Spartan Australia returned to the Numinbah Valley with a bang this weekend, showing that they can learn from their mistakes and still have what it takes to put on a world class event. The Fijian Bula warriors got the waves warmed up and the overall vibes were fantastic, even though numbers still aren’t back to pre covid levels. Those who read my race reports and especially the report I wrote for this exact event last year know that recently I’ve been fairly critical of Spartan Aus, I’m very happy to say that my confidence in them has been restored after the quality of last week’s event! It wasn’t perfect but everything I raised last time was either resolved or steps in the right direction have been taken. I’ll be addressing some of the controversial things about the weekend in this report now after speaking with people at Spartan during and after the events to find out where things went wrong, like run loops etc. This time of the year on the GC is pretty magic weather wise and we couldn’t have asked for better conditions, with a slighter warmer day in the valley on Saturday matching the smaller races well. The Numinbah Valley suits obstacle racing well and Spartan have a great long term venue here that they utilise to great effect. While the actual route of the course was quite similar to last year, Spartan’s race director Michelle pulled some nasty tricks with the placement of some obstacles, with grip obstacles placed directly after the rolling mud, I’ll be surprised if some racers don’t get PTSD just looking at a slip wall moving forward. I clocked a bit less vert across the events and while both the sprint and super ran a bit long, the Beast was a bit under 21. New timing company Onetime have had a bit more time to dial in on the Spartan processes and it shows. Wait times for check ins on both mornings were long but clearly these guys are on the right track. I made a point of highlighting the lack of showers at last years event here. In my opinion if you have rolling mud as an obstacle then you need to have showers. Yes there’s a creek but I saw people falling all over the place trying to get into it after races. As much as Spartan has a ‘harden up’ image, I think you need to have somewhere to clean off so you don’t trash your car and you don’t trash the waterways. I was advised that Spartan Aus did actually have a shower provider lined up and they pulled out last minute. Aside from all of that I think it was a flawless event, aside from the elephant in the room, the run loop penalties. Now I’ll preface this by saying that I’m fully aware Spartan Aus have no say in going from burpees to run loops for competitive heats. They are a franchise and these orders come from up high. What I will say is that the run loops were not implemented well at this event. Like at all. This was the first event I’ve seen were male elite finishers could take multiple penalties and still land on the podium. I don’t mean one either, I mean multiple penalties. For example the twister was situated in the last km of the race. In the past if you were going to miss a twister, here’s where you would miss it. 30 burpees at this point of a race is devastating and really means the difference in final positions. Last weekend the twister had a penalty loop of about 40 metres. This meant that athletes could take the penalty and finish FASTER than the athletes who completed the obstacle. I heard of two elite athletes who started the twister together, one fell off and did the run loop to finish at the same time as the athlete who had stayed on and completed the twister. This is an issue because doing obstacles is tough, I ran penalty free over the weekend except for one obstacle. Getting through that slip wall / rope climb combo after the mud gassed the fuck out of me in all three races, way more than run loops would have. So I failed one obstacle and it was that twister, during the beast. I got to it, put my hand on it and knowing that I could get it but would probably rip my hand I took a tactical penalty and ran the loop. Now this is conflicting for me, I am a huge believer in the Spartan ethos, we are there to do tough things. But we are also there to race and go as fast as we can within the confines of the rules. If the system can be gamed in this way, it’s almost stupid not to do it and I saw a whole lot of gaming going on. I will say that taking that run loop wasn’t going to affect my finishing position, otherwise my ego may have had more of a say on whether to do the obstacle. I’ll also say that if I had to do 30 burpees 20km into a beast or rip my hand, you can be damn fucking sure I would have ripped my hand. So I’m not against the run loops, I just think they need to be implemented better and Spartan are fully aware of all of this. I spoke to Spartan’s head official Jim Bullard after my events and relayed all of this and Spartan are very receptive to getting these things right. They are teething issues that can be expected with such a massive change to the format of their events. Bull let me know that they hope to implement these run loops at Picton much more effectively. I personally think that the punishment should match crime, if you fail a grip heavy obstacle like a twister, then you have a grip heavy farmers carry as a penalty. I think carries and crawls are the way to go for penalties moving forwards, unless there’s tricky terrain for loops that can be used like we had at Baw Baw’s ski resort location.
