Chicago Spartan Super Race Recap- A Family Affair!

Second guest post  written by my partner in crime, Dicky Donaldson. Running with team always makes a Spartan race more fun. When that team is your family, it is something even more special and memorable. This was the case for Chicago as we got to introduce the Donaldson brothers, sister and nieces into the Spartan world!


Date: June 11 Location: Richmond Hunt Club Chicago, IL  Distance: 8.88 miles Obstacles: 23 Time: 4:18:56 Who: Clan Donald – Richard, Pauline, Brett, Cristy, Chris, Brooke, & Riley

Photo Album: Chicago Spartan Pics


What happens when you mix torrential thunderstorms, a group of OCR race fanatics, a dash of virgin racing anxiety and blend it all with a nice coating of blood, sweat and tears – Clan Donald’s Chicago Spartan Super Race Bonanza!!

Taking place on what turned out to be a rather nice day, Clan Donald took to Richmond, IL for the first Spartan Outing (and oh there will be more!!).  Led by race veterans, Richard & Pauline, the Clan members of Brett, Cristy, Chris, Brooke, & Riley (all first timers by the way) were ready to do battle on the corn fields and paintball grounds of Richmond Hunt Club.

The weather called for rain and gloom – and in the midwest, during summer, the weather can vary in the extreme.  It had been raining HARD for days, but as luck would have it, and as we drove to the battle grounds, the sun rose high in the sky and the clouds were sparse – a good day indeed…

Fast forward thru parking, bus riding, registration, gearing up, hugging loved ones (supporting cast of Bob, Judy, & Ruth the parents/grand parents) good bye – it was time to enter the battlefield donned in our bad ass Clan Donald uniforms. Richard, Pauline, Brett, Cristy, & Brett headed off to the regular start line while Brooke and Riley shuffled to the kids start- each party guaranteed each other – no one shall be left behind.

OK – enough Spartan like lead up (or pick your period war film or story) – let’s get it on with telling you about the flattest BUT MUDDIEST course I have ever seen in my life – seriously, I have been to the mud baths of Calistoga, CA – I have laid in them and found out what it means to have a prison like shower afterward to get all the mud off/out of you – that wasn’t as muddy as this course (yes, I had a small twig of mud fall out of me SUNDAY – the next day – and I can’t tell you from where either – but it took days to get all the mud off….crazy!!)

Enter the Dragon – I mean Course

First, there was the obligatory course entrance – short wall, get over it and you are in the starting shoot – a small, insignificant test – all made it over in single bounds (kind of) – needless to say, everyone was pretty pumped at that point – and clean – I am not sure even the veterans were ready for what was gonna happen across those 8.8 miles of knee deep mud (did I say it was muddy yet???)

Mile 1

As the hype man got us ready to go at the start of the race – ARRRROOO, AROOOO – we all felt pretty damn good at this point – sun was out (guns were out), but it wasn’t too hot, there were no rain clouds in sight and the start line was dry – all of this was going to change in mile 1.

As we launched into the course, the starting cohort moved down thru a land chute that moved us into a closer near single track and into what the rest of the course would consist of – KNEE DEEP, WET, COLD, DARK MUD!!! – yes, the past few days of torrential rain had made the course one big mud bog – coupled with fact that we started mid day, the course had been run on by the elites and numbers before us – so this was going to be the rest of the day – get used to it – Spartan’s just have to deal with it!

First obstacle was simple hurdle – easy to get over, unless you are covered in wet mud, then there is a bit of balancing act you have to be careful –  but we all made it (no bruised interiors!!! and excuse the ass shot CD)

By the time we got to mile marker 1 – we were all covered in mud – get used to it!!

