Slippery In Chicago Spartan Super U.S Championship Series

“You’ll know at the finish line” is the famous motto of the Spartan Race. But, if you ran the Chicago Super you probably knew by the time you reached the parking lot at The Richmond Hunt Club.  The rain had hammered the area the previous week and since this race was part of the US Championship Series most racers were super curious about the course conditions.

Well, thanks in part to my 4×4 Jeep I could park on site and from the moment I stepped out of my vehicle and sank into 4 inches of mud I knew this was going to be a long day. Grabbing my ID and picking my way through the slop to the festival area I made my usual pit stop at the restrooms. Upon opening the door, I found that I really couldn’t distinguish where the muck stopped, and the actual toilet started due to the high levels of mud. Although after finding the seat I realized this may have been the only dry spot to sit on the entire property. I’ve raced from coast to coast for many years and this may have been the worst slop that I had ever encountered. If ankle-deep muck was the only thing to walk through from my Jeep clear to the start line what was the rest of the course going to be like? One word, Nasty.

Spartan started the 8.1-mile Super at the far end of the festival area and immediately threw athletes along a trail on the edge of a cornfield which made racers shoes feel more like concrete blocks. The small streams along the trail were swollen with water due to the storms but provided a small opportunity to rinse off some of the built-up muck.

A series of low walls were placed in this location to thin out the crowd a bit before testing racers grip strength on the Monkey Bars. A short distance away the inverted wall was set-up leading to the Herc Hoist. The ropes on the hoist had already become slick with mud by the time I got there making this obstacle much tougher than usual. Hands still slick from the constant slop made Twister an adventure as the burpee zones were so packed with people that racers just started doing burpees wherever they could find a spot. The bucket brigade, which was next up, was relatively short thankfully but the Atlas Stone carry a bit further down the line was brutal as each stone had a coating of thick mud around it making even the strongest competitor dig deep.

The Rolling mud and dunk wall were next up combined with the first of two barbed wire crawls. My initial thought upon seeing this was “Why do we need more water with a dunk wall”? You really noticed the stench of the standing water as you made your way under the barbed wire. And just to be cruel, after getting finished with the crawl which left you caked with mud Spartan threw the Z wall at you.

There is nothing worse than a slick Z wall, all obstacles were made much worse as you never really had a chance to get your hands dry during the race. Now approaching the halfway point of the race, the effects of the sloppy conditions could clearly be felt as athletes were struggling with obstacles that normally didn’t slow down most competitive racers.

I noticed that at the 8-foot wall, which was the next obstacle on the course, there were way more people doing burpees than I’ve ever seen. The bender followed up the wall climb, and this obstacle was a new one to me. This new obstacle consisted of a series of ascending vertical pipes starting about 7 feet off the ground with bars placed about every 2 feet apart. The structure curved back towards an athlete and reminded me a bit of the Battlefrog delta ladder.

The race was now at its furthest point from the festival area and the trail meandered through a section of the property used for paintball games. Along this stretch, Spartan placed their second barbed wire crawl along with their vertical cargo net climb before sending racers back to running alongside the rows of corn.

The Stairway to Sparta and a series of hurdles were the next obstacles athletes encountered on the trail leading to a hay bale wall. Just let me say right now that mud and hay stick to you like nothing else! I mean, don’t some sections of the world use mud and hay to built houses? And what better obstacle to try to traverse while carrying a house on you than Olympus right? As an added bonus, if you failed on Olympus the burpee pit was in a solid foot of muck. These were the worst burpees I’ve ever done in my life as you brought up 15 pounds of mud with each repetition.

The plate drag and rope climb? These two tasks were next up and close to impossible to complete. Dragging that sled through the thick mud? Yeah right. Climbing a rope slick with mud? Welcome to the burpee train. Now the sandbag carry only consisted of a single bag, and the distance of the carry wasn’t that far, but it kind of felt like trying to ice skate with a small child on your back.

The last section of the course led back towards the festival area where family and friends could easily see you miss your spear throw and roll around in more soup doing your burpees. If you happened to get lucky and hit the spear, then your hands were still dry! Until you ran around the corner and found the Yokohama tires sitting in the same shit you’ve been battling all day.

Those tires were already tough to get a grip on without trying to flip them in a batch of Montezuma’s Revenge. The burpee pit for that? Yup, more slop.

