Montane’s Cheviot Goat – England’s Loneliest Winter Ultra

In most races we do, our friends and family offer encouragement and say things like “good on ya” for trying.  The Cheviot Goat Ultra is not one of those races.  In the lead up to this event, the few times I’d honestly explain what the Cheviot entailed I’d watch facial expressions turn from curiosity to horror.  Then I’d get the exasperated follow up: “why would you do that to yourself?”

 

Well, the Cheviot Goat is billed as England’s Loneliest Winter Ultra.  As the crow flys, it’s an unmarked course that traverses 54 miles along the hills and bogs near Scotland.  By most standards, the individual mountains are fairly small but they collectively manage to gain 9,800 feet.  The weather’s cold, the winds are strong, and the “Bogs of Eternal Misery” are truly awful. The exposure is so real that runners are required to carry a survival bag and GPS tracker with an SOS button.  If people quit anywhere past the halfway point they’ll likely need both to make it long enough for Mountain Rescue to extract them.

 

After reading about this last year, I was so turned on that I flew in from Alaska to join 278 like-minded runners from across the globe last Saturday for the 2019 Cheviot.  Despite jet lag, pre-race insomnia and daily panic attacks leading up to race, when the 3-2-1 start happened all the nerves went to zero.  In almost all of the N+1 challenges I’ve done, once the safety of the starting corral is gone and the body has no other choice but to continue forward the near crippling anxiety and self-doubt invariably stops.

Shortly after the Start

Despite a bazillion false summits, the first five miles of climbing were amazing.  The initial course was muddy and truly sucked (literally and figuratively), but the steady stream of headlamps snaking through the respective elevations was surreal.  When the sun finally started to rise, the early morning lit up the multi-color hills so vividly that it felt like we were running within a work of art.  I lost several places stopping to take in the morning vistas, but didn’t regret the decision one bit.

Views that Validate Months of Training

The first genuine ordeal along the course was navigating the fabled Bogs of Eternal Misery.  They’re hilly and go on for miles!  I’d only read about these bogs, but the descriptions usually involved expletives and fear.  I can testify: the stories are true.  Bogs are crap things to “run” through.  There’s no straight path between them, they can be quite large and it’s anyone’s guess how deep you’ll sink if you fall into their water.  They’re a simple but terrifying thing to negotiate: line up from a tenuous position on one side to a landing spot on the other side you hope is stable enough to support your weight, then jump across several feet of water with the aid of prayer or trekking poles and hope you won’t fall into something that swallows you whole.  Screw it up and you’ll sink to your knees or worse.

The reward for graduating the bogs was climbing to the courses’s highest summit and namesake: The Cheviot. Since there were 80 MPH winds forecast for the evening, the race directors had us run the course in reverse so we’d hit this highest and most exposed peak early in the day.  It was a smart call.  Near the summit, the course marshals were supporting us in truly awful conditions.  The tents they had for shelter were being blown around like rag dolls, it was misty and cold!  I can’t adequately express how much I appreciate them for being out there in that weather to keep us safe.

 

From the start line to the Cheviot Summit, through to the halfway point at Barrowburn, navigation wasn’t really an issue.  The terrain often sucked, but finding the right path was manageable.  There were the treacherous stone slabs along the Pennine Way to guide us or clusters of people to follow.  But once we reunited with our drop bag at the halfway point and night fell, it became a different race altogether.

Luckily for me, I started the back half with a fighting chance because I’d made a friend.  Somewhere around mile 20, a group of us guys stopped to pee (#hydrateordie) and when we started running again I found myself pacing with a cool guy named Tim from Newcastle.  We’d both watched beaucoup navigation tutorials on YouTube, but if our lives came down to orienteering via compass we were as good as dead.  Continuing on like we did at night might have been more an act of faith than smart racing, but sometimes the dice are what you’ve got… At the very least, we felt safe having company.  We went off course a lot, but somehow always managed to find our way back and avoided dying.

