Savage Race Chicago 2018 – Spreading the Gospel of OCR through Grit and Grip

 

 

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Fire_Jump

This is the third year Savage Race has held an event in the Chicago area and the third year at the Richardson Adventure Farm – the same site as the parking lot of Spartan’s Chicago races the past three years.  The festival area is small and simple and parking is a breeze; paying an extra $10 for the VIP parking will get you right next to the entrance but only 60 feet closer than the regular parking.

 

THE BEST START LINE IN OCR

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Matty_T

While OCRWC may claim to have the best finish line in OCR, Savage Race certainly has the best start line.  At the Savage start line there is no canned speech that you’ve heard a thousand times, or a stern drill sergeant-esque man yelling.  Instead, there is a wildly happy bearded man with the energy of a 5-year-old who just drank espresso.  His name is Matty-T and outside of Flava-Flav, he is by far the best hype man that I’ve ever experienced.  It started with crowd surfing, then some call and response chanting as Matty-T skipped and jumped amongst the crowd whipping us up into a frenzy of laughter and cheering, locking arms with fellow racers and creating comradery, eliminating any anxiety a racer might have by simply having fun.

 

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Barbwire

Flatout

The terrain is flat, like Nebraska flat.  According to my GPS there was a total of 356 feet of elevation gain and I’m going to say most of that was from climbing obstacles like Colossus and Davy Jones Locker.  Just because the terrain was flat did not mean it was easy.  Being on a farm the ground was very rutted and strewn with rocks just waiting to twist an ankle.

 

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Colosus

 

This first mile was fairly easy with just 3 obstacles, letting the pack of fresh racers spread out and avoid jams.  The one element that was missing from this race was mud.  Savage made up for this lack of mud by getting you wet early and often with multiple mandatory immersion obstacles.

 

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Barbwire_Justin

 

The next few miles had a few strength obstacles including a cinder block pull followed directly by the new “peddle to the medal,” which is a tire drag powered by spinning a giant spool with your legs.  One thing I liked about Savage Race is none of their strength obstacles are overly heavy, both men and women use the same weights, and there was only one heavy carry.

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Block_Party

 

A Gauntlet of Grip

The final 2 miles were a gauntlet of grip-destroying obstacles starting with “Kiss my walls,” a wall traverse using small climbing holds, exhausting your finger strength. Not 150 meters away it was right into Wheel World which had me spinning.

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Wheel_World

 

Then came the Rig, then shortly after that Twirly Bird and another traverse–this time across rope ladders and cargo nets and then the behemoth that is Sawtooth. Finishing the gauntlet of grip was the new “Holy Sheet” a rig across a saggy piece of cloth then onto ball grip climbing holds.

 

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Sawtooth

 

For the Pro wave I thought the setup of the obstacles made for a good competition, but for the open waves who make up the majority of racers I wish that the grip obstacles had been spaced out more throughout the course.

 

Savage_Race_Chicago_2018_Marcia

 

I was very fortunate this race to have been able to run in the Pro-Wave at the beginning of the day amongst some of the greats in this sport.  I was even more grateful to run in the open wave midday with my sister who had never run a race of any kind in her life.  After spending the last 3 years running competitively it was refreshing to experience the fun of the open waves first hand and watch someone I love overcome fear, push through pain, and laugh while playing in the mud. After we jumped over the fire, crossed the finish line and hugged, my sister turned to me and asked if I would run with her again next year.  A convert to the gospel of OCR was made. Yes, Marcia, I’ll run with you again, maybe even sooner than next year.

Getting Savage In Chicago

The Savage Race made their way to The Richardson Adventure Farm near the Illinois/Wisconsin border on the weekend of July 28/29 for a two-day event. Saturday was their main race that most of us are used to while Sunday was reserved for their new Blitz short course format. The Chicago race is the furthest Northwest that Savage travels from their home base in Florida, so everyone living west of here may want to take note, and make plans to hit this race when it comes back around next year. The Chicago race offered 28 0bstacles over a 6.35-mile course with virtually no elevation change making it a very fast course. Something I always liked about Savage is that they bring some new obstacles to challenge you every year. This year was no different as a brand-new rig was introduced along with a new tire drag obstacle completed by peddling your feet on a spinning wheel thereby enabling the pulley attached to drag the tire towards you. While not that tough, it was something I’ve never seen in OCR and it was fun to do.

