Dan and I participated in our second Spartan Race on August 18, 2013. This race was held in Calgary, Alberta, and was classified the same as our first Spartan Race, which is a Spartan Sprint. And while the race had many similar obstacles and was undoubtedly a Spartan Race, there was some small differences we noticed in the race setup, feel, and overall experience. I am going to talk about that today.
We live in Lethbridge, Alberta, which is approximately an hour and a half from the south end of Calgary. Dan and I set out on Sunday morning at 8 am to our Spartan Race, which was held at a BMX course in Calgary off of Glenmore Trail. It took us just about 2 hours to get there—a perfect day trip distance. Unlike when we did the Montana Spartan, we did package pickup on race morning. This went smoothly, however, we both realized how much we enjoyed doing the pickup the night before Montana, as it was set up at a sporting goods store, and there was live music, food trucks, beer, and practice spear-throwing for charity. This was just a standard pick up, but I guess that’s what we get for doing just a day trip.
The Calgary Spartan was a two day event. Last year when they hosted the Spartan I believe it may have also been two days, but the numbers this year were twice as many. When I looked at the results, Saturday had 5186 registered participants and Sunday had 3668! Montana was one day. A Saturday, and had 3396 results posted. I wish I could have seen what the setup was like for Saturday, because Dan and I noticed a few things on Sunday that let us down. First, food—there were only two food trucks. One in the packet pickup area and one down near the course. And when we were done racing and hungry the one in packet pickup was closed already. In Montana there were about four food trucks lined up all day pumping out food for the athletes. This was a let down, as in Montana we hung around for a long time after and enjoyed food and drinks and took tons of photos. At least Calgary was just a day trip anyway, because when we were done there really wasn’t much to do.
Another thing that is more of a petty complaint is the beer gardens. Now, this may be due to different laws in Alberta versus Montana. But, the beer gardens had one thing–coors light. I know Molson is a sponsor, so a Molson product is expected, but come on!! COORS LIGHT? We had our one free beer after the race, Dan could barely drink his, and we left. Montana had Tamarack Brewing Company and another local brew available and it was awesome. We spent money on more drinks after our one free because they offered quality beverages . This again may be due to location and laws involving alcohol consumption.
So far it sounds like I am a complaining bitch and we didn’t enjoy ourselves. That is far from the truth! Our heat time was at 1:00, so at 12:30 Dan and I headed down near the start chute so we were ready to walk to the starting line when they allowed us. While we didn’t go into this being “competitive” we did want to be at the front of our heat so we could get to the first obstacle ahead of a backlog of people. We lined up and about 5 minutes before our start time the emcee did his Spartan spiel. Spartan Race Canada must use someone different than Spartan Race US, or the guy we had in Montana must have been at the Hawaii race that was occurring that same weekend, because this guy was weak. He was reading from his script to pump us up, and had this been our first race I am sure it would have. But the man we had in Montana—-oh boy. That guy was a pro. But, whatever—that is just a fine detail.
At 1:00 our heat started and we barreled out the gates and down the first BMX hill of dirt. Dan told me to make sure I didn’t fall right away. Thanks. This course was completely different than Montana, which makes SpartanRace pretty sweet. In Montana we had the picturesque mountains that doubled as ridiculous obstacles to run up and down. Here we had the up and downs of a BMX course, with all the dusty moguls and poor footing. It posed as a different challenge!
I made it to the first obstacle, the cinder block pull, as Dan had just finished it. He was willing to wait for me, but I waved him to just go on alone. I knew I needed to be taking the race slow as 1) I had just gotten back from my 16 day Disney vacation on Friday and only sort of ran once while there and 2) I have a half marathon on Sunday in Edmonton and didn’t want to hurt myself. So I went solo on this race after about the first 8 minutes, and it made the race different. I didn’t have my husband to whine to was the first difference, but more noticeably I didn’t have him to help me over the 8 foot wall. The nice thing about Spartan Races is that even if you don’t know anyone and are doing it solo, people will help you out if you need it and that is great. A woman gave me a boost to get to the top of the 8 foot wall, and after I got over it, I came back around and helped her out. So if you are nervous about doing one of these races solo, don’t be, because people will help you if you need it! And if you are doing it for pure enjoyment and completion, I suggest taking your time and helping others along the way.
Many of the obstacles were similar to ones in Montana, but not exact replicas. There were monkey bars again this race, but the bars were closer together this time and the length of the challenge was shorter! Also, since we were a Sunday heat, and thousands of people had already done it, there was caked on mud EVERYWHERE! So one thing to think about when picking a heat time and day is how used the obstacles may be by the time you compete! Same with the traverse wall—which I was able to complete in Montana, but in Calgary I fell off immediately. In the picture below, you can see how caked with mud my husband is and how the bottom half of that wall looks! So even if you find success in an obstacle at one Spartan Race, it isn’t guaranteed at another, as circumstances are always going to be different!
One different obstacle in Calgary was a balance beam. It was a zig-zag of boards where you had to walk on the approximately 2 inch thick side. I saw many guys fall off right away and have to do the 30 burpees as punishment. Dan told me later he was close to falling off on that, but focused on making it to each corner and pausing. I hope to see more balance obstacles at our next Spartan Race, though, if they are covered in mud I might not find success!
Dan finished in a really fast time of 37:12 and placed 162nd out of 3525 finishers from Sunday! Thing is, Dan didn’t train. So yes, we can hate him for that, but the 5 km distance was just right for someone who doesn’t run regularly, as it was short enough to get him through. His strength are the obstacles. He only failed at the spear throw, so he only had to do burpees once. He has the ability to do all upper body strength obstacles no problem—even the tricky rope climb over the mud pit. I guess all his lugging of landscaping materials all day doubles as strength training! Anyway, he is now actually motivated to start taking these races a little more serious! Case in point—yesterday I went on a 4 mile Dopey Challenge training run and at 3.5 miles, who do I run into but my husband! He said this is the most motivated he is ever going to be so he might as well take advantage of it.
With his fast finish, he was able to see me suck terribly at the rope climb and the spear throw. It was great having him at the last four or five obstacles to cheer me on and give me hints! After finishing, my time was officially 54:04, which is 1371st place overall. I am hoping that when the results get posted over to the main Spartan Race site they have different category placings, but it seems like the Canadian races don’t do that. Dan and I got a picture together afterwards, and it does show how caked on with mud we were! While I know there are other “mud runs” out there, this one isn’t necessarily about just jumping in mud pits. This race has extremely challenging obstacles, and depending on the landscape of the course, you may get more muddy one race than another, and some races maybe not at all.
Would we do this race again? Yes! Would we recommend this race to someone? Yes! And while I know I had my complaints about the Calgary setup, know that had this been our first Spartan Race experience we would have given it a 10 for sure. Dan and I just had a ridiculously amazing experience in Montana that is now what we have as our holy grail of Spartan Races, so any Spartan Race we do now will unfortunately be compared to that. Our next one is on September 7th in Dan’s home town of Red Deer, Alberta. And this will be interesting, as it is a Super Spartan, not a Sprint. This race is listed at being 15+ km, which means it will be well over 8 miles…a distance Dan has never ran. So his lack of running may catch up to him at this race, but with Super Spartans, you don’t just have a longer distance, but you have more obstacles. Dan will do this race solo, and has an earlier starting time than myself. I will be running with my friend Amie, who has never done a Spartan race at all! She is even shorter than me (I am 5’3″) so we will be hurling each other over tall obstacles! My 6’0+ sister in law is also doing this race with her friends, so I may need to use her heir to help me out!
If you don’t know what a Spartan Race is, head over to the Spartan Race site