 

Once it got colder and dark, it also started to rain and my glasses (which I really, really need to see) became useless for several hours.  The 80 MPH winds showed up a bit later and amplified the rain’s suck factor by a lot.  I was able to follow Tim’s feet and check my GPS for bearings when need be, but only briefly.  At its peak, the wind was so strong it ripped the glasses off my face so many times I had to secure them in my pack.  If it hadn’t have been for Tim’s help here (and elsewhere), I would not have finished this race.  Functional blindness wasn’t a contingency I’d planned for.  Friends matter.

 

The back half took so long that I stopped looking a my watch.  There were bogs, hills, bogs on hills, more bogs and more hills (with bogs). I got depressed, sleepy and started to hallucinate somewhere around mile 45.  Coming down from a hill (through more bogs), there was an unusual amount of glistening green grass that was covering grave markers spaced out through the mud.  I couldn’t figure out why they’d route us through a cemetery until I realized the gravestones I was seeing weren’t real.  Apparently, the 12 hours of sleep (total) in the days leading up to the Cheviot was enough to induce my first ever race day hallucination.  Despite this epiphany, the gravestones wouldn’t go away! For about another mile, I continued watching one gravestone after another pass underfoot without saying a word.

 

When I finally mentioned how sleepy I was feeling, one of the runners (aka Guardian Angel) pulled out a thermos of coffee and Tim handed me a caffeinated gel.  Literally within minutes, I got my mind right.  Over the remaining hours we’d get lost again, climb a bit more and muddle through more bogs, but after 19 hours and 21 minutes we finally ran through to the finish line.  At the close, the staff and race director were waiting to shake our hands, pass out medals and make sure everyone got a finisher pic.

Technically and physically, the course was brutal.  Including screw ups, our route spanned roughly 57 miles with 11,500 feet of gain. It also entailed a lot of time stopping to ask “where the hell are we?” and trying to find our way back to where we were supposed be.  Of the 279 people that started, 237 finished.  One of those finishers was John Kelly (last person to finish the Barkley Marathon) – who finished about 9 hours before we did.  The others?  I’m not sure what the profile was of a representative runner, but at my pace I was chatting with some fairly experienced people with big races under their belt like the Dragon’s Back.  It was a super welcoming crowd, but definitely not the place to make a run at your first ultra distance.

I’m incredibly grateful to the race staff at Cold Brew Events and the North of Tyne Mountain Rescue Team for hosting a truly epic event.  This thing was intense, but the objective dangers were managed so well that I had zero doubt if I needed to push my SOS button someone would have been there to save me.  Happily that wasn’t needed.  If you’re considering a race-cation like this or want to get in on the action for the challenge’s sake, I’d recommend not putting it off.  This was year number 3 for their series and it sold out. My hunch is that it’ll become an increasingly popular event and progressively harder to get into as the years go by – rightly so.

Safety doesn’t Just Happen – They Worked Hard to Make Sure we were Okay

If you’re so inclined, I posted roughly 3 minutes of live footage from the event set to holiday music (from one of America’s great treasures) to my YouTube Channel.

 

Photo Credit: Mari-Ann Secker, Cold Brew Events, Course Marshals

Spartan 24 Hour Championship 2019 – Sweden

PRESS RELEASE

The Snowcapped Mountains of Åre, Sweden to Host the Third-Annual “Spartan Ultra World Championship” 24-Hour Obstacle Course Race

World’s Largest Obstacle Course Race and Endurance Brands Brings the Word’s Most
Challenging OCR Event to the Alpine Heart of Scandinavia November 8

Åre, Sweden (February 7, 2019) – Spartan, the world’s largest obstacle course race (OCR) and endurance brand, will bring the third annual “Spartan Ultra World Championship” to the picturesque mountain village of Åre, Sweden November 9-10, 2019. Combining the beauty of the Scandinavian country with the grit of Spartan, the 24-hour endurance event will test the world’s best athletes as they face harsh winter conditions, high elevations and miles of technical terrain, just 350km below the Arctic Circle. As in the first two editions of the Spartan Ultra World Championship—held in Iceland—competitors in Åre can expect full-spectrum extremes of Mother Nature’s beauty and fury.

