Spartan Race Palmerton Super and Sprint Weekend 2019

Spartan-Super-Palmerton-Course-Section

 

“This is insane!” 

“What the f***?!” 

“You’d think they’d run out of hills!” 

 

These are just a few of the things I heard while out on the course this weekend during Spartan’s Super and Sprint weekend at Blue Mountain Resort in Palmerton, PA. If you’re new to Spartan Race or OCR, you may have even heard how challenging Palmerton is. Year after year, regardless of course design, the slopes at Blue Mountain are sure to remind you just how punishing they are. 

Spartan-Palmerton-Start-Line

Parking and Festival

As you pull into the parking area, you get a good look at just how large of a mountain you’ll have to deal with. Luckily, all parking is on-site, which means no shuttles! This is a big plus for a lot of people as shuttle lines are known to move slowly.

 

This year they did switch up the festival a bit, compared to previous races at Blue. The new setup flowed a lot nicer and even left them room for a large merchandise tent. Usually, the merch is just back behind volunteers and staff who are up in a trailer. They still were, but adding to it was a large open area with more shirts and gear, including shoes and clearance items.

 

Once through the tent, it was your pretty standard Spartan festival area. Changing tents were off to the side with a row of hoses. The food and beer tents were nearby, along with a row of vendors. Something a bit new was that Spartan had a section open for some obstacle lessons and tips. 

Spartan-Palmerton-View-From-The-Top

The Sprint

I know the Sprint was Sunday and the Super was Saturday, but we’re going to work backward. Palmerton’s Sprint hit just about 3.6 miles, which is on the shorter side for a Spartan Sprint. Just because it was under 4 miles, though, doesn’t mean it was easy.  In that 3.6 miles, they managed to add in over 1,400 feet of ascent. Over 1,000 of that was in the first mile alone. 

 

The course was pretty much straight up the hill, down and up a double black diamond for the Sandbag Carry, a few obstacles at the top, then back down for the rest. 

Spartan-Palmerton-Sandbag-Carry

Sprint Obstacles

If you just ran the Sprint on Sunday, unfortunately, you didn’t get to try the new obstacles for 2019. This is only the second Sprint I’ve run this year (March – Greek Peak), but much like the first, they stuck to the classics.

 

During the one-mile climb to the top, the only obstacles were Hurdles and Overwalls, which is pretty standard. After the Sandbag Carry, there was a mini-gauntlet with Z-Walls, Atlas Carry, Rakuten Rope Climb and Monkey Bars all at the peak. During the descent, the only obstacle was the Inverted Wall. Then, toward the bottom, you had standards like the cargo nets, Spear Throw, Bucket Brigade, and Barbed Wire Crawl. 

 

As with past years at Palmerton, there was a Water Crossing, though it was more of an out and back, rather than crossing as they used to do. Apehanger, an obstacle at very few venues, was in the Super but left out of the Sprint.

 

I know Spartan wants to use the Sprint as the gateway to more races, so maybe they are continuing to make them a little more basic as to not scare newcomers away. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing Apehanger, a rig with more than just rings, or some brand new obstacles.

The Super

The Super on Saturday was almost 5 miles longer than the Sprint, coming in around 8.25 miles. The total ascent was over three times as much as the Sprint, forcing racers to climb over 3,100 feet. 

 

Usually, the longer races include everything in the shorter race, with one extra area. Not this year at Palmerton. There were three extra parts on the course for the Super versus the Sprint. And Spartan didn’t waste any time. They deviated just over a mile into the race, right after Z-Walls, when runners thought they were in for a nice break back down the hill. 

 

Instead, the downs were followed by several steep ups along the way. Let me put it to you this way, the first steep climb up took almost exactly one mile, and had over 1,000 feet of ascent. By the time racers reached the bottom, they had hit almost 3.5 miles and faced over 2,000 feet of ascent. 

