Calgary Spartan Race Weekend

Calgary Spartan Race 2018

Calgary Spartan Race 2018 A

 

There is talk that this might have been the last year that Spartan Race Canada would be using the Wildrose venue for the Calgary Spartan Race weekend. If so, I want to share some of the great highlights of the venue and why Spartan Racing there was pretty special. Sure this venue is tired and worn, but it’s where my OCR journey began. There’s some history here and for me, racing at the Wild Rose Motocross Circuit in Calgary is like coming home. 

Calgary Spartan Race 2018 JCarry

It’s like going home to your parents house after being away at University for 3 months and realizing you missed the eccentricities of your family home and the people in it. You can forgive the shortcomings and the predictability. You’ll even eat the sprouts. Hell, in this case they never tasted better.  

Here’s why Calgary IS a great venue for OCR.

Calgary Spartan Race 2018 (7)

It’s completely different from other venues.

There’s no venue quite like this; Red Deer is a meadowed forest single-track, Montana is a backcountry adventure run, Kimberley was – well… basically Killington. Running at the Calgary Spartan Race weekend is like running on the surface of Mars, about 4 kilometers from the business district of Calgary. It’s a stark wasteland environment of artificial hills and dips. It looked especially Martian last weekend as heavy smoke from the BC wildfires obscured the rising sun and the Calgary skyline, casting an orange tint over everything as it struggled to break through the murky blue haze.  

There are a few trees and bushes here, but the flora mostly gives way to vast expanses of dust and soil. The mud here smells bad, as if Johnny Waite shipped in some manure just to make it extra special (I have it on great authority that he did not). There is a rugged utility about this race venue, and as a sandbox for a race designer, it has fewer limitations than it might seem compared to other venues with easy access, a short distance to travel to get there, and few limitations on digging and building obstacles wherever they are required. It takes a truly well-rounded athlete to flourish in all these environments, and Calgary represents a testing ground for that versatility. 

Calgary Spartan Race 2018 (6)

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It’s fast.

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The Calgary race venue pushes you to a different kind of limit than other races do on the western Canadian series. If you’re in the elite or competitive mindset, prepare to redline constantly as you try and maintain momentum over sawtooth-like elevation profile. Because of the setup and the pace, the race unfolds itself like a swift kick to the adrenal glands. You might as well pretend to be riding a dirt bike (in fact I did hear some racers making two-stroke motor noises as they banked around the wall rides). The speed gives rise to some spectacularly exciting moments and battles between runners.

Calgary Spartan Race 2018 (2)

It can be muddy and we NEED mud sometimes.

Calgary Spartan Race 2018 AB

For those wanting that mud-run feel, Calgary certainly delivered a healthy dollop. There were at least three good mud bogs on the Sprint, and maybe more on the Super (sorry I had to bail). The second barbed wire crawl was an unavoidable slog through deep mud, which was probably the most fun I’ve had on an OCR all season.

There was also a dunk wall and lots of opportunities to get completely immersed in water. It couldn’t help but put a broad smile on my face and take me back to my first Spartan Race at this very venue where I got completely covered from head to toe in this very same mud. There is something honest about mud. As an obstacle mud favors nobody – you can’t specifically train well for the chaos it creates.

Mud enhances the difficulty of obstacles and requires extra care and obstacle strategies, but mud also plays a social role in OCR. There are probably some psychological things about breaking down people’s inhibitions and overcoming fears and reservations that I won’t explore but you know what I mean. Mud can also make things terrible if there is too much of it – for example back in 2015 and 2016 when the entire course became a quagmire. But some mud is great.

Sorry, Josh. Mud is here to stay. 


Calgary Spartan Race 2018 Josj

The Calgary Spartan Race is full of surprising twists and turns.

Calgary Spartan Race 2018 (5)

The Calgary course favours the agile. You need to be able to perform well at all the regular obstacles such as the rope climb, the bucket carry, the heavy sled pulls, you will also need the agility of a soccer player. The course twists and turns on itself repeatedly within the relatively small area it covers (just a few city blocks), and features multiple hairpin bends, dramatic level changes, rock piles, log jams and tight corners.

These features make it exciting and interesting to navigate the course, and to see where other racers are. By now we all know this venue quite well and what the basic layout is, but it still feels exciting to bomb down those hills and attack those steep climbs. 

Calgary Spartan Race 2018 (4)

You can always have fun at the Calgary Spartan race and take your own time running at your own pace and the course has plenty of fun (and probably more) to offer the casual runner, those facing personal goals rather than rivalries, or those wanting a less competitive team-based experience.

The obstacles feel dense and exciting.

I enjoy encountering obstacles during fast races like this because it feels like the obstacles really do influence the outcome. At the Calgary Spartan Race there is really no room for errors, so for those running elite or age-group, this adds another exciting paradigm to the competition.  In fact, finally this feels like an OCR, not just a trail run interrupted by obstacles.

Calgary Spartan Race 2018 (1)

A nice highlight of the Calgary Spartan Race was the Wrecked obstacle (which involved 5 wreck bag snatches with a burpee between each) – which I’m told there was some confusion about. For the record, I did my overhead wreck bag work with burpees in between each rep. Others did not. 

