The Spartan Super, Toronto – 3rd July 2016

Trek and Run were supported during this event by;

Salba Chia 

Brooks Running

&

Helly Hansen

First, to give you a firm idea of the event, here’s a short video we shot as we took part.

The Trek and Run team was supposed to take part in the Spartan Sprint on Saturday 2nd July and the Spartan Super the following day, but due to some transportation issues (our 4th team member, and our driver on the Saturday, got told that if he dared go out to one more race he’d return home to find himself single. To be fair to his wife, he does race an awful lot…) we could only do the Super. Here’s what we thought about the event.

How was the pre-event experience?

Adam - The morning started as usual, on about 3 hours of sleep. Unlike most of my other races that begin closer to dawn, it was pleasant to be able to drive from Hamilton to Burlington with the beautiful bright sun and wide blue skies above me. I picked up Mark in Burlington and headed towards Toronto. Traffic was clear and Lakeshore was quiet, something unusual for me to experience. Before long we picked up Dave and headed up towards Brimacombe ski hill just off the 401, about an hour and 20 minutes from downtown TO.

Parking was a breeze. We got our equipment on and registration took no time at all. There were a lot of samples to drink and munch pre-race. And like previous Spartans I’ve attended the atmosphere was laid back with a good mixture of all types of people.

Mark - From a physical preparation standpoint, I am an avid Crossfitter.  I have been a member at a Crossfit gym since 2013 and regularly attend classes at least three times per week.  In addition to Crossfit I enjoy trail running and I also have a rowing machine at home.  Throughout the past winter I rowed 10-15 kms per week.  In past years I would run short distances of about 5 – 10 km every couple weeks.  Admittedly my running preparation for this years’ Spartan was limited to the running I did at Crossfit and I rowed more at home for convenience.On the day of the race I enjoyed a Vega Protein and Greens smoothie with some peanut butter, blueberries and banana mixed in.  I also drank plenty of fluids leading up to the race because I’ve found that running a Spartan in hot July weather can be taxing on my system.  It is key to stay hydrated before, during, and after the event so I made sure I had plenty of water, coconut water, and electrolyte supplements.

From a clothing and gear standpoint, I have found that breathable, water wicking material are important.  I wore the Reebok All-Terrains for the event, wore an Under Armour sleeveless shirt, Under Armour compression shorts and Reebok Crossfit board shorts.  In past years I have used a Camelbak hydration system but opted for a lighter two bottle Running Room hydration belt instead this year.  I also wore long Reebok Crossfit socks to protect my legs from the rocks and rope climb and a Reebok hat to keep the sun off my face and sun glasses.

Dave - Regsitering via the Spartan website was easy. I’m much more of a runner than anything else – I have hardly any upper body strength – so I knew I’d be in for a tough day. I can’t climb a rope to save my life but I can handle hills so I hoped that what time I lost on the obstacles I’d make up on the running bits. And above all that, I wasn’t going into this feeling that competitive, I just wanted a good, fun, testing day out with friends.

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How was the event, tell us about it.

Adam - It was nice to get into the 11 am heat as we were an hour early and didn’t want to wait until our allotted time. We jumped over a 5 foot wall, as everybody had to do, and we were into the start coral.  The usual, tall, booming-voiced Spartan guy warmed up the crowd and got the blood and juice going.

The hills are what we expected. It was wonderful that the heat wasn’t too bad. The course was filled with a mixture of strength challenges such as lifting ammo creates and sand bags up and down hills, dragging and flipping tires, carrying massive rocks and tree stumps. Of course there were the monkey bars, ropes and rings, straight and leaning vertical walls, hills, running and the classic Spartan javelin throw. Let’s not forget too the waist deep mud miles, barbed wire mud pits or the swamps of thick mud claiming shoes with each lactic burn step. In all 5 water stations was more than enough. There were a few lines to wait in which is never pleasant but the option to do 30 burpees is always there as a pass if you don’t want to wait around.

The end was special. One last vertical climb with a rope over a wall onto the cargo net.  Mark, Dave and I climbed down together, sprinted and leapt over the bonfire to cross the finish.

