Fitness Training and Obstacle Racing

Spartan Owl’s Head Beast

Spartan called it a Beast, so the expectation is that it’s tough right? You never really know what you’re getting into until you get into it.

The Beast was a beast. The toughest race I’ve completed to date (including the ultra-marathon I did last year). I rate the toughest races not based on time or effort – because I’m always pushing myself as hard as I can go – but rather on how I talk to myself during the race. In the ultra-marathon I had a great run, hit my goals and never had to talk myself into pushing forward. In the beast, there were moments when I questioned what the hell I was doing because it got so hard. I never seriously considered quitting, but I certainly questioned my sanity.

What I learned from this race:

  1. They might call it a beast because you must turn into a beast to finish it.
  2. When there’s two kilometers to go and you think there’s no way you have time to go back to the top of the mountain one more time, you’re wrong.
  3. Spartan Canada has decided to invest very little in their actual races, compared to the US Spartan serious who puts out challenging obstacles.
  4. When you think you have enough water to last through the race, you might be three water bottles short of what’s needed if your heart is running an average of 172 bpm.
  5. Having someone at the bottom of the mountain to cheer for you is awesome, then about five minutes later you’re only a quarter of the way up your next mountain ascent and can’t remember if you saw them at all.
  6. If you want to hit your spear throw, look for the right spear. Should the tip of your spear be crooked (not sure any Spartans had crooked spears and spear heads, but Spartan Canada doesn’t seem to care) your spear will probably fall to the ground even after you hit the target dead in the middle.
  7. If there is sand near the rig that you must traverse, dry your hands up with it prior to tackling the rig. A damp rig is so much harder to traverse than a wet rig and it only takes a few seconds to dust up your hands.
  8. Trying a new electrolyte drink in your pack will not prevent muscle cramps. Muscle cramps are involuntary muscle contractions that reportedly have little to do with dehydration (although dehydration will affect performance). I’ve read the secret to avoiding muscle contractions is tougher workouts more often, but that’s inconclusive because I keep getting muscle cramps.
  9. You never have the food you think you’ll crave when you’re in a race. Gels are key, but it doesn’t matter the flavour, you’re going to get sick of them. Eat them anyway.
  10. Manage heart rate expectations. Most people go out too fast. In every age group race I’ve won, I started in fortieth place for the first kilometer before passing thirty-five of those people in the next five hundred meters. I still think I start my races too fast.
  11. Take a moment to appreciate the view at the top of the mountain. In the Owl’s Head Beast, you’ll have about six attempts to remember. By the sixth attempt you might get a nice view walking backwards hoping your hamstrings will stop cramping.
  12. It feels good to earn a gold medal in the age group category – they only give out one of them every race and you have to suffer to earn it (unless you’re Jesse Bruce who runs forty minutes faster than you in the Elite with the average heart rate of your recovery run).
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