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!

 

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-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.

 

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-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.

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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…

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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.

 

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-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
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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. 

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It’s fast.

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

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It can be muddy and we NEED mud sometimes.

Calgary Spartan Race 2018 AB

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

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

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

Sorry, Josh. Mud is here to stay. 


Calgary Spartan Race 2018 Josj

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

Calgary Spartan Race 2018 (5)

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

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

Calgary Spartan Race 2018 (4)

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

The obstacles feel dense and exciting.

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

Calgary Spartan Race 2018 (1)

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

Calgary Spartan Race 2018 (18)

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

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

Wrecked

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

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

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

All Photos Credit: Spartan Race Canada

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.

Dirt Runner’s Warrior Rush The End of an Era

Since 2011 Dirt Runner, located in Marseilles, Illinois has hosted many memorably significant events in OCR. Many of us in the Midwest ran our first Spartan Race here. Many of us caught the “Spartan Rash” one year when the course had its barbed wire crawl through a poison ivy patch.

One of the very last Battlefrog races was held here, along with many smaller events that Dirt Runner put on throughout the years, but not anymore. Dirt Runner has now joined King’s Domain in Ohio and The Battlegrounds in Missouri as permanent OCR locations that have closed their doors. Warrior Rush, held on July 14, was the last event ever held at this iconic location and even though registration numbers were low I just had to go. This location was always my “home” course and I’m going to miss racing there, so I just couldn’t pass on climbing up that hill made up of logs jutting out of the ground one last time.

Known for having some of the most physically demanding obstacles in the area DR’s Warrior Rush didn’t disappoint. The 3.6-mile course stayed in large part around the festival area, avoiding all the nasty ravines and steep crawls on along the back half of the property, which was totally alright with me. I’ve spent enough time over the years carrying sandbags up and down those steep slopes! Ok enough with me reminiscing and onto the event! The Warrior Rush event featured four different levels of competition to choose from. Elite and Open class which required just a single lap to be completed, along with a 6-hour and 24-hour division for those who enjoy the multiple lap option.

DR started off their last event with a brief trail run through what was once the kiddie course. Although the kiddie part ended very abruptly as DR turned one of their old kid obstacles into a super challenging rig consisting of hanging ropes and rings suspended from above at varying heights. Failure on this obstacle in the Elite heat meant 100 burpees, and this obstacle proved to thin out the herd rather quickly.  After completing this grip killing obstacle the next section of the course ran along a mowed path cut through the former parking area for larger events as this section of the property was now overgrown with prairie grass.

I’ll call this segment of the course “walls and carries” as many different sized walls were placed along this stretch separated by the different types of carries. These carries consisted of cement blocks, tires, logs, and buckets. High stepping through a set of car tires started athletes on their way out of the prairie grass and into the timber, but not before a series of incredibly tight low crawls through metal tubing. The rain from the previous night made this trek slick and I found getting up to speed to be very difficult. Racers got a small taste of the terrain change here as hills and cutbacks became the norm. A set of monkey bars were set up along this section of the course as were the rolling balance logs and a series of sternum checkers set at varying heights. A delta ladder and inverted wall were also nestled in along the trail as athletes now started to make their way back to the festival area.

 

A spear throw was the first obstacle that greeted athletes upon their return to the festival area. Following that up a short distance away was a rock climbing wall and a traverse across the very first Z wall, rumor has it that Spartan stole this twist on the wall traverse and used it as their own. At this point, DR played on a racers fears now as a combination of swimming and heights were required using the pond and cargo net on site.

Racers had to climb up a wooden ladder and then jump into the pond.  Then a short swim over to a floating dock needed to be completed before climbing onto a floating dock. After crossing over the dock it was back into the water for another short swim to a vertical cargo net suspended 25 feet over the pond suspended by a wire. If you had an issue with heights then this was not the obstacle for you.  Upon getting to the top I found that the net would wobble back and forth like crazy, and I found myself almost too frozen to continue as my fear of heights almost got the best of me. Once you negotiated the cargo net it was back into the drink for a short swim to the other side as a set of inverted walls and delta ladders awaited you upon getting back on dry land.

 

The last section of the course, located entirely inside the festival area, really took it out of you as all of the obstacles were virtually right next to one another. This obstacle gauntlet started off with a semi tire flip for distance. Once complete, an athlete then picked up that same tire for a farmers carry over the same distance. A stairway of tractor tires now needed to be climbed over as the first “stair” consisted of a single tire and the last consisted of four. A balance log over a moat could then be found immediately after dismounting the tires.

The weaver was presented to races next followed by another cargo net climb and a series of over-unders made out of timber. Another set of high knees was again required as rows of car tires were now laid down on the path to DR’s version of Tip of the Spear. The setup for this fan favorite consisted of three sections separated by a set of overhead pipe traverses.

The first section required an athlete to cross using only rock climbing holds, whiles the second and third consisted of suspended ropes. Atlas Stone carries took center stage as the next obstacle in the gauntlet followed up by a moat crossing and low crawl. No trip to DR would be complete without a climb up their slip wall. From there only a rope climb and barbed wire crawl separated a racer from their well-deserved bling!

Warrior Rush ended up being what you expected from an OCR held at Dirt Runner.  The obstacles were tough as DR always likes to challenge you. The parking and pics were free as DR never liked to nickel and dime you to death, and the comradery afterward was outstanding as always. I for one am going to miss bringing the family here as every one of my family members have competed here at some point in time. While Dirt Runner has officially closed their doors fear not, as their popular functional OCR series The DRX Games will take their show on the road for events in Ohio and Wisconsin later on in 2018.