Spartan Race Las Vegazona 2017

Picture by Taylor Mullin (@taylor_mullin_)

Spartan Race came back to the Mesquite, Arizona Motocross Track for their “Las Vegas” race this year. The Las Vegas event has been a fast and furious race course over the last three years. The long stretches of running on sand, as well as a pretty decent amount of river running took many by surprise in 2016.

Course designer supreme, Steve Hammond, had shared some hints in the week leading up to the race that we would get treated to a repeat of last year’s course style:

Course Map

The course map supported the flat and fast statements as well.

Spartan Race - Las Vegas Course Map

Race Venue

Parking at this venue is fortunately close to the festival area. As usual, there was a lack of shade (pavilions, vendor booths, etc.) so people started to huddle in every little bit of protection from the desert sun they could find, and many did receive their first sunburn of the year.

The SGX area received some improvements and now features climbing holds added to a pull up bar, Gormax flips, as well as the usual rope climb and over wall.

Everyone who paid attention did not encounter any surprises as Steve delivered on his promise. The terrain was flat, however, the start gave a great indication of what racers are going to see a lot of: death by a dozen little bumps on the trail.

Spartan Race Las Vegas Startline

After this rough start, one mile of fine, loose sand was waiting. Fortunately, there was an opportunity to cool down during a bit of river running (~0.1 mi), which was followed by another mile of loose sand, and finally the last half of the course finished out on the motocross track. The treacherous part of those motocross venues is that the little hills and bumps don’t look intimidating at all.

However, the steep grade of these dirt mounds, along with the hard packed ground and slippery dirt on top, suck the energy out of everyone’s legs, especially since there are usually three or more of them in a row. The biggest single climb on the course can be seen behind the dunk wall, leading up to the top of the mesa.

Spartan Race Las Vegas Dunkwall

In summary, the Mesquite MX venue may be flat, but it does make up for it with its loose sand and frequent, short, steep hills.

The Twister

In recent races, as well as in Vegas, it appears as if the Twister obstacle becomes more of a menace than the rig, which was completely absent from the Sprint, but part of the previous day’s Super. For those with strong grip, it poses no problem and requires just a bit of practice to figure out which technique suits them best… and then there is Veejay, the youngest Spartan Pro Team member, doing this.

Here is another perspective on the Twister. In the front is the side-by-side grip technique while the racer in the back is going hand-over-hand, which requires more grip strength and technique, but is also much faster.

GPS Data

Everyone interested in the data can find the GPS track below, more details can be found on Strava directly.

All pictures and videos owned by the author unless otherwise noted.

Tell us what you think of Spartan Race, leave a Review Here.

Or sign up for a Spartan Race now with codes:
ORM15 for 15% off
or
SPEAR10 for $10 off

Are you fit for the F.I.T. Challenge?

A short OCR course, based in New England. This OCR brainchild of Robb McCoy, brings its racers a non stop experience. With three words defining it, fortitude, integrity, toughness, F.I.T. Challenge tests physical capabilities on a multitude of levels. So are you fit enough for the F.I.T. Challenge? According to McCoy “Everyone is fit for the F.I.T. challenge.” His question is to what degree is your challenge? Covering distances and skill levels from multi lap survivor to mandatory obstacle completion, open waves and even coming out for a fun time as a team. “…there are so many challenges with in the one event you cant go wrong.”  Still unsure? Here’s a quick peak behind the curtain.

