The Spartan Super Austin took place on May 19th, 2018. While Sprint competitors would sadly be forced to experience a literal storm on the following Sunday, participants for the Super were able to experience a perfect storm of a much different type. From time to time venues are not utilized to their utmost potential. Spartan did not disappoint this year by creating a near perfect blend of sights, obstacles, and terrain.
On Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet, Texas much more than the expected elevation can be found. With beautiful Rocky hills scattered all about the ranch offered up nearly 1,300 feet of elevation gain throughout the race. All the while beautiful views were a sight to behold both on and off course. Terrain for this quintessential Texas venue ranged from sand to rocks to the occasional push through scrubby barb covered bushes.
Every step didn’t feel like “well this is a neat little trail” but more like “wow what a unique adventure.” This is exactly what a racer should feel at such a destination venue. Spartan showed that they knew how to utilize the beauty, size, and challenge of the Ranch to their utmost advantage. Allowing their racers to truly soak in where they were will ensure return competitors next year.
The Super Course:
Spartan had a lot of land to utilize to their advantage for this course and boy did they make the most of it. Starting the course with a few walls as a warm-up we moved into one prickly barbed wire crawl. The elite males went over batches of thorns, stickers, and fire ants. It wasn’t a long barbed wire crawl, but man was it tough. I heard later that for elite women it wasn’t bad, and experienced a smooth ride during my second run of an open wave. All I can say is you are welcome for the elite men being so gracious as to use their bodies as pin cushions. Check the arms and back of anyone who got there first and what they went through was pretty clear.
Bucket Brigade, Bender, Stairway to Sparta, the sandbag carry and many other favorites were spread out over the next few miles. The expanses of running and climbing over rocky terrain and dirt trails between obstacles were nearly perfect. Hitting these few simpler obstacles and wearing racers down with hills led to the first big challenge: Twister. By this point, the dry Texas heat had begun to get to many. Spartan did a superb job ensuring no one became dehydrated (unless by choice) offering up eight water stations (one for each mile.) After twister came a great downhill portion that allowed runners to open up.
This then led into a nice little pick your poison culvert crawl in which competitors could choose a route, but it was hard to tell which was easiest. After we made the culvert crawls we completed some actual climbing using both arms and legs. This was a welcome challenge.
More obstacles and water crossings were spread out perfectly over more wicked, fun terrain. Spartan had a great finishing portion for both racers and spectators. After mud mounds, a dunk wall, slip wall, A-frame and cargo net competitors had one more good climb to the spectator area. With the finish line in sight, success seemed so close, but at the same time could be so far away. After jumping a trio of four-foot walls, competitors still stared down a wicked grip gauntlet that could cost them lots of burpees. No one wants to wuss out on burpees in front of thousands of spectators and fellow competitors.
The first monster ready to take out your grip and shoulder strength was the Herc Hoist. The multi-rig and Olympus followed. This created not only one of the more challenging final portions I’ve personally experienced at the end of a Spartan (or any) race but created a great atmosphere for the festival. Sometimes, finish lines can feel like a place where we are all just waiting for people to come in. This felt less like a waiting area and more like a sporting event. The goal of making OCR a legitimate respected sport needs finishes like this. They rile the spectators. You can only see someone go through a rig so many times. However, the announcer and DJ did a GREAT job of keeping both the racers and crowd involved and fired up.
The announcer and DJ did a great job of keeping a good vibe going throughout each wave. Everyone seemed to be having fun and had a few reasons to stick around even after completing their run. With conveniently located booths, Amstel light, and festival contests to compete in it wasn’t just a race but was an experience. I’ve personally seen Spartan drop the ball here before, so it was nice to see them creating the experience I know they are capable of.
All in all, this was probably THE BEST Spartan race I have ever run. With beautiful sights aplenty, great challenge, superb course design, and a great experience this event reminded me why Spartan was one of my first OCRs. I will definitely be back. I would certainly recommend this to any Spartan to add to their race calendar next year.
The obstacle variety was great and everything seemed to click for Spartan Super in Austin. I hope they continue to put this much effort into venues and bring a great experience to Texas for Dallas as well. When you take it for what it is. You accept Spartan for what they are and what they are about. There isn’t much improvement they could have made. Directors could innovate obstacles a bit more. However, I think that fine-tuning of obstacles like Twister and Olympus have helped improve the experience. Grading it for what it is and at what Spartan does (rather than in comparison to other events) I give this race 5 AROOS out of 5.