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Spartan Super in Seattle

I wasn’t sure if it was fear, excitement, or both all-rolled-into-one when I woke up Saturday morning. Let’s call it the fearcitement of my first day back on a Spartan course in what felt like an eternity.

To make things more interesting, I slept funny and tweaked my neck… which had me in hotdog mode for the days leading up. Thanks to the magic (and hard work) of my husband who is an RMT, I could pretty much turn my head come race day. Pretty much.

The course was awesome. It had a fun mix of obstacles: a mini version of the Tahoe rig (it had more rings and was half as long: like the half marathon is half as long as the full), staggered monkey bars, a barb wire crawl you had to roll a log through, and a bunch of steep and muddy banks you had to climb with a rope. 

And it was but muddy. When running through the mud every step was a surprise. Shin, knee or waist height? Thankfully I was almost always behind someone who had to find out the hard way.

The only time I really felt my neck was on the bucket carry – since my back muscles were all jacked before carrying a bucket of rocks around. Basically it took way less time for my back to seize and way more time to do the carry which was not a winning combo. I was freaked out about anything with my arms overhead but that was all fine. The body is pretty amazing.

I spent the race getting reacquainted with things I once knew… like the importance of getting low enough to actually clear the barb wire (and backing up to detangle your back skin)… like the challenge of running through hard lumpy pasture without losing an ankle… like the delicate balance of running hard but always leaving a little in the tank to explode over an 8′ wall.

I also unfortunately got reacquainted with the sting of the burpee penalty. I was finally moving up and feeling good when I face planted on the final peg of the log hop. 30 burpees.

I trotted into seventh place knowing there was a big gap both behind and in front of me. Which was nice. I do like trotting.

All in all, I’m glad to be back in the rodeo and I can’t wait to get back out there again.

See you in Montana.

Help! How do I Fuel and Hydrate my Workouts?

You may have noticed that you probably need something a little more than just a swig of water to make it through the longer workouts. Although there is no real hard and fast rules about fuelling and hydration, there are some good general rules of thumb I’ll share with you here.

If the workout lasts less than 60 minutes, water alone should get you through it. However, you should have had a pre-workout snack beforehand if your last meals was more than three hours earlier. But in the case of pre-workout snacks, less is almost always more. When you exercise, blood is diverted away from your digestive tract and too much food doesn’t break down properly… usually trying to claw it’s way out mid burpee. 100 calories less than an hour out or 200 calories 2 hours out generally works.

If the workout lasts 60 – 90 minutes, you might add a little something to your water or have a wee bit of calories. You can make your own energy drink or have a handful of raisins. I advise against most packaged drinks as they are a terrifying mix of chemicals. Seriously, what in nature is that colour? Once in a while in a race situation, OK… but in training it should be reserved to trials to ensure it’s works for you. We are doing this to be healthy right? I personally use NorthStar Organic Sportdrink because it’s made of food yet it’s still convenient. Although, I’d still say that most people don’t need anything but water.

If the workout lasts 90 minutes or more, you’ll want to at least bring something to eat or a drink high in calories. You should aim to take in 150 – 250 calories per hour of easily digested carbohydrate. That becomes increasingly important for efforts longer than three hours, like a Spartan Beast or Tough Mudder for most folks. In this case, you want to start 30 minutes in (even if you’re not hungry) to keep your blood sugar level. I advise you break your caloric intake up into 2/3 times per hour. I literally will “sip” on a gel.

I’m a big dude. Should I eat more?

Unfortunately for big dudes, the limits of human digestion are as such no matter your size. Although, since you expend heaps more calories than us small folk, you have to be way more on top of your fuelling and hydration…. perhaps adding a pre-race gel or energy drink. Your fluid needs and capacity will likely also be higher as you have less skin area for heat to dissipate and a bigger body to power.

What are some ideas for easy pre-workout snacks?

It’s almost always a matter of personal preference combined with general rules. No excessive fibres, spice, fat or protein. Easily digested but healthy sources of carbohydrate include oatmeal, bananas, oranges, rice and the like. Keep in mind again that you should still be eating healthy food since pre-workout snacks still comprise a big portion of your diet.

Is there any value in trying my race day fuelling and hydration strategy before race day?