Spartan-Palmerton-Hercules-Hoist

Super Obstacles 

On the Super course, runners got a look at several new obstacles, including Pipe Lair, The Box, and Beater. Olympus and Twister are two other obstacles that had been included in most Sprints but were only in the Super course. 

 

The Rakuten Multi-Rig consisted of several rings, a bar, then more rings before the bell. I’ve seen ropes in the past, but they were left at home for Palmerton. The Luminox Hercules Hoist was in both races and at a heavier weight than if it were just for a Sprint alone. It was super late in the race and sat at the bottom of a muddy hill, making it feel even heavier. 


One thing that stuck out to me about the obstacles, overall, was the amount of grip needed. A lot of times, they leave a couple grip heavy obstacles out, but they all made an appearance in Palmerton. 

Spartan-Mountain-Series-Super-Medal

The Medals

Since Palmerton is part of the Spartan Mountain Series, both Sprint and Super finishers received a Mountain Series Medal. It’s probably one of the best looking medals I’ve seen Spartan dish out. The mountains on this year’s Mountain Series medals stand out and really make the 2019 medal blow away the 2018 medal. 

 

Honestly, I don’t think it’d be a bad idea for Spartan to include some homage to the Mountain Series on the Trifecta medals as well. If you finish the Palmerton Super and Sprint, plus the Killington Beast, that is one tough Trifecta. Compare that to running some of the more flat courses to get your Trifecta and it feels like the mountain courses should get some extra love. 

 

 

Photo Credit: Spartan Race, The Author

Spartan Alabama Super: A New Take on an Old Venue

Back to Bama: Saraland Spartan Super 2019

On March 16th of 2019, a slew of Spartans sauntered up to cold and windy registration lines at the Alabama Super in Saraland. This race was the first time Spartan had been back to the southern venue since 2016. It was also the second race in the Spartan National Series.

After Jacksonville, athletes expected another muddy slog, but may have been either pleasantly or not so pleasantly surprised. From raucous roots to a very well mapped spectator path athletes met many challenges and thrills at the 8.4 mile Super.

However, the amount of enjoyment of this race depended very much on preference.

[Read more…]

Bonefrog Charlotte 2018

Introduction

Ah, the Bonefrog. It is unique but very well known through the OCR world as the only OCR that is run and operated by the Navy SEALs. It’s an incredible opportunity for people who are looking for more challenging obstacle races than the typical Spartan or Terrain race.

With Bonefrog, there are 4 different ways to race. There is the endurance race, challenge, Tier 1, and sprint.

  • Sprint: 3 miles with 20-ish obstacles.
  • Challenge: 6 miles with 30-ish obstacles
  • Tier 1: Challenge + Sprint, so 9 miles with 50-ish obstacles.
  • Endurance: See how many laps of the challenge course you can complete.

On the day of the race, participants at each level are given a different color paper wristband. The color of the band is dependent on the race that they are doing. For instance, I was doing the challenge race, so I received a red wristband. Participants in the Tier 1 race received blue. Endurance and sprint were other colors, too. That way the volunteers could help out the people in the easiest, most appropriate way.

Disclaimer: I ran the challenge. My description of this course is going to be focused on the challenge. I am less familiar with the layout of the sprint course, so I will be going off what some of my friends told me.

Pre-Race Preparation

I had never done a Bonefrog before, and I wasn’t really prepared for what was happening. Registering online was easy, and I will say that they did a great job of posting a map online in ample time for athletes to view and prepare themselves. I was being a total wimp and decided just to brace myself and enjoy the ride. Whichever type of athlete you are, Bonefrog will accommodate. The race was on Saturday, but I’m fairly certain that they released the course map by that Tuesday. It made my friends who do prefer to check out the course map very very happy.

This particular Charlotte Bonefrog was hosted at Porter Farms. If you do the Charlotte Spartan races, this venue is all-too-familiar. You can expect a relatively flat course, and some cows to stare at you. You may also want to expect to be on the lookout for cow-pies; the most horrid obstacle of them all!

