Spartan Super: Brooklyn MI, 2018
It was a great day for a race at the Michigan International Speedway!
The temperature was just warming up to the high 50’s and low 60’s, the wind was a gentle breeze, and the sun was just hinting at peeking thru the clouds. My Dad had decided that the time was ‘now or never’ to go after his first ever Spartan TriFecta. . . and since I’m pretty sure my Mother holds me responsible (I persuaded him to sign up for a Spartan Sprint with me back in 2017), I had committed to joining him for his Super and Beast. So here we were, just days away from his 69th birthday, driving up to Brooklyn Michigan to run his first ever Spartan Super.
We met up with my Brother-In-Law at the venue. . .another family member whom I had talked into running his first Sprint with me back in 2017. He got hooked and had gone on to do as many or more Spartan Races than I have along with a few other branded OCR events! He was a very welcomed addition to our team. Together we made a threesome that was sure to find the finish line!
I could tell my Dad was anxious to get started. . .ok, I was anxious to get started! So when 1pm finally rolled around we loudly proclaimed our occupations to be SPARTANS, yelled our mighty AROOS, and were released onto the course. Both my Brother-In-Law and I had agreed that my Dad should set our groups pace since our main goal was to help coach him thru the event. . .but when he bolted onto the course with a 9 minute mile pace we decided that maybe we should advise him to slow down a bit since we still had A WAYS TO GO! We hit the Jersey Hurdles pretty quickly, which turned out to be race-track-barriers, and settled into a more sustainable pace hovering somewhere around 10-11 minutes per mile.
The course itself was fairly flat, but it was kept interesting by taking you from the speedway infield out onto the track itself, thru a few tunnels that allowed you to exit and enter the venue, into some nearby woods, thru a shallow creek, and across nearby fields (not sure if we passed Grandma’s house or not). I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of variety!
After a short run in which we scaled the Overwalls (should maybe be called the Overwall. . .singular. . .only one wall that was about 5 feet high) and the Hurdles (again, only 1, maybe call it the Hurdle?). . .we came to the first challenge of the day. . .the MONKEY BARS! Now, I’m making a big deal out of this obstacle because up until this race, my Dad had never been able to finish the Monkey Bars. In fact, in the 3 previous Spartan Races he’d done I don’t think he even got half-way thru before heading to the Burpee Zone. . .but not THIS time! He had been doing pull-ups with this very obstacle in mind and THIS time he CRUSHED it! Nothing sounds sweeter than the cowbell you ring at the end of a tricky obstacle! No matter what else might happen, he would be able to feel great that all his hard training had worked!
We cruised thru the Olympus and Rope Climb without incurring any penalty burpees and were in good spirits heading into the Spear Man. Now, my Dad had recently built his own Spear Man in his backyard so he could practice. I wouldn’t say that my relationship with Spear Man was ‘Hit-and-Miss’ so much as it’s been ‘Miss-and-Miss-Some-More’! Out of 11 Spartan Races I’d only successfully completed Spear Man twice! So I was thankful to have had some time to practice the day before. In fact, I had accidentally found out that I was WAY BETTER OFF doing a Granny Throw Technique than the traditional Overhand! With both my Dad and Brother-In-Law using the Overhand Technique and myself using the Granny Throw. . .all three of us killed a bale of straw!
Energized from our victory, we conquered the 8′ wall and came to the first obstacle of the day that was NEW to my Dad. . .the Bender. A fairly simple ‘up-and-over’ obstacle, the Bender can be a little nerve-wracking your first time (or 2, or 10. . .) The difficulty of this one depends greatly on just how far into the course it is. . .luckily this time it was fairly early on, and after watching me climb it, Dad had very little problem completing it also.
Surprisingly, he had NOT encountered the Z-Walls on any of the previous 3 Sprints he had done, but even so, he was able to successfully complete them! We continued on with success thru the Plate Drag, 6′ Wall, Barbed Wire Crawl, and Atlas Carry. . .reaching the Stairway To Sparta, my Dad’s next NEW obstacle.
Again, he was able to scramble up and over without much issue other than a touch of fatigue starting to set in. We’d been holding a pretty quick pace up until this point. . .after this obstacle we started to slow down a bit. . .NOT MUCH mind you, but probably closer to a 12-13 minute mile.
