Tough Mudder Whistler Weekend {Journal Entry}

Whistler once again hosted the Tough Mudder Weekend & it was pretty epic!  I ran both days, Tougher on Saturday & the Half on Sunday.Tough Mudder Whistler Weekend -01

I’m more of an experiences man, if you’re looking for a short & concise detailed race recap, you’re reading the wrong blog post as I tend to write more about the whole experience. This is why I will now be appending these types of posts with {Journal Entry}

 

I traveled to Whistler with my wife; Charity, and a friend of ours; Troy. The cost of lodging in Whistler has almost doubled in the last three years.  I don’t know if it’s because the owners now know that TM happens all in the same weekend & therefore jack the prices up, but all I do know is that a two-bedroom hotel room only cost me around $250 for the weekend three years ago, that same room last year was around $400.  We ended up staying at the Whistler Athletes Centre this time & paid about $500 for our own townhouse which saved us some money thanks to the Pit Momma herself, Traci Watson.  A similar room was now around $600.  If you want to save money next year, reach out to her, I hope she is able to get such an awesome group deal again!  It was great staying here as there were quite a few other Mudders around to chat with.  We ended up helping out a fellow Vancity OCR teammate, Nathan, & gave him our extra pull out couch to crash on.  On Friday night Traci & I ended up hosting a pretty good sized Pot Luck dinner.  Heck, even TM’s finishing man Clinton Jackson popped by to greet his fellow mudders & partake in the festivities.  After dinner, we all chatted a bunch & a few of us ended up going to one of the shared living room spaces & playing a Trivia Game.  It was quite an entertaining night.

 

Tough Mudder Whistler Weekend -02

Saturday: Tougher

I’ve done a few TMs in the past in Whistler and the weather has typically been rather cold & rainy but the forecast this year said it would be sunny and warm.  A happy change!  I packed everything from Shorts to Frog Skins.  I seriously prefer to have to lug all my gear with me and not need it over not bringing it & needing it.  I looked over the updated forecast in the morning & decided on wearing my warming leggings & long sleeve shirt but to bring shorts to change into for afterward. It was rather early and brisk out & I am a wuss when it comes to being cold and I knew I’d be facing Arctic Enema.  I got dressed & headed out with Nathan.  Charity and Troy would be doing the Full together later that evening so I knew I would meet up with them afterward in Mudder Village.  I arrived on-site about 45 mins before the 7:30 am start time & ended up waiting for another 15mins or so before they opened the floodgates to allow us to register.  There were approx., 70 Men & 17 Women & TMHQ decided to break us up into a Men’s & Women’s group with the women leaving around 8 am.

 

There were 22 obstacles on the map and I was feeling pretty good even knowing that Arctic Enema was in the first quarter of them or so.  I would rather have had it closer to the end after the sun had been up for a while, but I knew I had to suck it up!  Our heat was let go pretty close to on-time after Sean gave a great speech.  The course was different again this year.  I am enjoying the fact that TM keeps changing it up each year.  Last year they had us basically going in the opposite direction as the year before.  I was still a bit concerned that I would be “On my own” for a bunch of the obstacles.  I’m used to having plenty of others around me for help is needed.  This was also my very first race.  Yes, I have done tough Mudders & other OCRs in the past.  But they were always at a Jog/Walk pace.  The Tougher wave would be the first time that I could see what I had.

I was filled with fear & anticipation as I knew I could get it done, I just didn’t want to be dead last.  Heck, even if I was, I would know where I stood.  I was rather proud of myself for getting over “Berlin Walls” again, without a boost from someone, & we were told there would be something special waiting for us at the “Hero Carry” but there was nothing there for us at all when we reached it. I’d say I was able to keep up with the middle of the group until around halfway.  I kept a pretty good running pace up until around “Ladder to Hell”.  I started to slow down to a Jog around this point which I was fine with.  I was just pleasantly happy that there were others around me still at this point.