By this time, you could see the finish line and I’m guessing most people were thinking the same thing I was. Please, don’t let me fail another obstacle and have to burpee in more mud. Luckily the A-frame cargo was next up, no failing this! Then the slip wall. Not a problem, I might finish strong here. Only one last obstacle before the fire jump, the multi-rig. The rig set-up for this event wasn’t the worst ever. Three rings on each side separated by a vertical pipe traverse. But like all the rest of the obstacles on this course, this one too was slippery with farm mud.

So, unless you had the grip strength of Thor or the running ability of Mercury this event was pretty much an unending burpee train.  My final thoughts on this event are as follows. With good weather conditions this course would not have been terrible, maybe not even U.S. Championship Series worthy as the obstacles were what you expected, the track was flat, and the distance wasn’t overwhelming.  But the massive amount of rain turned this race into a brutal suckfest that was worthy of a Championship race.

Aston Down South West Super, Sprint and Hurricane Weekend 2018

Spartan returns, once again, to the Aston Down Airfield used by the RAF from the First World War. I have a love-hate relationship with this place, mainly stemming from my solo experience with the Spartan Super last year. Going into my first Super alone was certainly a daunting task and the aching, bruised body after certainly made it a day never to forget. This year, a little more of a seasoned racer and a little better prepared for what is to come, I have decided to return to Aston Down and be one medal closer to the Trifecta in 2018. This time, I’ve got friends.

“Every step you take gets you closer to the finish line”

Karl Allsop, Race Director at Spartan Race UK, ran his first Spartan Sprint at Bassingbourn Barracks in 2011. Karl spent some time talking with me about his love affair with Obstacle Course Racing that spawned from his first ever Spartan race. As Director of Race Operations, Karl has complete responsibility in the operational planning of Spartan Races within the UK.

 

The design of the Aston Down course, for Karl and his team, has really been a process of looking back on previous years and learning from them. I can tell that the course this year has been meticulously planned out, ensuring that the racers experience a challenging yet not impossible race that will really push them to their limits. “We really have had the benefit of being able to say, if we place this obstacle here, then what next? If we have the Atlas Carry here do we really want to be going into Bucket Brigade? Are our racers really going to be able to do it? But what we don’t want to do is sort of deflate our racers.” As a racer, it’s nice to know that those behind Spartan are interested in helping participants reach their goals even if it is in a painful, brutal way.

“Aston has become sort of synonymous with the ‘Death Valley’ it’s this valley that we flood with obstacles.”

I asked Karl how he felt this season, and the approach that has been taken to it is different from the last. “I think we have seen some great growth, not just for Spartan, but for the sport as a whole over the last few years. I think Aston South West is a great example of how we have seen it change and grow. The first year we had maybe just over a 1000 people for the race day. We then grew to just over 3000 last year and we’ve topped just over 4000 this year.”

As the numbers have grown, I really felt that Spartan Race has focused on listening to their racers and strived to make changes based on their experiences. “A lot of our obstacles have been upgraded for this race and the reason for that is that our racers are getting better, they’re getting faster, they’re getting stronger. It’s great that we now have to adapt to our racers”.

The desire that every racer will have the same experience when taking part in a Spartan Race is what drives the team to talk to the racers and spectators to get their views on what would make race day more enjoyable. Aston will improve on Spartan’s ‘rocking festival’ area where spectators and tired racers and finishers, can enjoy the Spartan atmosphere. It’s free to spectators and will even contain ‘festival obstacles’ to entertain throughout the day. “We spent a lot of time last year asking what do you want, what do you want to see, how do you want to do it? So this year we have more spectator areas and have designed the course a little differently just to give the spectators something to look at.”

And finally, an important part of enjoying the course rides a lot on the support you have around you. Not only the friends you run with but the encouragement you get from Spartan volunteers. My experience of these guys has been nothing but positive. I’ve seen many cheering, clapping and dancing the racers through the tough challenges that Spartan puts them through. “You get the guys who are just smiling, they’re laughing, they’re high fiving everyone you know there is mud flying everywhere and its infectious isn’t it?”

“A big focus this year has been on what does the racer actually want in terms of when they come to a Spartan Race? What do they want to see, what do they want to feel? And how do we slowly adapt and progress to that?”

A final round-up of Aston Down? The course layout for Spartan Race is always kept under tight wraps until race day but Karl was sure to let me know the gist of what to expect come Saturday. “If people want intensity, but they also want fun, then Aston is a great place to do it”. It’s going to be bigger and better than ever.

