and Sprint 5K Weekend (July 31 to Aug. 1)
Asheville rounds out the last weekend in July in the western region of North Carolina, near the Blue Ridge Mountains. Races include a Super 10K, Sprint 5K, Hurricane Heat, Kids Races, and a full complement of obstacle-free trail races including a 10K, 10K night run, half-marathon, and a 50K.
The Venue: All the Pretty Horses Are Here
Located in the Blue Ridge Foothills of Mill Spring — 32 miles from Asheville — the Tryon International Equestrian Center & Resort is an internationally-acclaimed venue for equestrian events. The center encompasses 1,400 acres, which includes well-trodden ground, red clay to navigate, and myriad creeks to rumble through.
The Weather: The Heat’s On
Expect temperatures will range from the low 70s to 90 degrees. Mill Spring typically registers about a 40% chance of rain in late July.
Be sure to build heat acclimatization into your program, but also ratchet up your ankle mobility to help deal with the varying surface terrain.
If you’re making a vacation out of it, you’ll want to spend some time in Rutherford County and plug yourself into the Rutherford Outdoor Coalition. You name it, they’ve got it for you: running, hiking, biking, paddling, camping, horseback riding.