Arrival/Pre-Race

Now, this race took place on the same day as the World’s Toughest Mudder which was only a few hours south. I wasn’t exactly expecting there to be many people there. I was shocked by how few people were in attendance. My friends and I were competing elite and showed up maybe 40 minutes prior to the first heat, and it maybe took us 4 minutes to wait in line, pay ($10), and park. It was insane.

The festival area served its purpose. It was small but spread out. There were certain things that you noticed immediately: the finish line, the port-o-Johns, and black ops. There was a bag check provided (just like most races, it is $5), but there was also a tent that had tables. With their being so few people there, most people left their backpacks on these tables. Granted I don’t typically advise that, but if you have a friend who is willing to watch over your belongings, then you have to do what you have to do! The smaller atmosphere made it really easy to find friends and wish everyone else good luck.

They called all of the elites to the start at the same time. That meant all endurance, Tier 1, and Challenge athletes arrived at the start at the same time. There is not an elite division for the sprint, which I thought was interesting. We were not sure how this was going to work with all of us running different divisions. I looked to my left, to my right…I only counted 7 women with wristbands. Wow, there was really nobody there!

They ended up splitting us all up. The endurance athletes were up first. There were maybe, MAYBE 15-20 men in this division, with zero women. This was very unique and interesting. Up next: Tier 1. This was probably the largest group, at a whopping 3o-40 people. A few women went up, but not many. Then it was time for the Challenge. They gave us about 5 minutes between each elite division. We were greeted and motivated by the ever-wonderful Jarian Rich (who was rocking a red, silver, and blue sparkly beard; which I imagine is no coincidence with Veteran’s Day), and then it was showtime.

The Challenge Course

And we’re off! The start was a lot of fun. It started going on a downhill, instantly you could hear people talking about how fun it was and comparing it to the Charlotte Spartan Race. Then the sounds instantly turned to squish squish squish. I failed to remember that it had rained all week. Oh, boy! Listed on the map as the first obstacle was the Rolling Thunder. Rolling Thunder is one of those obstacles that Bonefrog is known for; it’s a simple, yet super obnoxious and frustrating obstacle that I’m pretty sure is only designed to get on people’s nerves. But, before that, there was a slight dip in the trail and an unmarked wire over the dip. Running by you’d just hear people go:

“ACK! ….Wire!”

Which was immediately followed by a

“Huh? ACK!…WIRE!!!!”

Although it was a little frustrating, it was kind of funny. Then it was onto Rolling Thunder. It seemed like there were two of the obstacle; the men ran to the one on the left, while the women were using the one on the right. There was no rhyme or reason to it. I saw a woman use the side, and I asked if we were allowed to. The volunteer said that the women were allowed to, while the men were not. I shrugged and made my way onto the next part of the course.

Bonefrog Rolling Thunder

After a little run, we came across a 6-foot wall. It wiggled a little on the top, but it was easy to get over.

We kept running through some muck (which, at the start line they announced they removed a water obstacle, which I was very thankful for), and up a hill and we were back near the festival area. We ran into most of the men who had left in one of the earlier divisions here. There were three stations: bar dips, burpees, and pull-ups. The first station: do 19 dips, calling your number out loud. I’ve never seen this in a race before, but holy smokes it was not pleasant. Next up: 31 burpees. I’m pretty sure we were supposed to call out names while we did our burpees, but I could not see them so I said the numbers and was not corrected. I don’t know what it was about these 31 burpees… granted, I’ve gotten all too familiar with them during Spartans, but right after dips, these suckers hurt. Next up: 7 pull-ups. Sweet; I love pull-ups. They had us do pull-ups in front of the pictures and names of fallen Navy SEALs. Rather than count the number of accomplished pull-ups out loud, we said their name. This, I thought, was fantastic, unique, and totally appropriate for Veteran’s Day. I also really appreciated that the men and women were expected to complete the same amount.