Aston did me right last year, it took me, chewed me up and spat me back out a better stronger racer. I’m glad to hear that Karl and his team have really taken these races up a notch and have done everything they can to make sure that those racing really get the most out of their time and out of themselves. Aston Down proves to be a show-stopping weekend of OCR magic and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

There are limited spots available for this weekend’s South West Super, Sprint and Hurricane Heat in Aston Down, Gloucestershire. Visit http://www.spartanrace.uk to book your place and get further information.

Photo Credits: Epic Action Imagery (www.epicactionimagery.com)

Spartan Super Austin: A Sticker filled Rocky Good Time

 Super Good Time

The Spartan Super Austin took place on May 19th, 2018.  While Sprint competitors would sadly be forced to experience a literal storm on the following Sunday, participants for the Super were able to experience a perfect storm of a much different type.  From time to time venues are not utilized to their utmost potential.  Spartan did not disappoint this year by creating a near perfect blend of sights, obstacles, and terrain.

Super Venue:

On Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet, Texas much more than the expected elevation can be found.  With beautiful Rocky hills scattered all about the ranch offered up nearly 1,300 feet of elevation gain throughout the race.  All the while beautiful views were a sight to behold both on and off course.  Terrain for this quintessential Texas venue ranged from sand to rocks to the occasional push through scrubby barb covered bushes.

Every step didn’t feel like “well this is a neat little trail” but more like “wow what a unique adventure.”  This is exactly what a racer should feel at such a destination venue.  Spartan showed that they knew how to utilize the beauty, size, and challenge of the Ranch to their utmost advantage.  Allowing their racers to truly soak in where they were will ensure return competitors next year.

Reveille Ranch

The Super Course:

Spartan had a lot of land to utilize to their advantage for this course and boy did they make the most of it.  Starting the course with a few walls as a warm-up we moved into one prickly barbed wire crawl. The elite males went over batches of thorns, stickers, and fire ants.  It wasn’t a long barbed wire crawl, but man was it tough.  I heard later that for elite women it wasn’t bad, and experienced a smooth ride during my second run of an open wave. All I can say is you are welcome for the elite men being so gracious as to use their bodies as pin cushions.  Check the arms and back of anyone who got there first and what they went through was pretty clear.

Bucket Brigade, Bender, Stairway to Sparta, the sandbag carry and many other favorites were spread out over the next few miles.  The expanses of running and climbing over rocky terrain and dirt trails between obstacles were nearly perfect.  Hitting these few simpler obstacles and wearing racers down with hills led to the first big challenge: Twister.  By this point, the dry Texas heat had begun to get to many.  Spartan did a superb job ensuring no one became dehydrated (unless by choice) offering up eight water stations (one for each mile.)  After twister came a great downhill portion that allowed runners to open up.

This then led into a nice little pick your poison culvert crawl in which competitors could choose a route, but it was hard to tell which was easiest.  After we made the culvert crawls we completed some actual climbing using both arms and legs.  This was a welcome challenge.

More obstacles and water crossings were spread out perfectly over more wicked, fun terrain.  Spartan had a great finishing portion for both racers and spectators.  After mud mounds, a dunk wall, slip wall, A-frame and cargo net competitors had one more good climb to the spectator area.  With the finish line in sight, success seemed so close, but at the same time could be so far away.  After jumping a trio of four-foot walls, competitors still stared down a wicked grip gauntlet that could cost them lots of burpees.  No one wants to wuss out on burpees in front of thousands of spectators and fellow competitors.

The first monster ready to take out your grip and shoulder strength was the Herc Hoist.  The multi-rig and Olympus followed.  This created not only one of the more challenging final portions I’ve personally experienced at the end of a Spartan (or any) race but created a great atmosphere for the festival.  Sometimes, finish lines can feel like a place where we are all just waiting for people to come in.  This felt less like a waiting area and more like a sporting event.  The goal of making OCR a legitimate respected sport needs finishes like this.  They rile the spectators.  You can only see someone go through a rig so many times.  However, the announcer and DJ did a GREAT job of keeping both the racers and crowd involved and fired up.

The festival:

The announcer and DJ did a great job of keeping a good vibe going throughout each wave.  Everyone seemed to be having fun and had a few reasons to stick around even after completing their run.  With conveniently located booths, Amstel light, and festival contests to compete in it wasn’t just a race but was an experience. I’ve personally seen Spartan drop the ball here before, so it was nice to see them creating the experience I know they are capable of.

Final Words

All in all, this was probably THE BEST Spartan race I have ever run.  With beautiful sights aplenty, great challenge, superb course design, and a great experience this event reminded me why Spartan was one of my first OCRs.  I will definitely be back. I would certainly recommend this to any Spartan to add to their race calendar next year.