Are-you-fit-for-the-F.I.T.-Challenge

The Fall Fit Challenge VII was located in Cumberland, Rhode Island, a 3+ mile course stacked with 40 obstacles and a solid 1,100 feet of elevation gain. Needless to say, this is not your average 5K in the woods. Taking off, racers immediately hit their first climb. A direct shot up the mountain. What goes up, must come down, right? Lucky for us it goes back up too. After making the first descent we hit a back to back climbs over walls, vertical cargo nets, over-under-through combo walls, before the first of two carries, the log carry. A quick, but steep loop followed by hitting to more jumps and a floating inverted wall, before our next climb. Are-you-fit-for-the-F.I.T.-ChallengeAre-you-fit-for-the-F.I.T.-Challenge

This climb wasn’t as rough, but the obstacles that followed were stacked. Descent into a hoist, pulley curl, Double Ups, and a, choose at your own risk, Wreck-bag carry. If you were questioning your fatigue now F.I.T. presented you with the first Destroyer before going back into the trails. Where we faced a cargo net style monkey bar, back to back peg board and rope climb. Hitting an incline, army style crawl then a final steep rolling hill and climb.

Are-you-fit-for-the-F.I.T.-Challenge

Just when you think your out of the woods and in the clear, F.I.T. Challenge makes sure to get in some of its toughest obstacles. Over-Under Rig, walls, The Destroyer 2.0, 3-optioned Rig, Atlas Balls, and a slip wall, with a few walls and crawls sprinkled in between, before you were able to cross a finish line you know you earned.

Are-you-fit-for-the-F.I.T.-Challenge

So, are you fit for the F.I.T. Challenge?

Yes, your physical capabilities will be tested in many areas, pure brute strength, cardio endurance, lifting and carrying, along with speed and agility, if your racing it, but being super human is not a necessity. F.I.T. Challenge opens itself to catering to many different athletes, whether interested in an Elite, open, or Multi-lap Survivor option.

Are-you-fit-for-the-F.I.T.-Challenge

If your looking to have a challenging, but fun race, check out the open wave option. With ability to take your time and learn the obstacles, you’ll be able to build your confidence. Joe Crupi, founder of Team Panda Fit Camp SGX, says going out as a team is one of his favorite ways to take on a course “…It makes for an outstanding and fun experience, helping each other over walls, coaching each other through challenging obstacles like the rigs, and motivating each other to try our best and discovering abilities you never new you were capable of”.

Are-you-fit-for-the-F.I.T.-Challenge

“Signing up for the elite heat in F.I.T. challenge is definitely intimidating” – Sarah Kelly

Ready to fight for your band and take on the Elite course? If 3 plus miles of quick elevation climbs and 40 obstacles wasn’t tough enough, F.I.T. Challenge has a mandatory obstacle completion for its Elite wave. Upside is you get to give that Multi-Rig another shot if need be. Female Elite, Sarah Kelly’s advice is to be confident. “It’s a small and stacked group…but it’s a great way to see what your made of and how hard you can push yourself, since it’s such a brutal course.”

Are-you-fit-for-the-F.I.T.-Challenge

Now if Open and Elite waves don’t quite feed your appetite, F.I.T. Challenge offers you the Multi-lap Survivor wave. Giving you a solid 5 hours to get in as many laps as possible, with a mandatory last lap start before the final noon wave takes off. Get three or more laps in and earn yourself a handmade block to show off your toughness. Taking on a multi lap course, competitively, takes a bit more grit and mental preparedness then the others. As competitive multi-lapper and elite racer Antoni Favata would say its “an entirely different animal.” Aside from training, he stresses the necessity of having fun in order to keep a good and competitive mental state on the course. His advice is to “…get familiar with pacing. Train time on feet!” and to toss out the “cookie-cut 60 minute workout window”.

Whether Open wave, Elite racing, or Multi-lap Surviving, or having fun, the best way to see if your fit for the F.I.T. Challenge is to cross the start line.

Are-you-fit-for-the-F.I.T.-Challenge

The Future Of OCR : Acre Breaker Adventure Race

Now that I have your attention, let me explain. I stumbled across this event on a random email I received from a newsletter that generally lists road and trail races, not OCRs. I usually quickly browse the emails prior to deleting on the off chance an event piques my interest. To my surprise I found an OCR listed in the email. First thing I checked was distance to my house…1 hour 17 minutes. For anyone that does OCRs regularly that’s like a drive to the grocery store for many of us as opposed to the standard 2 hour drive. I got excited and decided to dig deeper into the event.

