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.

Spartan Super Austin: A Sticker filled Rocky Good Time

 Super Good Time

The Spartan Super Austin took place on May 19th, 2018.  While Sprint competitors would sadly be forced to experience a literal storm on the following Sunday, participants for the Super were able to experience a perfect storm of a much different type.  From time to time venues are not utilized to their utmost potential.  Spartan did not disappoint this year by creating a near perfect blend of sights, obstacles, and terrain.

Super Venue:

On Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet, Texas much more than the expected elevation can be found.  With beautiful Rocky hills scattered all about the ranch offered up nearly 1,300 feet of elevation gain throughout the race.  All the while beautiful views were a sight to behold both on and off course.  Terrain for this quintessential Texas venue ranged from sand to rocks to the occasional push through scrubby barb covered bushes.

Every step didn’t feel like “well this is a neat little trail” but more like “wow what a unique adventure.”  This is exactly what a racer should feel at such a destination venue.  Spartan showed that they knew how to utilize the beauty, size, and challenge of the Ranch to their utmost advantage.  Allowing their racers to truly soak in where they were will ensure return competitors next year.

Reveille Ranch

The Super Course:

Spartan had a lot of land to utilize to their advantage for this course and boy did they make the most of it.  Starting the course with a few walls as a warm-up we moved into one prickly barbed wire crawl. The elite males went over batches of thorns, stickers, and fire ants.  It wasn’t a long barbed wire crawl, but man was it tough.  I heard later that for elite women it wasn’t bad, and experienced a smooth ride during my second run of an open wave. All I can say is you are welcome for the elite men being so gracious as to use their bodies as pin cushions.  Check the arms and back of anyone who got there first and what they went through was pretty clear.

Bucket Brigade, Bender, Stairway to Sparta, the sandbag carry and many other favorites were spread out over the next few miles.  The expanses of running and climbing over rocky terrain and dirt trails between obstacles were nearly perfect.  Hitting these few simpler obstacles and wearing racers down with hills led to the first big challenge: Twister.  By this point, the dry Texas heat had begun to get to many.  Spartan did a superb job ensuring no one became dehydrated (unless by choice) offering up eight water stations (one for each mile.)  After twister came a great downhill portion that allowed runners to open up.

This then led into a nice little pick your poison culvert crawl in which competitors could choose a route, but it was hard to tell which was easiest.  After we made the culvert crawls we completed some actual climbing using both arms and legs.  This was a welcome challenge.

More obstacles and water crossings were spread out perfectly over more wicked, fun terrain.  Spartan had a great finishing portion for both racers and spectators.  After mud mounds, a dunk wall, slip wall, A-frame and cargo net competitors had one more good climb to the spectator area.  With the finish line in sight, success seemed so close, but at the same time could be so far away.  After jumping a trio of four-foot walls, competitors still stared down a wicked grip gauntlet that could cost them lots of burpees.  No one wants to wuss out on burpees in front of thousands of spectators and fellow competitors.

The first monster ready to take out your grip and shoulder strength was the Herc Hoist.  The multi-rig and Olympus followed.  This created not only one of the more challenging final portions I’ve personally experienced at the end of a Spartan (or any) race but created a great atmosphere for the festival.  Sometimes, finish lines can feel like a place where we are all just waiting for people to come in.  This felt less like a waiting area and more like a sporting event.  The goal of making OCR a legitimate respected sport needs finishes like this.  They rile the spectators.  You can only see someone go through a rig so many times.  However, the announcer and DJ did a GREAT job of keeping both the racers and crowd involved and fired up.

The festival:

The announcer and DJ did a great job of keeping a good vibe going throughout each wave.  Everyone seemed to be having fun and had a few reasons to stick around even after completing their run.  With conveniently located booths, Amstel light, and festival contests to compete in it wasn’t just a race but was an experience. I’ve personally seen Spartan drop the ball here before, so it was nice to see them creating the experience I know they are capable of.

Final Words

All in all, this was probably THE BEST Spartan race I have ever run.  With beautiful sights aplenty, great challenge, superb course design, and a great experience this event reminded me why Spartan was one of my first OCRs.  I will definitely be back. I would certainly recommend this to any Spartan to add to their race calendar next year.

The obstacle variety was great and everything seemed to click for Spartan Super in Austin.  I hope they continue to put this much effort into venues and bring a great experience to Texas for Dallas as well.  When you take it for what it is.  You accept Spartan for what they are and what they are about.  There isn’t much improvement they could have made.  Directors could innovate obstacles a bit more.  However, I think that fine-tuning of obstacles like Twister and Olympus have helped improve the experience.  Grading it for what it is and at what Spartan does (rather than in comparison to other events) I give this race 5 AROOS out of 5.