The obstacle variety was great and everything seemed to click for Spartan Super in Austin.  I hope they continue to put this much effort into venues and bring a great experience to Texas for Dallas as well.  When you take it for what it is.  You accept Spartan for what they are and what they are about.  There isn’t much improvement they could have made.  Directors could innovate obstacles a bit more.  However, I think that fine-tuning of obstacles like Twister and Olympus have helped improve the experience.  Grading it for what it is and at what Spartan does (rather than in comparison to other events) I give this race 5 AROOS out of 5.

Spartan Seattle Super 2018 – Muddageddon the Sequel

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Prelude:
Yeah, I know that “Just do it!” is the Nike slogan, but that’s how I felt about writing this Race Recap. “Git `er Done” would be another quote I could use… I was really on the fence about writing it, but I knew I really just needed to sit down & suck it up & bash away at the keys for a bit & get this out. I apologize if this race recap doesn’t hold up to most of those that I have done in the past but it was a rather in & out experience this year. Just a heads up right now, this is more of an account of my experience up to & during the race than a race recap.

 

Day Trippin’:
It all started Friday, my buddy Troy & I headed out the door midday on our 2-hour drive to Seattle. The border crossing was quick & easy but the whole drive into Seattle was just horrendous due to the sheer amount of rain that was coming down. It was so thick it was almost like a fog. We arrived in Seattle in the early afternoon & decided we would wait a bit longer to head to the Open House at the site to see if the rain would subside. The rain never did subside & even though the site was only a 25-minute drive away we decided to skip going as we didn’t want to get soaked & miserable the night before the event. In the end, we regretted not going so we decided we might just as well take a stab at it. The rain let up a bit finally around 5 pm. When I checked Google Maps the traffic looked rather bad as the trip time was now at 1:30 so we decided to just stay where we were & not fight the traffic & bad weather.

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Getting to the Event:
Our wave time was at 9:30 am so we decided to head out at 7:30 am. Well, it looks like everyone else decided to do the same thing as Google Maps stated it would take just over 2 hours to get to the site. We grabbed our stuff & headed out. The weather was a bit better on Saturday, it was now only raining slightly & in spurts so I was optimistic that the day would go well. Our drive to the event site was pretty easy going & we were making good time so I was unsure what Google Maps was talking about & then we saw it… We were driving along the two-lane highway & we saw the Event Site off to our right just within grasping distance. I also, however, saw in the distance what looked like a line of cars parked in the shoulder on the Highway. I figured it was just a bunch of desperate people parking on the side of the Highway then walking to the site & then realized, nope, that’s a lineup of cars trying to get to the exit! We were still 4.5 Km (2.8Mi) away from the entrance to the site. We still had an hour & a half to make it to the site & it looked bleak. The line moved quite slowly & luckily didn’t seem to stop much. We didn’t end up getting to registration until nearly 10:30 am! It ended up taking us 3 hours to get to the site when it should have only taken 25 minutes in total!

Spartan-Seattle-Super-2018-03

 

The Event:
Despite all of the rain, this year seemed to be less muddy than last year minus the parking lot. I read posts from others stating they thought it was worse, but I don’t think they recall the sheer amount of goopy shoe & leg stealing mud that there was last year. Yes, I can say now, it was muddy, but I still think last year was worse. The parking lot seemed worse than last year as we saw several people stuck just entering the site & getting towed out of their ruts. Registration & bag check went quickly. We set off in the 10:45 wave & headed straight up the first hill. It wasn’t all that slippery yet & it wasn’t very long. The released map had the course @ 13 Km (8 Mi) & was strangely accurate as my Garmin clocked it in at just over 13.75 Km (8.5 Mi). For me, the rest of the event was a bit of a blur. Head down & determined to finish. It rained lightly most of the time I was on course, at one time there was about a 15-minute downpour. I wasn’t in my normal happy go lucky talk to everyone & splash people with mud head space during this event. Probably due to missing the Open House & all the darned rain.

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Luckily I put on multiple layers. There were many that were wearing WAY less, but I am glad I wore those layers as I was relatively warmer than I was last year. Towards the end of the race, we came across a young girl that we had seen earlier on course, she was only wearing a shirt & shorts & was shivering & delirious. I gave her & her dad one of my Mylar blankets & a pack of hand warmers to help her. Volunteers had called medical & I saw them coming so I left them to it & kept on. I got ahead of myself there, sorry… 28 Obstacles, they didn’t seem as hard as last year. I was able to get the Herc Hoist without much trouble where I barely moved it last year & needed a second person to help get it done.

