This was my first ever Spartan Race, and I loved it! I opted to run the Super distance (8.5+ Miles, 20 obstacles) vs the Sprint distance (3+ Miles, 15 obstacles). I had a blast, but I have to tell you, I **trained** specifically for this race.
I attended an OCR-training gym, led by a coach who has participated in multiple OCR events. I worked on my grip strength, practiced tons of burpees, and did a lot of high-intensity workouts. And I **still** missed 5 obstacles. So, my warning is this: if you're signing up for an OCR race, train for it like you would any other event. Practice makes a huge difference between a tough race, and a fun one!
Now, that being said, here's the great things I loved about not just the Spartan Race, but the Spartan Race events in Arizona in general.
--VOLUNTEERS! The Spartan Volunteers receive a FREE ENTRY once they're done with their shift. So if it's something you're not sure want to shell out for, volunteer and you can use your entry for either later that day, or the next day. Or you can receive a code for a free entry at a different Spartan event. Pretty cool way to award volunteers and to ensure they show up! **Bonus**: Volunteers also get free parking all weekend AND free bag check!
--CROWD. The crowd around you and at the start know how to hype you up! From "I Am Spartan" chants to the "AROO" yelled throughout the day, the crowds really help give you that second, third, and fourth wind.
--WEATHER. It was chilly if you're in the first/early waves (usually for the elite or competitive participants), but perfect for any wave after 9am. It did get cold after we were finished, but there's thankfully a bag check where you could quickly get a dry change of clothes.
--BEER and FOOD! Beer tent (one free beer per participant) and food trucks were the the perfect way to celebrate after the race.
--OBSTACLES. The obstacles were actually a lot of fun. I mean, how often do you get to climb walls and do monkey bars while out on a trail run? I also don't mind wading through mud pits... but I know it's not for everyone. haha. Some obstacles ARE a challenge though. Even though I had trained I still failed 5 of the more technical obstacles (usually because my arms and legs were exhausted) and I had to do about 120 burpees total (30 burpees for every obstacle you don't complete on the first try).
--FREE PHOTOS! I love taking photos while out on the race courses. But in this case, I couldn't take my phone with me. Between all the rolling, crawling, and mud... there was no way it would survive. Thankfully, Spartan provides FREE photos within just a few days after the event. And they turned out great!
--THE COURSE. The 8.5+ course was hilly and technical, but if you stopped to look around occasionally it was a pretty scenic dessert single track trail through the McDowell Mountains. It was technical enough to make you focus on your feet, but not so technical that the trail-running newbie couldn't complete it.
--THE MEDAL. I loved the medal as a stand alone bling. But if you complete a sprint, super, and beast all in the same year, it creates a "trifecta" medal. Which now I'm seriously considering!
--THE MERCH. I rarely go all out wanting to purchase race gear, especially if the finisher's shirt is good enough. But not only was the finisher shirt awesome, they had some really sweet gear that sold out FAST. I managed to get some Spartan Shorts and an AZ Spartan Tech Tee before they were all gone. I'll definitely be working out in them as I train for another Spartan.
All in all, I loved the challenge of this race as well as the adventure behind it. The obstacles, while tough, made me feel extremely accomplished by the end! There were only two CONS of note:
--AID STATIONS. There were only a few aid stations with water and Cliff Shots throughout the course. For a normal race, that's suitable. But for a high-intensity workout like this race becomes, you need a little more. Thankfully, I brought my Orange Mud hydration pack with me and I highly recommend you bring one as well. (NOT a belt or bottles... these will inhibit your rolling and crawling. You need something like a bladder pack/vest to wear).
--RESTROOMS. I'm a guy so thankfully I could just pee in the bushes along the way. But had it been any other.. issue... I would have been S.O.L. The only porta potties on the course are for volunteers only, and they'll make sure you know that. So best to get used to using the bathroom outside, or go as much as possible before.
The Spartan Race Arizona was incredible and I highly suggest trying it out! If you're wary of the obstacles or distance, check into the Sprint distance. If you need something to kick your upper-body workouts and training into gear, this is certainly it. After training for a Spartan and completing it, I definitely feel like a better "well rounded" runner!