I arrived next at “Boa Constrictor” which I can’t say I had seen before.  Perhaps the volunteer wasn’t paying that much attention but I saw the person ahead of me go into the tubes feet first so I followed suit. It wasn’t until the next day when I did the same obstacle during the Half that I would see the small sign off to the side that said Head First!  Going in feet first kinda made sense as it angled down into water that had barbed wire over it & then you climbed back out through a tube on the other side.  I figured, skootch down, use your feet & legs to help you get out of the tube then crawl to the next one.  Well, that didn’t work so well in practice & I experienced the reason why you should go head first.  Sure, your face & head would be in the water first, which I really didn’t fancy, but there was enough room for air.  I am not a fan of confined spaces & I tell ya now, I started to freak out a bit.  As I worked my way down the tube the water started getting deeper & deeper & I started to float.  To the point where I could barely go any further down.  After a bit of squirming & wiggling, I hooked my foot on the top of the edge of the tube & slowly pulled myself out.  I was breathing heavily & hated every second, it felt like minutes, of it.  But, I got through it!

Tough Mudder Whistler Weekend -03

I knew “Block Ness Monster” & “Everest 2.0” would be coming up soon & I knew I’d need some help with that.  Apparently, I had fate on my side as earlier, back at “Arctic Enema”, which took me a while to get chest deep into but I got it done!, one of my other Vancity Team Mates, Amin, passed me while I was getting up the nerve to complete it.  I could now see him & a few other Vancity peeps up in the distance.  This was a huge load off.  I decided to pick it up a notch & catch up to them.  We stuck together the rest of the way, helping each other through any obstacles that we may need help with.  Sure, I may have been able to push myself harder & to go ahead of them, but I was very happy with how my performance was up to this time & the old me kicked in, the one that likes to talk to & enjoys the company of others, and I knew I could always try the same Tougher heat again next year.  In the end, I ended up failing the two obstacles I knew I would.  “Kong-Infinity” & “Funky Monkey” I GOTTA work on my grip, arm & shoulder strength! The penalty loops were quite short, like 250ft max out and back on a flat or slightly elevated hillside. We all ended up finishing “Happy Ending” & crossed the finish line together.  The Tougher wave was an awesome experience.  I plan on partaking in it again next year in Whistler & I have also signed up for it in Seattle in a few months.

The Tougher/Full course ended up being about 16.79Km (10.43Mi) and took me about 3hours and 20minutes.   Not too shabby!  I ended up taking about an hour off of our typical Jog/Walk time so I felt pretty good about that.

Tough Mudder Whistler Weekend -04

Sunday: Half

This was the very first time that I had attempted to do any physical activity like this more than once within a week or two of a gap.  I was feeling pretty good though.  I wasn’t sore, just a bit stiff.  I’m assuming Clinton Jackson could tell that because as soon as he saw me he came over & gave me the absolute best shoulder, back & neck massage I have EVER had, bar none!  He has such wonderful large monkey hands as he puts it.

The Half ended up having 13 Obstacles, it was approx. 10.63Km (6.58Mi) and it took us 2Hours and 30mins to complete.  We pretty much walked the whole thing & stopped to smell the roses & chat with other participants along the way.  We veered off course a bit at the very end to go through “Electroshock Therapy” which I ended up just sauntering through.  It’s really not that big a deal anymore.  Sure I was afraid of it the first time or two, then two years ago I decided to show everyone how much of a *cough* badass *cough* that I was & just walked on through it nice & slowly.  There’s not much to go into about the half that I didn’t pretty much cover from Saturday’s write-up above.  I ended up getting TM #4 in the books, did the Half as a shakeout “run” & got my 2x Repeat Offender headband because of it all (I’ll be getting my 3x RO in Seattle when I finish the 5K).  It was quite a fantastic weekend & I can’t wait to do it all again!  I still to this day though don’t fully understand why I keep putting myself through all of this other than, I am making up for lost time in PE class from high school, and I just enjoy the whole #OCRCommunity WAY too much!

