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

Altra King MT Shoe Review

Altra King MT
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King MT

Altra are famous for creating long distance running shoes with a zero drop profile, generous cushioning and a wider ‘foot-shaped’ toe-box designed to accommodate natural toe splay. With the King MT, Altra applies those principles into a more minimalist format, alongside great drainage and a rugged build making the Altra King MT the first shoe from Altra that would work well for obstacle course racing. Altra kindly provided this shoe for review and testing. Should this be your next OCR shoe? Read on to find out!

Altra King MT Features

Altra King MT Out-sole – Altra have chosen to use the Vibram Megagrip compound for the outsole of the King MT. The tread design is extremely aggressive, with row upon row of chevron shaped lugs, designed specifically for gripping in mud, snow, and wet conditions. I’ve been impressed with other shoes using this compound and I am pleased to see it used here.

Grip King MT Clean

Altra King MT Mid-sole – Altra’s Ego™ compound is used for the mid-sole on this shoe which is meant to be lightweight and consistent at providing cushioning in a wide range of temperatures. So, yeah… they work well in the cold. Trust me; Alberta Canada doesn’t hold back during the winter! The mid foot also has a rock plate, which is not always a feature of OCR shoes. The rock plate stops somewhere towards the forefoot, so you do get some mechanical dividends on the toe off and thoughtful protection where it is most required.

ALtra King MT 3

Altra King MT foot-bed – The foot-bed is really quite comfortable and I didn’t feel the need to exchange it for anything else. It is removable and can be exchanged for whatever kind of extra cushioning is desired. Critically for OCR it didn’t seem to shift or slop around even when it got extremely wet and muddy.

Altra King MT upper – The upper of the shoe is made from a rip-stop material, paired with a TPU overlay to keep the weight down without sacrificing durability. Altra have surrounded your heel with a weird kind of grippy one-way fabric that helps the shoe stay on when the mud wants to steal them. There doesn’t seem to be a rigid heel cup structure in this shoe and King MT will need to be locked down quite tightly to prevent lateral shearing of the upper and to take advantage of that sharkskin heel lock.

King MT close

The toe area features a rubber bumper to prevent toe stubs and the same protective material reaches up to the arch area also to protect from sharp twigs and rocks. The toe box itself has plenty of promised room laterally, but I felt like the ceiling was a little low for my fat big toe. Maybe I’m a freak in that department, but it was touching the uppers most of the time when running and I am concerned that my toe could start to wear a hole through here one day. No problems yet though.

King MT foot shaped

Altra King MT lacing – The laces on the King MT are fine. The extra eyelet is required and welcome to keep that heel locked in when the going gets muddy. The elephant in the room is the Velcro tie down, which has been quite polarizing for others who have reviewed the King MT. The idea is that you can lock down the mid-foot on hard descents and then loosen the fit slightly to provide a little more mid-foot volume for climbs. It is also a tie down for the laces. It works for the most part, except for my foot volume the upper strap is a touch too long at times.

Altra King MT lacing

The heel of each shoe features Altra’s Gaiter trap, and a gaiter loop at the end of the lace run. For those who want to use these shoes in snow, loose scree or talus, this is a welcome feature.

Grip King MT Gaiter

Altra King MT weight – At 289 g per shoe for a men’s 9.5, the King MT sits right in the mid-weight range for an OCR shoe.They are 70 g heavier per shoe than the Reebok All Terrain Super 3.0, and the similarly priced and very popular Salomon S/Lab Sense 6 SG but it remains 30 g lighter than the even more popular Salomon Speedcross 4.

King MT foot shaped weight 3

Altra King MT Usage

When you actually put them on, it makes sense. The shoes are designed to fit feet- not one particular sport modality. Altra seem to be letting your feet do what they naturally want to do, without getting in the way. The fit is comfortable and my toes have had plenty of room to move without forming hot spots! It might just take you some time to get used to the geometry of the Altra running style after running in conventional shoes. I would advise you to break them in well before racing in them.

King MT heel

On a long wintry trail run, these clung on about as well as other deep lugged shoes could. Biting the ground with each step, they work really well in everything I could throw at them (including a test on a sledding hill), chomping through muddy, root covered trails, snow, wet rock, muddy plywood, grass with no problems. When I needed grip or support, they generally offered plenty. I liked the zero heel to toe drop. It feels fast, as if the heel isn’t striking too early. 

