Tag Archives: mud run

Spartan Race Red Deer 2015-Weekend Recap 

Standard

So I am doing my race reports a bit out of order. I’m also behind on them, so something is better than nothing! While my next report up is the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend, I haven’t finished looking through all the unidentified photos on MarathonFoto to see if I can find more of me. I want to wait until I have those photos to do that recap. So up next is my Spartan Race weekend up in Red Deer, Alberta, which took place on Friday, September 11th-Sunday, September 13th. During these three days, I participated in 3 events: The Hurricane Heat, Spartan Super and Spartan Sprint. This recap will cover all three events, and while I’ll try to be concise, I’m sure this post will get pretty long! Be forewarned!  

I headed up to Red Deer Immediately after work Friday, which I knew would get me in town right on time for the Hurricane Heat. The Hurricane Heat is a Spartan event I had not yet participated in. While I had signed up for the Saturday and Sunday events I think way back in December, this Friday night event I did not register for until end of August. What is a Hurricane Heat? Well, it’s a 3-4 hour “boot-camp” style group workout, where you work as a team, in smaller groups, as pairs, and on your own. It began in August 2011 when Hurricane Irene forced Spartan Race to cancel their Sunday event in Amesbury, Massachusetts. The founder, Joe De Sena, got a bunch of Spartans together the Saturday morning and did basically whatever the hell he felt like. And now the Hurricane Heat happens the night before many Spartan Race events. Whoever runs the Hurricane Heat decides what tasks the group partake in, some heats run the whole course for the weekend events, and some run parts. The great thing is that every Hurricane Heat could be different!

 

Photo credits-Spartan Race Canada

 
John Bouwman of JohnnyB FITT led the Hurricane Heat. He did a fantastic job. I don’t remember how many of these he said he led before, but I know he has pushed Spartan Canada to let him lead them, as otherwise only the U.S. Races regularly hold the heat. We had received an email about a week prior to the event with a list of items we needed to bring with us. Listed were: hydration pack, headlamp, 2 chemlights, NHL toque, salt/electrolyte packets, energy or gel shots, 5 zip ties, a regulation length hockey stick, a 500 word essay on Why I Race, and to wear all black. We also were told to arrive by 5:30 pm. I took this list seriously, as I had read online that if you didn’t have items you may be penalized. I wish John had been harder on the people who didn’t come prepared, because those were the people at the event that slightly irritated me. I mean, if it says to bring a hydration pack and you show up to this event without one, you look like an idiot. Maybe it sounds cruel for me to say they should have been punished with burpees, but that is what I was expecting. There were a handful of people at this heat who, in my opinion, didn’t have a clue what they were getting themselves into. But, each to their own I guess.
We started with splitting up into teams. John picked me as a team captain (he picked people with a Montreal Canadiens hat on) and I got to pick one person to be on my team, and then we had to all split up evenly in a set amount of time. A lot of the evening would be spent with John giving us a somewhat simple task, and if we didn’t complete it fast enough we would do burpee penalties. Like, when we had to take our hockey sticks and clear a path through the weeds and brush from the race site to the shower site so people could walk there the following day. Wasn’t done well enough so we had to do burpees and then try again.
The evening went on for a little over 3 hours. It included running to different obstacles (we did the course partly in reverse) and then completing some of these obstacles. At one point, we zip tied our wrists to a partner and had to get over the 8 foot wall tied up! We also all helped organize the Tire Flip obstacle and the Stairway to Sparta. Near the end of the night, we even did a little swim in the creek before heading back to base with our head lamps and glow sticks. Upon finishing, we were all presented with our Hurricane Heat Dog Tag, a shirt (I ended up giving mine to my husband because I wasn’t fast enough to get a size small) and the honour of being part of class HHI-005! As someone who has done now a dozen Spartan Races of various distances, being able to participate in the Hurricane Heat was a great opportunity. Since I knew I wasn’t going to be doing the Saturday and Sunday events for time, just completion, and since I knew what the terrain was like in Red Deer, I knew doing this event on Friday night wouldn’t completely waste me. If you haven’t done a Hurricane Heat and have done a ton of Spartan Races, I would highly suggest registering for one!

