My US Spartan Race schedule has come to an end. I completed the Temecula Super and Sprint in January, and two weeks ago I participated in the epic Montana Founder’s Beast! I am so fortunate that I was able to travel to California in the early part of the year for 2/3 of my Trifecta, and being so close to beautiful Big Fork, Montana, is always helpful when the Montana series occurs each year. US Spartan Races occur all year long, all over the country. I could be flying to New York, Ohio, Idaho, Colorado….The choices are endless. I unfortunately do not have the funds to be able to travel across the USA and participate in all these fantastic options. However, I am fortunate that the Western Canada Spartan Race series is right in my backyard!
The Spartan Race Canada series began a few weeks ago with a Super & Sprint in Montreal. Other race sites for the Eastern Spartan Races include Halifax, Ottawa, Quebec City, and Toronto. I have yet to make it to an Eastern Spartan Race, but hope to someday. The Western Spartan Race series begins in June with the Vancouver Sprint. The provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba all have confirmed events for 2015, with a Saskatchewan race also being in the works. With living in southern Alberta, I have the ability to drive just a few short hours to many of these events!
When I started doing Spartan Races in 2013, I completed my first trifecta by doing Western Canada Spartan Races. My first ever Canadian race was the Calgary Spartan Sprint, which is held right close to downtown Calgary at a local BMX course. I knew after doing this event that the Canadian Spartan Races were the real deal! Canadian events offer the same experience that the USA events have. Some of the same great obstacles are always included—rope climb, monkey bars, spear throw, sandbag carry, barbed wire crawl, traverse wall. But depending on the event, unique obstacles are added! Because of the course makeup in Calgary, there are TONS of mud pits. I’d go out on a limb and say this is the dirtiest course I have ever done! You also get the same great finisher t-shirts and some incredible bling!
While Calgary is held every August, the events that round out the Western Canada Spartan Race series happen in September. I first did the Red Deer Super, Sun Peaks Beast and Sun Peaks Sprint in September of 2013. I am heading out to the same areas again this year, but mixing it up a bit. In Red Deer, I will be participating in the Super on Saturday and the new-to-me Sprint on Sunday. Then a few short weeks later I will be capping off my Spartan Race year by making the drive out to beautiful Sun Peaks, BC, where I will participate in the Ultra Beast-26.2 miles of Spartan craziness! I love that the events have been adding enhancements each year, with different distances and new courses being offered. This makes these races very repeatable, as you won’t do the same thing twice!
I encourage anyone in Canada who has thought about doing an obstacle course race to look up the the Spartan Race closest to you. Spartan Race, in my opinion, puts on the best obstacle course race in not just America, but Canada as well! I am so sure of this, that I am going to offer my readers a chance to win an entry for any Western Canada Spartan Race in 2015! The fine folks at Spartan Race Media Canada are making this giveaway possible! I will have this giveaway open for a week. You can gain entries for it by entering in my Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom of this post! You are able to register for the giveaway until it closes on June 3rd. And if you already know you are going to be registering for a few Spartan Race Canada events, use the discount code AROO15 for 15% off your next race entry!
If you are interested in entering the FREE giveaway for an entry to any WESTERN CANADA SPARTAN RACE please follow the link below to my RAFFLECOPTER giveaway page. You can enter for free there!
This is the third year that Spartan Race has offered a Montana event, with the past two years being the Sprint Distance. This year, they kicked it up a notch and added the Spartan Beast on Saturday—12+ miles and 30+ obstacles of fun! Dan and I had done the Sprint the past two years and loved every second of it, so when they made Saturday’s event the Beast, I registered us for it right away! This year, we also decided to go back to where we stayed the 1st time around—Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge in Big Fork, Montana. This dude ranch has been in operation for 70 years! It is absolutely gorgeous, and as long as we keep doing the Montana Spartan Races, we will always be coming back here! Part of the fun for us during Spartan Race weekend is getting away from Lethbridge for the weekend, and being able to drive 3.5 hours south and be surrounded by such beauty and fun is fantastic. Big Fork is a small vacation “town” (I even think it is unincorporated) but there are a handful of restaurants and bars to enjoy before and after the event. We opted for the new Flathead Lake Brewery for dinner and drinks on Friday, and we’re very happy with our meals. The beer was excellent also! On Saturday, we went into “downtown” and ate at Kiska’s by the Lake, a Cajun restaurant that was also new. Excellent food and drinks all around! My Cajun pot pie was AMAZING! Now that I just gave a lodging, food and drink rundown, onto the race recap….