What I found out was that this was the first event by this brand. It advertised 12 obstacles in a 4K. They offered several varying options such as 4K individual, 4K team of 2, 8k(2 laps of 4K course) and 8k team of 2. Included in the marketing was the fact that you will get muddy – I was sold.

Upon arrival, there was a2-minutee shuttle ride to an open corn field where registration was held. Quick and easy check in and packet pick up, organized, FREE bag check and off to line up for my heat. I was registered in the 9am wave but got there just after my heat went off, giving me a 30 minute stroll around the start area until the next heat(9:30). The event was untimed but had a running clock at the finish line so you could gauge your total time with a little math.

Acre-Breaker-Mud-Pit

After a quick rundown by the emcee, my heat was off and running. First obstacle we came to was a small drop into an ankle deep water/mud pit. If you’ve read my reviews, you know I’m all about getting muddy and wet. Never been a fan of stadium races for this reason but hey.. variety, spice of life and all that. This was a good start for what I hoped for not having any expectations going into it.

Acre-Breaker-Hay-Crawl

Next came the super fun(sarcasm font) sandbag carry. I was pleased to find something like this in a new race, telling me they had a decent idea about what to include in an OCR. This carry was on minimal elevation but involved, what seemed like, unlimited down and back paths with the “back” section going slightly uphill. Later in the course, I also came up on a bucket carry. All racers, male and female, filled the bucket 3/4 full and walked a loop.

The course included some standard crawls, one between hay bails(pictured above) positioned to allow a very narrow space to crawl through. With my slender frame it wasn’t as easy as I’d expected, causing me to wonder how a person with a stature larger than mine would navigate it, along with a barbed wire crawl (which I love seeing a new race use barbed wire). There were also several unique obstacles, which were a very pleasant surprise for a first-time event.

Acre-Breaker-Drumroll

One unique obstacle was a plastic drum filled and sealed with liquid inside. The objective was to roll the drum uphill to a designated row of hay bails. With the shifting liquid and uphill trajectory, this was no easy feat, especially once you got further uphill. The most interesting part was the trek back down with the drum. The weight of the liquid and downhill path provided a challenge in itself to keep the drum under control while not speeding downhill without you. This was definitely fun as it’s a change of pace, but I could certainly see this (or the path at least) being altered for future events to avoid injury risks of speeding barrels.

Acre-Breaker-Cage-Traverse

We’re beginning to see some companies use metal caging or fencing in their obstacle setups now (think Savages “On The Fence”) so it was definitely exciting to see this utilized at a new race. Even more interesting was the type of fencing. This obstacle featured a thin wire fencing and a decent distance required to traverse sideways without touching the top of the fence or feet to the ground. The thickness(or lack thereof) in the fencing definitely could shred some hands up… I loved it.

Acre-Breaker-Ladder

Another interesting obstacle was labeled a “fence climb”, which proved difficult for many new racers (who comprised the majority of the event) as the transition from the second to last to the top board was a distance apart, making the “over the top” transition quite steep… Again.. Loved it. There was a metal, box-shaped frame towards the end which was odd in setup, and seemed like a random add in obstacle as opposed to a planned one. It required a climb to the top and traversing along a thin metal pole to the other side where you drop down…(picture a random enclosed bus stop along the side of the road and climbing on top and across it).

Acre-Breaker-Metal-Climb

My favorite obstacle of all which was towards the beginning of the event was a water crossing. Chest high depending on height, on a morning that I woke to see 37 degrees out. It was mid 40’s by race time but this was COLD…. LOVED IT! I was admittedly a little confused by the direction to cross as I was redirected by the volunteer, causing a much further walk through the water, which I was certainly ok with.

