Crewing for your Spouse

I recently called him my “secret weapon.”

Not everyone has access to one. I get it. I’m super lucky. My husband was nearly born for the thankless and exhausting task of being pit crew.

With a background in racing, a diploma in Massage Therapy, a tendency to extreme preparedness and an uncanny ability to control nearly any situation – John is the guy you want on your crew.

But I feel like a lot of the things we have learned as a team over these years can be learned… and I thought I’d do my best to get them out there in this top five list.

1 – Give your Spouse a Pass

One of these rounds, your spouse is going to come in – and you won’t even recognize the person they’ve become. One or two hours and they’ll transform into some heinous combination of Sophie from the Golden Girls and a teething baby. In the molar stage. That’s ok. You’ve got this. They’ll find their way back to themselves again. Just give them time, space and a hall pass to act like the Creature from the Blue Lagoon. And whatever you do, don’t take it personally. They just cursed out a wall made entirely of wood.

2 – Know your Athlete

You may know your spouse… but your athlete might be a very different person from them. Some athletes need gentle guidance, some might need a very firm enforcer. Once you figure this out, it’ll be a whole lot easier driving them to their goal and staying in the control seat.

3 – Listen Carefully but Take Control

If you run long enough, your brain starts becoming deficient in carbohydrates. And intelligent thought.

They may be overheating because they jumped into their 4 mil wetsuit prematurely and the temperate never dropped. They feel fluish and lethargic. They’re sweating and their skin is beet red. And yet, they still can’t put their finger on it. More neoprene maybe?

You’re dealing with Ralph Wiggum here. Deep breaths. They’ll thank you once they start feeling better.

4 – Prepare and Anticipate 

OK so Ralph comes in 30 minutes before sun-down, and is probably thinking headlamps and strobes, but hopefully you are. Best case scenario, you have a rough chart in terms of what your athlete needs and at what approximate times. If not, get them to make you one.

Of course, it always helps to look a little farther down the pipe when your athlete is just focused on that very next step. It’ll everything a whole lot smoother for everyone.

I like to have things ready for my pit crew for situations I can see arising. Sand storm? Hand me these goggles. Colder than anticipated? Start with the items in this bag and then move to this bag if I start turning blue. Encourage your spouse to go over all the “if’s and when’s” in advance, write it down and go over it with you in detail before the gun goes off.

5- Take Care of Yourself

It’s cliche but… put your own oxygen mask on first. Make sure you’re fuelling, hydrating and moving around when your athlete is out on course. You may even be able to catch a quick cat nap if laps are long enough or you have a pitting partner. Just like knowing your athletes needs, you need to consider your own. If you’re a voracious reader, bring some books… if you’re a social butterfly, pit with a group. The better mood you’re in, the better care you’ll be able to take of your spouse.

Lastly, have fun and celebrate in the success of your spouse. There’s nothing quite as magical as completing a challenging race with the full support of your partner. It’s pretty cool to get to share adventures with the person you love most.

Seattle Spartan – Back in Brown

Why on earth am I here?

I had honestly forgotten the answer.

It was cold, it was rainy, and I was about to run through slick mud… traversing slippery obstacles and going under a “dunk wall” in what was definitely going to be very cold water.

This being my first race of the year, I had totally lost touch with the joy of romping through the mud, swinging through obstacles and gliding under barbed wire.

All I could remember was cold. And pain. And misery.

In fact, I couldn’t really tell if I wanted to be here in this moment. Or maybe I just didn’t. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember why on earth anyone would want to be here. All sense of this moment, and any following it was lost.

I peeled myself from my snuggly bed before the sun came up, donned some short shorts and a tank top and stood in a shivering mass of spandex and tight muscles waiting for the third AROO.

Surprisingly… barely one second after GO, it all came flooding back.

The rush of charging up a muddy hill with a bunch of fierce ladies throwing down was palpable. I run on my own. A lot. It’s fun. But this. This was AWESOME.

Every obstacle I tackled left me feeling more ready for the next.

Even the ones I failed.

I could have run a lot faster. I could have ran a clean race. I could have pushed harder.

