Thursday, August 11, 2011

Spartan Race - July 2011

Ok, here is my long awaited race summary for the Spartan Race, which took place at Camp Fortune in Hull.

First of all, for some reason, after living in Ottawa for approximately 7 years, somehow I never managed to figure out that Camp Fortune wasn't just a lovely place to relax and do some hiking, but that it was also a ski resort in the winter. Oops. As a result, I had NO idea what I was about to face, and just how hard this race would be. I was oblivious and excited.

We arrived as instructed over an hour early, only to find out that there was no parking available right near the site. We were forced to park, ditch all of our extra clothing, wallets etc, at the vehicle, and walk 2+ km uphill to get to the race site. The weather that day was miserable, it was approximately 30 degrees without the humidex, meaning it soared to approximately 36 degrees Celcius, or 97 degrees Farenheit that day.

When we finally got to the site, we proceeded to write our numbers on our arms in permanent marker, get our chips and free t-shirts (which were white, and of course, we had no where to put them, so we hid them in the bush and came back to get them later). We had very little time before our heat was called and we were lining up.

The course on this race can only be described as brutal. I had heard positive things about the other Canadian races, but they were described as mostly flat. We were faced with immediate hills, climbing to ridulous heights. The gun went off, and we started plowing up the first ski hill with everyone else. It became very clear that to survive this race, we needed to pace ourselves, and slowed down significantly.

Once we were up the first hill, we were directed through a wooded path where we had to climb over and under wood poles, through a cargo net, and dash to the first true obstacle, which was a short wood retainer wall which we quickly cleared. Once cleared we were directed to a grassy area where there was a long strip of barbed wire laid down and we were told to climb under it all, army style. This was by far my favourite obstacle with respect to the challenge - it was fun while forcing you to get down and dirty, and a lot of people were helping each other by raising the barbed wire or to untangle others who had got caught.

Once this obstacle was done, we were relatively filthy, and headed back over to the hills where we were given a tire and told to lug it half way up a ski hill and then carry it back down. I proceeded to find the smallest tire I could, and went to it. The hill was very slippery, and it was hard to find your footings going in either direction.

Once we dropped the tire, we went back under more barbed wire, and if you weren't completely filthy yet, this is where you were covered in mud and hay.

They turned us back us the largest ski hill I think I have ever seen. It literally kept going and going, we would think it was cresting and then cry to see more hill in front of us. At this point, we were probably less than half way through, and the heat was getting to me and my 5 friends. We had no sun protection, and at the top of the hill, we found out there was absolutely NO WATER on the course. An email sent to us had said there would be 3 water stations, and it would have been extremely difficult to carry it with all the mud etc. I am decently fit, not perfect, but all of us were walking part way up the hill, stopping and sitting down, catching our breath, and then continuing. Any time expectations went out the window, and we aimed to just survive.

At the top of the monstrous hill, we were met with volunteers (who were in the process of eating lunch and drinking cold water) and had to climb ropes to the top of the Ski lift mechanism. This is an obstacle that is not girl friendly, as I have NO upper body strength. With the help of a few good men, namely my husband, and tow other guy friends, my friend M and I both made it to the top.

Down back into the forest we went, racing through to a cargo net which we had to scale. I had no problems at all with this obstacle, flying right through and getting some confidence back. Continuing through the forest, we came to the next obstacle that required us to either do 30 pushups, or lug a bucket full of water up and down a hill. I knew my arms were tired, but thought that the bucket was a better form of torture, and cut some time going that route. We dumped the buckets on ourselves at the end, and that water felt like the best thing in the world. At this point, we were outside for about an hour with no water.

Back out of the forest, we ran ahead to the next wall where the girls and boys were separated. Girls got the easier side, where they had put some handholds and footholds for us to scale. The men had to go it without those resources, and I felt bad for any guy who was of short stature, as he would have problems considering the height of the wall. I scaled it with the help of some other girls, and then turned around and helped other competitors before moving on. (I am far left in black, helping someone up)

On the other side of this wall was another ski hill. If you check out the video (below) you will see just how big this sucker was. It felt never-ending. I had to take SO many breaks on this hill, as my body was just exhausted. I thought I was somewhat fit, but between these hills and the women all decked out in shorts and sports bras with amazing abs, I was feeling a bit inferior. We climbed and climbed and climbed, and finally got to the top.

After all that climbing, it was a joy to head downhill and be directed to throw spears/javelins at some straw spartans which were about 20 feet away. If you didn't hit the spartan at all, you had to do 30 burpees. Again, this was an obstacle where many women were at a disadvantage, but I managed to chuck it with everything I had and hit the leg. Yeah for no burpees!!!

The next obstacle came right after: we had to carry a cement block on our shoulders around a little track. Finally we were directed to the best obstacle ever: a river!!!! We were overjoyed to get in that water, cool down and clean up. We walked through the water to two culverts. We had minimal clearance, but were told to swim through the culverts to the other side. The culvert I was in actually had a dip in the middle, and we were forced to tilt our heads way up as to not drown. I loved every minute of it.

Out of the river, we ran over to a pole over some more water where we had to shimmy across or hang from it and climb across. Then we had to lift a brick on a rope up in the air and slowly back down. Easy peasy.

More running, mostly downhill lead us to more barbed wire, but this time instead of it being laid over the grass, it was overtop of a wood frame which was filled with ice and ice water. By the time we got to this obstacle, most of the ice had melted, but the water we had to crawl through was still pretty cold.

Nearing the finish, we had two obstacles left: the Spartans and the fire. (See my impressive jump in the background?)

From there the finish line greeted us, and "spartan women" gave us our rocking medals. We quickly went to the only water station at the finish line and tried to rehydrate as best as we could. We were told that there was free beer and a pay BBQ, but of course, our wallets and ID were in the vehicle 2km away, so once we were semi-cleaned up (and wounds were tended to) we slowly walked back down to the truck and called it a day.

Did I enjoy this race? Yes

Would I do it again? Yes, but I hope next year they do it better. We saw at least one person being taken away for heat exhaustion, and the staff wasn't the friendliest. They ran out of medals too. If they bring in water stations, and make the heats bigger but with more time in between (faster people made running in the forest dangerous), I would definitely try it again.

Here is a video I love, from the perspective of another Spartan Racer - it really shows what the course was like, condensed into 10 minutes. Enjoy! Aroo!

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