  
So Saturday morning came around and I was up at my normal school day alarm of 6 am. I had the 8:30 Super Spartan heat time to be at, and I wanted to make sure I arrived with plenty of time to park, warm up, and check my surroundings. My in-laws house is only a ten minute drive from the site of the event, Heritage Ranch, so it’s a super convenient location! I parked close by in a neighborhood, which was worth it by morning end (more on that later). My heat started right on time and I positioned myself near the front, as I knew I wanted to be ahead of the masses as we approached the first obstacles (over-under-through, hay bales, and 8 foot wall). If you get stuck in a mosh of people initially you end up waiting at obstacles. So since running is my strong point, I made a point to stay ahead!

  
Red Deer Spartan Races are, in my opinion, a “runners race” more so than other Spartan courses. There is a lot of single track trails through the woods and then wide open areas of cross country running. If you are a strong runner, you can take advantage of these areas and just cruise from obstacle to obstacle. There were many sections on Saturday (and Sunday) that I was solo as I would go slow through an obstacle but then get a good pace going through the woods.  

  
  
I am most proud of being able to do the monkey bars all by myself on Saturday (and Sunday!) I didn’t hit the spear throw, so now I still have only made the spear once in all my races. The course for Saturday was 14 kilometers of fun, and I am so happy I had an early heat as it started to really warm up later. I would not have been able to run as well as I did if I had been later in the day. I finished in a time of 1:42.14, which was 327/2327 overall, 24/1008 females, and 8/222 in the F 30-34 age group in the Open category. Oh, and that parking spot? Came in handy because as I walked back to my car to change before heading to the beer garden (which didn’t have a free beer for us, even though a coupon was accidentally enclosed in everyone’s packs on Saturday…apparently Spartan Canada couldn’t secure a beer sponsor this year so no free beer!) a dad and his kids had a lemonade stand set up. And a sign offering a hot shower for $3! I inquired and I went and rinsed off on their patio with the hot water hose, and then his wife led me to a change area set up in their mud room. The hot shower, lemonade and tip put me back $8, and it was worth every penny!

 
 So I’ll keep Sunday’s recap short, as the course was just a shorter version of the Saturday’s (approximately 5km). I woke up sore…and hungover. Saturday night consisted of hanging out with my sister in law and drinking a bunch of vodka club sodas. I got her to say she would come sign up for the race morning of, but she slept through it. When my 6 am alarm went off, I was facedown on the couch in their basement. Oof, I just needed to get through this day. I needed this race under my belt because then I would be just one step away from my Double Trifecta, which will be earned in Sun Peaks after completion of the Ultra Beast. I again had the first open heat at 8:30, so getting the race started right away and over early was great. It was surprisingly a lot less busy Sunday morning. I guess I had expected more people to show up for the shorter distance race, but I think a lot of people in Alberta had participated in the Calgary Sprint in August, so if they were going for a trifecta this race was not needed for them.  

  
I just went through the motions of this race, as I just wanted to be done with it. I ran hard in the stretches where running was possible, and I strongly believe that is what helped me place well in this event. I finished in a time of 55:53, and ranked 145/1352 overall, 22/724 in female and 5/157 for 30-34. I collected my medal (both the super and sprint medals had a special Canadian band on them) and another shirt (size small men’s, but I was able to shrink it as it was cotton. The super shirt was an XS small dri-fit men’s, which I’m not sure I’ll wear much). I made my way back to my in-laws, showered, packed, and hit the road back to Lethbridge by 11 am. I wanted to nap so bad, but I also just wanted to get home. Upon arriving home, I collapsed for a solid two hours before unpacking.

   
 So the weekend was a huge success! I participated in three Spartan events (Hurricane Heat, Super and Sprint) and spent around 5+ hours doing it in total. The somewhat funny thing is that when I compete in the Sun Peaks Ultra Beast in one week I will be running for longer than that all in one day. The Ultra Beast will be a fantastic way to cap off my 2015 Spartan Race season!

