Since Toughest Mudder Whistler I have done very little running, and even less trail running, and EVEN less fast (trail) running. Before Toughest Mudder Whistler I did a ton of running…but most runs were long and slow. Having done essentially no shorter, intensity runs/workouts I felt vastly underprepared for the Red Deer Spartan Sprint.
The Red Deer course is known to be one of the fastest Sprints out there. In the 2016 Red Deer Sprint, the winning time was under 30 minutes! This would be my 4th year running a Spartan Race at Red Deer, and the previous 3 years saw little variation in the course layout/design. Therefore I expected a similar event as years prior.
Upon reaching the venue I was shocked to see the festival area, obstacles had been moved from there typical locations, and a bunch of new obstacles were present as well. This new layout got rid of any nerves I had about not being ready for a short fast course, and provided me with a sense of excitement. Outside looking in, the course looked like a solid challenge and a ton of fun…I couldn’t wait!
You can check out my review of the new set up HERE. Now onto my race…
At the start line I was eyeing the competition…and I was intimidated. I saw all the usual top contenders (Mikhail Gerylo, Austin Azar, Josh Stryde etc.,) and many more athletic looking guys. “Fuck,” I thought to myself as I took in my surroundings, “this is going to be a struggle.”
When the race began, racers charged off the line at a near sprint. Even though I was underprepared and intimidated by the competition, I wanted to give my best effort on the course. I charged out there as well…but was quickly swallowed by the pack.
Only a few 100 meters from the start line we hopped a fence and were forced into a tight single track trail. As racers forced their way into a single file line, the pace naturally slowed as a result. Not wanting to get complacent this early on. I charged through the trees that were lining the trail to pass a few people. I managed to pass two people but it took an immense amount effort to do so. The time I gained was not worth the effort. So I settled in and would wait for the trails to open up.
The longer we ran on the trail the quicker the pace came as racers were able to regain their stride, after the traffic jam. I was right on the heels of the guy in front of me, and it was quite exhilarating as we darted through twists and turns at a quick pace. I was running so close to him that I could hardly see the terrain below. Adrenaline pumped through me, as I didn’t know what I was running on until the last second. Furthermore, if the guy ahead of me fell that could have ended badly for both of us (he actually did fall and will remain nameless at his request…I was able to dodge him luckily enough. He was fine so I didn’t need to stop and see if he’s ok…it’s a race after all).
After a short climb, we came across our first set of obstacles 4 ft wall, through wall, vertical cargo net, rolling mud, and Hercules hoist. Still early in the race, the pack had not spread out much. Clambering over the vertical cargo net, I had to be careful to not to get kicked in the head from others above me. I made my way through the rolling mud, leaping over the trenches when I could. At the Hercules hoist it was a race to the ropes, as there were so many racers there at once. I surveyed the ropes quickly, running back and forth till I found an open rope and lunged forward to grab it, nudging out another racer who was reaching for the same rope. I pulled hard, hoisting the sand bag to the top as quick as I could. I had little trouble with the weight and moved through the obstacle much quicker than my surrounding competitors, allowing me to advance a number of positions.
I had no idea what place I was in, but as I headed to the upcoming bucket carry, I saw Josh Stryde and Kody O’brien a handful of seconds ahead of me, so I knew I was doing quite well. I did my best to keep the pace fast, charging through forested trails, jumping over logs, and barreling over shrubs.
By the time I made it to the next obstacle gauntlet, the pack had spread out quite a bit. Grip strength was a necessity with the upcoming obstacles, and they were in close proximity, so if mistakes were made, burpees could add up quick. First was the Z-Wall Traverse, followed by Olympus, and then the Platinum Rig which had a particularly difficult arrangement (two Tarzan ropes next to each other being the main culprit). To cap things off, the final obstacle of the gauntled was the Spear Throw, which is never certain for me and could easily provide me with 30 burpees.
Making it through the Z-Wall Traverse, and Olympus I jogged towards the Platinum Rig. My forearms were feeling fatigued from the first two obstacles but I was confident I could make it through the Platinum Rig. Skipping a ring or two at the start I, clasped on to the first of two Tarzan ropes with one hand. Nervous to let go of the ring still clasped in my other hand, I hung in limbo on the Platinum Rig. Finally working up the courage I moved both my hands to the first rope and swiftly transitioned to the second rope, and then on to a rings. Although there were many other attachments to use, I skipped those. Using only the rings I reached the end of the rig and rang the bell.
Being able to complete the rig helped me out substantially, because many people failed this obstacle. I headed to the spear throw and stuck it in the target, albeit barely. My spear hit the target, lodged itself in awkwardly, as the back end began to slowly drop down, but stopped a few inches above the ground. A racer behind me jeered “greasy” as he ran by. But hey, a hit is a hit!
After the Spear Throw, the course took us a down a gnarly downhill reminiscent of the Montana Beast. The descent transitioned to a mixture of a wide paved paths and wide dirt paths. I saw a guy ahead of me as we came out of the trees. He was wearing red compression socks and my goal was to catch him!
I pushed as hard as I could on the flat trails, but my stride felt long, slow, and cumbersome. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to hold a high HR for any sort of time, and my body was clearly not handling it well. I was breathing hard, salivating, and grunting trying to keep pace, let alone push harder. I began to slow and my effort increased! I was soon passed by Tom Petryshen. I tried to keep his pace but simply couldn’t.
It wasn’t long after I was passed by Tom that I saw Stefan Wieclawek coming up quickly behind me. Again I tried to push my body and keep a fast pace to fend Stefan off. But once again I could not keep Stefan at bay. He passed me quickly and was soon out of sight.
Breathing heavily, gasping for air, running like an elephant (not graceful…I assume elephants aren’t graceful when running?), I tried to just hang on. The finish line fast approaching and I all I needed to do was just “get through it.” The final climb was up a set of stairs. Stefan and Tom were out of sight, but I could still see the guy in red compression socks.
I charged hard through rope climb, and atlas carry, but not hard enough. There wasn’t enough left in the race course to catch him. After the Atlas Carry, it was a quick section of running, before the obstacle heavy finish. The last few obstacles were the A-Frame Cargo Net, Barbed Wire crawl, and Slip Ramp, therefore making it difficult to close the gap in the final moments.
As I climbed the A-Frame Cargo Net, the guy ahead of me was heading through the barbed wire. I flipped my way down the cargo net as quick as I could and rolled like I’ve never rolled before but it wasn’t fast enough. I climbed the slip ramp, jumped the fire, and crossed the finish line in 44:22, a mere 8 seconds behind the guy in red compression socks.
I finished 10th Elite Male, and 10th overall which was good enough to earn myself a Spartan Coin and qualify for Spartan Race World Championships in Lake Tahoe. However a few top contenders (3, I believe) ran off course and DQ’d, therefore I don’t attribute this to be a true top 10, as it is likely other racers would have finished above me. But that won’t stop me from trying to hit that top 10 spot. It’s close, it’s within my grasp, just have to get it done!