Next up was a rig. It wasn’t anything particularly scary, just some squishy thing on the bottom. The squishy thing looked like a ball, and the ropes stretched a little when you grabbed it. As long as you had a hand on the rope, you were good to go! Followed by that was a rope swing, which was…interesting. I’ve never seen anything like this. The volunteers were really helpful: they provided lots of tips on how to make it easier.

Then was The Krakken. I was really surprised by this obstacle; I was really impressed with how tight the strings were that comprised the obstacle. Bonefrog made it pretty sure that I couldn’t have fallen through the top even if I wanted to. One of the next obstacles was called Get a Grip. No obstacle has scared me as much as Get a Grip ever has. Remember how I said it was really muddy? Well, it was extra muddy underneath this obstacle. If you slipped off the rig, you slid in the mud. I saw a few men hit their heads. I saw one guy slip and fall before even leaving the step to reach the rig. He fell onto metal. The fall was long, too. This obstacle terrified me. Many women struggled. Sooner than later, it got crowded. People got kicked if there were two people on it at a time. It was not super enjoyable. I would like to try it again if it were not so high, or not with such an intimidating, slippery, and dangerous fall.

This was followed by more running, and obviously more obstacles. There were some frustrating moments, like weird course markings which resulted in me going up a 7-foot wall backward, but throughout the course, I still had fun. There was a lot of opportune time for running, and a lot of opportunities for slipping in mud, too!

There were certain things about this course that I enjoyed. I really enjoyed the Brute Force Bag carry. They had us go through walls with openings, and the openings got higher with each wall. Other than this and a hoist-like obstacle, there were no heavy carry races in this race.

When we hit the back area of Porter Farms (which I had never seen before,  so this was fantastic) there was a long stretch where we didn’t see many people. There were so few people that I actually went off-course for several minutes, and accidentally took some other people with me. In another instance was a big tarp laying on the ground. I asked the guy next to me if we were supposed to do anything, and he said no, so we went on. I much later learned that we were supposed to go UNDERNEATH this tarp…there was no volunteer to tell us! We also came across the only balance obstacle, and a few other cool ones in the back.

After a while, we came across some other things in the back also: all of the open sprint runners. It’s honestly like they came out of nowhere! It went from being a calm, race with people who it was easy to become close with to being really crowded. There were lines for obstacles, and it made it more difficult to pass through. Running on certain trails openly and easily turned into weaving. Although I like running around people, the fact it got so crowded so quickly caught me really off-guard.

Other obstacles in the back area included some rope climbs, a log obstacle that made you have to go through a wall once you climbed, and some other unique obstacles.

I came up to one obstacle that I really wanted to attempt all day. I don’t know what it’s called, but I know that you have seen pictures of it, if you’ve seen Bonefrog pictures at all. It’s the green monkey bar thing. A friend of mine had spent the whole week volunteering, and he assured me that there was going to be a rope there to climb before you got to the green grabby part. Except, when I got there, there was no rope. I was greeted at the obstacle by a man similar in height, and he was stressed. Even with the step, he and I couldn’t reach to even attempt the obstacle. Since I had already lost my band, I just had to move on.

Bonefrog-NJ-Seat-bars

The Chopper was a cool obstacle. This one wasn’t long; there were three of the spinny parts, each one separated by a ring. I haven’t seen anything like it.

There was a large A-frame, then Black Ops for the classic Bonefrog finish. I was really impressed again, by how sturdy the A-frame was. I felt very safe. I think it would have been difficult to get hurt. Black Ops made me sad…I couldn’t reach it! I wish they had some kind of step to be able to reach it for us…really really small folks. Either that or ladies, if you’re a tiny titan like me, be prepared to jump.

Volunteers

The volunteers at this race were fabulous. There were so many unique obstacles and the thing with unique obstacles is that they can be difficult to figure out what you have to do. Volunteers were spectacular about providing instruction for newcomers. They were really paying attention to what the athletes were doing. If you volunteered at the Charlotte Bonefrog this year, you did a fantastic job, and we appreciate you!