Calgary Spartan Race 2018 (18)

Confusion over obstacle rules in OCR seems to almost be an inevitability. It’s the fog of war effect. Unless we all get a walk-through on the obstacles beforehand on how to complete them (which I’m not suggesting), there will always be a different interpretation – the volunteers may also have their own interpretation which may change over the course of the day. Just roll with it and deal I guess.

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I’d love to see more innovation along the lines of the WRECKED – It’s a step in the right direction. 

Wrecked

In my review of the Kimberley Spartan Race weekend I mentioned a list of improvements I’d love Spartan Race Canada to make. Quite unexpectedly for me, The Calgary Spartan Sprint kinda delivered on most of that. There was action, adventure, and an exciting course that delivered some of the fun I’ve been craving from Spartan.

I don’t know what the future holds for the Calgary Spartan Race, or where it will be held in 2019. Maybe it’ll be right back here for 2019 again. Either way is fine with me, but the Calgary Spartan Race is still one of the classics.

I should add here that I was only able to complete the sprint. If anyone wants to add thoughts on the Super, please comment below!

All Photos Credit: Spartan Race Canada

Spartan Kids Race Kimberley 2018 Review

Kimberley British Columbia, Canada

Confidence, exercise, empowerment, experience, getting a little dusty, a few scraped knees or elbows in the name of good fun… the Spartan Kids race is a great way to get your kids excited about the outdoors and all that. However, kids think differently. Instead, my kids are highly motivated by the less noble promise of post race ice cream and/or iPad time. In all seriousness though, they really were excited about this race.

Arrival

11:00am start. THANK YOU SPARTAN RACE CANADA. That means we are not having to be up at 5am with our kids. Someone is thinking carefully about this whole process.


Getting ready for kids race
Sponsorship Altra Team Red swag added to keep my contract alive. You didn’t say I had to wear it Altra.

Kids Race Elite

Check in was amusing. Overshares of information with the race staff as standard (like sharing exactly what where we live and what we are doing the rest of the day etc). There is lots of bouncing around and excitement – we put the bands on their wrists and head into the main arena. There is no easy way in there with a stroller – we have to walk around the back of the restaurant building and slip through a gated area to avoid flights of stairs at the front. Theo (the littlest one) is already plowing his way through our snack supply.

Kimberely Kids race

Of course if you do have elite race arm bands, make sure you put them on your kids also since this parenting thing is awfully competitive these days. We notice something is wrong. Elena’s face is puffing up and her head is bulging on one side – which turns out to be an allergic reaction to a mosquito bite on her forehead, so if one eye looks a little closed up, that is why.

Starting corall

Pre-race confidence building routines were used. Affirmations were shared. Chins were grabbed.

“You are strong, you can do this Elena”

“I know”


Race Ready Spartan Kids

So with the shout of, I AM SPARTAN! The race began!

Let’s flash forward a little in time to breakfast on Monday morning following the race. Look at the little darlings.

Drawing therapy spartan race

Getting the kids to draw about their experience was really easy and fun… can’t you tell by their faces? After some coaching and some hard negotiations over TV watching time, eventually we ended up with one sheet of paper that had most things on it. You’ll see sharp peaked mountains at the back, and the rolling hills in the front.

kids race drawing

Euan pointed out to me that the orange lines represent the orange tape on either side of the course. Obstacles are below.

Euan: You have to run inside the lines, or they kick you out.

Elena: No they don’t!

Euan: YES THEY DO. IT’S THE RULES!

Elena: I ran outside the lines and I GOT A MEDAL!

Euan: That’s cheating!

Both together: AHHHHHHHH

-CALMING EXPERT PARENT INTERVENTION-

Obviously the blue lines are the hurdles they had to cross going up and down the hill. This left certain people’s legs exposed to prickles that were hidden on the leeward side of the hurdle. Cue screeching and shoe removal mid race – a lot like an adult race TBH.

Hurdles for kids race

The hills were pretty steep, and Euan powered through, while Elena didn’t really engage with the course aggressively.Lainey on the Hurdles-ANIMATION

Once we had truly given up on running up and down the hills, the first obstacle was the Spear throw –  a blunt tipped spear (not as sharp as depicted in blue) was to be thrown into a hay bale (in pink). I’m not sure what the blue lines are above the spear. I think it’s a pile of spears. For this spear throw, I’m going to guess about a 50% hit rate I’d assume – probably about the same as the adult race. Kids don’t dwell on it much if they miss.

Spear throw (2)

After a few more steep ascents and descents (and yes there was some pretty good hills for these kids to run up and down), they made their way into the next part of the obstacle cluster.

Kids Race Kimberley Hills

The balance beam came next (0ne of the only adult obstacles I am actually good at) but my kids didn’t acknowledge this in drawing form at all. Balance Beam Spartan Kids

We then climbed the hills a few more times and arrived at the triad of obstacles shown below. The rope climb (left complete with bell) Monkey Bars (centre) and hercules hoist (blue right).

