Tag Archives: rope climb

Spartan Race Montana 2014—We Loved it so Much, We Came Back Again!

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Last year, Dan and I participated in our first ever Spartan Race in Kalispell, Montana. That recap can be found here: Spartan Montana Sprint 2013

After that race, I participated in four more Spartan Races—2 more Sprint distances, 1 Super, and 1 Beast, thus earning my membership in the Trifecta Tribe. I had a great time doing all the races that I knew I had to do some again this year! Naturally, Dan and I signed up for the Montana Spartan Sprint again!

We headed down to Kalispell, MT, the night before so we could get to packet pickup. Pickup was running from 5-8 PM outside of Sportsman Ski Haus. We arrived at 5:10 PM and the line was out of control. Last year, Dan and I maybe waited ten minutes tops. I am not sure why the line took so long to move, but we waited a solid 1 hour and 20 minutes. There were some people who waited even longer. If the weather had been bad, or if we hadn’t been able to take the beer we purchased out of the beer garden back to our friends standing in line (and vice versa) this would have been completely unbearable. This is my only complaint of the otherwise awesome weekend. I truly hope the organizers of the race do something about this next year, because obviously more people utilized race pickup the night before than last year.

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I did win a parking pass for us (and a sweet long sleeve burnout-tee!) at the pickup pre-party! The pass came in handy the next morning, as we could drive straight to the race site and park our car on property, versus taking the shuttle. We had a 10:45 heat time, and our friends Matt & Kelly would be racing along with us in this heat. It would be their first ever Spartan Race experience!
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The course, while in the same location as last year, started and ended in a different spot, and also went in what I would consider to be reverse direction as the year prior. This was awesome as someone who had done the race the year prior. Another cool thing about this event was it had been deemed a “Founder’s Race”, as Joe De Sena and other founders of the company personally helped construct it. They would also be participating in a Founder’s Heat later in the day!

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There were many traditional Spartan Race obstacles, such as the Over, Under, Through….Cargo Net…Sand Bag Carry…Spear Throw…Barbed Wire Crawl….Rope Climb. But that last one was with a twist! I was all set to attempt this rope climb, but the climbing rope was swung from another rope between trees like a hammock. This caused a bouncing movement when climbing the rope as other climbers also climbed. I did not like this! Dan with his arborist skills made it up no problem. I, on the other hand, had to do burpees.

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The terrain is crazy on this course, just like last year. Such steep climbs up the sides of mountains, to then only descend down slippery falls full of mud. It was also very wet and humid, in my opinion, but this just has to do with the surroundings. My glutes burned pretty much immediately upon climbing the first hill. This was expected though!

After the spear throw, Kelly and I told the boys to go ahead, as there was just the sandbag, 8-foot wall, and fire jump left. I finished in 1 hour 46 minutes. I even did two terrible cartwheels over the finish line mat! I am hoping that they caught it on camera, so when pictures are posted I will let you know! Being a bling junkie, I was excited to get the medal and see how it looked this year. The Spartan Race medals at split into 1/3 this year, and if you do one of distance they piece together as a giant medal. This race also included a special black medallion for the Founder’s Race, which is very cool!

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We collected our bags, went and got an after photo, and proceeded to hose ourselves down. I didn’t even care that the water was ice cold, it just felt good to get semi-clean! After changing into crappy sweats, we collected our finisher shirts. I was pleasantly surprised with them, as last year they were just a standard cotton black shirt. Not comfortable or breathable at all. This year they are a heather grey, very light, and just plain awesome!

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Other than the race itself being awesome, the after-experience at this particular Spartan Race is incredible. Just like last year, they had food trucks on site and beer flowing from local breweries. We stayed for over 3 hours after finishing and just enjoyed the food, beer, weather, and other racers finishing! It was a blast! I had been worried about the weather all week, as chance of rain was at about 80% for the whole weekend! but the afternoon photos speak for themselves! as we really got to enjoy the best Montana had to offer! When there is so much going on at the race site, beautiful May afternoon and all, why would we want to leave?!?! This is what makes the whole Spartan Race Weekend special—you don’t just go and run a race and are finished…you take it all in all weekend long! If you take advantage of all the things Spartan Race pulls together to make the whole weekend tie in, then you will have an amazing time. AROO! AROO! AROO!