Overall Thoughts

The Bonefrog is an OCR that requires more strength than your typical, bigger name OCR like Spartan, Terrain, or Rugged. They feature a lot of unique obstacles that require the grip strength of a monkey but the courage of a tiger. I’d say if you are considering Bonefrog as a first OCR, you may want to try something else first. Not because it’s a bad race by any means, but, it is going to be more challenging, and you may want to get your feet wet first. Overall it was a great time; I personally enjoyed the smaller feel because I felt like I got to know the people that I was running against a little better than usual. If you’re looking to challenge yourself and feel a little sore the next day, Bonefrog may be the race for you!

 

Spartan Dallas Beast 2018-Muddy Miles and Cramping Calves

Dallas Spartan Beast 2018

On October 27th, 2018 Spartan held the annual Dallas Beast to nearly maxed out waves for all times. The course had to be cut down a few miles due to flooded areas. This didn’t stop Spartan from putting racers calves through mile after mile of foot groping, sloppy goodness. Of about twelve and a half miles nearly sixty percent of those miles were sloppy bogs or slick, muddy rocks. A fun cramp-inducing time was had by all on a well put together course in beautiful Glen Rose, Texas.

Muddy Miles on Muddy Miles

Due to frequent rain in the previous week many of the trails on Rough Creek Lodge’s ranch were a muddy mess. From the beginning even the fastest group of elites were not moving their quickest as we were pulling our feet free from mud constantly. This added an extra endurance element to an already endurance heavy event. Later on in the race, many suffered from severe burnout, muscle fatigue, and debilitating calf cramps.

Spartan ingeniously utilized the hills on the ranch. Competitors proceeded up and down them both with and without sandbags. Steep, rocky descents coupled with mud spelled potential disaster for anyone not closely watching their feet and controlling their body. I personally throttled myself down a bit on these downhills to avoid injury. Slick rocks can come out from under you in a heartbeat.

The venue was beautiful to look at as always. Rough Creek Lodge never disappointing on the views that you get to see at the top of those hills if you take the time to look around. The festival area was also set up very nicely and the starting line was again by the beautiful church on the property. The weather was absolutely optimal with a pretty still 58-degree start for the elite men and a slow warm up to around 70 as the day went on. Compared to last years freezing temperatures the weather was absolutely amazing.

The Obstacles

I would like to preface by saying that there were no mile markers at this race.  Some areas were cut due to flooding. I found this to be a good thing as it kept me focused on the task at hand rather than how far I had to go. However, this also prevents me from stating an approximate location for all of these obstacles. I would like readers to know that between each of these obstacle portions were long, long bouts of running through mud and rough terrain. Spartan did a great job of throwing great combos of obstacles at racers. Each section seemed to have an intended aspect of skill to attack and I really appreciate the thought that went into this design.

As previously stated, Spartan has an optimal venue for such a flat area in Texas and they utilize it well. The first majorly taxing obstacle was after the z- wall in the form of a sandbag carry up a steep hill and back down. This put a decent little burn in the calves especially after running through all of that mud. The spectator route was superb. It allowed spectators to see many of the most entertaining obstacles. Compared to last years Dallas Beast, Spartan did a superb job on the spectating end of things.

Climb

The slick mud made the slew of climbing obstacles far more difficult. These included: stairway to Sparta, Bender, the 8-foot wall, and the inverted wall. The first real grip tests came in the form of the Tyrolean traverse (which was hanging far too low in many lanes people were dragging their backs). The next grip obstacle was Twister following Bender. I do appreciate Spartan placing this obstacle out of the mud for the most part as it is so grip-heavy. However, there were many Spartans plunging face first into the mud for burpees at this notoriously difficult obstacle. If the strength and endurance is not still present in your shoulders and hands, it can be a real killer.

