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.

Toronto Spartan Sprint and Super


After a sleepless red eye and several attempts at nighttime sleeping with a baby who is cutting molars (and who is not very good at sleeping in the best of occasions)… we knew this weekend was going to be one of those “pull-up-your-boots” and STFU kinda scenarios.

The Toronto Spartan courses are on a relatively small mountain. It is truly impressive how they deliver such a beat down – the climbing feels relentless at times. 

On Saturday I ran the Sprint event burpee free – after working out a new spear throw technique that has yet to fail me and getting a handle on the slack line (I call it running like hell for the bell). 

I was feeling kinda flat until I saw first place just around the lake… and a flat trail to get there. I opened up my stride and as soon as our shoulders aligned, it was on. 

There was a super mucky barb wire pit, where I failed to keep my hands dry (despite knowing the rig was around the corner). 

As soon as we stood up, we started pulling clumps of thick muck of our hands. The next major obstacle was drying our hands off: grass, shirt, head, bra, anything.

We ran up the final grass hill with our hands on the ground like dogs scooting their bums on the carpet.

April, first onto the final real obstacle – the rig, is a killer fit, talented and a local favourite. Guys from her team were gathering and yelling at her to drop me. Sadly, she rushed the rig and came off.

Hitting the bell at the end of the series of ropes, rings and square bars was awesome. A slippery wall and a fire jump and I had this thing in the bag.

Sometimes it’s just your day.

And other times, it’s not.

The next day was the Super, which is more than double the distance of a Sprint… so far more my thing.

I began the race at the back and started working my way through the pack, as I always hope to do. 

A few kilometers in there was a bottleneck at the super long monkey bar set. 

There was only one lane for ladies, with one racer hanging off the first rung and her feet still on the platform and another almost across but struggling.

“You’re up” – I pointed out.

No go.

She didn’t want to move until the woman in front had cleared them. Which was fair since it sucks hanging there waiting for the person in front to keep moving. But I figured since was most of the way across it would have taken a long enough time to get to her and by that time she would have come off or hit the bell.

So I asked if I could go and promised that I’d be off long before I could be in her way. But that didn’t work since then I’d be on the bars. 

I tried to do the males side but I couldn’t reach the bars. 

It was agony. I’ve never waited in line at a Spartan Race before. 

It was probably only a couple of minutes but it felt like hours. Days. An eternity.

Maybe I could have just touched the bars and taken burpees, maybe I could have jumped in front and side traversed on the pole to get past her. Both seemed like the wrong thing to do.

So I waited. 

And finally I went.

I spent a while trying to close the gap until I got lazy and focused on holding third.

Looking back, I’m not sure what I could have done to make the outcome of that situation better. You just do what you can with what you can control. It’s just how this sport goes.

I let myself have a few minutes of disappointment until I hosed off. And then I decided to let it wash away with the mud.

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.