The first mile of the Savage course consisted mainly running with only a low crawl and a wall climb thrown in along the way. If you managed to work up a sweat already you were in luck as Shriveled Richard, a dunk in ice water under a wooded plank was next up followed immediately by a low crawl under a section of barrels. Savage added a set of vertical posts that needed to be climbed over in between each barrel this year as a new little twist. The second mile of the course included more running with another low crawl, inverted wall climb, and a set of vertical logs set at varying heights which needed traversed. All three obstacles were spaced evenly along this section of the route. After a quick drink at one of the many water stations racers crossed a road onto another section of the farm where a cement block drag waited along with the new Pedal for The Medal that I discussed above. The trail now led racers into a wooded section of the farm where Christmas Trees were grown for sale. Along this section Savage placed a 9-foot wall along with their slip wall which wasn’t slick at all. Also tucked into this section of the woods were the Big Cheese, which was a half dome shaped climb and Davy Jones locker which was like a jump off the high dive at a local pool.

The second half of the race led off with everyone’s favorite over water traverse, Wheel World. There is nothing like trying to make your way across those spinning wheels while trying to keep from falling in the water. Savage upped the difficulty on this by making athletes climb down an angled rope to complete the obstacle. A basic balance beam cross over water was next up followed up by a log carry. Two tough obstacles came up next in the form of Kiss My Walls, a sideways wall traverse where the top of the wall hung out farther than the bottom making gravity your enemy. To make matters worse Savage only provided small rock climbing holds for your hands and feet the whole way across. I usually have to restart on this obstacle a few times as my big feet and hands don’t like those rock climbing holds. Twirly Bird followed that up and proved once again to be the location where most elite racers lost their bands. This unique rig included alternating rings and ropes the whole way through and gets me every time! Mad Ladders, a traverse across a section of suspended cargo nets, was the last obstacle presented before racers crossed the road heading back to the original property.

A police escort helped athletes cross the intersection of the road which led to another barbed wire crawl, this served to get you nice and muddy for the next traverse over water. This traverse included suspended ropes, rings, and T shaped hangers along the way. One false move here and you would find yourself with a short swim to the other side. Battering Ram was the next new obstacle on the course and required racers to use their body momentum to slide a metal pipe down a long suspended beam where after a brief transition, the whole process had to be completed again on a second pipe. You really have to appreciate the innovative new obstacles that Savage brings to the table every year. With so many big named races just doing the same thing year after year this is a total breath of fresh air and makes OCR fun. Ok, I’ll now get off my soap box and continue with the race coverage.

Athletes now made their way back towards the festival area only to be greeted by the Teeter Tuber. Savage placed sections of tubing onto a fulcrum requiring athletes to shimmy up and through the tube. Just across the half way point the tube tips down causing a racer to quickly slide out the bottom. The initial climb through this thing always requires more effort than you would think as the inside is slick and the tube itself isn’t very wide. Do you like giant slip walls and huge water slides?  You’re in luck as Savage chose to place Colossus in this location. This obstacle has become the signature of Savage Race over the years and the huge water slide at the end is always a fan favorite. Sawtooth, another fan favorite was situated right after Colossus as this monkey bar crossing over water always tests the agility and grip strength of a racer. Racers were now heading down the home stretch, but Savage surprised everyone with another new rig. Holy Sheet, yes this rig started out by having an athlete use their hands and legs to cross a suspended bed sheet. This transitioned into a series of suspended balls which gave it a very American Ninja Warrior type feel. If you managed to get by this bad boy one only needed to climb over an A framed cargo net and jump over the obligatory fire pit as the finish line was located just after.