King MT Altra running

While traction was great in the sagittal plane (e.g. running forwards and braking), lateral movements weren’t as sure. Look at the lug pattern and you will see the reason for this. There is less lateral grip than forward/backward directional grips. Creating some more offset between lugs could improve this. I would hate to slide out on a muddy bucket carry. It’s not a major flaw, but it could probably use some improvement.

King MT Grip2

The mid sole is protective and responsive. I ran on some pretty rocky trails with these and found them comfortable enough to not worry about where I was placing my feet. The real stress test for these was crossing a Lego-strewn floor without a trip to the E.R. The point is, they inspire a fast and aggressive running style across tough terrain, which is the kind of confidence you need to perform in OCR. 

If you’ve ran in Altra before, expect a firmer ride than you’d be used to. Altra classify this as a minimal cushioning shoe, yet I would say that the ride of the King MT is still comfortable enough for most of the distances you might find in OCR. It’s a lively shoe with plenty of energy return.

On the topic of drainage, these shoes have plenty of areas of open mesh and after a full submersion, they drained to feel just damp within about 200m of running. The water retention wasn’t significant.

Altra King MT Durability

You’ll have to dig around the interwebs for more details on extended use and durability. I’ve tested them on about 30 miles of some pretty unpleasant conditions in Alberta this November and they have held up well. No toes bursting forth (toes and fingers crossed). No loose seams. No cut eyelets. The strap has managed to avoid the scissors and the sole has barely shown any wear. The megagrip compound used for the outsole is the best in the industry and I have found that it wears extremely well – especially when compared to the compounds used by Salomon on the Speedcross line.

Altra King MT Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Versatile for OCR and beyond
  • Deep lugs with outstanding grip
  • Great fit and comfort
  • Durable outsole
  • Rock plate is very protective
  • Shoes are springy and responsive
  • The Zero Drop profile encourages good running form
  • Nice wide toe box to avoid crowding and blisters.

Cons

  • The midfoot strap may not work as planned for smaller feet
  • The shoes can lose grip slightly when moving or pushing laterally in mud
  • Can be quite expensive

Altra King MT Conclusion

Even as is, the Altra King MT strikes a nice balance between weight, grip and protection, but if I had to suggest one improvement it would be just to make a few adjustments to the lug arrangement for the next version. I love the extra thought and innovation in this shoe (mid-foot strap and the shark-skin grip in the heel) and I love how it comes to life in the muddiest, ugliest conditions. The result is a racing product that will work nicely for the obstacle course and many other off trail adventures. It’s fast, minimal and aggressive enough that elite racers should be considering it as a real contender for this race season.



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Glenn Hole

Obstacle racer, trail runner, fitness addict and a pizza addict (currently in remission). I have three children and I work as an Audiologist/HAP. I grew up in Wales and now I live in Canada! Insta: @theocrguy Snapchat: Spartanupguy- Search the hashtag #ocrguychallenge
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The Lost Soul Ultramarathon

LSU titleLethbridge, Alberta, Canada – Saturday, September 10th 2017

At obstacle racing media, we cover more than just OCR. Why? Cause I wanna. Plus there is a lot to learn for our sport by participating in other sports! The crossover between OCR and endurance running is fairly clear; training for an ultra prepares you for the rigors of the Spartan Race Ultrabeast or the Worlds Toughest Mudder series and vice versa. Ultra distance events also allow you to tap into a great local community of runners to push you further and share training ideas. Consider this cross pollination.

As an introduction to my first ultra distance event, there seemed no clearer place to start than my own town – Lethbridge. 

Smoky LSU

Except, was not a clear day: visibility was about a mile or less – and trying to see the other side of the valley was like looking through a glass of skimmed milk. The driest, hottest summer in years had turned most of British Columbia into a tinder box and since mid August, vast forest fires have been pouring blue tinted smoke and white ash onto the prairies. By the time I arrived at the start line on Saturday it was clearing, but I did spare a thought for the 100K and 100-mile runners who had battled through air quality indexes at +10 for most of Friday.

The history

The Lethbridge Lost Soul Ultra Marathon (LSU) is organized through a running club and runners store in Lethbridge – Runners Soul. Now in its 18th year, the LSU it has been billed as “The toughest race on the prairies.” Not to put anyone off; it is also known as “the nicest [race on the prairies!]” 