 

Tough Mudder Whistler Weekend -05

BTW, did I mention how gorgeous Whistler is?  If you haven’t been to this event, you really need to come check it out!

Tough Mudder Whistler Weekend -06

Tough Mudder Whistler Weekend -07

Cheers!

 

All photos credited to Tough Mudder

PS. Please forgive the lateness of this article, I was having issues uploading pictures a while back.  Now that the issue has been resolved, you can expect a couple of these entries to come your way.  =)

Asheville Spartan Super 2018

Every year for the last three years, I have made the nine-hour drive to tackle the Asheville-Black Mountain course. Over the past three years, the Ashville course has consistently ranked in difficulty at the highest level. In comparison to other courses, it’s put in the same category as Killington and Wintergreen.  The terrain and elevation provide a physically and mentally tough course, one that provides challenges to the strongest OCR athletes and pushes many past their limitations.

With that in mind, I drove to Ashville this year with a hopeful mindset. Each year I have managed to improve my time and overall performance and this year I had the same intentions. In typical Asheville fashion, just parking on race day was a difficult task. The rain had been falling hard for the last few weeks and the parking lot was a muddy mess with many Spartans stopping to help push out vehicles and navigate to safer parking.

Standing in the start line corral, feeling the normal butterflies and anxiousness that one faces staring at a monumental task, I took a deep breath, shouted AROO, and took off running to face the rugged terrain.

The course began much like years before, swooping hard right and heading towards the cold streams that run throughout the mountain. Soon I was jumping into the cold water and maneuvering around the slippery rocks and divots. Vertical Cargo and Plate Drag were the very first obstacles we faced. I really enjoyed the cargo climb and the way they used the terrain.

Cargo Climb Plate Drag

6ft wall followed by 8ft wall and Z-wall were the next obstacles we faced. The new design on Z-wall provided increased difficulty and many athletes were forced to do burpees in several inches of muddy water.

Z-Walls

Moving forward we faced lots of climbing and navigating muddy terrain, the rain made this particular course that much more difficult and the climbs alone were taking many Spartans a great deal of time.

Technical Terrain

After a few miles of climbing we were brought down the hill and close to the festival area. Here we faced the multi-rig and several other Spartan favorites including tire flip and dunk wall.  The dunk wall was extra gross and left us all orange and muddy.

Circling out of the festival area and heading back up the mountain we began another ascent. Most of the climbs and ascents were in areas where it was nearly impossible to actually run. Rather Spartans moved in a march up the side of the mountain. One thing to mention about this venue is the amazing views. While the climb is rugged, the view from the top is absolutely breathtaking.

Mountain View

Several miles of climbing up and back down was next; stopping only for the incredible views or next obstacle tends to be the right of passage for any Spartan who tackles the Asheville Spartan course. Adjacent to Cargo Climb we came upon a newer Spartan obstacle similar to a great wall with rock grips. The rock grips were muddy and made the obstacle very difficult but equally fun.

Great Wall

Similar to years past, the last mile or so of the course brought us back down the mountain and into the festival area to finish out the last few obstacles. First, a long barb wire crawl with many spectators and finishers watching and cheering us all on. Next, the spear throw and Hercules Hoist tried our reserves.  The last few obstacles and finish line were in the heart of the festival area. It was a lot of fun to have so many cheering you on as you finished this grueling and laborious course. Jumping the fire and smiling for the customary photo danced in my memory as I collected my medal and shirt.

I do, however, feel obligated to mention that when the small rain storm rolled in during the afternoon heats, many racers were taken off of the course with no medal or finisher shirt. The Spartan Staff at this particular event (I’ve been to many and never experienced this) chose to yell, scream and curse at racers to get out of the festival area. I was very surprised by the unprofessional display and lack of organization they showed over such a small storm; by the time I had trudged back to my car the rain had stopped and the clouds had cleared.

However, outside of the storm and festival uproar, overall the 2018 Asheville Spartan Super did not disappoint; it was the perfect combination of the 2016 and 2017 courses. I am looking forward to the next event…AROO!

