Spartan Sprint Las Vegas NV/Littlefield AZ Race Recap

They say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!  Well, I guess it’s lucky for you then that the Las Vegas Spartan Race was actually just a stone’s throw across the Arizona border in Littlefield!

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Our adventure starts on Sunday, March the 19th at 3am when I woke up to my alarm telling me to get out of bed & to get ready to head to Bellingham Airport for our flight.

To backtrack a bit..  My Wife Charity & I were planning on heading into Las Vegas where we were married 10 years prior & a few of our friends were planning on coming with us.  After we booked our flight tickets we found out there was a Spartan Sprint Race in Littlefield Arizona on the day that we were landing & that it was only about an hour drive out from Las Vegas.  I created a Facebook event to let all of our crazy running & non-running friends know of our Anniversary weekend & our intent to start the path to our very first Trifecta but running the Sprint in Las Vegas.  Well, we ended up getting a few more friends come along to run the Sprint with us & join in on the festivities.  Back to Sunday..  We got picked up by our friend Shelley & then we picked up our friend Troy & headed from our hometown of Vancouver, B.C.  Shelley was just coming to enjoy Las Vegas but Troy was also coming to run the Spartan Sprint with us.  We crossed the border & got onto our flight with no issues & we landed in Las Vegas at 10:30am where our friends David & Taylor picked us up & drive us to Littlefield Az. Our gate time for the Sprint was 1:15pm which gave us about an hour & a half to get there.  Luckily David had run the Super the day before & knew the route & where to park.  The drive was luckily rather dull & after showing our parking pass, finding a place to park & getting changed seems to have about 20mins until our start time.  Charity, Troy & I all wore most everything we were going to race in on the place as we knew we had a limited time if we wanted to get out on the course as the last heat was at 1:30.  It was hot!  The Thermometer in the car said it was approx. 36c/97f (Apparently it was a few degree’s hotter the day before for the super) but I could still hear everyone having fun & I could feel the energy in the air.  People driving by were honking & hooting & I could hear the call of the Spartan off in the distance “Aroo!”

We had already filled in all of our waivers & printed out our scan/barcodes to make check-in go the fastest it could & fast it was!  One quick scan, review of our ID & another scan of the kit bag & we were told we could join the 1pm heat.  It was 12:50pm, so we had to get moving!  I quickly brought the bag that we all placed our change of clothes into with the Drop Bag crew & joined my friends in the corral.  We were at the back of our group as we were pretty much the last one’s in.  After they closed up the gates, I realized that I hadn’t had the chance to run to the restroom or get any water, this “decision” would be one I regretted for most of the course.  After a quick pep talk with a shortened version of the Spartan Credo we were released into the fray of the course.  The course was well laid out I thought & used the lay of the land & the MX Course quite well.  Up & over a few humps, then some short walls, then O.U.T. (Over, Under, Through) meanwhile we had to trudge through sand that was dry and loose as heck.

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I swear you lost more than half of your forward momentum due to the sand just moving out of the way when you placed pressure on it & tried to move forward.  We then got to the first classified obstacle, it was just a trudge through a stream that went through the property.  The stream was moving at a good pace & only about passed knee height for me & was rather warm.  I am a wimp when it comes to cold.  I rarely ever participate in the cold water obstacles.  I’m getting over that slowly now with the addition of proper OCR gear & time.  Just doing them more often & slowly working them in seems to be helping me get through more and more of these obstacles.  The cooler water was nice, as trudging through that sand & not having water before the water really dried me out.  Next was Atlas Carry, this was the first time I had ever come across this obstacle & I wasn’t sure how I would do as I have no grip strength, but I got passed it with little to no issues at all.  After a few other various obstacles we came across our 1st water station, it was a welcome sight!  A few more obstacles came & went & we were then greeted with another water station at the bottom of a rather large hill that we were going to have to hike up.  The water station honestly should have been at the top of the hill, or better yet after the next obstacle which was the sandbag carry.  After hiking up that darn hill & then carrying the sand bag all over hell’s half acre I was incredibly thirsty already, unfortunately water wouldn’t be had for at least nearly another mile & 8 or 9 more obstacles.  This is where the course changed a lot, for the first 3 miles/5 kilometres we had conquered about 10 obstacles that were quite spread apart, now we had about 12 or so obstacles left but only 1.5 miles/2.5 kilometres to do it in & doing it in the hot mid day sun was taking it’s toll in on me.