IMG_7972.JPGMile 2

Mostly a flat run, some dry spots and a series of small walls – fairly easy to get thru and the Clan was feeling pretty good – keeping a light pace, not taxing, most felt like – is this all the course has got? (just wait)

Mile 3

Now we move into more obstacles that start to test your body – first up was the tire flip.  Men’s tires weighing in at ~85Lbs and women’s at ~70Lbs – flip fwd 3x and flip back 3x.  On its own, not a horrible drill, but when your hands are caked with mud and wet, getting a grip can be a bit of a trick.  Everyone muscled thru this pretty easily


Next – the bucket brigade – now, for veteran Spartans who completed horrendously long and hilly Bucket Brigades in Montana and Monterey, this comparatively speaking was a piece of cake.  However, for first timers, filling up a bucket with rocks and walking thru the forest takes a toll on forearms and back.  Everyone pulled thru, with a few pauses to catch breath here and there, but reaching the end and dumping the rocks out is always a great feeling


Next up – the inverted wall – tilted ~30 degrees at you, you  need to climb up while being “upside down’ having gravity trying to pull you off, ascending and throwing over a leg, pulling yourself over and basically sliding down the other side – mostly not a problem for this crew and everyone moved up and over with just a few slips here and there – so kudos to the teamIMG_7988.JPGMoving into the barbed wire crawl – on mud!!  Always easier to roll thru the obstacle, but that can be disorienting for the first timers (and veterans – see 500ft barbed wire review from MT).  We all dropped to our bellies and hit the mud – crawl was ~125-150ft.  It isn’t that it is terribly hard, but it just takes a toll to be face down in mud and getting the occasional reminder from the evil barbed wire as it catches skin, that it really is barbed wire.  If you think you will get thru a Spartan without some bruising or bleeding – think again – it is inevitable!!

Mile 4

8Ft wall, really deep mud, multi rig, cargo net, and more barbed wire – just what a Spartan loves!!

8ft wall – usually a bit of trick to make small leap, grab a hold of top and swing yourself over – but when everything is now wet and muddy, especially you – the wall is way more complicated.  The Clan had to work together to get everyone over, but we did with no slips, falls, or broken bones!! ARROOOO – even had a few take a moment on top of said wall to gaze back on course and think – I am halfway there!! Also got to meet a real live Spartan!

FREAKING multi-rig – I say this as I have been able to get thru this obstacle my past few races and have generally figured this one out.  This time though, the wet mud caked holds were impossible to navigate for me (and everyone else) – a set of rings leading to small ropes leading to a solid vertical bar culminating in the horizontal bar and then bell was this course’s multi-rig.  First time thru, fell right off at beginning – WOW was it slippery.  That pissed me off – so went back, took any grass I could to dry off hands, took to it again – grips held thru the rings and rope but when I hit the vertical hold, just too wet and slippery – )($#@&@*&@#*@(#@#*()@)(#@* – failure is not something I enjoy and I hadn’t done penalty burpees in a long time – but burpees I had to do this time!!  

No one made it thru that one and we were all exiled to the burpee zone- oh well – on to the ~25 foot A-frame cargo net.  We all scaled this pretty easily.

IMG_8050.JPGThen more barbed wire – this time on “dry” ground and hay.  Everyone rolled thru – now we all looked like super weird, kinda freaky Spartan clad Scarecrows – easily could have taken us up on a pole in a corn field and left us there

Mile 5

The course narrowed a lot thru here and lots of single track coupled with super deep mud – no rest for the wicked – there were lots of lost shoes on this stretch!!

Then we hit the climbing wall – this obstacle is tough on a normal day – but when you are wet and muddy and all of the holds are wet and muddy – this is nearly impossible.  Everyone took to the walls on multiple attempts – I know not everyone made it thru, but can’t recall who did burpees (ahem, BD).

By this time, the course is taking a toll – not hilly by any stretch (no Montana for sure) – but the damn mud was just complicating everyone’s passage – plus, course had lots of narrow sections accompanied with human pile ups, so you just could never get into a rhythm – but press on mighty warriors, press on!!

Mile 6

A full mile with no mud!! YEAH!!!!! You know your senses are a bit warped when you can shout with glee that you don’t have to trudge thru any mud but face the plate drag and upside down rope traverse!!!

Plate drags are pulling on the rope tied to a container filled with heavy sandbags – you got to get in there and sit down, put your feet on the berms’ created by the folks that have come thru, and drag that object to you across uneven terrain for 20-25ft and then get up, grab the chain on other side of the container, and drag it back to its starting position.  Lower back, arms, and legs all get worked on this one – narry a member of the clan missed this obstacle – not easy as we are all a bit tired at this point!