Spartan Race Announces 2018 Global Championship Series

While the eyes of the OCR world were focused on the Blue Mountains in Ontario this past weekend for the OCR World Championships, Spartan quietly teased us with details of a possible global competition on their Instagram account.

History will be made. Will you be a part of it? 🌎 #spartanrace

A post shared by Spartan Race (@spartanrace) on

This morning, Spartan Race revealed the 2018 Spartan Race Global Championship. A worldwide competition, leading up to the Spartan Race World Championship in October of 2018. The Championship field will need to battle through one of 15 different National Series events in countries such as the USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Northeast Asia, and more. The top finishers in the National Series will be invited to compete in one of five (5) Regional Championships –  North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, South America, and the Middle East. The best of the best will then go on to compete in Spartan Race’s World Championship in October, next year.

Qualifications:

  • Regional Championships: Men and women must finish top 10 in any regular season or National Championship Series event in their respective category
  • World Championship: Men and Women must finish top 10 in a National Championship Series event or a Regional Championship in their respective category

Race formats, dates, and locations will be announced at a later date.

The Global Championship Series also offers open-heat competitors the opportunity to race on the same grounds as
some of the best athletes in the world, along with limited edition medals and shirts.

With Spartan Race’s reach rapidly expanding across the globe, this move will put the top athletes from across the world against each other, for OCR enthusiasts to watch live – it’s a Spartan Race fans dream come true.

Rea Kolbl – Second Chance Athlete

Rea-Kolbl-warming-up-before-Palmerton-superI was lucky to be featured on the Palmerton Spartan Race episode the other day, and I got a chance to share my story of how I got to where I am now. In case you missed it, here’s the short version.

I grew up doing sports, and I was on the Slovenian National Gymnastics Team for almost 10 years. Gymnastics was my life, and I didn’t quite realize just how dangerous having just one big dream could be until I lost it; and with it, losing all of my dreams of being an athlete.

It took me a while, but I did find a new life; one where sports were a side thing, a hobby I did on most days, but taking a day off was perfectly fine, too, if there were other things that got in the way. I lost my fitness, and if someone invited me to climb a mountain I’d have to first consider if I was physically capable of the challenge.

Rea-Kolbl-Double-sandbag-at-Palmerton-Super

And then one day, I signed up for a Spartan Race. There are so many commercials and ads out there, advertising how Spartan changes lives. And really, if you pick any sport or activity, chances are there’s someone saying the same thing. But what I think makes Spartan different, is that it really does change lives (and here I’m mostly talking about Spartan and not obstacle racing, in general, because in my short career so far I haven’t had much chance to branch out and try other events).

After Palmerton episode aired, so many people reached out to me, sharing their stories which were so similar to my own. It’s a beautiful thing, realizing you’re not alone and that your experience is not so different from so many others out there. They shared their stories of injuries that ended their athletic careers when they were young; stories of being forced out of the sports, for one reason or another, thinking that that was the end of the road. But then they found Spartan. And a chance to be athletes again.

Rea-Kolbl-fire-jump-at-Palmerton-Super

So what I realized is that Spartan Races are giving so many people their second chance at what they loved when they were younger. It’s like a second chance sport, and it’s beautiful and amazing how much happiness this can bring. What makes OCR unique is the broad skill set it requires. You need to be fast to run the course; you need to be agile to cross the obstacles; you need to be strong to complete the heavy carries.

And I bet that no matter the sport you did as a child (or young adult), it probably covered at least some aspect that is very important for obstacle racing. It equipped you with a part of a skill set that makes you good at this, and that makes you want to try again, train harder, finish faster, and do it better. And it ultimately makes you stick with it.

There’s also this element of learning on the go that’s unlike any other sport. You don’t know the obstacles on the course ahead of time, and even if you do they might change a little, and you have to figure out how to tackle them. And this need to overcome the unknown fosters the community. There were so many races where I’ve made long-lasting friends from discussing obstacle strategies or trying to develop one together. I did a lot of trail running races before falling in love with Spartan and, while there were definitely chats at the finish line, these were more of a polite small talk. Because everyone there knows how to run, there is no point in discussing with fellow runners how to tackle the trail, how to put one foot in front of another.

Matching-tops-at-Palmerton-Super-Start

In gymnastics, the routines were so polished by the time you performed them and so individual, there was no need to chat about strategies with your competitors. But that’s different in obstacle course racing. There’s always something new to learn, and every race is a chance to improve. More importantly, it’s also a chance to make more friends.