Spartan-Sprint-Las-Vegas-2017-Barb-Wire

We got to go back down the hill a bit & crawl under some barbed wire, I was able to use some new side walking techniques I had seen someone try in a Facebook video, with that, and crawling & cinching through it, I got through it unscathed for once!  Technique on a lot of these obstacles are key, especially when you’re a guy like me & you’re not very fit or athletic.  The Rolling Mud Obstacle was a nice relief & I wallowed in it like a little piggy would & covered myself & had a good ol’ time.  If you can’t have a good ol’ time at these races & unleash your inner kid, why do it!?!  Well, that’s my opinion.   I’m not here to finish in the top half, I’m here to have fun, help others & enjoy my time with those around me.  Next, onto a first for me, the Dunk Wall!

Spartan-Sprint-Las-Vegas-2017-Dunk-Wall

Again, I was kinda worried about this one, every time I have tried to go into water past my stomach as soon as it hits my check my body just locks up.  Well, hello warm water!  Other than pausing because I thought the water was just too muddy to submerge myself into I realized just how ludicrous that sounded & under I went!  I was rather surprised, for the first time ever I tackled the Inverted Wall on my own & got over it, although cramping up my calf by bashing it into the top of the wall when I heel kicked myself up & over.  Oops, forgot the Mustard, oh well!  A few stretches and some lunge type steps while walking I was good enough to go again.  Climbing the hill after that took quite a lot out of me, they were rather mean & tossed a bunch of larger tractor tires on the hill & they were “fun” to climb over.  They were also rather hot so that kind of helped add to the pace.

Spartan-Sprint-Las-Vegas-2017-Tire-Hill

We could see the finish was coming upon us rather quickly.  We got through the Herc Hoist, an A-Frame Cargo net, a Plate Drag & then onto Twistah.  It’s a rotating bar with hand holds on it.

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Well, due to my lack of grip I only got about 2 rungs in & dropped.  The Monkey Bars were about the same distance, by this time I was just wiped, but, the last obstacle was upon us, the Fire Jump!

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We all gathered together in our group and took our last few strides together & jumped that fire!  Victory!  We finished off with our very well deserved beer, talked to a few fellow Spartans & then we headed out.  It had been a very long day for some of us & we just wanted to get back to our room & rest.  After all, the next day was our 10 year wedding anniversary & we still had 3 more days in Vegas that we were going to have to use our legs for.  In the end, we traversed about 4.5 miles/7.5 kilometres & had about 24 obstacles to pass & we did it in about 2:20.  We may not have been the fastest out there, but we didn’t want to be.  It was hot & we took it at our own pace & had a great time!  I hope to bump into ya sometime in the mud, if you see me, be sure to say hi!

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Spartan Race SoCal: Rocky Pala Raceway

On September 17-18, 2016, Spartans conquered a new venue for the Spartan Race SoCal Sprint and Beast races: Pala Raceway.

For several years, Vail Lake in Temecula has been the go-to location for not only Spartan Race but also Tough Mudder. However, all events got the boot by the new Vail Lake owners and now there is a new stomping ground for SoCal Spartans. After trading Malibu for Castaic Lake as their Los Angeles race venue, they should be used to change by now. So what’s the deal?

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Photo Credit: Spartan Race Start Line Photo Credit: Spartan Race

The start line might have been up a solid incline but beyond that, not much climbing was required. The Sprint course offered merely 600ft of elevation gain and, from reports, it appears that the Beast only had one bigger hill thrown in for good measure. The race was mostly narrow single trail covered in rocks, gravel, and sand, which made the surface very technical. The rest was the exact opposite: right on the motocross track with all those lovely little steep ups and downs. Where usually bikes fly through the air, Spartans were fighting against their burning quads and calves. It definitely was a very fast course for those who were sure-footed and nimble.

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Vail Lake had much more and steeper climbs and descends, however, the mostly broad trails and roads made it far easier to navigate them safely. By the way, local media was still worried about the heat taking out runners. Two years ago a Sunday race had to be canceled less than 24 hours before the start time.  In turn, the one and only “Hurricane Heatwave” was created.

Water stations were plentiful and other than a dog getting abandoned in the parking lot (who does that?!) on Saturday no unusual heat related mass casualties occurred. If you were wondering why Spartan staff had a dog out on the race course during the Sprint, now you know why.