I actually was able to fall asleep at a somewhat normal time (10:00 PM) the night before the race. I only woke up once, albeit in a full body sweat (probably from nerves) but quickly went back to bed until my 5:30 alarm went. I have never gotten out of bed to an alarm as fast as I did right then. I went through my morning pre-race rituals, as I needed to be down to Erin’s room and set to go by 6:45. Her friend Rob was meeting us at this time also, and the three of us would make our way to the closest transit station (a 10 minute walk) and head to the race start. At the expo, they had given all the racers a free transit pass so we didn’t have to drive in the morning; anyone going into the station at this time on a Sunday was all heading the same place, so they didn’t even bother taking the passes. It was a short 15-20 minute train ride, and then a 10 minute walk, and we were at the start in Queen Elizabeth Park. Met up with Bob, dropped off our bags, and got set to head to the corrals.
We were in the front ORANGE corral and had gotten there with lots of time. Even after they had everyone move up to the start I never felt crowded. The elites were let off about 30 seconds before the general runners, and once we started, we immediately had room to spread out. That is positive thing #1—never feeling crowded on the course! I was going to be running with Bob during the race, and we set our goal pace at 7:50 a mile. I was a little uneasy about this, as originally I was training for an 8:00 minute a mile, but my previous races and training runs had indicated that I could perhaps push myself on this course. The first 5 miles were very straight, all business, routes in commercial areas. There were spectators surrounding us in area, and I was happy I was already finding my pace. My first five miles were in 7:44, 7:50, 7:41, 7:33, and 7:44.
At mile 6 we met the “Camosum Hill Challenge,” which was a times 1,230 metre portion of the route up the steepest incline. This was by no means any hill like we were used to in Lethbridge, but it was a challenge nonetheless. There was no use trying to keep my pace at the 7:50 in this spot, so we just kept running comfortably, finishing mile 6 in 8:10. Miles 7-10 then brought us through some other commercial/residential streets, and we eventually wound over to reaching an edge over the water (which you couldn’t see yet as it was lined with trees). There was also a little quick turnaround spot around mile 8, where Bob and I saw both Erin and Rob fairly close behind us. We ran miles 7-10 in 7:52, 7:52, 7:48, and 7:37.
The next portion of the race had approximately three downhill sections, which wound by University of BC, by Wreck Beach, and ended up in more residential areas right before the Burrard Street Bridge. I was feeling very strong, but still hesitant, as there was still a lot of mileage ahead. Bob was constantly keeping conversation with me, which kept my head in the game, and not overthinking if I was going to regret my pace. We ran 11-17 in 7:51, 7:43, 7:34, 7:49, 7:47, 7:40, and 7:46. It is worth noting that my half marathon split was a 1:42.08. I was on pace to run a 3:24.16, if I could run a perfect second half.
While we had met our hill challenge earlier, I would have to say that the Burrard Street Bridge was mentally tougher. It was a highway bridge overpass and was quite long. It felt never-ending. Bob ran into his brother on this portion, who was out watching Bob’s sister-in-law, so we knew she had to not be far behind. Bob had tried finding her at the start of the race but couldn’t meet up. I was nearing mile 20 when I knew I had to just keep staying positive, because everything was lining up perfectly. In Calgary, I bonked at mile 17. Hitting my miles 18-20 all in 7:46, 7:56, and 7:50 was very encouraging. I was starting to get nervous, though, because it was mile 22 that I broke down in Edmonton. On top of this, as we headed towards the beaches and Stanley Park, I lost Bob. Well, didn’t lose him. He told me he had to stop to use the bathroom, and he’d catch up, so I kept on going. But he never caught back up. Turns out, yes….I could see him behind me at parts on the Seawall when I looked back, but he ended up hanging around near one of the beaches to see if he’d find his sister-in-law. Bob said he knew he left me in good shape and he could have caught up to me if need be. I don’t know about that, because I started doubting myself. I quickly got my head back in the game and realized I only had a 10km left…I had ran a 10km race the weekend before. A 10km is nothing! The Stanley Park area was lonely and winding, but flat and had a cool breeze. When I first started on this path by the beach, I honestly shut my eyes for a split second and took a deep breath in through my nose. The smell of the ocean and the sand reminded me of when we used to go to the Gulf Shores in Alabama. I grew up going there as a kid, with my mom and dad, my grandma and grandpa, and the last trip including my best friend Ali. The Gulf Shores holds a special place in my heart, and picturing that beach and taking a moment to reflect was all I needed to push on.