Yes. Never eat or drink anything that you have not tested in training. Long days make the perfect laboratory to test how your body reacts to everything you plan to race with from gear to nutrition. Keep in mind that weather (and a boat load of other things) also effect your hydration needs so with fluid intake, get to know your body… instead of creating a set in stone drinking schedule.

What should I eat and drink after I run?

On an easy day, you can probably just get away with fuelling and hydrating normally depending on weather. However, if the session was particularly long or taxing, you need to start reloading your muscles right away… both to reap the most benefit from that workout and to ensure the success of the next one. It doesn’t have to be complicated… an apple with almond butter and a big glass of water would suffice. You don’t need to chug 2 litres of chocolate milk after every easy 5k run… but if you’re spent, it’s crucial to recovery (which is where you actually grow stronger).

Does your nutrition strategy change for a two race weekend?

Yes. You need to be extra diligent on taking in a solid carbohydrate based snack with some protein and lots of water. Water is necessary to help you digest the carbs. I also started taking in a gel on the second day regardless of distance since glycogen stores are so depleted, and felt it made a huge difference.

I’m not remotely thirsty, should I drink?

Probably not. The research is pretty clear at this point that thirst is actually a good indicator if you pay attention to it. Your performance will drop dramatically though if you are thirsty. So I like to have athletes check-in with their thirst and get familiar with their fluid needs rather than get used to drinking on a schedule. What is key is that you have access to water and sip at it before you get thirsty enough to chug it (at which point it will slosh around in your tummy instead of quench your thirst). During really hot long duration races, you’ll likely want to add some electrolytes.

I’m not hungry, should I eat?

It depends. Do you plan to be out for more than three hours or is this your longest run to date? I’d say yes. Especially if you are racing. You will be running on the limits of your energetic capacities and your digestive system is very limited in terms of processing power so you really don’t want to go down that hole. If, however, you can run easily for two hours without getting hungry or seeing a decline in your mood or performance, why the heck not? I have seen people who have routinely taken one or two gels over the course of a marathon and see unimaginable leaps in performance once they took in the required amount of fuel. I have also seen people run very well on very little.

Girl Power

OK so this is going to be a bit cheese balls.

But I just have to say it: lately I’ve felt like there has been a shift in female sport towards more fierce fitness.

And I mean fierce and fast at any speed.

A couple weeks ago at run club, I ran 400s with the fast ladies at the track. That’s right… ladIES. For so long, it’s been the other lady – or just me. But now. Now we had a wolf pack. A lady wolf pack. Right in there. Running hard and loving it.

We were all having a great time pumping out 400s … and I didn’t even fully realize our combined estrogen output until someone yelled, “girl power!” as we huffed past.

So cool.

Ten years ago, before GU existed and when I owned a discman waist belt, I ran college cross country with the guys. Not because there weren’t females on the team… but because most of them weren’t interested in vomiting on themselves to shave 30 seconds off their 5k. There is pretty much nothing I wouldn’t have done to shave 10 seconds off… so I’d set my claws into the back of the men’s pack and hang on for dear life like Zellers.

That’s probably where I’ve spent most of my time running… in my bubble, just behind the boys.

I like it there. Don’t get me wrong. You can spit and snot rocket and talk trash freely. It’s probably also been super good training to always be in chase mode (and way more fun.)

But I feel like I see more ladies running in what was once a weird little void… just a few meters off the guys. And with those ladies come community, healthy rivalry: comrades in sport.

I ran a 5k race that Saturday.

There was a strong female pack and I ended up feeling good and pushing off about one mile in. Three of us broke the course record (19:04) and another two just barely missed it.

Would anyone have broken the course record if we weren’t there pushing each other? Probably not. Was anyone thinking about thigh gap or visible abs? Not a chance.

As we approached the finish line I overheard someone from the crowd say, “Wow… the women are coming through already.”

Yeah. You betcha. We’re coming through.

westvan

#ExpressYourStrong

alli reebok talk

OK, so being a part of a major ad campaign for a major fitness apparel company is pretty darn cool in and of itself.

The fact that this brand represents my sport makes it doubly cool. But the message behind the campaign itself is truly the coolest part.

The Express your Strong campaign is based on the idea that people are born with innate strength that is fed in the wake of the challenges and rigours of training. The message obviously resonated profoundly with me since I overcame a serious accident with the same attributes I had forged in training after many years of being sedentary.

Strength is expressed in many areas of our lives: illness, injury, career, family. Hence, training your body really does change you, inside and out.