Acre-Breaker-Water-Crossing

The race wrapped up with a fire jump, then being told I came in first overall in my heat and directed to collect my award. A very pleasant surprise as it seemed the first overall male and female of each individual heat and each team wave was awarded a very…. Unique…. Award.

image

Yes, if you can’t tell that’s a raccoon skull mounted to a plaque. Certainly the most interesting award next to the cement brick received from the “Down & Dirty”(RIP) Brick division races. But instantly a favorite to be displayed(my wife told me areas of the house I can NOT display it) 😂. The medal was a standard gold circle with brand logo on a red/white/blue striped ribbon. Early registrations received a T-shirt and beer stein.

Back to my original proclamation that this could be the future of OCR. The event was filled with, what seemed to be, a largely local gathering of participants from the area and community. The Race Director informed me they expected around 100 participants, they closed at around 250.. That’s awesome.. They now plan on future events. One for super bowl Sunday(not sure that’s the best date for optimal attendance) and looking at possibly 4+ in the next year. From a first impression and attendance, they easily could succeed with some adjustments and possible tweaks for future events and here’s my suggestions.

Emcee – as opposed to standard course briefing everyone loves some pre-race hype to head on course all pumped up.

Elite heat- I’m all for the current awards per heat. They may want to look at condensing that to one competitive wave for cost purposes but if they choose to do each heat with awards, that’s an EXCELLENT promotional point to increase attendance of medalwhores(which encompasses 80% of this sport)

Additional obstacles- The RD expressed expanding to additional and more challenging obstacles. The easy recommendations are of course rope climb, rope traverse(over the water crossing maybe?) rig, and of course, monkey bars

All about the volunteers- the volunteers were good, but we all know volunteers are the heart and soul of any event, and equally capable of making or breaking an event.

Possible chip timing?(first heat?)*see elite heat, but again, 110% for keeping awards per each heat

Photos- this is a big one for 98% of participants. I know it may not be cheap but someway of establishing photographers at the most unique obstacles. There were pictures taken by a local photogrpaher(all pics featured in review) but pics were minimal. I didn’t see any from my heat and was in the second wave of the day.

Marketing- I’m not sure what type of local advertising was done, obviously enough to pull 200+ people and myself through a local email blast, but it was clear the normal OCR junkie contingent of racers you’d normally find at an event were not present. Marketing through OCR focused outlets(Obstacle Racing Media….for example 😉) would certainly increase the exposure of the brand to the right demographic.

All in all if a local brand can start up, follow the right path and athlete devoted business practices can succeed. That’s a great sign for the future of our sport. I’ll certainly be rooting for this brand as those behind it truly seemed to want to learn and succeed.

Savage Race Maryland- Got Grip?

Anytime you go to a race you leave thinking one of two things. Either how great of a time you had and how much you enjoyed the race. Or something turned you off, be it a bad showing on your part….bad weather .. lines at obstacles ..your favorite pants ripped… forgot where you parked leaving you to walk for 20 minutes with your hand above your head, holding your keys trying to decipher if that’s your car horn or someone else’s. Rarely does someone walk away from a race, driving home and think to themselves… “Wow, that course layout and obstacle placement really elevated that race to another level”. Well today was that day…getting savage at Savage Race.

Savage-MD-Finish-Line

We all know by now what to expect from a Savage Race. They’ve set themselves to a high standard that’s known by many from experiencing an event first hand, hearing someone rave in a social media setting, or reading a previous review. They’ve accepted the challenge of doing what needs to be done to exceed the standard they’ve set for themselves by adding fresh, innovative obstacles each year. They’ve also instituted an award program(Syndicate) to incentivize repeat registrations with a medal that appeals to the medal whore in all of us and providing world class customer service with a personable feel.

So going into this event, I knew what obstacles to expect. I was aware of the medal I was receiving. I wanted more, as we all, of course, want more than expected to be satisfied. To accomplish that, I opted for the Savage Pro wave. I didn’t care about my time. To be honest, I wanted the cool blue Savage Race wristband that was given to Pro Wave participants to determine 100% obstacle completion. Complete all the obstacles and keep the band. Fail an obstacle after unlimited attempts and surrender the band.