[Read more…]

How to train for your first ultra-marathon

So you’ve done some OCRs or some road racing and now you’re ready to step up to the long game. Now what? As a qualifier for the US Men’s 24-hour team (143 miles in 24 hours) and 14-time race winner, I’ve learned a few things along the way.
First and most important question: WHY? Every athlete has their own, very personal, “why” they train and race. What is yours? Is it to push yourself mentally and physically? Is it to check off that bucket list 100-mile race you’ve read so much about? Is it to help build your endurance for the Spartan Ultra Beast or World’s Toughest Mudder? Whatever the reason, you need to know what that reason is and keep it close.

Josh, Jesse, Greg, and Sean at the 2013 WTM.

Once you know your why, the rest comes a little easier. Next comes the distance. Any race over 26.2 miles is considered an ultra. Which do you have in mind? Just stretching your legs a bit to a 50k or do you want to jump in and test your mettle with a 100 miler? Picking your first goal race will be a fun adventure. Mountains? Road? Trail? Desert? Snow? Local? Travel? The options are plentiful, and that’s one of the great things about this sport.
So you know why running an ultra is important to you and now you’ve determined your goal race/distance. All that’s left now is to train for it. That’s not so hard, right? You’re basically doing it already. All you need is to tweak the mileage and how you’re spending your time to achieve the goal. It might be more miles, it might be more elevation. The thing about ultras is training specificity and getting your body ready for your specific “A” race. Here are some tips to get you through.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously – athletes who go into every workout and every race as make it or break it will inevitably burn out in the sport. Not every run will go perfectly and not every race will end how you want it to. Understand this going in and it’s a lot easier when it happens. So, if you need the extra rest, skip the morning run. If you haven’t seen your friends or family in a while, go out and enjoy the time. Being an ultra-runner takes a big commitment not only from you but everyone around you as well. In the end, a well-rested body supported by those closest to you will propel you much further than a few extra miles will.
  • Build slowly – no matter your current weekly mileage the chances are strong that you’ll have to add in more time and mileage, but don’t freak out about it and don’t expect it to happen overnight. Most effective training blocks are at least 16-20 weeks long with a good existing base, longer even depending on the athlete and goals. You’ll learn where to add a little more time into your running routine each week as needed to meet your goal and simultaneously your body will get stronger through the process. Remember your why and keep focused on it.
  • Run commute – try it out. If you’ve got a shower at or near your office, this is one of the most efficient and enjoyable ways to get in some extra miles and even save some gas and time sitting in traffic. If you can’t run to work, try getting a few miles in during your lunch break instead.

  • Consider using a professional coach – while there will be an added cost to this, it may be worth it depending on your goals and expectations. If you do decide to hire a coach, make sure to interview several of them. You want someone you feel comfortable with 100% of the time, otherwise, it just won’t work. (I know from experience)
Once you’ve gotten all of the details figured out just remember to smile along the way! The ultra community is one of the best out there and very similar to the OCR community in this regard. You’ll see athletes come together and support everyone from the first to the last finisher. Getting out on group weekend trail runs or hitting 20-30+ mile training runs around your city and exploring areas you’ve never seen on foot is some of the most fun ultra training has to offer. If you have any questions along the way or want to talk coaching you can connect with me online through At Your Pace Coaching.
Enjoy the Journey!

Carolina Ultra: Twisted Trails and Bundles of Burpees

Introduction/Pre-Race

Ah, South Carolina. Known for its super warm temperatures, surely this is the race to do if you are hoping to complete the ultra in shorts and a sports bra. It will be a beautiful day, filled with lots of sunshine, love, and rainbows.

Or, maybe not.

Now, I’m from South Carolina, so I confess that my knowledge of all things cold isn’t exactly there. But, I overheard several people say they were coming from the north because they were looking forward to a warm race. Although this wasn’t exactly freezing temperatures all day, when it was time to start the race, it was roughly 36 degrees when we got started. All of the people who were anticipating and planning to wear shorts and look cute were a little disappointed.