Sprint racers were surprised to find a trail run instead of an obstacle course race for most of the event with a high obstacle density towards the end. The bucket carry was very tame and a sandbag carry was absent. A last minute emergency forced course designers to get creative and course markers to work long hours. Sadly, the terrain did not give them much to work with and the available space for obstacles on course was very limited. At least the mud mounds before the slip wall right before the finish line gave runners a welcome cool down at the end.

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When the dust settled, the majority of racers appeared to be happy about the venue change. Not many miss the stinking mud of Vail Lake or the long inclines and steep descents of the hills around it and are just glad about a change of scenery… Not having to walk .75 miles from parking to the race venue along a road might also play a part in the increased satisfaction.

Weights N’ Dates

Something else that popped up at the SoCal Spartan Race was the Weights N’ Dates dating app with cleverly designed stickers for the male beauties and female beasts. While I personally have not  looked at the app, I would imagine it could help OCR addicts to find people to carpool to races with. If you pay for lunch, maybe they will take cool pictures of you for social media!

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SoCal Podium Winners

beast-winners Spartan Race Pala SoCal Beast Winners

sprint-winners Spartan Race Pala SoCal Sprint Winners

(All pictures were taken by the author unless specifically mentioned otherwise)


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Spartan Race UK Peterborough Weekend

Last year was the first year that Spartan Race UK used the gorgeous Elton Hall as a Spartan Venue, and it it was one of the main turning points for the company in the UK; it also very quickly became a favourite among the UK racers, This year’s Sprint & Super cemented that.

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This was a long week for me, but as always with a looming Spartan Race, I was looking forward to a brutal exciting weekend. We weren’t disappointed.

Finishing work at 5am, quick walk to the train station and it began. 4.5 hours later and a lift from the train station by a dear friend, I arrived at the venue.  If you’ve never been to Elton Hall, you need to visit. Spartan UK has a habit of picking iconic, beautiful venues and Elton Hall is near the top of that list.

Saturday was a bit of a washout when it came to the weather, lovely and sunny in the morning and then the rains came.

After spending most of the morning volunteering on the finish line. We lined up for the final wave,  and I was glad we skipped the warm up. Usually I’d enjoy the group burpees in the start corral, but at this stage we just really wanted to get out on the course.

While they change the format, Spartan usually use the same type of obstacles per race. Peterborough was no different. The first kilometre was a nice mixture of 4ft walls, inverted walls & OUT’s. (Over, Under, Through for those who don’t know). Running through the forested area provided a nice break from the rain and for me, it always adds to the beauty of a run.

We soon came across the rope climb (or in my case the start of my burpees). Another run through some forest and we came across the barbwire crawl. In all my Spartan Races I have to say that this barbwire crawl was second only to the French Beast last year. It wasn’t long but the twists, turns and mud pools made it fun. I’ll admit we may have spent more time than needed playing around in the mud.

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(Side note – it was here that the Sprint & Super course separated, but more on that later.)

Continuing on we had the atlas stones, Z-walls, and the block drag.  A bit more running through a forest and finally the finish line was in sight. A couple of 6 ft walls, made slightly more difficult by the rain and mud, Herc Hoist, 8ft walls and the sprint to the fire jump.

I’ll admit by the time we got to the finish line for the sprint I was looking forward to a shower, food, and sleep. The super was coming and I had a time limit to run it in.

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So, after a cheeky Nandos with friends, curling up on a surprisingly comfy air bed, my wonderful band of misfit friends & I arose to tackle the Super. Now I mention that I had a self imposed time limit to complete the run. Well, I had a train booked back to Edinburgh at 1300 as I had work at 1800. My time limit worry wasn’t just for myself though. I was running with a friend who is somewhat new to our wonderful world of OCR.

Back on site and back in the start corral for the Elite wave. Now, I’m by no means elite. I run purely for me and the joy it brings, but sometimes the extra 20 mins can be handy.  Once more into the fray, and once again we spent more time than needed in that barb wire crawl. The course change from the Sprint to the Super led us through a gate and into a darkened forest.  I may run too many Spartan races (is there such a thing?). The forested area had a nice hilly chicane where my first thought was that it would have made a great area for a sandbag carry.

I may run too many Spartan races (is there such a thing?). The forested area had a nice hilly chicane where my first thought was that it would have made a great area for a sandbag carry.  The forest opened up and led us to a rather lovely reservoir to wade around. I wasn’t expecting that to be as killer on the calves as it was. Nice to wash the mud off though. A rather slippery cargo slip a frame followed by the the Z-wall rope traverse (Burpee time again).