Spartan Portland/Washougal WA Sprint and Hurricane Heat {Journal Entry}

Hello #OCRCommunity!

After all this time together it seems that I still don’t have the capacity to write a simple Race Recap & that I tend to babble on & on about my experience getting to the race, the participation during it & then the aftermath of the whole experience.  I tried, oh lord I tried, but it just seemed so foreign to me.  This is why I plan on writing my Race Recaps as more of a Journal Entry than a traditional Race Recap.  If that bores you, then go find another author & leave a big thumbs down in the comments section.  If you happen to like it, also let me know!

 

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -01

-The Adventure Begins

Let’s start this tale off by pointing out the fact that this race wasn’t in Portland, it was situated about 30mins northeast from the edge of Portland in Washougal, WA at a local Motocross (MX) Park.  My wife (Charity), 6-year-old daughter (Sierra), & two friends joined us on our trip to the event.  Our friend Erin came along to enjoy the sights & watch over our daughter for us during the events & Troy also came along to participate.  If you’ve read any of my previous Race Recaps, you’ll know that Troy is a long time friend and has been getting increasingly addicted to OCRs as he continues to ferry my wife & I to & fro.  I really don’t know how he puts up with our crazy!

We left Vancouver Canada at approx. 8 am on Friday, swung by & picked up Erin, & headed south on our adventure to our AirBNB in Vancouver, WA.   It’s an odd thing to say that you’re traveling from Vancouver to go to Vancouver & you know the trip according to Google should take approx. 5-6 hours.  The first hurdle of our trip was the sheer magnitude of the traffic.  I figured leaving early on a Friday morning & getting near Seattle just after the morning traffic would be the way to go. Well, I was wrong!  Traffic was at a crawl the whole way through Seattle, Tacoma, & Olympia.  The trip ended up taking us close to 11 hours in total due to mainly traffic, lunch, & rest stops & the fact that a 6-year-old has the bladder the size of a pea!  We finally arrived tired and in one piece at our Vancouver, WA based AirBNB.

 

-The Sprint Awaits

We left the AirBNB around 8 am knowing full well that it would take longer than the anticipated 30mins by Google to get to the site. We also knew we wanted to start earlier so we could finish and have plenty of time to say hello to people, go back to our room, perhaps clean up some, change if needed & then head back for the event that evening.  Parking was in a field of rolling hills & was well marked and flagged by volunteers.  We were pretty early & the absolute sea of vehicles that were already parked had me pretty giddy at the sheer turn out.  I believe someone mentioned that the site sold out, well, if it didn’t, you would have fooled me, there were a LOT of participants at this one!  We didn’t get to the actual starting line until 10:45, 15 mins after our posted starting heat time.  Lesson learned, show up even earlier!  You think after 4 years of doing these that I would have learned by now!  We got on-site, parked & slowly made our way through registration.  We found the ‘Beasts OCR’ tent which wasn’t hard as they were awarded the largest team tent and introduced ourselves as part of the Vancity OCR team which merges with Beasts when we run in the USA, the Beasts will often do the same with Vancity when they come to play in Canada.

 

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -02

-Let’s get Dirty

The event map showed 21 obstacles, approx. 7 km of distance and a pretty flat terrain compared to those from previous race experience at other venues.

Charity’s start time was for 11:15 and the starting corral was pretty full but she was allowed to start early with us as there was still a small amount of room for those that wanted to join in on our heat.  After the initial short climb, as I mentioned before, the course was pretty flat.  The initial hill I would say was the steepest & wasn’t really all that long.  There were a few other hills strewn about here & there but maybe I’m just finally getting used to and acclimated to this stuff as I felt it was a pretty easy going course.

