Calgary Spartan Sprint – 2016

In my first two Spartan Races of 2016 I’ve finished 13th in the Elite Heat, 13th male, and 4th in my age group (25-29). I’ve been right on the cusp of getting into the top 10 but haven’t been able to break into it. Heading into the Calgary Sprint I was going to try my hardest to hit that top 10 position. I knew the Calgary course would be relatively flat and short, which meant it would be fast. This does not play into any of my strengths, as at the moment I’m better at the longer and hillier courses. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that the Calgary Sprint is by far one of the most popular and competitive events in Spartan Race Western Canada. So breaking into the top 10 would not be easy.

The race was held at the Wildrose Motocross Park, which meant there’d be lots of mud. And with rain in the days preceding the race, meant that there’d be a lot more mud. This was evident immediately upon stepping into the festival area. Every step I took my foot sank a few inches into the mud.

After warming up and chatting with a few buddies, I made my way to the front few rows at the starting line and was ready to give it all I had.

A blistering pace was set immediately as racers bolted off the start line and onto the course. Running hard I did my best to match the pace of the other runners. Rounding the first corner we encountered a thick soupy mud that pretty much made everyone come to halt. Feet and legs were getting swallowed up as racers slowly made there way through the thick mud.

Continuing on it was really difficult to judge what position I was in as people would pass me and I’d pass others. Compounded with the course zig-zagging back and forth I couldn’t tell how far ahead the leaders were. All I knew at this point was that I was running hard and that’s all that mattered.

Here you can get a sense of the zig-zag nature of the course
Here you can get a sense of the zig-zag nature of the course

The course took us through the Trials section of the Motocross Park which was full of logs, log ramps, and big pits full of water. Due to the rain the log ramps were extra slick and I admittedly pussyfooted my way over these logs, and got passed by a few racers because of this.

Coming out of the trials section I was able to pick up my pace as we came to the edge of the motocross park. At the edge of the park we did a few quick hill repeats as the course took us up and down a steep but small slope. I felt strong heading up and down the hill and was able to get ahead of a handful of racers.

After the hills we were faced with the 6 ft and 7 ft walls in immediate succession, which were quickly followed up by the Atlas Carry. Unlike most Spartan Races the Western Canada Spartan Race Atlas Carry is a cement cylinder, vs a large atlas stone.

When I got to the Atlas Carry I saw one of the leaders finishing up his carry. I was, along with many others within a few seconds of the lead pack. I say many others, because the Atlas Carry was a little chaotic as there were at least 8 if not more racers all tackling this obstacle simultaneously with more and more racers coming in behind us.

Finishing up at the Atlas Carry I had two runners in my sights and a pack of runners behind me. As we ran I saw a relatively long sandbag carry up in the distance. The two runners made it to the sandbag carry ahead of me, but I knew I could beat them on the carry itself. I grabbed my sandbag and muscled out a quick carry passing the two runners ahead of me.

Relatively long sandbag carry
Relatively long sandbag carry

I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me as I continued on but I knew those two guys I just passed would be close behind. I ran fast down the hill, trying to let gravity do most of the work.

At the base of the hill the single track course was flooded with shin deep water. I tried to keep my pace up by running hard through the water. However upon taking only a few steps into the water I realized the ground/mud was incredibly slick. It didn’t help that the slick mud was complimented by what felt like a “V” shaped trench. The steep sides of the trench and the slick mud caused me to slow down and once again I pussyfooted my way through.  As I was pussyfooting through the mud the guys I passed at the sandbag carry caught up to me. They couldn’t pass me because the trail was quite narrow, but once the course widened up they zipped right on by…My pussyfooting was real slow.

Next up was the monkey bars, followed by some quick turns as the course made more zig-zags, and then it was on to the bucket carry. Approaching the bucket carry I slowed to a walk and filled my bucket patiently, following the advice Faye Stenning gave to me earlier that week. Once my bucket was full I headed down the steep slope and was shocked at how light the bucket was! I looked down at my bucket and the dirt was covering up the holes, so I had the right amount of dirt. The holes must have been lower than usual in the bucket or the dirt was abnormally light. Unfortunately because of the bucket being so light following Faye’s advice didn’t quite pan out.

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The bucket was light, but the slope sure was steep

Faye suggested calming down and lowering your heart rate as you approach the bucket carry (or any other heavy carry), because once you start carrying a heavy bucket you’ll be anything but calm and you’re heart rate will sky rocket. However this bucket was so light, that calming myself didn’t have any major benefits (oh well, hindsight’s 20/20).