I applaud Savage for continually challenging athletes with new obstacles, although I would caution new Pro wave athletes to really be proficient on rigs before entering this wave. Savage brought their new Blitz short course race out on Sunday. I was not personally there for the Blitz, but after talking to a few racers afterwards the short course sounded very watered down. This might end up being a great race format for a new racer as it sounded like many of the tough obstacles were removed from this event. Savage has told me that the Blitz event will award age group medals from here on out, possibly as a way to increase attendance as this is the first year for the shorter version. One last note, I saw more photographers on this course than I’ve seen at any other. So if you’re a picture whore like me, you’ll definitely need to hit up a Savage Race so you can flood social media with all your epic race shots!

 

Warrior Dash Nebraska – The Cornfield OCR

We have all been to some out there places for obstacle racing and Nebraska is definitely one of those “out there” places surrounded by cornfields, grain bins, barns and miles of nothing. Eastern Nebraska had a obstacle takeover as Warrior Dash rolled through town for it’s Elements Tour.

Nebraska Courses are known to be fast with a flat terrain, little rocks and minimal trees to dash around with most sites being farmland.

 

What I loved about the location:

  • Wide running paths with plenty of space for racers to not clip each other
  • Fast course built for speed
  • Well staffed with med team
  • AMAZING volunteers. I can’t say this enough about this race in general, everyone was VERY nice, helpful and greeted better than any race I have ever been to (and that is alot!)
  • Good parking
  • Fooooood. Was so so good!

What I would have loved to see:

  • A better kids course (this area was a big let down as a parent)
  • MORE MUD! But just can’t ever get enough
  • Better upper body obstacles, never felt challenged in this area at all
  • More obstacles that are a bigger challenge
  • Better starting line location
  • More space after finish, was too congested

A new favorite from the sounds of it and me personally is the “Pallet Jacked”, probably my inner Ninja, but people really felt challenged on it and it was well staffed by medical.

Friends help friends hose off. The wash off area was great with ALL hoses working ( a rarity!) In true OCR fashion, people did help others hose off and it was just awesome.

It was surprising to hear how far across Nebraska people drove to attend Warrior Dash NE, some 6 hours, furthest I heard was an 8 hour drive. Pretty in Pink, Father Faughter, or just fun frieds, groups dominated the day.

 

 

 

 

One of the greatest things about Warrior Dash is the great amount of teams and teamwork that you always see. From patching pink groups to strangers going hand in hand out of mud puts, Warrior Dashers stick together.

This mud put was the pit of all pits, but was the muddiest part of the course just at the end. The slide before for safety no longer runs water, which was disappointing, but understandable. It does not function well without water and hope they have an obstacle change soon.

 

The Festival layout had plenty of space to move around and athletes to warm-up. The food area was on point with one of the best food trucks ever at a race! BBQ pork, chicken fingers, tots and fries ready and fresh at a good price. I definitely varied from my diet to partake in the deliciousness.

One improvement for the festival area would be more seating and less cornhole. The game was rarely populated.

 

Festival Area WD NE

 

 

 

Pushed past some limits after being in “Ninja” shape for so long, mileage is definitely not on my radar in training to often anymore, so this race hurt! Congrats to the Top runners who qualified for the World Finals!

Top 3 Male and Female WD NE

Rugged Maniac Long Island 2018

I have been running Obstacle Race thingies for about 6 years now and while I once wrote a review of Rugged Maniac from a spectator with kids perspective I had never run one before…. until last weekend!  How did it come to be? How was it!? Give us the low down!

How did it come to be?

Well, generally I run the race that must not be named when it is in Long Island but since I am doing #zeroeventsin2018 I chose to run Rugged Maniac which was roughly 40 minutes from my house. As it were, my 13-year-old niece is up visiting New York for 2 weeks and I thought it would be cool to have her run her first Obstacle Race on her vacation.

I quickly checked their website and made sure that age 13 was good to go (it was) and found a deal on Groupon and snagged her a well priced last minute registration. We got her some Swiftwick socks (Aspire 4), trail running shoes (Saucony Excursions from DSW), and took her on her first trail run before throwing her to the wolves on Saturday. We were all set!