For some reason Euan thought he had to hoist all of the bags in the line – despite my wife trying to shout to him to just move on. He did about three of them before moving onto the next obstacle. I helped Lainey because she was too light to shift the bag.

Herc Hoist

The obstacles were challenging for kids, but definitely possible for slightly older kids to complete. I found them all to be very well judged in design and safety.

Help was generally on hand when needed for Euan. He’s been practicing his monkey bar skills ever since this race, since he found them quite difficult to complete on his own. He’s got it now, so thank you Spartan for helping him with the motivation to work on something. Lainey sat on my shoulder and squealed when I tried to let her go on her own!

Monkey Bars

Elena however had no problem with accepting help with his obstacles, in fact – the race became a little more casual at this point and we checked out the local flora instead before dominating the slip wall.

Kids Spartan Race Kimberely

She had no problem at all with the slip wall side, but froze when it came to turning around and coming back down the ladder side of the slip wall, but then again I’m no different!

Hand over hand for this one.

Slip wall

Euan had already finished his lap as Elena crossed the finish line. He made sure she got her medal and I snapped this photo of them. They are so often at each other’s throats that it was genuinely a proud moment to see Euan showering his sister with praise for finishing her first Spartan Kids Race.

I think the only improvement to the Spartan Kids Race I would add is the opportunity for the kids to get a little bit mucky, or some kind of water obstacle to walk through or something. Having them run a free second lap would be a fun addition – I’m not sure if this was offered or not. If it was, then great!

Of course I’m proud of them for doing the Spartan Kids Race, but the greater thing for me though is to see them proud of themselves.

Thank you for a great event Spartan Race Canada!

Kids Race medal

Kimberley Spartan Race Trifecta Weekend Review

Spartan Race Kimberely (13)

Spartan Race returns to the Canadian Rockies.

KIMBERLEY, BRITISH COLUMBIA

6 months ago (or thereabouts) Race Director Johnny Waite was scouting the location for this race on a snowmobile. Back then, temperatures could have been as low as -31ºF. Now, it’s mid-July and in this part of Canada, it can be almost as hot as Southern California.

Kimberely mountain

This a place of uncompromising toughness; a landscape in which only nature’s toughest endure – the grizzly bear, the moose, even the goddamn wolverine. It’s under those conditions that Spartan Race Canada delivered one of the toughest events ever.

The Sprint, for example, was an intense 9 kilometer trip up and straight back down the mountain in scorching temperatures. The Spartan Super, at 16 kilometers, had more elevation gain than most of the mountains in the Canadian Rockies. The Beast and Ultrabeast were among the hardest courses based on distance and climbing ever devised for a Spartan Race. I have stats to prove that claim but forget all that. Instead, let’s just say that 4 hours into the race I used a volunteer’s phone to send this text to my wife.

Text Kimberley

Let me break it down for you in terms you might appreciate. This was Spartan Beast that was so steep that I will unashamedly admit to finding and using someone’s lost ski poles to help me climb the hill. This was a race weekend where I watched a fellow elite heat racer give up on racing and begin desperately foraging for berries on the hillside for energy mid-race. “Oh boy, that was hard” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Spartan Race Kimberely (18)

The standard set of obstacles were in play on each day of the event and if you’re interested you will find maps and lists here. If you are familiar with Spartan Races, you will instantly know what to expect – obstacles like the Tyrolean traverse, the sandbag carry, and the bucket carry etc. Spartan Race Canada tried something new this year, and attempted to include an innovative wreck bag push obstacle. That idea was unfortunately reduced to 5 wreck bag clean and jerks by Spartan Race Corporate. It was still cool, but it is a real shame that Spartan Race Canada doesn’t have full autonomy over what to include.

One of my favorite obstacles on the Beast was the sled pull, and this one was set up on a slight incline making it extra difficult (still got it though). The Platinum rig was all decked out with various levels of rings that required careful planning and that 90 degree single arm lock to complete (yup, failed that one). I also succumbed to the Z wall, as a foothold block was really out of reach for my stubby legs and a leg cramp made it ugly (you know one of those ones around the corner?) It’s a frustrating one to fail but such is life.

Spartan Race Kimberely (14)

The climbing was brutal.

For the Beast, we ascended ski run after ski run before heading back down to the main fire road to connect to the next climb. One final climb put us up onto the top of Vimy Ridge, and apparently, the views of the valley were spectacular, but my legs were so beaten down that sightseeing was the last thing on my mind. The course eventually began to drop into the resort area with the final quad busting descent through the desert-like dust of the North Star ski run. Apart from a thrilling mountain bike switchback trail (which was probably the highlight of the race for me), there were few sections of the race where it was possible to actually run – instead, it was mainly hiking. Obstacles were spaced pretty evenly and there were 9 well-stocked water stations along the way. Despite that fact scuffles and misunderstandings over water allowances marred the day for some on Saturday’s Beast and Ultrabeast.

Mud and water were conspicuous by their absence – a technical challenge posed by the limitations of the location was given as the reason for this. On that subject, (not that we often drink water on course) if you intend to run the Spartan weekend at Kimberley, a hydration pack should be strongly considered.

