Attending a Spartan National Championship series race is akin to attending a big Hollywood movie premiere. The movie isn’t going to be different, the obstacles are all the same, but all the stars are there! It really was wonderful to see so many pioneering athletes mosey around the festival throughout the day. I couldn’t help getting awestruck by meeting the ever so charming Nicole Mericle. I even have to admit that my previous impression of Ryan Woods on screen isn’t very flattering, but in person, he's a beast. Ryan looked fit to the point where I would not have been shocked if he chased down a gazelle and tackled him with his bare hands. I don't where Ryan would have found a gazelle in Illinois, but he coulda done it, and now my fear of Canadians is real.
The easiest part of my review is not needing to convince anyone that the course was anything less than a Mudapalooza caught in a landslide multiplied by pi. Social media has a plethora of documentation to verify the mythological quantity of mud that developed in northern Illinois the week prior to race day. Northern Illinois is notoriously flat and prone to flooding and the sky dumped rain across these plains the entire week leading up to the race. Local obstacle racers remember the 2016 Spartan race to have very similar conditions, although I am certain that this year was exponentially more sloppy.
The largest and most obvious obstacle was the mud. The brownie mix like substance was comical to walk through, very slippery, the surface below was uneven, and it is so sticky that it gets tracked around everywhere! Platforms used for athletes to stand on in order to reach rigs started sinking into the mud which made height challenged people very angry.
The course designer used many of Spartan’s grip intensive rigs, but with the addition of mud into the equation, I felt that a kung-fu grip was critical to avoid burpees especially as Olympus had foot traction similar to liquid ball bearings.
My impression is that this Spartan event was not necessarily focused on the ability to carry heavy objects. The distance for Bucket brigade wasn’t very far compared to other Spartan races. Also, the sandbag carry at this event was a single bag carry. Trust me when I admit that I am not complaining. I have to assume that this was less of a priority for the race organizers that may have wanted this to be a faster race.
However, there was the unexpected sled pull that was utterly welded in the mud. Many accounts believe that moving the sled was less likely possible to happen than Hobie Call coming out of retirement.
Then there was the tire flip. A massive tire caked in slippery mud, filled with water from the weeks prior rain, and surrounded by no footing whatsoever. I find it amusing that the lifting requirements at this event would slide on the spectrum of Steve Urkel strength to the polar opposite end requiring the brawn of John Cena to complete an obstacle.
No black broth found at this event. Only astonishingly marvelous food exists on these grounds. Try as I might, but I can’t seem to eat everything that was offered. Aside from the trick or treat style grazing available at nearly every stand; I enjoyed a juicy gastronomically perfect burger loaded with pickles, mustard, lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. I’m sure there is something about eating after a race that makes all food taste better, but who am I to calculate that chart? My burger tasted like it the Greek god Ambrosia created it herself and then delivered it to me in the arms of a cherub!
Like an aged wine, this logo has developed a flavor from the past. The iconic helmet which defines the logo really is brilliant as it tends to restore the image of a armor from antiquity rather than attempting to update it to fit the head of Tron.
The primary objective of a logo is to become recognizable, and the Spartan race logo certainly achieves exactly that. If I was to massage the logo a bit further I would take an eraser to the mud splashes in the background. I see how they may offer a bit of distinction just like pumpkin spice does to a frothy latte, but I just want the coffee, because a spectacular coffee doesn’t need anything else.
Every finite detail of this event was completely terrific. If Spartan races are the gold standard of obstacle races, then the National championship series races would be diamond encrusted platinum I suppose if you are into that sorta thing.
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