Savage-MD-Sawtooth

The course map was released a week prior to the event, so on this rare occasion I took a look at it. Immediately I noticed the obstacle placement was arranged to raise the level of difficulty. I also noticed a 30% chance of rain at the time of Pro Wave, with the likelihood of rain increasing throughout the day. Savage loves grip strength based obstacles.. Which I’m all about, you can keep your heavy shit, that doesn’t appeal to me. But with their array of grip based challenges(ascending/descending monkey bars over water, hanging horizontal cage traverse over water, rotating wheel traverse over water, rig) any additional moisture would certainly increase the level of difficulty.

Fortunately the weather held off for the first wave but as I previously mentioned, obstacle placement would play a huge factor in the outcome of this race(and ultimately if I kept my cool blue wristband…because that’s what’s truly matters). For example Davey Jones Locker(15ft. Jump into 15ft. deep water) was located just before Sawtooth(hardest monkey bars in OCR IMO). So, jump in water.. Soaking wet.. Now climb monkey bars=increased difficulty.
Savage-MD-Richard
Shriveled Richard,(ice bath) my personal favorite, is usually found at the very beginning of the course as the first obstacle. Some have complained that this setup causes backups as you sprint off the start line, only to come to an obstacle with very limited flow through that only 4 competitors can attempt at a time. Not to mention hesitation by many from nerves of jumping into a dumpster of ice water causes longer wait times and ultimately wait lines. I have only ever seen this obstacle located anywhere other than the beginning on a Garfield Griffiths course design in Pennsylvania the previous year. This was a welcomed alteration but again, interesting placement. Shortly after exiting the ice bath, when your grip is compromised from the cold, you come upon Wheel World(series of 5 consecutive rotating wheels positioned over water). Another new obstacle that isn’t overly difficult but the placement ups the ante.

Savage-MD-WW

In previous years, Savage Race would close out your day with Colossus(warped wall followed by 24ft of a near vertical drop on a water slide). They felt compelled to mix it up this year placing a rig with varying holds and grips, just after colossus… But wait … There’s more … they added another challenge to go along with the rig. Savages newest obstacle “Tree Hugger”. A rotating series of wooden and metal poles that you’re required to traverse through without letting your feet touch the ground or the plastic bases of the wooden poles. The word I got from previous events was that this obstacle had 12 lanes, that followed a sequence of metal/wood/metal/wood/metal/wood poles to traverse. It seems they switched it up this event by making it 6 total lanes with 12 poles to traverse(6 wood/6 metal).

Savage-MD-Tree-Hugger

So now, in order to cross that finish line, you must make your way through a rig that consisted of, in order, 2 ropes, 2 close handed grips, one horizontal straight bar and bell for completion. Followed by a long lane of metal and wooden pole traverses. While still dripping wet from the water slide. Stand alone, these obstacles are doable, yet challenging for many. Add in the placement factor and decreased grip strength from water obstacles and you’re in store for a challenge.

Savage-MD-Rig

More so than anything this was just the tweak I was hoping for, but not expecting when I had originally registered. A great course design is just another way Savage can keep you on your toes and not grow complacent with the high standard of execution we’ve all come to expect from the brand.

P.S. It began to rain shortly after the first couple waves making some obstacles near impossible.

P.S.S. Matty T killed it at the start line as usual.

Savage-MD-Startline

P.S.S.S…. Excellent Portashitter to registrant ratio. Clean, well maintained, and solid TP supply.
4💩💩💩💩 out of 5💩💩💩💩💩 rating

P.S.S.S….S? ….. Mission accomplished … See… Cool blue

Savage-Bracelet

Tell us what you think of Savage Race, leave a Review Here.

Or see the Savage Race Near You:
Find A Race


Spartan Race VT Ultra Beast 2016- Finding your True Grit

As we all know, or at least have heard, the coveted Vermont Spartan Beast, held in Killington VT, is the birthplace of Spartan Race, the authentic test of the Spartan Racer’s true grit. This year, race Designer and Director Norm Koch and Jason Barnes were not allowing a single racer to forget that, especially those taking on the Ultra Beast.