So, people stick with it. The first time I came for the race, but then I kept coming back for the people. Spartan gave me and so many others a chance to find another passion, another focus, a sport to stick with both for the sport and the people in it.

The other day I was thinking that Spartan races are a lot like kindergarten. You play in the mud, swing on monkey bars, and you make friends. And perhaps that is one of the reasons why obstacle course racing can bring back the childhood dreams, and make you an athlete again.

Lindsay-Webster-embraces-Rea-Kolbl-at-the-Palmerton-Super-finish

Photo Credit: Spartan Race

 

Want to train like Rea? Check out one of her favorite workouts on ORM’s Train Like a Pro series.

Asheville Spartan Super-Southeast Showdown


Spartan-Race-Logo

Southeast Showdown

“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it”
-Moliere

Never fear, ORM is here
In case you missed the NBC Sports and Spartan Live coverage of the Spartan Super in Asheville, North Carolina, I am here to save the day. Below is the good, the bad, and the muddy of what you missed at the Spartan Super in Asheville.

        First off, I was unaware this was a U.S. Championship Series Race when signing away my life… I mean registration. I just saw, “Asheville, North Carolina” and thought, hell yeah, good beer. After doing a tad of research before this event I found out that last year’s event was nothing shy of absolute torture. So, since I’m a sucker for a good craft beer, I thought “better get to work” and laced up my sneakers and hit the pavement.

Mountain_Top_Super_Spartan_Asheville

Time Trials

Spartan Race introduces a new way to spend your Pre-race Friday night by attending the open house and time trials. The time trials will run you about $49 if you chose to compete, or free to spectate. The course is a mile dash through 10 of the most popular obstacles, including Twister, Slip Wall, and the Hercules Hoist. Athletes were sent out in small waves to battle each other to be the top 20. After the top 20 were chosen, one final heat remained in order to award the top three male and female winners.

If you don’t wish to compete, you can still practice on the obstacles to get a feel for the madness. Certified SGX Spartan Coaches are on site to help with any tricks and tips to aid you in conquering the obstacles before race day. As usual, Spartan had its swag for purchase along with light refreshments and water. I was disappointed that there was not a pre-race discount on shop items for time trial competitors and spectators. Maybe next time ! 😉

 

Start_Line_Asheville_Super

The Elites

       Hobie Call, had an astounding time of 1:18:02, just fast enough to beat out Ryan Atkins with his time of 1:18:48. Brian Gowiski and Robert Killian fell just shy of the top two with insane speeds of 1:24:37 and 1:26:48. Obstacle Racing Media spoke with Robert at the time trials and he let us in on a secret of his. Robert is able to keep up his endurance at these races with the added help of Tailwinds nutrition. Robert pre-mixes the electrolyte and hydration fuel in a collapsible bottle to have on hand during longer events. Thank you for the tips Robert! Going to have to give it a try!

As for the females, Lindsey Webster delivered amazing times of 1:34:01 for the race, with Rea Kolbl and Faye Stenning right on her tail with their times of 1:34:30 and 1:34:50. Close finish for these top three females! Lindsey states that she really had to push to come out with the win at this year’s Asheville. “I caught second place with Faye on the log carry and we bombed down the final hill together. So fun to race side by side again with this girl, just like last year!” She adds, “It took me a little while to internalize that I had won!” Congrats Lindsey!

Entrance_Asheville_Spartan

Top athlete, Brakken Kraker and NBC sports host, David Magida state that this year’s Asheville Super was quite “easier” than last year. Although I did not race the course last year, it has been the topic of discussion for some time now how difficult last year was. The last 1.7 miles of straight mountain climb were excluded from this year’s race. I do like to Go Big Or Go Home, but I was ecstatic to hear the deletion of the last mile, (and so were my calves).

The Obstacles

“The moment when you want to quit is the moment when you need to keep pushing”

        Black Mountain without a doubt caused some damage that day. In typical Spartan fashion, the challenging venue just wasn’t enough. Spartan made every obstacle “championship” hard, meaning, heavier, taller, and slipperier. The noted tire flip increased in weight to a total of 400 pounds for the men and 200 pounds for the females! It took three females to get the men’s tire to flip just once! Another, incredibly difficult obstacle was the already dreaded Spartan Bucket Carry. Imagine carrying a full bucket of heavy stones and rocks up the side of a mountain when you’re already 4 miles in and about 2,000 feet in elevation. Talk about murder for this Florida girl.