But I didn’t. And it didn’t matter. I was loving every second. Even after my fingers froze and my hands stopped closing.

I think that’s the magic. I don’t know why we freak out. Being out there shuts all that off and you just are. You just do.

Almost as if you’re connected back to a deep sense of challenge, of nature and the elements, of community. We all become one moving mass… jockeying for position and yet advancing together like an ancient tribe chasing down an antelope.

I’m hoping this first race of the year reminds me that my mind might dominate the pre and post race, but my heart always takes over the during. And that’s what matters.

The next day at the Sprint, the plan was just to work hard and see where it got me. It was a huge change from the general sense of dread that hung over me like a cloud Saturday morning.

Nearing the finish line and the final obstacle gauntlet, I was able to move into second. Running a clean race always makes for a good day… especially on a slippery wet course. This of course was in no small part to my awesome coach Yancy and his love of grip and pull training.

If you haven’t got a chance to check out his training, you should. PM me and I’ll see if I can get you a trial code. It’s literally made a world of difference in my obstacle proficiency and general strength.

World Championship UltraBeast

I wrestled hard with the altitude at last years Spartan World Championship Beast and got knocked down for the count.
This year, I decided to skip Saturdays Beast and focus my energy on my favourite race distance, the UltraBeast. My flight didn’t even land until after the race. Best not to keep cookies in the cupboard right?
And I’m glad I did. Although the altitude was still just as pummelling as in the Beast last year, the pace of an UltraBeast is much more relaxed – and I found I could just keep bumping up against that angry red line, without plunging over it.
At the start line, racers stood huddled together in the pitch of night. A bone-chilling breeze was already ripping through windbreakers and racers were eager to launch off into the night. The organizers announced that they cancelled the infamous swim through the freezing lake and cut off the bonus UltraBeast loop due to a severe impending storm. People booed. I booed. But really, this was in everyone’s best interest – and you have to applaud Spartan for doing something unpopular to keep people safe. I guess I wouldn’t need the full wetsuit I had in my drop bag. There was one guy in a full wetsuit suit, I suspect that didn’t take long to be one of the biggest regrets of his life.
The course this year was awesome. Last years was a horseshoe design: go up, go down. I liked it for its novelty – but this year was more typical: you climb halfway up, drop back down to the village, and then go all the way to the top.

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The start was also much improved: they set the race off through the village and parking lot, and then into over-under-through walls to break up the pack. And of course the same rolling mud pits as last year to give you soggy feet and soaked clothes right off the gun. The new start meant way less congestion on the single track, which was a big problem last year.
There were a bunch of walls and vaults as a warm-up but the first real obstacle was a set of fat monkey bars followed by hurdles and a low wall. My feet, still frozen from the Rolling Mud, protested the jarring landings so I eased myself down carefully.
An regular ol’ incline wall and back to work climbing. It was at this point that I realized the biggest obstacle would be eating. A shocker for anyone who knows me. When racing the Sun Peaks UltraBeast last week, I stuffed Oreo cookies like it was my job. Today was different. I felt nauseous… and it was difficult to swallow. Food had – gasp – lost its appeal.
So we climbed… until the Spearmen appeared on a windy ridge like a row of straw-bale gargoyles overlooking the valley below. And man was it windy. Both times I waited until the gusts stopped. Both times I rushed it. Both times I missed. Both times I did 30 airless, sand in the face, rocks in the hands burpees.
At high camp they had the next new obstacle: Olympus, which I’m certain was inspired by BattleFrogs Tip of the Spear. You traverse a leaning wall with rock climbing holds, chains and holes. Keep your feet high, keep moving steadily and it’s a blast.

Onto a plate drag and Atlas Carry – made infinitely more challenging by the fact that the air at this point was getting a little thin. At least the tracks for the plate drag were well worn from the Beasts on Saturday. Thanks guys!
We had well crossed my altitude threshold and my head now felt like a pressure cooker. I was dizzying and my legs felt heavy.
Just get over the top and back down where the air has more oxygen.
One. Step. At. A. Time.
The next new obstacle was the Spartan Ladder. You climb up from the inside and ring a bell at the top with your hand and then come down the other side, ringing a bell at the bottom with your foot. I can see this one being a cramp inducer as you pull with your hamstrings to hold the bars and it was chilly up there.