  

How a Swimmer Became a Runner—in Ali’s Words

Standard

The following post was written by my best friend, Ali Isham. She wanted to write a guest post, and I told her she could write whatever she wanted. Below is what she sent me today:

Andrea and I have been friends forever, and since neither of us have any siblings she is basically my sister; growing up in each others homes, more often mine since we had a pool and my parents were more likely to turn on the AC in the muggy Wisconsin summers. While we were often inseparable we are both terribly different. Anyone reading this obviously knows Andrea is big into running along with other “land” sports such as dancing/poms. I am a swimmer. And I say it that way because it never really leaves you. I was naturally good with anything water based from wakeboarding to skiing and spent the majority of my time in the pool swimming year round. I was not as gifted at land sports. I took gymnastics three times and could not pass out of level 1 because of my inability to do a cartwheel. This is where Andrea and I met when she was in 1st grade and I was in 2nd.

20140601-175009-64209073.jpg

I was a pool fiend. I swam with a club team year round from about 5th grade on, swam varsity all four years of high school and swam a year and a half at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse before a torn labrum in my shoulder forced me to quit. Throughout my swimming career there was this other part to training; dryland. Dryland is exactly what it sounds like, exercises for swimmers on land. I actually currently work as a swim coach for both a club team and a high school team at Peninsula High School in Palos Verdes, California. And I put a ton of effort on dryland, making my swimmers do all the things I struggled with. I was a firm believer that you are either a water person or land person. We were big on weights, box jumps and running for our dryland. I was amazing at the weights, however always struggled with running. I dreaded mile day in high school during fitness testing. DREADED. I could swim miles in a pool at a fast pace but could not run an entire mile without stopping. It was just not my thing.

20140601-175220-64340758.jpg
After my injury I moved back to Milwaukee for my last two years of college. I actually put in a honest effort to become a “runner”, running around the block, willing my slow sad legs to just push to that next stop sign. I quit after a few weeks and found myself back in the pool and weight room. After undergrad I moved to LA to attend grad school at USC. Again I found myself at the beautiful USC track attempting to run. The next day I was in the pool swimming butterfly and loving every second. As grad school went on and finished and real life began I stop putting such an emphasis on exercise, making excuses of not having time and resigned myself to unhappiness in that part of my life. I talked about wanting to swim this Pier to Pier race each summer with my swimmer kids, never accomplishing it. And despite the best efforts of my amazing supportive boyfriend Kevin to get me into the gym, walking on the beach, anything, the battles eventually wound up not being worth it until July 2013.

20140601-175110-64270397.jpg

Lets go back a bit to 2004. I remember the day like it was yesterday, and it’s still painful. My mom called to tell me Andrea’s dad had just died after a run. I was in shock. I walked like a zombie over to her dorm attempting to figure out what to say to her. Turns out there is nothing to say in that moment. I am fortunate enough to still have both of my fantastic parents alive and cannot imagine how I would feel or react to hear the news if one them had died. I definitely cannot imagine how I would have reacted as an immature teenager.

Andrea handled her anger and pain in her own way. We grew apart, me moving to LA probably was a big part but I always felt like something had changed in her after that day. The spark that she had once had was gone, or at least diminished. I didn’t know what to say or do or how help her other that to be supportive in whatever it was she was doing. I had no way to relate.

Coming back to 2012/2013 I began to notice an increase of posts on Andrea’s Facebook page. Nights of crazy college drinking parties and booze were replaced with NikeRun info about mileage. Pictures started rolling in of finisher medals and her in adorable running attire with her hair fro’d out. It was awesome. Suddenly I wanted to be winning medals, posting cool things other than collecting another pint glass. But wait, I wasn’t a runner.

2012 I switched jobs and moved from one swim team to another right after my grandpa had passed away. I was in an environment where I wasn’t happy and made a difficult choice to move teams where I would have a lot more responsibility and be expected to up my knowledge. It was worth it to not go home miserable each day. That began my change.