THE ELITE REPORT The racing was always going to be fast in these conditions and all the athletes put on a good show for those watching over the weekend. With the 10km Super kicking off the event, the front pack of men were away on time with Liam McKenzie predictably coming over the line in first place with a finishing time of 53.25. Hamish Harrison and Dylan Pardy rounded out the podium and were closer to Liam than we have seen in previous events showing just how much work they have been doing. For the ladies we saw Rachael Cardillo (1.12:12) returning to the top of an elite podium, followed by Monika Holmwood and Tetiana Drahonchuk with only 40 seconds separating first to third.
The 5km sprint had it's share of controversy, with a few athletes reportedly getting assistance over the dreaded slip wall and receiving 10 minute penalties. This cost both Scott Cummins and Hamish podium finishes I'm told and the whole thing was a bit of a shitfight, with Dylan coming through the field here to take the win from Liam. This obstacle was so damn difficult to get that literally only a handful of athletes got it, what the elites didn't realise in the sprint, (It wasn't muddy in the super so they all got it) was that the run loop was so short that it was easier than trying the obstacle. Spartan lengthened some of the loops on the Sunday after some heated discussions with racers, some athletes took the penalties on the chin, some threw their toys out of the cot. Local sisters and absolute superstars Joanna and Denniele Hills demolished the female competition here, with Denniele taking out the win (35:33) followed by Joanna who had a return from injury with this race. To put this win into perspective, Danielle finished 3rd outright and to my knowledge is only 16 or 17. It's fucking outstanding and there is som much talent in this family. Robyn Koszta took out 3rd place, nearly 7 minutes after Danielle crossed the line. For the men's sprint we had Dylan Pardy in first (32:55) followed by Liam McKenzie and Zane Keleher.
Sunday saw a brisk start in the Numinbah, with temps 10 degrees cooler than the morning before. I clocked 2 degrees pulling up in the car and I was already regretting my decision to run to Beast in speedos before I even took off my trackies, even though I knew that the cooler conditions were actually going to be better for the longer Beast effort that day. There was a slight delay to racing with a lack of vollies but eventually we were off for a jaunt through the Gold Coast Hinterlands. The 21km Beast was a bit trickier on terrain and elevation, with some nice technical downhills claiming more than one ankle including mine. Liam McKenzie did enough to hold onto the win here, breaking the tape at 1.45:44, followed by Hamish two minutes later and Dylan a minute after that. Rachael Arnold (2.19:49) took out the big one for the elite females, with Kate Hobbs taking second and Tetiana third.
TEAM ONE MOORE REP I'm so proud of all of the OMR athletes who tackled the course over the weekend, some of them are current clients, some past clients who are still part of the tribe!
I'll do my absolute best to list everyone but if I fuck up then let me know, I'll also list some standout performances!
OMR Legend Cam Crouch took out all three of his races which is a huge effort. Stephen Webb completed his trifecta. Matty Day took a third place podium for his 10km Super and went on to finish the trifecta Stacie Rider who is relatively new to the tribe has been absolutely kicking ass and went into this event ready for a beat down. Stacie ran 3rd in her Super and second in her Beast, I was super proud to have her share two podiums with Dominka (they swapped positions in their races) Gazman got through his Super and Sprint before a niggle retired him for Sunday, a huge effort for the big man after 3 x weekends of events. Both EJ and Zahlia, smashed their kids events and I'm looking forward to them being able to compete for real in a few years! Mandy smashed out her trifecta, along with Sharon who hit her Beast on the Sunday and picked up 3rd place. Jamie Clifton took first timer Logan through the course and beat his GC beast time set last year by a full hour! Gary Barnett took out 3 x podiums for his 3 events, with 2 silvers and a bronze! Scott Middleton got through his trifecta with a smile through challenging conditions and Levi completed his as well! Dave Brady also got out there for his full trifecta and did us proud. If I missed anyone please let me know!
All in all, I think this weekend was a fantastic return to form for Spartan Aus, I'm looking forward to seeing what they deliver at their Picton event in September and Fiji in November! Do you want to get better at this sport? Maybe you just want a likeminded tribe to train, travel and race with? Send me a message and I'll tell you how you could run in the pink as well!