The kicker for me is that the campaign focuses on women… which I feel is especially important. Those who know me, know I have an inner feminist drilling away at my core values.

Years ago, I fought my way into a dead-end, only to be publicly ridiculed for suggesting that women race the same distances as men in collegiate cross country. How absurd that women be made to run as far as men… even though they are clearly biologically better-suited to longer distance events.

I cringe at the campaigns that suggest fit women are just as sexy at any weight. It’s not that I disagree with the message. And a part of me loves the premise. Every one of those women are sexy. I just feel like we missed the point. Every one of those women are capable and strong. Their bodies and minds are able to express that in different and yet equally amazing ways. I want “sexy” to loose it’s place as the central issue for us ladies so that we can truly transcend the barriers of valuing a body for it’s ascetics alone.

Fitness is just so much more than that.

Part way into my fitness journey, I realized that I was really discovering that I was strong. I wasn’t fast, I couldn’t lift heavy things, I couldn’t throw or catch. I couldn’t express my strong on Track and Field day. But it was there… as soon as I had an outlet, I found it and it made me who I am today.

Many of us women put ourselves last. We let others lead us, make our choices. We lead others down their own paths. We do it all for the ones we love. But in so, we lose ourselves.

I’ve seen it happen. The eyes that flash, “Oh my god. I can do this.” There is no feeling like it. That strength that surges through your body at the top of a rope climb or at the peak of a mountain. That strength that surges through you just the same when you follow your own heart, overcome your demons or come sliding through the other side of a tragedy.

Sure, there’s room for every fit body to feel sexy. But there’s room for every fit body to feel accomplished, powerful… strong. Isn’t that so much more amazing?

In case you missed the ad…

 

 

 

 

Embracing the Off Season


All of the natural world is formed upon cycles.

It’s easy to lose track of that, to quell the cycles that were once such prominent drivers in every aspect of our existence, with our technologically flattened routines. Artificial light, sendentary lifestyles, food-like products, uppers, downers, central heat, air conditioning…

I used to work with horses. I actually lived in a barn. I saw the fields go from barren to lush to barren. I watched the farmers work tirelessly through planting and harvesting seasons. And then nothing. The bright lights that once lit a path late into the dark night for their tractors, now illuminated warm little homes, quiet and still against a backdrop of white snow. They slept, they ate, they recharged.

As it was with us. The training wound down as the ground became frosty and inevitably hardened against the crisp air. Lean muscles pulled taught over bulging ribs hid themselves under blankets of thick fur and a few extra buckets of oats.

A lot of what draws endurance athletes to the sports we live for is a return to simpler, more primal times. To reconnect with nature… it’s cycles… it’s pulse.

We know the warmth of sinking into a soft bed, exhausted. The satisfaction of a full meal into an empty belly. We live these primal cycles every day. We overcome the struggle and find the most profound pleasure in striking balance.

And so it should be.

I’m feeling the full effect of winter. After a long and taxing season of hard training and racing efforts, I’m ok with a few extra bowls of oats and some extra padding on my ribs.

Planting season is after all, right around the corner.

BYO Gym on Vacation

Christmas this year was spent in a small resort on a Philippine island with extended my family.

When I called beforehand they informed me that they had a short running track (500m) but no gym.
So I packed my own.

Here’s what I came up with…

I brought an empty sandbag, a TRX and a skip rope.

I figured that every resort has at least one tree and a whole pile of sand. And my “mobile gym” took up only a small corner of my suitcase.

Turns out the resort neglected to mention their onsite obstacle course… yes, really. So it turned out to be an awesome training ground for the week.

I usually rely a lot on body weight exercise, running and using towels as gliders when I travel. I’ve also tried to cram a door frame pull-up bar into my suitcase… and then ended up using a collection of doors, stair cases and playgrounds.

And I always have a variety of mobility tools like a baseball ball, travel sized roller and bouncy ball in my carry on. On this occasion, security confiscated by baseball stating it was a “blunt force object.” Evidentially they have not seen me throw a baseball. I’d be lucky to hit someone hard enough for them to notice. My husband though made it on the plane with two lacrosse balls in a sock. Seriously.


I’m curious as to what fitness equipment people would pack on their three item list? Leave yours in the comments below.

My First OCR DNF at WTM

My first OCR DNF happened, last night, at my favourite event, the World’s Toughest Mudder.

