Normally the Red Deer Sprint has a lower number of participants as a result of the majority of the racers taking part in the Super the day prior. With fewer participants you’d expect a relatively lower calibre of athlete to show up. However this was far from the truth. In the Elite field essentially all of the top 15 finishers from the Super were back to test themselves in the Sprint.
A few (to many to list all of them) notable Elite’s present: Austin Azar (10th NBC Championship Series, 14th Spartan Race World Championships 2015), Josh Styde (5 podiums in 2016), Mikhail Gerylo (4 podiums in 2016 [1st place x3]), Luke Ball (5 podiums in 2016), Faye Stenning (Spartan Pro Team Member, 2nd place NBC Championship Series, 9th Spartan Race World Championships 2015), Michelle Ford (2015 Spartan Ultra Beast World Champion), and Allison Tai (3 podiums in 2016 [1st place x2], 2nd place World’s Toughest Mudder).
This was my last race of the year, my last chance to go top 10, and it most definitely would not be easy!
Having raced the Super the day before, I knew this course would be flat and fast! A quick look at the course map revealed that there were no heavy carries in the Sprint course. Without heavy carries this already fast course would be insanely quick!
The race began at a blistering pace as we took off the line. I knew if I wanted to get into the top 10 I had to give it all I had. I needed to push hard, embrace the pain and just hang on till the finish line.
As we headed through the first few obstacles (O-U-T, varying walls, and inverted wall) I was feeling good. I was maintaining a fast, confident pace. I was in 6th place with Josh Stryde a few seconds ahead of me, and Faye Stenning right behind me.
I was determined to stay as close as I could to Josh as we headed into the obstacle gauntlet. The Sprint’s version of the obstacle gauntlet contained the 7ft wall, rolling mud, stairway to Sparta, parallel bars, hobie hop, tire flip, z-wall traverse, cargo bridge, balance beam, mult-rig, barbed wire crawl and the slip ramp.
At stairway to Sparta, Josh began to pull away from me. I also realized how close Faye was behind me as she came into this obstacle right behind me. I climbed over the massive structure quickly, as I tried to keep up with Josh and separate myself from Faye.
The pace was still incredibly fast but I was feeling good. A handful of seconds behind Josh I followed him through the parallel bars, hobie hop, and the tire flip.
Awaiting my arrival after the tire flip was the z-wall traverse. Haven failed this the day before in the Super I was determined to crush this obstacle…I made it to the last section of the wall (again) and slipped off. I let out what I thought was a quiet “fuck” only to learn later that it wasn’t (but not as loud as yesterday’s!).
I was dumbfounded at failing this obstacle again! Twice in one weekend! Pissed off, frustrated, demoralized, you name it, I felt it. Heading off to the side to go do my burpees, I watched Faye, John, Stefan, Luke, and Darren among many more all pass me.
Although pissed off about failing the Z-wall again, I had to wipe that from my mind and try to battle back as much as I could. I finished up my burpees and headed over the cargo bridge, hopped on a balance beam and nailed it. I haven’t felt that confident navigating a balance beam ever!
After the balance beam we ran back across the open field to the last three obstacles of the obstacle gauntlet. The Multi-Rig was first. Just like the z-wall, I had failed the Multi-Rig in the Super and I was seeking redemption today. I grabbed hold of the rings and made my way across, to the final horizontal pipe. I was at the exact point at which I failed the rig yesterday. But instead of reaching for the Tarzan rope, I generated enough of a swing on the pipe to skip the Tarzan rope and reach for the bell (thanks for the tip Josh). I swatted the bell hard in celebration as I completed the Multi-Rig.
Immediately after the Multi-Rig, I dove into the extra mucky barbed wire crawl (which smelled like shit), climbed over the Slip Ramp, and headed into forested single track.
Absolutely caked in mud from the barbed wire crawl I was slapping every tree and branch I could, in hopes to shed the mud from hands. With a heavy Hercules hoist coming up the last thing I wanted was to have hands covered in mud.
Grabbing the rope at the Hercules hoist I was glad I had wiped my hands off. The rope was already caked in mud. I thought the Hercules hoist was hard yesterday, but today this obstacle was on expert mode. Gripping the rope as hard as I could I slowly pulled the weight up. With each pull I could feel the rope slipping through my hands. Luckily there were a few small knots in the rope. I’d pull as quickly as I could till I reached a knot. At the knots I could get a decent enough grip on the rope, readjust, and then keep going.
I successfully (and slowly) completed the Hercules hoist and headed to the monkey bars. At the monkey bars instead of facing forward like I normally do, I decided to try something new. I turned myself sideways to the bars and made my way across. And wow, what a difference does that make! Going sideways allows you to reach much further along, skipping numerous rungs with each reach. I found this made the monkey bars much easier and I completed it far more quickly then I normally do (once again thanks for the tip Josh).
With the finish line fast approaching I gave it all I had as I ran through the last forested section. I managed to catch up to Stefan Wieclawek as we darted through the forest. I was doing my best to close the gap between myself and Stefan, but to no avail.
At the final stair climb, Stefan took off and ripped up the stairs leaving me behind. I ran hard up half the stairs, and then slowed down to a power hike. With the Spear Throw immediately after the stair climb I did not want to have my heart rate through the roof at this obstacle. As I slowed down Darren came up behind me and passed me (he failed the balance beam and that’s how I got ahead of him). I took a look back and saw Michelle Ford closing in on me as well. Although a little ticked about getting passed, I kept going relatively slowly so I could increase my chances at the spear throw.
When I got to the spear throw there where 4 (or 5?) guys all there at the same time, all the spears were occupied. “Great!” I thought to myself, “One of these guys is bound to miss.” I watched in anticipation, ready for my opportunity to pass more competitors. Then to my surprised all of the guys hit their target! Damn! I was really hoping for a failure or two. But now the pressure was on me to not fail. I heaved my spear at the target. My spear pierced the hay near the corner and came out the other side…but it stuck! So boom I was on my way to finish line.
I ran hard hoping I could catch one of the guys ahead of me, but having to wait for a spear to open up allowed them to get to far ahead. I crossed the finish line, and had a look around at the guys already finished. I didn’t even need to count, I knew I didn’t make the top 10 there were too many bodies in the finishing corral.
My finishing time was 31:32, putting my in 13th place. Which is still a great result given the high level of competition. But, only 23 separated me from 10th place. If I hadn’t done those burpees I would have been in the top 10…if I pushed a little harder up the stairs and didn’t let Darren pass me, I wouldn’t have had to wait for a spear (but I also could have missed my throw if my heart rate was too jacked), and maybe that would have been enough for me to fight for a top 10 finish. Although I didn’t hit top 10 I still had a great time. The competition was much higher than normal and I love that. I’ll keep striving for a top 10 finish, and it won’t be getting any easier as the sport continues to grow, bringing in more and more competitive athletes…I just hope I can keep up!