Lift

The next obstacle heavily affected by the mud was the Atlas carry.  I’ve never had trouble with an Atlas carry.   However, the first ball open this time around was a mud-covered concrete lump of fumbling, back-straining hell for me. I was picking it up out of a very large divot caused by the soggy ground and it was slicker than a freshly born calf. Finally, I had the good sense to look up and see a dry ball had became open and moved through no problem.

Spartan knows their obstacle placement game as after the Atlas Carry came the Hercules hoist and the Yokohama tire flip. For those of you who aren’t aware, Spartans tires are heavier than most. Getting under these 400 lb tires when they are sunken deep in mud is no easy feat. Though the requirement was only to flip the tire twice. Many chose burpees instead. I, however, found that once I worked my way around the tire and found a good place to get under it the rest was simple.

Later on, came another short sandbag carry followed by an equally short bucket brigade. Some elites were shouldering the buckets. Volunteers were not correcting them.  This was unfortunate considering that immediately afterward many grip obstacles followed. This allowed them to salvage their grip for later on.

Hang on!

The plate drag was a muddy, sticky mess that added difficulty. The grip gauntlet afterward sapped the last bit of strength left in Spartans as they neared the finish. The multi-rig, Olympus, and the rope climb were nearly back to back to back.

The spear throw, slip wall, and fire jump where spectators could get a great view of finishers coming in as the annoucner did a great job as well. The finishing area and the number of spectators were very impressive.

 

 

Aside from some minor issues, the Dallas Beast was a fun and challenging experience. Many racers suffered horrible cramps. This was due to all of the mud eating away at their endurance mile after mile. It was truly a suffer fest for many. I feel they will all return next year with a new determination.

Great merchandise, attractions, and people filled the festival. Spartan did a superb job of making the awards ceremony very central. There was also a great festival for racers to enjoy afterward. This was a big leap from the lackluster festival area last year. I would certainly recommend running the Dallas beast if you are in the area, or if you would like a Texas-sized challenge.  Spartan created a great race.  They utilized the venue to its utmost potential. Aroo!

Tough Mudder London North: New Venue, New Obstacles

Considering the venue had a last-minute attack of the English disease that is NIMBY’ism (not in my backyard).  The local council decided to pull the plug on the traffic management arrangements, 48hrs before the event was due to start.  Add all this to the fact England was playing in the World Cup quarter-final, it is fair to say Tough Mudder HQ really had the odds stacked against them.

Believe me, the knives were already being sharpened by a few, as we rocked up and faced a 15-minute walk to the Tough Mudder village in temperatures already 77 at 7 am.

Podium PlacesCredit Tough Mudder

Once arriving at the village, the atmosphere was surprisingly light, there was a buzz of anticipation that only a new venue can create.  Rumours had already been circulating that the venue had laid down the law.  No holes to be dug, no mud brought in and no fun to be had at all (that last one is me being petulant but accurate nonetheless).

This led to a bunch of unheard obstacles listed on the course map, Hydrophobia, Kinky Tunnels, Next Level and hanging out.  Oh and the return of the dreaded Electric eel.  Not forgetting the return of electroshock therapy at the finish.  Tongues were most definitely wagging all the way to check in.

So, checked in by the usual awesome Volunteer crew and of to the warm-up and start line.  Where we were warned against the heat and told to hydrate at the water stations regardless of thirst.  Truly good advice, in fact, I was wearing my marathon vest with 2x 500 ml bottles and iso gels just in case.

We were off and on our way to my 16th and Julie’s 3rd TM full.  The first half Kilometer sprint was a nice warm up to kiss of mud followed a similar distance to skid marked.  The usual suspects followed bail bonds, water station, hero carry, Water station and Everest.

 TMHQ really had not left anything to chance with the water stations.

Water station Number one was sensibly giving out 500 ml bottles, not a cup full.  I was beginning to realise I was dragging my vest and water round for no actual reason.  Still, none else had one so I must be the cool one, right?  Right?