There’s a long waiting list for this race, and when entries go on sale in January, it sells out in a matter of hours. I was about to find out why. 

The setup

The entry fee is CA$160 regardless of distance, which is an excellent value given the quality of this event. Three distances are available to choose from; the 54 kilometer, the 100 kilometer, and the 100 miler. The race is capped at relatively low numbers to maintain a great experience for all.

The course is separated into 6 legs, ranging in distance from 6 kms to 16 kms. 

LSU aeiral

The first half of the course accumulates most of the elevation gain and loss, covering the eroded spurs of glacial till that form the valley walls, while the second half hugs the grassy banks of the Oldman River. Now, you’d expect the prairies to be flat, but I know better, in fact my GPS logged 53.06 kilometers or 32.9 miles with 1,441 meters or 4727 feet of elevation gain and loss during my race. This is not a flat course by any means, and this race climbs the walls of that river valley from bottom to top at least 13 times. The relatively short descents and climbs on the first two legs are extremely steep, but never dangerous.

Underfoot the surface is mostly dusty single-track, which isn’t a particularly challenging surface to run on – apart from some sections with loose sand, deep gravel or powdery dust. Grip and breathability were really great in my Merrell All Out Charge. I felt like they were a good choice for the mix of conditions.

Shoes for LSU

 

Lisa Houle (4) LSU

Do not assume that Canada would have cooler temperatures by September – cactus thrive alongside rattlesnake in the river valley. By 11 am on Saturday the mercury had risen to a punishing 37°C (98.6°F) in the river bottom!  Dante himself could have found inspiration here for his inferno. It can snow this time of year in Alberta, and one week later at the time of this publication, it is a balmy 12°C! You have been warned: if it is a warm day, be prepared for the extended rigors and heat of the ‘North Loop’. Train in the heat!

River LSU

The power of experience

The guidance strategies and course markings on the LSU must have been finely tuned over the years because I never once felt lost. Pink flags were liberally placed for high visibility. 

LSU Snake

I guess that when you get good enough at the big stuff, you can start having fun with the details. The race was full of amusing or unique things to look at, like tiny rocks painted as Minions, the odd fake snake, or rocks painted with motivational statements. 

Lisa Houle (1) Rock LSU

The hills all had different nicknames, from the rather obvious ‘First Hill’ to ‘The Final Insult.’ Very funny.

Oh, and in the woods of the north loop, there was this…

Tracy Romelle Facebook Clown

By later in the day on Friday, someone dealt with it before he could float anyone else…

Clown LSU

This wink of knowing, dark humor kept me entertained and helped me keep perspective during the painful final hours of the race. 

Those aid stations!

Food LSU

There were three aid stations on the course, each of which sat like literal oases on the prairie. Each can be visited twice on each loop and one unmanned aid station could be found halfway along the longest north loop. A bag drop can be made for two of them (HQ and the northernmost station at Pavan Park). I’m not kidding when I say that the aid stations here are probably among the best you’ll ever experience. Where else can you get a grilled salmon sandwich along with a frozen lemonade? The choice of treats and drinks was diverse. Now, I know I might be gushing because I was high on endorphins, so take this with a pinch of electrolytes. Each was an oasis, that as you’ll read later, I found very difficult to leave.

Pavan Aid Station

Food

Volunteers

The volunteers at the LSU were THE BEST (again excuse my endorphins). I don’t know if this is a regular thing at ultras, but at every aid station, I felt revered and respected like some kind of holy cow. Whether it was an encouraging applause, the sound of cow-bells announcing your arrival, or a knowing look from someone who has almost certainly been ‘there’ (and by there I mean the deepest ‘pain cave’), I’ve never felt so supported on-course. People knew my number and my name. They interacted with me on a personal level. They were so engaged and ‘on task’ that there was no need to really ask any questions or do anything other than check in at the station, with any assistance you needed being delivered before you even asked. OCR needs this kind of volunteer.

Volunteers

My Race

I had a fairly smooth race until the halfway mark. This was home ground for me, so I was well prepared for the elevation gain and the distance. I knew these trails and was making good time, until the heat arrived. Lost Soul Glenn (3)

Staying hydrated in +35 degrees was a huge challenge, and as I came down from the ridges above the valley, I began to look longingly at the cool river running to my right. I was having a great time still, but I wanted to jump in right then. It seemed like the perfect antidote to the problem I was having with this heat. Heat had crept in and messed with my plans to finish strongly. It was the enemy and water was my ally. I thought about running down the bank for a minute and just standing in the water for a moment; it would take the pain out of my legs and lower my core temperature. It looked so inviting.

