AmesburyJust like that, this race very unexpectedly became one of my favorites.  I made a late decision to race there instead of Monterey, turning this into a “crash and dash” event.  Flew in Friday afternoon, raced Sat morning, and flew back home early Sat afternoon.  I cannot pinpoint the reason for my affinity for Amesbury.  Perhaps it was the mixture of terrain between hills and fields that kept the race fresh.  Maybe it was that the festival area was the best I’ve experienced.  The astroturf surface made pre- and post-race activities more comfortable and relaxing than the typical trampled mud and/or dust bowls.  Maybe the sunny, yet slightly cool weather made a difference.  It could have been the lively entertainment and energetic crowds of the morning and early afternoon.  Perhaps it was another opportunity to connect with new racing friends and meet up with the old ones.  Or, it simply could be that I came one step closer to my old racing self and performed relatively better than my last  year’s worth of Spartan Races.  Whatever the reason, I really enjoyed it and will be back.  I will not however, be back via the route from Logan International Airport.  The traffic getting out of that place was ridiculous (so says someone who lives in a rural area)!

Elliott2As you can see from the photo above, the starting line began away from the festival area and shot you straight up a hill before it leveled out into the woods.  Although it had rained heavily the day before, the course wasn’t overly muddy.  There was a decent amount of running under tree cover and a good percentage of that was spent ducking under or pushing overhanging tree branches out of the way… of the times that it did not pay to be tall.  Spartan Race introduced the “Gamble” in this sprint.  The course came to a fork.  Left was .2 miles, but technical and hilly.  Right was .3 miles, but easier terrain.  I chose left.  I don’t know why.  I just went with it.  I’m unsure if I gained or lost ground when the two routes came back together.  The Herculean Hoist was back again without the pulley system, which makes this a lot more difficult than it used to be.  I didn’t let it defeat me this time and left several burpee-ers in my wake.  The race looped back to the festival area which was jam-packed with obstacles: rope climb, run down the hill, sandbags up the hill and back down, horizontal traverse wall, and slippery wall before finally heading back up the hill.  By the horizontal traverse wall, the leaders were in my sight and I was gaining on several…..until another slip-up on the traverse wall.  The burpee penalty took a lot out of me and I didn’t get back to full speed for awhile.  From that point on, I was locked in a battle with my Mud and Adventure Teammate, Paul Buijs.  Loser had to do 30 burpees.  I already owed him 30 from Utah and I didn’t want to add anymore.  I kept thinking I had pulled away from him, only to hear him calling out my name just a few yards back.  He gave me the motivational push that I needed.  A muddy, rocky barbed wire crawl preceded a short sprint to the fire jump and then a mad dash back down the hill to the finish line.  I avoided the penalties and finished in 71st place out of approximately 325 in the elite.  I’m improving each race and that is all I can ask from this long road back from the injuries.

That was my perspective, for another evaluation of the race, take a look at the Mudman Report.