But it was far from a surprise.

I barely made it carrying my 1-year-old from the car park to the library last week and just did my first nearly pain free shallow pool run three days ago.

We considered cancelling the trip but then decided to give it a go.

Hey, my foot might loosen or numb up or something right?

I was actually surprised to make it through the first lap. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t fast and it didn’t feel good… but I was hobbling at a decent clip. If I could just hobble through like this for 24 hours, 75 miles would be no problem. Every step hurt but the pain was manageable. I was happy.

This year you had one free hour to run before the obstacles opened. I should have been over the moon, trotting around the dessert, running like I love to do. Instead, I could hardly wait until the obstacles opened so I could stop limping along through the sand.

The bell rang as I was attempting to pass Operation. This obstacle was a  giant replication of the classic game where you get hit with 10,000 volts instead of a earful of soul jarring buzzer. I took the penalty that first lap, which involved dragging a sandbag up and down a hill and through tunnels. On the next ones though, I opted to go slowly and carefully – not wanting to find out what happens when that kind of voltage runs through my titanium arm. I must have looked like I was defusing a bomb.

Tight Fit was next. They changed the name just to screw with us I’m sure. It was the same large hole cargo net pulled tight over tractor tires. Perfect for tangling exhausted racers up.

Grease Monkey was a set of ascending monkey bars to a descending tube. They got a little harder as they got a little muddier but they were always a welcome break for my leg.

Statue of Liberty again this year! Float across a lake holding a lit torch. So much calm and beauty admist a challenging course.

And then came Gut Buster. It requires you to traverse across a pool of water sideways in the plank position with your feet on a board, walking your hands across a set of fixed vertical beams each about two feet or so apart. Really tough for short people. I noticed the people that fell early did the cinder block carry penalty in the same time that it took me to get across. From then on, I took the penalty.

Hump Chuck is pretty much a giant slanted whiteboard in the water.

Upper Decker was a rope climb out of water where you had to drag yourself into a tube at the top and then crawl through a great deal of mud under barb wire. Easy enough the first few laps but one that would tire people quickly. I guess they made it tube to rope later for safety.

I suck at Swingers. You’re supposed to jump off a tower about 12 feet over a pool of water, grab a T-bar, swing across, let go, hit the bell  with your hand and then drop into the water below. For me it’s always jump off a tower over a pool of water, grab a T-bar, swing across, let go, hit the water with my face. Every time. Bend my arms, face plant. Straighten my arms, face plant. Kip my hips, face plant with added enthusiasm.

Kiss of Mud. Is there glass in here? Are we rolling in glass? These pieces are shiny. And sharp.

I could have happily done Roll the Dice for all 24 hours. Consisting of long pyramids on skewers in the water that you need to grab and quickly throw yourself over to spin, they worked best as a group effort although I was able to get across one time on my own. Fun.

I never got the hang of Tramp Stamp, where you jumped off a platform to bounce off a trampoline to grab a T bar and then zip line across a pool of water. I just couldn’t generate enough bounce. This is also where Ama shot me a thumbs up and yelled, “Good job anyway on the trampoline” – which left a dorky smile on my face for a few miles.

Royal Flush was just unpleasant. Wade across pond and pull yourself up semi submerged incline tube that sprayed water in your face. Just stop. But you couldn’t actually say that because there’s water being sprayed right in your face.

The Mud Mile was always a welcome  sight since it meant the pit was just around the corner.

Everest (the run up the skate pipe) was the first obstacle on the course so I missed it on the second lap since we were still on obstacle free time. There was the regular 1.0 that you do and complete a penalty – or a 2.0 with a higher rounded lip to choose from. Before my leg entirely went and I couldn’t even run to the base, I managed 2.0 easily since some strong dudes were there to haul me up.

Whale’s Turd consisted of a giant inflatable post swim covered in netting. The first few pulls were hard to get over the first jump and then it was up and over. There is just something fun about inflatables.

Hydroplane was what you see kids doing at the pool: running across a bunch of floaty mats over water. And there’s a reason the kids love it.

They made some little knotches on   Liberator (the peg board ramp) to stick your toes into so it was heaps easier. I think this speaks volumes about TM balancing the course out.

For Abseil, you repel down a rock wall by a rope. Simple. But a little freaky the first time.