See the Course map for a full list of obstacles, I only failed the Multi Rig & the Monkey bars so I know I’m getting stronger & finally starting to use proper form.  I ran into no issues at the first few obstacles & then came up to my old nemesis, the Rope Climb.  I’ve only ever done it 1.5 times in the past but it was still pretty early in the race & I felt pretty good.  I made it up & back down with no issues other than getting a good rope burn on my ankle, reminder to self, wear high socks to Spartan Races. My wife finally got to see me complete the rope climb, that was a good feeling to show her how well I am progressing.  I guess that’s one more obstacle that I can hopefully continue to train for and conquer on an ongoing basis!  The dunk wall had about 4 inches of air between the bottom of the wall & the mud.

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -03

The barbed wire crawl seemed abnormally long, not as long as Vegas mind you.  I didn’t want to exaggerate the distance so I fired up Google Earth & did the best that I could to determine the actual length.  It looks like the barbed wire crawl was in the section of the course that has the Whoops/Moguls in it and is approx. 250 feet long.  It was tough with all the little bumps to get through it, maybe they just made it feel worse than it was?  We’ll come back to the wonderful barbed wire crawl later!  The Plate drag was dusty as heck & most of the lines had some pretty good bumps in them that made me walk to the plate, lift it up a bit, go back & continue to pull it, there was also a volunteer stating there were bees in the area & to beware.

We actually saw “Warning: Bees” signs strewn all about the property.  The Cliff Bucket Brigade was next, and I feel very odd about this one.  Am I crazy for saying it was just way too short & too easy?  I honestly felt like I needed to do it a second time to get the normal experience!  I didn’t do it a second-time mind you!  I just shook my fist in the air and vocally cursed Spartan for going easy on me.  I got a few chuckles & groans back from others & continued on…

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -03

I ended up bumping into Amelia Boone at the 7’ Wall.  She had already done the course earlier that day & came in 2nd place for the Elite Women.  She was now doing the course again with her dad and he was wearing a shirt that said ”Amelia will do my burpees”, man.. I should get a shirt that says that!

The Rings & Monkey bars were the last two obstacles to fail (although I’ve done the rings that ONE time!) & then the finish line.  It was at the top of what I would figure was a tabletop jump, and well, there was no fire or photographer there which was a bit sad.  I understand no fire due to fire bans and all and at least  Spartan made up for the no finish line photographer by placing a bunch of wall backdrops & props with photographers right after the finish line.   All in all, it was a pleasantly cool day, with one small shower in the middle & another larger shower at the end, but it was perfect for cooling you down.   The course wasn’t overly hard or muddy.

 

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -05

-Halftime wrap up

I would say the layout of the festival area was nice.  There was plenty of room & porta pottys throughout the area & along the course.  American Spartan races seem to have the best vendor and sponsor areas. I’m not sure why, I found this when I was working Event Sales for Spartan Race Canada.  Keep up the great work guys!  The course was a perfect one for someone new to Spartan.  I’m starting to feel Spartan is changing up their dynamic for the Sprint & making it a gateway into Spartan.  The Super is tougher & well, the Beast even more so!  I’m reading more and more people posting the same revelations.  Do the Sprint if you’re just starting out, do the Super if you’ve been doing this a while, and if you want to see what you’re made of, do the Beast.  Heck, you did the Beast & you wanna take it up one more notch!? Do the Ultra! This Portland Sprint ended up being about 6.69Km (4.15Mi)

All above photo credits go to Spartan Race

 

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat

-The Portland 4Hr Hurricane Heat #146 (My first!)

My apologies for the quality of these following photos, they were are all screen captured from and are credited to Spartan Race/Dingo Dominguez’s Facebook Live Videos
Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -14

Once we were done the sprint we headed back to the AirBNB, dropped off Erin & Sierra, quickly showered, changed, grabbed some grub & headed right back to the site.  Yes, we were just there earlier that day but probably due to the fact there wasn’t a slowly moving train of vehicles headed back to the site & the fact that we were now allowed to enter from a different direction we somehow took a wrong turn.  We were supposed to be on-site for 4pm as the HH started @ 5pm.  We ended up getting to the meeting spot around closer to 4:30 due to our directional mixup.