The ladder was followed quickly by a Tyrolean Traverse and a fairly long but not wet or uncomfortable crawl you could easily roll right through.
At the end of the crawl was the new Ape Hanger. The ladder bounced but didn’t rotate so I just moved down it using a little extra momentum pretty straight on. It’s easier to go sideways on the way up and then just monkey down but you can do either. There was a fairly significant drop after you hit the bell at the end. Robert Cobble was there yelling at me to land straight. Which I did. But I immediately proceeded into the star fish position in the water. Not recommended!

On lap two they closed the high camp and diverted racers to the log carry directly due to the storm. I was super impressed with Spartan for making the call early and ensuring that everyone ran the same course safely. I was, however, intentionally overheating myself for the climb in preparation for getting wet on the Ape Hanger. I spent the entire descent removing one piece of clothing at a time and stuffing it into my pack, wasting a lot of time diddling about. I was worried about removing too much and then freezing up, as it took a long time for me to reheat after I got cold on the far side of the mountain.
The log carry was really just a warm up for the long double sandbag carry. And it was World Championship long. I tried some different carrying configurations but settled on one on the shoulder, other in my hand on the way up and then hugging them both like a bucket on the way down. I find the looser bags way easier to manage but could only find one… so that one went onto my shoulder – and the tight one went in my arm. On the second lap, we “only” had a single bag. When I set it down, I realized I had done something to my wrist well holding the bag. Thankfully it worked itself out after the bucket carry.
The sandbags were followed by the new Cornmax Flip. It’s a long water filled tube and I actually found it surprisingly challenging to get over: it’s long, skinny and wobbly. A tire just submits and goes where it’s supposed to. The Cormax does what it wants. It’s its own thing.
An 8′ wall lead down to the 1k long bucket carry. Yeah, 1k. Every plateau I was all, ok, there’s the turnaround flag. Nope just more flagging. I did all manner of grips and walking styles to keep that sucker moving. This is also where I noticed second place was moving up on lap two. 5k left. Go time. Leave it on the course time.
I was baking in my black windproof pants and wanted them off but I clearly couldn’t spare anymore time.
Next up: Stairway to Sparta. But not just any Stairway to Sparta. When I saw the video they first posted, I was terrified. The wall leading up to the ladder is but high. Thankfully they added a rope and a kicker board halfway to help you walk up.

The last obstacle before the rocky decent into the festival area was an exhausting and weird-bruise-inducing set of hurdles. The ones where you need to thrust your tummy into the bar and then swing your legs over. I won’t be wearing a two piece to the pool this week for sure. Although I haven’t checked yet… it may just have been the sting of internal bruising.
When I came up to the balance beams I was surprised. Really Spartan? These things are like double wide. Oh, but they spin. When I do short and weird balance obstacles I find it best to just run for whatever it is you’re suppose to hit on the other side, so run I did. Not pretty, but burpees are far less pretty.

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Next, the Herc Hoist. It was heavy and the rope was rough. On the second lap, still fearing second was hot on my heels, I came into the obstacle with every lane occupied by open beast runners working in teams to get the bag up – yelling rope! rope! I finally found an open spot hiding since I had to retrieve the rope from the other side of the fence to use it. I was so relieved to have a lane (and so full of adrenaline from the backup) that, although the bag seemed extra heavy, I was pumped to get it up.
After the hoist came the dunk wall I was so looking forward to on lap two, but we were being rerouted. I looked over to see that it was now lying face down in the pond: the wind was so strong it blew the wall over.
After the dunk came a slip wall and ginormous bridge. From there you’re either going to the drop bag area for round two or the finish area for the final obstacles.
After my first lap, I did my typical transition: grab fuel and go. I wasn’t eating well, so I swapped my bars for gels and set back off for another go.
I often find the second lap to be more fun than the first in UltraBeasts. Today was not the case. Lap two was harder. SO much harder.