Back on course, we’re once again hit with some firm favourites, another barb wire crawl, multi rig, Bucket brigade, log drag and a lovely vertical cargo net climb. Side note – I really do need to learn the flip technique at the top of these. Onto the log carry and the finish line is in sight again just across a field so we know we’re near the finish again, or at least close to rejoining the sprint.

More trail leads us around towards the A-Frame and spear through. I’m actually quite happy that I nailed my spear throw in the super, not so much in the Sprint though.
On a note one of the Spartan did well within this course was that the kids course ran alongside parts. Both the kids and the big kids started from the same start line which I think really brought it together as a family event.

Spartan-Peterborough-Finish

Back down to the walls, hoist, and onto the finish.

Spartan Race is one of the companies within in the UK that folks like to complain about, but ever since Peterborough last year, I think they have fewer legimite reasons for those complaints.

I’m aware that I’m biased. My first ever OCR was a Spartan, but they have come a long way since then (2014 Edinburgh sprint!) I know that race back then couldn’t hold a candle to the courses they build and put together now.

Overall, Spartan Peterborough was a huge success. With the support of the Volunteers and Spartan staff it was a day to remember for all involved.

On that note, I can only look forward to the Sprint & Beast in Windsor with excitement. Shall I be seeing you there?

Spartan Race – Barre, Mass Sprint: Spring 2016

PART 1: SATURDAY – RACE DAY

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New England racing is quite different from racing in the South. I had unintentionally taken a year off from racing after moving from Atlanta to New Hampshire last fall and I was eager to test out my legs on the trails. The Spartan Race Sprint in Barre, Mass would be my reentry into the OCR world. I was excited to see what kind of mud New England was serving up and to feel what was different about this race.

Saturday had the perfect weather for a race day. It was in the high-70s in the morning and in the mid-80s by the early afternoon.  Spartan isn’t known for being innovative and changing up their obstacles very often. They’ll mix up the order, take away water, add water, etc. I’ve run a lot of other races that are a little more creative when it comes to obstacles, but overall I give Spartan an A for this course because they appeared to be intentional with their placement of the obstacles.

The course length was debated, but everyone agrees it was at least 5.6 miles in length. From what I hear, this is an immense improvement on the past year. Having not run the race myself, I listened to the murmurs around the Biggest Team Tent (woo NE Spahtens!) and the consensus was in favor of this year’s course. It was a long Sprint with a lot of running in the beginning. The first “obstacle” was a couple bales of hay to jump over. The worst part of the hay bales was the allergic reactions many people got afterwards and the medical tent saw a lot of people very itchy on Saturday. The first few miles of the race was just running, running and some more running with an obstacle thrown in here and there. Despite that, the terrain was tricky. There were pastures and woods to run through. The pastures had a decent amount of holes in the ground from the cattle walking and the woods were fantastically riddled with roots and rocks to hop over. I typically run an 8 ½ minute mile on the road, and this course at 5.6 miles took me 1:52 to complete. With my mile hovering around the 20-minute mark, and with only two failed obstacles and burpees, this is a significant difference from my normal pace. There were a lot of people walking the trails and whomever was their first-grade teacher taught them well to walk in single file! There was quite a lot of “on your left” as I dodged tree stumps and branches.

Now I won’t bore you with specifics about the obstacles. This was a well-planned route, but there isn’t anything special to highlight. Check out other Spartan Race reviews for info on the obstacles. I do want to highlight the good things I saw on this course. The cargo net was the tightest I’ve ever been on. Besides the guy falling off right after I dismounted the other side, I’d say it was one of the best. Multiple water stations that were well manned with cheerful volunteers. The course was marked extremely well. If you got off course it was your own fault. One of the most impressive parts of the race was the swag bag at the end. I got my medal, then my bag, and then proceeded to fill said little bag with ProYo (frozen protein yogurt) Fitaid, Clif Bars, and the normal banana and water routine. The little bag was big enough for my sports bra, shorts, socks and calf sleeves to fit into after I peeled them from my body. If you run in more gear than that, you’ll need a bigger bag.

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The festival area was well planned. The Biggest Team Tent was right in the middle of all the food vendors. Spartan did an excellent job at keeping the tent clear of full trash cans, and there was a jug of water with an endless supply inside. If you are racing alone or with one or two other people, join the biggest team! I haven’t met any yet that turn people away. The Farm where the event is held, has their own store with ice cream and burgers. The burgers are some of the tastiest I’ve ever had! I don’t eat a lot of ice cream, but we did sample two flavors after our volunteering shift.