It would also leave me prone to blisters in my shoes and chafing. I might not feel like climbing back up the bank. The energy expenditure wouldn’t be worth it. Best to press on across the flood plain which was cracked and baked hard in the sun.

The distance seemed to dilate and grow as the temperatures and exposure took their toll on my mind. I’m pretty sure I had forgotten my salt pills. I checked through my bag over and over. Yeah… they weren’t there.

I took my shirt off and packed it for a while, exchanging it for my wide-brimmed hat to shield my head from the sun. I began to divert my attention away from how difficult it was and focused on keeping my running form balanced and maintaining the right heart rate, regardless of pace. I kept my mind busy – I was going to make it to Pavan aid station and recover a little before continuing.

This was a positive thought, yet in the back of my mind, I knew things weren’t going that well. I was overheating fast, and I had a very primal thought that I was going to get into trouble soon – maybe even on the way to Pavan. My watch rang out to me to take my nutrition. I was trying not to check my distance too much, but I let myself this time. I was 35km in – 20 to go!  The taste of the homemade gel I was using was starting to get weird. I struggled to swallow it: the task of eating and running was becoming burdensome. 

Where was Pavan station? I felt like it was taking forever. But I tried to keep my mind positive. This was such a privilege to be able to run out here and to experience this kind of test. The North loop eventually spat me back out, and I made it to the Pavan Park aid station – almost delirious from the heat. I got my pack filled with more electrolytes and I ate a big handful of dill pickle potato chips from my drop bag – the sodium felt like it would be enough. It probably wouldn’t be. I didn’t think to ask for salt pills; I had come this far, and I had heard that they might not matter anyway.

The mood at the aid station was celebratory, easy, accommodating. It really felt like an oasis there. I felt myself relax for a moment – part of my brain enjoying the atmosphere and the contrast with how rough things had been just a few minutes earlier on the trail. I had to force myself to snap out of the momentary stupor to realize I was far from done. It took more effort than I expected to leave that place behind and get back on the trail. 

I grabbed a frozen lemonade which I gulped down too quickly (hello brain freeze), and set off into the heat once again. I was cooler now, and feeling cautiously optimistic, knowing that I only had about 13 kilometers to go. I ran well for about 15 minutes before my pace began to falter again and soon I was unable to drink enough water without feeling sick. Heat exhaustion. Not enough electrolytes. It felt like I was drinking plenty, but in reality, I was taking in only small sips and becoming more and more dehydrated.

Lost Soul Glenn (4)

“Hi, I’m dying”

At that time, I got a message from my wife Deanna – she knew that my pace had died, as did everyone else; my family and close friends were watching my progress the whole time in real time via a Strava Live beacon. There was nowhere to hide what was happening, and messages of support soon flooded onto the screen of my smartwatch. There was plenty of help out on the course for me, but it was huge boost to know that I wasn’t going alone on this – not at all.

Moments like this put you through a kaleidoscope of emotions.  One thought began to persist – “this is what I signed up for.” I had become lost in an environment that was wild, inhospitable, and indifferent to my goal.

I had become that ‘Lost Soul.’ It was time to pick up whatever energy I had left and make it back to the finish.

Time for redemption.

Completing two of the final climbs was accomplished by crawling on my hands and knees and once I was back on the flats, the trail brought me back to the first aid station among a set of baseball fields. There I was immediately set upon by 3 volunteers who quickly recognized the symptoms of heat exhaustion. I told them I was going to try and finish, so they stuffed my hat and buff with ice, the buff loosely wrapped around my neck to cool me down. I drank a lot of ginger ale, which seemed to help too.

The final leg felt better – but the ice under my hat and around my neck was melting fast so I picked up the pace. Again, congratulations started to buzz through onto my wrist – my family had seen that I had passed 50 kilometers. It was a huge boost to know I had come this far. One final challenge remained.

I made it to the final climb at the base of Fort Whoop-Up and took this last photo. 