I kept moving down that walkway taking in the surroundings. I passed a few people along the way, as many were starting to lose it, but I kept feeling good. One of the funnier moments in this section was the table two girls had set up with a sign that said WEED! Only in BC, I guess. We rounded near the parts of the Stanley Park Seawall where Erin, Rob and I had had dinner the night before and I was feeling stronger because of the familiarity. I could see the expo building in the distance across the bay, and before I knew it, I was running by Yacht Clubs and heading into the Downtown Vancouver core. I felt so energized coming up this small path in a garden onto the streets of downtown Vancouver. There were more and more people lined up on this final stretch. I honestly did start tearing up during this final half a mile, but I held it together (mostly) as I ran into the finisher chute. I ran miles 21-26 in 7:57, 7:55, 7:52, 7:53, 7:53, and 7:52, and I crossed the finish line in 3:24.56….WELL under my Boston Qualifying standard of 3:35.00, well under my goal pace of 3:30.00, and even more under my prior personal fastest marathon time from August of 3:44.59!
I was shaking at the finish line, I was smiling, and I was happy. I called my husband first, and told him to post on Facebook what I did, as my fingers couldn’t type it. I called my mom and told her too, as she was a nervous wreck since the last timing mat that was posted online was from around 37.5 km, with a time of 2:57.24. My mom was also so confused with the kilometre distances and paces, so she was just anxiously awaiting a phone call. I did not venture too far from the finish area as I wanted to wait for Bob, and he crossed in 3:28.55. I was so fortunate to have him running by my side during the race, and more importantly, convincing me that hitting a 7:50 pace was possible. I did not just hit that pace, I beat that pace! Erin finished shortly after that too, running a 3:30.49, her personal best and a Boston Qualifier! Bob’s sister in law also got a Boston Qualifying time of 3:29.49. It was an overall successful day for all of us desperately seeking Boston.
I met up with Tim and Alex, who had been waiting for me near the finish line. Tim had brought me some celebratory beers and we headed down near the Olympic torch for photos and to find a spot to relax. I eventually headed back to our hotel to get my post race massage, clean up, and we headed out to lunch at a pub in Kitts Beach. I did not want to leave. This day was beautiful weather-wise, scenery wise, friend-wise, and just plain overall one of the best days of my life. Hard work pays off. That’s all I can say. I didn’t give up. I had tried two times before and failed. But I went out more determined than ever to achieve something that has always been a bit out of reach. What’s next….well, I already booked my hotel for Boston, as my qualifying time will allow me to register two weeks ahead of everyone else. I will take it easy for a bit (I am doing the Calgary 50 km at the end of the month though….) and I will enjoy the summer. I am not sure what I want my goal to be at Boston, other than completion, but I am thinking I could challenge myself to shave a bit of time off. Shaving a bit of time off won’t qualify me for the Olympics or become an Elite, but it will give me something to strive for and work for.
I am Andrea Lammers-Pottage. I am 30 years old. I am a wife, daughter, cousin, niece, teacher, and friend. And now I can also proudly say that I am a Boston Marathon Qualified Runner. Je Me Souviens, forever and ever.
I registered for the BMO Vancouver Marathon back in about November. I was feeling really frustrated and defeated after my summer marathons (Calgary & Edmonton) as I didn’t come close to qualifying for Boston. I ran 3:46.22 and 3:44.59, respectively, at both of these events….well off the qualifying standard of 3:35.00. So when I decided to give my Boston qualifying attempt one more shot, I wanted to pick a race I hadn’t done before. And a race that was known for being a good course for qualifying. It was suggested to me by many people that Vancouver was the course for me. Sea level, rolling downhills, late Spring, spectator support, large city….I registered, booked a flight, and started thinking about my training.
I have mentioned before I had Dean Johnson create a training calendar for me. It was a 16 week training plan, which he took into account my previous fitness achievements and levels. Each day had set paces I needed to achieve and unique workouts. Dean went above and beyond and updated my training plan to reflect the success I was having in half marathon and 10 km distances in late winter/early spring. This training plan held me accountable, as I kept a log of how each workout went in a Google Doc, and it really pushed me above and beyond what I thought I was capable of.
So here comes May 1st. The day I travel to Vancouver. I was nervous, anxious, excited, scared….basically a pile of emotions. I had been training specifically for this event for 16 weeks, but as I drove to the Calgary airport, it occurred to me that I really have been training for this since my first half marathon in May 2004. I wrote about that half marathon here, as it was a race I ran in a daze….it was less than a week after my dad passed away unexpectantly from a heart attack. I have been running long distances ever since.
So this race was important. I have been committed to running long distances for now over 11 years. Some years were low, some have been high. The past two years have been a steady high, with breaking personal records, getting podium at local races, and feeling like I am in the best shape of my life. It was also low when I didn’t get that coveted Boston qualifying time. I was out on this run to prove to myself I was worthy of running in Boston.
