Year three of running the Calgary Spartan Sprint continues to surprise and challenge despite using the same venue. Each year it’s gotten harder, pushed you further, and us OCR junkies wouldn’t have it any other way. Two years ago, the challenge was the weather, as the course was relatively easy; last year it was beefed up, and this year even more so. The venue that Spartan uses in Calgary is a motocross course, and this year they used all of its conditions and layout perfectly.
The race started pretty quickly with a short running section on open, hard-packed track with only some hurdles and a through-wall to start. But then just as quick as it started, it slowed right down.
After going over the Vertical Cargo Climb, it was on to one of most challenging barbed wire crawls I’ve ever encountered. Now, most Spartans know of the 100-yards of hell in Montana; this was similar in terms of how low the wire was, and the length was comparable (I’m guessing maybe 85 yards) in a “U” shape. However, one big difference was after a dry start to the crawl, about 15 yards in, they had flooded the obstacle so that the last 60 yards were through thick, sloppy, slow and draining mud. Every racer emerged muddy from shoulders to toes, and a little more exhausted then we thought we would be, as it was turtle’s pace going from end to end.
In true Spartan fashion, the first obstacles after would be grip based, so after a quick run through a large puddle it was time to take on the Herc Hoist and the Plate Drag. I’m glad I was in an early heat and not the late heats, because there would’ve been a lot of slippery mud on those ropes. I’m guessing the burpee rate was high in the afternoon.
A running section of the course followed: this is where the course designers used the venue better than previous years. Using the all the inclines and declines of the motocross course, we went up and down a ton, with the odd wall thrown in, which were always at the top of a climb, making them look probably more intimidating for first time racers.
Rolling Mud followed, and then a real grip test followed with the Monkey Bars and Platinum Rig right back to back. I of course, in true Scott fashion, failed the rig although I did make it further than usual. The next obstacle, the Inverted Wall, was in a cool spot as it was on top of a bridge that is the high elevation point of the course.
After that was the longest running segment on the course, followed by what was mostly single track through the trees, making racers once again ascend the same hills over and over.
Working our way into what they called “Rocks and Logs” (which is the trials area of the Motocross facility), you had to watch your footing really carefully as the rocks and logs were angled all over the place, so while you climbed and scrambled over it would be real easy to roll an ankle or worse.
After a quick burst run up the biggest climb of the course, it was up and over the Stairway to Sparta, and into the Bucket Carry. Now last year, the Bucket Carry in Calgary was tough as it was on an incredibly steep descent and into a tough climb. There were a lot of racers who fell down it, so this year it was moved to a “flatter” spot but they made up for it by lengthening it a good amount, so it was a challenge.
A quick round of burpees – I mean, the Rope Climb that I always fail – led to the Sandbag Carry, which was in the awful spot of the Bucket Carry the year before. But it was easier with the Sandbag, as it’s more maneuverable and able to be carried on the shoulder.
This led to the closing run segment of the race, with the tractor pull the only obstacle breaking it up before running through a real smelly slew and into the finishing gauntlet. This race, the gauntlet was the Slip Wall (which was easier since it was dry), Olympus, Spear Throw, A Frame Cargo, and Fire Jump wall in a span measuring just longer then a football field (maybe as long as a Canadian football field :p). That was the Sprint, so I went home hung out with the family and came back the next day for the Super.
Now I wasn’t racing the Super, I was volunteering (mostly for the free race), but it was such a great time I would do it again for the fun. The course was pretty much the same as the Sprint, with a much longer double-incline Bucket Carry (which many racers were cursing), until the Tractor Pull with a few more switch backs thrown in to lengthen it.
After that, they pushed out in a part of the MX course I didn’t know existed, where the racers went up and down the same side of the hill repeatedly to get in the distance needed with a few new obstacles mixed in, including the Tyrolean Traverse, Z Wall and a couple of walls.
Watching the Elites crush the course is almost mind-boggling to be honest, but it’s also as much fun to see some out there trying to trounce their PR’s and others having a great time with friends. For me the best part was helping motivate those who are tired, or can’t think they can finish to get after it.
Lots of fist bumps, high-fives, a few hugs, one butt slap and more smiles then I could ever try to count also kept the morale up all day. I had as great of talks with the racers as I had a view of the course (and city) from the Stairway to Sparta. I also got to talk to a handful of racers who had done the Sprint, then the 5-hour Hurricane Heat Saturday into Sunday, and then slept in their car for a few hours before running the Super, which was humbling, as I thought I was tired. Next year I will for sure be volunteering again as that was one of the highlights for my OCR season.
The Sprint on Saturday was a real close finish for Men’s first and second, with Ryan Atkins just beating out Mikhail Gerylo, and Austin Azar coming in pretty shortly after in third. I didn’t see the Women’s heat beyond the Plate Drag, but Faye looked to be getting back to the form we saw last year. Sunday, she proved that right winning the Women’s event by almost 3 minutes, as did Mikhail on the Men’s side.
That pretty much wraps up my season, so thank you for taking the time to read my reviews, and to Jay and Heather for posting them. Hopefully I’ll be back with more next season!
Written by Scott Morton, author of the Obstacle Course Racing Blog, The 4-0-300 Project.
Photos courtesy of Scott Morton