The Spartan Ultra Beast is generally a 28+ mile, 60+ obstacle course and part of the Spartan Endurance level of racing. For the 2016 VT Ultra Beast, each lap ranged around 16.1 miles and was one of the most physically and mentally challenging things I have ever done. Upon approaching the start line, my teammate and I knew better than to underestimate this mountain and with all the training and preparing, excitement and fear had been overwhelming. The announcers began with reviewing the rules and informing us of the new bib system for the first 20 females and 20 males to the half way point. Enter first goal. The sun slowly rose as announcer Rob Lyday prepared us, and with the final “AROO,” we were off.

VT Ultra Beast

Up and over hay bails to Sternum Checker, the first mountain hike began. Little did we know this hike up was just a warm-up for what was to come. Next up were wall jumps, a long barbed wire crawl and on to the Bucket Brigade – not the steepest of climbs with a bucket, but the distance definitely made up for it. Before we knew it, we had approached the 6-mile marker and the Tarzan Swing and swim to go with it, an iconic Killington obstacle that did not make an appearance the year before. The swim was in pretty icy temperatures to the bridge where we had the ladder climb and Tarzan swing across, drop down and swim to the other side. If either part of that was not accomplished, 30 burpee penalties were given for each failure. Just when you though the water was over, not too far into the terrain did you arrive at the rolling mud, wall, and another barbed wire crawl, my personal favorite.

VT Tarzan Swing

After finishing a long and enduring terrain climb, we arrived at the rope climb which is where we then embarked on the last and most grueling climbs of the entire race, the K1 Death March. Putting the thought of a second lap as far out of mind as possible, my teammate and I trudged upward one foot in front of the other. This is where all the true mental testing began with constant false peaks and motivation; we eventually reached the top and sped down to the spear throw, log carry, inverted wall, atlas carry, and multi-rig. With three girls in the burpee zone, I dug deep and got to the drop bin zone as tenth female.

VT Cargo Net

Trying not to spend too much time in the transition area, we quickly ate, fixed our feet and were off again. To be honest, I had done my best to push out any recollection of the last loop and feel fresh. Little did we know that we had made the mistake of which obstacle a specific time hack had been placed and upon reaching the second barbed wire crawl were faced with that truth. A quick glance at each-other and an affirming “We’ve got this” was enough to make us dig deeper than ever and give this course everything we had. Knowing what was between us and the 6:30 rope climb cut off, my mind became a battle field. Trying to displace any muscle fatigue and quiet negative thoughts I arrived at the sand bag carry directly before the rope climb. I had totally forgotten it was there. My mind brought up any and every doubt, inadequacy, and complaint it could. My quads burned, my chest tightened, but as I grabbed for the sandbag a spectator shouted out “Go Ultra Beaster! You have less than ten minutes.” The last bit of encouragement I needed to sprint up and down the sand bag carry to the rope climb and achieve the time hack with 3 minutes to spare. Any fears or doubts about a second go at the Death March were quieted and the burning desire to finish this course was in full force.

Death March

This climb was long, feeling longer than before, and with hydration low, we trekked onward. Making it to the summit with dropping temperatures and only head lamps and moonlight to guide us, we were hit with the craziest amount of energy and flew down the mountain, the smell of the finishers fire jump was finally in reach.

I have to say that this finishers jump was one of my greatest achievements. Not because I finished a race, but because of all that the race asked of me. For me, what makes an Ultra different from the rest is that it brings me to answering the question of what is my true grit. Yes, I train for these physically, but what happens when your body is tired and your mind becomes the battle field. That, is the test of your true-grit. At this Ultra Beast, I didn’t just have to face the walls of limitations I created, but had to shatter them. Much like my fellow racers and teammate found, only when we ask the most of ourselves, will we see how far our spirits can truly take us.