Final hill

I’ve run up this hill dozens of times. I’ve carried buckets up and down it. I’ve ran up in the snow and in the heat. I know exactly how long it is, and that it has a second ‘summit’. Its not a big deal, maybe 300 feet from bottom to top, but after 53 kilometers it felt as tall as Everest. The sound of cow bells at the finish line nearby kept me crawling, dehydrated and unsteady, shouting at myself to keep going all the way to the top. I crawled my way to the top of that hill before hobbling my way to the finish. I don’t care how small it looks in the photo or that people routinely do ultras that are much harder than this. To me it felt like the final character building moment in what had been a humbling day. It had taken me 6 hours and 48 minutes.

Crossing the line

Lost Soul Glenn (5)

Lost Soul Glenn (6)

Nice and Tough

Make no mistake – this is the toughest race I have ever done. I expected that. What I didn’t expect to hear was that the 100 miler had just a 33% finish rate and only about 66% of runners had finished the 50K. I felt grateful to have finished, but also understood that the line between finishing and not finishing didn’t have to become a badge of honor. No matter when you called it, it was a huge accomplishment for all. 

Lost Souls Ultra Finish

Prizes

Top category finishers received an etched rock as a trophy. All runners received a personalized tile, a North Face running jersey, breakfast the next day, and a chance to win prizes in a raffle. I’m really struggling to find a fault here with the whole deal…. um… it was too hot?

Conclusion

Views

LSU is that race that everyone wants to do because it feels authentic. It’s got that locally sourced, locally grown feel that contrasts with the escalating commercialization of athletics. Capping the race at smaller numbers mean it feels exclusive, yet so inclusive of each person on course. LSU could expand the number of entrants, but then that magic could be lost or watered down. The event isn’t pretentious or showy, and Runner’s Soul appeared to transcend self marketing or promotion pushing. It’s a race that shows restraint and maturity in that regard. On a personal level, it taught me some very important lessons about my own approach to training and managing my race during extreme conditions. 

The Lost Soul Ultra is one of those rare challenges worth waiting for. Make no mistake, this is an event where a person must journey through heaven and hell to make himself whole again. Despite the smoke, the heat and the brimstone I will be back next year.

Photo credit: Ralph Arnold photographics. Facebook contributors – used by permission.

Spartan Race Calgary 2017

Calgary Spartan Race (24)

By Glenn Hole with contributions from Ashley Bender. The Calgary Spartan Race.

Tired. Overdone. Flat. Boring. Fast (pejoratively), too muddy, not long enough, bad festival area, no spectator views, bad parking arrangements. I wouldn’t do it again. How would they run a super on this postage stamp sized area?

These are some of the comments I have seen on social media and from friends within the OCR community in Alberta, Canada.

Calgary Spartan Race (6)

As you can tell, the Calgary Spartan Race has a mixed reputation in Alberta. Unlike its more scenic cousin, Red Deer, the Calgary venue is not much to look at. It’s a worn motocross circuit. At times it is extremely dusty, at others it is prone to getting so muddy that it can be a frustrating experience to even try and complete the course. Historically the festival area has also been pretty grim underfoot, with limited vantage points for spectators.

There seemed to be a clear divide in the quality and style of the races we would find in Canada versus the ones we would experience in the USA. Calgary was part of that divide.

Thankfully Spartan Race Canada has been thinking hard about how to improve the Western Canadian Spartan Race scene. The standard is now higher. The obstacles are tough and varied. The festival area was now fantastically laid out and clear of mud. It was easy to see some of the key obstacles from the sidelines. The parking was fine. The check in was busy but efficient. For those who attended the race for the first time this year, they got as true an introduction to Spartan as you would find anywhere in North America.

One Problem

There is one thing I need to get out of the way before I get to the good stuff about Spartan Canada. My one pet peeve about the Spartan Race format is the high entry fees for spectators. $15 to WATCH a Spartan Race feels a little steep – it’s a little better now you can actually SEE what is going on during the race compared to last year, but I brought 5 adults with me to watch and they were all a little frustrated with the collective entry fee of $75.

Now, I felt that the race was spectacular, and I’m not saying I understand the economics of these races. There are costs to cover overhead to reach. All I know is that spectators are free of charge at many other races and that most other races tend to have more for spectators to do during the event.

I understand the need for paid parking spots and that carpooling can improve things, but OCR isn’t much of a spectator sport. Rugged Maniac, Mud Hero, Muddy Warrior and X Warrior Challenge, for example, have a free spectator policy. Rugged even has a full stage program with entertaining events and competitions running all day. For $15 I expect more. 

