In our second year back to Washougal Park for the annual Sprint on August 3 and 4, 2013, Reebok Spartan Race felt right at home. With many return Spartans, there was an excitement at the start line that could be felt all around the festival area. The Spartans had returned.

The elite heat went out fast, and finished strong. Perhaps it was this familiarity with the terrain, the obstacles and “that hill” that saw the elites move around the course in lightening quick time. Hobie Call took the first place honors, but Spartan Pro Team members Brakken Krakker and Hunter McIntyre never out of his shadow taking second and third respectively. It was a very close race, something which is proving to be a habit now at every Spartan Race.

Amelia Boone continued her amazing streak by making it three successive wins on the trot. Lena Dembisky edging out Spartan Pro Team member April Lou to second place in another toughly fought female elite finish.

In the open heats, there was no shortage of inspirational stories. Take the story of Ben Pfeiffer. Setting off from his home town of Bremerton, Washington at midnight on the day of the race, he arrived at the venue at close to 4am. He napped for an hour and got ready for the Hurricane Heat – his “breakfast” consisting of only energy drinks and water. After finishing one of the most grueling Hurricane Heats of the year, he again slept for an hour before returning to complete the regular Sprint. In itself, this is no mean feat, but if one considers that Ben weighs over 350lbs, it’s very easy to see how Ben quickly became known on site as “That Guy From The Hurricane Heat”.

On the course, Ben met TJ, a local of Portland who, as it would turn out, would be the last to cross the line, but displayed one of the most gritty performances of the weekend. Standing at 6ft and weighing 340lbs, he knew he had a battle in front of him, but finishing was never a question for TJ. He explains, “To prepare for this race, I made sure to take it seriously and learn from people who did it as well as checking out the videos online.” At the finish he remarked, “You will be wagering your toughness both physical and mental against the course and the course will want to take it from you. Just take one step and then another they will add up in the end.”

We met another incredible Spartan Racer on Saturday. Lousiana resident Lua Walter was unceremoniously dumped by her fiancé on her birthday only five months ago, the plan was that she and her intended were to run the race together. Instead, she packed her trail shoes and running clothes and flew the 2000 miles alone and triumphantly did the course herself, making a vast list of new friends in a flurry of high-fives in the process.

Keeping it in the family, was leading open heat competitor Stephen Sinek, aka The Painted Warrior, who convinced his parents Frank and Tricia to take part. Agreeing that is “was very challenging”, completing the course hasn’t dissuaded them to think that they are beyond doing another. With Malibu in December now being the focus, Frank calmly points out that, “this race is as grueling as you want to make it. You can either sprint through it or you can take your time, as there are enough people here that will make sure you finish. It’s a real team effort. It was tough but it was a great experience, one that I wouldn’t have had sitting on my couch.” Wise words from a man that nonchalantly points out, almost as an afterthought, that he’s suffered from Multiple Sclerosis for 16 years.

Offering a last word of advice, Tricia smiles, “In the words of William Wallace, ‘every man dies, but not every man truly lives.”’

If you’re not sure what she means, sign up for a Spartan Race and you’ll know at the finish line.

Find results HERE.  And more pictures from the event on our Google+ page HERE.

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It was all too clear when you arrived in Kalispel that something very big was happening. There was an exciting buzz in the air and they were ready for Spartan Race to arrive.  The restaurants, motels and hotels all proudly displayed “Welcome Spartan Racers” to their sleepy, but beautiful mountain town. Posters were in every store window and even the TV and radio proudly boasted the inaugural event happening that weekend. The Spartans were invading and the local community were greeting them with open arms, and the people of Kalispell and Big Fork didn’t disappoint. Seasoned racers and curious first timers rubbed shoulders as they hastily made their way through the registration tents, keen to test their mettle in the inaugural Montana Reebok Spartan Sprint.

