Spartan Race Montreal: Father and daughter are climbing toward victory

Chad Ronalds is preparing for a Spartan Race in Montreal this summer. You can read each installment in his journey by clicking here.

The Spartan Race is a five-kilometer run in the woods, with about 20 obstacles that must be completed along the way. The location of this year’s race is Owl’s Head ski hill on the western side of Lake Memphremagog, close to Mansonville and the Vermont border.

Being on a ski hill on a nice summer day sounds idyllic until you realize you’re not there for the scenery but to complete a potentially gruelling five to seven kilometer run, up and down the hill and complete the obstacles, many of which will be located in mud.

The obstacles are devilish obstructions: a 20-foot rope climb; a rope ladder; an eight-foot vertical wall; an improvised rock wall; a crawl through mud below barbed wire; traversing a set of monkey bars; climbing a rope net; leaping over fire, and several more that defy description or good sense.

Why would I do this? That my daughter, Bryn, talked me into it is the only possible and true answer because at 55 I have more sense than to volunteer for this craziness.

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Bryn convinced me to sign up over the New Year holiday, along with several of her friends. It seemed like a good way to motivate myself to get into shape. It also seemed so far off that it wasn’t as imminent a threat as it is now.

The race kicks off at noon on July 16, whether I am ready or not.

To prepare, I headed to Flex Gym in LaSalle borough, close to my home and, with the help of trainer Lelo Polcari, started working out, which I had not done for years.

I was determined to lose weight, gain strength, and not embarrass myself, or my daughter and our team. Over the past six-months I’ve lost 15 pounds, improved my physical strength, conditioning, and eating habits. I feel healthier and more energetic than I have in a long time.

I pushed myself to get to the gym three or four times a week, watched my diet, and even incorporated yoga into my regime.

There were times when I didn’t want to go, times when I wound up on the floor with my heart racing and drenched in sweat only halfway through my workout. There were also times when I felt elated, such as the first time I was able to complete the workout regimen that my trainer had set for me.

After all of that, am I ready?

My teammates and I decided to test ourselves. Eighteen days before the event we headed out to Dollard-des-Ormeaux  and met with trainers Steve Goffman and Tisha Lajeunesse, who run Coexiste Crossfit where, among other things, they teach would-be racers how to safely complete many of the obstacles on courses such as our Spartan Race. Steve showed us each obstacle and demonstrated the proper techniques for doing each one, after which it was our turn to do them.

With few exceptions I and the other members of our team were up to the challenge. I had difficulty with the eight-foot wall and I had to make two attempts at the improvised rock wall, but the monkey bars and 20-foot rope climb were not as difficult as I had feared.

As our teammates, Michel Vachon 60, and daughter Vickie put it, the obstacle training session at Coexiste Crossfit was an indispensable source of fundamental tips and tricks that will help prepare us for the race.

Getting familiar with some of the obstacles and discovering that we could actually do them made it a valuable tool for preparation. It also gave us a much-needed chance to come together as a team and support one another.

The real thing will be far more challenging though; after all it will be outdoors in whatever weather we have that day: there will be mud, rough trails through the woods, bugs, obstacles we haven’t seen before and, of course, lots of other racers. I am excited and nervous for the big day but I will keep preparing and will be posting on my thoughts and experiences, as well as photos from this, my first Spartan Race!

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