VT Ultra

Congratulations to all of my fellow VT Ultra Beast racers who crossed the start line. This course was definitely not for the faint of heart.

Spartan Race Canada: Sun Peaks Beast Review

“A Wizard is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to.” – Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring.

I’m a little embarrassed that I had to resort to such desperate measures as I did on the Spartan Race Canada Sun Peaks Beast, but these were desperate times. I wish it were a fable, or a tale, but it’s true. All of it. Read on to see how the Western Canadian Spartan Series brought me to my knees – quite literally – on the slopes of Sun Peaks.

Sun Peaks

As a venue, Sun Peaks is the crown jewel in the Western Canadian Spartan Race Series. Sun Peaks Ski resort offers plenty of natural substance as a race location, and while it maybe not quite as picturesque as Montana, Sun Peaks offers the greater challenge. The single loop Spartan Beast course had roughly 1500m of elevation gain, while the Montana Beast had closer to 1200m.

The resort itself has reasonably priced accommodation on offer if you are visiting for the race (hooray for the off-season); our two bedroom chalet slept four of us comfortably, had two bathrooms, a kitchen and a hot tub for about $CAD 200 per night. More thrifty visitors would be advised to bring food with them to avoid paying inflated prices at the restaurants and pubs in the village – although the food and atmosphere was really great since a lot of race participants were able to stay and socialize after the race. Note: the city of Kamloops is a 45-50 minute drive down the valley one way which is a little far for a post race dinner, or maybe more pressingly, it’s an awfully long drive to Kamloops to get cleaned up post race. Stay where the party is. Stay up in Sun Peaks.

The bad part? Sun Peaks is a PITA to get to and if I ever go again, I would have to be flown in. That drive was almost prohibitively long, especially considering the numerous viable locations available around the province of Alberta, which is much more central for everyone in the Western Canadian catchment. Selfishly, I’d love to see a race out at Lake Louise Ski Area, Nakiska, Sunshine, West Castle Mountain, Crowsnest Pass or even Bragg Creek, and I believe it would draw in more people from around the western provinces.   

So back to my story:

After 11 hours of driving in the rain, I stumbled into my chalet at Sun Peaks Ski Resort in British Columbia. It was too quiet. Where was everyone? Then I realized my mistake; it was actually an hour later than it appeared (we’d crossed a timezone as we wove our path through the Canadian Rockies) so It made sense that my apartment full of Albertans were already in bed for an early start. I was the last to arrive, and I was being way too noisy. Quietly does it then. 

Morning arrived with the normal check-in, last minute bag drop and run to the toilets. With the Ultra Beast already underway, I stood at the base of the Mountain staring up at its crisp, yellowing outline against the bright sky wondering what was ahead. I knew it was going to be cold. It already was; frost was subliming into mist on the start line chute rails as it filled with elite heat competitors and their breath hung visibly like a cloud above the chute. It was -3C, yet there is always at least one elite with his shirt off. I wasn’t taking any chances though. Two layers for me!

20160924_072956

Soon we were running and power hiking our way up the mountain. You know the drill. It’s a Spartan Race…. so I’ll spare you a play-by-play. Instead, here is the highlight and low-lights reel.

Rolling Mud – The rolling mud was not very… muddy? No big deal. It wasn’t missed! It was freezing cold out there!

Log Jam – This obstacle was a series of logs that were to be crawled under. It was also a crossover point for the racecourse. The obstacle was intended to be tackled on the ascent only but some volunteers were telling runners descending the hill to go through the crawl again. The crawl was very tight and many people had difficulty squeezing between the ground and the logs, creating a bottleneck even on the elite heat.

sun-peaks-beast-1

Balance Beam – One of the first obstacles on the course. Once again volunteers were suggesting racers take off their shoes to complete this obstacle since it was icy. Nearly everyone who removed their shoes failed the obstacle.