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The Barbed wire crawl was quite long & broken up into three sections. I remember people finishing one and then gasping that there was another & yet another as they were all quite long. I would have had a solid hit on the Spearman if it wasn’t for the large knot in the rope. Everyone around me agreed it was still a viable throw so I tied the rope up so no one else would use it & moved on.

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The Yokohama Tire Flip was next. Those tires were freakin’ heavy & I ended up having to get help with flipping it so I did half the normal amount of Burpees.

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The Bridge they built out of Storage Containers over the entrance was pretty awesome. I recall them trying to do this last year at Mt. Seymour but they ran out of time to get it done which is too bad as it was fun to climb up & over those waiting to come into the event area. After the Bridge came the Rope Climb. Only recently at my local gym had I gotten about halfway up a rope & it’s something I’ve always struggled with. Well, today was a new day! I actually got all the way up that freakin’ rope climb hung on like hell with one hand & rang that bell! If there was one take away from this race, it’s that I finally got to that darn bell! Sure, I’ve gotten most of the way up with knots in the past, but I’ve never gotten up one without help before. Yay me! It looks like the training & techniques are finally rubbing off! The second Barbed wire crawl was broken up into sections again but the whole thing was more like a swim as it was totally submerged under water & it looked like some were struggling to even keep their heads above water at times.

Spartan-Seattle-Super-2018-08

The newly sealed Bucket Carry was also pretty brutal as I’ll admit I typically leave about an inch or so of space when I fill it up just because I’m a wuss. But, not this time! It started to rain a little heavier & that sure didn’t help me with my normally non-existent grip. But, I remembered what someone else wrote & also saw others doing, flip the bucket upside down & use the edge of the top to hold onto. Genius! I ended up carrying it like that until about 3/4’s of the way through where I started to hold it sideways & ended up having to put it down more than I’d hoped. I got through it though, even though they had us go up, down & back up & down the hill again. Hello, lower back & forearms!

Seeing the Fire Jump as we came down the last hill was a great feeling. I knew that I would actually finish my first of three Spartan Races this year to get my first pie piece for my Trifecta. The fire wasn’t exactly roaring, but I could smell the smoke & feel the heat right as soon as I got to the Multi-Rig. In the end, seeing we would have finished together if I hadn’t decided we should get individual Fire Jump photos, I am stealing my Buddy Troy’s time as I let him go & jump across the fire first & he crossed the finish at 2:29:59. Just UNDER 2 & a half hours! I was quite happy with that! We managed to shave just over an hour off of our 4:40 time from last year which was a 16 Km (10 Mi) 21 obstacle course.

 

 

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In Conclusion:
They can’t all be fun in the sun races, & this one left me wondering why I do this at the start. As I was walking up to the entrance I ended up bumping into someone that had recognized us from the Sun Peaks race last year. (http://obstacleracingmedia.com/race/spartan-review/spartan-beast-sun-peaks-2017/) He told me that he loved my Recap & forwarded it to others to read as a form of training for any others that may come. With that, getting up that darned Rope Climb & jumping that finishers fire, I remembered why I do this! To test & push myself. I may not be my own biggest fan, but having people cheering out on the course REALLY helps! Next time you’re out there, scream, holler, & shout encouragements to the racers because it DOES make a difference.

Wrap Up:
The Race was great after you got over all of the rain & the mud. The Festival area was quite well organized. Even though I was in & out quite quickly. I remember there being sufficient restrooms outside & inside the festival area. There was also a lot of vendors that I just didn’t end up paying much attention to. If I do come back next year, I really hope the rain lets us be for once.

PS:
I’ve mentioned last years race quite a bit in this article. Feel free to go check it out here http://obstacleracingmedia.com/race/spartan-seattle-super-emerald-city-open-2017/

 

Your Muddy Buddy,
-Ryan Fick

 

All photos are credited to Spartan

Spartan Vancouver, B.C. (Mt. Seymour) 2017 Sprint/Super Weekend

Spartan-Vancouver,-B.C.-2017-SprintSuper-Weekend-01-Matthew-Romero

June 10/11 2017 was the date of this year’s Sprint/Super weekend that was held up on a snow covered Mt. Seymour in beautiful Vancouver B.C.
Many racers knew ahead of time what they might be getting themselves into as pictures of snowboarders wearing shorts & sunglasses were still being posted 2 weeks before the event. Luckily things heated up the week before the race & some of the snow toward the base started to melt.