If you’ve done a few Spartan Race’s you probably know that the official map isn’t always 100% accurate. Not only does the course tend to be longer than what they show, but at times the order of obstacles is different as well. Personally, I think Spartan does this intentionally, at least at times, just to mess with the racers and keep them slightly off-balance. However, I’m sure there are also times where the course gets altered a bit at the last-minute during setup. . .maybe due to an unforeseen problem with the original design OR the course designer simply got a better idea while building. Whatever the case, the map showed we should be approaching a Barbed Wire Crawl (our second for the day) followed by the Rolling Mud and Dunk Wall. . .what we found was probably one of my favorite combinations of the three that I’ve encountered so far. We had the Rolling Mud first, which was pretty standard. . .it’s a series of pits dug into the dirt and filled with water. . .you jump / slide into each pit, then wade thru the muddy water that can be anywhere from waist to chest deep, and claw your way up the muddy bank on the other side. Typically there are at least 3 of these pits, which I believe is what we had. Normally this obstacle will lead directly into the Dunk Wall, which is another pit like the Rolling Mud only with a wall touching the top of the water that you have to go underneath. . .causing you to DUNK your whole body, head-to-toe, under the muddy water. On THIS course though, directly after you clawed your way out of the 3rd Rolling Mud pit you had a short Barbwire Crawl thru more mud, which emptied out into the Dunk Wall! That slight little variation made this obstacle a LOT more fun! At least I thought so! 🙂 Another surprise was that they had added the Slip Wall! For whatever reason the Slip Wall had been left off of the map, but I was glad to see it since it just doesn’t feel right to exit the Dunk Wall and NOT have the Slip Wall in front of you!
Oh, and a word of advice. . .if you decide to take a few items off and shuttle them past an obstacle so you can pick them up on the other side. . .make sure that all the items you move ARE YOURS! Case in point, we had decided to remove our waist packs and put them to the side before entering the Rolling Mud and I had a great idea to move them all the way down to the Slip Wall so we could put them back on there. Well, my Dad helped me gather them up and we must have also gathered up another racers pack also, which I KINDLY moved along with ours! After we finished the Slip Wall and were putting our stuff back on we noticed the extra pack AND a very worried looking racer frantically looking around. . .turned out it was HER pack! Oops! She was glad to have it back! There are definitely BETTER ways of meeting people on the course than that!
There were a lot of people saying how cold the water was, and I’m sure it was, but it didn’t feel bad to me. I find that if you can just concentrate on the completion of the obstacle and keep moving forward, the cold doesn’t get to you as much. Especially if your muscles are warmed up from running. If you are cold at the end of the Dunk Wall, you should remember to keep moving! Running or jogging will help warm your muscles back up but slowing down or standing still can lead to cramps!
After a short run to warm back up we came to our next obstacle, and the days first set of penalty burpees. . .the Twister! Twister is a very grip intensive obstacle. A variation of Monkey Bars, it requires you to traverse the length of the obstacle by grabbing onto metal bars that ‘twist’ as you grab them. My Brother-in-Law completed it without any problem. . .I did not! I think it’s a mental thing with me, really. I think I have the grip strength to finish it, but since I’ve faced it so many times and failed I think I’m entering into the obstacle with failure already assumed. I need to work on that! Somehow, not sure how, but my Dad fell from the obstacle early on in a way that put his foot back thru the platform you stand on and jammed his knee into the ground. It looked pretty bad but he got right up and said he was fine, so we both made our way to the penalty zone and did our 30 burpees. My Brother-in-Law decided to take a few more passes at the Twister with different techniques while he waited for us.
After scaling the 7′ Wall we quickly came to the Multi-Rig. Now, Multi-Rig is always an interesting obstacle since it has many different ways it can be setup. . .this particular setup was one that neither my Brother-in-Law or I had seen before. Typically it will be all rings for a Sprint level course, but for a Super they will normally have a ring section, a couple of ropes, and a straight pipe that leads to the cowbell at the end. The order can be moved around, but typically they stay in a group (rings, rope, pipe). On this particular setup they left out the pipe and instead had a fairly even mixture of rings and ropes. If I’m remembering correctly, it went ring, rope, ring, SHORT rope, normal rope, ring, normal rope, ring, ring, SHORT bell. Up until this point I had yet to finish a Multi-Rig that included ropes, but I was able to finish this one! Between finishing this Multi-Rig and nailing the Spear Man I was more than happy with my results for the day! Unfortunately my Brother-in-Law wasn’t able to get thru it and needed to pay the Burpee Penalty. Thinking about it later he came to the conclusion that MAYBE it wasn’t the BEST idea to have played around on the Twister since he PROBABLY wore his grip out on it! 🙂 My Dad was feeling pretty worn out by this point, and maybe the fall on the Twister was still on his mind, so he asked me if it was ‘ok’ if he just bypassed this obstacle and went straight to the Burpee Zone. Of course it’s ok! I honestly think he could have given the Multi-Rig a good effort, but I could recognize the look on his face since I’ve had the same one on mine! I bypassed the Multi-Rig at the end of the Beast at Big Bear this year since I was mentally sure that I would get close to the end and fall off only to have to do Burpees anyway. Could I have made it? Looking back. . .I wish I had tried, but I paid the penalty and moved on. . .and so did my Dad. If you are thinking about trying a Spartan Race you should know that you can bypass most any obstacle you want to, as long as you are willing to pay a 30 burpee penalty. There’s no shame in it! Just don’t be one of the racers who decide to bypass the obstacle AND the penalty. If you do that, you didn’t earn your medal!