The men’s and women’s elites ran together at 8am, all keen to defy Race Director Todd Sedlak’s bold claim that nobody would

Men’s Winner Cody Moat

conquer the course in less than an hour. Indeed, it has quickly been suggested that this race was arguably the hardest Spartan Sprint has offered to date. However, four racers from the men’s elites broke the 60 minute barrier, Cody Moat being the fastest at 50m 25s. Second and third going to Chad Trammell (52.31) and proud local Brian Suttle (59.19) respectively. The ladies winner was Beverly Watson, with Jolene Wilkinson and Margaret Schlachter taking third. What’s notable about the women’s elite is that Beverley Watson rocked the course to first place despite being 60 years of age. “Too old to do a Spartan Race” now more than ever is no longer a valid excuse!

More defiance was shown throughout course of the day as competitors sweat and strained through the punishing hills and forests. JD West, a truck driver of 43 having lost 80lbs prior to the race, signed up for the course simply “because”. LA-based fitness fanatic Grant Zaragoza joined his friend Jozee Hofman for their first Spartan Race, refusing to let a little thing like the Cerebral Palsy they both suffer from get in the way of them finishing the course together.

Brad Ludden from First Descents, a non-profit organisation that enables young adult cancer survivors to try their hand at kayaking, climbing and other outdoor pursuits, was joined by those that battled and defeated the terrible disease, in the shape of Kelsey Tanner, Andy Bonnet and Denise Pearson all the way from Denver via a 16-hour drive in their sleeper van. More of their information can be found at http://firstdescents.org

Ian Reynolds and his service dog Miles also enjoyed the race. Some years ago, Ian made the decision to have the lower half of his right leg amputated after an incident involving fireworks left him badly injured. Despite this and in his own words it being “a blessing in disguise”, Ian now has a career in prosthetics having learned from the very guy that built his new leg.

The arduous terrain and punishing obstacles left many experiencing a gamut of emotions at the finish line. Some crossed not knowing whether to laugh or cry as the months of training finally came to fruition. None moreso than Nyk Kuntz who was surprised to see his girlfriend there: Specialist Kaela Causey, an active service Black Hawk mechanic. Keeping it a surprise for two months that she would be there before a 9-month deployment in Kuwait, she waited at the finish line and they embraced amongst deafening cheers.

As the day drew to a close, both spectator and runner eventually had to be encouraged to leave, despite the good times being in full flow. The folk of Kalispel, Big Fork and the surrounding communities know how to party and wanted more! As such, it was quickly established that Spartan Race would be back next year, definitely for one day, maybe for two – who knows?

With so many vendors, companies and charities involved, next year’s event is shaping up to be closer to a reunion of new friends, rather than that of another regular Spartan Race event . Will you be there?

As an aside, Reebok Spartan Race would like to extend thanks to the warm welcoming reception that was given when we came to town. See you next year!

Ready to find a Spartan finish line?  Sign up today.  Click HERE.

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 Spartan Texas Beast Race Recap:  Words Do Not Justice, Actions Do

by Jason Rita

I’m not sure but I thought I heard one of Hobie Call’s children at the Spartan Beast in Glen Rose Texas on Saturday say to Cody Moat, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

Or maybe that was just the thought running through my head on Saturday morning as I looked at these rival racers, thinking back to the Killington Beast, where Cody prevailed at the Spartan 2012 Championship race, wresting the title away from Hobie’s grasp in the last mile and throwing into question much of what Hobie had achieved over the last two years when he won 24 Spartan events, but never in Killington and not the 2012 title he coveted and maybe felt was his for the taking.

I was looking for a flash of ill-will, a glimpse that this was a grudge match, a smidgen of spite, a nuance of nastiness. Disappointed, all I saw was the top Spartan racers from the Vermont Beast – Cody, Hobie and Brakken Kraker – all Spartan champions, incredible athletes and tough-as-nails competitors, all who had something to prove at the year’s final Beast, chatting like it was a training run amongst mates.  But we all knew why we were there: there was the $40,000 elephant in the room as the 2012 Points Series Crown would be decided.  In addition, sponsor Navy Federal Credit Union was putting up $1,500 for the day’s elite wave winner.  It was a chance at redemption.  It was time to win some cash money.  It was a time to settle the score.  What was that Hobie v Cody score again?