On the race website, we were told that we had to pick up packets the night before. Problem is, packet pick up was from 2:00-5:30 in the afternoon. A friend of mine asked if I could pick his up, which of course, I was told no (which, makes sense). I didn’t think this was fair to people who…you know, have jobs… but what do I know. Luckily, even though they said packet pick up the day before was mandatory, people were allowed to grab their stuff the morning of the race.

I was lucky enough to get to grab my stuff ahead of time. So, the morning of the race, I got myself situated, grabbed my bucket, and went on my way.

When I got to the start line, everyone was huddled and shivering. You could hear people make comments related to “what the heck, I thought this was supposed to be warm!” And we waited to get started.

And we waited.

And waited.

Now, I did the Ultra Beast in New Jersey last year, and we didn’t start on time either. They at least TOLD us that we weren’t going to start on time. Here, we were repeatedly told that we would get started soon. We ended up waiting for over 20 minutes to get started. Finally, Mr. Kobl came up. I was so thankful when he let us know that we only had to do the dunk one time, and it wasn’t until the very end of the day for us. After some jokes and words of wisdom, we were off.

Spartan’s Course

Carolina Ultra Map

Once we got started, it seemed like we took a solid 3 steps before encountering the first obstacle. Almost immediately were some hay walls; following that was a creek crossing. We pretty much spent the rest of the day in the water. Our toes got really cold, really fast. Closely after was the 4-ft wall and some trail running, and some more creeks. Then it was the 6-foot wall. I saw a lot of women struggling with the 6-foot wall, which was really strange…that is until I realized that there was a layer of ice completely covering the top of the wall. After I went over the wall, SQUISH. We hopped off of the wall and into a big ol’ puddle of mud. Gross.

So…in short…the first mile was pretty much just mud and walls. Sigh.

A little bit of running later, and we get to the rope. To make things interesting, because it was extremely cold, the rope was COMPLETELY covered in ice. Even though I was in the elite division, I have never seen so many people doing burpees at a rope.

After a short run, the next few obstacles were pretty close together. It actually hurt a lot, and the burpee areas were so close that it was easy to get them confused between obstacles. In the second mile, there was the Olympus, Herc hoist, spearman, barbed wire crawl, sandbag, AND bucket within that little space. Out of those obstacles, Olympus, rope, and many other obstacles were covered in ice. Sooo many people were doing burpees. Lots of unhappy faces, and people worried about their fate for the rest of the afternoon.

After we kept running, we ran into Bender. Bender is scary when it’s covered in ice. Lots of people were worried about falling, and several of us little people had a hard time jumping and grabbing the first bar because it was so slick. After some more trail running came the Tyrolean Traverse and a vertical cargo climb. On the first lap, this cargo climb was one of the scariest cargo climbs that I have experienced. It was one that was so loose that while you were climbing, the rope would shift. I did not love it.

One piece that was interesting about this course came up closely afterward. There was an 8-foot wall on course, but it only had one step as opposed to two steps. Some of the shorter women struggled.

Then, the hard part was pretty much over. There was a portion of the race that split from an ultra course to the regular Beast so that the ultra course was a little longer and more challenging. There was not a volunteer standing here, so there were some moments where standard Beasters ran a portion of the ultra by mistake…and I’m sure some ultra runners “accidentally” took the wrong course.

Now, when they gave us a different piece of the course, I was anticipating something a little difficult. It wasn’t anything really unique. The course map claimed to be an obstacle called “Irish Tables” which I had not seen before. My friends told me that this was a high platform and one that was spooky. It wasn’t. I didn’t even realize what it was until the second lap. It was just another hurdle, with a flatter top. This obstacle is also seen in Bonefrog, but Spartan paints theirs a different color. But, it’s basically another hurdle. I was a little shocked, considering they have different heights for men and women. By the time I got to this obstacle, there was a line for men and it was completely clear for me!