The expo was held in Downtown Vancouver at the convention centre next to the Olympic torch. I had stayed with my good friends Alex & Tim in Burnaby the night before, and they were nice enough to drop me off down at my hotel for the night, which was near the expo. This hotel wasn’t originally in the plans, but my cousin Erin is too nice and booked me a room. She would be staying there too! I wandered over to the expo, and this is when I first started getting the chills….the expo was right on the water, it was a gorgeous, crisp and clear day, and the energy was high. Packet pickup was extremely fast, and before I knew it I was on the merchandise floor. There were not tons of vendors, but enough things to look at. I bought a Run Van tanktop, which I know I will wear lots in the summer, and some more Nuun tabs from their vendor table. Included in our race package (which was a drawstring backpack) was a commemorative shirt (which I really liked….a short-sleeved charcoal grey tech shirt), our race bib, and a transit ticket for the race morning.
I ended up going back to the hotel to nap in the afternoon, as I didn’t sleep well the night before and was a bit worn from all my travelling. Actually, before the nap I ordered pasta for lunch via room service. Eating that in bed while watching HGTV was fantastic. I was wide awake then when Erin and her friend Rob were ready to go get food for supper. We went to this sweet market nearby and bought sandwiches and salads, headed to Stanley Park, and had a picnic. The weather was gorgeous and this was a very relaxing way to spend the evening. We were back at the hotel somewhere around 7:30, which gave me tons of time to wind down and get prepared for the big event in the morning. I even was able to head to bed by 10 pm and slept great! Now I just needed the following Sunday to be the best run of my life……
In August 2014, my husband Dan and I were fortunate to travel out East to beautiful St. John’s, Newfoundland. During that time, we attended George Street Festival, an awesome music extravaganza! We were lucky enough to see Dropkick Murphy’s on one of the night’s mid-festival, and had a prime spot….front row of the patio at Rockhouse. The show was awesome, every last bit of it. The crowd was ecstatic. A lot of songs I had not heard before, but many I had. I was patiently waiting for one song to be played, though. And it was almost like a “Name That Tune” moment, when I heard the first chord, I know exactly what it was….Shipping out to Boston!
Andrea watches a lot, A LOT, of shitty reality television (note – all reality television is shitty, but her shows are generally, the worst of the worst). The thing that drives me most insane about these shows is when one of the characters (usually a dumb blonde or no-longer-relevant actor) talks to the camera, and says something preposterously overdramatic and entirely untrue like “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life” or “I’ve never wanted anything so bad in my life”.
Now I understand it’s TV, and that drama sells. But it’s bullshit. Complete bullshit. In generations past, before reality TV, I think these grandiose statements were actually meaningful. Those phrases were reserved for the few times in life that actually mattered. So for the people in the world that actually do something of great merit, I find it insulting towards them for people clinging to their 10 minutes of fame on TV to try to bolster their appeal with this fake drama.
For Andrea’s sake, and for the sake of everybody that truly puts their heart and soul into something they love, let’s appreciate the following statement for what it’s worth, and not just take it at face value:
Andrea has never worked this hard towards something in her entire life.
That’s not just words. She has walked the walk.
She changed her diet (among many things, she gave up ramen noodles… RAMEN F-ING NOODLES!!!). She changed her step and stride (she went to a foot doctor specializing in athletes). She signed up for every race possible (and won most of the local ones). She hired a trainer to write her a training schedule (with the goal of 3:35 in mind, and the training difficulty was increased concurrently with her time improvements). And more than anything, Andrea stuck to her training schedule and ran. It was, and still is, unbelievable. I honestly can’t imagine putting in the persistence, time and effort that Andrea puts into her running. I don’t even think it’s fair for me to attempt to describe it, because I don’t know that level of grueling commitment. It’s every damn day. She runs, at an insane pace (usually at 7 minutes/mile… for comparison, I ran a 10 mile race at an average of 11 minutes/mile and that was giving it everything I have). While she never does a full marathon distance during her training, it’s not uncommon for her to run 15 miles. And then, after 15 miles, she just goes about her day, like that 15 mile run was just a 15 minute walk with the dog. That might be the craziest part to me about her training. She’ll run these super-long distances, and then still want to walk downtown for dinner, or walk the beagle to the dog park.
So I am proud of my wife, and of all her accomplishments. She has pushed herself beyond what I thought was possible. A hobby has become an obsession, and her pace and race times reflect her hard work.
So my dear… Go. Get it done. You can do it, you’ve proved it to yourself. You put in the time, you put in the work. You owe it to yourself. I love you, I’m with you, and he’s watching. This is how you remember.