sun-peaks-beast-6

The highlights – Obstacles were more widely spaced and less stacked than in previous races this year, and all of the heavy carries were long and challenging. Really challenging. The climbs were incredibly steep in places, eventually reaching a crunchy, snowy summit and a breathtaking view of the resort and valley below. Once we had reached the summit of the mountain, the course unexpectedly dug deep into the back-country of the resort along miles of mountain bike trails that delivered a rewarding rooted, icy, muddy patina underfoot. We were treated to two sandbag carries, including an extra long 50lb sandbell carry. The overall highlight for me was moving into the downhill single-track, then hurtling down the main double black diamond ski run, stopping at half a dozen obstacle stations on the way down. I ran that hard – really hard.

sun-peaks-beast-8

sun-peaks-beast-9

Then it happened.

As I ran down the hill, I saw it. The stairway to Sparta obstacle stood like a steaming gateway into heaven. It was just within spitting distance of the finish area. As I ran towards it, my legs were starting to cramp up. “No worries”, I thought. This would be over soon. I climbed it carefully, pivoted over the apex and turned around lowering myself down to the ground. I was almost done, but then horror struck.sun-peaks-beast-4

The course markings turned west. West was bad. West meant we were going back across the mountainside and into the woods again. As we began climbing the hill once more, and the cheers from the arena faded along with any hope of an easy finish, I began to lose my running form. The dull pain that had been growing in my hips and knees suddenly built into a crescendo of pain that drowned out every other concern I had about finishing the race. I had descended the mountain too quickly. Like a diver trying to reach the surface without thinking, I had given myself the spartan racing equivalent of ‘the bends’. To make matters worse, my painkillers had fallen out of my pocket way back on the bucket carry.

Now I was just shuffling my feet. People who I had passed earlier were catching up to me. They patted me on the back, “keep going dude”.

I tried to keep walking, but my body was grinding to a halt. I wasn’t tired, just in a lot of pain. With just two miles to go, I dropped to my knees and sat on the side of the trail and watched as concerned runners passed me by. At this point I should offer a special thanks to Nancy Loranger, and Adam Mowat who gave me the push to stand up and keep going. Feeling encouraged, and enraged by what was happening to me, I stood up and tried to walk a little further. It was really no good. Again I crouched on the trail and took my buff from my head – almost defeated.

Was I really going to come all this way to do this? To give up and DNF? It crossed my mind more than once.

Then I saw something next to me on the ground – a gnarled stick. I grabbed it and stood against it. It was strong. I wasn’t going to give up on my last spartan race of the year without a fight.

Leaning heavily against it I began pushing myself along, trying to take as much weight off my joints as possible. Like Gandalf the Grey, I made my way through the forest. I took a hammer gel, and washed it down with what remained in my CamelBak. I was pushing hard down into the ground with the staff now, almost like I was steering a gondola through Venice, punting through a river of pain and disappointment. It must have looked very odd, but I didn’t care. I really didn’t. I just had to finish. Emerging from the forest, I could hear the festival area again. I strode faster and faster towards the slip wall with my stick.

I tossed the stick to one side to complete the obstacle and as I came down the other side, it was clear that the pain had cleared out of my joints almost as quickly as it had begun. The volunteers looked at each other like they had just witnessed a miracle as I ran back into the forest, leaving the staff in their outstretched hands.

I ran the rest of that race like Lazarus. I was back from the dead. I’d love to say that like the great wizard in Lord of the Rings, that I arrived at that finish line when I intended to, but it just goes to show – some of the best adventures have unexpected conclusions.

Glenn sexy

Final thoughts


sun-peaks-beast-3

The Sun Peaks Beast gets a perfect score for providing an unparalleled experience to run in the Canadian Rockies. Great obstacles, huge slopes, big payoffs. This was the kind of quality spartan race we’ve been hoping for to round out the series.  I know others of you had struggles and race stories to tell too.  You can check out the winners here. Congrats to all of you who ran. Please leave a comment and discuss what your spartan race story was like!

sun-peaks-beast-5

Gandalf