Behind that was more trail running, log farmers carries, the armor, a plate drag, a barbed wire crawl, and another sandbag. After some more running, we were greeted with the Stairway to Sparta.

Now, the Stairway to Sparta has become one of my favorite obstacles. Not because it is one of the most exciting obstacles, but Spartan always manages to squeeze this obstacle into the most spectacular places. This was not. This Stairway was placed conveniently in front of a single-track trail, so there wasn’t anything to see. I would like to say that as a resident of Spartanburg I can vouch and say there weren’t many stunning options…but I would at least suggest on top of a hill or something.

The Stairway to Sparta was actually replaced with the Great Wall. Now, I know there are a lot of thoughts on the Great Wall. It’s basically just Stairway 2.0. It is slightly more difficult than the regular stairway..but not by much. During the first lap, there was not a step provided for the women. So, there were more women doing burpees, simply because we couldn’t reach the grips! But, I suppose if it isn’t challenging, nobody would do it!

After this obstacle, it was on to the transition.

Transition

My friend Erika at the transition!

Now, if you’ve done an ultra or an ultra beast, you’ve seen the transition. It’s a square marked off for people to leave drop buckets. Usually, for buckets, people will go to Lowe’s and get a bucket for $5 and decorate it with stickers. I have my bucket very decorated with things, but I also tied a balloon to my bucket in order to make it easier to find. It’s a good idea for people to put their buckets in a safe place with their friends. In the elite division, you can’t take stuff from people outside of the transition area, so if you’re with your friends, you can divide and conquer!

One thing I found unusual about the transition was that there were volunteers and timers there, but nobody really did anything. Another strange thing about the transition was that my friend Crystal and I were 9th and 10th. We were not given lap leader jerseys. Instead, number 11 was. Number 11 is also someone who has a large presence in the Spartan world. Coincidence? I really hope so. It was very disappointing.

After a brief period in the transition area, it was on to the lap again.

Lap 2

The transition area spat us in a VERY muddy area past the hay walls and right in front of the creek. I sunk up halfway between my knee and hip. I’m just thankful I didn’t lose a shoe there also.

When running an ultra beast, the second lap is very different from the first. The first lap starts very early and provides an awesome opportunity for athletes to get a good start. Since it does start so early, it is usually very quiet. It’s almost peaceful until you remember that you have over 25 miles ahead of you. The second lap is at the same time as afternoon open heaters. This can be very exciting–having other people cheer for you, but also, sometimes people don’t always follow the courtesy rules suggested by the race directors. For instance, during the tyrolean traverse this time, I had an open runner come underneath my rope so that she could get a hold on her friend. Really…REALLY?!

The first obstacle we encountered here was the over walls, and then everything else was the same. There were some differences between the course; the main one being the mud! Several areas that we had previously run in were completely swamped. There were several instances where I would go running or trudge, and I would get so stuck in the mud that people would have to pull me out. Again, it is an absolute miracle that I managed to keep my shoes throughout this adventure.

Also during lap two, they had made a few modifications to some of the obstacles. The Great Wall now had a step. It was exciting to complete this in front of the open runners because they all cheered for me! It felt really nice.

On lap two, instead of going to the transition, it was over the very wobbly A-frame, and through the rolling mud. The rolling mud was ORANGE at this point. It was so difficult to wash this orange out of our clothes.

After this was the mud crawl. Basically, a third barbed wire crawl, just you are crawling in really really squishy mud. Normally this is at least a little fun, but there were sooo many large rocks in this mud. I was completely covered in bruises at the end of the day. After this the dunk, and then the slip wall. Now, the dunk wall was nothing really special other than large rocks made it difficult to get out of the water. The slip wall was actually a little different than usual. They covered the slip wall in this black tarp and made the wall more vertical. The tarp made the slip wall more difficult to dry, and although it still wasn’t difficult, for the first time ever, I did not feel safe on a slip wall.

Then was the fire jump, then the end!

Thoughts

Maybe I’m crazy, but I remember Spartan claiming that ultras were not going to be ultra beasts at the beginning of the year. They promised that ultras were not going to be two laps of the beast; rather, it would be one 30-mile loop with its own obstacles and adventure. Wrong.