I’m going to back peddle a bit here, Troy was freaking out about the HH.  He felt he wasn’t quite ready & where he needed to be physically or mentally but knew deep down inside that he would be able to get it done.  It sure didn’t help things that I wasn’t able to give him any help with preparing for the event as there is very little to no information about these HH’s.  I tried to not give him the disparaging information that I had been able to glean from the internet.  That of the fact that the HH’s can go anywhere from 4-6 hours, and are varying distances etc..  I tried to not play on that but I didn’t want to try to pass it off as a cake walk either.   We had all our gear & our special item was to bring two bricks, the kind you build a house with.  We ended up carrying those bricks throughout the day.  Doing Burpees with them, hand claps, more burpees, more hand claps, carrying them through the dunk wall.  You get my drift, they went with us, in our hands, everywhere.

 

Krypteia Dingo oversaw our little group of if I recall 59? Sorry, I have THE worst memory! Along side of ‘Beast OCR’ President Adam Birgenheier.  Again, memory fails me, but I believe that original # was supposed to be closer to 90?  Going by a fellow team mates GPS as I totally forgot to even start mine due to my brain going in overload from the days events, we ended up going for approx. 4h 13m & with a total distance of 4.2Km (2.65Mi).  The HH isn’t about how far you go, sure, it’s an endurance event, but that doesn’t always mean distance.   We started our night off owing Dingo 300 burpees in which we did like 50 of them facing down hill right at the start.  Two members dropped out during this initial barrage and a few others went up to Krypteia Dingo, had a quick chat session with him and then got back in line.  I wish I was a bit better at this & that my memory wasn’t so bad as I know I’m not doing the HH any justice.  It wasn’t an easy feat at all.  Doing those burpee’s SUCKED!  But, I dug deep & got um done!  Maybe slower than some, but I still managed to get um done & not slow down the group.  After a bit more of this and that with the bricks, we ended up getting put into 4 groups of 14, I believe another dropped out just before we grouped up so we ended up having even groups.  I was picked to be the initial leader of Team #4.

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -10

We jogged to what was the 6’ walls.  I believe we were supposed to make use of them, but they had already been taken down.  Adam openly asked what we should do instead, the Cargo Net was directly beside us so I stated we should do the cargo net instead.  Evidently, that was a good idea because that’s where we ended up going.   We had to get our team & our bricks over to the other side, only caveat was that we could only have one man at the top.

 

As this was our first group session doing something like this we awkwardly made our way through it.  We ended up having a few people hold some of the bricks, sending those people over, fireman lining their bricks up & over the cargo net then repeated it.  I believe we came in second for that task.  All of us were awarded Burpee’s or Hand Claps (basically jumping jacks without the leg movement, of course with our bricks still in hand, or some sort of torture as our reward.

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -11

After that we made our way over to the Kids Rolling Mud section.  We were asked as a team to make our way through it with a brick in each hand & to keep the bricks out of the water & mud.  This one wasn’t so bad as the kids ditches & hills weren’t so that deep or that high.  We made it through that section pretty unscathed.

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -12

That had to have been practice as we then worked our way over to the Adult Rolling Mud & Dunk Wall.  Our instructions were to get through the same as before.  Getting no mud or water on our bricks.  A few of us bailed pretty hard through this section and one of the other teams lost a brick in the water.  Once the rest of the teams were done, Krypteia Dingo recruited the rest of their team to get back in the water and help.  As it was taking them a bit longer than Dingo anticipated, he ordered them into quadrants & had them sweep their area.  That found it in under 20seconds again showing the versatility of working as a team.  From there we were brought to the Slip Wall.  Oh, don’t forget all this time we were doing our rewards & trying to pay back the 250burpees that we owed Dingo.  The task was pretty much the same, get our guys & their bricks to the other side.  This time we decided to just get enough over to make a firemans line, get the bricks over & then storm the wall as we had 3-4 ropes per team to make use of.  We flew through that task with ease & took first place buy a large margin.  Our reward, 50 clap ups.  Thank you Krypteia Dingo!