The Gamble. This year you rolled a dice which determined which variety of wall you got. Vegas baby! I rolled an incline wall, an incline wall with a vertical rail and a huge wall. Thankfully another person also rolled a big wall at the same time and so he hoisted me up and then I pulled him over.

Next was Vertigo, a latter with very slippery boards that led to a balance beam over a cargo net. Easy enough but treacherous. I saw a guy bail face first into it and then fall back into the net. And then get up.

In terms of my DNF, I bounced from high points where I shuffled along in elation under the happy illusion I could make this dream a reality to low points where taking another step was simply too agonizing.

On the run section at end of mile twenty, the pain crawled into my IT band and quad. I was holding my breath just to jog a few steps. Even walking hurt and running downhill was no longer a joyous reunion with nearly pain free running.

John fixed the IT band pain with his magical Chinese RMT powers, suited me up in extra warm clothes and sent me trotting off like a spritly little pony. And then after about 100 feet of pure bliss, things digressed quickly and drastically. It was a hard decision but I officially pulled out.

It’s a funny thing, this is the race that I trained all year for. I was sad and lost. Of course. But having the chance to be with such amazing people doing such cool and challenging stuff still filled my heart with joy.

And of course, surprising the girls back at hotel was all I needed to heal my heart right up.

My body of course, was another matter. I spent a long night writhing in pain and cramping like crazy. Well, at least I won’t be forever wondering if I called it too early.

My husband is yet again the real star. He spent the last month rehabbing my foot while building a giant rig for the canfitpro show next week, working, and being an equally exceptional dad.

And then taking care of everything this weekend. Including his wife’s mental and physical health.

Here’s hoping I can hobble down to bask in the glory of my fellow mudders who fought hard to overcome a challenging course this weekend.

The Spartan World Championship

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

That right there pretty much sums up everything that went through my head during the Spartan World Championship Beast.

Somehow our whole house has been down with some flu/cold/plague for weeks. I was glad when it hit last week since I thought it would be long gone. It got better and then it got worse. Such is living in a house with two little germ sponges that wipe their adorable little noses on you and stick things in their mouths that are still dripping with other kids drool.

I know from experience that altitude does not good for me. I developed sleep apnea, gasped for air through slurred speech and pretty much was dizzy, sick and tired for the duration of our trip to Peru and Bolivia. On one hike up a glacier, I remarked about how terrible another hiker looked. He was literally blue and totally incoherent. John just stared back blankly at me, clearly at a loss for words. Apparently dude looked far better than I did. At this point, our tiny but sturdy guide was yanking me up the hill by a chain affixed to both our waists nonchalantly as he stuffed handfuls of cocoa leaves into his mouth and cracked jokes like this was something he did every day. Because he probably did. We had to turn around not 400m from the top since I couldn’t muster another step.

I tried to put that out of my head. “My the air is fresh” became my mantra. It would carry me to the top like a zippy little mountain goat. That worked for about a minute. Until a familiar feeling clutched my entire being. My ribs all of a sudden became two sizes too small and all the muscles in my torso contracted in unison. Everything got heavy.

Now I don’t run uncomfortably fast often, which is probably why altitude crushes my body and soul as it does. That, along with grip strength gives me plenty of homework for next year. You want to define your weaknesses? Do an OCR. I think that’s what makes them so addictive. You can always become a better person and athelete. Not that I didn’t recognize my short comings before but this race certainly highlighted them with a big fat red pen for me.

Back to the buzzy, cramps sensation.

It was the bell lap on a mile. The bell lap, although I was hardly even jogging.

I slowed to a power hike. On everything… I suck at technical stuff and am if anything a switchback runner. But every time I tried to pick up a jog my whole body stiffened.

I was pretty ok power hiking, although occasionally someone would talk to me and I could hardly respond back. I usually stay cheery through races by chatting it up with the volunteers and other racers. For me that’s when I know I’m having a bad day. No bad jokes.

As for obstacles, they had the fat up and down monkey bars with a big gap – only they spun. When the person next to you came off, it spun the whole bar all the way around. You’ve gotta move fast – something I definitely need to work on. So many people came off it was hard to find space to do burpees but after knocking a set out, it was right back up the mountain.

This was an unusual course for Spartan, 7 miles up, 7 miles down.

I don’t know that the carries were that heavy but they sure felt nearly impossible to me. Even the sandbell carry slowed me to a waver. Two steps sideways, one step up.