I was looking forward to a big challenge, but I am glad that I was lucky enough to participate in this event. This was a good ultra beast for people to attend if they were looking to get a good beginner ultra.

Overall, this course was very repetitive. Lots of sandbags, walls, and crawls. There wasn’t much about this race that stood out as unique. However, I will say that I’m very thankful for the race director for allowing us to wait until the second lap to do the dunk wall (we may have completely turned into Spartan-pops)! I am also very thankful that Spartan provided an opportunity for people in the Southeast to participate in an ultra. I am very thankful that I have the opportunity to compete in events like this altogether. I did feel like Spartan made this an ultra at the last moment and did not have their own real plan. I will continue to hope that Spartan works to improve this event in the future!

Spartan Iceland Ultra Beast Gear Prep

I have been tapped by Obstacle Racing Media to give you my ultimate gear prep list for The Spartan UltraBeast World Championship. It will be taking place this year in Iceland, I was there last year and am excited to be making my 2nd trip. I also just finished the World’s Toughest Mudder which took place in near freezing temps in Atlanta. I also have raced all 4 years of WTM in Vegas, along with several other Spartan Ultra Beasts.
Here’s a summary of what I wore last year in Iceland, and what changes I’m making for 2018.  At the start of the race the wind was whipping, it was quite cold, but not terrible, and the sun was out.  I started with the following gear:
Zensah compression socks in Altra MT King 1.5 shoes.  I wore compression leggings underneath windbreaker pants on bottom.  On top, I wore short sleeve Tesla fleece lined compression top under a Zensah long sleeve compression top and a Patagonia Windbreaker jacket with reinforced seams.  On my head, I wore a fleece lined winter hat and a buff around my neck and the hood of my jacket up.  On my hands, I wore 1mm Blegg Mitts.  It was mandatory to run with a foot care kit and a mylar blanket. I also wanted to carry fuel and hydration so I wore a low profile backpack with that in and I also threw in extra gloves.
Lap 1 was a 5k road run through the city of Hvergerdi and then right into the 6 mile-ish actual obstacle course part of the race.  During that first lap, we got hit with heavy rain that lasted maybe 6 hours! During this time the sun went down and we were starting out 20 hours of darkness.  Everything we had on that was able to absorb water got saturated.  After each lap we were able to pit inside a turf soccer dome which was heated so our extra gear was in a lighted area, dry, and warm.  I carried too much out on lap one and ended up needing to change everything from head to toe at a certain point.  The rain washed away any light snow that was on the ground and made the little thermal rivers we had to cross many times wider.  For example the first couple laps the rivers may have been a foot or two wide and we were able to hop skip and jump on rocks and only get minimally muddy, but as the rain kept falling we were trudging across mid-shin deep water and mud as we approached and crossed these thermal rivers that were now more than 20 feet wide.  The air temperatures were well over 30 degrees and maybe even low 40s, but due to being wet it was tough to keep our body temps up.  After the rain stopped the temperature began to drop.  All that water began to freeze and it literally became Ice-Land.  Because studded shoes, yak traks, and anything else to improve traction was outlawed for the event the new icy conditions became super challenging.  As the hours ticked away the temperature continued to drop and in the wee hours, snow began to fall and cover the ice.  It looked very pretty, but this made the ice even more slippery as now you lost visibility on where to step to avoid slipping and falling down.  As the sun rose the temps didn’t rise significantly enough to decrease the difficulty of the course.

Feet:

Looking back I have a much better idea of what to pack this year.  Studs are still outlawed so I’m just going to go with Altra Mt Kings and Altra Superiors. I had neoprene waterproof socks last year and wore them for a couple laps, but didn’t feel like they helped as water got into them from the tops and couldn’t drain.  So I ended up running in bags of water and my feet stayed wet.  I’m packing them again, but I’ll decide on putting them on after I do a lap or two. Otherwise, I’ll wear my Darn Tough crew length socks and also pack some knee high Zensah compressions too. I didn’t use gaiters last year.  I never thought during the race that I should have packed some, but this year I’ll bring some in case I decide that I want them.