It is possible you should also take fuel with you unless you are really good at picking saskatoon berries quickly! You should expect high temperatures, and you should definitely expect to run low on water or to need some hydration between stations. Many people I saw out there were very unprepared for fuel and water.  You can see more about the effect of temperature and exercise here with additional guidance here and here to determine how much water you will need. Google it and ask someone who knows what they are talking about. Test and repeat before race day.

Spartan Race Kimberely (2)

Back to my race… As I crested the top of the ridge, I took a reading from my watch. I had gained 1980 meters or 6496 feet over the 15 kilometers I had covered so far. Yeah, it was steep. Eventually, I saw myself slip back further and further into the middle and then the back of the elite pack, slowing to a hobble and finally a walk. This didn’t suit me well, and my pride was dented pretty hard when my legs couldn’t keep up with my ego. I was failing at something I usually did OK at. The finale of the race was a downhill barbed wire crawl, the spear throw, bucket carry, slip wall and finally the fire jump.

I was done.

It was a strange feeling for me to walk into the finishing area feeling like I hadn’t enjoyed myself. I almost feel ashamed of myself for thinking that, but most of the time was spent wanting the whole thing to be over. My own pride and lack of preparation were my own problems for sure and I can’t blame everything on “problems with the course.” Many people came more prepared than I was and had a far better experience out there, however, I felt a little better about it when I realized that it wasn’t just me who had a rough day on the mountain. It was steep. Very steep. So steep in fact that it became difficult to enjoy for quite a few people. The scale of the task ahead of people was massive. Racers who finished all three events for the weekend had covered a total distance of 46 kilometers and accumulated a total elevation gain of 4200 m or 13780 feet! A massive congratulations to everyone who made it!

Kimberely Spartan Glenn

But there were enough people who had problems that Spartan Race Canada took note.

Spartan Race Kimberely (6)

“This is why I’ll never run Spartan again” – Some random

“This is why people say, “never again” and actually mean it”.

– another anon

Or even simply, “Eff Johnny”

– quite a few people actually.

Spartan Race Kimberely (17)

Spartan Race Kimberely (19)

Despite this vocal group of people, 94% of people who started the beast course actually finished, while 45% of those who started the Ultrabeast finished. This is just about right for the difficulty level Spartan are aiming for, but the question for me remains on will be how many finishers and non finishers will return for more next year?

How many will feel like they don’t want to go through this again? How do we ensure volunteers don’t end up making up their own rules about water allowance and obstacle safety? For the open heat and first time racers, do the memories of the suffering fade and get replaced with the desire to conquer the event next year? If things do change, do we then feel more shortchanged if the event isn’t as hard next year? And what was that log drag obstacle about exactly?

Spartan Race Kimberely (15)

Johnny reached out to me to discuss these things, so we went Live on the Facebook feed for Obstacle Racing Media.

Spartan Race Kimberely (8)

As it turns out Johnny approached the issues people had with the race in a very contrite and considered way, answering questions for almost an hour. He took full responsibility for the problems with the course design, and promising changes – but at the same time took steps towards reshaping expectations about what a championship weekend would look like.

What’s clear is that Spartan Race Canada (and Johnny Waite himself) has things to learn in this new venue and he seems eager to go about applying the feedback provided by the participants to form a better race for everyone. I don’t think we as consumers should form a committee to decide how a race should set up.

In fact, we need to apply a little bit of the STFU principle and find ourselves in all the suffering, etc. We (I myself) HAVE to be more prepared in order to enjoy these tougher ones. A Beast at an alpine ski resort should be difficult for everyone – both professional athlete and first-time participant should expect to be tested and we should be prepared to leave it all out there on the course – otherwise what accomplishment is there?

Spartan Race Kimberely (20)

Despite that Spartan Race Canada can improve with constructive feedback, I’m full of ideas (mainly ideas I have stolen from other smarter people). My recommendations for Spartan Race Canada and participants in the event are detailed below.

Spartan Race Kimberely (16)

Glenn’s ideas on how to make a truly incredible OCR experience:

(and stolen ideas that I have claimed full credit for).

  1. We’re getting better at obstacles and some of these are getting stale. Focus on making more unique and novel experiences – push Spartan Race Corporate to get those innovative new obstacles approved. I still have a blueprint for a pegboard traverse… that would make a sick obstacle.
  2. Bring back some mud – look to the past races for elements that gave joy and entertainment to participants and spectators – as we discussed, mud and dirt is still part of the experience.
  3. Water obstacles add dynamic elements to an otherwise ordinary race. Water obstacles (even without mud) add that much needed cooling element for summer races. We need a dunk wall. A wade pool. A water slip wall. I found myself almost wishing for an arctic enema ice pool on Saturday.
  4. Photography. Part of our identity as Spartan Racers is tied up in that image of us, muddied but determined. Quality, timely photography makes us feel awesome about ourselves and proves our accomplishments. This was much improved at Kimberley over Red Deer!
  5. Create sections that are exhilarating to complete – obstacle couplets, multiple walls, balance beams, narrow singletrack, weaving through tight tree sections, creating simple level changes, swinging obstacles, direction changes, climbing, rope descents and natural obstacles all stand up well in any race.
  6. Continue to support volunteers with things they need to perform the tasks set for them. Specifically offer shelter from the elements, written instructions and explicit rules regarding water provision and obstacle safety.
  7. You probably don’t need to film burpees for anyone outside of the top 15 runners.

