The Battle with Ryan Atkins – Calgary Spartan Sprint Recap

I’ve raced Ryan Atkins twice in my OCR journey. Once at the 2015 Spartan Race World Championships at Lake Tahoe, and once earlier this year (2017) at Toughest Mudder Whistler.  I took the 2015 Spartan World Championships as a fun run, as I had completed the Sun Peaks Ultra Beast the weekend before. Therefore, I wasn’t competing at my full potential and Ryan ended up besting me. At Toughest Mudder Whistler, my training didn’t quite go exactly as planned. I missed out on an entire month of quality training when I was sick with mononucleosis (mono). So once again Ryan came out on top. Well after Ryan kicking my ass in both of our previous confrontations, I had had enough. When he decided to show up to Calgary Spartan Race, I knew this was my shot to truly show him what I was made of. He bested me two times so far, but not today, not on my home course, it’s my time to shine.

Spartan Race World Champs podium 2015
Ryan took 2nd at the 2015 World Championship. I took 155th, but I could have beat him if I tried…(Photo from Muscle and Fitness)

You may think “Adam, who are you to challenge Ryan Atkins, you’ve never won race before!” Exactly! This was all part of my plan. If I tried I could totally win any race I wanted too. I just chose not to win. That way when I get a chance to face someone like Ryan, he won’t have any idea who I am. This way I will have the element of surprise when I burst off the line and leave Ryan in my dust!

At the start line I let Ryan get up to the front and I stayed a few people back. Hiding in the crowd, I recited my game plan. After the first 100 m, explode out of the crowd and leave Ryan dazed and confused at what has occurred. Ryan would be so shocked at my speed and skill, that I would have essentially already won the race.

This is was my big shot to put myself on the OCR map. We are making our way through the pre-race chant, it’s coming closer now…it’s game time! “The race begins in 5…4…3, 2, 1!” cried the MC, and we were off. I went hard out of the gates, I was making my move to demoralise Ryan in the first few steps of the race, crush his moral and potentially even make him drop out. But then I realized, that Ryan doesn’t have a typical stable job like most…racing IS his job. If I win this race, it’d be like stealing his salary, and maybe he’d even lose his sponsors and have to return the corporate world like the rest of us (except I am currently unemployed and in New Zealand…it’s not that bad).

sketch of a medal on on a yellow
This can be my sweet medal for being nice.

Now, I couldn’t do that to someone. Who am I to take someone else’s source of income and potentially make them lose their job. Therefore, just as I was just about to crush Ryan’s soul with my speed, I slowed down and returned to the middle of the pack. I know there’s no reward for being a nice guy, but I know I did the right thing. Ryan now gets to continue his career as a professional OCR and endurance athlete, all thanks to me…

Obviously joking here. If you didn’t know I was joking well then either:

  1. My jokes suck.
  2. You don’t know who Ryan Atkins is.
  3. You are family member or loved one “you can do anything you put your mind too!”
Ryan Atkins crawling through barbed wire.
Proof that Ryan, did show up to the Calgary event though. Which was pretty awesome.

Anyways, enough jokes. Here’s how my actual race went down. The race started off fast as usual. I went out hard, and tried to separate myself from the main chase pack early on. This was easier said the done. Only 500 m into the race, I was in the midst of a ton of competitors, and we encountered the barbed wire crawl.

Absolute mayhem ensued as 30+ guys barrelled into the barbed wire crawl all at once. The amount of bodies in the crawl at the same time made it difficult to move quickly and efficiently through the crawl. Rolling was difficult as I was surrounded by bodies, but I did the best I could. If my legs were blocking someone else’s path, then too bad for them. I would also move aggressively to any open ground I saw. If there was an open lane, I was going to take it! When I thought I was about halfway through the crawl, I noticed that the crawl does a U-Turn at the end and sends us back the other way. I noticed the turn before others and began to charge over to the inside lane.

Battling for position under the barbed wire crawl.
Battling for position with Kody.

Fighting for position under the barbed wire was incredibly exhausting, but thrilling. The mayhem and aggression needed to take an open spot when it presented itself was exhilarating. Barrelling through the barbed wire did have its drawbacks as the wire was very low and sagged in sections. As I rolled, my shoulder snagged the wire and I felt my skin slice open. Upon exiting the wire, I checked my arm and couldn’t see any blood, so the cut couldn’t have been too bad.

shoulder sliced open, with bandages.
Turns out the cut was gnarlier then I thought.

Soon after the crawl was the Hercules Hoist and Sled Drag. The Hercules hoist was light, and I made my way quickly through it and headed to the sled drag. At the sled drag instead of pulling on the fully extended rope to bring the sled to me, I had a brain fart and ran to the sled thinking I needed to pull that. Which I didn’t. Luckily, I only took a few steps in the wrong direction before realizing what I was doing.