It seemed evident that he was teaching us that coming in first wasn’t always the best tactic.  I know at this point we all started to ask each other if we should sandbag ourselves to not come in first.  But, in the end, we knew that just wasn’t the absolute lesson we should take away from it.

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -13

We then Bear Crawled up hill from the Slip Wall to the Herc Hoist.  Again I did my best on Google Earth, it looks to have been about 350ft or so.  Once there, we made a wall with our bricks so we could use our hands & we all did the Herc Hoist one at a time as a team to completion.  I didn’t have an issue with it earlier that day, but the bags were heavy.  I was the first to tackle it & was fearful that I’d slow us all down, but I finished second & then moved on to the back of the line to allow the next person to continue on.   I don’t recall who won, because by this time it wasn’t about who won, it was how well did they accomplish the goal. 1st or last.  In the end, I want to say that’s what Dingo was trying to get through to us the whole time.

 

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -15

Spartan Portland Sprint and Hurricane Heat -16

-Gettin’ er done!

Lastly was the Barbed wire crawl/dead body drag.  We all made team walls with our bricks, Dingo picked out a few dead bodies from each team we were told to break up into groups of three all with one dead body each.  We then had to drag that dead body across those moguls & under the barbed wire.  Ta boot, we were told we had to stay below the line of the barbed wire at all times as it was actually “Grazing machine gun fire”  I ended up dragging the first dead body through the moguls with my partner, luckily Adam brandished himself a firehose & started to hose us all down.  Yes, I said luckily.  Sure, it was a bit cold & rather annoying, but it helped lube up our path.  This is when Adam gained the nickname of “Hoser” which I will henceforth be calling him.  You’re welcome Adam! It was a struggle getting our dead body through, but we made it! We were about a quarter of the way through & then we were told we would all have to be the dead body. Oi!  I really didn’t wanna get dragged through that as it looked like it was worse than doing the actual dragging.   At this point the daylight was starting to dwindle so we were asked to snap on our Chem Lights.  The second go round had me dragging the other team mate through the gauntlet,  I questioned his decision, not because I wanted to be lazy & get dragged, again, as it looked worse, but because he was visibly shaking & cold.  He also mentioned he may be close to hypothermia.  I offered up some advice that he may be batter to do the dragging as it may keep him more active & therefore warmer.  He opted to be dragged.  Again we slogged through it, with the task absolutely sucking the whole way, halfway through we were told this would be the last team to go & were asked to turn on our headlamps. We got to the end battered, scraped & a bit bloody from rocks & barbed wire but we made it through.  I was so happy I didn’t end up getting dragged through it too.

 

-Wrapping up the whole day, finally!

From there we were told we were going to the extraction point.  I think we were let lose still owing Krypteia Dingo around 200 burpees.  Well Krypteia, I want you to know that during the time that it took to write this I banged out 75 of them & I plan on doing the rest over the course of the day.  I got my Dog Tags & Shirt & proceeded to get stung multiple times while trying to change back at our car.  I can tell that I am getting stronger & that my body is getting more used to doing these types of activities because I was able to make it through this experience pretty unscathed & not too sore.  I’ve been getting fewer bruises as medals & the DOMS the days after aren’t so bad.  But… Let me tell ya, that wasn’t the case this time!  Maybe it was the 6+ hours of physical activity on Saturday, or the 11+ hour drive back sitting crammed in the car with 4  others or it IS the DOMS, but I was rather sore & stiff this go round.  So much so that I booked myself in for a massage on Tuesday.  Best decision of my life right there!   Today it feels like I normally do after an event like this.  Hello muscles, yes, thank you for getting me through that now rest up before tonight’s’ Bootcamp Class.  *Passes Out*

 

 

The Spartan Warrior Ethos (Memorize the bold lines, there will be a test!)

I will always place the mission first.

Every participant soon learns that their own personal needs and goals must be sacrificed in order to succeed. Though many teams fight with each other early on, once egos are set aside success is achieved.

I will never accept defeat.