There was no onsite parking. You had to park several miles away, but this wasn’t a huge problem. There were plenty of shuttle buses making the rounds all day. The biggest pain is having to bring everything you need for the day in with you. The Farm did allow coolers though and this is a nice change from other venues. Families with kids were able to pack their lunches, and I saw plenty of people just enjoying the festival area on Saturday. I wasn’t thrilled about running three races this season at the Farm before the Sprint, but now I am actually excited to come back here. The family that owns the farm was out there on the course with their kids. They embraced the runners, and you could see one of the owners running around on a four wheeler all day with his black lab running alongside. At the end of Saturday, I was excited to come back on Sunday to volunteer.

PART 2: SUNDAY – VOLUNTEERING
Sunday was a wash…literally. It rained all day long. The course was muddy, the obstacles slick, and the paces slow. This is what makes for a great running weekend. One day it can be perfect, and the next the weather becomes an additional obstacle. I volunteered at the tiny human course for the day. The volunteer staff is always so friendly to talk to. If you aren’t sure you are ready to run a race I highly recommend volunteering at one to see if this is something you’d be into. My first experience with Spartan was a volunteer shift in Conyers GA a couple years ago. I had broken my leg a week prior to the race playing flag football, and I still went out and had a blast. Note: I didn’t know it was broken yet.

Tiny-Human-Course-Barre-Mass

The tiny humans course is so much fun. You get to watch these kids go beast mode on the course. Some of them are able to conquer fears and they learn to let go of the “I can’t”. Early in the day, we were stationed at the OUT obstacle and the last half of the day the sandbag carry. I saw a lot of kids come through the sandbag carry that would give up before they even tried. I might be a big meany-head to them because I didn’t let a single child quit this obstacle. Everyone was able to dig deep and carry, drag, and kick the sandbag back to me. Some ran with siblings and friends. When one couldn’t quite carry the weight on their own I saw kids run back to help their friends. This is what Spartan is about to me. It’s building confidence in doing something you didn’t know you could do. It’s recognizing that a buddy needs help and you are there to support them. It’s overcoming the little voice in your head that tells you that you aren’t good enough. I saw every child complete this obstacle, and most of them thought they weren’t strong enough. Obstacle courses can teach you that you are good enough, that you are strong enough. If you are out there doubting yourself- look for a volunteer. I would bet a lot of money that they’ve done what you are going through and they know how to help you get to the other side. Oh, and don’t forget to thank the volunteers. Some of them run on Saturday, go through the Hurricane Heat after their race, get very little sleep and then come back on Sunday to make sure that their fellow racers have the support they need. I know a few people who did this, and they are the rays of sunshine when you are covered head to toe in mud.

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After my shift ended, I snagged a delicious burger from the Farmstand and went back to the car with a heart full of joy from a weekend well spent at the Carter and Stevens Farm.

Course- A
Venue- A+
Location- B-
Vendors- A
Parking- B-

Spartan Race Boston Sprint 2016: Built For Runners & Bovine Manure!!

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Photo Courtesy of Brandon Narciso

While the Spartan Pro Team and other highly ranked Elite Spartan Racers had their sights locked on the large payout and potential face-time on NBC courtesy of the Golden State Classic Super in Monterey California; many North Region Spartan hopefuls toed the line this weekend with dreams of conquering obstacles and claiming their one-way coin West to the Spartan World Championship in October.

SpartanRaceBostonSprint2016-Map Photo Courtesy of Brandon Narciso

The 5.2 mile runners dream came true with just Hay Walls and Monkey Bars in the first mile followed by a few additional walls and sporatic obstacles in the second mile. The proverbial cherry on top revealed itself in mile three where A net, A-frame, and A speedbump of a Sandbag Carry helped these speedsters continue to crush all 15,840 feet of the course thus far.  The Rolling Mud with Dunk Wall and Barbed Wire Crawl of Mile 4 provided little resistance for the sprinters however the obstacle assault of the last half mile bogged down the racers with the Herc Hoist, Rope Climb, Bucket Brigade, Spearman, followed by the Atlas Carry to finish the course but…too little too late for those who favor the physical demands of the obstacles over the faster pace of uninterrupted mileage.

