Last weekend Spartan Race Australia hosted their first true alpine race, an Ultra Trifecta weekend at the Mt Baw Baw Alpine Resort. While this location hosted some stunning views, punishing elevation gains and falls and an interesting course, the event wasn’t free of some of the issues we have come to expect from Spartan Australia.
With Baw Baw replacing the cherished Bright event on the Spartan Aus program, there were high standards to live up to.
For the most part Spartan Australia improved the delivery of the event when compared to their Gold Coast event last year, but many participants were left once again frustrated with many little details left undone.
It seems like there wasn’t a lot of thought put into where thousands of racers would stay for the weekend and combine that with the limited parking available, many people I know personally including many clients just chose not to attend.
From the get go on Saturday morning, there was a little bit of chaos. New timing company Onetime didn’t appear to completely have a handle on how things were to be run, I arrived very early to ensure I had close parking as I knew I would be back on forth to the car throughout the day.
With slow check ins and a lack of volunteers, racing was delayed on Saturday morning until SRA could find enough people to marshal on course.
It was clear to me early on that Spartan just didn’t seem to have enough competent crew on the ground to run events to the caliber that they did a few years back.
From key staff they have lost to a core group of experienced vollies not attending or volunteering, there was an air of inexperience over the weekend that damaged the overall customer experience.
I took some new clients to this venue and they told me afterwards that they won’t be continuing to support the brand, costs have gone up while quality has gone down. It’s a sad thing for me to see but I get it. Unfortunately the volunteer situation is mostly one of Spartan’s own making. Between the infamous volunteer point scandal and Spartan Australia’s trigger happy approach to banning anyone on the socials that says anything that might be perceived as remotely negative, SRA have done a fantastic job of chasing away some of the most dedicated supporters of the brand. When there aren’t enough volunteers, many of the things that us racers take for granted on a Spartan course start to dissolve. This is a competitive sport with prize money and all weekend I watched people on course not following the rules, age category racers in podium positions who were getting assistance on obstacles or completing them incorrectly only to have the Marshall sitting near them giving them advice on where to put their foot. This isn’t a criticism of the people actually Marshalling, this is an organisational issue from SRA, people in key positions need to understand their role and the rules where they are placed. There were quite a few issues with signage, I know that Liam being out in front had issues on 2 of the races, if not all three. These are things that Spartan should be getting right. At one point there was just no-one in bag check at all and the list goes on. Various obstacles that were on the race maps were not setup, I assume this was due to the crunch of getting things done without enough staff. -Addendum; I have been corrected in my assumption about obstacles not being set up, this was a direction from the Baw Baw council.
I personally think SRA are doing what they can to improve the quality of their events. I think they made a misstep in the planning of the venue and couldn’t get enough people on the ground on the day but a few of the Gold Coast issues had obviously been looked at.
The timing company was an improvement though still has a long way to go with their accuracy. I spend quite a bit of time going through results and they times were all over the place for this weekend. I think it’s still an improvement on the clusterfuck that was the GC timing though. I think given a few more events Onetime will dial it in.
While I criticise these events, it’s not done out of any malice for the brand. Once I was actually running the course I loved the venue. I just want the sport to grow to its potential in Australia. I spent a bit of time racing in Spartan events in Asia in 2022 and will be over there again this year. I encourage anyone to do the same, the quality of their events is of a much higher standard than our local offerings.
I was supposed to be at True Grit NSW this weekend but for my flight being cancelled while on the tarmac on Friday evening. From all accounts their event went fantastic and I’ll have a full report out soon on that. Raw Challenge GC which I have a bit to do with are also putting on fantastic events. They have so many volunteers that they have to turn them away.
Spartan Australia can do better and they are going to need to if they want to remain in the premium position in OCR in Australia. People can and will spend their money elsewhere and I think the Baw Baw numbers reflect that.
I hope they take some of this criticism on board, after my race report of their Gold Coast event last year, I was removed from their FB community, along with hundreds of others who voiced their thoughts on what Spartan could do better.
I’ll be using their Gold Coast event in May as a yardstick to measure whether I’m confident they can deliver an event in Fiji later in the year worth travelling to.
THE ELITE REPORT
With such a challenging venue, racing was always going to be fierce.
Australia’s leading obstacle racer Liam McKenzie had his work cut out for him in attempting to win all three elite events in an Ultra Trifecta.
I believe he is the first elite athlete in the world to accomplish this and it just shows how astonishingly quick and conditioned he is, to be able to beat out solid competition in the 10 and 5k events on the Saturday then back it up for a 56k Ultra effort with nearly 3000m of vert.
Due to a mix up on course, Liam missed a section in the ultra and received a 40 minute time penalty, even after this he still won the event.
Hamish Harrison kept Liam on his toes on the Saturday taking out 2nd position in the Super and Sprint, then he won the Beast on the Sunday while we ran the big one. I had a chat with the top 3 boys at the finish line of the Super below
Dylan Parry ran a third in all three of the standard Trifecta. Relative newcomer Alice Evans went 2 from 3 for the weekend, taking out the Super and Sprint, then coming second in the Beast to Tetiana Drahonchuk. -Addendum; Alice Evans won the Sprint, Tetiana won both the Super and Beast
Sunday morning events were also delayed, but this one had nothing to do with SRA. A thick frosty fog had settled on the mountain and Ultra athletes shivered in anticipation of their event taking place. After Spartan Australia were satisfied that it would be safe to release racers we were off, to measure ourselves against the mountain both physically and mentally. This race put many athletes deeper into the pain cave than they had expected to be, myself included. I more than once questioned my own sanity at deciding to run the full event non buggy smugglers. Crossing the line at 10.15 was enough to get me a 6th place elite finish, and I was stoked to have run the course with so many amazing people.
So Liam ended up taking out the Ultra, followed by Cody McKeller and Dan Nicholson. Robyn Koszta crossed the line first for the girls, followed by One Moore Rep's own coach Monique McCreanor in second in her very first ultra. She was followed by Trifecta world record holder Yara Alves.
Congratulations to all of the athletes who got out and hit the course. It was some of the toughest racing I've seen in years and just getting to the finish lines was an achievement. Let's hope Spartan continues to improve and they put on a show for the Gold Coast event in May!
SOME LOVE FOR OUR CLIENTS
The OMR Crew ripped up the course at Baw Baw, with many stepping up to new race distances or divisions.
With loads of podiums across a few divisions I am always so happy to see the work people put in pay off. Cam Crouch had the amazing achievement of winning all three events in his Ultra Trifecta, we have been carefully managing any niggles to keep him in race condition. Dominika Nambiar took out first in her super in her division. Rhys Dix came out of retirement to win his sprint and place 3rd in his ultra. Sharon Watene picked up a second on her Sprint.
The Clifton family hit their first alpine race and the whole lot of them got involved! Nick Squire took out 3rd in his Ultra Danco Szulik and Dave Brady smashed their Ultra's too. Rachel Joseph hit her first age cat events and Mandy Gallagher ran her Trifecta in style. Lisa Norman ran first place in her Beast on the Sunday. I'm sure I've missed a few results as it was a bit of a chaotic weekend! Want to take your racing to the next level? It's going to be big year at OMR, jump on a free call with me below and we can talk about what working together might look like for you.
TAIPAN IS HERE!
The very first Taipan Team Endurance 5hr event is here and happening in 2 weeks on the Gold Coast! The final gear list is out and there are still tickets available to get involved! Get all your info HERE or book tickets below