Yours Truly Focused on EverestCredit: Tough Mudder

Before we knew it mile 2 and Boa constrictor.   Which if you’re knocking on the door or in my case over 6 feet and built like a Greek god (so I’m told by my ego anyway), is a real struggle to get up the other end of the two angled pipes. Added to the deeper than normal water this was a real test and was welcomed.

A real treat was to follow though,

I honestly think I skipped like a kid would with excitement the last few feet (Greek god for real).  Face to face with the new hydrophobia, which is a 40-50 feet pool 15 feet across.  With three half submerged plastic sewer pipes which you had to duck down and swim under.  Now I’m a real water baby (Poseidon clearly), so this was a breeze, in fact, a lot of fun.  I was surprised however how many had a real fear of going under the pipes.   I found myself stopping at each pipe reaching under and joining hands, with more than a few nervous mudders and pulling them through.

Cooled and buzzing from hydrophobia, we plodded on through miles 3 and 4 passing 5-6 other usual obstacles and at least 3 more water stations.  On to Next Level which is Giant A hole parachuted in from the 5k events.  Love this obstacle. Who doesn’t love a 25 feet high cargo net with a 15 feet cargo net roof to traverse I know I do and again the fear factor was introduced to a lot of my fellow mudders.

Blue lap done we were into the Orange loop and fired over Cage craw and Arctic enema we hit the dreaded electric eel.

Which I am sad to say courtesy of the metal holding me together, following a motorcycle accident I am medically exempt from.  Electric eel back with a BangCredit Tough Mudder

Stood watching mudders being stung from the audible cracks, each time a wire bit them.

Sounded like a really pissed off wasp, followed by at best a yelp.  Or at worst, language your grandmother still doesn’t know you use.  I can promise you just watching was making the fillings in my teeth on edge.  Aside from hanging out, which is a longer lower version of Kong the last 4 miles flew by with Funky monkey, Kong infinity amongst the highlights.

Stunning Location For London NorthCredit John Donnelly

So, what am I reporting back to you?

First and foremost. I was magnificent obviously! even completing the head shoulders, knees, and toes challenge, before touching down on Funky Monkey and Kong infinity.  The course you say? Apologies, well it was it must be said it was short, 8.5 miles.  The ground was rutted and a real ankle twister  Plus the weather was punishing.  All of that is an aside if I’m being brutally honest.

TMHQ really knocked this out of the park.  Great new improvised obstacles, the return of a dreaded classic.   All nicely buried deep into 24 great obstacles.

All shoehorned into some stunning English countryside.  The course truly felt like OCR not a run with a few obstacles thrown in.  [Read more…]

Slippery In Chicago Spartan Super U.S Championship Series

“You’ll know at the finish line” is the famous motto of the Spartan Race. But, if you ran the Chicago Super you probably knew by the time you reached the parking lot at The Richmond Hunt Club.  The rain had hammered the area the previous week and since this race was part of the US Championship Series most racers were super curious about the course conditions.

Well, thanks in part to my 4×4 Jeep I could park on site and from the moment I stepped out of my vehicle and sank into 4 inches of mud I knew this was going to be a long day. Grabbing my ID and picking my way through the slop to the festival area I made my usual pit stop at the restrooms. Upon opening the door, I found that I really couldn’t distinguish where the muck stopped, and the actual toilet started due to the high levels of mud. Although after finding the seat I realized this may have been the only dry spot to sit on the entire property. I’ve raced from coast to coast for many years and this may have been the worst slop that I had ever encountered. If ankle-deep muck was the only thing to walk through from my Jeep clear to the start line what was the rest of the course going to be like? One word, Nasty.

Spartan started the 8.1-mile Super at the far end of the festival area and immediately threw athletes along a trail on the edge of a cornfield which made racers shoes feel more like concrete blocks. The small streams along the trail were swollen with water due to the storms but provided a small opportunity to rinse off some of the built-up muck.