Spartan Race Kimberely (3)

In conclusion, it’s fairly obvious that a race doesn’t just have to be harder to be better. A truly incredible and epic race involves a strategy of variety and laying the groundwork for racers to experience adventure, competition and memorable moments in a balance worth coming back for. If Spartan Race Canada can adjust that balance next year, I think it will be a classic.

For this race, in particular, I should add that we should celebrate our volunteers who spent many hours in the heat and sun to ensure we could participate safely in this event.

I also want to congratulate the effort put in by our top athletes who showed tremendous courage, effort and stamina to battle extremely hard on one of the toughest Spartan Race weekends ever. Our Elite racing group sometimes don’t get acknowledged enough for the hours and hours of hard work they put in to compete in places like this. You should all be very proud of yourselves.

Spartan Race Kimberely (1)

Finally, for this one I think we can all celebrate crossing that finish line, or hell, even stepping up towards it. Until next year.

Spartan Race Kimberely (11)

Photo credit: Spartan Race Canada.

Exclusive: Spartan Race Canada Rocky Mountain Trifecta Maps

If you’re running in the Spartan Race Canada Rocky Mountain Trifecta Weekend at Kimberley British Columbia this weekend, feast your eyes on these maps!

The Spartan Sprint

This is going to be 8 kilometers in distance. I’m not sure what the number 13 obstacle “wrecked” is?

Sprint Kimberley BC Spartan RaceThe Super

The middle distance is on Sunday – and is a total of 16 kilometers!
KIMBERLEY SUPER-page-001

The Beast

The Beast is on Saturday and is further than the standard 21 kilometer distance by 2 kilometers! Bring those long socks or ankle protection for the Tyrolean traverse.


KIMBERLEY BEAST-page-001
The Ultrabeast

Again this starts early on Saturday Morning. Get ready for some real Canadian adventures on an incredible course!

KIMBERLEY ULTRA-page-001

Thank you to Spartan Race Canada for providing these maps. You can still sign up for the race weekend here

Red Deer Spartan Race Weekend

The Spartan Race weekend in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada 2018

By Kody O’Brien and Nancy Loranger

Red Deer (8)

DAY 1 – Kody O’Brien – Spartan Sprint

On Saturday June 9th the obstacle course racers from Edmonton and Calgary met in the middle of Alberta once again at Heritage Ranch in Red Deer anticipating the start of the 2018 Spartan season. This venue is located centrally along a highway between two major cities making it a short venture from either city, and also allowing most Racers to travel home for a good night’s rest and saving money on accommodations.

The first day would be the Spartan sprint with a posted distance of 8km and 25 obstacles (actual 7.7km) this is longer than most Sprint distance races held here by a few kilometers and much more like the USA sprint distance of 5 miles. This had racers a bit anxious (usually Sprints in Canada are about 5K/3miles) and rethinking possible game plans and strategies, wondering if they should be bringing fuel and reanalyzing pace.

The weather was perfect with overcast skies and temperatures around 19 degrees C as the elite men started to jump the wall and into the starting gate. As I looked around I saw many new and familiar faces, but everyone looked pumped up! I realized that this was going to be a very fast race. Seasoned racers knew it would be important to get out quick and secure a spot out front knowing that once the single-track approached it would be next to impossible to pass other racers.

Red Deer (4)

The first kilometer was a blistering 3 min/km pace down the paved Road and into some single track then headed back towards the festival area. This is where Spectators got their first chance to witness the carnage, where the vertical cargo, the barbed wire, Hercules hoist, 4 foot wall, rolling mud, dunk wall and A-frame were all stacked together. Note to course designers: It’s really awesome not just for spectators but as a racer to run through the festival area hearing people yelling and screaming, it fires you up! There wouldn’t be another chance to come to the festival area again until the end of the race, missing the exciting obstacles such as the rig and Olympus.

Wall Red Deer

Once leaving the festival area the course turned back into the single-track trail for about 800 m in order to to get us to the next cluster of obstacles in the field, this is where grip would be tested. Obstacles here were 7′ wall, multi rig, Olympus, and tractor pull. The rig was fairly easy if you knew how to work your way through, skipping every other distraction hold (rope, t-bar, low ring, nunchuck) and using only rings, easier said than done, this obstacle left many racers stranded in the burpee pen.

Rig Red Deer

A quick hop over the inverted wall and the next 4-5 km had only 3 obstacles spaced out in between (6′ wall, water crossing (swim) and the Atlas carry. This proved to play well into the hands of strong runners, spanning across a variety of single track and paved/gravel roads allowing racers to push the pace, but this section split opinions at about 50/50, with strong runners loving it and obstacles junkies wishing it would end already.