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Race Recap-Day 1, Sun Peaks Spartan Beast

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A few weeks ago I had a post about “Race Envy.” Well…it struck again. Bad. After completing the Red Deer Super Spartan at the beginning of September, my husband’s cousin and I had the wise idea to drive out to British Columbia a few weeks later to compete in the Sun Peaks Beast. And the Sun Peaks Sprint. I mean, come on….just a mere 10.5 hours away was our chance to earn a Trifecta medal…and do something completely bad ass! We both got on the bandwagon, registered ourselves, and started the planning for our weekend adventure!

20131006-102534.jpgToday I am going to touch on our Spartan Beast experience, and in a later post i will talk about the Sprint. The weather for Sun Peaks was not looking promising for race day—-pretty much a chance of rain all day. And cold. And on race morning we found out there was a solid 15 cm of snow near the top of the ski hill we would be climbing. Hello September 28!

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We started in the 10:30 am heat. We were fired up and ready to go! The race started at the base of Mt. Tod, which is about 4,200 feet above sea level. We would be climbing up the mountain and back down during our 21km adventure, eventually totaling around 4,000 feet of climbing.

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While I have done Spartan Races before, this one provided challenges unlike any other. Basically, take the Montana Sprint and times it by 5, add in polar opposites of weather, and you have an idea of what we faced. There were the standard Spartan obstacles on the course, with the over-under-through being one of the first. The obstacles had to be strategically placed, as the trails we were running were mountain bike or hiking trails up the slope. The obstacles had to be placed in open areas that were relatively flat—-this was hard to come by. Some that could be placed in the trails, like the first rope net, were fun, but got backed up due to the narrowness of the course and the fact you couldn’t have more than one or two people attempt it at a time.

The weather was the biggest factor in the Beast. The higher we got, the more the weather turned. It started out just damp and slightly muddy. And at one point Erin and I did notice little patches of snow flurries at the base of some trees. No biggie. But then the ground started to become a horrendous mix of mud and snow, and then pretty soon just snow and ice. When we got to the Hercules Hoist, we had to climb up a little incline that was covered in fresh wet snow. We would not be messing around. I would dare say we reached blizzard conditions when we got to the highest point of the course, the sandbag carry.

20131006-102344.jpgDuring our descent, you had to go almost as slow as you did going up, due to footing issues, ice, snow and mud. Erin and I used her patented “McLaren Slide” to get down many of the narrow trails—-a squat down to the ground, with both hands anchored behind your butt, and your right leg extended as a guide. I got a sweet bruise almost immediately after sliding over a rock, but it was better than tumbling face first and ruining my whole septoplasty procedure!

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All in all, the race was incredible. Erin and I finished in a respectable time of 3:33:28. They had to shorten the course about 4 km due to the dangerous weather conditions even higher up the hill. We understand and appreciate why they did this, but now we want to make sure to do another Beast in the future so we can do a full 21 km! But, this Beast was my Trifecta Tribe race and I am happy that I had my trifecta be all Canadian races. My Trifecta Tribe medal is being mailed out to me soon, as they did not order enough for the event, but Tara (new friend from Edmonton!) let me borrow hers for a photo in the beer garden! AROO!

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Red Deer Super Spartan-Race Recap. “Have I Gone Batshit Crazy?”

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My husband and I headed up to his old stomping grounds of Red Deer, Alberta, on Friday, September 6th, for the Red Deer Super Spartan which would be held the following day. The weather report was grim—-rain, showers, clouds, unseasonably cool weather. As we drove from Lethbridge to Red Deer, we could see the clouds making faces at us, and the lovely downpour that greeted us between Airdrie and Red Deer made us a tad concerned how we would fair the next day.