Head to Head victories: 1-1

Beast victories won in Other’s Absence 1-1

Spartan Championships 1-1 (2011 Hobie, 2012 Cody)

It would make it easier to write the story if these two great athletes hated each other; unfortunately that is not the case.  Sadly, the only emotion each has for the other is respect, not a grudging kind, but the sort that is willingly granted when it’s been earned in the cauldron of racing by being forced to race to your absolute maximum effort against a rival that demands your best, and knowing that there was no more to give, and whatever the result, there was a bond born from a shared suffering, but also a shared pride.

Spartan Race Director Mike Morris ruling that Cody Moat’s bucket return was below the fill line, a critical moment in the Texas Beast race on Saturday.

And every competitor in Spartan gets to feel this bond of brotherhood (Spartanhood?), having ran the same challenging course and been asked to complete the same difficult obstacles as Moat, Call, Kraker, Rutz and all the other points leaders in the Spartan Points Series.  They too struggled with the only nastiness on display, which was the nasty course put together by Mike Morris, Race Director/Resident Evil Genius, and head Spartan Course Architect, the quiet but deadly Russell Cohen.  And like the Spartan athletes, Mike and Russell are perfecting their game too and sprung a few course design holiday season surprises at the experienced field who should have known not to expect any gifts in this season of giving other than the gift of pain.  The course layout included several series of obstacles that were sequenced together in a new pattern and allowed no mercy, with no time for recovery – notably the swim, Hercules Hoist and then Tyrolean Traverse.  Another “favorite” was the hill climbs into the Sandbag carry, right on to the Bucket Brigade.  You could see the carnage in the field as racers who normally complete the obstacles were forced to do many, many, many sets of burpees.  For this, there are no apologies because Spartan doesn’t repeat the same obstacles or course layout at every race.  Life throws up different challenges every day, and so will Spartan Race as we keep asking our racers never to settle, and always to push themselves to where they may not have even know they were capable of going.  We think you are tougher and stronger than you know – and our job is to help you find out.

Chris “SuperBeast” Rutz heard in the barbed wire crawl in Texas: “My only regret this year is not doing the Ottawa Beast.”

So that is what awaited the obstacle racers as they set out on Saturday morning.  A fast pace was set by Cody Moat running with first time Spartan racer, Enoch Nadler, a young former collegiate cross-country runner. The pace was so fast that Hobie looked like he was barely hanging on to the leaders.  But the race got real in a hurry at the Sandbag Carry/Bucket brigade obstacle sequence.  Nadler was starting to get a taste of the full-body strength and athleticism required by the sport of obstacle racing, where it is not just about running well.  This was one of  the nastiest sandbag carries we’ve seen from Mike and Russell.  A long, steep hill with very dodgy footing underneath, which made traction tricky, adding a level of difficulty that even  experienced Spartan athletes would have cursed, had they breath to do so. Coming into Sandbag Carry at mile 4 after a long stretch of steep intense technical climbs, Cody led Enoch and Hobie, and then into Bucket Brigade, Cody had kept the lead, but Hobie had moved up.  But a mistake at the Bucket Brigade cost Cody when he spilled a small amount of the gravel, and didn’t realize it was so much gone so that the bucket fill line was showing.  With Cody forced to do another loop carrying the 50 lb bucket, Hobie ran ahead, able to establish a lead of several minutes.  And that proved to be enough for Hobie on the day.  He completed the whole Texas course penalty free in 1:43:37, doing no burpees, showing that he was ending 2012 at the top of his game.  Cody, it seemed was having on off-day, perhaps not fully recovered from his victory at the USAT&F Trail Marathon Championships in Moab a few weeks back, and he had to do other burpees on several other obstacles, finishing 2nd in 1:50:57.  Spartan newcomer Enoch Nadler showed class in hanging on for 3rd from Elliott Megquier close behind in 4th with Brakken Kraker rounding out the Top 5 men, and 18 year old Alec Blenis once again showing that he is one of the stars of the sport of OR with a very impressive 6th place.  Too young to drink alcohol, but not too young to throw spears!  And yes, as foreshadowed in our Men’s Race Preview last week, Mr. Chris “SuperBeast” Rutz did finish his 24thSpartan Race of the year, including his seventh beast.  More Beast than man?  You decide. Whichever, it is a special accomplishment and one to be applauded.