As the kilometers passed, eventually we reached a sign that we were getting close to the end of the course: The base of the dreaded heritage ranch stairs unveils itself. It’s about a meter 80 climb to the top these stairs, and they will leave even the best of athletes with heavy legs at the top.

Piggy back red deer

Now in the heart of the ranch, the rope climb and plate drag are piled together among other piles of horse patties… (No shortage here). Once through these obstacles and over a couple fences and the course dives back into the single track, headed towards the sandbag carry. The previous year’s sandbag carry brought many great memories and photos, heading down the river bank along wet slippery rocks, through the river and back up the other side. Many racers were disappointed with this year’s carry, saying it was too easy and that they were anticipating the river trek again. Once we dropped the sandbag off and we were on the final stretch, which was a zip through another 500 m of single track and back towards the festival area for the finale.

Log Carry Red Deer

If you had saved gas in the tank for a final push, now is the time to let ’er rip!

The final four obstacles, Monkey bars, Spear throw, slip wall, and fire jump crammed together are all that stands between you and the finish. Having the spear at the finish always makes a close race very interesting, as proved by the men’s elite finale when Josh Stryde and I showed up at the same time battling for 2nd, one stuck it while the other missed, securing the top 3 finishers.

A few notes from the Spartan Sprint race: The course was marked very well and 3 water stations were distributed evenly. Racers didn’t get a chance to see obstacles such as (bucket brigade, Tyrolean traverse, tire flip, z wall, stairway to Sparta and the twister which is still yet to be seen in Canada)

A live feed was provided by fellow elite racers Stefan Wieclawek and Linzee Knowles through the @spartanracecanada Facebook page, providing an exciting and highly entertaining bonus for all interested in following along. I also have to add that I recognize the hard work went into this race by Spartan Canada and it is much appreciated by all.

DAY 2 – The Spartan Super – Nancy Loranger

Rise and shine….hmm…more like Rise and Rain on Sunday for the 14km Spartan Super in Red Deer. After a full night of heavy rain, the skies remained gloomy and the wind picked up as racers and spectators huddled under coats and tents waiting for the Men’s Elite heat call to the start line.

Red Deer (7)

Thirty minutes before the men were scheduled to start, the announcer came out with an alarming statement to notify us that the previous night some assholes had vandalized the entire course! Course markings were torn down, water stations on the course were speared, smashed and thrown in a nearby creek, Olympus was overturned; the course was left in a state of disaster. The announcer specified that the @spartanbuildcrew had all hands on deck and were working feverishly to rebuild the course. Despite being warned that start times could be bumped upwards of 30 minutes or more, Spartan Race was ready to go for the original start time! Aroo!

I and every other person I talked with was very impressed and super grateful (no pun intended) for the hard work the crew had put into getting it back to race ready!

Inverted Wall Red Deer

The Spartan Race Super course followed the same first 2 Kilometers as the Sprint course, passing through the Festival area and its gauntlet of obstacles. Racers were already cold and wet from the rain and wind but then had to brave the frigid waters of the dunk wall before hitting the A-frame cargo and back into the forest on twisty single track.

This is where we ventured onto new trails not seen in the previous day’s Sprint course, heading north along the sandy banks of the Red Deer River. Heritage Ranch boasts some gorgeous, tight, technical trails, full of roots, downed trees, and sharp turns. It’s obvious why Spartan Race Canada choose to come back year after year. Racers were forced to look up and pay close attention to course markings or risk the chance of heading off course on a trail less traveled.

This section demanded a fair bit of running before the next obstacle, the log carry. This was a quick but very steep climb up a grassy embankment and down through a muddy swamp before returning to lighten your load and pick up the pace again. We headed back into the single track for another 2 km until the trees divided to reveal a football-sized grassy field and the Stairway to Sparta towering in the near distance.Log Red deer

Red Deer Z Wall

This field, scattered with the likes of Z-wall, Tire Flip, The Platinum Rig, Olympus and Tractor Pull, requires the racer to run lengths of the field while completing these grip-intensive obstacles. I think it would be appropriate to call this section “The Field of Burpees”. It was a challenge for everyone in that field to complete all obstacles without penalty burpees and only a handful of racers likely walked away with a ‘clean’ race. Spartan race tends to get a lot tougher in the wet!

Red Deer Tire Flip

As kilometers clicked by, racers were met with more trail running and the last remaining ‘classic’ Spartan obstacles – rope climb, sandbag carry, monkey bars and spear throw to name a few.

The last section of the Red Deer Spartan race super mirrored that of the day before allowing racers to play with the familiar ground and dig deep to push the pace for a strong finish. This was perhaps the most exciting segment of the race for both spectators and athletes. The last 200m was stacked with an uphill pavement slog to slippery Monkey Bars followed by good ol’ Spear Throw. The burpee pit was an active hang out place at both obstacles before hitting the extra slick Slip Wall and finally Fire Jump to the finish.

Overall, the Spartan race Super delivered a challenging, fast-paced course that brought most athletes to their knees upon crossing the finish line!

