Tampines played host to the gathering of warriors looking to prove their spartan-worth at the second Spartan Race Singapore. Back after it’s inaugural flag-off last October, the race brought some 7,000 spartans to the start line.
Submitting spartans to the ’Super’ category, the new course route promised to take racers into the ‘wilderness’ over a longer distance with more obstacles. And after last year’s ‘introductory’ Spartan Sprint, did the organisers manage to ‘up’ the challenge for our spartans this time? Well…I think they damned well managed to!
Was that really 13-ish km? Well…it don’t matter.
The course flagged off from a vacant field off Tampines Avenue 10. After a series of walls, ‘over under throughs’, it then led racers into an off-road forested area over dirt bike trails and vegetation, running close to the Paya Lebar airbase. Twisting and meandering over multiple undulating trails, the route snaked pass the Tampines sand stockpile, looped around the secondary Bedok reservoir and then back towards the festival area.
On paper, Spartan Supers are about 13+km. And while we heard through the grape vine that the course was about 12–13km, it certainly felt shorter. Some racers who had GPS devices I spoke to, clocked between 9.7km to 11km. And based on the time I completed the Super in Brisbane last year (3hrs), I was expecting to be on the course for 2.5–3hrs. So mentally, I was psyching myself to be moving for close to 3hrs. Instead I clocked an ‘official time’ of 1hr 57min, which I thought was incorrectly recorded as I noted several runners who had come in after me (with official Spartan Race photos as reference) had recorded times up to 4 minutes quicker than mine.
On hindsight, I was a little disappointed with myself because I don’t think I left everything on the course. Don’t get me wrong, it was a challenging race because of the trails and there were portions of the course that gassed me out and made me wonder why I had volunteered to torture myself (again), but when I crossed the finish I felt as though I had more in the tank to give.
So while it may have seemed shorter than 13km, the course was challenging enough that the actual distance didn’t really matter.
You want off-road?! I’ll damn well give you off-road!
The Spartan social media machine with their Facebook photos of mud, did scare some into thinking they would be running the trail sloshing in ‘teh-tarik’, but the weather held and the small plots of mud that existed, were easily avoided with a skip and a hop.
As I was plodding through the course with calves and hamstrings straining from the undulation of the trails, I thought to myself “Damn! It’s as if the course designer heard our voices from last year – ‘Where’re the trails and hills?!’ – and replied ‘You want trails and hills? I’ll damn well give you trails and hills!”. While the elevation wasn’t some 200m 45 degree incline slope, the back to back series of undulation over trail were challenging enough. And this was pretty evident, that the undulation did have it’s desired effect, because somewhere around the final 2km of the course I noticed spartans left, right and centre grimacing in leg cramps.
(Action cam photo courtesy of Tay)
These Spartans have made some ‘gains’
One comment from last year’s Sprint, was that the weighted obstacles were not as heavy as expected. But this time round, the spartan obstacles must’ve been working out and made some mean gains.
After the first set of walls and ‘over under throughs’, I found myself ahead of my wave, taking a good pace through the first kilometre. The route came to another series of walls, which was immediately followed by the Atlas Carry. These were legit atlas balls, made of concrete and weighted at maybe (I’m guessing here) 45kg, not the paper weight ones from last year’s sprint. We were part of the first waves of the day, so the ground and atlas balls were wet from the morning dew, which made the carry additionally challenging. The ball slipped from my grip a couple of times and I found myself cursing and gasping with energy levels sapped. It didn’t help that, Shrek had then overtaken me yelling “OEI! Why are you so slow? YOU WUSS!” (I would later have the last laugh at the finish line as I witnessed Shrek wailing like a little boy from leg cramps ;P ). As I left the obstacles, I heard myself say “What?! I’m already winded before I’m even halfway through. Fuck! This is so gonna suck!”
(Action camera photo courtesy of Raimi)
This wasn’t the only example of heavier weights. Coming towards the 3rd quarter of the course, were the next series of obstacles starting with the Tire Drag, not entirely a difficult weight to pull, but these were legit big-ass tires designed to tire forearms. Which was the intent to make the next obstacle – the Tyrolean Traverse – more challenging.
Spartans wanted, not whiners
As I was finishing up a set of burpees for failing the Tyrolean Traverse (my only set for the day. Yippee!), along came, let’s call him ‘Whiney Spartan’. Whining aloud for his friends, the marshalers and the rest of the world to hear – “Those ropes are not tight enough! You guys should retie the ropes because it’s too slack. I bounced, tapped the ground and now I have to do burpees!”
(Action cam photo courtesy of Tay)
I get it that that we’re all tired here and having to do 30 burpees really suck. But dude, they’re all tied the same way and you’re not the only one climbing those ropes, falling and having to pay the penalty here. As Joe De Sena (Spartan Race CEO) might’ve said “That’s not very spartan. Just STFU and get it done!”
They bettered it and got their shit right
I think Spartan Singapore really took in all the feedback they received from the last race and not just upped the ante with this course, but also with the organization.
Everything just felt much better planned, coordinated and executed. Right down to marshalers and volunteers, who I felt were so much better trained. I spotted cheat sheets marshalers would refer to on how to instruct and ‘umpire’ the stations they were manning. The young volunteers were also a lot more energetic with their directions and words of encouragement to the racers. It was pretty obvious whoever hired them made sure they were briefed and motivated beforehand. Additionally, I noticed that the obstacles had banners mounted to describe the requirements.
Spotted along the course were also emergency phone numbers for fellow racers to contact if they spotted an injured comrade. This was a nice touch, especially since the course took racers through the secluded and forested bush.
While the location was a little out of the way to get to, the organisers also lucked out this time with the huge open field in Tampines. This gave them ample, if not an excessive amount of space to plot out various spaces within the festival area. There was enough space for 3 full size obstacles for racers to try out before the race. Namely, the multi-rig, rope climb and low wall.
I managed to speak to one of the Mediacorp/Spartan Race staffers (who had gone at least 2-4 shades darker since I last met her), who mentioned that they had been onsite preparing the course and festival area for the last 3 weeks (which explained her tan) and that the festival area was constructed and already set to rock a week before. Impressed, I was.
A few other racers I spoke to also echoed the same impression – the course was more challenging than the last, ‘fun’ and everything felt really well organised. And it was pretty obvious, not just to me, that the organisers heard the feedback from the last race, upped the ante with the more challenging course and stepped up with all the other aspects of the event. So I feel the organisers, staffers and volunteers deserve a tip of the helmet for their efforts in pulling of a better event (which was pretty good already) than the last.
In other words, a big ‘AROO!’ for making this year’s Spartan super.
Jumping over an imaginary fire! Ok, hot coals.