I regretted wearing thick pants. The sun was hot.

Until the swim.

The water was probably just a few degrees away from being ice. It was so cold I couldn’t stop gasping.

I was relieved to be out of the water and the wind hit me. Thank goodness for my windbreaker!

And pants. Thank you pants. I’m sorry I ever doubted you.

I would not however carry a pack next time. There were more than enough well spaced water stations.

Some time after this there was a crazy series of barb wire crawls to walls. I can’t remember how many because there were too many to count.

Roll through sharp rocks, stammer up to wall, pull self over, attempt to land on feet. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Repeat.

Contemplate re-entering icy water, dunk wall, slip wall, rope climb.

The other signature obstacle that laid waste was the double long rig with traverse poles, Tarzan ropes and rings right at the finish. Almost no one made it across… even the athletes that make this stuff look easy. I made it about halfway and missed the transition from the Tarzan ropes to the traverse pole. So the race ended with 30 burpees and a sprint to the finish.

I was momentarily disappointed with myself. Spartan had put on a great course and I had failed to do it justice.

Then I saw my family leaning over the fence. John smiling. Ama looking through binoculars at me, not twenty feet away. Seren yelling “banana” above the noise of the crowd, and motioning me to the food table.

It was the greatest morning, but it was about to be a great day. My team mate Faye had come in top ten. There were two Canadians on the female podium and one on the men’s.

The next day I decided to head out and do the sprint. I was prepared for it to suck and it didn’t. It was actually fun.

I still had to powerhike the hills but we cut off and went back down the mountain before things got real ugly. Yesterday’s double long bucket carry was almost a snap in comparison. I was able to catch up to Rose, the American Ninja Warrior and Spartan dominator (who was taking it pretty easy the day after the beast), on the traverse wall just before the crazy rig.

I did burpees as she flew across like Spider-Man and I stumbled over the finish 30 seconds later.

Thankfully the staff let me head right back out and try the rig. And thankfully Rose was there cheering and guiding me through right to the bell.

The world championship weekend is about racing. Of course it is. But more than that it is about celebrating this amazing community of crazy people who are living life to the fullest. The hard, the easy, the highs, the lows.

I feel like some of the people closest to my heart I have hardly shared a word with outside of a grunt of encouragement here or there on the side of a mountain, covered in mud, and chalk full of bruises and life.

tuition

Sun Peaks UltraBeast 2015

  
Nothing like being on the tail end of a flu and the starting line of an UltraBeast. 
With the Spartan World Championship coming up in Tahoe next weekend and after having taken a few sick days with zero training, I thought getting back to normal with a long run in the mountains would do me good. 

If I took it easy…

Although, I’m not sure taking it easy was an option out there.

They had the usual obstacles: a couple balances, a few walls (including one halfway up a steep slope), an O-U-T, three very cold crawls, a long hobie hop, mud mounds, traverse wall, cargo net, rope and spear.

I think the big change this year was the relentlessness of the climbs combined with the heavy stuff. There was a tractor tire drag, double sandbell carry, herc hoist, two log carries, tire carry, light bucket carry, tractor pull, and the longest atlas carry I’ve ever done. 

The extra UltraBeast loop also had a heavy sandbag carry up a good vertical with no ladies option followed by a steep hike up a gnarly ski run.

It was a grinder for sure.

Mother Nature also added her own touch: blazing sun to blizzard and back again. I don’t normally change that much in a week… never mind a day.

I almost came off the traverse wall on the first lap since my hands were so frozen I couldn’t close my fingers.

I ended up changing arm warmers and gloves and then putting a long compression on at the drop bag tent halfway. I decided to cook myself in the sun on the climb in order to get my core temperature back up.

The big storm hit as I was just about to make the climb to The Top of the World. I put on my sunglasses to block the snow from my eyes but the wind was freezing me to my bones. A volunteer named Cheryl from the Herc Hoist gave me her almost brand new shell to block the wind. It was glorious… like stepping inside a sauna. I’ve never been so happy or so grateful. 

My nose also eventually stopped bleeding. I had jammed a branch up it early on while doing burpees and it was like turning on a slow faucet.

I was still nauseous and dizzy. I was still tired. But I always try to focus on what’s going right and how I can make things even better. The flu isn’t going to magically evaporate but I can hydrate and fuel well and keep the pace and effort even.