I got to see things from a bit of a different perspective & point of view at this event as I was both working it & volunteering. I initially arrived at the site on Friday June 9th at 7:30am. Due to all of the posts leading up to this day on Facebook I really didn’t know what to expect up on the mountain. I ended up packing a duffel bag full of cloths, everything from shorts & sandals to long sleeved shirts & rubber boots. I’m glad I did as I ended up using almost every bit that I brought throughout the weekend. The temperature throughout the day was pretty good & I got away with wearing a T-Shirt & a hoodie when it did lower a bit. We had sun, hail, rain, wind, fog & the rest of the whole gambit of Vancouver weather none of any of it sticking around long enough to get completely comfortable with. I ended up spending the vast majority of my time on Friday helping flag off the kids race course & setting up Registration. On Saturday I ended up helping a Registration again then I volunteered over at the kids race. I’m so glad I did! The weather during the kids race was sunny with a little fog rolling through here & there.

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Volunteering at the kids race has to have been the best thing that I did all weekend, even outside of participating in the Super. I was stationed on the bottom of the grassy but very wet toboggan hill at the spear throw which was furnished with plain long wooden dowels & hay bales, there’s no need to be worried, there were no points on the dowels. The course was kind of split into two sides & the kids got to run through some wooded areas a couple times when going from one side to the other & coming back again. Hearing those little tykes yell out “Aroo” before the race and seeing them run down the hill with reckless abandon really warmed my heart. I believe the kids races started around 9:30am & went until 2pm. The weekend is a bit of a blur but I believe it started with the elite category & then ranged throughout all of the ages. We had a regular length course & a bit longer course for the elites & older age ranges. As per the norm, the course got a bit slipperier throughout the day. Watching the kids race really helped get me pumped up. Just seeing the energy in these kids was infectious & really helped me get over any of my fears and tribulations that had grown over the weeks about the weather & the race. The best moment of the entire weekend happened when I was manning the spear throw, there was this one little girl who failed to get her spear close to the hay bales. Her dad grabbed her hand to move her to the next obstacle but I could tell she was disappointed so I told her she could try again & she ran right back over again. I gave a lot of kids this option to try again. Try, try again right? I moved her a bit closer but again she missed. I picked up another spear & handed it to her, this time tapping it from behind when she launched it & she hit a hay bale. She jumped up & down & hooted then started to run off to her dad to go to the next obstacle. I turned my attention to the next child & heard a little voice behind me saying “excuse me” when I turned around it was that little girl, she came back & gave my legs the biggest hug & said “Thank You!”. My heart melted & I had happy tears in my eyes for the next bit. Yeah, I’m a big softie! That right there is why I volunteer. =) Thank you little girl. On to Sunday!

Sunday morning came WAY too early with the long hours I had been putting in on site since Friday & all, but I felt great. Maybe it was due to the absolutely wonderful time I had during the kids race the day before, the new friends I had while on site, or the fact that I now knew just exactly what I was getting into after talking to those whom had been out on course for the Sprint the day before. A friend of ours, Karolina, had come from Victoria to stay with my wife & I. She was going to run both races on Saturday & Sunday but unfortunately rolled her ankle and received a 1st degree sprain a few days prior so she decided to still come and volunteer at the race. We both headed up again early to the site to help run Registration for a few hours. I was getting rather excited about running my second super by this time. My wife Charity & our friend Troy whom I was going to participate in the event with arrived on-site around 9:30. We said our goodbyes to everyone in Registration and headed over to the Starting corral.

I had been listening to Chris the DJ since Friday, it really seems he was rather ecstatic to be at this event. Even Friday while we were all setting up he was blasting some tunes and encouraging everyone with his enthusiasm. This rolled into both Saturday & Sunday, he was on point this weekend I must say. We barely got into the corral on time for the 10:30 wave. We heard the last bit of the speech, shouted out a few “Aroo’s” & we were off.

The first few obstacles came pretty quickly. Das Boat (think x-large propane tank laying on its side), Hurdles (It felt like they grabbed some of the rails that snow boarders would ride on & turned them sideways) & then OUT.