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We headed out to Heritage Ranch at 8 am Saturday morning. I have ran near here during the Red Deer Half Marathon, but never through all the horse trails. Heritage Ranch was a short 10 minute drive from Dan’s parents’ place, and it is quite an odd location—-we came in through a newer neighborhood and parked on the street, walked to where the check-in would be and it was all RIGHT THERE. Imagine if you looked out your bedroom window and you saw half-naked, spandex-clad soon-to-be-muddy people, heard ridiculously loud belongs-at-a-crossfire-gym music, and witnessed mass confusion of mobs of people at package pickup….that was the Red Deer Super Spartan at 8:20 am.

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Dan and I had never been to a Spartan this early in the morning, and the area was so congested that it didn’t help the situation. We met up with his cousin Erin and us three waited in line for about 25 solid minutes. Some times it was very frustrating as you saw volunteers not being able to check people in or find their names….there was no packet pickup offered the night before so I think that was most of the issue. Once we had our bibs and packages, the rest was pretty smooth. We took turns going to the marking station to get our number put on us in marker, while the others held line for bag check….got to use the porta potty once…check out the finish line area (where they put the rope climb as basically the LAST obstacle! Ugh!) and then it was only ten minutes until our 9:30 start!

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Because of how Heritage Ranch is set up, you literally could only see the start and finish area of the course, and you had no clue what to expect on the course. When the countdown finished and we set off, we barreled through some very narrow horse trails. Some of the first obstacles we hit were the over/under/through wall, stacked bales of hay that we had to crawl over, buckets of soil we had to load and carry, and even some naturally occurring horse poop!

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My biggest achievement in this race was finally being able to complete the monkey bars. My last two Spartan races I slipped off almost immediately, and pretty much psyched myself out of being able to do it. Since Dan scurried across real quick, Erin and I stood there a moment before starting. Erin is not tons taller than myself, but her arm span is ridiculous. She started and got her momentum and went three bars at a time! I started and was just doing one at a time, but once I saw her ahead doing the three, I got some momentum myself and double-barred it to the end. I was so pumped when I jumped off it just fired me up!

The trail running was challenging, but having Erin be our leader most of the race was really helpful. She thrives during trail races and is used to running with the exposed roots, rocks, uneven surface. You couldn’t see any obstacles from inside the thick covering of trees so every time you spilled out of the woods, you were greeted with a surprise. One of the surprises was not just muddy water to walk through, but a 40 foot body of water we had to swim across, which I would describe as a cross between a creek and a small river. It was fairly calm, but the idea of not having your feet be able to touch the bottom was new! They did have life jacket provided if someone needed it. Dan opted to use a regular front stroke, while I just doggy-paddled across. Erin got a little freaked out once submerged, but then made her way over.

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Sooner than we expected, we had reached the finishing obstacle area. The mud wall to climb over was extra tough this time due to the ropes being absolutely covered in sludge. Erin and I both had to do burpees at the rope climb, so when Dan finished it successfully, he told him to finish ahead of us. He did not have to do burpees as an obstacle punishment at all this course, which is a first, since he usually fails the spear throw. Erin and I finished together with a jump over the fire, finishing with a time of 1:27:46, covering a distance of 13km!

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We really enjoyed this course, and had a fantastic time running it. The longer distance was an advantage for me over Dan, since 13km is a normal distance for me to run. This allowed there to be larger spaces and breaks in between obstacles, so I was able to get into a good stride multiple times. So what is next? Well…Erin and I are 99% sure we are registering for the Spartan Beast in Sun Peaks, BC, on September 28th. We have gotten addicted…some may say we have drank the kool-aid—and upon completion of the Beast, I would join the Trifecta Tribe. Have I gone batshit crazy yet? Maybe. But I am having the time of my life!

Spartan Race Calgary-Race Recap

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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