Tire_Flip_Asheville_Spartan

Spartan Race course designer, Steve Hammond states that the “signature” moment for this race was the water crossing. I would personally agree with Steve on his statement!! The scenery was absolutely breath taking!! The only problem was, at that elevation, I didn’t have enough breath to give! There was even a shark sighting out there! That’s definitely memorable! Haha!

 

Spartan_Super_Bucket_Carry_Asheville
Bucket_Carry_Asheville_Spartan
Sandbag_Asheville_Super

“It is then when your heart takes over and takes the lead.”

Based on the terrain and elevation alone, I would not recommend this particular course for a beginner OCR athlete. I have done many races in my short two year career and THIS one right here made me question myself and my athleticism. I had to push myself past a mental barrier that I have never felt before. The race was designed to make or break athletes and I can say I felt broken up until I actually crossed that finish line. I genuinely cried at how proud of myself I was to have finished the race and that I didn’t quit even though my mind and my body both told me I should.

My heart proved stronger that day and carried me to finish! I rewarded myself with a complimentary Zombie White Ale from Catawba Brewing Co., a North Carolina craft brew. I also scored this sweet Asheville Southeast Showdown dri-fit t-shirt for $30.

Medal_Spartan_Super

 

If you have decided to make this Super a MUST DO on your race schedule for 2018, I suggest these breweries and restaurants to visit when in town!

Asheville Brewing
Hole Doughnuts
Tupelo Honey Cafe
Wicked Weed
Sunny Point Cafe

Thank you to ORM and Spartan Race ! Stay Dirty and Stay Fit 💪🏻😊

Jessika_Poppe_signature

 

Photos by: Myself and Spartan Race

Spartan Race – Palmerton Super/Sprint Weekend 2017

Spartan Race U.S. Championships Series – Blue Mountain Challenge

Ask any Spartan Racer what the most grueling event they’ve done in their racing tenure, and Palmerton is sure to be high on that list. After Killington and Tahoe, I’ve heard plenty of stories of racers dropping out during the dreaded double-sandbag carry Palmerton is famous for or succumbing to the heat on what has proven to be a very formidable mountain.

Palmerton, PA also just happens to be the 3rd stop in the Spartan Race US Championship Series – dubbed The Blue Mountain Challenge, which meant the stakes were higher than ever. If you came to watch the best athletes in this sport, you weren’t disappointed. Atkins, Call, Boone, Webster, Kolbl, Killian were all on site. Spartan Race continues to drive amazing live footage, along with an onslaught of social media presence around these big name races – something the OCR enthusiast in me truly can’t get enough of.

For myself, and thousands of other racers, this was simply a chance to experience a championship caliber course on a mountain that has proven it’s worthy of mention in conversations about the toughest Spartan Race venue.

Spartan Up Your Friday Night

Select Spartan courses have also been offering an Open House the Friday before an event weekend. Spartan also offered racers an option to “Spartan Up” their Friday night, which gave the public the perfect opportunity to come enjoy the festival, learn obstacle and training secrets of top coaches, and maybe even meet a few Spartan Pro’s. New obstacles like Twister and Olympus were available to try out, which helps runners get a valuable chance at trying an obstacle before they see it on race day. We also saw a “prototype” rope wall obstacle Spartan was trying out that didn’t make its way into the race itself but gave us a possible look at what may be coming next.

Ape Hanger was another obstacle that has only been seen in one other location – Lake Tahoe, for the 2016 Spartan Race World Championships. Combine the old school rope climb from the water, with a monkey bars / slash rig type feeling, and you’ve got the Ape Hanger. Here is hoping Ape Hanger finds its way to more events because it was an absolute blast.

Spartan continued the assault on racers bodies by building two of the most grueling carries seen so far this year. A double sandbag carry (mandatory to Elite & Competitive racers) down an aptly named ski trail dubbed “Nightmare” and a Bucket Carry that was so long, it extended into the festival area, where onlookers could cheer on runners, and share in the pain that is the Bucket Carry.

All in total, Palmerton saw 25+ obstacles over 6000+ feet of elevation change across the Super course and didn’t skimp at all on the Sprint course the following day. After completing both events on consecutive days, I’m starting to understand the groans I have heard from fellow racers any time the word “Palmerton” is mentioned. When you combine the presence of the obstacle course racing elite, NBC and Spartan Facebook Live coverage, with a course like this, it’s a recipe for success. I’ll be adding Blue Mountain to my list of must-do events going forward.

Photo Credit: Josh Chace

Tell us what you think of Spartan Race, leave a Review Here.

Or sign up for a Spartan Race now with codes:
ORM15 for 15% off
or
SPEAR10 for $10 off