Montreal has been the Canadian Spartan season opener for years now. This years marks the 3rd year that’s it has been held a Owl’s Head Mountain, after 5 years being at the Fabulous Mont Tremblant. Located 90 minutes south of Montreal, Owl’s Head is one the steepest mountains within the Quebec Province. The view at the top of the mountain oversees the beautiful Lake Memphremagog – it is absolutely stunning!
Just as a brief intro so you can relate to my point of view on this race review. I am 49 years old and have been racing in the ”Elite Wave” (for what it means) for 5 years now. I have never been a podium contender but I have always placed very well in my age group (Top 3-5) and averaged an overall top 75. I have made the switch this year to the Competitive Age Group where I am now at the far end of the 10 years spread (40-49).
This Season Opener consisted of a typical dual race. A Sprint on Saturday announced to be a 7Km (4.4miles) followed by a Super on Sunday announced at 14KM (8.75miles).
So let’s talk about that Monster race NOW!
I arrived on site on Friday as I live almost 2 hours away and did not feel like getting up in the early hours and driving that long. I am lucky enough to have a small motor home so getting there the night prior was great without compromising comfort. I parked on site in the build crew area about a 1 minute walk from the registration area. A few friends who planned sleeping in their cars in the parking lot joined me, and we were able to explore the course and get just a bit more excited the night before. The Gauntlet of Obstacles towards the finish line seemed pretty intimidating and impressive but looked exciting. Many people were gathering around the Platinum Rig which was being configured.
Morning comes and it’s race day, it’s raining outside, and it has been all night…. hmmm muddy course ahead. Registration open 1 hour prior, which is a bit tight for the first wave, but the line up clears up pretty fast once it gets going, literally 30 seconds and your good to go. Then, back to the motor home for last minute prep. I decide to wear my Salomon Slab XA Amphib since it will be a wet course – these babies have grips and spit water as it comes. The festival area is well set up with many sponsors, but not much action happening due to the rain as it is starting to poor. The Elite Men and Women are set to go back to back 10 minutes apart just before the 3 waves of Age groups.
So, here we are jumping in the coral as they call our age groups. One of the great things about the Canadian races is that there are so many familiar faces at each event due to the proximity of all the Eastern Canadian races, it’s like a big family reunion and that first weekend makes it very special. The MC starts his Typical Spartan Speech – Aroo! Aroo! Aroo! and here we go …
It’s a mountain race, and of course we are heading uphill, after a few hundred meters we head onto a rocky, technical trail and continue the climb. We hit a few hurdles and low walls that split the group apart, and we are back onto the ski slopes. I can see what seem to be the first summit… here we are, I quickly take a look at my watch, we are 1 KM into it and already 200 meters (600 ft) of vertical gain. Looks like it will be a hefty Sprint.
At the top of the hill we hop over the 6 foot wall and then start the fast pace descent toward the first gauntlet of obstacles. Awaiting us at the bottom of the hill near the festival area was 4 obstacles in a nice U shape set up. First, we go over on the left side of the Vertical Cargo Net, which is immediately followed by the Hercules Hoist,which was a little heavier than normal due to the rain. Then, Olympus is taking the first few victims of the 30 burpees penalty, luckily I was not one of them… We then climb over the other side of the Vertical Cargo Net to go up the mountain again! This time it is for real … all the way up to the Summit alternating between steep slopes and technical trails, this is where the soul gets crushed. The total ascent of this second climb was 350 meters (1100 ft) and I have my watch a 3.5 KM.
The rain, the low clouds, the mood was perfect for a creepy Sandbag carry. We first grabbed the 60 pound pancake and headed down for around 200 meters. I was excited – I could run with it and passed a few people. Then we had to go back up and the struggle began, the excitement was gone and all the ground I gained was lost, well it’s all about fun as they say, time to turn it back on …
We got some nice running trail after that killer sandbag. I remembered from looking at the course map that the heavy uphill was pretty much done. The trail was pretty fast, a few quick obstacles on the way down, the Sled Pull followed by the Tractor Pull (concrete block with a chain attached) which was in a very muddy space. After that, the Real Fun part began. We were at 5Km (3.1 miles) and it was straight down to the wet Monkey Bars. Bear with me the Final Gauntlet of Obstacles were up and very heavy!
Then comes the bucket carry, these were like the old style where you have to fill it yourself to cover the holes in the bucket. Hats off to the volunteer who was doing an excellent job watching that these got filled properly. This was not a very long one; however, the uphill to start was rough due to the wacky terrain. I would say around 100 meters up and the same back down.
Then, there was a pretty neat set up. We had to go over the A Frame Cargo Net, followed immediately by a short muddy Barbed Wire Crawl, the Slip Ramp then another Short Barbed Wire Crawl … All of these back to back! Then, as you get up dizzy from rolling under that last crawl, here you are facing the PLATINUM RIG! A favorite of the crowd! and it is wet and muddy …
I could see a packed burpee zone on the other side. I managed to get through it safely avoiding the burpees and went straight into the rope climb one of my favorites. I completed it quickly and headed up a short hill with 3 obstacles to go … Approaching the spear throw, I can see one of my fellow competitors (Target) doing burpees. Here is my chance! This is when you feel you are Ryan Atkins chasing Robert Killian or vice versa, feeling the adrenaline of the weekend Warrior. So I get there, take a spear that is pinned in the hay bail and pull the rope to get it, I make sure to be very careful so that the rope does not get stuck. I make my throw as he is still doing burpees … and Boom nailed it! The feel of adrenaline! I now only have a short trail run of 500 meters before the 7 foot wall and a descent of 300 meters to the original finish. Rolling down under the slip wall followed by the fire Jump and the Traditional Finish Line Arch!
Final stats for that Sprint were 7.3KM (4.6miles) with 730 meters of elevation gains (2200 feet) which is a fine distance for a Sprint but quite a heavy climb. Overall this was a great race to start the season. The second portion of the course was spectacular due to the density of Obstacles in the final gauntlets.
The Super turned out to be 15Km (9.4miles) and 1350 meters of ascent (4100 feet).
Canadian races are a bit different than the US ones where the heavy Obstacles are more spread around the course, it seems to make it a better experience for the runners but less for the spectators. Canada is run as a franchisee, therefore Obstacles are not quite the same. Canada does not yet have the new obstacles like Twister, Binder, or the new sandbag style. Also, the festival areas are nice but they lacks the big US sponsors.
To conclude this, it was a fantastic Canadian season opener week end. For those of you looking for a great challenge, beautiful Quebec city Beast and Sprint on August 25th and 26th is looking to be another Monster event. Come and enjoy Canada and the great Quebec culture and see it for your own eyes!