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Photo Courtesy of Nelson “Runaway” Diaz

To add insult to injury, the 80+ degree heat and hives, reportedly from the hay, did not make things any easier. Translation: Other dreams were simply buried in the bovine manure surrounding the Carter & Stevens Dairy Farm. Yes, my dream included.

SpartanRaceBostonSprint2016-bovine Photo Courtesy of Nelson “Runaway” Diaz

The Saturday Elite male landslide, all from Massachusettes, consisted of Ryan Kempson 1st, Junyong Pak 2nd, and Joshua Fiore 3rd of Nor’Easter OCR who now owns a streak of 3 podium finishes in 3 weeks including 2nd at the Endurance Society Infinitus 88k and 3rd at the Bone Frog New England.

For the Saturday Elite females Kathleen Lanphear, Orla Marie Walsh, and Nicole FitzGerald finished 1st through 3rd respectively.

The Sunday Elite Male heat re-introduced the Nor’Easter OCR storm to the Spartan Race community led by Kiaran McCormack 1st, Michael Miraglia 2nd, and Shane Leighton 3rd.

While the Elite females kept it in high gear with Debbie Koch 1st, Kelly Sullivan 2nd (also of Nor’Easter OCR), and Serra Langone 3rd.

Could this race have uncovered an underdog in the Nor’Easter OCR Pro-Team for us to rally behind? The fact is that at least 5 of their members have qualified for the Spartan World Championship at this race alone, and there is still plenty of time for the rest of their team to earn some coin. Do they have enough to upset the Spartan Pro-Team? Can Nor’Easter OCR run with the big dogs or just bark from the porch? Time will reveal.

Spartan inspiration provided by Adaptive athlete Misty Diaz at the rope climb reminded us that we have officially run out of excuses for our laziness…again.

SpartanRaceBostonSprint2016-MistyDiaz Photo Courtesy of Spartan Race

A friend recently reminded me that most of us understand fear of failure and some of us are accustomed to living with that fear. At the same time, some of us have a genuine fear of success and are accustomed to living with this fear. Fear of success is equally real and a true hindrance to our God-created potential. Fear in any form and for any reason is futile. However, there is a reason to fear NOT – so find it – and be prepared to be amazed on the Spartan course but more importantly throughout the course of your life. #inspiresomebody

Spartan Race Montana Big Sky Sprint

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Who am I? I am a Spartan! A Spartan on a lot of Tylenol. Welcome to the Spartan Race weekend to end them all.

After running the Montana Spartan Beast on Saturday (you can read all about that hot mess in Katerina Walowski’s race report soon).  I questioned my sanity for even attempting to climb down from my bunk-bed (why was I on the top?) and suit up for the Spartan Sprint on Sunday. Thanks to various key players who both insulted and encouraged me into doing it and some powerful painkillers, I was riding the school bus back to the race venue.

It’s about to get good. So get comfortable, crack open a cold Kombucha and read on.
Montana Spartan Sprint 2016 Horse (5)

Compared to my home on the windy brown plains of Alberta Canada, the Flathead valley is a green oasis where spring has been in bloom for a few weeks already. The charming city of Kalispell was expecting us too, as the pubs and restaurants in the city were poised to welcome and accommodate us. We stayed in the Kalispell hostel, above a great bike shop called Wheatons.

The festival area itself is just south of Kalispell, tucked into the ancient glacial foothills of the Mission mountains. The event featured a very efficient park and ride system, some premium on-site parking and a fantastic array of vendors and sponsors. There was plenty to do and see between races, and it was a fun place to hang out and meet up with your fellow Spartans. I was glad to see that there was a great view for spectators to watch the finish line action too. A kids race was also set up nearby the main arena. It looked like a lot of fun.

The quality of the course itself was also high. The race featured just under 6 miles of famously big cobalt blue skies, shimmering lake views, deep red soil trails, lush open meadows and pristine alpine forest. The Montana Sprint is a great opportunity. Not only is this race a chance to run in one of America’s most iconic landscapes but it’s a race with pedigree, prestige and of course bragging rights. Not all races are created equally. Once you run here, you win uncontested; “Yes, it’s a Spartan race, but it’s not exactly a MONTANA Spartan Race, is it?”
Festival

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NOT JUST A PRETTY FACE

Looks can be deceiving, so let me be your wing-man; Montana is as savage as she is beautiful. She is unpredictable and untamed, unforgiving, but totally unforgettable.

