Things I Learned in Sparta Today…

Well I missed the spear AND balance again… just as I did last week.

The good news is that I was actually with the mighty Queen of Sparta, Claude Godbout, until the slack line. Which is crazy awesome. I fell to third, and fought back to second by hauling ass up and down the mountain. After a good fall on some rocks coming into the final cluster of obstacles, third place was hot on my heals.

She was starting her short sandbag carry when I was coming in.

I knew I had enough time to get through everything carefully – but any burpees would cost me. I was sure happy when I got to that fire jump.

A chance to stand beside Claude on the podium is pretty friggin awesome!

AND… I learned some good stuff today.

Be prepared for EVERYTHING. I was dying in the heat last week and wished like crazy I had my hydration vest. This week I needed to run out for some emergency resort-priced arm warmers the night before. Thankfully I packed tights… but I ended up needing to change back to my shorts… so I glad I packed them too. You seriously never know what the weather will do when you race in the mountains. Have everything you might need.

Save your hands. Keep them as dry and clean as possible, but also keep them warm. I knew there wasn’t any water on course so I wore thin cotton gloves between obstacles to block the icy wind. I’d take them off just before rolling into an obstacle and stuff them in my shorts. The side. Stuff them in the side.

Obstacles get harder. The edges were all clean and crisp when I ran in the first wave out last weekend. Not so today… many fell from the traverse wall and wood block traverse. In fact, the finger ledge was totally missing on one of the holds.

Work hard on those hills. I didn’t work nearly as hard as I could have on the hills last weekend. Rest your lungs on the downhill and rest your legs at the finish if you’re going for time.

But never rest your brain. I went to shove my sunglasses into my shorts on the steep rocky bit coming into the rig and the last string of obstacles – and plowed into the ground hard. It stung… and I had to have a good long, curse filled pep talk with myself to get back up.

If you attach your chip to your laces, put in on the foot you don’t step onto for the rope climb. Trying to climb a rope with the hand I just tore the skin off sucked enough but getting the rope caught on my chip extra sucked.

The Montreal Super – Montreal is super!

My experience this past weekend reminds me of a Brazilian proverb…

“If we dream alone, it’s only a dream. If we dream together, it’s the beginning of reality.”

Even the owners of the bed and breakfast felt like long time family. Our already late flight was delayed a couple hours in Toronto. We ended up missing the cut off for checking in but were welcomed with late night tour of the property any how.

The all female Canadian OCR group, known as the  Mudd Queens were equally as welcoming come race day.

I hardly turned a corner out there without someone cheering me on.

All the warm reception was especially nice given the language barrier. I should have paid more attention in grade school.

But I didn’t.

The typical Spartan PreRace pep speach was pretty friggin awesome in French and ended with a booming charge!

The course was more than reminiscent of the infamous Killington.

I didn’t bring any water and carried only a single gel. The last Super I did took me 1:06. This one took me more than double that. 

It was also smoking hot and humid. Thinking I was doing a short race, I didn’t bring my hydration pack. There were four water stations, I stopped at one. I started drooling over the mud puddles underfoot. That’s how you know you’re really thirsty 😉

The carries and lifts were comedically light but the gnarly terrain more than made up for them. It was one of those courses where you couldn’t find your running stride for more than a few steps. The rest of the time was a battle with gravity.

By end of day, so much like in Killington, exhausted bodies lined the trail up the mountain. 

A lady whizzed past me into second place as I was doing my “trente” spear miss burpees. And I had 30 more to do after missing the slack line. When I paused to get my balance, a volunteer shrieked and I came off. Darn it.

My favourite set of obstacles were the line of wood blocks you traverse down using only hands to some super long monkey bars. And my favourite volunteer was the Mudd Queen who guided me through it.

The next major obstacle was the infamous Platinum Rig. I came off on the Tarzan Swings in Montana the week before so I was itching to conquer it. Rings, low monkey bars, step in rings, trapeze, ring, bell. I made my way across to the trapeze where some poor dude was swinging helplessly and without enough momentum to get the bell. After he came down, I used the foot in the ring to generate a big swing, added a kip. I got the ring my hand and bell with my foot.

Watching the open division later, I saw all kinds of techniques. Some worked: the majority of people who got it skipped the last ring and just kicked the bell from the trapeze. Some didn’t work: the much greater majority of people kipped with their knees or tried to generate a swing with pull-ups. 

On the final climb up the mountain, I got too comfy in third place and neglected to open up the gap between Faye, who was in fourth. Oddly, her boyfriend was right in front of me and we both went off course. As we were swinging back to the flagging I saw Faye starting her decent. She enthusiastically urged me on and was gone in a flurry of legs.

It was a steep and uncomfortable decent in. And when the fire jump and finish line came into view I realized that my reserve tank was still full. 

In road racing it’s so easy to leave it all on the course. Less so for me in OCR. It’ll take some more races yet to figure it. Especially when you’re racing the top athletes in the sport these days. 

Next time Faye is behind me I’ll be pushing a lot harder. Even if I know she’ll be kind as she over takes. And so we dream together. As rivals and teammates.

People out east have continued to amaze us. Another runner high fived me on my jog the other day. A group of daycare workers cheered, “Allez!” as I traversed vertical bars in a playground. The folks from Come and Train bootcamp had me out crawling on Mont Royal.

I’ve had a great time so far and I can’t wait to cap it off by leaving it all out on the course this weekend. Every last ounce.