How was it!?

I am a firm believer that as long as the race doesn’t royally screw up by not delivering what they advertise, having insanely long lines or putting participants in danger that “How was it?” is a very subjective answer. If you are going to Rugged Maniac to race “elite” you probably will have a much different take on the race than someone who brought his 13-year-old niece to her first race. I had an exceptionally good time and I will tell you why.

Easy things they got right:

Registration was easy. You can choose any lane and while I was secretly worried about my niece not having an ID even though the website said she didn’t need one there was no issue getting her squared away at registration. PHEW. I love that they give the shirts out at registration because you can wear them without getting them dirty after the race. Also, Swiftwick is my favorite brand of socks and I was SO FRACKIN EXCITED when we got coupons for a free pair of Swiftwick socks.

Extras that I enjoyed:

We got there a touch early and my parents and children were at the event in addition to my wife and niece. We scoped out the festival area and were able to kill time by looking at merch (reasonably priced), the event photo booth setup (not reasonably priced), and doing pull-ups to win hats (Marine and Army booths). I missed the kids’ bouncy house that they had at Rugged Virginia 2 years ago, but my kids behaved and the spectators enjoyed themselves. I didn’t ride the mechanical bull, but that probably would have been fun too. Lastly, the Harpoon Beer was tasty. I actually picked up a sixer of the UFO White at the supermarket later that day after trying it as my free beer. #sponsorsuccessstories

The Low Down

I really enjoyed Rugged Maniac and it was an incredible experience having my niece run her first race and seeing her enjoy herself as well. After she completed obstacles that she wasn’t sure she could she threw around words like “feeling accomplished” which I vividly remember from many of the races I have run. It’s a great feeling that causes the bug. In fact, she already asked if we can do it again when she visits next year.

The Obstacles

Rugged Maniac has a good mixture of semi-challenging, fun, and easy obstacles. They also gave you thick, nasty, and STANKY mud that is a staple at any fun race. If you are a seasoned obstacle racer chances are there aren’t any obstacles that you would struggle completing, but if you are new to these events and don’t have familiarity with rings, ropes, and moving monkey bars they can be challenging. Could they add a few wreck bag carries in like they used to have and add some weight to the hoist? Sure, but even without them, it was still a good time.

Conclusion

There was a time when I was a snob about Obstacle Races and I am happy to say those days are behind me. If you are rolling up to a Rugged Maniac to win and you have complaints about the obstacle difficulty you probably should show up to some other races to throw down. My whole squad enjoyed themselves and it appears that my mom, dad, sister, and brother-in-law will be lacing them up for their first race next year! #spectatorsuccessstories

 

 

Spartan Race Ultra and Trifecta Weekend Kimberley BC

Spartan Race is famous for heart pumping ascents and joint-snapping down-hill scrambles, but this time they may have pushed it a little too far at their new venue in Kimberley BC.

 

Excitement was in the air on the first day of the Spartan Race Trifecta weekend in Kimberley BC. The first race of the weekend was on Friday night, the Sprint. Although I wasn’t racing the Sprint, my husband and I went to watch our fellow Spartans, partake in the camaraderie, and cheer on friends. After watching the elite men and women take over an hour to finish the Sprint, I knew that the Ultra was going to take all day – what I didn’t know at that time was how rough it was going to be.

There was plenty of rumble room in the starting corral for the Ultra the next morning – 124 people in total started the race across all three heats – elite, age group, and open.

The start of the course shot into the woods for a brief scramble up and downhill before returning to the festival area to show off a thru-wall, the A-frame cargo, and the Hercules Hoist. After waving a final goodbye to the spectators, the course made its way uphill and out of site. Shortly into the climb was the Rig – which was entirely made of rings at varying heights, this proved to be quite difficult for many.

 

Most of the Kimberley BC Beast and Ultra Beast was either a steep incline or a steep decline that made obstacle placement difficult. Some obstacles did not even make an appearance at this race. Including Twister (due to a deal with platinum rig in Canada), mud mounds, or any type of water obstacle for that matter, and Bender.