The Sandbag carry was next, and as far as Sandbag Carries go it was quite nice! A lot of my recent Spartan races have been in mountainous areas with heavy carries up steep grades. . .so the fact that this carry was on flat ground was a very welcome change for me! I don’t think any of us struggled with it and we moved on and over the Inverted Wall into the last few obstacles of the day. We could start to hear the music of the festival area and knew we were getting close to the finish line! As we re-entered the stadium area we had to hike clear up to the top of the bleachers and back down before coming to the Bucket Brigade. Luckily we only had to carry our rock-filled buckets about halfway up the bleachers and back down. Dad’s knee and quad had started to bother him on our first trip up, but they settled down a bit once he had the extra weight of the bucket. Funny how that happens. Again, I think this is a mental trick we play on ourselves. When we have a task to complete we tend to switch gears into ‘finish-the-task’ mode and things like pain or discomfort take a backseat. It’s when we don’t have a task to distract ourselves that we start to key into all the aches and pains! So if you find yourself on a Spartan course and you’re starting to feel the aches and pains of what you’ve gone thru, try to make your trail run into a ‘mental obstacle’. It doesn’t always work, but the technique can at least help to remind you that the pains are only temporary and can wait until you are done with the event to be dealt with. However, if you’re like me at all, you will find that once you cross the finish line a LOT of the aches and pains MAGICALLY go away and get replaced with a strong feeling of accomplishment. . .and maybe a tinge of relief that you’re done! 🙂
Feeling a bit lighter now that the last of our heavy carries were done, we followed the music coming from the festival area to the final obstacle that would test our strength. . .the Hercules Hoist. Now, maybe I was just a bit worn out, but it sure felt to me like the sandbags were weighted just as heavy as any Beast I’ve done! The Herc Hoist (as it’s normally called) consists of a heavy sandbag attached to a rope that goes straight up and thru a pulley about 20 feet high. You must pull the rope to lift the sandbag clear up to the pulley before gently lowering it back to the ground again. All three of us were able to get thru without any burpee penalties and moved onto the venues one unique obstacle. There are a few venues where Spartan will design an obstacle or challenge specifically to that area, and for the Michigan International Speedway it was a 1/4 Mile Challenge! The 1/4 Mile Challenge consisted of running a straight stretch of the actual speedway, crossing a timer pad at the start and finish of the 1/4 mile section. The 3 male and female racers who logged the fastest 1/4 Mile sprint time for the day would receive a free race entry. Since there was absolutely NO DANGER of winning this challenge, and given that my Dad’s leg was trying to cramp on him, we decided to walk most of the 1/4 Mile as my Brother-in-Law ran ahead. I don’t know what his time on it was, but I think we logged a ‘speedy’ 3 minute time. At the head of the 1/4 Mile Challenge they had set up a completely optional ‘Selfie’ zone where you could pose with inflatable race-cars and a checkered flag. . .which of COURSE we did! You have to remember to HAVE FUN! 🙂
With only 3 obstacles between us and the finish line, I could sense the pain and fatigue start to leave my Dad. There’s just something about knowing that you’re almost done AND that the hardest parts are behind you. You finally get to relax a little in the knowledge that you WILL actually finish the event! The A-Frame Cargo was a simple up-and-over affair and led right into the Vertical Cargo Plus. If you’ve never seen the Vertical Cargo Plus BUT you’ve seen the Vertical Cargo, just add a platform that you have to muscle your way up onto BEFORE you can start to climb the net. It’s not a hard obstacle, but when put so deep into a course it can be a calf-cramp inducer if you aren’t careful. I took a knee so my Dad could use it as a stepping stool since he said ‘my legs won’t jump’, and we were up and over in no time.
Last obstacle was the classic Fire Jump. This is always a fun one for me since I do a lot of my races in California and it’s RARE to have a Fire Jump! Too many wildfires to justify possibly starting another one!
Clearing the Fire Jump signaled the end of our run, and the successful completion of my Dad’s first ever Spartan Super! He did very well and I’m very proud of him! I think he did better than he thought he would and definitely had some personal victories along the way.
I would definitely recommend this venue to anyone who is looking for an entry-level Super. It’s not ‘easy’ (no Spartan event should be considered ‘easy’), but without the hills and mountains you will find on a lot of courses, the flat nature of this Super makes it easier to simply enjoy the obstacles! Also, the fact that it makes use of the actual Speedway creates a unique feel you won’t get on any other venue. PLUS if you get a chance to run with your Dad and Brother-in-Law it will only add to the enjoyment! 🙂
Finisher Shirt, Front
Finisher Shirt, Back
Super TriFecta Wedge Piece
(holder NOT included)
Venue Shirt, Front
Venue Shirt, Back
Venue Shirt, Sleeve