Now that is out of the way, let’s talk about the awesome action out on course.

Stats

The Spartan Race weekend began with the sprint distance on Saturday. Clocking in at 6.8 instead of the usual 4km that has been common over the years. The Super on Sunday came in at just under 11 km, which is remarkable given the size of the area. Check out the two maps we have on Strava showing the course and the layout.

Super flyby

Sprint Flyby

What to Expect

Calgary starts with a swooping vertical drop onto a wide dusty track. It’s easy to find your pace without bottlenecking. The course winds around like a game of snake, covering every lump and bump available across the track – with much of the action in good view of the festival area. The trail itself looks like a brain from above!

This is a race course that cultivates speed. There isn’t really a chance for any kind of relief or steady pace. It’s never truly flat, and what the course lacks in sustained vertical distance it makes up with the sheer number of short sharp climbs and controlled falls downhill. Some of the inclines and drop offs were more like scrambles at a 60-degree angle! The bucket carry and 50lb sandbag carry were both found on these incredibly steep sections. Even the tractor pull took place over a series of small whoops, rather than a typical flat course. For a course without any natural hills, it punched well above its weight and height; the sprint clocked 384 m elevation gain and loss while the super delivered 599 m elevation gain and loss.

Highlights

Barbed Wire from Hell

Barbed Wire

This year we were treated to a super long barbed wire crawl near the start of the race. The barbed wire was low to the ground and the crawl was cratered with watery troughs that made rolling extremely difficult. The entire route was split down the middle, turning back on itself halfway through. A lot of us didn’t see that coming. Well played.

The Stunt Park

After a grueling set of climbs and descents along the west side of the arena, we crested a hill and entered my favourite part of this race. The stunt park. It’s where dirt bikers practice balance and jumping from one rock to another.

The area is full of raised logs, drop offs, boulder piles, almost vertical climbs, and balance beams. To run on, it’s dynamic and challenging, requiring fast feet, concentration, flexibility, agility, speed, and the cardiovascular capacity of a racehorse. You get the idea. It’s by far the most effective use of embedded obstacles I’ve ever seen in a race. The section left me feeling like a superhero.

Olympus

I love this obstacle and I was so pleased to see it there again. It wasn’t particularly hard this time (if in doubt, just use the round holes instead of the chains or the climbing grips), but it’s a nice challenge and it feels great to complete it.

Faye Olympus

Tyrolean

The old ankle biter was back with a vengeance on the Super, but not for the Sprint.

Atlas Carry

A heavy Atlas Carry was added for the Super on Sunday. 5 burpees were performed at the halfway mark.

Sled Pull and Drag

The heavy sled pull was back for both races again. Again, I love the fact that competing at Spartan requires a lot of different training modalities.

Sled Drag

The Dirt

A big mud trap and a couple of short swims also were featured later in the race. They were effective at breaking down the pace of faster runners while becoming a source of muddy mayhem for more casual runners. Mud is great as an obstacle, but it can also make a race into an unpleasant experience if the entire race is too muddy. This year we had dry weather leading up to the race, so the mud was not an issue. 

Rolling Mud

Extended Bucket Carry for the Super

The bucket carry was even longer for the Super, creating somewhat of a death-march type situation.

Bucket Carry

Conclusion

The feeling of accomplishment in finishing strong on my particular race was really worth the effort. I know Ashley (who provided additional information for me about the Super) also finished first in her age group. Everyone who ran and attempted either of the Spartan races in Calgary this year should be very proud. It was the most challenging and interesting Spartan Sprint Calgary has seen to date and the Super was a huge success and an appropriate step up in difficulty over the Sprint. Overall I would say the event was a success in terms of reinventing the Spartan race in Calgary. I reached out to Johnny Waite, the new race director of Spartan race Canada,

“I am very proud of what our team is achieving with our reboot of the Canadian market, and it means a lot that the work is appreciated and acknowledged. As I said at the podium presentation, Canadians are among the very best obstacle racers in the world and we are committed to giving them some of the very best races in the world. (And, we are having fun doing it too!!)”

Keep it up guys!

Photo credits. Gamefacemedia. Johnny Waite (instagram) and Spartan Race Canada (Facebook)