Red Deer (6)

Photos from Spartan Race Canada/Sweatworks.net

X-Warrior Challenge Stadium Sprint 2018

X-Warrior Challenge

I’ve got to fess up here, and say that I didn’t even run X-Warrior Challenge properly. Here’s my excuse – I was sick. In this picture you can see that I’m smiling, but on the inside I was losing a battle with winter’s last gift – the final supercharged cold of the season. I’m the one without the heavy bag with the shirt on #stuffedcrust. It’s a tough deal for me because I was really looking forward to running this one properly, but it wasn’t to be. Instead I walked the course with these guys and I’ve reached out to the Ocrguychallenge community for thoughts on the event! 

X-Glenn

About X-Warrior Challenge

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

X-Warrior represents the start of the OCR calendar in Western Canada, and after a really long hard winter in Alberta Canada, everyone is excited to get started. 

X-Warrior Challenge began as a fully independent stadium race in 2016 (which I missed), but I reviewed the excellent 2017 race myself here. X-Warrior challenge has now grown to become a stadium event, with the increasingly popular titan multi lap event taking place on the same day, and a Wilderness OCR later in June held at the ‘Boneyard’ OCR compound North of Edmonton. For this year X-Warrior has added a new 12 hour overnight Black Ops multi lap event at the Boneyard event. There are usually kids races available too at X.

One great thing I didn’t realize at first is that there is a free lap included in each race entry! It’s amazing to get out and see the course twice, especially if you failed an obstacle the first time around.

All runners get a t-shirt, medal, and snacks for finishing. Outside of races, X-Warrior also offers virtual runs and races throughout the year, and a weekend long training boot-camp.

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

Stampede park

The venue has access to the facilities of the Calgary Stampede ground grandstand (read: no mud and soggy waiting for spectators). Parking is convenient, and access to the race ground is simple. There is no need to shuttle, and downtown Calgary is pretty quiet this early in the morning. The course itself isn’t all stadium stairs and suffering. The actual stadium/grandstand stairs are just a small part of the race. The course winds its way through the sprawling stampede grounds, across the river via a bridge, through the stables and outbuildings, and over the race track itself. It’s a fast running course as a result, with only a small amount of elevation change. Not that I ran it fast!

Check out the course here

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

Obstacles:

  1. Wall – 6’ and a 3’ wall
  2. Stairs on the interior of the stadium.
  3. Spider net climb up the stairs
  4. Stairs crossing the grandstand of the stadium
  5. Spider net climbs again.
  6. Wall – 6’ and a 3’ wall
  7. Monkey bars
  8. Bucket Brigade
  9. Tarzan ropes (swinging across a gap with 3-4 ropes)
  10. Wall – 8’
  11. Under a hurdle
  12. Tire Town (heavy tire flip
  13. Timber (log carry)
  14. Under a hurdle
  15. Wall – 8’
  16. Sandblast – A heavy sandbag carry that turned into a double sandbag carry (thanks Austin Azar)
  17. Rope a Dope (rope climb)
  18. Climb (Z wall)
  19. Inverted wall
  20. Tip of the Spear ( Pyramidal traverse)
  21. Ax throw (one shot only)
  22. Dragon (Dragon’s back obstacle)

The race features a mixture of concrete, asphalt and hard packed horse racing track. I suppose it could get muddy in the rain, but it’s usually fairly dry and well kept.

Regular running shoes would be fine for this event. There is no need to be obstacle race specific with your gear.


2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

From my pitiful lap, the Tarzan ropes stood out as something new, allowing participants to swing across a big gap between two scaffolding platforms. I haven’t done that at an OCR before and it seems like such an obviously fun and challenging thing to include.

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

Safety was great in this race too. The Axe throw had been moved into three or four protective cages, almost like a firing range. Participants had one chance to throw an ax into a log from a distance. Failure rates are higher than the Spartan spear throw, but it’s a really rewarding sound when it sticks.

There were also crash mats below each obstacle where there was a falling hazard. It was really one of the safest races I’ve been to. That’s a great thing, but it won’t suit those who want that danger and need the most adrenaline possible. Stadium races are a little safer and a little more sterile than some would prefer, but for those wanting to dip their feet without getting head-to-toe in mud, this is a great place to start. For those seeking muddier thrills, X-Warrior does offer wilderness events too, as mentioned above.

X-Warrior is generally for everyone

I feel like one of the strengths of X-Warrior challenge is that it caters for the full spectrum of abilities, from the endurance athlete to the trained elite competitor, to the strength based athlete, to the casual participant. There was nothing extremely difficult at X-Warrior challenge, but for the Titan race, those obstacles get tough pretty quickly (or so I am told). You can run your own race. Oh, and I should mention that X-Warrior also offers an opportunity to run a ‘Heavybag Strong Lap’, with sandbag drop zones near each obstacle.

Development and improvements

There were only a few minor complaints about the layout of the course this year. There were occasional moments where it wasn’t immediately clear where the course was going, especially for faster runners in the competitive heats. A couple of well-placed arrows or extra course tape could have helped at times, but otherwise, it was very well laid out.

Value

Race entry includes a second free lap for fun, and spectators are FREE! Prices are here in USD.