A small grin came to my face as I laughed at myself for being such an idiot. I grabbed the rope and heaved the sled towards me.

Following the sled drag was a long running section that twisted and turned every few hundred meters. This made it difficult to settle into any sort of rhythm. Regardless of that, I was running hard and feeling strong.

The two front runners Mik and Ryan, were long gone. Following them was the lead chase pack consisting of Kristian, Austin, and Josh. Behind the lead chase pack was Kody all alone. Then finally there was myself and another racer. And moments behind me was a ferocious pack of runners charging hard. I was scared, and running scared. I could not slow down, because the racers behind me would quickly catch up. And any mistake on any obstacle would cost a number of positions. Simply put, I could not mess up if I wanted to be in the top 10.

Cresting a small hill, I saw Kristian, Josh, and Austin not too far ahead at the Platinum Rig. For a brief second I thought I there was a chance I could catch up to them. Until the course turned me in the other direction. Showing me the truth and  that I was much further back than I previously thought.

Monkey Bars
Stupid Monkey Bars hiding behind the corner. I wanted to be up at the Platinum Rig with the front runners.

As the course turned I came to the monkey bars. The monkey bars were a little slick from the morning dew and I took my time making my way across. I was hoping the guy running beside me would fail, but he succeeded.

This guy and I ran the majority of the race together, trading 7th and 8th position throughout. I never did talk to this guy I was running with. Unlike the longer races, there was no time for chitchat on this course. My heartrate was spiked, and breathing and running were the only things I needed to worry about.

The Calgary venue has little topography so to get any elevation there is often a section of course that goes up and down the hill multiple times in succession. So when I came to this section I wasn’t surprised. As I started up the first hill, I saw Kody making his way down the hill. Kody told me I was in 7th place at the moment and to “lock it in.”

I did my best to “lock it in” but as I came down the first hill I saw Glenn Hole (The OCR Guy) seconds behind me. Glenn had beat me in Red Deer and he was looking strong. Seeing Glenn that close scared me and made me push harder. But even scarier than Glenn (no offence) was Stefan Wieclawek. Stefan loves to start slow and destroy his competition later in the race. I powered through up the hills with lungs and legs burning, and bombed the downhills. Climbing the final hill of this section I was happy to have both Glenn and Stefan behind me, but the lead I had wasn’t comforting.

The course then headed through the trials section of the motocross park. Navigating boulders, logs and steep drop offs, I was as nimble and agile as I can be at 200 lbs. Finesse is not my forte but I managed to navigate the trials section without rolling an ankle.

I managed to keep Stefan and Glenn at bay as we headed into the bucket carry. The bucket carry was probably the longest it has ever been at Calgary, and was up and down one of the steepest slopes of the course. Filling up my bucket I was surprised at the weight. It was heavy! Our buckets are never heavy in Western Canada.

Spartan Racers, carrying buckets up and down a steep sandy slope.
This was the toughest Bucket Carry Calgary has ever had.

Heading down the slope with my bucket, I saw Stefan approaching the bucket carry. By the time I made it to the turn-around point Stefan had closed in on me significantly. “Fuck, don’t let him catch you” I thought to myself. I picked up my pace with my bucket, but it wasn’t enough. Halfway up the slope with the bucket, Stefan passed me.

I managed to stay within a few steps of Stefan as I finished the carry. I quickly caught back up to Stefan and got ahead of him by a few strides. There was still a chance to keep him behind me. We came to the rope climb within seconds of each other and kept on rolling.

Stefan remained behind me, just waiting to strike…I felt good, but at the ensuing sandbag carry Stefan passed me and so did the other guy who I had run most of the race with. I tried to match there pace but I could not keep up.

The two of them pulled ahead, and I tried to hang on. Charging through the final section of the course I dug deep looking for a final kick, to catch up to those two. Clearly they had done the same. As my pace quickened so did theirs and the distance between us did not change. But there were still a few obstacles before the finish line that could shake things up.

First was Olympus, which none of us failed. Immediately after the Olympus was the Spear Throw. I came up to it just as Stefan hit his throw I congratulated him and picked up my spear. While picking up my spear the other guy threw his and missed. All I had to do now was hit mine.

I nailed my spear. Crawled over the A-Frame Cargo net, jumped the fire, and crossed the line in 45:00 and 8th place (18 seconds behind Stefan). This was a true Top 10 finish that I can be proud of. The field was quite stacked and I’m very happy with this result and an added bonus is beating my training partner and friend Faye Stenning by 7 seconds. Whoop! Whoop!

Me jumping over a fire coming from rocks.
Another race another fire jump.

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