July of 2013 a roommate wanted to check out a Crossfit place nearby. I was intrigued having seen some of the Crossfit Games on TV and said sure I’ll try it. The first intro session was brutal. After learning some basic movements I was dead on the floor after just a mere 8 minutes or so, but I was hooked. However, this newfound love came with a stipulation; I would have to embrace running. The enthusiastic and supportive coach Kris was amazing, however he would not back down on my learning to run. I would not have to like it, but he promised me I would be able to do it. I agreed to give it my best shot. From July until January I slowly worked on my running during warmups and WODs, still not liking it but able to go from 150m, to 200, to 400 and eventually 800. I remember thinking after completing my first 800 “holy crap, that’s half a mile”. And I know for most people running 800 meters is not a big deal, but for me it was the accomplishment of the year.

January was also when Andrea competed in her Disney World running expedition of whatever insane races they were. Her pictures were awesome. I remember calling her after she got back to ask how it went and she told me all these funny stories. I mentioned I remember seeing people at Disneyland with these cool Coast to Coast medals and asked her about them. She explained how you got them. I asked if she was ever going to run in a Disneyland race…

Two days later we are on the phone again. Turns out she can make the Dumbo Dare challenge happen this year in August, and I should run the 10k with her…I agree.

20140601-175311-64391616.jpg
A few weeks later we are signed up. And now I’m freaking out. I somehow have to manage 6.2 something miles, and I can’t slowly stroll the whole thing. And also in this madness I’ve agreed to a 5k Spartan race in Calgary in the middle of August while visiting Andrea. I don’t run!

One day at Crossfit I tell Kris what I just agreed to. As predicted he is beyond happy and supportive, and agrees to help me train because the idea of peeling myself off the couch and just randomly running 3 miles doesn’t seem plausible to me. He assures me it can be done, and I won’t have to run 3 miles… yet.

It starts slow, 200 sprints with lots of rest, 400 sprints with lots of rest, an 800 here, rowing and stairs every now and then and splits for everything. However a few weeks after I begin running, there is this day that says “1 Mile Time Trial”. It lurks ever closer. I decide to do as much training as possible at the track at the pool I work it. It’s a nice track with pretty views and I can usually run before or after practice. At the 1 mile for time day my one goal is just finish the mile without stopping. I do it, finishing 11:39, no stopping. A few weeks later there is 2 miles for time. I do that at Crossfit and stop a few times but I do it.
On Monday, Memorial Day I ran 3 miles, I walked maybe 200 yards of it. On Thursday I did another mile, fast, and dropped 40 seconds finishing at 11:00. I know 11 minute miles are not fast compared to the rest of the world but its fast for me, an out of shape swimmer, and I couldn’t be happier. I also shaved time off my 800 and 400.

This morning a crossfit friend Lauren ran a few 400s with me, pushing me, and when I thought my legs could not go any faster I got a PR by 9 seconds in my 400, going 2:10. I know I can manage the 5k Spartan race and am confident and I will be ready for our 10k. Andrea assures me there are lots of breaks to take pictures with characters, but I want to tackle that thing with the vengeance I used to have at swim meets.

20140601-175523-64523531.jpg
In just two short months running is still hard for me, but I actually look forward to it. The idea that I have to run a mile isn’t a dreaded task. And sometimes I would rather be running then doing some of the things we do in Crossfit. A huge thank you to Kevin, Kris, my swimmers/families who ask how the running is going, and my own family for the continued support. I can now call myself a swimmer, Crossfitter, and runner. My goal is to be able to hold 10 minute miles during our 10k that we are going to run together. Andrea runs because she has to to stay sane & because she loves it; I run because I need to, and now I want to.

And I will compete in that Pier to Pier swim race. Perhaps Andrea should do it with me.

Spartan Race Calgary-Race Recap

Standard

20130822-131117.jpg

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.

20130822-131143.jpg
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.

20130822-131410.jpg
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.

20130822-130915.jpg
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.

20130822-130828.jpg
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!

20130822-130755.jpg
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.

20130822-131031.jpg

20130822-131328.jpg
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.

20130822-130718.jpg
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