At this point in the race I started to not feel so good. I felt a little nauseous. I’m not sure what exactly caused this feeling but it very well could have been how hard I was pushing myself. It’s been a while sense I’ve pushed myself this hard, especially in a race.

Heart rate jacked, and feeling sick I came up to the balance beam. Having failed every balance obstacle so far this year I really wanted to complete this obstacle. I made sure to take my time, stay patient and calmly walk across the beam from corner to corner.

Making my way to the end to the end of the balance beam I leaped off, with a little bit of adrenaline as I saw people in the corner of my eye fail the obstacle and suffer the 30 burpee penalty.

My euphoria was short lived though with the next obstacle being the spear throw. This is easily my worst obstacle, but I approached it confidently.

I’ve noticed in the past that my spear tends to fade to the left when I throw it. Keeping this in mind I adjusted accordingly aiming at the right edge of the target. I hurled my spear into the air and as expected my spear went to the left. My spear was now headed for the center of the target…but it was too high. My spear sailed right over top of the target. I guess I now know  to aim to the right and low.

I fired off 30 burpees faster than I ever have in a race before, but they weren’t fast enough. I was amazed with how many people came up to the spear as I was doing burpees and nailed there throw. I counted at least 5 people who passed me but there were quite a few more.

Frustrated I finished up my burpees and tried to resume the strong pace I’d been able to maintain so far into the race. The burpees however took a lot out of me, as I was forced walk and then jog lightly before resuming any sort of running stride.

I ran the remainder of the race with two guys about 70 m ahead of me and what felt like a pack immediately behind me. At this point I was running scared. I knew if I failed another obstacle I’d get passed by another boat load of people. Having yet to encounter the Multi-Rig, I began to psyche myself up for it as it was the only remaining obstacle that I felt uneasy about.

At the Multi-Rig I was feeling quite fatigued. I grabbed onto the rings and began to make my way across. As I gripped the rings my arms felt strong giving me confidence that I’d complete this rig. Nearing the end of the rig I was hanging on to the last lateral pipe and I could feel my strength diminishing. All that hung between me and the bell was one small Tarzan rope. With minimal strength in my arms I reached out for the rope. Barely holding on to the rope I reached for the bell as my rope hand began to give away. I touched the bell nearly at the same time I lost my grip on the rope.

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Spartan really needs to put a photographer at the rig so I can get a picture of myself on it.

No matter how easy or hard the Multi-Rig is I always get super pumped when I complete that obstacle. There’s something about the Multi-Rig that is really exhilarating and extremely rewarding.

The finish line was now in sight as there were only a few turns left in the course and a handful of obstacles (Stairway to Sparta, Barbed Wire Crawl, Rope Climb, Cargo Net, and Fire Jump). By the time I made it to the barbed wire crawl I had distanced myself from the pack that was behind me, but I’d failed to make substantial ground on the two guys ahead of me. Making my way through the barbed wire crawl I got cut up pretty bad. Unlike what you might I expect, I didn’t get cut up by the barbed wire. I got cut up by the rocks that littered the ground. Every movement was associated with a number of new scrapes and cuts as rocks dug into me.

Stairway to Spartaaaaa!
Stairway to Spartaaaaa!

While crawling I looked back and saw a guy moving fast through the barbed wire. He was much faster than me, so I intentionally moved over into his lane to cut him off. This is a race after all and that’s just tactics. However my tactics didn’t work because as soon as he had a chance he hopped into another lane, and ripped on by.

I know I’m not the fastest barbed wire crawler out there but to get past in the barbed wire crawl was pretty shitty.

After the crawl I made my way through the remaining obstacles and onto the finish line. I crossed the line in 16th place with a time of 42:43. Still not good enough to break into the top 10 but I am happy with this result. I haven’t raced this hard in a long time. Most of my recent races have been long efforts (~4 hours), not short bursts of speed where you heartrate is jacked up the whole time. Although I’m happy, I still have a lot to improve on. Beside the spear throw, the utmost thing I need to work on is my pussyfooting. I need to learn to let loose in a race. Attack the terrain with determination, and not pussyfoot my way around. Cause nobody has won a race or done exceptionally well by pussyfooting.

Always feels to jump over that fire
Always feels great to jump over that fire

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