The terrain was easily the main obstacle of this event. Most of the elevation gain happened within the first three miles and even the most indefatigable became fatigued on this sprint. This was as technically challenging and aggressive a trail as I have ever set foot on (apart from the beast the day before) and soon I found myself praying for obstacles, or burpees, or anything other than hills. At the same time, I found myself loving the experience for delivering me a little taste of the impossible. There’s a certain catharsis achieved by having to talk oneself through an experience like this. That kind of internal dialogue certainly happened to me during this race, particularly after running the beast the day before. Positive self talk is much easier when you have 1300mg of tylenol in your system.
Montana Spartan Sprint 2016 Razr (1)

It is worth mentioning that the trail required extra care to avoid the loose rocks, stumps and logs that littered the course. I counted three people down with rolled ankles from my run through the sprint alone. The take home message here is to make sure to bring the right shoes for Montana and watch your step or you’ll be taking a ride in the ATV!

NOTABLE OBSTACLES

THE SANDBAG DEATH MARCH

Photo Credit: Gene Quisisem

We need to talk about it. It was long, it was steep. People will have nightmares. I saw a lot of people staring up at the hill with wide open mouths.There was a lot of stopping. Lots of cursing. Lots of slipping. If I had to pick one obstacle or moment from the race that felt the hardest, this was it.

THE TYRO LADDER
Jacob's ladder
Climbing a horizontal rope ladder upside down is an interesting challenge, but not a particularly difficult one. By 11am the inverted ladder obstacle became so overcrowded that the officials were letting people pass on it, burpee free. It was so slow because although few people failed the obstacle, it took a while to complete it. I thought it was a great addition to the course.

THE LONG BARBED WIRE CRAWL
The second barbed wire crawl in the Montana sprint was impressively cruel. It went on forever. In fact, I’m certain this kind of experience is rare outside of North Korea. Dear leader take note! I got whipped in the face by some barbed wire someone was pulling aside while some female participants crawled under it. When he let it go, it swung back at me, and embedded itself into my eyebrow. I’m not mad. In fact, I think it makes for an awesome photo. Moral of the story: Spartan women don’t need a white knight. Leave the barbed wire alone!

THE CLIF MULTI RIG
Montana Spartan Sprint 2016 Rig

The rig was the last obstacle on the course (unless you count the fire jump). It featured a rising parallel bar, three rings, and an alternating series of three rings and three short ropes. The key to this obstacle was to use the rings only and avoid the ropes, as anyone who tried to use the tiny ropes was almost certainly headed to the burpee pen. I had failed the rig during the beast the previous day, so when I came back for the sprint I was prepared and made it all the way across without too much difficulty.

OTHER MUDSTACLES
The Montana sprint featured 24 obstacles in total, including walls of varying height, rope climb, spear throw, atlas carry, Hercules hoist, farmer log carry, shoulder log carry, inverted wall, a shorter barbed wire crawl, dunk wall (which smelled really bad), bucket brigade, monkey bars, two sets of hurdles and a vertical cargo net to name a few.

DCIM104GOPRO

DCIM104GOPRO

DCIM104GOPRO

SWAG

Finishers received a standard 2016 Spartan Sprint medal, a quality finisher’s shirt (which are much improved over last year’s awful Canadian ones), a can of FitAid, a Clif builder’s bar and a banana. A free beer was also available.

THE PRO TEAM + ELITE HEAT

Oh, and I should probably mention that there was an NBC televised spartan pro-team elite heat for both male and female athletes, which I’m sure you’ll hear a lot about elsewhere. I won’t spent much time on it here, but it was pretty cool getting to meet and talk to some of the Spartan pro-team athletes.

THE STATS

The Montana Spartan Sprint is on another scale altogether compared to anything I have ever attempted in the Sprint category. Participants climbed approximately 1709 feet over 5.7 miles. Consider that for a moment. Thanks to elite Canadian spartan Stefan Weiclawek and his trusty Sunnto Ambit 3 for this information you can follow him and his brother Kristian on Instagram by following @yycbrosocr

Montana Spartan Sprint 2016 MAP (3)

CONCLUSION

Stunning scenery. A world class course. Epic adventures. A bottomless pit of enthusiasm and camaraderie. I can’t imagine a more definitive iteration of the Spartan race format. I know exactly which race I’m going to be booking first for 2017, and the people I’ll be running it with. Now pass the Tylenol.

Party Canadians

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