The Chicago Spartan Super was set on a super flat and what I expected to be a very fast course. Although, in a Spartan Race one thing is almost always certain, nothing goes as expected. I got to the start line and saw some familiar faces, Ryan Kent, Brian Gowiski and knew it wasn’t going to be an easy day. We were off to a super fast start with everyone predicting that some tight trail portions were coming up and I wanted to be out front even if that meant breaking brush. I was able to get out and onto the trail in first, but what I wasn’t expecting was the small swamp we would be trekking through for the next mile it seemed. I thought I had a decent lead going into at that time was just water and some mud, but I heard someone gaining on me. I immediately figured it was Kent and thought to myself, it’s going to be another one of those grueling battles for first, game on! However, to my surprise it wasn’t Kent, rather a new kid on the block with Brakken as a coach; Mike Ferguson was right on my heels.
We pushed through the first half of the course with no real shockers, some walls, hurtles, tire flips, and barbed wire. It wasn’t until the bucket brigade that I began to get a bit of a lead. I carried that into the Spartan Rig, which to date was the hardest one I’ve done in a Spartan race. The rig was reversed from the normal version with the horizontal bar last so we started with rings, to slick ropes, to a base ball, to a straight bar, to a ring, the horizontal bar to another ring and the bell. I knew that it was do or die at this point so I got on and didn’t let go until I hit that bell. Throughout much of the race we were running through these little villages used for shooting paintball which I thought was a cool way to direct the race. After the rig I followed the arrows up a two story structure where I could see the guys coming up to the rig with a great vantage point to watch them negotiate it. Ferguson fell off so that gave me a bit of wiggle room, but Brian and Kent were still right there and working together to close the gap.
I got to the z-wall and took my time to make sure I kept focused on each grip hold to get across successfully. It was a bit more challenging with all the mud and water on course, but it didn’t seem to hold up that many guys. With more than half the race competed I went into the next strength obstacle, the plate drag. Unlike Monterey I was the first one there and got a smooth drag across the field, but also set up an easy drag for the rest of the guys who would later use that same lane. I was certainly enjoying that portion of the course since it was about the only mile my legs weren’t getting slashed and destroyed by all the thorn bushes while running through the woods. I kept thinking that I certainly should have gone with full length 2XU tights and wouldn’t make that same mistake on Sunday.
There were only a few more obstacles standing in my way to complete the first part of my goal; rope traverse, monkey bars, rope climb, herc hoists, and immediately followed by the spear throw. To my surprise upon getting to the rope traverse there was a little red stool that you had to start from making no doubt when you were officially on the rope, unlike the new ladder traverse. Once your leg left the stool it was game on. I then thought about all the officiating up until that point and notice a distinct difference from the week prior in Monterey. The staff in Chicago left no room for error on their part, at every obstacle the rules were quickly restated and strictly enforced.
I hit the monkey bars and once again these were more challenging than some of the previous ones I’ve done. About half way I actually had to swing and build momentum in order to make the longer than normal gap which normally isn’t an issue for me since I have a 6 foot wing span. I got over them but really started to feel the effort I put in during Monterey the weekend prior and began to slow down the pace quite a bit going into the herc hoist. With a few days of heavy rain before I arrived on course I was expecting a super heavy lift on the hoist, but was able to muscle the bag up with no issues. My main concern was going right into the spear toss with tired arms so the plan was to take my time and recover a bit, but as I looked back second place was already approaching the hoist. After the miss I had in Montana that cost me the race near the finish, I took my time and made a very confident spear toss; nailed it without a doubt. I knew at that point that I was going to win and it was a great feeling. There is no other stress like destroying yourself for 90% of the race and knowing everything could change at the spear toss. Goal one complete!
The rest of the afternoon I hung out at the Ascent Protein tent to refuel and recover a bit. I got in a nice cool down and went out to the rig to watch Ryan Kent and Rose Wetzel take on the course again with the Friday Night Lights crew. In the process I met a lot of cool people out on course and enjoyed offering out some obstacle tips along the way. After my cool down and attending the awards ceremony, I was starting to feel a bit hungry so I made my way over to the food tent. One of the cool things I feel people overlook at a Spartan Race is the food selection. It was awesome to head over and eat a full course meal; salad, fruit, pork / chicken, sweet potato, and vegetables all cooked onsite. What a great lunch. I still had a couple of things to pick up before the Hurricane Heat later that night so headed out shortly after stuffing my face to complete those tasks.
After a trip to Lowes I quickly found myself behind on time before I had to be back at the venue for the Hurricane Heat check in. I planned to eat a nice dinner, but found myself ordering an xxl grilled stuffed burrito and quesadilla from Taco Bell. Calories are calories at that point. I threw that down on the drive and quickly scrambled my gear together in the parking lot; heavy duty back pack with 40lbs of weight, two 5 gallon buckets, a 2×4 the width of your arm span, black Sharpe, a sign with your name and class number, duct tape, head lamp, extra batteries, food (mre’s and skittles for me), water, and 100ft of 5/50 cord.
A big thanks to all my sponsors who make it possible for me to represent the USA at Spartan Race and other OCR events. Ascent Protein: for rapidly helping to rebuild muscle with the new benchmark in protein purity. HyperWear: for the one of a kind Hyper Vest Pro and SandBells keeping me ready for those heavy carries. CeraSport: for electrolyte support. Tailwind Nutrition: for fueling me during the Spartan Endurance Hurricane Heat. WearBands: for the great resistance system keeping my legs strong. Mudgear: for the best socks. Reebok: for the all-terrain Super ORs keeping me in contact with the ground.