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But that’s what makes it SO much more fulfilling.
After passing the ladder again on my second round, it was onto the finish.
The rope for the climb was tacky and rough and I was having trouble running my feet up it. I swear I must have looked like a worm slowly inching my way up. That and I was out of steam from charging in the last 5k.
I gave myself a few minutes before getting on the rig. Afterall, I was not eager to knock out 30 burpees. The top pros all struggled with it yesterday, mostly because their hands were frozen and cramping, but still, I approached it with respect. Thankfully Jesse Bruce and Stephanie Couturier were at the finish line watching and they cheered me right through.

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I collapsed for a few minutes across the line, soaking up the effort I had put out to keep the title in the last three miles – and well – trying to breathe.

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What really made THIS RACE was the people there. Not just being immersed in all things Sparta, and repping Canada. The many languages heard when not a single word was needed to express the most complex of emotions,  the coming together of people all over the world to battle the mountain and the obstacles. The lives changed, no matter how diverse.

I finally got chilled after the race when the snow hit (and did it ever hit) and was struggling to untie laces that had over-tightened in the mud and by my own pre-race jitters. A man came over and knelt beside me, explaining he didn’t speak much english… then he proceeded to claw his way through the knot. This is SPARTA.

It’s Ok That it’s Not Ok.

It’s ok to for things to not be ok. It’s also ok to not be ok that things are not ok.

Performance wise, I had a terrible race weekend.

I did get to run with some of the best in the sport, and spend time with some of my favourite people, doing what I love best.

So really, it was a phenomenal weekend. But am I totally ok?

Nope. No I’m not. And I cannot convince myself otherwise.

The Super on Saturday morning featured some added frosty-dewy challenge. I slid off the balance beam and then rig. Then I missed my spear. At the rope climb, I grabbed a rope that was coated with thick gooey mud and shot right to the bottom. 30 burpees at the finish line and my first failed rope climb. I dropped from second to fourth. Sunday in the Sprint Race, I choked on the balance beam and then missed my spear.

So many burpees.

The awesome thing about obstacle racing is that you always go home with homework. Something to improve. A way to make yourself a better athlete.

In that sense it’s these races that teach us the most. These ugly times where we cross the finish line with burnt-out triceps and stains on our chests, that offer us the most.

But they still suck. And I’m ok with that too.

If we jumped the fire 120 burpees down and with any sort of indifference, we wouldn’t go home with the same lessons: the same drive to fix the chinks in our armour.

We need both the sting of loss – and the appreciation for it’s honesty to drive us on.

My oldest daughter starts kindergarten this week. And to be perfectly honest, I have trouble embracing it. But a good friend pointed out how much one-on-one time I’ll have with my youngest and how many great times lie ahead with my growing munchkin.

In the mud, and in life, I guess it’s ok to not be ok… so long as you keep moving forward.

Woman 2 Warrior

The subject line in my email box read, “Oh my gosh, look how much fun we had.”

And attached was this video: 

 
The line pretty much summed up the Woman 2 Warrior for me and the other two ladies in our little team.
The first, a runner and tennis player, is far more accustomed to pounding asphalt than scaling walls. The second has been training for obstacles, and is one of those super capable athletic types. I rounded the team off as the OCR veteran: although I warned them they might need to carry me to the finish at some point.

I had literally finished running a marathon in Langley and hustled hard to get there less than ten minutes before the gun went off.

And they did indeed carry me through… but thankfully for them, strictly metaphorically speaking.

The flat but well treed course was punctuated with various obstacles.

There were a few water obstacles including a crawl (on super soft tarps – which I could get used to), a cold water submersion, and of course, the slip and slide in the video above.

They had several sets of wall vaults to slanted walls. All within the grasp of a beginner. 

There were even some more intermediate obstacles out there: a traverse wall with blocks, valleys where you had to cat traverse and switch to another leaning wall on the opposite side, a super long balance beam lined with tires, an A-frame cargo net and a couple plank ladders. 

The monkey bars were the fat tube type… but spaced close enough that they stayed inline with the style of event being achievable.

One of the coolest parts was finishing on the track in the Swanguard Statium. And when we got there… hearing our team mate, who had just finished her first OCR swoon:

I feel like a new woman.

No… you feel like a warrior.

  

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.

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.