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It was a bit of an uphill climb to our next obstacle, the Sandbag carry. The snow made for either good grip if you found a good packed footprint to step into or a lousy grip if you got the soft stuff as it kinda just moves out of the way. A bit more hill & then back down. Now, at first when I was going downhill I walked slowly & surefootedly (is that even a word?) but soon I learnt you could go pretty quickly as long as you slide your feet out on an angle & kept your toes pointed up a bit, it was kind of like roller skating up a steep hill but in reverse! I ended up getting better & better throughout the race & at one point I was flying down the hills without care in the world. I actually remember one point about 3/4’s of the way through the race where I had sucked back a gel & after it kicked in a few minutes later I was skipping & hopping down the hill singing the “We’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz” Ahh, the fun of being hopped up on gels! After my quite literal decent into madness came along the Atlas Carry. I had been able to take this one on in Vegas so I had hoped I could do it again. It took me two tries but I got one of the rocks up, carried it to the other side, did my burpees & then carried it right back. Yay me! I know it doesn’t sound like a huge feat, but I REALLY need to work on my grip strength!

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After that came the Block Pull & a new take on the Bucket Carry which incorporated Snow instead of rocks that I really liked, maybe it’s because the snow was lighter than rocks.  =)  A few more obstacles later & we came back into the festival area to finish up our 1st lap. The course was a slightly modified version of the first lap which I likes as you knew kinda what was coming. We unfortunately didn’t get the cargo bridge, I know they had it partly assembled on Friday afternoon but I’m not quite sure why it got disassembled & put off to the side, perhaps we ran out of time to properly build it.

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Up the snow wall which was a nice steep hill with a rope to help you get up if needed, an 8 foot wall and back to Das Boat & the hurdles again. We did an extended hill climb this time. I really wish I had my head fully on my shoulders before going as I totally forgot to charge up my Garmin watch but according to my wife’s our total elevation gain was 450meters or 1476ft. I thought this climb would never end, we would get to one crest & then climb some more to the next one, then repeat it over again. Coming back down this time as I mentioned before seemed to get much easier although my wife mostly opted to slide down the chutes that a lot of others had made which also looked like fun so I tried it once too. Luckily there were no obstacles to be found this time on the trek up or down the mountain. We came out a section that I had seen the day before near the kids race but was told wouldn’t be part of the race. I’m assuming they were mistaken as it wasn’t part of the Sprint but it was used as part of the Super. On our way through the back woods on a new trail we hadn’t seen on our first lap we ended up having to work our way through what I would put on par as most of the mud pits that were strewn throughout the Seattle Super course. There were a few people stuck in the mud here & I tried to make my way over to them but got stuck up past my knee as well & had to keep moving otherwise might meet the same demise they did. They did have friends working their way around back to them so I wasn’t too too worried. Once through there we made or way over to the Spear throw & I landed the hardest hit that I’ve made so far. That sucker went elbow deep into the hay bales & took a lot outta me just to get it back out. From there came the Rope Climb, the Slip wall & then the fire jump. Now, I’m not gunna slag the firejump too much, but it was quite a short width & seemed to look like the propane tank was low as fire was only coming out of the first quarter. I was hoping that Spartan would have had their photos up by now & that’s some of the reason why this blog post is a bit later than I had hoped.  I found some pictures online of the fire before the race & during the Sprint & it looked quite healthy then. I guess making it wait for me to finish my stroll through the hills of Mt. Seymour took its toll on it. Either way, the 3 of us decided to try and get the best finishing pics we could so we took on that fire one at a time. Finishing felt wonderful! Yeah, some would say it wasn’t long enough, and I kinda agree. I heard anywhere from 9.7k (6miles) up to 10.6k (6.5miles) It all depends on who you asked. My wife’s Garmin clocked us in at 10.2k (6.33miles) It just drive home, to me, the fact that back in September at Sun Peaks when we did the Sprint we traversed 9.2k (5.6miles) I should have gotten a Super credit for THAT race! But, hey, I’m good with it. I actually decided to make Sun Peaks this year the finishing piece of my Trifecta & do the Beast there, God help me!

In conclusion, I had a great time working with Spartan Race Canada, volunteering & spending time with friends and family. I look forward to this event again next year. My fears of being frozen were abated by my wonderful Virus Coffee Infused warming gear & the fact that Mother Nature decided to wake up & warm up the climate a bit. Next up, Tough Mudder in Whistler B.C., there is also supposed to be snow there & I hear there are some bears strewn about just to make things more interesting. Oh my!

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Cheers!

Photo Credit: Matthew Romero, Peter Collins, John Tai, www.IcebreakConsulting.com, Ryan Fick

Spartan Seattle Super / Emerald City Open 2017

Mudageddon & Crampfest – Two very accurate words that describe the course which was set out before the sold out first stop of the Spartan Race U.S Championship Series for the Emerald City Open held at the Meadow Wood Equestrian Center in Snohomish Washington.