Defeat is something that occurs in the mind, not on the field. It is not an impossible task or an opponent that will defeat you but rather giving up in your own mind. Personal courage and perseverance will see you through.

I will never quit.

If you do not accept defeat, you must still have the fortitude and strength to go on. Not quitting is more than just refusing to stop, it is the will to continue.

I will never leave a fallen comrade.

Really, this is what the Hurricane Heat is all about. The strength of the team is worth more than the sum of its members. Each task presented in the Hurricane Heat cannot be accomplished alone, and no team can move on without all its members. Someone will always be slower, someone will always be hurt, but it is not their weakness that causes failure, but the strength of their team that assures success.

Case Creek OCR

With so many large OCR events going on across the country these days it’s easy to forget that many started off as a small, local event. I always try to include a few of these into my race schedule every year due in large part to the down-home feel and personal attention to detail. The costs associated with these events are generally far less without a huge drop off in the quality of the obstacles.

If you’re a competitive athlete these smaller events may offer you a better chance to place due to the lower participation numbers while still making you work for it and there is a good chance the staff will greet you by name at the registration tents if you are a repeat attendee.  It was for all these reasons and more that I made my way to the small town of Coal Valley, Illinois on August 11th for the 6th annual Case Creek OCR.

The 3.4-mile event was held on a beautiful farm filled with rolling hills tucked into the far Northwest corner of the state. The course had a modest elevation change of around 700 feet but very few sections of the course were flat making the race feel more vertical that it was. The race director made excellent use of the surrounding farmland and wooded acreage along with a few jaunts through the race namesake, Case Creek.

The event had two different race categories, Competitive, which was the first heat of the day with open class heats taking off throughout the rest of the morning. The competitive heat awarded awesome custom plaques to the top three men and women in age group categories separated by 10-year spans and looked really cool hung on your wall at home.

The race started off as it always has by sending runners up the hill in front of the main house before taking a turn sending athletes along the edge of a field where a series of low hurdles were situated.

The next obstacle was the only one that I think Case Creek should get rid of as two blue plastic 55-gallon drums were laying on the ground and required an athlete to crawl through them. Now, this was a super tight fit for any large person and the drums were not really secured to the ground causing me to almost run the rest of the race with the barrel around my waist! From there things improved greatly as the next obstacles presented included a wall climb and low crawl along with a set of monkey bars suspended over a water pit.

The herd had not thinned out much by the time racers reached the weaver and cargo net climb causing a bit of a bottleneck but from here on out, I had no trouble with lines at an obstacle. After a log carry the course got down and dirty by sending athletes through a series of ravines with fallen trees laid over the top making many racers get down on all fours and crawl through the slop to escape. This was an excellent place for Case to set up their balance beam made of logs as racers shoes were still caked with mud from the previous low crawl.

Athletes now made their way back towards the festival area where 5 obstacles were set up within easy viewing distance for family and friends but not before finishing a log hoist which was very light and hardly slowed down an athlete at all.

First up was a low crawl over a section of fence followed by a short atlas stone carry. A low hurdle was presented right after dropping off your atlas stone followed by a set of muscle-unders requiring an athlete to lift a wooden wall up before scooting under to the next. A unique cargo net, suspended off the ground by 2 climbing walls, was the last obstacle in this section. Racers now made their way out of the festival area in one final loop scaling a giant tire wall on their way out. This final loop included such obstacles as a rope swing and mud pit crawls and ended by having racers wade against the current through the creek and back to the festival area.

The only thing I might suggest to Case Creek is to maybe stagger the men’s and women’s competitive heats by 5 minutes to help with a few of the bottlenecks. So if you’re into smaller events or not a big fan of crowds give Case Creek a try. Everyone there is super friendly and your low race fee gets you free pics and parking along with a tee shirt and post-race refreshments.  A separate kid’s only course will be held on the weekend of September 8th so get your little one signed up!

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)

Calgary Spartan Race 2018 (19)

It’s fast.

Calgary Spartan Race 2018 (17)

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.

Calgary Spartan Race 2018 (11)

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

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.