Thursday, June 22, 2017

Race Recap: Illinois Spartan Sprint

Earlier this month, I ran my 3rd Spartan Race. I really think the “Sprint” distance is my favorite. The race was in Richmond, IL and was 4 miles with 22 obstacles. I ran the race with Maggie who hadn’t previously run a Spartan race. In preparation, we did a burpee challenge during the month of May where we did 30 burpees and a 30 second plank each day for 30 days. I missed 3 days because of the flu, but I made the other 27! Day, night, in the middle of a run, I got those burpees down. They sucked. Sometimes I think I miss doing them every day, but then I remember that I don’t.

Maggie and I met up beforehand and carpooled together. We got to the parking lot about an hour before the race, which was honestly cutting it a little close. We had to take a shuttle to the event site, get our headbands and timing chips. We stuck around a bit to see some of the folks completing obstacles to observe the techniques. The twister might be the worst obstacle I’ve seen. I bet American Ninja Warrior competitors would have trouble completing it! We then took another pic before checking our bags and heading to the start corrals. The race goes in waves every 15 minutes so you don’t get obstacle traffic jams. The waves are not too crowded so everyone is pretty evenly spaced out.

The first mile was pretty uneventful. We had a few obstacles but nothing too crazy. Something started bothering Maggie and she needed to take it slow for the rest of the race. We started to walk and she said she started to feel better. With each obstacle, we would just get through it. It was starting to get pretty warm (our start time was 10:00am) and the course was a bit dryer than I’m used to. I think the warmth dried up some of the muddier obstacles.

One of the things I absolutely love about Spartan is the team spirit. Lots of people offer to help boost you over walls, sit at the top and lend a helping hand, literally lean on one another across a slanted wall with chains. They also offer technique advice to help you complete the obstacle in a more efficient way. Teams work together to get over the obstacles and it is quite an amazing site to see. I’m not going to describe each obstacle in detail, but you can definitely check out great videos on Spartan’s website and Instagram account. Every weekend their IG story is full of people completing the obstacles, so you get a really great preview. They also have helpful tips videos to show you how to defeat the obstacles, using proper technique.

There are a few obstacles that are definitely worth noting as they require some additional training, patience, and grit.

  1. Barbed Wire Crawl – OH MY GOD, this obstacle took forever. Just when you thought it was over, you had to keep going. The ground was hard, dusty, and unforgiving. I didn’t roll because I knew I would get super dizzy. I army crawled and felt like Shakira in the “She Wolf” music video
  2. Twister – I saw this obstacle many times before and I hoped and wished it would only be on the Super course. Well, that was not the case. I got about halfway through when I just couldn’t make the transition. It seemed much shorter when we were observing, as opposed to actually completing. This obstacle was really tough and I think would give some Ninja Warriors a run for their money!
  3. The Rope Climb – This obstacle has eluded me for 3 Spartan’s now. I actually practiced on this event, but on race day my arms were too tired, my shoes were too slippery, and the rope was too muddy. I know I can do this obstacle so it was super frustrating to be unsuccessful. For next time, I need to work on climbing after a race when I’m already tired.  Also, I probably could have practiced a bit more. Next time, 4th time’s the charm… I swear, I know I can do it!
  4. The Rig (Rings) – They didn’t have monkey bars this time, they had rings instead. I was a little nervous starting out, but once I got going, I knew this was something I could complete. After the rope climb defeat, I was super pumped to accomplish this one and celebrated accordingly afterwards. 

Concentrating on those rings

There were also a ton of walls and some obstacles that were simply “carry this heavy thing (bucket full of rocks or sandbag) down and around the designated path”. I think I enjoyed all of the walls a bit more than Maggie did. Lol!

Sandbag carry

All-in-all, I would say this was a successful Spartan race. My only criticism is that it was a little daunting and disappointing that about 7 of the 22 obstacles were back-to-back at the end of the race. We were all exhausted and spent. Other than that, the race was well organized and thoughtfully put together (there was not a water obstacle just before a grip strength obstacle, etc.).


I was debating whether or not to run with my new TomTom watch. I know they were a sponsor of the Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge TV show last season and many of the Spartan pros wore the watch during the race. I saw someone with a TomTom right before we started and he said it has held up through 20 Spartan races. I made the decision to run with it and it was awesome! It never faltered and it was awesome to get stats and still feel connected during the race. It was also super helpful to have a mile marker estimate on where we were in the course. Spartan does put up mile markers at each mile, but sometimes with the different obstacles it is easy to lose your sense of direction and how much distance you’ve covered.

If you haven’t done an obstacle course race before, I HIGHLY recommend Spartan! The organization cares about their athletes and they have integrity in the course. It will be difficult and challenging, but there is a 100% chance you’ll feel like a badass when you’re done. It can seem intimidating, but it really isn’t that bad once you’ve done it—Maggie can tell you! If I can do it, you definitely can do it. AROO!

This is what it looks like when you complete a challenging obstacle