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Perhaps the 16k/10m course didn’t start out so bad, but for those of us who started mid-day after the 1000’s of racers in the morning, the mud was plentiful & very hungry! I personally got stuck in it up passed my knee twice & required the help of others to get out.  I luckily kept my shoes on my feet, but I heard rumors that not everyone’s shoes made it out intact.  Think, ravenously hungry Sarlacc pit from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.  There was also more than ample waist high to chest deep back woods cold water trudges to cramp up your legs.  The weather was on a bit of the cooler side (68f/20c) with some light to mid rain & some sunny breaks.

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Location: In between Everett & Bellevue & off over to the East.  The Google’s failed us a few times when we got closer to the site.  A sign along the Highway would have helped as the exit wasn’t very clearly marked.  There was a sign deeper off the road but I hadn’t seen it until after we passed the small little turnoff.  We finally arrived around 9:30 am & it took us about 40mins to get to the Parking Lot.

Parking: Quite ample but it was in a rather soft grounded field.  I understand not being able to put down some gravel, but we ended up getting stuck on the way out & needed a push to get out & we also ended up pushing a few others that got stuck too.

Registration & Packet Pickup: Easy to find & quick to get through for those that had their bar codes printed out, you didn’t even need ID to gain entry.  I somehow printed everyone’s bar codes but my own & there was a separate section for those like minded individuals that did the same.  A quick ID check & I had my timing chip & headband.

Amenities & Showers: The water trudge from the 3rd to last obstacle did a pretty good job of cleaning me off & my dry robe was more than roomie enough to get changed in so I didn’t end up checking out the showers or the changing rooms.  I did, however, have to make a few pit stops before & after the race & there were more than ample Port-O-Potties outside of registration near the parking area & at the back of the festival area.  I think a lot of people may have missed the ones at the back & went to the one’s outside the festival area as they were cleverly sectioned off & surrounded by cloth walls.

Food & Vendors: I thought there were quite a few options for food, everything from sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers to slushies, ice cream & ice cold soul quenching beer.

Obstacles & Course: There were ~28 obstacles to challenge those of all skill & fitness levels with ~5 water stations.  One of the stations stocked halved Cliff Shot Bloks at it.  I cannot remember if there was anything else on course.  There were additional recovery bars, drinkable yogurt, life-giving bananas and other goodies at the finish line.

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The double sandbag carry & bucket carries were both respectively evil! Is it me, or are course designers getting more maniacal? The distance you had to carry weights was lengthy & filled with multiple hills.

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Who found these new ~400lbs tires? Dear lord, these things were brutal! My buddy that was with me easily flipped the water filled balloon bags which I have no hope of flipping for a while yet, but when it got to the tires he was defeated by them.  The Herc Hoist was on-site & I recently encountered it in Las Vegas, well, someone apparently decided to easily double the weight of those ones.  Many people contributed the raised toughness of the obstacles to this being a Championship race.

This race was my second OCR race that I have run in the United States & it provided me my second pie piece for my coveted Trifecta or Tri’Fick’ta as my wife & I are calling it.  Volunteers & Spartan staff were all quite courteous and had smiles on their faces.  We arrived after most of the hype from the Championship had subsided & the cameras had been put away so to me, it was just a regular old Spartan.  It’s a shame they didn’t keep the live feed going till closer to the end, it wouldn’t have been hard, even just at the finish line to watch some fire jumps.  I’m not the fittest of individuals, but I’ve run my fair share of 5k/3m OCRs in the past.  I’ve participated in an 18k/11m Tough Mudder but for some reason, this ~15k/9m Super was freaking me out a bit.  After finally completing it, I think it earned it’s dread.  I hadn’t known there was going to be so much sticky gooey mud & most people told me it would be a pretty flat course which I was quite happy about.  In the end, one foot in front of the other got me through it.  Recently while doing some light training at home on my treadmill, one of my knees started to act up a bit.  I’ve seen a physiotherapist but I wasn’t happy with the visit so I’ll be going to see another one that’s more geared toward sports medicine.  During the race, I had the same knee act up.  I believe it was due to all the pulling pressure from getting constantly stuck in the mud as it subsided rather quickly after the race.  I really wish I had brought my camera on coarse & wasn’t running late to head back home so I could have taken some pictures as there was more mud than there was grass.  =/

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For some reason, I have signed up for another Spartan Super in Vancouver/Mt. Seymour on June the 11th, so be on the lookout for a recap on that.  Until then Spartans… Aroo!

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Photo Credit: Spartan Race