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Mark - The race weather was optimal at about 25 degrees Celsius with a light breeze to keep you cool. I found that the Spartan event planners put about the right number of people in any given heat so that it is not overly crowded as you start off. The race starts with a run up a fairly steep ski hill. If you take it too fast you will likely go into cardio overload and need to rest quite a bit. In my experience, it is better to take that first hill slow and steady and allow your heart rate to build more gradually.

The course had the usual obstacle challenges spaced out at appropriate intervals. Wall climbs, various strength and endurance tests, a rope climb, and some American Ninja Warrior type obstacles. All that and really deep reeking shoe stealing mud. There was something in there for everyone and the obstacles were appealing to teenagers and forty somethings alike. I would say that compared to other obstacle races the Spartan requires the most athletic ability. I have completed other obstacle course events such as the Tough Mudder, which is also physically demanding and mentally challenging, but think the Spartan Race has the edge in terms of its demands on an individual’s physical stamina and toughness.

There were five water stations on the course and I found that it was the right amount of on course hydration for a 13 km event.  Like its name entails, the Spartan race, unlike the Tough Mudder, does not offer up any food at the hydration stations and there are no on course energy supplements or carbohydrates on offer. Bring your own power bars and energy chews. I did and they helped keep me going throughout the race.

Dave - I’d agree with Mark regarding taking your own food. I didn’t take any and began to suffer heavy fatigue about 2kms before the finish. I loved the trail running bits, very scenic and you could really get some decent speed up. The ground was uneven as you’d expect yet the grass was mostly cut short enough so you could see divets coming and avoid turned ankles. I failed the rope climb, as expected, and the overhead bars and the tightrope walk, but everything else was within my limited upper body capability.

Regarding clothing, I wore trail running shoes that I was ready to throw out as they were well past their use by date, running leggings so that if we had to crawl through rocky ditches then my knees would be somewhat protected, and an old running shirt.

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How as the post-race experience?

Adam - There was lots to sample and drink, a good chuck of metal and shirt for swag and to get clean the wash down areas were at least as clean as a motel bathroom (cold water hoses in a dirt field). There were gender specific change rooms we failed to utilize opting to change two feet from our water spout because we didn’t care and nobody else did either. Again we left as easily as we came with a fairly clear drive back to Toronto, Burlington and home to Hamilton. Overall you couldn’t have asked for more out of a race day. The skies were clear, the sun wasn’t too hot, a beautiful wind blew to keep temperatures controlled and the people, volunteers and staff were great and friendly.

If considering this race in the future, take into account the varying distances that can be run such as the Sprint 5k,  the super 13k, the Beast 22k and even now the Spartan ultra with a distance of 42k.  As this event is run at a ski hill do not underestimate how much elevation change you will go through, it will be significant.  You always see folk severely struggling by the 2nd hill, fit people, which is only about 10 minutes in. I always approach the Spartan as in shape as I can. I use it as a benchmark for how strong I am at that point in the season and perhaps how much more fit I need to become to finish off the season solid.

Mark - After the glorious rope climb up one last big wall and a spectacular jump over a relatively small fire pit- reminiscent of a camp fire more than a wall of fire – you receive a very nice medal and a t-shirt. It is very cool. Sadly there is no beer at the end of this course but, then again, I guess that’s not the crowd the Spartan Race hopes to attract. After the medal and the t-shirt and some corporate sponsors’ food and drink samples, you have to clean off. Unfortunately long lines awaited you at the garden hoses available were not sufficient for such a messy hoard of Spartans. That said, it was a well-organized event that went off largely without a hitch. And our results and free event photos were online within a couple of days; the photos were a welcome extra. Most events charge for them, but not Spartan.

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People seemed to have a really good time challenging themselves and there was a sense of both camaraderie and accomplishment. I am grateful to Trek and Run for allowing me the opportunity to share my experience with others and if you haven’t yet tried a Spartan race I encourage you to challenge yourself to get in on the action.

To discover more about the Spartan events, please see http://spartanrace.ca/ 

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