On the women’s side, the future very quickly became the now, as the movie in mind switched from The Princess Bride to A Star is Born, starring not Judy Garland (1954 version), not Barbara Streisand (1976 version), not Janet Gaynor (the 1937 version) and not Beyonce Knowles (who was planning a remake with director Clint Eastwood, but dropped out) — in fact we could call it, A Star Spartan is Born, starring April Luu.  And if you were there in Texas, you would have seen why the lone star of Texas was not what flies on the state flag, but for two straight days, it was April Luu. And she announced it in a big way wining both days in Texas.  That’s right.  In a feat not achieved by any Spartan athlete to date, April won back to back weekend Beast races. Oh and she was only 9 minutes slower on Sunday (2:28:43 vs 2:19:48).  Holy elite endurance exploit, Batman!

April herself said it best after her win on Saturday, “I did all those dashes and mudders as practice, as training for the real deal, The Spartan Circuit.  And I’m here to win.”  Win she did, running down the finishing chute, high-fiving the crowd screaming, “Payday, Payday, Payday”, celebrating the Navy Federal Credit Union $1,500 1st prize in the female division that she had just claimed against possibly the strongest women’s field assembled outside of the Vermont Killington Championship race.  All the best Spartan racers were on hand in Texas, except reigning Spartan 2012 Champion, Claude Godbout, who is preparing for her chance at the Winter Olympics competing in Europe on the Canada national biathlon team.    In bad news for our top women racers, April plans to race Spartan 2013 starting with Arizona 2013, and expect her to bring her trademark intensity, focus and determination to every last mile and obstacle as she has world obstacle course domination in her sights.   In good news for OR fans, we can’t wait to see April and Claude race against each other next year.

To be fair, April gave us a preview of what she could do at the Spartan Colorado race in May earlier this year, the Fort Carson sprint, where she placed as 1stfemale.  But no one except her family, who were on hand in Glen Rose, could have foreseen how commanding a performance she gave at the year end Beast when every other top Spartan female racer was hoping to earn enough points to shake up the points table one last time.

Even this weekend’s incredible back-to-back days Texas Beast women’s winner, April Luu, had to do burpees on the Spear Throw. Scary that she can be even better when she learns to stick that spear.

So while April stole the show and the weekend belonged to her, there was a small matter of the 2012 Points Series to be decided.  Points Series leader Rose Marie Jarry’s failure to complete the Tyrolean rope traverse on Saturday put her season-long quest for the points crown in jeopardy since the failure on the Tyrolean removed her from earning any points on Saturday.  This meant that after Saturday, she still only had three Beast results (four would be needed to rank amongst the top).  For Rose to have any chance to hold off last year’s champion Jenny Tobin in the points race, she would have to complete the Tyrolean on Sunday and hope for Jenny to fail it or otherwise have a bad race Sunday.

When Rose arrived on Sunday, we knew that she was ready to face up to the one obstacle that had troubled her all year, her bête noire, the Tyrolean rope traverse. The war paint was on!  And overcome it she did, inching her way out on the rope suspended high over the water below, hand pulling over hand, trying desperately to maintain her balance, calling on every gram (she’s Canadian, metric system, eh) of determination and willpower in her 50 kilo frame (told you, Canadian, metric system) to get to the bell.  You could feel the relief wash through her as she dropped into the water below, happy to know that when she finally crossed the finish line in 2nd place, she would be at or near the top of the overall points series, depending on the results from Jenny Tobin, Leslie St. Louis, Melinda Branch and the other top Spartan women.

Krobobar’s Rose Marie Jarry with only one goal in mind: complete the Tyrolean rope traverse.

Jenny, Leslie, Melinda, Margaret Schlachter, along with Rose and ten of the other top Spartan women were, like April, racing both days in Texas, attempting two Beasts with less than a 24 hour turnaround.  All of them accomplished an amazing athletic double this weekend, and we acknowledge the passion that all of these competitors brought all year to Spartan obstacle racing.

Top 3 female finishers Sunday (L to R): Rose-Marie Jarry 2nd, April Luu 1st and Jenny Tobin 3rd.

And what of the 2012 Points Series update results?  An announcement is pending, but that is for the next update.  Until then, do 30 burpees every hour to wash away the nerves and suspense, and check back again here soon.

AROO AROO AROO

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