Lower Body

On my legs, I will start in full-length leggings with windbreaker pants over them, but plan to wear my 3mm XCEL Long John wetsuit as the temperature drops I snagged this last minute from Wetsuitwearhouse.com.
I wore this suit at WTM 2018 and it was the most flexible wetsuit I’ve ever worn.  This suit was super flexible and was able to run for 12 hours in it with very little restriction.  I really liked the protection factor on this suit as well.  A huge overlooked challenge by all in 2017 was the fact that you were constantly falling down.  I would describe it as a boxing match and every time you fall your whole body contracts to attempt to catch your balance and brace for impact and then as you hit the ground it’s like a body blow.  The first time you might giggle and then after a few more you might feel a little tipsy, but after hours of falling down each time you hit the ground, you won’t be able to just pop up as you just want to lay there and stare up at the sky.  I’m also going to pack some McDavid Knee and Elbow pads to throw on as the night progresses so that my joints are just a little more protected.

Upper Body

I’m planning long sleeve compression and a NorthFace windbreaker with reinforced seems to start in.  I’ll also pack a fleece top to add as a layer as the night goes on in case I need an additional layer.  I’ll have a couple extra long sleeve compression tops to change into something dry if need be.  I’m also going to bring a 1mm neoprene top and a 2mm neoprene vest as an emergency core layer.

Hands:

I learned last year that if you keep your arms warm than you can literally run with no gloves and your hands will still be warm and sweating.  I will have Blegg Mitts and Neoprene gloves to wear under them though.  In Atlanta 2 weeks ago I used the neoprene gloves under the Blegg Mitts and they worked well.  When I was running my hands stayed comfortable, but when you are touching frozen surfaces, or at Iceland where you’ll be doing 100s of Burpees, your hands will get really cold really quick.  Pro Tip: If you have hand warmers you will get a greater benefit from them by putting them in your sleeve against the underside of your wrist as it warms the blood going into your hand than just holding them.  Dry gloves are far warmer than wet ones, so have a strategy to keep your gloves from getting soaked as I did in case of crazy rain.  Last year I brought these super insulated fleece lined gloves that got soaked at the beginning of the rain and were rendered useless.

Head/Neck:

Find a waterproof or resistant winter hat.  Also, grab a buff to cover your face during the crazy wind so the snow doesn’t hurt your face and can warm the air as you breathe it in.  I also brought snowboarding googles which were great in the windy snow but sucked in the pouring rain.  Bring vaseline to smear on your cheeks, lips, and nostrils to protect against windburn.

Carrying Method:

Athletes either ran with Ultra Vests, or Hydration or SPI belts to carry fuel and hydration.  Because it’s super cold you won’t need to drink a ton of water, but if you overdress you will over sweat and you will need more fluids.  Have a plan to get warm/hot fluids/foods into you between each lap to keep your core temp up, but don’t take too long in the pit!! The soccer dome had plenty of boiling water to make hot chocolate or soup with throughout the night.

Other Gear:

Multiple Headlamps. I like the Black Diamond Waterproof Headlamp and have 2 of them for Iceland as well as multiple other backup lights and a small hand flashlight as an emergency if my headlamp dies while I’m out there.  Also, pack extra batteries!! Rock Tape in case you need a mid-race tape job.  Dry towel to dry off when in to change your clothes.  Bring some big garbage bags to put all your gear in post-race to get it all back to your hotel.  Lastly, you obviously need to pack a clown mask to wear in the deep dark hours to keep the spirits up.
Get to Iceland, enjoy the culture, get some pictures of the Northern Lights and be ready for a whole lotta headlamp running.
Use our discount code ORM15Off at checkout to save some dough!

Wetsuit Wearhouse Discount

 

Matt B. Davis
678-836-8420
obstacleracingmedia.com
theatlantapodcast.com

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!