Upside down rope traverse – now, this is hard on any day.  Again, with wet hands, lots of mud, this was a devilish obstacle.  Chris seems to revel in this one as he is part monkey boy and just likes to hang upside down as evidenced by his one handed pose for the camera.


Most made it thru this one, however, a couple members did a few burpees instead!!

Mile 7

We can sense the end is near – our feelings get buoyed a bit at the sight of this marker. Unbenounced to us though is we still face the uneven bars, various walls, and more mud!!

The uneven bars was a trick due to wetness and mud again – but I must admit, Pauline had one of the more memorable photos – looking like a pro, the face, the grit, she made it look  like it was a piece of cake – and Chris tried to get all fancy with his dismount and touch two bells – he missed both – we weren’t gonna call him on this, but uuuhhhh TECHNICALLY, he should have done burpees.


Next up, the mud mounds, over/under/through, and dunk wall all wrapped into one and a challenge to keep mud out of every orifice of your body.


This was followed by the most maddening and longest stretch of thick, goopy, suck your shoes off mud track on the course. It went on for what seemed like forever, and as we trudged and slogged through this half mile long mudpit, we almost lost shoes, our kneecaps, and our sanity. We were all pretty elated that we managed to make it out of this mud hole alive.


Mile 8

As stated, you start to get thrilled about post race food and just crossing the finish line. But as with any typical Spartan course, you get  some real crap thrown at you prior to finishing.  

THE ROPE CLIMB – this m@therf*&ker was hard.  I mean, every single rope was slick with mud, so your grip strength really didn’t matter for the first 10ft, if you could even make this – however, if you could get past the first ten feet, then the rope actually dried up a bit and you could ascend to the top.  This presented challenges for everyone the team – some made it and got to enjoy the views at the top, some didn’t


The Herc Hoist was pretty easy for most, surprisingly.  One moment was Chris, being a Spartan newbie, didn’t realize you not only had to hoist it, but you had to also set the 75Lbs bag down slowly and gently – so when he hoisted the bag to the top and hit the bar, he just let go of the bag!!! BOOOOOM!!!  The bag hit the ground with a thunderous clap and EVERYONE at the obstacle started to point – BURPPPEES!!! 🙂 – since he was new and unaware, we let him do it again, but technically he should have done burpees like at the Monkey Bars.

Spear throw – if you have hit this before, it isn’t the hardest to do, but it is very hard if you are not used to spear throwing – and since we all spear throw so often, i mean, shouldn’t this be easy!! 🙂  Not everyone hit the target, and one gentleman simply refused at this point to do burpees, stating “I am done with this S#IT”, we moved on to the final obstacles!!

The SLIP WALL – this was a 15ft tall wall angeld at about 25 degrees away from us and had a rope you can use to ascend it – but everything and everyone is caked in mud and wet – the rope, the wall,body, everything!!  This was the penultimate obstacle – and being at the final 100 or so yards, all the families were gathered and taking pictures along with side bets of who would or wouldn’t make the final two challenges.  Not without a little struggle, everyone made the slip wall!!!

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Now the end is truly in sight – you just need to find a way to surmount the Stairway to Heaven – again, no problem for everyone!!

Cameras were rolling as we all took to the final obstacles – but every Clan Donald member ascended to Heaven and came back to earth to cross the finish line together!

Finish Line

We made it – all of us!!  Tired, scratched, muddy as hell, but jubilant.  Clan Donald took this course and made it theirs!!  There is nothing quite like the finish – at that point you can relax and revel in what you just accomplished – and with family like this, it is only sweeter!!

575cf6b8cc7ee328504576d3-o (1).JPG

Brooke and Riley had their own Spartan fun and apparently annihilated the kids 1 mile course in 13 minutes, 10 seconds. There were no wall climbs, hurdles, or rope climbs too challenging for these two! Next year, they will need to join the rest of Clan Donald for the adult Spartan run!



We came to take on the Spartan Challenge and we finished in high spirits – and everyone thru mud caked faces said they would do it again (perhaps a course with less mud).So many folks just don’t get it, but these races are addicting and once you have done one, you will see – Clad Donald got it that day and shall face the challenges again!! Clan Donald… we came, we climbed,  we conquered, we SPARTENed!! ARROOOOO





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