  • $70 for competitive
  • $60 for open
  • $103.91 for the titan event
  • $23 for little warriors
  • $30 for the junior race

You’ll find that compares very favorably to other races of this type. Parking was $15 Canadian per vehicle, or you can park elsewhere and use the C-Train. X-Warrior is pretty good value.

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

So anyway, that’s my take. To round out the recap I thought I’d gather some more from the participants themselves.


Christine Dumont Barr This event is pretty unique for Canada, at least in the West as its the only stadium race (No mud 😊). I feel I get great value for what I pay, because you can run a second lap for free when you sign up for a sprint. The organizers and volunteers set the stage for an amazing day because of they’re energy. Each year they tweak the obstacles a little and try to scare everyone with a challenging new one (or two). This race is built so that people of all fitness levels can partake and enjoy! All in all, xwarrior is a stellar event to take part in. One that I come back to every year. And the new battle ax series this year is going to be epic!

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

Lisa Langlois My very favourite was being able to run my last Titan lap with my 12 year old kiddo. He was in the junior race. What an unexpected treat for him and I. I have a passion for OCR and have had him participate in kids races… which are always on the sidelines and never part of the adult course. This was truly the best race I have ever done based on that experience alone. I was so proud of him. 2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

Brandy Conlin I was so surprised to see the junior heat being the same as the adult course minus 6 obstacles. I loved that the kids even did a bucket carry and tire flip too. My 10 yr old was very much challenged but felt so accomplished to find out she just did the same course as I did. The volunteers helping the kids were awesome (okay all the volunteers were awesome). The whole event was very well run.

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

James McLean I’m excited that Sandbag ‘Heavy Lap’ so quickly gained legitimacy in one weekend through the help of X Warrior – after a year of people looking at me like I had 3 heads. It was amazing seeing so many people try out the concept and genuinely really enjoy the experience. Before the weekend, most people brushed it off as crazy, now it’s truly legit. It’s the genesis of a new type of challenge, something us non-runner, strong, types can thrive at!

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

Karen Bailey I loved the fun lap. Being able to run with friends who you competed against in competitive and cheer on new comers at the same time was a blast. This was my first x-warrior and it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. The OCR community is awesome and this event really show-cased that.

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

Scott Ceminchuk 1st and foremost what an amazing event to kick off the Canadian season off with. X-Warrior stadium was my 1st OCR race. I decided to try OCR last fall. After 10 months of training from scratch, I felt the course had the perfect amount of challenge for a newcomer but I didn’t feel overwhelmed at any point either. I only failed the 2 rope obstacles. The community is amazing such amazing people willing to help you at any point in the course. I will definitely do it again and will be trying out a few of the other races along the way.Scott X-Warrior

Ally Ash  (TITAN)I totally agree with “the community” 😍🙌 Such a great group, everyone willing to help out! Well organized event, even if you are confused or have any questions about anything you are 99.9 percent going to get a response and not wait days or weeks for one. I also love that it’s not in the grass or trees as I have bad allergies this time of year. I completed 4 laps and came out in perfect condition sinus wise 😉 That is a huge win for me! Can’t wait to purchase next year’s ticket!

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

Jaclyn Pruett Ung  (TITAN) This was my first Titan and it was amazing! The people, community and cheers were the best. I am glad I started working on my cardio endurance a month or two before, definitely need to keep working on that. I loved the rope a dope climb, the first lap I was nervous to try it (heights and my injured torn shoulder/rotator cuff) but I did it on lap 2 and it was so fun! I ended up doing 240 penalty Burpees and I was grateful that some obstacles had mountain climbers instead because by lap 4 I was running out of steam 😂 I ran 4 laps and will be back next year to take on more! I love the grass roots community feel of x Warrior, much more welcoming than how I feel at Spartan.

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

 

Patrick Wilson (TITAN) highlight for me was getting my Glenn hug

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

Colleen Ludwig This was my second year attending X-Warrior, I absolutely love this race, the obstacles are great, there’s always at least a couple of them that humble me again and make me realize I have to train harder and or smarter. The camaraderie is by far the best in OCR races. There’s the competitiveness in all of us but there’s always cheers and encouragement from so many racers during the event. Often I pick someone in my heat to challenge myself to keep up too, this year this person noticed, she encouraged my to push harder, and was literally waiting for me at the finish line with a cup of water to congratulate me. I didn’t know her from Adam but we made the finish line knowing we did our best and said cheers to that. That’s cool. One thing during the last 2 years is that there is always a part of the race where I feel lost, did I go the right way? Maybe better markers in some areas. And maybe I missed something but where do you get your race times?

 

Darcy Barrett – X-Warrior was the best ever, with some great new obstacles. Just wish he (Darcy Chalifoux) would make it mandatory obstacle completion for elite and Titan elite. But it was a great fast course.

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

 

 

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

Conclusion 

If you’re in or near Alberta in early May and you love obstacle course racing or fitness in general, you should definitely attend X-Warrior Challenge. It’s a great version of the obstacle race format that covers everyone from beginners to experienced athletes. You can visit X-Warrior Challenge to see the schedule of races and events for this year.

Photo Credit: xwarrior challenge and Shotsee.com