After the Rig was the first climb to the top of the mountain and along that climb was a 6ft wall and sandbag carry and inverted wall. At the top of the mountain was the rope climb and then our legs were given a chance to get loose on the first and most runnable downhill in the entire course. This section was probably my favorite because it was a gradual mountain biking downhill with banked turns that allowed us to get our feet moving with some real pace.

The second hill was brutal; at some points, it was hands and feet climbing and it had me seriously questioning whether or not I would be able to complete the second lap of the Ultra. There was a lot of groaning and swearing to happen at this point in the race and it got worse as we summited and realized that log carry was at the base of the hill and that the descent was so steep and full of cut-off low-lying bushes that made it practically impossible to run down. This was beyond frustrating for someone who loves downhill running as much as I do. After quickly completing the log carry, we found ourselves running even further down the mountain. At the bottom, we reached the Tyrolean Traverse and a water station and then immediately headed back up a scramble section of hill to a filler obstacle, the Log Drag.

There were another descent and a flattish running section before the Beasts’ and the Ultras’ courses split. Ultras continued to run until we encountered an uphill barbed wire crawl at the base of ascent #3. This ascent was truly a soul-crusher (especially on lap 2) and the worst part was, there was no water station at the top. We reached the top and immediately turned back down the hill until we hit the second log carry and met back up with the Beast’s course for yet another ascent and final summit of the mountain. At the top was a long over-due water station, 8ft wall, and a volunteer excitedly yelling, “You’re only a mile from the real summit!” …

Luckily that mile turned out to be relatively flat running along the ridgeline and not just another mile long ascent.

At the official summit was Stairway to Sparta and another water station before the long and well deserved downhill to the finish… I mean… halfway point.

After Z-walls and Olympus, we reached a new obstacle, “Wrecked.” This obstacle was built with the idea that racers would throw a sand bag 8ft in the air over a wooden board and the bag would slide back to the racers via a slanted wall BUT the obstacle was unapproved by the Higher-Ups in the world of Spartan Corporate and Jonny Waite changed the obstacle on race day. Instead, racers completed “Wrecked” by doing a “Clean and Press” 5 times.

Next up was the 7ft wall, Tractor Pull, Plate Drag and then Monkey Bars. Right after Monkey Bar,s the course crested the hill to the festival area and we rolled down through barbed wire. Hopefully, you weren’t too dizzy after the barbed wire because Spear Throw was immediately after you stood up and every one was there to watch! Bucket Carry was next, but it was a pretty short little hill, and then we made the final descent to the Slip Wall and Fire Jump. Ultras however did not go over Slip Wall; instead we branched to the left to hit the transition station before going back out on course for the second lap.

Spartan Race structures their Ultra to be complete mind games by making the course two laps of one hellish Beast course. In the transition tent, I seriously debated not going for a second lap because the first lap’s climbs were absolutely terrible. But, after sitting in transition for awhile and listening to other people’s stories about how they dropped out, and how I might have a good chance at the podium for this race, I made my way back out on to the course.

The second lap was completely mental. There were few people out on the course at this time because the Beast heats stopped going off mid-morning, (I started lap two at 1:45pm) the midday heat was intense, and all I could think about was making the cut-off points. I ran most of this lap alone –I could barely see the person in front of me or behind me type of alone, until I reached the last cutoff point and found my two wonderful teammates sitting there! The rest of the race turned in to a hike with friends. We took our time, enjoyed the course, met some people, and eventually finished at about 9:30pm.

Kimberley Ultra runners gained 13,000ft of vertical climbing over 31 miles. The first place male took over 8 hours to finish it, and the first place female took over 13 hours to finish it.

Although I would run this course again next year, I think that there are some aspects of this venue that need revision. Being that this is the first year Spartan hosted at Kimberley, there were some hiccups. The course was lacking in running sections and challenging obstacles, there were no Trifecta weekend medals for those that did three races, and the Sprint experienced unprepared water stations in the heat of the day.

I look forward to seeing how Kimberley will change for next year, and I cannot wait to run this mountain again!

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.