The volunteers were outstanding. I’ve yet to see more engaged, more enthusiastic, more amazing ones anywhere. 

Outside of obviously making more realistic cut offs (since technically only 24 people finished under the 6pm cutoff), I think they need an elite vs open UB heat.

It would clear up things like assisting one another at obstacles, taking burpees instead of doing carries and all that. Stuff you do in an open heat but not as an elite.

I do love the camaraderie aspect of people helping each other through to finish. It’s what makes these long races so special. 

There was one guy on course on his second lap, with his knees blown out, looking for ways in which he could better everyone he passed. Just incredible – and a big part of what this community is about.

But I do feel things get tricky if you’re running for a podium spot. Then it’s got to be elite rules as far as I figure.

The hardest part of the day for me was watching the people who were pulled off course or just missed the cutoff. You know they poured their hearts and souls onto the course and they never got their moment to celebrate its completion.

Still, they ran the same course, conquered the same obstacles and fought the same fight that the official finishers did. Geez, some even went out onto their second lap determined to get as far as they could before they got pulled knowing that they probably wouldn’t make it to the finish line. These are the people I want my children growing up to be.

The Red Deer Hurricane Heat, Super and Sprint

Who knew that packing for one weekend could be so involved?

Three events, two kiddos, one kid’s race and a special Hurricane Heat pack list will certainly do that.

mud pit strapped

The Hurricane Heat

For those of you who don’t know, the addition of the Hurricane Heat started in 2011 when Hurricane Irene threatened the cancellation of the race so Spartan founder, Joe Desena, decided to bring the group out for a military inspired workout complete with team challenges and exercises. Failure meant burpees. As per usual.

Each Hurricane Heat is different and usually lasts 3-4 hours, although they do have 12 and 24 hour ones for sadists who are interested in extended the torture to an inconceivable duration.

Our theme was hockey. We had to bring a toque with our favourite team logo (I fashioned mine out of a toque, a poorly hand drawn logo on the back of a business card and a couple safety pins) and a “regulation length hockey stick.”

A friend-of-a-friend actually lent me his stick despite my failure to promise it’s safe return.

We broke up into teams and started into the challenges. Our team was led by an adorable teenager named Max who is a natural born leader. He kept us all in-line and in good spirits.

The challenges varied between everyone working together to fashion a raft out of hockey sticks and zap straps to float the cadre across the lake (which did not work); to our small seven person team getting one of our own upside down up a slip wall; to working in partners with our hands zap strapped together to get over an eight foot wall. There was even the solo challenge of going through the mud pit with our hands cinched behind our backs.

The big challenge for me as the night went on became the cold. I was ill prepared for night fall and the soggy arm warmers I had to warm myself just weren’t doing the trick.

At the end of the night we huddled in a circle, trying to absorb the heat radiating off the still-warm concrete as three people read the essays they had written about why they race.

All three were phenomenal but I know the third one struck a cord with so many. You can read it here.

The Super

I made the mistake of starting too far back and getting caught behind on the first few miles of single track – which was fun in that it meant I had some work to do to catch up. Like I need to feel any more like a cougar.

They had some interesting twists on the old favourites, like a lighter bucket carry that wove it’s way through mud pits. Mother nature also put her own twist on things. The monkey bars and balance beams were slick. By the last rung I was holding on by my pinkies.

The course was flat and fast and I was happy to get a burpee free round for the win.

The Sprint

The course was even flatter and faster than the day before – and perhaps even more slick. The penalty box was full of elite men doing burpees when Faye and I arrived lockstep at the balance beam. I ended up doing the splits at each junction but both Faye and I made it over unscathed and got to battle it out for the remainder of the race. It all came down to the spear throw at the top of a set of stairs just three short obstacles to the finish. And thankfully mine stuck.

Two burpee free races in one weekend.

The Kid’s Race

Ama, my oldest decided to do her first kid’s race since her cousins were doing theirs. Not one for mud, she chose to wear a pink tutu and was absolutely horrified when it got splashed. That and she wouldn’t touch the obstacles after they became dirty. Not exactly the perfect first mud run but… she finished. As did my two nieces and my nephew in the adult race. It’s beyond describable to see your family enjoy the sport you love. Or at least, make it through with most of a clean tutu.

red deer

Recovering between Races

If you’re looking for some double race weekend strategies for recovering, I have the blog post for you here.