A series of low walls were placed in this location to thin out the crowd a bit before testing racers grip strength on the Monkey Bars. A short distance away the inverted wall was set-up leading to the Herc Hoist. The ropes on the hoist had already become slick with mud by the time I got there making this obstacle much tougher than usual. Hands still slick from the constant slop made Twister an adventure as the burpee zones were so packed with people that racers just started doing burpees wherever they could find a spot. The bucket brigade, which was next up, was relatively short thankfully but the Atlas Stone carry a bit further down the line was brutal as each stone had a coating of thick mud around it making even the strongest competitor dig deep.

The Rolling mud and dunk wall were next up combined with the first of two barbed wire crawls. My initial thought upon seeing this was “Why do we need more water with a dunk wall”? You really noticed the stench of the standing water as you made your way under the barbed wire. And just to be cruel, after getting finished with the crawl which left you caked with mud Spartan threw the Z wall at you.

There is nothing worse than a slick Z wall, all obstacles were made much worse as you never really had a chance to get your hands dry during the race. Now approaching the halfway point of the race, the effects of the sloppy conditions could clearly be felt as athletes were struggling with obstacles that normally didn’t slow down most competitive racers.

I noticed that at the 8-foot wall, which was the next obstacle on the course, there were way more people doing burpees than I’ve ever seen. The bender followed up the wall climb, and this obstacle was a new one to me. This new obstacle consisted of a series of ascending vertical pipes starting about 7 feet off the ground with bars placed about every 2 feet apart. The structure curved back towards an athlete and reminded me a bit of the Battlefrog delta ladder.

The race was now at its furthest point from the festival area and the trail meandered through a section of the property used for paintball games. Along this stretch, Spartan placed their second barbed wire crawl along with their vertical cargo net climb before sending racers back to running alongside the rows of corn.

The Stairway to Sparta and a series of hurdles were the next obstacles athletes encountered on the trail leading to a hay bale wall. Just let me say right now that mud and hay stick to you like nothing else! I mean, don’t some sections of the world use mud and hay to built houses? And what better obstacle to try to traverse while carrying a house on you than Olympus right? As an added bonus, if you failed on Olympus the burpee pit was in a solid foot of muck. These were the worst burpees I’ve ever done in my life as you brought up 15 pounds of mud with each repetition.

The plate drag and rope climb? These two tasks were next up and close to impossible to complete. Dragging that sled through the thick mud? Yeah right. Climbing a rope slick with mud? Welcome to the burpee train. Now the sandbag carry only consisted of a single bag, and the distance of the carry wasn’t that far, but it kind of felt like trying to ice skate with a small child on your back.

The last section of the course led back towards the festival area where family and friends could easily see you miss your spear throw and roll around in more soup doing your burpees. If you happened to get lucky and hit the spear, then your hands were still dry! Until you ran around the corner and found the Yokohama tires sitting in the same shit you’ve been battling all day.

Those tires were already tough to get a grip on without trying to flip them in a batch of Montezuma’s Revenge. The burpee pit for that? Yup, more slop.

By this time, you could see the finish line and I’m guessing most people were thinking the same thing I was. Please, don’t let me fail another obstacle and have to burpee in more mud. Luckily the A-frame cargo was next up, no failing this! Then the slip wall. Not a problem, I might finish strong here. Only one last obstacle before the fire jump, the multi-rig. The rig set-up for this event wasn’t the worst ever. Three rings on each side separated by a vertical pipe traverse. But like all the rest of the obstacles on this course, this one too was slippery with farm mud.

So, unless you had the grip strength of Thor or the running ability of Mercury this event was pretty much an unending burpee train.  My final thoughts on this event are as follows. With good weather conditions this course would not have been terrible, maybe not even U.S. Championship Series worthy as the obstacles were what you expected, the track was flat, and the distance wasn’t overwhelming.  But the massive amount of rain turned this race into a brutal suckfest that was worthy of a Championship race.